• Please click on the ad below and support our sponsor!!

Satanic (2016) Review

rsz_satanicSatanic (2016)

Director: Jeffrey G. Hunt

Starring: Sarah Hyland, Steven Krueger, Clara Mamet, Justin Chon, Sophie Dalah

Out NOW on UK DVD from Soda Pictures

“One devil shrine does not a douche-bag make.”

Satanic starts off promising, with good production values and a talented cast lead by Sarah Hyland from Modern Family. Unfortunately it goes downhill pretty quickly, failing to deliver on the occult thrills promised by the title.

Chloe (Hyland), David (Krueger), Elise(Mamet)and Seth(Chon) are on their way to Coachella with a two day stop in Los Angeles for their own private murder tour. Chloe’s cousin Elise and her boyfriend Seth are little baby goths looking to hit some Satanic hotspots, like the Church of Satan LA chapter. They check into a dive hotel room where a woman named Laney Gore slit her own throat back in the 70s. The budding young Satanists, Elise and Seth try to contact the deceased while Chloe pouts nervously and her preppy boyfriend David makes snide remarks. That is everything you need to know about the characters, and as much depth as any of them truly have.

rsz_satanic_1Back to the plot. Elise and Seth are in charge of the LA itinerary while David complains constantly but drives them around anyway. After a rude reception at the Church of Satan Elise and Seth get booted out of a magic store at knifepoint. The group decides to follow the clerk after he leaves the store, to find out if he’s really a Satanist or just a jerk. Well, he turns out to be a Satanist and our intrepid Scooby Gang interrupts a ritual of some kind, and are driven off again, this time at gunpoint. Seth, who is definitely the Shaggy of the group, drops his phone at the site of the ritual. The next day they get a call from Alice, who may, or may not have been a ritual sacrifice. And then a bunch more stuff happens. The plot is honestly exhausting to try and describe because it accomplishes so very little in so very much time. There’s a lot going on but not much happening.

The acting is good. The characters aren’t particularly sympathetic except for doe-eyed Chloe, who is sympathetic because she 1-has empathy and 2-has giant doe eyes that would emote with or without her. The other young actors all have impressive resumes and it’s the script that fails them, not their talents. They are given shallow characters with very little personality to work with, and even so they manage to act through trite dialogue and well worn horror clichés.

Satanic seems likes it’s trying to be a throwback to the 1970’s wave of occult inspired films. At the same time it doesn’t seem aware that those films exist and that they did it better. It’s a shallow satanic film as these things go, lacking the accoutrements and ambiance of older occult movies. There are some stock standard robes, a satanic alter… and not much else. Even the locales aren’t gothic.

rsz_satanic_3The actual interesting bits kick in about fifty minutes into the film, but by then it’s too little too late. And then the film STILL has to wander around doing not much of anything, except lots of screaming, for another twenty minutes. The majority of special effects are back loaded into the last half of the film as well, and none of them are worth much of a mention except that for most of the movie I wondered if there were even going to BE any special effects. I am almost sad that my question was answered. The ending is a boring mess

Kudos for: Hardcore, but not too hardcore Satanists.

Lesson learned: Just take the murder tour bus, it’ll save time.

4/10

Don’t Knock Twice (2016) Review

rsz_dkt_poster_1_sheetDON’T KNOCK TWICE (2016)

Starring Katee Sackhoff, Lucy Boynton and Nick Moran

Directed by Caradog W. James

Written by Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler

DON’T KNOCK TWICE is released in cinemas and On Demand from 31st March and DVD 3rd April

A mother desperate to reconnect with her troubled daughter becomes embroiled in the urban legend of a demonic witch”.

Welsh filmmaker Caradog W. James burst onto the genre scene in 2013 with stylish sci-fi thriller The Machine, which has gained quite the cult following in the time since its release. Low on budget but high on style, The Machine was a homegrown attempt at a Hollywood quality product and, buoyed by two great lead performances, it very nearly achieved it.

