The End is Here! Zombieworld hits the UK June 8th 2015

zombieworldThe End is Here!

The Zombie Apocalypse is upon us – and all you can do is kick back and watch how it happened, right here, right now in the place we call Zombieworld.

Satisfy your thirst for all things zombie as we take you back in time to the biblical rise of the living dead; before running screaming from continent to continent as reports of zombie devastation arrive from Ireland, Canada, Australia and all over the U.S.

Watch for the ‘Government Health Warnings’ on ‘How to Survive a Zombie Attack’. They could be the only thing between you and a newfound hunger for human flesh. And above all else, enjoy yourself – you may not have much longer to live.

With ultra-violence, gallons of gore and heaps of bloody fun, Zombieworld is like nothing you’ve seen before. This ravenous collection of deadly tales takes over DVD on 8 June 2015 courtesy of Image Entertainment.

Welcome to Zombieworld.

Zombieworld is available to pre-order from Amazon UK now – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Zombieworld-DVD/dp/B00TSFXZ4G/

Phobia (2013) DVD Review

phobia1PHOBIA (2013)

Dir- Rory Abel

Starring- Michael Jefferson, Emma Dubery, Sarah Schoofs, Peter Gregus, Andrew Ruth, Debbie Rochon

UK DVD Release 26th Jan 2015 from Image Entertainment

With a title like PHOBIA, Rory Abel’s film certainly has a straight forward and specific one word title, and certainly a subject that is pretty much meant for horror. Phobia’s themselves are a constant and terrifying thing for anyone to suffer, whether it be of heights, spiders or clowns, and therefore placed in the context of the horror genre, it allows a film to get under your skin and creep you out in basic primeval terror.

The story’s focus is on Jonathan (Jefferson) who has been suffering from agoraphobia (the fear of going outside into public spaces); ever since the death of his wife in a car crash over a year ago. With only house visits from his psychiatrist, Dr Edmondson (Gregus) and occasional delivery’s of DVD’s and grocery’s from a friend, Taylor (Ruth), Jonathan has pretty much cut off contact from the outside world, only maintaining a living as an online transcriptor. It’s only when Taylor goes away and he gets a girl, Bree (Dubery), to drop off the grocery’s  and Jonathan starts to become more approachable and develops an attraction and eventual relationship with her.

Yet his already occurring visions of seeing his dead wife and a dark figure of a women in black start to gradually become worse and slowly he imagines killing visitors or intruders in his house, leading to a breakdown in his mental state, though at the same time Abel throws in the trick or question of whether Jonathan is actually experiencing this himself due to a mental deterioration, played in part by the prescription drugs he takes, or is the forces at work against him supernatural?

phobia2Admittedly this is a nice touch, if not entirely original that lends an extra edge to PHOBIA, especially in the film’s final pay off shot, which nicely leads the viewer to question the past 80 minutes of seeing a man slowly lose his mind. PHOBIA is at times a well told story that benefits from its use of one location. Abel shoots the house to an extent that its narrow corridors and hallways seem slightly suffocating to the central character, and it’s the use of a location shoot that works and the house itself is a fantastic looking townhouse interior, that helps towards the films atmosphere.

Jefferson manages to work well with a role requiring him to be on screen most of the time, and despite some slight wooden delivery of lines he approaches Jonathan’s mental breakdown with confidence, though some of his character development seems a bit rushed or contrived, especially in his relationship with Bree, as even though he mourns the loss of his wife and feels responsible for her death, it’s not long before he’s off screwing the delivery girl, and this seems a slight contradiction to his character, and could of been done with a bit more restraint.

Dubery is not bad in her role as Bree, and manages to be a more down to earth character needed for Jonathan’s more closed off role, though again as with Jefferson’s character there seems to be a bit of slight wooden delivery of lines. There is also a fantastic brief cameo from genre fave Debbie Rochon, who has a great time chewing the scenery as the sort of bible caller/Jehovah’s witness that you would not like to have knocking on your front door. As much as I enjoyed PHOBIA part of me just felt that it was lacking something, or some edge.

phobia3It knows where to be going in its vision of the breakdown of the main protagonist, yet this path, while being occasionally well made, inevitably is predictable and it becomes apparent what will happen to make things go wrong or which character or characters will have their fate sealed. It could have had or gone in another darker direction, or a more broken up style of narrative to immerse the audience even more into Jonathan’s fractured psychosis, though of course as an independent film, budgetary and time constraints might have prevented Abel from approaching a wider vision and it’s too his credit that he has managed to make an entertaining psychological horror, that is watchable but still carry’s the nagging feeling that we’ve seen this done before.

