Horror Channel plans home invasion of FrightFest movies in August

Horror Channel plans home invasion of FrightFest movies

horrorchannellogo

Can’t make it to the Vue Cinema in Shepherd’s Bush for this year’s FrightFest event? Never fear! Horror Channel will be bringing the UK’s biggest, boldest and bloodiest festival to your screens during August, dedicating thirteen nights to past festival favourites, including seven monstrous UK TV premieres from the 2015 event. These are Isaac Gabaeff’s rewarding monster mash-up THE SAND, Adam Levin’s spell-binding family frightener ESTRANGED, starring James Cosmo, Eugene McGing’s genuinely terrifying haunted house tale, THE UNFOLDING, Kyle Rankin’s touching rom-zom-com delight NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEB, Levan Bakhia’s extremely explosive LANDMINE GOES CLICK, Benjamin R. Moody’s penetrating character-slasher LAST GIRL STANDING & Jason Henrie-McCrea’s quirky, oddball gem CURTAIN.

FrightFest_HorrorChannel_logo1

The double-bills, on every night from August 19th – 31st, starting from 9pm, also feature classics such as Guillermo Del Toro’s PAN’S LABYRINTH, Howard & Jon Ford’s THE DEAD, Sean Byrne’s THE LOVED ONES, Tom Six’s THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE, Jim Mickle’s WE ARE WHAT WE ARE & Paul Hyett’s THE SEASONING HOUSE.

Thanks to Horror Channel, who are this year’s FrightFest headline sponsor, fans of the genre will get to experience the bloodiest home invasion of horror movies ever witnessed!

Full details of season in transmission order:

Fri 19 Aug @ 21:00 – THE SAND (2015) * UK TV Premiere

sand

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water again, you can’t even get across the sand! BLOOD BEACH meets SPRING BREAKERS in an appetising mix of smart nostalgia and up-to-the-minute visual effects. After an all-night graduation beach party, a

group of hung-over students wake up under blazing sun to find their numbers somewhat depleted. An enormous alien creature has burrowed down deep and anyone foolish enough to make contact with the sand finds themselves at the mercy of a sea of flesh-eating tentacles. Will they ever be able to escape its carnivorous clutches?

Fri 19 Aug. 22:40 – WE ARE WHAT WE ARE (2013)

Sat 20 Aug @ 21:00 – THE POSSESSION (2012)

Sat 20 Aug @ 22:55 – ESTRANGED (2015) *UK TV PREMIÈRE

estrangedhc

January is forced to return home after six wild years abroad. A road accident has left her wheelchair-bound with amnesia. Not only has she forgotten her family, but also her childhood and is surprised to discover her home is a stately country manor. Trying to settle in with boyfriend Callum at her attentive side, she just becomes even more distant from her family, who just want their old daughter back. The trouble is she cannot remember who that person was, or why she fled in the first place. Now she must learn all over again how terrible relatives can be. Stars James Cosmo, Amy Manson, Nora-Jane Noone and James Lance,

Sun 21 Aug @ 21:00 – THE LOVED ONES (2009)

Sun 21 Aug @ 22:40 – THE UNFOLDING (2015) *UK TV PREMIÈRE

theunfolding

It is 2016 and a fearful world seems to be on the brink of a nuclear catastrophe. A researcher in psychical events and his girlfriend travel to deepest Dartmoor to investigate a centuries-old building. What they unlock and discover is way more than they could have ever bargained for. An exciting first feature from newcomer Eugene McGing, who expertly takes familiar tropes and gives them a fresh spin. Stars Lachlan Nieboer, Robert Daws, Nick Julian, Kitty McGeever and Lisa Kerr.

Mon 22 Aug @ 21.00 – PANIC BUTTON (2011)

Mon 22 Aug @ 22:55 – STALLED (2013)

Tues 23 Aug @ 21:00 – GRABBERS (2012)

Tues 23 Aug @ 22:55 – THE SEASONING HOUSE (2012)

Wed 24 Aug @ 21:00 – THE HUMAN CENTIPEDE (2009)

Wed 24 Aug @ 22:55 – INBRED (2011)

Thurs 25 Aug @ 21:00 – EVIL ALIENS (2005)

Thurs 25 Aug @ 22:55 – PAN’S LABYRINTH (2006)

Fri 26 Aug @ 21:00 – NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEB *UK TV PREMIÈRE

notldebhc

After a girls’ night out, endearingly awkward Deb wakes up in the apartment of the most attractive guy in Portland, Maine. She’s thrilled, but can’t remember how she got there. Pretty boy Ryan only knows it was a mistake and ushers her out the door… into a full-scale zombie apocalypse. Now, a walk of shame becomes a fight for survival as the mismatched pair discovers that the only thing scarier than trusting someone with your life is trusting them with your heart. Great one-liners, a fabulous soundtrack and terrific performances from Maria Thayer, Michael Cassidy, Ray Wise, Chris Marquette and Julie Brister