James is back now with Don’t Knock Twice, and this time he’s shed the sci-fi and opted for a very traditional attempt at supernatural horror. From the opening titles to the very last frame, James distinct and slick visual style is evident. He packs every scene with inventive lighting and colour, and visceral camerawork, the whole film a feast for the eyes. It makes a change from the usual gritty handheld that we get, with composed shots that give everything a very high end feel.

rsz_1rsz_054Another aspect that really helps this thick and polished atmosphere is the score from James Edward Barker and genre fave Steve Moore. While sometimes slightly intrusive, the duo have nonetheless come up with an eerie and memorable theme for the film that reminded me very much of Charles Bernstein’s classic Elm Street score.

The performances are great if purposely subdued. Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica, Oculus) conveys much more than the script by Howl writers Mark Huckerby and Nick Olster allows, and Lucy Boynton, who I caught recently in the absolutely stunning February, is equally innocent and edgy as her troubled mothers equally troubled daughter. It was also great to see Nick Moran of Lock Stock pop up, for a stock cop character that becomes much more interesting as the story progresses . As the film went on though I felt slightly disconnected with the characters. It’s not the fault of the cast, with both Sackhoff and Boynton doing great work. But the pace of the film leaves very little room for character development, often in a rush to deliver a trailer shot or a jump scare.

rsz_097This in turn affects the actual scares of the film. If we don’t care much about the characters, we don’t fear for them either. Same goes for the antagonist. The film plays its cards a little too early, foregoing the subtle build up and showing most of the big bad quite early, again, rendering it a little less scary. And while the design is indeed creepy and has rightly been earning praise, it reminded me a little too much of the antagonist in last years risible Lights Out.

It’s a shame that one came first because Don’t Knock Twice is easily the better of the two films. I watched an analysis of James Wan’s work recently, observing how he creates an effective jump scare, and the secret is all in the build up. Wan will milk the suspense for as long as he can, avoiding an onslaught of stingers for one big, terrifyingly effective one. But here, everything that can be a jump scare, is a jump scare. And so, they’re less effective.

rsz_163As it is, Don’t Knock Twice reminded me very much of another British film that attempted to emulate the big budget Hollywood style, action movie Welcome To The Punch. On a surface level, they get everything right, but there’s just something missing. The story lacks originality by default and scenes of exposition stop the film dead. But none of this is enough to take away from what is an ambitious chiller. If you’re a fan of Mama, Insidious, or any one of Blumhouse’s productions, you’ll find a lot of enjoyment in this, and it’s great to see Caradog W. James becoming one of the most visually striking directors on this side of the shore. Hollywood must be calling.

7/10

Bloodrunners (2017) Review

rsz_1rsz_bloodrunners_poster_hiresBloodrunners (2017)

Directed by: Dan Lantz.
Written by: Dan Lantz and Michael McFadden.
Starring: Ice-T, Michael McFadden, Chris James Boylan and Airen DeLaMater.

For more information visit – www.bloodrunnersmovie.com

“Set in 1930s prohibition, a corrupt cop discovers that the popular speakeasy in town has been infiltrated by vampires”.

I often wonder if vampires should still be included as one of the horror story’s staple monsters. In the seventies and eighties Anne Rice made vampires mysterious & sexy. In the nineties, Buffy the Vampire Slayer made vampires fun. In the noughties, the Twilight series seemed to emasculate vampires and sprinkle their embarrassed memory with glittery sparkles. As a consequence of so much distillation, dilution and homogenisation, our modern-day vampires are now so far removed from their ancestors (such as Nosferatu, Varney the Vampire and Dracula), that they come across as homeopathic incarnations. They are as scary as the risk of not having checked your entitlement to PPI. Which is why it was kind of refreshing to watch Bloodrunners.

Director Dan Lantz (Bloodlust Zombies, Ninja Babes from Space and Modern Marvels) brings his capable hand to a cleverly-crafted story of vampires in the time of the prohibition. The conceit of vampires shipping bottles of blood across the country gives motive to a plot that is carefully balanced and enjoyable from start to finish.

rsz_br_prod_still00104Early on we’re introduced to slightly-corrupt-cop, Sergeant Jack Malone (Michael McFadden: The Breaks, Bull and Gotham). Jack later describes his motive for joining the police force, with the words, “I was handy with a gun and I needed a job.” It’s this pragmatic attitude that makes him likeable throughout the film. Jack’s backstory, which includes some of the guilt and PTSD he’d suffered as a participant in the first world war, was an intelligent contribution to the narrative and allowed for his character develop.