5.5/10

Hunting The Legend (2014) DVD Review

huntingthelegendTitle: Hunting the Legend

Directed by: Justin Steeley

Written by: Justin Steeley

Produced by: Justin Steeley

Edited by: Justin Steeley

Starring: Christopher Copeland, Hannah Wallace, Jeff Causey

Running time: 95 Minutes

UK DVD release: 9th Feb 2015 from Image Entertainment

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

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

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

htl1For non-cryptozoology nerds; Bigfoot.

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

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

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

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

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

Sci-Fi Thriller THE DEVICE arrives on UK DVD 23rd March 2015

thedeviceSci-Fi Thriller THE DEVICE arrives on UK DVD 23rd March 2015

Deep in the eerie forest lies a mysterious entity waiting to defy nature in a beguiling new psychological sci-fi thriller. Exposing its sinister purpose, the deadly alien invasion on humanity is born in The Device, coming to DVD from Image Entertainment on 23 March 2015.

Inspired by classic abduction cases writer and producer John Portanova (The Invoking) skillfully plays on the intrigue of the unknown. Starring Angela DiMarco (Trauma), David S. Hogan (Shadowed) and Kate Alden (The Right Place), The Device DVD features an audio commentary by the screenwriter of Fire in the Sky and Intruders, two of the most popular alien abduction films ever.

When two sisters find a harmless looking object in the woods, they cannot know to what extent it will change their world and ours ­forever. The small, sphere ­mysterious, seductive, enticing conveys a message, a deep, profound biological message, that will reshape our world, recasting relationships with the universe beyond our wildest dreams and worst nightmares.

Werewolf Rising (2014) DVD Review

WerewolfRisingWerewolf Rising (DVD Review, 2014)

Director – BC Furtney

Starring – Melissa Carnell, Bill Oberst Jr, Matt Copko, Brian Berry

Run Time – 75 minutes

Release Date – Monday 8th September 2014

Label – Image Entertainment

Emma (Carnell) is a twenty-something from the city that returns to her childhood home that she hasn’t been to in 15 years. It is a secluded house in Arkansas that is ideal for the reason she is there: to kick her alcohol addiction. She want’s to get dry and clear her mind. She encounters her neighbours Wayne (Berry), who she remembers from being a child, and the sexy but dangerous Johnny Lee (Copko). Both seem a little weird and are very interested in the attractive Emma.

werewolfBillJrSomething else has an interest in Emma, out in the woods that surround her home. She keeps hearing howling late at night and is informed by Johnny Lee of wolves in the area. Yet the howling seems to be coming from an animal much bigger and more powerful than a ‘normal’ wolf. Emma starts having horrible dreams involving the woods and a blood soaked man (Oberst Jr) that is an escaped convict – but what role does he play in the nightly howls?

A modern werewolf picture that isn’t too melodramatic and obsessed with pandering to yearning teen girls, Werewolf Rising is a brilliant piece of direct-to-video storytelling and high quality acting.

werewolfCarnellThe cast is limited to a small number of actors that thankfully can handle the large chunks of screen time their characters receive as a result. Carnell as the detoxing Emma plays a warm and friendly woman struggling with a problem that is bigger than her. Berry slowly morphs from caring family friend to lusty pervert in very creepy scenes. Copko portrays a cheery neighbour who it is evident has a dark side that threatens to erupt at any moment. The most disturbing performance is from Oberst Jr, although he is missing from the bulk of the film, as he is extremely intense in every scene he does appear in. It’s rare that a low-budget straight-to-DVD horror has this high a calibre of acting, all the performances are very rewarding as a result.

