Volumes of Blood (2015) Review

vob1Volumes of Blood (2015)

Directed by P.J. Starks, Jakob Bilinski ,Nathan Thomas Milliner,John Kenneth Muir, Lee Vervoort

Starring – Jason Crowe, Kristine Renee Farley, Jim O’Rear

Website – http://www.volumesofblood.com

Volumes of Blood starts with an on screen graphic informing us, among a few other things, that the film is a “a true endeavour of independent cinema”. Although this is a good thing, it also helps to prepare the viewer for the sort of film that they are about to experience.

Volumes of Blood is a perfect examples of both the positives and negatives of micro budget film making. Viewers not used to this type of indie movie should prepare themselves for some very dodgy acting and hit and miss picture quality.

Whoever is watching though should be aware of the origins of the movie. Volumes of Blood is actually the result of a film making class ran by P.J. Starks at the Davis Public Library in Kentucky. The program gave the locals a chance to observe the filming of independently made short films, which eventually went on to make up this anthology.

vob3These humble beginnings are mirrored in the wraparounds for the segments, where we see students telling stories of famous urban legends. We open with the now over told story of a classic legend where a pair of young lovers are parked in a secluded area, and I’m sure you have an idea of what comes next.

As the students take it in turns to tell their own urban legends, they become more original and more twisted than the last. We are treated to a further four segments. The first, introduces us to a female student (Alexandria Hendrick), who is trying to finish her work. Exhausted, she is offered a free sample of a new energy drink by a mysterious man. Will she accept his offer, and if she does, what will the consequences be?

Next up, is Ghastly, where a librarian is handed an unfamiliar book by a strange woman. Once the library closes, he starts to put the books away, until he realizes that he isn’t as alone as he previously thought!

vob2The penultimate short is called 13 After Midnight. Here we see another student, who is also trying to finish an assignment, only this time she is in a library. When her boyfriend appears and nags her to go to a party with him,she first protests. However, after a short while she gives in. Unfortunately, a short time later, she awakes, back in the library (which is now abandoned), and realizes she is being stalked by some sort of mysterious beast!

Finally, we are treated to Encyclopedia Satanica where librarian Page(Christine Renee Farley) is guilt ridden after the suicide of her ex. As she takes comfort from her boss Travis(Todd Reynolds), the pair stumble upon a strange, ancient looking book. Full of ancient scripture and spells, they find a way to resurrect the dead. Anyone who is familiar with the genre will know, there’s no chance this will end well!

vob4Each segment has its own feel and tone, and ranges from gory, to scary to plain daft! All the directors involved have done themselves proud when taking the resources at their disposal into account. Its just a shame that the picture quality isn’t consistent, as it did spoil the experience for me.

Acting wise, although there are no performances in the film that stand out as being awful, it will never win any awards either. More importantly, the quality of acting didn’t ruin any of the segments for me.

vob5To sum up, Volumes of Blood is a good example of what a team of talented film makers can achieve. I only wish they had managed to secure more of a budget to pay for the cast. Saying that, its obvious that the people involved in putting the film together put their heart and soul into it. I think the film will succeed in entertaining its target audience, and that is the most important thing, but if you like your horror slickly made, the it might be worth giving this a miss!

5/10

Holidays (2016) Review

holidays1Holidays (2016)

Directed by Anthony Scott Burns ,Kevin Kolsch ,Nicholas McCarthy ,Adam Egypt Mortimer ,Gary Shore ,Kevin Smith ,Sarah Adina Smith ,Scott Stewart ,Dennis Widmyer ,Ellen Reid.

Starring: Kevin Smith, Lorenza Izzo, Seth Green and many more.

Plot from IMDB. HOLIDAYS is an anthology feature film that puts a uniquely dark and original spin on some of the most iconic and beloved holidays of all time by challenging our folklore, traditions and assumptions.

Horror anthologies based around our most love holidays (as in the U.S. term for Christmas, Halloween etc..) are ten a penny these days. Just last year we had Tales of Halloween and A Christmas Horror Story both striking a chord with horror fans. Holidays, however consists of eight short horror films spanning a spectrum of different holidays throughout the year. This means that the film makers chosen to participate have a much larger scope in which to be creative.

Holidays hands the directorial reigns over to ten directors, from the experienced Kevin Smith (Silent Bob from the Jay and Silent Bob movies), to newcomer Ellen Reid and a whole range of people in between.

holidays3Leading us off, and thus setting the expectations for the rest of the anthology is St. Valentines day (directed by Dennis Widmyer and Kevin Kolsch), a take on the often told tale of a bullied teenager, with the twist of her falling in love with her teacher. The teacher is currently awaiting a heart transplant, and this alone should telegraph what comes next! Although a lot of this segment is full of cheesy acting, we are confronted with darker elements, such as the effects the bullying has on the poor girl.

Next up is St.Patricks Day, an Irish offering from Gary Shore (Dracula Unbound). Just like the last segment, this also deals with sexuality in a roundabout way when a schoolteacher is impregnated by a creepy Pagan imp. This is as messed up as it sounds, and the shock tactics used and the delightfully messed up ending makes this one work!