Fri 26 Aug @ 22:40 – WOLF CREEK 2 (2013)

Sat 27 Aug @ 21:00 – THE VATICAN TAPES (2015)

Sat 27 Aug @ 22:50 – LANDMINE GOES CLICK (2015) *UK TV PREMIÈRE

lgchc

Three American tourists are crossing the desolate mountains in the formerly war-torn republic of Georgia. Daniel has just proposed to Alicia and has asked Chris to be his best man, so they stop to take a celebration photograph. Chris steps to the right, the step goes click and he finds himself standing on a landmine. From that moment on Chris cannot move or he’s dead. But then secrets are revealed, dark motives uncovered, an outside threat appears and the real nightmare unfolds. For what happens on that terrifying afternoon will become a harbinger of doom for all lost innocence. Stars Sterling Knight, Spencer Locke, Kote Tolordava, Dean Geyer and Nana Kiknadze.

Sun 28 Aug @ 21:00 – AFTER.LIFE (2009)

Sun 28 Aug @ 23:00 – LAST GIRL STANDING (2015) *UK TV PREMIÈRE

lgshc

She survived a brutal massacre, but lost her life. What happens to the final girl once the credits have rolled? Five years ago, a masked killer brutally murdered a group of friends. Since then, Camryn, the lone survivor, has tried to make sense of the homicidal events and struggled to reclaim her shattered life. Wracked with guilt and paranoia, can Camryn ever have a normal existence again or is she destined to cope alone forever? Benjamin R. Moody’s debut feature takes a captivating look at what happens to the remaining true victim of every horror movie. Stars Akasha Villalobos, Danielle Evon Ploeger, Brian Villalobos, JD Carrera and Ryan Hamilton.

Mon 29 Aug @ 21:00 – BURNING BRIGHT (2010)

Mon 29 Aug @ 22:45 – CURTAIN (2015) *UK TV PREMIÈRE

curtainhc

Danni moves into a New York apartment and starts sprucing the place up. She doesn’t know the previous tenant committed suicide in very strange circumstances. Nor does she know there’s a mysterious portal to another dimension in the bathroom that’s hungry for….shower curtains! But where does this unusual gateway hidden behind the white tiling lead? That’s what Danni and her ‘Whale Saver’ chugger workmate Tim decide to find out. It’s an investigation into a unique phenomenon full of surprise and unimaginable horror as they both enter The Yonder…Stars Danni Smith, Tim Lueke, Martin Monahan, Rick Zahn and Preston Lawrence.

Tues 30 Aug @ 21:00 – THE CANAL (2014)

Tues 30 Aug @ 22:55 – STITCHES (2012)

Wed 31 Aug @ 21:00 – THE DEAD (2010)

Wed 31 Aug @ 23:05 – HATCHET 3 (2013)

TV: Sky 319 / Virgin 149 / Freesat 138 | Freeview 70
www.horrorchannel.co.uk | twitter.com/horror_channel | facebook.com/horrorchannel

The Conjuring 2 (2016) Review

conjuringtwo1The Conjuring 2 (2016)

Director: James Wan
Stars: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmigia, Frances O’Connor, Madison Wolfe, Lauren Esposito, Patrick McAuley, Benjamin Haigh, Franke Potente, Simon McBurney

Released in UK cinemas on 10th June 2016 by Warner Bros

James Wan returns to the story of real-life ghost hunters Ed and Lorraine Warren (Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmigia) as they investigate ‘England’s Amityville’ — the infamous Enfield Poltergeist, a sinister supernatural presence that victimised a normal family, the Hodgsons, in 1977.

When a restless spirit makes its presence known to young Janet (Madison Wolfe); her siblings Margaret (Lauren Esposito), Johnny (Patrick McAuley) and Billy (Benjamin Haigh); and long-suffering mother Peggy (Frances O’Connor), they come to the attention of psychic researchers Maurice Grosse (an unrecognisable Simon McBurney) and sceptical Anita Gregory (Franke Potente).

Stateside the haunting is referred to the Catholic Church, which sends Ed and a battle-weary Lorraine to assess whether this is a genuine case.

But how safe are they all — especially as Lorraine is haunted by a terrible vision depicting Ed’s violent death…

I’m a big fan of James Wan. The likeable, enthusiastic, diminutive director always impresses and I believe he’s well on his way to becoming this generation’s John Carpenter. I also really enjoyed the first Conjuring movie, which meant this film had pretty big shoes to fill. And I’m delighted to say that this sequel is more than up to the task. It may even surpass the first and totally washes away the bad-taste left in the mouth by 2014’s derivative, soulless spin-off Annabelle.

MK1_5074.dngThe cast impress in their roles, especially the sparkling central duo of Farmigia and Wilson. They are a fantastic screen couple with real chemistry and both show impressive acting chops as they bring their real-life counterparts to life. However, these stars do take something of a back seat for the first act, so it’s a good thing that the actors playing the Hodgson family are so good.