The plot is about a werewolf but there seems to be a more compelling and emotional story at work too. Emma and her battle against alcohol, plus Wayne admitting to similar issues, is interesting as she battles inner demons as well as external ones in the woods. The fear of succumbing to booze is as scary to her as the danger of being attacked by the werewolf. She also has to battle with the unwanted advances of Wayne as his sexual longing becomes menacing. The movie will create a feeling of uneasiness during the moments of Wayne’s creepy lusting.

werewolfWolfThere are a few minor issues. Some continuity errors like wounds changing positions on people can be over looked but there is one that is a little to big to overlook. Near the end of the movie Emma gives in to her yearning for alcohol when she discovers a bottle of vodka. She gobbles it all down and passes out. The issue with this is that she wakes up minutes later and is completely sober. Also, the werewolf is not that scary when fully shown. It’s painfully clear it is an actor running around in a head-to-toe costume holding his hands in front of him as if he were Orlok in Nosferatu.

Ultimately it’s a gripping and creepy tale of combating internal and external horrors with plenty to think about to supplement the scares.

8 out of 10.

Amazon order page: CLICK HERE

Varsity Blood (2014) DVD Review

vbVarsity Blood (2014)

Dir: Jake Helgren
Written By: Jake Helgren
Starring: Lexi Giovagnoli, Wesley Scott, Debbie Rochon
87 mins.

UK release: August 18th 2014 (DVD) from Image Entertainment

On the anniversary of a friend’s murder, on Halloween night, a group of cheerleaders and jocks is terrorised by a killer dressed in the uniform of their own mascot.

Proudly described as a “thrilling horror, full of blood and violence, a must-see for any gore fan”, one would expect Varsity Blood to be a fun, self-aware, thrills-and-spills ride in the vein of Scream. Indeed, its suitably over-the-top, pop-rock score, which plays much too loudly over the impressively in-your-face opening credits sequence – cleverly inter-splicing a murder with a pep rally – suggests that the film-makers know how stupid this whole thing is, and they are going to exploit that fact for all its worth.

Unfortunately, that notion is swiftly dispensed with as the film quickly jumps to some boring chick being filled in on how another cheerleader, whose place on the squad she has now taken, was MURDERED the year before – except that she wasn’t actually, but really she was. Suffice to say, the narrative is all over the place, but the basic premise surrounds new girl Hannah (Lexi Giovagnoli, more invested in this than anyone either on-screen or elsewhere) who’s still dealing with the death of her father at the hands of a drunk driver, by reminding everyone of it at every opportunity, regardless of the current topic of conversation.

vb1As a result, she doesn’t drink or fuck, so her boyfriend (Blair Jackson, channelling the dumb, blonde jock from Not Another Teen Movie, only with absolute sincerity) isn’t too nice to her. Her mother is also a shrieking loon of the most over-the-top variety, so much so that Debbie Rochon’s performance actually makes Julianne Moore’s in the Carrie remake scream of subtlety (literally). They live in Hicksville, USA so naturally the big Halloween party – on the anniversary of the poor girl’s death, no less – takes place in a dilapidated farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, which is where the killer chooses to strike.

At first, Varsity Blood seems like it might be a lot of fun because it’s loud, bloody and dumb as hell. The characters are all horrible, irritating teenage caricatures and the dialogue is painfully bad and expository. There’s a sense that we’re supposed to enjoy these idiots being picked off one by one, and their deaths are, for the most part, pretty grisly. Sadly, after about twenty minutes of Hannah and her boring friends sitting on a bench looking pensive, followed by some public family feuding, it becomes clear that this is more Varsity Blues – the high school location for which was also used in this flick – than Detention.

It’s a real shame, because there is potential here. Jake Helgren, who takes both writing and directing credits, seems to know his way around a shitty slasher flick. There are lots of shots of hot girls running around in lingerie, some decent tits – although the least sexy striptease since Paris Hilton’s in the House Of Wax remake must be endured first – and gallons of fake blood. The obligatory escaped mental patient angle is utilised to full effect with a laughably bad flashback sequence, but it doesn’t progress the narrative in the way one might expect.

vb2The dialogue is annoyingly clunky – almost like the characters have been transported from one of those god-awful Dan Schneider shows-within-shows in which the characters say “Burn!” a lot, only here the most overused word is “screw”. This is also a world in which being a cheerleader is seen as a viable career option, and where drink-driving is apparently a worse crime to commit than cold-blooded murder – a character says, in all seriousness, “We ain’t sluts, we just rock stars!” and nobody laughs/baulks in response.