The background romance between Willie (Chris Boylan: Killers, Redcoats and Zeroes) and Anna (Airen DeLaMater: Apparition, A Crime to Remember and Redrum) is probably not the most compelling subplot you’re likely to encounter this season. I say this, although I’m willing to admit my lack of investment in this detail is likely down to my own puerile response of giggling when Anna was desperately calling for help from her beau by shouting, “Willie! Willie! Willie!”

But it is Chesterfield (Ice-T: Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, Johnny Mnemonic and Tank Girl) who steals this movie. Commanding every scene he’s in, Chester is presented as a talented showman able to command the stage of his speakeasy; a skilled smuggler who can slip illicit drinks past the authorities; and an uber-competent gangster who doesn’t suffer fools. He has a suave sense of dress, a harem of women at his command, and his own personal finger collection. The fact that he’s also a vampire is a detail that only serves to make him more likeable.

rsz_br_prod_still00063I genuinely enjoyed this one. It’s clear that a lot of time and effort has been invested in recreating the authentic look of 1933 New Jersey. The cars and clothes make the experience immersive. The special effects are sophisticated and the whole feel has a strong sense of the dangerous theatrics that we once used to associate with vampires. More importantly, this film should be seen just for those of us who’ve wanted to see Ice-T say the words, “Human blood should be enjoyed like fine wine.”

Well worth your time. 8/10

Bornless Ones (2016) Review

rsz_bo1BORNLESS ONES (2016)

Starring Margaret Judson, Devin Goodsell and Michael Johnston

Written & Directed by Alexander Babaev

With the help of her friends, Emily moves to a remote home to take better care of her brother, Zach, who is diagnosed with cerebral palsy. But what they don’t know is that the house kept a terrifying secret that will haunt them one by one“.

Horror movies that riff on The Evil Dead are nothing new. From Cabin Fever to Cabin in the Woods, and last years absolutely amazing Tonight She Comes, it really goes to show just how classic, timeless and inspiring Sam Raimi’s original demonic possession movie was. Hell, we’ve even got a hit TV spin-off over 30 years after its release!

It’s also a great springboard for low-budget genre loving filmmakers to cut their teeth. Isolated location, minimal cast, and plenty of opportunity for outlandish, ridiculous and crowd-pleasing violence.

Writer and director Alexander Babaev knows all this, but his Bornless Ones isn’t a lazy retread.

The script really sets Bornless Ones apart. Things start off seemingly quite sketchy, with cliched and juvenile humour and interactions coming from a young and attractive cast. But all of a sudden, without you really ever noticing, Babaev has established the relationships and backstory for each of the characters in a deft and effortless way. Then the demons are introduced, and these characters and their history’s are beautifully exploited. It’s nothing new, see Event Horizon, but it’s a refreshing change to see it all handled so expertly.

rsz_bo2Just as the story grows in confidence as the film goes on, so do the performances. Judson is an amiable and sympathetic heroine, her focus on her brother making her more than just a final girl. Goodsell grows into a fantastic asshole, becoming a human pin cushion as things get more horrific, and he communicates it with aplomb. Bobby T and Michael Johnston do well, again adding layers to what would usually be thin stock characters. The inclusion of Johnston as the cerebral palsy afflicted Zach adds a whole new dimension to the film.

Special mention must also go up David Banks as a nutso realtor who briefly shows up to add some real humour. But the standout was Mark Furze as Woodrow. So much more than the sex-obsessed character, Furze seems to add lots of little nuances to Woodrow as things go on. He’s a big talent.

Babaev doesn’t skimp on the gore either, with some excellent mostly practical FX that are very inventive and fun. It’s rare that this kind of film shows you something you haven’t seen before!

rsz_bo3On the downside, some of the editing felt a little off, the content cut to blacks giving an episodic feel to the flow, and the CGI used in some of the exterior shots felt unnecessary and could have been done practically.

But other than that, Bornless Ones is a really nice surprise. Tightly directed and well-written, with great performances and some outstanding violence, it’s well worth a watch for horror lovers.