At 3, we have Nicholas McCarthy’s Easter themed nightmare about a young girl who is listed by a terrifying Easter Bunny/Jesus hybrid. This is a very well executed segment that really goes all out with its creature design. The unique take on the bunny should impress any horror fan.

We continue with Sarah Adina Smith’s pregnancy thriller, Mother’s Day, is a deeply emotional tale about a woman who gets pregnant everytime she has sex. Mothers day may just be the best of the bunch. Its sharp social commentary on womanhood and how society imposes this social duty upon women really does make you think. My other half commented that this is her greatest nightmare and told me it made her think twice about having sex for a few days (cheers Sarah!)

holidays2Following Mothers Day, comes Fathers Day. This falls a little flat if I’m honest. A young woman receives a tape from her father, who believed was dead, and follows the instruction given to find him. The majority of this segment is just shots of her walking the streets looking for her destination. I was convinced that this was just a set up to a big jump scare, but no, nothing! The worse defiantly followed the best!

Up next we have a segment from the films most experienced director, Kevin Smith. He had what should have been the easiest to make scary, Halloween. Smith cast his own daughter as one of 3 cam girls in the segment, who decide to take revenge on their hilariously over the top, cruel boss. The entire segment is built around one sadistic, yet adolescent prank. This is a “marmite” segment, as you will either love it or hate it. I’ll leave that up to you to decide.

The penultimate tale is entered on Christmas, and stars Seth Green as a dad who uses all his hustle and uses morally questionable methods to get the toy stores last “must have” gift for his son. The gift is a sort of Oculus Rift style VR headset. Again, I’m sure any horror fan can guess the general story to this short, so I wont spoil it here.

To finish off is New Years Eve, where a serial killer who preys on women makes a date for himself on NYE. The painfully awkward conversations over dinner telegraphs were this one is going, but the ending still has some shock value.

holidays4As a whole, Holidays is entirely forgettable. I personally would have preferred they had gone with a “Trick r Treat” style film, with less segments that gave each one a little longer to develop. But if your a fan of short films, then please, give it a go.

4/10

Horror Bizarre – Seven Tales of Murder & Mystery – watch here for free!!

horror-bizarre-vol-1-geir-og-anetteHorror Bizarre: Strange Tales of Murder and Misery is an Norwegian horror anthology written and directed by Raymond Dullum. This collection of seven tales includes disturbing and frightening tales of revenge, psychics, voodoo dolls, doppelgängers and more. Now the first collection of the Horror Bizarre anthology series are available to watch for free. Starring Stein Winge, Geir Børresen, Tor Itai Keilen, Dag-Arne Johansen and Caroline Andersen.

Synopsis: 7 tales of murders and misery presents a rape victim with an unconventional revenge, a writer with the ability to make his writings come true, an infomercial about dangers that all craftsmen should be aware of, a home made voodoo doll, a painting that might be supernatural, an old man and his doppelgänger and psychics trying to stop a strangler.

(Audio is in Norwegian with English subtitles.)

Please watch, enjoy and share. And if you have the time head to the IMDB page and give a rating – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3052936/

Horror Bizarre: Strange Tales of Murders and Misery-

V/H/S Viral (2014) Review

vhsviraldvdV/H/S: Viral (2014)

Directors
Marcel Sarmiento “Vicious Circles”
Gregg Bishop “Dante the Great”
Nacho Vigalondo “Parallel Monsters”
Justin Benson “Bonestorm”
Aaron Moorhead “Bonestorm”

Starring – Patrick Lawrie, Emilia Ares Zoryan, Celia K. Milius

UK DVD Release – 19th October 2015 from Koch Media

The third and final film in the so far, so good, found footage based V/H/S series. The second in the series took the concepts from the first and upped the ante, my expectations going in to this were quite high, hoping that the winning formula would continue and step up the craziness. Sadly I expected too much.

As always, an anthology film needs a wrap-around story tying all the pieces together, this time around we are treated to only three segments; a tale of a magician and a mysterious cloak, a man who builds a door to a parallel universe with dangerous consequences and finally some skaters in Tijuana who battle Mexican cultists. There is a fourth segment “Gorgeous Vortex” by Todd Lincoln but for one reason or another it was cut and left out.

vhsv2First off we have “Dante the Great” with Justin Welborn playing a failed magician who comes into possession of a cloak which once belonged to Houdini. The cloak gives him magical powers and he becomes the greatest magician of all time but there is a price. This is actually a really enjoyable segment, very well acted, nicely scripted and a decent concept. It feels slightly out of place in a V/H/S film, it is more like a documentary; some sections are news reports, interviews with family, police, people after one of Dante’s shows and backstage crew footage.

The found footage element seems to be vacant for the last five minutes making it feel even more out of place in a V/H/S anthology. Welborn pulls off the crazed magician solidly and the special effects are really well done bar the last few seconds. The fight scenes are brilliant, quick camera cuts and some nice bone breakages.