The main issue with Varsity Blood is that it wastes a perfectly good setting – the high school – where murders could be carried out with ruthless, bloody ease and the presence of the mascot wouldn’t be so weird, and instead moves the action to a farmhouse, in which there is absolutely no sense of spatial awareness. At one point, the killer materialises upstairs and, because we have no idea how big or small the place is, it seems perfectly reasonable.

Most scenes take place in a weird, triangular room where nobody seems to really fit –two characters row across a body of water, for some reason, only to return moments later, seemingly to the same spot they began. The identity of the killer is a bit of a twist, but not enough to make up for what’s come before and the fact that he actually speaks the line “damn meddling kids” makes it almost shocking that Shaggy and Scooby don’t turn up at the end, too.

vb3Slashers are an acquired taste, and often the dumber they are, the better, but in the case of Varsity Blood, the film-makers would’ve been better off checking their brains at the door and having fun with it, instead of trying desperately to make it something it clearly isn’t. Embarrassingly earnest, laughably unoriginal, and with not nearly enough tits, gore or, crucially, scares, Varsity Blood isn’t nearly as much fun as it thinks it is. It has a lot of potential buried under all its hostility, but with nary a whipped cream bikini in sight, it’s destined for the bargain bin – and not in a good way.

Rating: 4/10

Camp Dread (2014) DVD Review

 

DREAD 001CAMP DREAD (2014) DVD

Review by: Dave Wain

Stars: Danielle Harris, Eric Roberts, Kyle Patrick Brennan, Ashley Caspermeyer

Written by: Harrison Smith

UK Certification: 18

UK RRP: £9.99

UK DVD Region: 2

Runtime: 90 minutes

Directed by: Harrison Smith

UK Release Date: 23rd June 2014

Distributor: Image Entertainment

Harrison Smith’s previous scripts included the quite woeful Corey Feldman starring 6 Degrees of Hell and also The Fields which was slightly better and featured Tara Reid. For his directorial debut he goes a little more old school with many of this features roots fixed back in the 1980s with notable nods in particular to the underrated slasher classic Sleepaway Camp. In fact the nod is that apparent that it’s practically a headbutt with none other than Felissa Rose having a prominent role in the movie.

DREAD 002Julian Barrett was a renowned Hollywood director with his magnum opus being the Summer Camp trilogy of films that wowed cinema-goers back in the 1980s. Now though, time has moved on – as has Barrett’s career, and he’s determined to have another crack at the big time. Opportunity knocks in the form of a ‘reboot’ (such an offensive word!) of his classic horror series, albeit with a contemporary twist. With reality TV dominating our media, he feels that if he can lure a group of contestants to the famed camp and film them as they battle for survival then he should secure a hit.

The contestants are brought to the camp under the illusion that they’re simply on an out-of-bounds rehabilitation trip. After all, this crew of misfits consist of a mixture of killers, blackmailers and sexual predators, but early on Barrett breaks the news about the reality show aspect teasing them with the (as yet non-existent) prize money of $1 million. With original series star Rachel Steele (Rose) guiding the campers through what they’ll be doing as they battle each other for the prize money, they gradually begin to muster a competitive edge. As expected though things gradually become sinister, and it’s not long before a decidedly gruesome edge comes into play.

I have to admit the notion of Camp Dread was one that certainly arose some interest. I LOVE the Sleepaway Camp movies, and to watch something that knowingly tips its hat towards them gave the movie some much needed love to get me in the mood. Sadly this potential swiftly eroded away despite the welcome presence of Felissa Rose and a generic but always worthy Eric Roberts. I thought the film desperately struggled to get out of first gear as we had minimal gore in the opening half of the film. Instead we’re ‘treated’ to a certain degree of character development, but the individuals are written so that they offer little in the way of interest. They’re very clichéd too, and with them all having a notably nefarious background they elicit little empathy from the viewer.

DREAD 003When whatever gore does arrive it’s pretty disappointing. I noticed with interest that Cleve Hall was behind the special effects, but even this guy with a career rooted in such Charles Band classics as Eliminators and TerrorVision seems woefully under-employed here. It’s fitting that in one of the camp offices that there’s a prominently displayed poster for the Harrison Smith penned 6 Degrees of Hell, as this smug showmanship of mediocrity fits this tiresome slasher quite fittingly.