Sure, as somebody who lives a mere 25 minutes from the real Green Street, I did notice a couple of wobbly accents from some of the younger stars but they soon settle down. Instead we find ourselves drawn into their plight, a testament to their performances.

It helps that the frights come thick and fast, with an early scene that pretty much lays the groundwork for every terrifying setpiece to come leading to some chilling payoffs. The scenes with young Billy’s tent and The Crooked Man zoetrope (a toy every bit as a ridiculously unsuitable for children as the Annabelle doll of the previous instalment, needless to say I NEED one) are standouts, while a scene in the Warren family home involving a Marilyn Manson-like demonic nun is a show-stealer.

Director Wan’s timing during these (and the myriad of other scares) is impeccable, while the flashy camerawork on display throughout shows plenty of creativity.

Clearly this is a labour of love — you get the impression he really cares about doing this story and its characters justice. Unfortunately, the only criticism I can level towards the film is that Wan may be a little too invested in the characters as written by him and collaborators Carey and Chad Hayes, expecting us to share his affection towards them. This leads to a couple of overly sentimental scenes that veer perilously close to schmaltzy at times (a mid-movie sing-along is especially cloying, even if it does highlight a superb period soundtrack).

MK1_4255.dngUltimately however, this is a price I’m prepared to pay for the chance to watch a horror film with genuine heart rather than mindless, inferior knock-offs and cash-ins. With this film Wan shows us all exactly what he brings to the table — skilled and reverential horror direction — and it is bloody impressive.

Highly recommended.

8/10

The Sand (2015) Review

thesandThe Sand (USA, 2015)
Dir: Isaac Gabaeff
Starring: Brooke Butler, Megan Holder, Dean Geyer

Out on UK VOD – April 25th from FrightFest Presents

Plot: After a wild Spring Break beach party, several hungover party-goers wake up to find the beach deserted. Inevitably someone puts their feet on the sand and after they are eaten by something under the dunes, it becomes a desperate fight for survival for the rest.

I originally heard of The Sand last year when it appeared in the line up for the Film 4 Fright Fest in London. It appears that the Fright Fest guys really loved this film as it’s now part of their FrightFest Presents range of horror films, available on demand. I passed on seeing this during the festival, only vaguely aware of the film’s scenario and deciding that it’s probably a bit on the silly side. Also the biggest thing The Sand has to compete with is it’s comparison to the Tremors series. The underground grabber monster sub-genre is not a well populated sub-genre and this film feels like it’s battling for validation against it’s predecessor.

thesand2The film starts off with a phone camera montage of the night before, setting up the location and the characters. It forces some aspects of the plot early on, particularly it’s handling of phone use. Claiming a “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” mantra and a ban on social media, the phones are put in a bag and locked in the boot of the car. The other forced plot point is when two characters walk in carrying a monster egg they found on the beach. On the plus side, this does set the ridiculous tone early on, if you’re looking for a serious film, this isn’t it.

The main characters are quickly dwindled down to a handful compared to the numbers from the party, basically anyone who didn’t fall asleep on the sand is still alive to start the story. The characters are scattered between a life guard station, the car, a bench, and the comic relief character, Gilbert, is stuck in a bin. What follows is the horror equivalent of the childhood game, The Floor is made of Lava. The film has tense moments as characters come close to the sand, or to the thread like feelers that emerge from it. They test out and establish the rules of the scenario, although never to a degree that feels satisfactory.

thesand1The biggest downside to The Sand is just that some parts just feel tacked on for the sake of drama. The phones are the most obvious example. They have phones but they can’t reach them because they are in the boot of the car, and the tacked on part is that this seems to be the only car that doesn’t have back seats that fold forward. They do address this in the film but that doesn’t make it any less frustrating. Also it is established at one point that if you have shoes on, you’re safe, at least for a little while. But none of them have shoes and that seems ridiculous.

If you can get past the forced drama, it’s not a bad film. As a low budget film, it does pretty well. It’s definitely watchable, but it’s not going to be your new favourite film. The characters are pretty two dimensional and there’s an awkwardness around the final girl, her love interest/ex-boyfriend, and his current girlfriend that just made me cringe. The monster effects are decent, they look good, but they don’t seem entirely integrated into the scene and come off a little cheap looking.

thesand3It’s one of those films that has ideas but maybe not the budget to pull it off. It sets itself up for what could be a bigger, better sequel and I’d be willing to give it a chance to show me how the film could have been if they could throw some real money behind it.

5/10

Beast Within aka Uncaged (2016) DVD Review

beastwithindvd1Beast Within aka Uncaged (USA, 2016)

Dir: Daniel Robbins

Starring: Ben Getz, Zack Weiner, Kyle Kirkpatrick

Out on UK DVD March 21st 2016 from Matchbox Films

Plot: When Jack (Getz) and his two best friends, Brandon (Weiner) and Turner (Kirkpatrick) decide to spend winter break at Jack’s uncle’s cabin, none of them could expect what would transpire. Jack’s got werewolf in his genes and his time has come. He’s got more than just the change to deal with, a local crimelord suspects Jack’s making trouble for him. Can Jack keep the beast under control and not get killed in the process?