Next up we get an excellent piece from Nacho Vigalondo who brought us “Timecrimes” and the “A is for Apocalypse” segment in “ABC’s of Death”. Gustavo Salmerón’s character Alfonso, creates a doorway into another universe, through the door is another version of himself. They decide to switch universes for fifteen minutes out of curiosity and things begin to get very weird, very quickly. From the get go we have a feeling of awkward dread about the whole situation but I never imagined it would go the way it does. The short was on the way to being a dark, twisted tale of cross dimensional creepiness, then the film takes a huge leaf out of the book of Troma. I love Troma films so I’m not complaining, it just might be a bit too ridiculous for some. Don’t let that put you off though, this is the best acted and best shot in the collection, absolutely loved it.

vhsv1Our third and final segment is “Bonestorm”, think Larry Clark’s “Kids” or “Wassup Rockers” with an occult twist. Two skater friends and a cameraman travel to Mexico to skate, film, smoke weed and drink. A local brings them to a deserted area with obvious occult markings on the ground. As they skate, strange cult members start appearing and before you know what’s going on, a huge fight has broken out, which lasts until the end of the short.

This segment feels the most like it fits in with the wrap-around story and the found footage style shooting is quite similar to the go-pro section in the second film, but “Bonestorm” just misses the mark for me. The characters are unlikeable, the camerawork during the fight sequence is almost impossible to keep track of what is happening. Despite the confusion during the fight scene, there are some good effects in play, particularly the look of the cult members the more they get attacked, they really live up to the “Bonestorm” title. The weakest of the three but still worth a watch.

“Vicious Circles”, the wrap-around story for the piece. We open on Kev who is obsessed with filming everything, hoping to get the next video that goes viral and be a “part of something”. An ice-cream van involved in a high speed pursuit rushes past his house, he runs to catch it on camera, hoping to get it on video and be a part of “something bigger”. As the van drives past him, his girlfriend, Iris, disappears, Kev chases the van while trying to call Iris. There is a jump then to a back garden where a fight breaks out and an unfortunate doggy “accident”, and we’re back to the van chase again. When Kev finally reaches the van, things get a little stranger and very little explanation as to what actually happened. I didn’t like the wrap-around at all. There is a massive overuse of tracking interference, badly edited quick cuts and totally failed to get my interest.

VHSv4The individual segments on show here are for the most part really enjoyable, the film as a whole just doesn’t seem to fit together. The individual segments would almost be better presented as stand alone pieces rather than part of a V/H/S anthology. Especially for the “Dante” and Parallel Monster” sections. If you have 70 odd minutes to spare, give it a go, there is definitely worse ways you could spend your time.

5/10

Wild Eye Releasing Unchains ‘The Horror Network’ October 27th On DVD & VOD

thn1Wild Eye Releasing Unchains The Horror Network October 27

DVD & VOD Anthology to Treat Genre Fans this Halloween

“A strong batch of short film work that deserves to be seen.” –Ain’t It Cool News

Wild Eye Releasing has set loose the latest entry in the horror anthology genre, The Horror Network. Created by Brian Dorton and Douglas Conner, this first volume of terror tales features segments directed by Dorton, Conner, Joseph Graham, Manuel Marín, Lee Matthews and Ignacio Martín Lerma, the series has been hailed as “a collection of nightmares that scream for all horror fans to see.” The film will be available on DVD in North America and VOD October 27th.

Streaming links and retail DVDs are available for review consideration.

Serial killers, ghostly phone calls, inner demons, otherworld monsters and creepy stalkers collide in this frightening anthology. Six of horror’s most promising new directing talents join forces to pay homage to classic horror like Creepshow, Tales From the Crypt, V/H/S and The ABCs of Death, and weave an unforgettable, disturbing tapestry of terror.

Order The Horror Network on Amazon.com – HERE

The October 27th DVD release (SRP $19.95) of The Horror Network will exclusively include an extended cut of Brian Dorton’s The Deviant One and trailers.

Zombieworld (2015) DVD Review

zombieworldZombieworld (2015)

Directors – Jesse Baget, Adrián Cardona, Rafa Dengrá, Luke Guidici, Phil Haine, Peter Horn, Jared Marshall, Cameron McCulloch, David Muñoz, Adam O’Brien, Zachary Ramelan, Paul Shrimpton, Vedran Marjanovic Wekster, Tommy Woodard.

Starring – Bill Oberst Jr, Thomas Garner , Marc Velasco , Trevor Snarr , José María Angorrilla

Out NOW in the UK on DVD from Image Entertainment UK

There is nowhere to hide…nowhere to run…the Zombie Apocalypse has come, and our world now belongs to the dead! From Ireland, Canada, Australia, Europe and all over the U.S., the bone-chilling news reports tell the same gruesome tale – walking corpses terrorize and devour the living. Only a few desperate humans find the courage to stand and fight for their last chance at survival. But the hordes of undead keep coming, and there’s only one thing on the menu – us.

zw1At first glance you would be forgiven for not realising Zombieworld is an anthology of short zombie films. On the UK DVD sleeve there is no mention of this other than in a cover quote.

Zombieworld kicks straight of with Peter Horn & Jared Marshall’s 2010 DARK TIMES which is a first person POV (Point of View) short that shows a group of employees racing away from a nuclear power plant during their Christmas party. A fairly standard running, shouting and being eaten by zombies with a couple of interesting elements.