3 out of 10

 

UKHS is 1 TODAY . Here is 12 months packed into a few paragraphs !!

 

Happy Birthday to us , Happy Birthday to us!!

hbtm2UK Horror Scene is 1 year old today.

So just to bore everyone I am going on a little journey……

About 2 years ago I was boring someone at my work about films (nothing new there) and horror films in particular. I then went home and thought that I would set up a blog so I could bore the pants off people I didn’t know too. So The Corpsegrinder blog was started.

After a couple of months my little blog was getting pretty good reading figures and I was receiving comments and praise!! Hold on I thought , I seem to be doing something right and people seem to be enjoying what I was writing. But something was niggling me , and that was I was reading some great articles from British writers yet there was a lack of UK sites that also had a UK bias . Now I am not saying there are not any great UK sites out there (there are many) but I thought I saw a gap in the market so to speak , so I began formulating a plan for world domination.

So to cut a long story slightly shorter , I came up with a name and an idea. The name seemed to encapsulate everything I wanted from the site. I then spent weeks designing a site and then a logo which was done by my wife and inspired by a few things including the New York Hardcore music logo (and a nod to Acid Reign ) and finally perfected by the wonderful Jim Connolly (http://jimconnollydrawsstuff.blogspot.co.uk/) who now has become a UKHS writer and a friend.

And after a little tweaking then UKHS was ready to launch, so on May 6th 2013 to much fanfare (in my house) I pressed the publish button and sat back.

UKHS_logo_with_txt_WEBTwelve months later we have published over 800 articles and 72 interviews . We have had over 1 MILLION unique users. We have interviewed such people as Robin Hardy, Luke Goss, Anthony Hickox, Marilyn Burns, Dick Maas, Cindy Hinds, Jessica Cameron, Pollyanna McIntosh and many many more. Not bad !

But none of this could be done without many wonderful people who give their time AND talents freely , just for the love of genre cinema, literature and music.

I could sit here for about an hour and list everyone who has helped UKHS. But instead I will just name a few people.

Firstly UKHS would be nowhere without a guy called Dave Wain. Dave has been with us from the start and is just a hugely prolific and talented writer, Dave owns one of the last independent video stores and does the new UK DVD releases . I know that without the help of Dave then UKHS would be nowhere near the beast it is today.

Secondly Dean Sills. Dean joined UKHS around August 2013 and was eager to interview genre actors and directors, and as an actor himself he had contact with many people especially British and since then Dean has inundated us with brilliant interviews that really show what low-budget directors and actors really do on and off the camera. Again (as with Dave) Dean has been a major reason why UKHS has been a great success in it’s 1st year.

Also I want to give major thanks to the following UKHS writers in no particular order, but each brings something new and fresh to the site and I am just so proud to have them writing for UKHS . So here’s to  Oli Ryder, James Simpson, Mark Pidgeon, Joey Keogh, Luke Green, Stu Smith, James Pemberton, Stuart Anderson, Chris Cavoretto, Duane Hicks, Geoff Johnston, Jim Connolly, Marek Zacharkiw, MJ Dixon and lastly (but never leastly) Matty Budrewicz. I could have sat here and listed my favourite articles, interviews and reviews but there are just so many that I really couldn’t choose.

cheersNow there have been many people and organisations that have helped majorly and here is a short list of some – Arrow Films, Monster Pictures, Second Sight Films, Koch Media, 88 Films, 101 Films, Weinerworld, Grimmfest, Image Entertainment, Cynthia J Sellers, Wayne Simmons, Peter McKeirnon, C William Giles, Paul Norbury and finally my wonderful and supportive family as without them then I would not be doing this. And lastly a huge HUGE thank you to all our readers, Twitter followers, Facebook likers (is that a word?) and Instagram stalkers. Without you we couldn’t do what we are doing , and without the constant exceptional feedback it just wouldn’t be worth it. To horror fans everywhere THANK YOU and CHEERS!!

On a final note there will be some major changes on UKHS in the coming months as we push forward from being just a horror blog to a more professional outfit and we will have a whole new look and a more interactive and responsive layout (but this will take a few months). But rest assured we will still have the same feel of fans writing about something we all love.