Werewolves are a monster that takes a little effort to get right. Unlike vampires were you can just stick in some fake fangs and act a little brooding, Werewolves only have potential to be great when done well. Cheap effects don’t cut it and good effects mean nothing with a bad story. Sadly the latter applies when it comes to Beast Within, the second feature by writer/director Daniel Robbins.

beastwithindvd4When it comes to modern monster movies there is always a problem with having to deal with scepticism. Monsters aren’t real, we know this and this knowledge is usually shared by the characters in these films. They have to deal with something that is consider impossible, and it’s this reaction that is important. If they go along without scepticism they seem unreal and stupid, but if they are too sceptic then it gets annoying because they won’t believe what’s directly in front of them.

The film uses a GoPro to get around this for the main character, Jack, decides to strap onto himself before transforming for the first time. Disappointingly the audience don’t get to see a full blown werewolf rampage through the GoPro. It’s through Brandon and Turner that the problem of scepticism becomes an issue. Brandon isn’t really sceptical, Jack just tells him and after seeing the footage he believes Jack. This knowledge doesn’t change him though Brandon remains the goofy comic relief. Turner isn’t told and only discovers when he is attacked by Jack and then becomes one of the film’s villains. Turner doesn’t seem to have much remorse towards Jack, despite allegedly being one of his best friends.

beastwithindvd2Beast Within mostly has a serious tone, with only Brandon being around to lighten the mood. However Brandon’s jokey comments usually fall flat and make his character feel more and more out of place in this pretty serious monster movie. Brandon is more slasher movie material than werewolf movie. There also feels like a lack of tragedy to Jack, werewolves are generally quite tragic characters if films like American Werewolf in London, or The Wolfman are anything to go by. They try to make him tragic, his parents are killed at the start and Jack does try to control the change by putting himself in a cage, but he doesn’t act like he really cares. He’s more inconvenienced by the change rather than scared and upset.

The story is hard to follow in places and I didn’t really feel like the stuff with the crimelord, Gonzo, really went anywhere. It was just an excuse for Jack to kill a bunch of bad guys as a werewolf. A lot of this film feels like an effects reel, showing what cool monster effects this production company can do and in that respect it is well done. The transformation scene was enjoyable and so was the gore. One visual effect that I didn’t really like though was the use of comic book style transitions between certain scenes. It’s an effect that is used quite a bit at the start of the film and dwindles down to once or twice near the end, like they kind of forgot to use it. I didn’t really like it because it had no relevance to the movie. It works in the likes of Creepshow because Creepshow is an anthology that’s presented like their tales in a comic book. Here it’s just used because it kind of looks cool.

beastwithindvd3Beast Within is a pretty film but lacks a well-told story to really grip the audience. If they story was stronger and the tone didn’t fluctuate between serious and comedic, then this might have turned out better than it did. Hopefully the next film by Daniel Robbins can bring a good story to match his impressive visuals.

4/10

I Am Alone (2015) Review

I Am Alone (USA, 2015)

Dir: Robert A. Palmer

Starring: Gareth David-Lloyd, Gunner Wright, Marshal Hilton

UK Release TBC

Plot: While filming the latest episode of reality survival show “I am alone” out in the Colorado wilderness, a zombie outbreak occurs. The show’s host Jacob Fitts (David-Lloyd) is out alone in the forest while his producer, Mason Riley (Wright) desperately searches for him. After living through the chaos, Riley ends up in a military stronghold and made to re-watch the footage recovered from both survivors to help the military figure out just what happened.

When it comes to making a low budget horror film there’s some genres that are considered easier to do on the cheap. There are countless zombie movies and found footage films that have been put together on a micro-budget. Those two sub-genres have crossed path many times with the likes of [REC], Diary of the Dead, and The Zombie Diaries to name a few. However just because you can do it, it doesn’t mean that it’s easy to make it good. I Am Alone is the second feature of director Robert A. Palmer, and I can’t comment on his first feature, yet it’s still early days in his career. I’d recommend that in his next feature, he steers clear of Found Footage.

The unique angle that Palmer uses to spin the zombie sub-genre is the crossover with survivalist reality television. Gareth David-Lloyd does his best Bear Grylls, although it mostly involves sitting around camp fires and talking to the camera. The majority of this film is Fitts and Riley making video diaries on the quiet moments from evading zombies. In a survival scenario, you’d think your vlogs might become a secondary priority after ensuring your own survival.