The films in Zombieworld are all linked together with reports from an American news station , where news anchor Marvin Gloatt (played by the wonderful Bill Oberst Jr) is relaying news from the station during the ongoing worldwide panic.

zw2

Fist of Jesus

Next up is Adrián Cardona & David Muñoz’s 2012 classic FIST OF JESUS . A Spanish language gorefest that I have been championing since I first lay eyes on it back in 2013. A hilarious 15 minutes that is done in the worst possible taste. I won’t say any more other than watch this ASAP.

Then billed as a report from ‘Ireland’ , even though the only speaking character has a Northern English accent, is Phil Haine’s 2011 short I AM LONELY. Which is a clever little film about the most annoying man in the world being the last man standing in a block of flats and locked in with his dying friend.

DEAD STOP (2011) is up next and Tommy Woodard’s short is an average policeman stops a car at a service station and madness ensues. What is interesting though are Woodard’s unusual camera angles shot from both the dashboard cam on the police car and the service station’s CCTV.

HOME is a 2010 Australian short from Cameron McCulloch , which is the tale of a woman all alone and surrounded by zombies whilst trying to hold on to the last of her humanity. A beautiful film when watched on it’s own but totally out of place here.

zw3

Dead Rush

From Canada DEAD RUSH is a 2013 film from Zach Ramelan. Again in first person POV this is shot in real time and seamlessly looks like one continuous shot. A little to shouty and jerky for my tastes , but very clever and a lot of talent involved.

TELEPORTAL is a British 2009 film from Paul Shrimpton & Alex Chandon. Running at just 3 minutes it is over way to quickly. A young man is playing a zombie shoot-em-up video game when he is transported into the game. A well shot and clever idea that unfortunately seems very out of place here.

Next is the superb CERTIFIED (2011). Set in the 1950s Luke Guidici’s film has a postman on his first day knocking on a house to get a letter signed for. When invited in a young girl tells him a story of her uncles who died in a mining accident. A sharp, witty and superbly acted short that doesn’t feature zombies? Again so good but so out of place.

zw4

Brutal Relax

Last up is the totally brilliant BRUTAL RELAX (2010) which is from Adrián Cardona & David Muñoz who made the previous short Fist of Jesus. It tells the story of a man released from a hospital and told to take a calm and relaxing beach holiday.When he arrives at the beach in his pants, carrying nothing but a suitcase and a walkman all seems perfect…. That is until some zombie pirates burst on the scene. Totally wonderful, gory and bloody hilarious.

Finally interspersed randomly throughout are sections of How To Survive a Zombie Apocalypse which is mildly entertaining and does link quite well.

OK so what’s to like about Zombieworld ? Well Bill Oberst Jr is (as always) fantastic. He plays news anchor Marvin Gloatt who is bitten at the start, so after each short we see Marvin as he slowly changes into a zombie and Bill does this with real gusto. To any director out there thinking of making a horror film I have ONE piece of advice – cast Bill Oberst Jr, you just never get anything less than 100% from the man.

Also the films themselves are, for the main, really very good. Fist of Jesus & Brutal Relax stand out but there is a lot of great talent on show here , which bodes well for future releases.

zw5

Certified

Right on to the negatives. Well to me it seems like the films were just thrown together. Some of the links are very tenuous to say the least and it is like the makers had decided which films to use and then latterly tried to work out how to fit them in a fluid and cohesive manner, something which does not happen.

Zombieworld just does not flow well. It is little things that irk me. When Fist of Jesus is announced we are told we are going back to biblical times, yet Fist of Jesus is a Spanish language short, but this is not mentioned. And Certified is not a zombie short film it is the wonderful story of an evil little girl with a wicked imagination. I could go on.

Lastly almost all these films can be watched for free online. So to watch them in better context and so they can be seen individually then why pay for this DVD?  If you can find Zombieland at a decent price I would still pick it up though.

But flaws aside there are some wonderful films here that are getting some much deserved exposure, so if you like zombie shorts then this will be for you . An excellent showcase for the acting, writing and directing talents sadly in a shoddy and haphazard production.

Even though I found Zombieworld hugely frustrating at times I will still give it a good 7/10 – but that score is just for the films alone!

Afterimages (2014) Review

PrintAfterimages (2014)

Director: Tony Kern

Starring: Jeremy Meyer, Caren Utino, Sheena Chan, Daniel Jenkins, Kevin Legrange, Michael Kwah

European Distribution from Devilworks .

“Creepy, but confused by the end.”

A group of film students burn paper effigy cameras and receive films from the dead in the format of the camera they burned. Which is a great premise the film doesn’t quite live up to.

It begins when one of them burns a still camera and finds photographs in the ashes the next day. After that they try out various movie cameras and receive the films that make up the anthology of ghost stories which comprise Afterimages. They decide to turn in the films they get from the afterlife as their home work assignments. But of course you can’t have ghosts do your homework for you and not pay a price.