May I please thank everyone involved in the 1st year of UK Horror Scene and if I have forgotten to name anyone specifically please don’t take offence as there have been thousands. The last year has shown me that there are so many wonderful people out there.

Here is to the 2nd year and lets hope it is as fun and successful as the 1st.

Cheers – Andy Deen (Editor UKHS)

Please click the links below for our social media !!

UKHS FACEBOOK

UKHS TWITTER

UKHS INSTAGRAM

 

Sparks (2013) DVD Review

OBBY DVD‘SPARKS’ 2013 DVD

Starring: Chase Williamson, Ashley Bell, Clancy Brown, William Katt, Jake Busey, Merina Squerciati, Clint Howard, Scott Rinker

Written by: Christopher Folino

Directed by: Todd Burrows, Christopher Folino

Out in the UK on DVD & BluRay- April 7th 2014 from Image Entertainment

It’s fair to say that I have a soft spot for a good comic-book film adaptation. I’m also a big believer in the creative DIY spirit and admire those who, instead of waiting for the near-impossible breaks like most, instead find the time, money and motivation to get their work out there. The production website proudly states that ”Sparks is a true independent film. It’s not a studio backed, Kickstarter or crowd sourced funded film. We have day jobs just like you!” SPARKS is based on an indie comic series by Christopher Folino, who also wrote and co-directed the film .

The tone of the film feels very much like the 1940s golden age scenes from Watchmen, perhaps with a touch of The Shadow thrown in. The story is mainly told via the superhero Sparks (Chase Williams – John Dies at the End) who recounts his tragic tale to a journalist on a rainy Gotham-like rooftop as an unknown enemy grows closer for a final stand-off. The story centres around his relationship with his poorly named female partner Lady Heavenly, nicely played by the sultry Ashley Bell (The Last Exorcism).

sparks2The once happy crime-fighting duo find their relationship rocked by a run-in with the creepy killer Matanza (William Katt – Carrie), which leaves Sparks in the gutter and blundering his way through a bizarre mystery in a way that is equal parts Rorscach and The Dude. Things get more interesting when Clancy Brown (aka the Kurgan himself) shows up to point the now broken Sparks at those partly responsible for ruining his life and help him to hit back.

Whilst the story didn’t blow me away it did keep me intrigued, particularly when the mystery element took over. Whilst some hero cliches are observed like the death of his parents, a few curve balls are also thrown that kept me guessing. For example at one strange drunken point in his decline Sparks meets a Lex Luthor look-a-like who Sparks then bizarely begins to pimp a female friend out to.

Some mastery of the camera and editing process is clearly shown and the clever use of present day exteriors manages to successfully create an air of the era without the need for Hollywood dollars. It seems as though the outfits of the two leads were meant to reflect the era in their under-statement, but I think more thought could have gone into this seeing as it adds a cheapness to the production that isn’t as evident in the leather garb of the cool looking bad guys. Bell gets away with a budget Sally Jupiter look because of her stunning looks but Williamson fairs worse in what looks very like a poorly fitted outfit from a Nightwing fan film. Thankfully he sheds the spandex after the first third of the film and wisely moves into more of a Peter Petrelli phase.

sparks3The limitations of the indie budget become more obvious in some of the fx heavy scenes i.e. Spark’s origin sequence, but the complex body morphing throughout is very convincingly handled and compliments the strong cinematography of the film in general.

Like it’s title character SPARKS doesn’t always deliver the punch it should, but for the most part I found this to be a fun and intriguing comic-book period piece. Williamson plays a decent tainted hero, Bell has effortless cool as a sassy super-heroine and it’s always good to see the Kurgan getting work!

Overall rating: 6.5/10

www.sparksmovie.com/

Review: Jim Connolly

The Invoking (2013) DVD Review

The Invoking – DVD release from Image Entertainment

Release Date: 12 May 2014
Certificate: 15
 
Special Features:
* Commentary with Writer/Director Jeremy Berg, Producer Matt Medisch and Writer/Producer John Portanova.
* Commentary with Actors Trin Miller, D’Angelo Midili and Andy Morris.
* The Making Of The Invoking Documentary
 
RRP: £12.99


invok1I suppose that one of the many reasons why I love the horror movie genre so much is in part due to the plethora of tasty little sub genres within it; Slasher, Religious, Vampire/Zombie/Monster, Gore and Supernatural – to name but just a few. Now while I would normally shy away from categorising and labelling everything and anything within an inch of its life, it’s safe to say that horror for me is a genre that, whatever mood I may find myself in, has always had something that managed to well and truly hit the horror spot in my soul.