8/10

Beyond The Gates (2016) Review

rsz_1rsz_btg1Beyond the Gates (2016)

Director: Jackson Stewart

Starring: Graham Skipper, Chase Williamson, Brea Grant, Barbara Crampton

Out now on UK DVD

“Most of this junk just blends together”

Estranged brothers Gordon (Skipper) and John (Williamson) reunite when they have to close up their father’s video rental store because their father has been missing for seven months. In the back office they find a VCR board game called Beyond the Gates. Gordon takes it back to his father’s house where he’s staying and along with his fiancé Margot (Grant) and John, they decide to play the game. Surprise, surprise, Beyond the Gates has them trapped in a deadly game. The stakes, no less than their lives.

A lot of movies, and a lot of horror movies in particular, set out with the premise of “a deadly game that must be played to completion”. It’s not exactly an original concept, and it has been done better in other films. Beyond the Gates has a few charms but they can’t make up for slow pacing a mediocre script and modest acting. The film rides high on the recent wave of nostalgia that is sweeping films and horror right now. This is the third or fourth attempt at an 80s throwback I’ve seen and it’s not the strongest entry. Beyond leans a little heavily on viewers fondly remembering the days of video rental stores and knowing what a VCR game is. The film then has to explain what a VCR game is because even if you grew up with a VCR, the games where a niche market. Maybe not the strongest premise for a movie, when it has to be explained even to people as old as I am.

rsz_beyond_the_gates_1Premise aside Beyond the Gates is a mixed bag. The pace is slow. The board game is played out over days instead of forcing the characters to play through all at once. The game itself is overly easy, the clues dull. A lot of time is wasted in conversation as the characters flip back and forth, alternately trying to quit the game and progress. The film feels a lot longer than its lean run time of 84 minutes. The build up to actually playing the game is long as well. First we have to meet Gordon and John, then Gordon’s fiancé Margot, then John’s gross redneck friend Hank (Justin Welborn), THEN we have to establish the relationships and antagonisms between all of these characters. THEN they start the game. THEN people start dying.

What the film was actually good at, was not the horror aspects, or the VCR game shtick. It was actually an interesting film about estranged brothers with a troubled past and uneasy relationship mending fences. I actually felt the same way watching Beyond the Gates as I did watching The Innkeepers, which was a great romantic comedy and a terrible horror movie. Beyond the Gates was a good family drama about reconciliation and a pretty mediocre horror film.

But, the horror wasn’t all bad. There were a lot of practical effects used for gruesome death scenes that were pretty entertaining. However that’s about the best that can be said for the horror side of things. Unfortunately amusing death scenes don’t make up for the slow pace.

rsz_beyond_the_gates_2Kudos for: Gordon’s nerdy hipster vibe

Lesson learned: It takes more than a synth soundtrack to cash in on nostalgia.

6/10

Scars (2016) DVD Review

rsz_1rsz_scarsScars (2016)

Starring: Danielle Cole, Neale Kimmel, Matt Wells
Written by: Sean K Robb
Directed by: Sean K Robb

Out NOW on UK DVD from LEFT Films

A few months back, I reviewed a movie titled Even Lambs Have Teeth. It was a visceral movie about two girls making the move from victim to aggressor, and it had style and a definite entertainment factor. Scars is along the same basic lines, but distinctly lacking in entertainment factor, and depth of moral questioning about killing. Sad thing is, it has style, or glimpses of it, and should be much more watchable than it is.

There are two girls, Scarlett (Kimmel) and Scar (Cole). Scarlett is a habitual manipulator, who makes her living and gets her kicks out of sleeping with married men, and then blackmailing them. She is callous, unfeeling and not a very good blackmailer; after a string of emotionally-attached guys are hurt and ultimately succumb to her scam, one particular john is not so willing to be screwed around. When she pushes her luck and they get into a fight in a dark alley, Scar appears from the shadows to knock him dead.

rsz_scars1It would be OK, I suppose, if their gig was as vigilantes, saving people from violent street attacks; but they quickly develop a taste for killing men, apparently for no other reason than that things with penises are inevitable woman-users and abusers. Scar’s mantra, and the movie’s tagline, is ‘Killing Dudes is Easy’. But making a movie about killing dudes watchable is not so easy, it would seem.