The first of the four films the students pull from the ashes is “Ghost Pool (Pull) Leg” based on the legend of ghosts pulling the legs of night time swimmers in order to drown them. In “Xiao Boa Boa” a woman witnesses a suicide and must uncover why the ghost has latched onto her. “Skin Deep” is a tale of vanity acted out in an elevator. Last and best is “Rekindling” which has veteran actor Vincent Tee. His experience really shows and carries the short.

On the plus side the setting of Singapore and the ghosts based around Chinese and Malaysian mythologies is great. There is some nice cinematography including computer overlays in “Xiao Boa Boa” which enhance the creepiness and mood. The diversity of the cast is better than anything Hollywood can muster up. The cast is truly international and makes Singapore- as seen in the film, a true cultural crossroads.

Afterimages-03024For those who don’t like reading, fear not, there are no subtitles, it’s filmed in English. It’s sort of creepy? There isn’t anything shocking and it’s nothing a horror buff hasn’t seen before in other, better movies, but it’s an okay introduction to South East Asian horror films.

Unfortunately the negatives outweigh Afterimages few strengths. The acting is very uneven. A few of the actors do a great job, but their performances are hampered by the majority of mediocre to poor performances. The special effects are, well, bad. The film feels significantly longer than its 93 min. runtime and the film quality was grainy and dark, making the darker shots hard to read. Though with the poor special effects that might be a bonus. In some scenes there is a disconnect between the ghost and the action taking place, as if the ghost isn’t even present in the scene. A lot of jumpy cuts at major scare points don’t help and it undermines the supernatural occurrences in a few places.

Worst of all were the characters of the film students. They had no real reason to be in the movie but someone decided there should be a framing device. Derrick, the American(?) student was horrible and possibly racist-he calls one of his Singaporean friends a ‘fortune cookie’. The film students story progresses from “This is cool” to “Let’s make a crowd funded movie and call if Afterimages” (yes there is a commercial for the film midway through the movie), to “This getting scary”.

10689 -Afterimages-1There is also some vague plot about the house they’re staying in which comes in at the very end for no good reason. Afterimages did not need the framing device of the film students and it only serves to pad out the runtime. The actual story of the house and the students might have made a compelling film all by itself but it feels sandwiched in.

Kudos for: The bicycle bell of doom and oscillating fan cam.

Final Lesson: VHS tapes are not that old!

4/10

Trailer

ABCs of Death 2 (2014) DVD Review

abcs2dvdABCs of Death 2 (2014)

Various Writers, Directors & Stars

Producers – Ant Timpson & Tim League

UK DVD Release – 23rd March 2015 from Monster Pictures

“Another 26-chapter anthology that showcases death in all its vicious wonder and brutal beauty.”
Anthologies are always divisive in the horror community, not least collaborative releases like this series and V/H/S – some find the sharp shifts in tone & content and most importantly the uneven quality a turn-off while others enjoy the opportunity to discover directors established and new to the scene trying out new ideas, or just having a bit of fun (or in Ti West’s case, offending and disappointing practically everyone). I have to say I’m quite firmly in the second camp – I think the idea behind ABCs of Death is fantastic, where 26 directors each choose a letter of the alphabet & are given $5000 to produce a short. As with the first instalment, and with every collaborative anthology movie I’ve seen, it goes without saying that the resulting shorts vary wildly; some are slickly produced on the meagre budget while some look like a few friends bought some ketchup & spent the rest of the money on booze. I think it’s only fair to judge them individually before remarking on the movie as a whole, so first I’m going to look at each segment.

A is for Amateur – Directed by E.L. Katz (Cheap Thrills)
This is a stylishly shot short about a hitman that balances comedy & tension superbly. It’s not massively gory but I personally find myself squirming more at someone slamming their hand down on a nail than someone getting their arm chopped off, so it was suitably cringeworthy for me. The final scene feels disappointingly scruffy in comparison to the rest but overall it’s a very decent bit of fun. 7/10

B is for Badger – Directed by Juilan Barratt (The Mighty Boosh)
Fake B-Roll footage from a nature documentary, I’m really happy to see some dry, sarcastic, and ultimately goofy British humour here. Barratt also stars as the smarmy host of the documentary, building a hateful character in a matter of a couple of minutes. No scares but some very funny gruesome moments, this would not be out of place in a Monty Python episode, and that’s very high praise in my books. 8/10

C is for Capital Punishment – Directed by Julian Gilbey (A Lonely Place to Die)
The Brits are taking over this movie! A strange ‘local’ court convenes in a pub to sentence a man accused of kidnapping a young girl. Think The League of Gentlemen without any comedy. This short swiftly creates a high-tension situation and has a particular protracted scene of gore that is shot so directly, in daylight, with astonishingly good effects, that it’s the first time gore alone has made me feel physically sick in a number of years. For that alone I’d give it credit, but the short also carries a heavy message. You can’t ask for much more than this offers. 9/10

d is for delousedD is for Deloused – Directed by Robert Morgan
A stop-motion short that is impenetrable in the sense that I have no idea what it was about, it nonetheless offers excellent twisted, gruesome visuals from the beginning. If Jan Svankmajer directed an episode of Salad Fingers you’d end up with this. 8/10