The film also includes a framing device that feels similar to the one in the VHS films, in which a scientist who has Riley locked in a military interrogation room needs him to watch the found footage because Fitts’ transformation into a zombie is slower than normal and the scientist believes that Riley’s intimate knowledge of Fitts might lead to a solution to this mystery and maybe a cure of the infection. It doesn’t really make any sense, watching the footage isn’t going to make Riley know his friend any better, especially the footage of himself. They make Riley watch the footage he recorded himself. Also an autopsy of Fitts would turn up more solutions that watching the footage. Also there’s a problem with the “Found” part of the Found Footage, the footage is made up of video from many different sources, including CCTV footage from various buildings Riley has been to. The military bunker they are holed up in is under siege by the zombies, I don’t know when they found the time to get it all together.

There’s a presumption that Found Footage films are easy to do. They are not easy to do well. I Am Alone makes the mistakes of many flawed Found Footage films. The biggest mistake is having too many cameras. Whenever Riley or Fitts has a moment to pour their heart out to the cameras they have always got two cameras on them at the very least. Fitts in particular who is supposed to be deteriorating mentally, still has the mental capacity to set up a second camera so they have something to edit between. Speaking of editing, the second error this film makes is that it uses too much editing, not only choosing the best angle for the moment but also adding a soundtrack. I’m sure that it was a big priority for the military to pick the best music to convey emotion while Riley watched.

On the zombie side of things, I Am Alone doesn’t bring too much to the table. The main focus is on Fitts’ slow transformation but it’s done much better in films like Contracted. Fitts’ gets the most extensive zombie make up in the cast but it’s very minimal and pretty standard. Everyone else sprayed with a little fake blood and sent on their way.

I Am Alone does try to be something bigger than the average indie zombie film by having multiple running story lines but those story lines don’t add up to anything more than scared men run around with cameras and occasionally make glum video diaries. It tries to be a big movie on a small budget but it doesn’t hit the mark. You would have thought that reality television and found footage would be perfect together, both try to take something fake and present it as real. However it just comes off as something kind of bland.

2/10

THE VISIT Available on digital HD on Jan 4th the Blu-Ray & DVD on 18th January 2016

THE VISIT

Available on digital HD on Jan 4th the Blu-Ray & DVD on 18th January 2016

Get ready for some deep dark secrets to be uncovered as a chilling thriller, The Visit is released on Digital HD on 4th January and Blu-Ray™ and DVD on 18th January 2016.

Directed by the notorious horror film figure M. Night Shyamalan (Sixth Sense, Signs, The Village) and produced by Jason Blum (Paranormal Activity, Insidious), The Visit follows a terrifying story of a brother and sister, staring Olivia DeJonge (The Sisterhood of Night & Polarised) and Ed Oxenbould (Paper Planes & Julian), who are sent to their grandparents’, Deanna Dunagan (House of Cards & The Cherokee Word for Water) and Peter McRobbie (Lincoln & Spider-Man 2), remote Pennsylvania farm for a weeklong trip. Once the children discover that the elderly couple are involved in something deeply disturbing, they see their chances of getting back home growing smaller and smaller every day…

The Visit is released on Digital HD on 4th January and Blu-Ray™ and DVD on 18th January 2016, with both formats including an alternate ending. This is a must-have for your horror film collection.

SPECIAL FEATURES
DVD
· Alternate ending
· Deleted scenes

2D BLU-RAY™
· Alternate ending
· Deleted scenes
· The making of The Visit
PRODUCT INFORMATION:
· Title: THE VISIT
· Retail Release Date: Blu-ray™ and DVD 18th January 2016
· Rating: 15
· Retailer SKUs: BD RRP: £24.99 DVD RRP: £19.99
· Running Time: 94 minutes
· Copyright: © 2016 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved.

The Scope of Horror by Christopher Stewart

The Scope of Horror by Christopher Stewart

October is a distant memory as we draw to the end of November but I can’t help but think back to the Halloween month, when people discuss what’s the best horror films. Numerous top ten lists to decide what to watch on the spookiest night of the year. More lists will be spawning around the web shortly to decide what was the cream of the crop for 2015 as we enter December. This article isn’t to discuss that, everyone is entitled to what they thought was the best this year or what are the best horror films ever. Instead I want to turn the focus on the other discussion, the discussion that determines why some of your favourites aren’t horror.

In every comment section of every top ten article, the horror fans are up in arms. Why is Shaun of the Dead in that list?! Don’t you know it’s a comedy! Why is Se7en there!? It’s a Thriller. Underworld!?! Are you mental? The lines where horror crosses over into other genre are loose boundaries, areas of contention. It seems that some people are afraid to walk too close to the horizons of horror in fear of falling off the side into some genre oblivion. A nightmare abyss where Rom-Coms lurk.

 

I’ve often had to defend the Horror Comedies when it comes to their place on my horror DVD shelf. They are often disqualified due to their inability to generate dread compared to a true horror film. I would say that when it comes to the properties of a horror film, how scared it makes me is not a factor that I care deeply about. If I was to judge my horror film collection based on that sole characteristic, my shelves would be quite bare. It’s more about the content the film offers, morbid tales of monsters and murder are how I would determine a horror film.