The structure of the movie shows attempts at creativity and interesting cinematography, but it comes together in a very disjointed fashion. A soap-opera style opening credit sequence à la Murder She Wrote is particularly inspired, making use of noir visuals, and heavy ‘beauty’ imagery that seemed to suggest a much more thematic work than what ultimately follows. Later attempts to add realism with claustrophobically-cropped shots sadly come off as cheap; frequent use of single camera angles for extended shots make for a static, almost theatrical viewing experience, and there is a generally down-market feel to the whole film.

Ultimately, Scars is a slow and uninspiring movie. The pace of the action drags in between stylish shots of Scar applying copious black make-up, limping along between plain walls from a single focal point, while not a lot happens. Danielle Cole was clearly chosen for her looks over her acting ability, while Neale Kimmel is quite forgettable, as is her character. But even this needn’t have mattered. Scars could have been a much more compelling experience had it taken its strife for striking and distinct visuals all the way.

rsz_scars2We are supposed to get the impression of madness in at least one of the girls, but it is sparsely expressed in a very sterile and bland manner. Writer-director Sean K Robb would have benefitted from taking more influence from Rodriguez, Tarantino, even Harmony Korine’s Spring Breakers, which proved that style and flair can make a movie watchable despite questionable plot and characters. It is not sombre and brooding enough to be as slow as it is, and not bold and colourful enough to be as stylish as it wants to be. It is unfortunately just a dull film.

5/10

Havenhurst (2016) Review

Havenhurst posterHavenhurst (2016)

Director: Andrew C. Erin

Starring: Julie Benz, Belle Shouse, Fionnula Flanagan, Josh Stamberg

Havenhurst is now available on Cable VOD and Digital HD platforms, including Charter Spectrum, Comcast, DirecTV Cinema, Dish, iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Google Play, Vudu and more

“Clean slate. Fresh start. The rest is up to you.”

Genre darling Julie Benz stars in this entertaining thriller. She plays Jackie, an alcoholic fresh out of rehab who goes to stay in an apartment building that takes in various addicts and offer them a home, as long as they obey the rules. Her landlady Eleanor (Fionnula Flanagan) offers a warm welcome with a side helping of veiled threats. Jackie is welcome to stay for as long she wants but she mustn’t return to her old habits or she’ll face eviction. Jackie agrees to the terms, but she has another motive for taking the apartment in Havenhurst. Jackie’s friend Danielle has recently disappeared from the building without notice and Jackie wants to find out what happened to her. Luckily she is the newest occupant of the apartment Danielle has just vacated. During her search, Jackie meets some of the other residents, including a young girl named Sarah (Shouse) who reminds Jackie of her tragic past.

rsz_havenhurst_3Havenhurst doesn’t exactly break new ground. And I was surprised that I guessed the nature of the apartment building so quickly. Not that the film tries for a big reveal, but literally, my first thought was correct. Still, that doesn’t matter so much with such enjoyable performances and a smoothly told story. Julie Benz is in good form and Fionnula Flanagan, despite the small part, shines brightly as the overbearing landlady with a very dark secret. Sadly, the villains don’t get much screen time. At least not as much as they rightly deserve. Especially given the slasher roots of Havenhurst. Shouse is a talented young actress and does a decent job as the quiet and traumatized Sarah.

There are a couple of gory scenes but there was certainly room for many more, and it feels a bit like a lost opportunity. I’m not generally fan of torture porn, but this movie could have used a bit more blood and guts. Though, there is at least one scene very heavy on the guts. The practical effects are also a welcome change of pace. No CGI that’s noticeable at least (which is always the best kind of CG). Not that there is great emphasis on special effects. Havenhurst depends more on suspense rather than effects.

There are few places where the movie falls flat. There are an unfortunate amount of jump scares that aren’t scary. The director would have been better off aiming for psychological thrills or, again, gore, instead. There are a lot of side characters who don’t get much, if any development. Jackie’s friend Tim (Josh Stamberg) is more plot device than character. He’s a cop. He’s her friend… and that’s it. There is nothing to indicate how they met, how they know each other, how long they’ve known each other. Same goes for the creepy building superintendant and Eleanor’s son Ezra (Matt Lasky)who could have had a much larger and more threatening part, but appears in only about three scenes. Both Tim and Ezra are wasted opportunities script-wise.

rsz_havenhurst_2While Havenhurst isn’t exactly an amazing film, it entertains and provides a coherent, well told story. Julie Benz fans in particular will enjoy her in this starring role. Just be sure to curb your expectations, and settle in for a decent little thriller with a nice kick at the end.
Kudos for: Julie Benz rocking the brunette dye job.