E is for Equlibrium – Directed by Alejandro Brugués (Juan of the Dead)
Two castaways meet a beautiful woman in this funny, dialogue-free short. Despite extremely heavy-handed grading it’s shot very simply, with long handheld takes that have a few tricks up their sleeves in some impossible timing. This camera trickery alone makes the short worthwhile, otherwise it’s enjoyably whimsical, even if certain members of the audience might not find it’s ending so funny… 6/10

F is for Falling – Directed by Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado (Rabies, Big Bad Wolves)
An Arab boy encounters an Israeli woman who has crash-landed her parachute in a tree. Respect is due to the duo for submitting a serious segment to this anthology but while it’s clearly trying to convey some meaningful point, it’s not entirely clear what it is. It isn’t boring, but unfortunately forgettable. 5/10

G is for Grandad – Directed by Jim Hosking
An irritating young man lives with his Grandfather, berating him for his outdated ways & décor. It feels odd straight away, but soon becomes much more so. It’s shot well but features a specific type of humour where things are straight up odd for the sake of it and I just found it a bit pointless. 4/10.

H is for Head Games – Directed by Bill Plympton
Animated in a deliberately scruffy, scribbly style, a man & woman kiss resulting in bizarre visuals assumably representing some sort of “battle” between them. There’s no denying the imagination shown, but I’d expect to find this in the ‘dark part of youtube’ rather than here. 3/10.

I is for Invincible – Directed by Erik Matti
A group of siblings are trying to kill their seemingly invincible mother to inherit her wealth. This is brilliantly shot, with hyper-real visuals and gothic set design. The sheer desperation of the siblings is hilarious, and the ending is somewhat inevitable but it doesn’t take away from the rest of the short. 7/10.

J-is-for-Jesus-1-ABCs-of-Death-620x400J is for Jesus – Directed by Dennison Ramalho
A tense opening soon turns into a brutal depiction of a wealthy man having his gay son tortured by some sort of priests to ‘cure’ him. Nightmarish visuals portray the victim’s fear brilliantly, and the whole thing is very well acted. Another meaningful entry, it covers a topic rarely touched on in horror. 8/10.

K is for Knell – Directed by Kristine Buozyte & Bruno Samper (Vanishing Waves)
A woman sees an strange “goo-orb” floating over a neighbouring apartment block before everyone inside starts killing each other. Soon this black goo starts pouring into her apartment. I didn’t find it anywhere near as tense or clever as it seems to aim for & the woman never seems more than slightly troubled by what’s happening. The effects of the “goo-orb” are the main highlight here. 2/10.

L is for Legacy – Directed by Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen
An African tribe set out to sacrifice a man, but things to wrong resulting in a visit from one of the worst movie monsters I’ve ever seen. The acting & effects are beyond awful, making it hilarious for the wrong reasons. It is the first Nigerian horror movie I’ve seen though so that’s something I guess. 1/10.

M is for Masticate – Directed by Robert Boocheck
Somehow the winner of a competition set out for the public to submit their ‘M’ entries, this features an almost nude man in contact lenses running amok down a street in slow motion, with garish contrasty visuals like a 90’s music video. The final comic reveal pushes the limits of tasteless humour but I suppose this film isn’t supposed to take the moral high ground. 4/10.

N is for Nexus – Directed by Larry Fessenden (Beneath)
A young man hurries across town to meet his girlfriend on Halloween. Camerawork is very basic, verging on awful, making it on one hand come across as amateurish, but on the other it works in giving the short a claustrophobic and disorientating feel. It is however quite clever, with a morbid ending that works brilliantly with the title. 6/10.

O is for ochlocracyO is for Ochlocracy (Mob Rule) – Directed by Hajime Ohata
This Japanese short puts zombies in control of a court, trying the uninfected humans who were killing zombies before a serum was found to reanimate them. A brilliant twist on the old zombie trope, it builds up its mini-universe with a number of great ideas & plenty of awesome imagery. 9/10.

P is for P-P-P-P-SCARY!!! – Directed by Todd Rohal
Filmed in the style of a 1920’s short, with three characters talking like they belong in a Looney Tunes cartoon, this runs the risk of being plain annoying, but kept my attention whilst they encounter a creepy man and a baby. It’s totally bizarre; I’m not entirely sure what I watched. 5/10.

Q is for Questionnaire – Directed by Rodney Ascher (Room 237)
A rather simple, streamlined short featuring a man excelling at a street-side intelligence test. I can’t say much more without spoiling anything but it’s unexpected, funny and unpleasant in equal measures. 7/10.

R is for Roulette – Directed by Marvin Kren (Blood Glacier)
A black & white noir showing three people playing Russian Roulette in a basement, this is high-energy despite no action, with excellent acting & skilled editing drawing every bit of tension out of the situation. A very clever ending defies our assumptions of the game’s purpose. 8/10.