That personal boundary is challenged by one specific genre cross, the Action Horror. Films like Resident Evil, Underworld, and Van Helsing, don’t really fall under my personal scope of what horror is. The reason for that is due to the characters’ lack of vulnerability. There’s a similar issue when it comes to horror gaming, one example being Condemned 2. While there are a bunch of monsters raising hell, there’s also a protagonist with an unnatural level of badassery, equipped with either magic powers, genetically modified superpowers, or a long history of kicking ass and taking names. It’s the reason why I wouldn’t classify Predator as a horror film, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a powerhouse who can go toe to toe with his monster. In comparison to Simon Pegg in Shaun of the Dead, Arnie has a much tighter grasp on his situation than Pegg does.

 

The other genre that battles for the classification of horror films is the Thriller. With films such as Se7en, Silence of the Lambs, and Shutter Island, it’s often questioned which camp they fall under. The term Thriller is often joked as being “A horror film with a shot at an Oscar” due to The Oscars long time snubbing of the horror genre. I’d usually determine a thriller based on which perspective the film is being seen from, particularly if it is coming from a police investigation angle. The inclusion of an investigation usually moves the film away from a stalk and kill formula and asks questions to the killer’s motivation and providing the film with a more intellectual approach. However this usually only accounts for films with a human killer, and yet there is the sub-genre of the Supernatural Thriller which tries to “legitimise” paranormal and monster movies under the Thriller header.

 

At the end of it all, horror is still subjective. If you want to only recognise the films that scare you, it’s going to limit your appreciation of an extensive genre. A genre that takes the old folk tales of vampires and werewolves, and splices it with modern life either as side-splitting comedies like What We Do In The Shadows, or as gun-toting leather-fetish showcases like Underworld. The more film makers get weird and wild with the boundaries of horror, the more original stories we’re getting, for better or worse. You just have to decide if you want to step off into that abyss.

Edgar Allan Poes Black Cats: Two Adaptations By Sergio Martino & Lucio Fulci from Arrow Video

bc2Edgar Allan Poes Black Cats: Two Adaptations By Sergio Martino & Lucio Fulci

THE BLACK CAT (Dir- Lucio Fulci, ITALY, 1981)

YOUR VICE IS IN A LOCKED ROOM AND ONLY I HAVE THE KEY (Dir- Sergio Martino, ITALY, 1972)

Starring: David Warbeck, Patrick Magee, Mimsy Farmer, Luigi Pistilli, Edwige Fenech, Anita Stringbgerg

Available now from Arrow Video !

bc1Arrow video plough on with another fantastic release to spoil genre fans with a set of films based around Edgar Allen Poe’s THE BLACK CAT from two of Italy’s genre masters. Whilst Poe’s work has been most famously adapted by Roger Corman in his series of films for American International in the 60’s, most of these adaptations only loosely take material from the writers work and even taking parts from various story’s into one film.

THE BLACK CAT for instance has been one of his works that has had its narrative elements taken into various forms, from Universal’s Karloff and Legosi collaboration to Dwain Esper’s fantastically enjoyably bad MANIAC. THE BLACK CAT, is Fulci’s take on Poe’s story and its one of the instances of the director using giallo elements and a more moodier Gothic approach especially with its use of an English village setting. It’s also one of the directors entry’s that’s the least well known or favoured by fans of the director.

The films story focuses on a series of mysterious deaths in a small English village. The only thing linking them is a black cat, whose owner Robert Miles (Magee) keeps tape recorders in cemetery’s to capture messages from the dead and who just happens to be psychic, and also loathes the black moggy. In steps an American tourist (Farmer) who on meeting Miles notices that there seems to be an unusual connection between the two. She soon starts to snoop around the village and at the same time meets up with an out-of-towner detective (Warbeck) sent into help with the investigation of the deaths and both start to sense a strange psychic connection between Miles and the cat and that one might have a control or psychic bond over the other.

bc3Being a slightly more slow paced than his usual gore fests and not featuring the stand out gore scenes that have marked him out in his previous work, Fulci manages to craft an entertaining horror that his helped with Sergio Salvati’s cinematography adding a nice visual hammer like element to the film with the camera prowling around at cats eye level along English countryside village. LIVING DEAD AT MANCHESTER MORGUE might be the film that springs to mind when watching this, though that might just be in the simple connection that that was also an Italian (well also co- Spanish) produced film where a European cinematographer manages to use the quaint village setting and the director conjures up an atmosphere of menace in the most pleasant and quiet surroundings.