Lesson learned: Always read the lease agreement.

7/10

The Snare (2017) Review

rsz_1the_snare_posterThe Snare (2017)

Director: C.A. Cooper

Starring: Eaoifa Forward, Dan Paton, Rachel Warren

Please note the following review could contain spoilers , you have been warned !!

“Somewhere quiet. By the sea.”

Dark and moody from the outset. Ingrained with a deep sense of something wrong from the very first minute. Gross, disturbing, dark, unsettling and ultimately rather unsatisfying, The Snare comes close to becoming something really quite great, only to falter at the end. Still, if you can take a lot of up close shots of maggots, rape and incest, it’s actually a horrifying little film. If you are sincerely bothered by any of the latter than jump ship (and never watch this movie) as this review will discuss each one in turn.

Still there? All right, here we go.

The Snare is about three friends who become trapped in an empty vacation rental. Alice (Eaoifa Forward), her best friend Lizzy (Rachel Warren) and Lizzy’s creepy boyfriend Carl (Dan Paton) decide to get away for the weekend. Lizzy steals the keys to an empty vacation rental from her father and they take off. Everything is normal until the second day when the elevator won’t work, the stairs are locked and there is no phone service. Thus begins a tale of survival. The food they have goes rotten immediately, the water gets shut off and their sanity whittles away as they slowly starve and thirst to death. But there is a little more going on, the apartment is possibly, probably haunted and Alice is assailed with disturbing waking nightmares of past inhabitants, maybe. It’s hard to tell.

rsz_snare_1Alice is unquestionably the main character and ably played by Forward who has a “resting worried face” that somehow makes even the most mundane scenes fraught with tension. From the very beginning Alice’s dreary and awful life is established with painful clarity. She is obviously a victim of sexual abuse. In the opening scenes her father barges into her room right after she’s gotten out of the bathtub. He gives her only nominal privacy while she tries to get dressed to flee for the weekend getaway. He questions her about Lizzy’s boyfriend who he spies outside the window of her bedroom.

Once Alice has gotten away from her father the abuse continues as Carl starts in on the most disgusting ever game of “would you rather” on the car ride up to the seaside resort. He continually pushes into Alice’s personal space in a way that women will instantly recognize and revile. As the situation deteriorates so too does the mental state of the characters. Carl grows ever more restless and violent. Alice’s visions become all the more brutal, calling up abuse from her past and an uncertain vision of an old woman who might be the ghost keeping them trapped. A lot of horror directors shy away from giving concrete explanation for what’s happening in supernatural thrillers, but there is a fine line behind vague and confusing. The Snare leans into confusing and it’s up to viewers to craft their own explanation.

The film’s climax is a horrific rape scene when Carl finally loses his mind, which results in murder, and then cannibalism, because by then the food is long gone. It’s an awful and unrelenting sequence of scenes that are absolutely nauseating. But it’s an absolute gut punch that a lot of horror films don’t come close to accomplishing, so, good for them? In some ways, that is what horror strives for, to haunt and unsettle and in that much they succeeded admirably.

rsz_snare_2And, the maggots. Oh my fucking gawd, I haven’t seen this many maggots since the last Dario Argento movie I watched. The very first shot in the entire film is a close up of big fat maggots writhing in the guts of a dead rabbit. There is even some maggot eating when the food is low enough Carl has a go at a maggot riddled chicken leg, with predictable results. Which, for the record, was an almost funny scene, or in another movie would have been funny, in this too, The Snare succeeds in just making is horrible and I nearly threw up at the end.

The questions the plot raises is, is this a real haunting? Is it something, a mental state, or Alice’s personal demons that she has brought with her, magnified by the apartment? Unfortunately there is no satisfactory answer. The ghosts are vague and it’s hard to tell if some of them are from Alice’s memories. The Old Woman ghost (Emma Cooper) seems to be the main ghost but it’s very confusing and the ending doesn’t clear anything up at.