Each of these sub genres have their rightful place in my (black) heart and each to a certain extent have been known to divide opinion both within and outside the horror community – for instance, I even know someone who doesn’t like The Texas Chainsaw massacre……yes Mikhail Mulvihill, I’m talking about you so hang your head in perpetual shame :-)..

 

For some reason, the sub genre of the Psychological horror, where the power of suggestion, character building and a gradual acceleration of atmosphere seems to divide said opinion more than most……..and for a few months I’ve been hearing those same whispers and heated disagreements about a certain new addition to the collection, but I’ll talk about some of those conflicting views in a little while.

So it was with gleeful chuckle and skip that I received a preview disc sent to me on behalf of Image Entertainment UK . Not only was the theme heavily psychological, so I was going to have to think just a little bit(that will be a first, I hear you say), but also it was also another thing very close to this blogger’s heart, a low-budget independent production, being shot in just one week for an amazing $11,000 dollars.

The film concerned is called The Invoking and I’m saying to you know, you should see it, you really should. But before I get well and truly carried away……….. a little on the what the film is actually about…..

As usual, I will endeavour to shy away from an in-depth spoiler strewn review as seems the annoying habit of many a blog reviewer – just why anybody would want to regurgitate a scene by scene account of a movie and thus removing any semblance of mystery for the potential viewer is simply beyond me. As for those who think they are being cleverly cryptic by suggesting that the ending is a sting/twist/surprise/open ended/closed/satisfying/ambiguous or serenaded by harp playing angels, you still are giving it away you plonkers. So for those of you in bloggerland and reviewland who feel the need to divulge every nuance of a plot, stop it, stop it now.

invok2‘Nothing wrong with this house, nope, no sir.”

Anyhoo, I once more digress. In a nutshell, the plot is as follows….

Raised by foster parents, Sam claims to remember nothing of her childhood…but it remembers her. When she discovers she has inherited a property, she invites three friends to join her on a trip that will change their lives forever.

A young reclusive caretaker (played by the truly excellent D’Angelo Midili), a childhood friend of Sam’s is there to greet them, but something else is waiting for her in the house, something dark and deadly. The ghosts of a past she has long forgotten are coming back to haunt her with a pounding, slashing, raging terror.

If you want just a taste of that taster then the trailer for the film can be found RIGHTY HERE MATEY

Originally titled Sader Ridge (taken from the name of the location in the movie), The Invoking has already gained a number of film awards including Best Actor, Best Cinematography, and Best Music Score at the 2013 Dark Carnival Film Festival. The film was named the best horror film of 2013 by Horror-Punks.com. The website also named D’Angelo Midili as the best actor of 2013 for his portrayal of the caretaker, Eric. If that wasn’t enough, it also won the Audience Award at the  Seattle True Independent Film Festival last year.

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That awkward moment when you run out of milk…..

Now, so far so good? Well yes……and no. Yes, because of the aforementioned critical accolades, but also no, because from what I’ve seen so far there are some who have rather misread and misjudged this movie on two major counts. Firstly, for some people it seems that this is a plot theme that is all too familiar, namely a group of young college kids taken out of their city comfort zones and who find themselves locating to an isolated, countryside setting only to find out that the locals may not be quite what they seem. And yes, when one first watches The Invoking, I too felt more than a twinge of deja vu at the very beginning as I waited for the family of slashers or Blair Witches to jump out faster than Bruce Campbell himself could hope to cope with. However, I soon realised my mistake, because the filmmakers have added a clever and subtle subtext to plot that many people clearly have missed – but more of that shortly. Instead I’ve noticed a few somewhat lazy comparisons to other movies.

In fact if I see another comment (and there have been one or two) that it has any sort of resemblance or connection to The Conjuring I may well pick up the nearest chainsaw myself. You see, this superficial assumption would be a mistake, because underneath this veneer of cliched familiarity, there is far more intelligence and textured character building on show here than you could shake at Hitchcock thriller at. If there is any resemblance at all between this and any other production I would wager that it is due far more to the films distributors than to the filmmakers themselves.