Fulci is also aided by a great performance from the ever brilliant Magee, who has some of the best eyebrows in cinema that seem to deliver a performance of their own, and who is supported by Warbeck who would go onto star in THE BEYOND and also Al Cliver as an English bobby who also featured previously in ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS. Whilst it doesn’t contain the extreme gore set pieces that has trademark Fulci’s work it does still feature a few violent scenes though its quite restrained by the directors standards and even though it has it’s many detractors who wont hail it with ZOMBIE or THE BEYOND, it still is an entertaining watch.

bc4Martino’s take on the Black Cat is a lot more loosely based on the story, but having one of the best titles around (if slightly long winded). YOUR VICE IS IN A LOCKED ROOM AND ONLY I HAVE THE KEY follows Oliviero (Pistilli) who lives on an estate regularly hosting parties inhabited by hippies and who enjoys tormenting his wife in front of his long haired exhibitionist guests. He is also having an affair with a bookkeeper much to the annoyance of his long suffering wife and overall he’s pretty much a bastard.

In the obvious Black Cat connection Oliviero’s wife hates the household feline called Satan as it constantly attacks her and also has eyes on attacking and making a meal of her collection of birds. Oliviero also has an obsession with his mother, something that his wife teases him with when she turns up in a dress that once belonged to the matriarch. It’s not long before the giallo element kicks into full gear and when the long suffering abusive couple find their maid slashed to death on their staircase and then soon there is a figure dressed in black coat and wearing black gloves sporting a fedora hat (the standard Giallo killer outfit) killing off various people associated with Oliviero.

bc5Martino’s take is very much of the loose kind of adaptation were used to seeing of Poe’s work that extracts various elements of the Black Cat story such as the bricking up of body’s behind a wall, and the hatred of the black feline, who in this particular film is given the name of Satan, which is slight too obvious reference to the old fashioned belief of black cats being harbingers of the devil. However the main focal point is Martino’s use of the giallo style, something he has already become associated with and accustomed to with films such as ALL THE COLOURS OF THE DARK and TORSO which was made after YOUR VICE…, and like that film YOUR VICE… certainly has a sleazy element to it with plenty of nudity and good looking women on display who somehow all fall victim to violent deaths at the hand of a black gloved killer.

It’s familiar Giallo style and in many respects the problem with YOUR VICE… is it does seem to drag in parts with more focus on softcore sex scenes that seem to become a distraction a don’t seem to push the plot along, though this might be part of the course to fill in the sleaze quota, and might be in essence one of Martino’s stylistic traits to be found in his giallo work, it still seems to be a slight distraction. Either way there’s a great central performance from Pistilli who is a loathsome character and another great performance from the black feline. In comparing both films, they have their weaknesses and their strengths. The two pictures seem to have a moody atmosphere with Fulci’s being the most noticeable of all and Martino’s being the less obvious reference point to the Poe story and finding more in the ground of a sleazy giallo thriller. Though both prove equally entertaining and would make a great double bill screening especially to compare both films use of the classic Poe story.

bc6As usual Arrow go out of their way to provide enough extras on the disc they can find for both films. THE BLACK CAT features an audio commentary by Fangoria editor Chris Alexander, some features including Poe Into Fulci, where film historian Stephen Thrower looks at Fulci’s take on Poe, a nice feature on the English locations used in the film and also an archived interview with David Warbeck. VICE follows on in similar vain with an interview with Martino, Unveiling the Vice, where Martino, star Edwige Fenech recount the making of the film. A visual essay on Martino’s Giallo films by Michael Mackenzie, a profile by Justin Harries on Edwige Fenech and also a small interview with Eli Roth on the film. This also comes with an 80 page book featuring a final interview with Fulci and a reprint of Poe’s original story, and the film is in both Blu-Ray and DVD format, all 2k restorations which look fantastic in Blu Ray. Overall another well presented disc from Arrow.

Films:
THE BLACK CAT 6/10
YOUR VICE IS A LOCKED ROOM…..6/10

Disc:
8/10

Do Not Disturb (2015) Short Film Review

DoNotDisturb Red Jacket (Max Res)Do Not Disturb (2015)

Directed by: Jon James Smith

Written by: Jon James Smith

Cast: Richard Shelton, Kathryn Leeman

Running Time: 14 Minutes

Studio: Photek Films

Release Date: TBC

In LA a man sits in his car on his phone, he tells someone he loves that he has to stay at work but we see he is actually parked outside a seedy motel. Sat behind him in the shadows, wearing a hood and brandishing a gun is his captor. The captor communicates through a tape recorder, the voice being modulated and gives the man direction. As we enter the motel room he is told, again via the tape recorder, to undress and get on the bed. The captor handcuffs him to the bed and is revealed to be a dark haired woman who takes out a gag. The man begins to complain that he ordered a blonde and wants a discount, she’s the hooker he ordered and he’s into some seriously weird role-play.