For all of The Snare’s queasy merits it has a few flaws. For starters the character’s escape attempts are rather lame. Carl tried to bash open the door to the stairs with a chair, but his attempt begs the question, has Carl ever seen a police drama on TV? It also would have been perfectly possible for the characters to lower themselves from the balcony, and going, one balcony at a time, make it to the ground. There are plenty of clothes, and blankets, curtains and bed sheets, to make a rope. But, again, Carl’s one lame attempt at making a rope ends with it dropping uselessly off the side of the building. The other thing is that Carl and Lizzy are not well developed or nuanced characters. Carl is surly and grotesque and that is established at the outset and he never changes, or only changes for the worse. Lizzy is a fun party girl. But she disappears for huge chunks of film at a time. When she does show up she either complains or is sleeping.

rsz_snare_3C.A. Cooper is a director to keep an eye on. Hopefully he will be making more films of this ilk as he definitely has a knack. A brutally disturbing watch best recommended to those with an iron clad gag reflex. And now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go scrub my brain out and try not to dream about maggots (again).

Kudos for: Almost making me vomit?

Lesson learned: Stop watching horror films over lunch!

7/10

Slasher House 2 (2016) Review

14368789_1267178763315526_1562502904226346982_nSLASHER HOUSE II (2016)

Dir: MJ Dixon
Stars: Francesca Louise White, Luna Wolf, Sophie Portman, Jamie B. Chambers, Sam Cullingworth, David Hon Ma Chu

Released by Mycho Entertainment.

Red (Francesca Louise White, taking over the role from Eleanor James) is still hunting her father, The Demon (Jamie B. Chambers), the serial killer who slaughtered her family. Aided by tech-savvy assistant Luse (Sophie Portman), she investigates a number of murders, hoping each one will lead her to her nemesis. On one of these cases that she saves the life of stripper Amber (Luna Wolf), an individual who goes on to become a valuable ally. After crossing paths with a team of heavily armed operatives obsessed with capturing slashers, Red once again finds herself in a series of pitched battles against a host of monstrous adversaries — each leading her one step closer to the truth about the mysterious Slasher House…

Something that has struck me with MJ Dixon’s Mychoverse series of horror movies is his visual style. Think slashers by way of Argento, with a striking colour palette of blood reds and other-worldly greens.   Slasher House II takes his unique style to the next level, with the bright wigs of female leads, Red and Amber, making them look more like anime heroines than live-action characters.

With more money spent on this than his previous films, the fruits of Dixon’s labours are clear to see. As well as enhanced production values in the look of the film, it’s also reflected in some ambitious effects sequences from Bam Goodall (the Gravestone puppet is very cool, while the scenes with Molly Bannister’s, ahem, friends are another triumph) and some great fight choreography. However, if you’re more used to larger budget horror such as Blumhouse’s output, this may seem a little rough.

13769509_1216502365049833_7221261266634105140_nNevertheless, SHII marks a new kind of Mychoverse movie, with a more action-packed, Blade-esque feel. There are some excellent set-pieces in which White shows impressive martial arts moves — but that’s not all she offers. She delivers some great one-liners with a snarky, world-weary ease that makes her Red a very different character to James’s helpless amnesiac from the previous film. Wolf brings humanity and humour to the movie. She’s got an inherent likeability that marks her out as one to watch. While Portman doesn’t have as much screentime as the other two ladies, she makes the most of it.

Dixon writes fine dialogue and tells a suitably satisfying story for his cast that successfully expands on and encourages viewers to revisit Slasher House. It offers twists and turns, while the non-linear structure adds some depth to the storytelling process. I love that this is movie builds on the Mychoverse mythology, including shoutouts to its predecessor while blowing the story wide open to make a bigger, more complex world.
However, this may pose a problem for casual fans in that it relies on the viewer knowing the original movie, characters and mythos. If you haven’t seen it (or the other Mychoverse movies), you might struggle to make sense of this.