S is for Split – Directed by Juan Martinez Moreno
A man phones his wife while away on business. This is shot very simply, but a cleverly employed split-screen effects means we are constantly watching every character & their actions/reactions, never cutting away. Unashamedly brutal in places, but the ending is slightly underwhelming. 7/10.

t is for torture pornT is for Torture Porn – Directed by Jen & Sylvia Soska (American Mary)
A young woman is being treated awfully at an audition by the misogynistic crew, making an unexpected discovery after forcing her to undress. It offers up some disturbing imagery with the unpredictable twist but it did still feel a bit weak. 7/10.

U is for Utopia – Directed by Vincenzo Natali (Cube, Splice)
Visually stunning with fantastic effects, this is a very slick portrayal of a seemingly perfect future with a dark twist. Straight forward, with the simple message that perfection isn’t necessarily all that great being portrayed very effectively without being totally overt. 9/10.

V is for Vacation – Directed by Jerome Sable (Stage Fright)
A guy videocalls his girlfriend from his hotel while on holiday, the entire short being seen as though we are looking at the girlfriend’s phone. It’s pulled off pretty well but the plot amounts to little more than an excuse for nudity & gore. 5/10.

W is for Wish – Directed by Steven Kostanski (Manborg)
If you saw Manborg you know what to expect from this short, featuring two boys who wish themselves into the world of their favourite toys with gruesome results. It features the same deliberate, faux-retro visual style mixing squishy practical effects, miniatures & stop motion creatures together with some ropey greenscreen work. It looks terrible and the acting is awful, but just like Manborg it’s all clearly deliberate and somehow being so bad makes it fantastic. 9/10.

X is for Xylophone –Directed by Julien Maury & Alexandre Bustillo (Inside & Livid)
A little girl is playing her toy Xylophone as her mother sits by. This compact short ends on a mortifying, taboo-breaking image that genuinely shocked me, and crucially makes that seem like a good thing. An understated gothic styling really adds another layer to this short. 9/10.

y is for youthY is for Youth – Directed by Soichi Umezawa
A teenage girl fantasises about various brutal & imaginative ways for her abusive & neglectful parents to die. Her internal monologue narrates the gruesome and totally bizarre imagery, all pulled off with rudimental but effective practical effects. I think it could only be a Japanese short that could manage so well in portraying hilariously ridiculous visuals whilst simultaneously invoking genuine sympathy for the main character. Very basic filming works in its favour, with some fantastic editing elevating it further. 9/10.

Z is for Zygote – Directed by Chris Nash
Dark fantasy & body horror meet in this twisted short about a woman eating mysterious roots to prolong her pregnancy while waiting for her husband to return from wherever he’s gone. The child continues to grow however, and the effects are fantastic at selling impossible to comprehend images. Defying the odds, it gets many times more horrifying before the end. I loved this short but if I met the person who dreamt these images up I don’t know if I’d shake their hand or run away! 9/10.

All in all, it’s obviously a mixed bag, but that is unavoidable when 26 very different directors are given free reign. That said, the good outweighs the bad and there are very only a small handful of segments that I thought were awful. While many anthologies have the luxury of mixing the order to perhaps bury a poorer segment in between particularly good ones for example, ABCs restricts itself to a definite order, so there are some unfortunate low points, particularly in the middle from K to M, but luckily the last 4 are consistently some of the strongest in the whole film.

It’s interesting also to see how many segments take the opportunity to say something, rather than just being exploitative. Speaking of which, sit through (or fast-forward) the gargantuan credit sequence for a cool post-credits scene with a cameo from a certain controversial figure. Taking an average of my scores for the shorts works out to about 6.5/10 and actually, factoring in the cool styling between segments and generally the fact that I love the whole idea, despite the restrictions of the anthology format meaning it’s not consistently great from start to end, I think that’s near enough right.
7/10.

ABCs of Death 2 (2014) Review

cs_20141CELLULOID SCREAMS 2014

ABCs-2-PosterABCs OF DEATH 2

Dir: Rodney Ascher, Julian Barratt, Robert Boocheck, Alejandro Brugues, Kristina Buozyte, Alexanre Bustillo, Larry Fessenden, Julian Gilbey, Jim Hosking, Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen, E.L. Katz, Aharon Keshales, Steven Kostanski, Marvin Kren, Juan Martinez Moreno, Erik Matti, Julien Maury, Robert Morgan, Chris Nash, Vincenzo Natali, Hajime Ohata, Navot Papushado, Bill Plympton, Dennison Ramalho, Todd Rohal, Jerome Sable, Bruno Samper, Jen Soska, Sylvia Soska, Soichi Umezawa

Starring: Tristan Risk, Martina Garcia, Beatrice Dalle, Lawrence R Harvey, Jerod Meagher, Andy Nyman, C Ernst Harth, Miguel Angel Munoz, Ivan Gonzalez, Ian Virgo, Alys Crocker, Victoria Broom, Lee Majoub, Kestrin Pantera, Conor Sweeney

The first ABCs of Death it has to be said, had a rather fun and novel concept at its core. The idea of presenting 26 short films, each based around a letter of the alphabet was an inspired one. However, despite an array of horror talent both old and new, the film came up incredibly short (no pun intended!). It was inevitable that consistency would be an issue on a project like this but for the shorts to be as uninspired and often unpleasant as they turned out to be was something of a surprise. I appreciate that not everyone feels this way, and the film(s) has a lot of fans and was successful enough to warrant this sequel. Again we are treated to 26 short films based around the letters of the alphabet, and again it is a mixed bag, and again to these eyes anyway, it never achieves its potential and is lacking in something truly inspired.