Do Not Disturb Still 1Here lies our first twist in what turns out to be a wonderfully built thriller by writer/director t Jon James Smith. Things take a sudden sinister turn for the man, later identified as ‘George’, when the dark haired woman pulls out a craft knife and begins to cut him. She again plays the tape and shows him a scrap of paper with instructions on, if he doesn’t follow these instructions, he loses his eyes. George complies and instructs his wife to empty all their bank accounts. George’s wife, Margaret, complies and we see she is already in the company of the LAPD. Calmly and collectively Detective Forbes, played by the wonderful Richard Shelton, instructs to do just as she has been told.

Over the next 8 minutes a beautifully crafted story and film unfold. Shot confidently and with an eye for flair, Director Smith never wastes a moment. His establishing shots linger just enough for us to take in our surroundings and capture the back streets and scenery of down town LA with a gritty realism and beauty. His filming style here would fit seamlessly into any modern day noir or detective drama.

Do Not Disturb Still 8Smith has surrounded himself with a group of talented actors, never falling into stereotypes and never feeling out of place. As I have mentioned before Richard Shelton is wonderful as Detective Forbes, playing with just the right amount of empathy and seriousness.

I was initially put off by Margaret, played by Kathryn Leeman, as she came across a little flat in the early scenes but by the time you reach the end of the short it is understandable why she reacts this way, her empathy seems stripped away after the realisation that her husband has been sleeping with prostitutes etc.

Stewart Dugdale provides a score that is very much in keeping with the style of the short, never being intrusive or needing to tell us how we should be feeling. It blends into the background in a comfortable way but never gets lost.

Do Not Disturb Still 2Jon James Smith has crafted a clever and gripping film that made me want to see more than the 14 minutes given. His creative team and talent should be proud of his little gem and all the recent accolades are well deserved. I look forward to Mr Smith’s future works and hope that Do Not Disturb continues in its successes.

Rating: 9/10

Vampires aka Bloodless (2014) DVD Review

bloodless1Vampires (aka Bloodless) – 2014

Director & Writer – Richard Johnstone

Stars: Victoria Hopkins, Angela Zahra, Melissa Advani

UK release – out now on DVD from 101 Films

A group of people, participating in a paid medical trial in the remote countryside, begin to suspect something is wrong and they are in danger. Initially they put the strange occurrences down to the medicine they are on and the people running the trial testing their nerves to see psychological results.

Vampires is written and directed by Richard Johnstone, who’s only written and directed short films before. Johnstone does what he can here with a tiny budget. The initial story behind Vampires is actually quite interesting and I feel that with a bigger budget and some plot points improved this could’ve been a much much better film. The lack of budget really shows with the acting, score and editing all rather poor. On the plus side, the location, a medieval castle and some of the shots are actually very good. Johnstone clearly has an eye for framing a shot brilliantly.

Acting-wise, Vampires is really poor. I can appreciate that with a low budget horror such as this, it would be difficult to attach any well known or decent actors. I don’t know if it is the script which needed ironing out or just the delivery of every single line from all the actors involved. I feel guilty for saying this as I cannot act at all and shouldn’t have a right to judge but overall the acting was distracting from the story. The score was also pretty bad, it seemed rather amateurish and most of the time out of place.

bloodless2The pacing of the film was another big issue for me. It seemed to last hell of a long time. Not a lot really happens until the last 15-20 minutes, I can understand that sometimes starting slow helps build tension and in all fairness who doesn’t love a slow burn thriller/horror eh? If the acting was better it may have been more interesting to stay with the characters some more and learn a bit more about them. I have to admit a few times I actually looked up to check the time to see if I should’ve been going to bed and turning this off.. It was roughly 5pm when I watched this….

The characters were poorly written and cliché ridden, the final girl, the asshole, the weirdo girl who knows something is wrong and no one believes until it is too late. Not a single character in Vampires is likeable or remotely enjoyable to watch.

Johnstone did show of some of his directing skills, the way he framed many of the exterior shots of the castle was very good. I was also rather impressed with some shots later in the film when a Vampire is slowing burning up from the sun whilst walking down a corridor, the smoke coming off this character combined with the rays of sunshine coming through the windows did look really good.

Although a lot of Vampires was just below average on the quality meter there were the occasional nice touches here and there. Richard Johnstone clearly is a good director; I just feel that he needs a bigger budget as his creative film maker mind is quite ambitious.

If you like vampire films or low budget British ventures into that genre look no further, as long as you don’t mind some shoddy acting and some cheesy out of place music. If you appreciate the effort and vision it takes to make a very low budget film then maybe this is worth a watch for you. But if you enjoy your films with good acting and a faster paced story… Look elsewhere.

bloodless3I personally think Richard Johnstone should get some credit here, he has wrote an interesting story and has shown off some good directing. I will certainly be looking out for any future features he makes. STUDIOS..PLEASE GIVE RICHARD JOHNSTONE A BIGGER BUDGET TO WORK WITH NEXT TIME!!!!!!

If there is nothing else on, give a watch. Don’t avoid it by any means but don’t rush out to watch this.

Rating 4/10

Follow me on Twitter @NLouse91