Speaking of these stories, viewers of the previous movie will be aware that several of Slasher House’s villains received their own spin-off films in the form of Legacy of Thorn, Cleaver: Rise of the Killer Clown, and Hollower. So, even though we’ve had no official confirmation yet, it’s probably safe to assume that we’ll see more of these new movie maniacs. I’d most like to see a Gravestone solo flick. His scenes were so marvellously executed, Dixon already has the framework to create a must-watch slasher/comedy.

13710015_1211177188915684_1585350713468624285_nMJ Dixon is a fan of horror, sci-fi and action, and all the cool genre-blenders that combine these. His are films by a fan, for the fans. The Mychoverse is a love-letter to the genre… and Slasher House II might just be the best example yet. It’s fun, witty and furthers the rich mythos of the Slasher House universe. Think Blade II meets Halloween with a little Anime thrown in.

I would recommend this movie just on Mycho’s sheer ambition, but it’s a genuinely good film and one I implore you to check out.

8/10

Blood Punch (2014) DVD Review

rsz_bloodpunchBlood Punch (2014)
Starring: Milo Cawthorne, Olivia Tennet and Ari Boyland
Writer: Eddie Guzelian
Director: Madellaine Paxson

Out in the UK on Jan 16th – Blood Punch will be available for purchase from ASDA, HMV, Fopp, Amazon, The Hunt and Base. And available for streaming from iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play, Vubiquity, TalkTalk and Vimeo on Demand.

A young man is lured into a dangerous love triangle that begins to take a series of shocking and grisly supernatural turns.

Milton (Milo Cawthorne, Deathgasm, Mega Time Squad, ASH vs Evil Dead and When We Go to War) wakes up on Tuesday morning. He wakes to the annoying sound of wind chimes and the urgent need to puke. We can see he’s been sleeping on the couch at a hunting cabin. The walls are littered with brutal reminders of murder and mutilation (such as axes, crossbows, mantraps and mounted hunting trophies). And, once Milton has looked up from the toilet bowl he’s been worshipping, he finds himself staring at a tablet that bears a note saying ‘PLAY ME’.

The intrigue deepens when Milton presses play and finds the tablet contains footage of himself, explaining how the current situation has come about. His surprise at seeing himself on the screen is not because he was wasted the previous night, or because he’s endured some memory-eradicating substance. The reason turns out to be far more ingenious.

rsz_bp1The content of the tablet leads to a little bit of backstory and a proper introduction to the story’s hero.

Milton had been incarcerated in a juvenile detention centre. He’d been there because he was a chemistry student and he’d been caught using his knowledge of chemicals to cook crystal meth. Whilst appearing to repent for his sins, and maybe take a step toward atonement, he encounters a shed load of trouble in the shape of Skyler (Olivia Tennet, Lord of the Rings, Boogeyman and Shortland Street).

Skyler is a forthright character and conducts herself with a ruthless determination that is irresistible. She is looking for a meth cook and she uses her feminine wiles to tempt Milton to fill her vacancy. After showing him that crystal meth has a positive effect on her libido, it doesn’t take long before Skyler’s convinced Milton to join her. She’s even arranged to have her psychotic boyfriend Russell (Ari Boyland, The Tribe, Shortland Street, Power Rangers R.P.M.) organize a jail break. And, for Milton, this is where the troubles really begin.

As a story, Blood Punch has traces of Breaking Bad, Cabin in the Woods and Groundhog Day in its structure – but it is so much more than merely a homage to existing works. One of the clever things about this film is the way everything is made to look so effortless. The story, in less capable hands, could have been confusing and nonsensical. Instead, it’s compelling, quirky and intriguing. The characters, drug dealers, psychopaths and the criminally insensitive, could have been difficult to like. But, instead, they come across as relatable, likeable and even loveable.

rsz_bpIt’s easy to see why Blood Punch has won so many awards (Phoenix International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival: Best Horror Feature 2015; New Orleans Horror Film Festival: Best Feature Film 2014; Hoboken International Film Festival: Best Feature Film, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Actor, Best Actress 2014). The film has a compelling story that comes from a well-crafted script. The acting is strong and confident from a cast who know what they’re doing. The direction is masterful and assured throughout.

I can’t recommend this one highly enough and would say it’s one of the best horror films I’ve watched in a long time: 10/10.