How you feel about this second dose of alphabetised mayhem will probably depend of how much you liked the first dose, and how forgiving you are of the film maker’s indulgencies. It isn’t without merit and I have to admit that three or four of the shorts hit the mark, just about, for me this time which is a bigger success rate than the first. But ultimately as an exhibition of the short film format, and as an anthology picture it fails and is mostly filled with either very bland student style films, or films that are overly bizarre just for the sake of it.

abc2A is for Amateur is a convoluted little opener that I completely lost interest in early on and wasn’t a good start. B is for Badger was a mini mockumentary about an obnoxious reporter that falls foul of an angry man eating badger. Harmless enough, but again lacks punch. C is for Capital Punishment has bigger ideas, and its denouement is shocking, but it doesn’t quite ring true. D is for Deloused is one of the better entries; a stop motion animation about large bugs it is creepy and well done. E is for Equilibrium is kooky and entertaining as a girl comes between two castaways. F is for Falling is one of the worst of the bunch. It tries so hard to say something about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict that it ultimately says nothing at all.

G is for Grandad is another poor entry and an example of something being gross for the sake of it. H is for Head Games is a weird animation about relationship power struggles; odd, but effective in its way. The amusingly gruesome I is for Invincible is a better short as a family tries to kill its invincible matriarch for its inheritance. J is for Jesus is a brutal and visceral affair about ignorance and martyrdom. It is solid and quite frightening, but not particularly memorable. K is for Knell was another oddity that failed to really connect with me. L is for Legacy involves a ritual sacrifice going wrong, but again is fairly forgettable. M is for Masticate is a slow motion bore that goes for high style but feels forced and a bit silly in the end.

N is for Nexus is better from the famed Larry Fessenden. Dealing with interweaving fates as people prepare for Halloween it is genuinely quite shocking. O is for Ochlocracy is well set up as it deals with a woman on trial for crimes against zombies after the zombies have become the dominant species. Smart and witty, it just out stays its welcome a little. P is for P-P-P-P SCARY! is just awful. Neither funny nor scary it is misguided and smart arsed. Q is for Questionnaire is ok. It works on its own terms, but isn’t particularly special. R is for Roulette sees three people in a basement forced to play Russian Roulette. Whilst it is well done, it doesn’t seem to have any real point. S is for Split is almost brilliant. Using split screen it follows a man as he is forced to listen to an attack on his wife via his phone in another country. It is genuinely tense, but is let down by offering up a predictable final twist.

abc3T is for Torture Porn sees American Mary’s The Soska Sisters take a stab at the murkier aspects of the porn industry. An interesting set up is ultimately let down and the film doesn’t particularly stand out. U is for Utopia is a quite effective sci-fi tale about our obsession with perfection. It emerges as one of the smarter more interesting entries. V is for Vacation is a raw and brutal entry that sees two obnoxious tourists fall foul of a couple of prostitutes they have mistreated. Rough and unpleasant, it is hit and miss. W is for Wish is a strange, but nightmarish journey into dark childish fantasy. Some interesting ideas are buried under tacky visuals. X is probably the most difficult letter to land but Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo’s X is for Xylophone is a good entry that goes to some pretty unpleasant places but does so with a wry and sinister smile. Y is for Youth is a crazed revenge fantasy that has some cool ideas but doesn’t feel entirely complete. Finally the end comes, and it ends on a high note with Z is for Zygote. It doesn’t make a great deal of sense but it is wonderfully gross and disturbingly funny.

Ultimately what we have here is a very mixed package from a very mixed bag of film makers. The best anthology films tend to have something that ties all the segments together, giving them some sort of narrative link and making them feel more cinematic. Possibly the biggest problem with both ABCs of Death films is that they lack any real connecting feature. They have the concept to work with but ultimately nothing is relevant to anything else on display meaning it is all a bit pick and mix. If you liked ABCs of Death the likelihood is you will find something to like here as well, but if you had little love for it the first time round it is unlikely that you will find much of interest here. Diverse, certainly but ultimately fairly forgettable from almost all concerned.

5/10

31 Days of Horror: #5 – The ABCs of Death

31 Days of Horror: #5 – The ABCs of Death
Your daily bitesized guide to the films you should be watching this Halloween season…
ABCsThe ABCs of Death (2012)

Directed by Various, inc. Adam Wingard, Ti West, Ben Wheatley
Written by Various, inc. Simon Barrett, Simon Rumley

Starring Michael Smiley, Kyra Zagorsky, Ivan Gonzalez, Erik Aude
A fantastically original insight into the minds of twenty-six directors, all of whom have created twenty-six short original films centralising around death – one death for each letter of the alphabet. As to be expected, it’s a mixed bag. Some big names are involved, some newcomers; what is guaranteed, though, is that there is absolutely something for everybody. It’s the perfect feature for an All Hallow’s Eve deathly romp!

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