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The annual Sader Ridge staring contest is in full swing….

This then leads on to what seems to be the second misjudgement that in my opinion, some who have viewed the movie seem to be making, namely the films pacing. Yes, the pace of the film may not quite be at the ‘lets slash em up before the words character and development can even be muttered’, but this doesn’t mean that it is tedious or boring. On the contrary, we are given time to listen in and experience the relationships of the characters as grow (and in some cases, deteriorate) with the story. We may not necessarily like all the characters, but we certainly get to know them and empathise with them when events reach their inevitable climax.

I really don’t want to sound like an elitist horror snob – I love mindless onscreen violence as much as the next person…….but just because we are asked to think and consider the actions and behaviours on screen doesn’t mean that the tension and chills are any less than a good old gore-fest. There is room for both you know.

But the inverted snobbery from some who regard the slow build up as an exercise in tedium have made a misjudgement of the film of major proportions. Yes the build up may be slow, but as a result of the time spent on developing certain characters, by the time events start to become violent when we the audience have become so emotionally invested the eventual impact is tenfold. For example, we even genuinely sympathise with one particular individual who has to commit the ultimate act of violence. This person clearly wrestles with the act but commits to it without hesitation once the decision is made. It looks at face value like a casual act of violence, but that would be a mistake to assume so – it is a scene of beautifully subtle acting and results in genuine horror.

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Hey, I can see my house from here!
In addition we have the rather clever and distinctive subplot that underpins the the whole of the story. For the writer/director (have I told you that I don’t like annoyingly talented people?) Jeremy Berg has developed a story of psychological repression and combined it with a distinct supernatural tone – to great effect. The film’s pacing helps us to witness Sam slowly coming to the realisation that her lack of childhood memories may possibly be the result of her internal unconscious conflicts as she ‘witnesses’ the various elements of her personality and memory manifest themselves in her friends. To the films credit,  we the audience have to decide whether it is the house, the land or something/someone else who is invoking the internal conflicts of her unconscious. Is it really happening at all? Clever, very clever.

 

I mentioned earlier that I understand that the film was filmed within the space of just one week for a measly 11,000 dollars. If that is true (and I have absolutely no reason to doubt otherwise) then that fact is simply incredible.It seems that the annoyingly talented Berg has created a movie that looks as if more, far more money, was spent on it than that. Because at times it looks truly beautiful. It helps that the location is genuinely stunning on occasion, but it still has to be well lit, photographed, filmed and edited to be effective – and the makers of The Invoking do just that in a way that belies the actual amount it cost to produce.  It looks and sounds wonderful.

 

I can’t lie and say that this is a flawless piece of Psychological horror, because it’s not, the acting from some of the cast is less than effective.

 

On the one hand  the two main  players, Miller and Midili more than hold the film together, with D’Angelo Midili’sperformance in particular being something of a revelation and definitely on the ‘destined for grand things’ list.

 

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The excellent D’Angelo Midili.
His role as the mysterious caretaker could easily have been ‘hammed up’ to levels of cliche and caricature, however a performance of measured understatement is instead on show. The problem is that the quality of acting from the rest of the cast at best doesn’t quite measure up to the two leads, at  its worst at times it is downright poor. Far be it from me to single out one particular performance as being bad, but one of the actors obvious attempt at being wacky and quirky is simply too over the top and and at times completely distracted my attention from whichever scene they’re in.

 

The Invoking hasn’t completely reinvented the wheel or transformed the genre, I doubt that was ever the intention of Jeremy Berg and his crew. However, what he and the rest of his team have created is a wonderfully subtle, intelligent, beautiful and at times chilling tale that may indeed seem familiar at first glance. It is though, far more than that and it works wonderfully well. It’s not just a good film, it is simply excellent.

 

The Invoking is due for its UK release on DVD on 12th May 2014.

 

This movie is well worth 8 out of 10

 

Image Entertainment is a relatively new label from RLJ Entertainment which was launched here in the UK in January 2014, as the UK arm of the thriving Image Entertainment US label, with an exciting new range of sci-fi action, thriller and horror genre films selected from the US schedule.