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Abandoned Dead (2017) DVD Review

rsz_1adABANDONED DEAD (2017)

Dir- Mark W. Curran

Starring- Sarah Nicklin, Judith O’Dea, Carlos Ramirez, Robert E Wilhelm

UK DVD Release – Feb 27th 2017 from LEFT FILMS

A security guard’s sudden night shift at an addiction clinic and the sinister goings on that befall this luckless worker are the main plot focus for Mark W. Curran’s independent horror ABANDONED DEAD, that whilst showing some of its budget constraints and at times flaws slipping through the cracks does also allow it’s director and main star to showcase their talent on a shoestring.

Rachel (Nicklin) is on her way home from a day shift but at the last minute she is called up by her boss to cover a late shift over the memorial day weekend and being at night is something that she is not too keen on since she has a “problem with night-time” (sure that’s known as fear of the dark?). Given a quick tour of the addiction clinic that’s her work place for the night, she is warned by the secretary who is about to leave her, to lock the doors at all times (that rule will be broken) and being assured not be afraid despite learning that the clinic is in a bad area and that addicts have tendency to try and break into the building for extra methadone. Once she is the only person there its not long before strange things start to happen, weird noises and voices Rachel starts to hear and soon she finds herself possibly the focus of a killer or supernatural presence that wants to end her shift pretty abruptly and some of this may also tie in with a detective (Ramirez) investigating a spate of murders and disappearances linked to the clinic.

rsz_1ad1Whilst ABANDONED DEAD is clearly a low budgeted feature and that does unfortunately seep through during its short and sweet running time of 77 minutes, there are still moments within the film to appreciate amongst the faults and the director clearly knows how to pace and set up a story well and given the limitations of the budget he has still managed to make an interesting feature that knows not to stretch beyond its means and also not deliver a slowly driven feature that can be the fault of many an independent film. Yes, as mentioned there are flaws. Aside from a decent performance by Nicklin, some of the other acting seems a bit ropey and hammy including a scene with a caretaker of the building who for some reason might be linked to the dead, skinned cats that are lying about outside the clinic and some hammy acting from a mad doctor (Wilhelm) who could be linked to the disappearances that have occurred at the clinic and seems to be more interested in performing surgery of the less life saving kind.

Some effects in the film don’t fully work an example of which is a shot of a female ghoul that looks a bit hokey to the point of not being scary but more laughable, yet at the same time effects are kept to a minimum which in the long run is a good decision from a production standpoint and the final twist is pretty easy to figure out and at times seems a pretty obvious sign post once the film escalates to its final conclusion. The police detective as well seems a bit like he’s popped up from another film with earlier scenes of him wandering around a city night-scape accompanied with a voice over monologue trying to sound like a film noir private detective. His inclusion, at first, seems a bit of a confusing character in terms of what his position will be towards the films proceeding story and the scenes of him wandering around to drag and add an uneven tone. But then in retrospect this could be a neat ploy by Curran that plays into the films final twist.

rsz_1ad2Incidentally the horror buffs and geeks around will be pleased to see NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD’s Judith O’Dea in a brief role as a doctor. Despite some flaws and a predictable twist there is still much to enjoy in ABANDONED DEAD and its in the later part of the twist that some neat and stylish scenes are executed that clearly shows Curran has a talent and a knack of leading a story into an atmospheric conclusion and in these latter parts there are scenes that are unnerving in their portrayal. Whilst certain parts of the film look a bit weak its hard not to be impressed by this neatly packed supernatural thriller that offers creepy moments, confident direction and a willingness to express some maturity and aspiration beyond its limitations.

6/10

The Driller Killer (1979) Arrow Video Review

dk1THE DRILLER KILLER – REVIEW

(Dir- Abel Ferrara, USA, 1979)

Starring- Jimmy Laine, Carolyn Marz, Baybi Day

Out NOW from Arrow Video!

“Notorious video nasty” is the one term used to describe Ferrara’s low budget exploitation flick. Yet its notoriety and inclusion on the video nasties list in the UK primarily comes from the it’s brutally up front and infamous video cover, which features a man with a drill bit going into his forehead, screaming with blood rushing down his face, a testament to the almost recognisable aspect of shock advertising employed by the people who exhibited exploitation films in cinemas only a few years before the dawn of VHS, with a tactical blatant use of shocking title and gaudy often graphic cover promising lurid and unspeakable thrills. Most of the time the films on the nasties list where a disappointment and only a few often proved to be exceptional and DRILLER KILLER is one of them and is now getting a brand new dual Blu-ray and DVD release from the folks at Arrow.

THE FILM

Ferrara’s film stands out from the video nasty crowd in that it purposefully invokes different genres such as character study, black comedy, psychological thriller and of course horror. Its a portrait of struggling painter Reno (Jimmy Lane, but actually Ferrara under a pseudo name) and his attempts to fend of piling up rent, bills, complaints from his girlfriend Carol (Marz) and her on/off lover Pamela (Day) and the racket created by a punk band who move in downstairs brought in by Carol called Tony Coca-Cola and The Roosters consistently practising day and night. All these aspects start to affect Reno’s psyche leading to a change in mental state and the purchase of a battery pack that can power a portable drill and send him on a killing spree of New York’s drunk vagrants, a group he has a fear of becoming part of and a defenceless one at that who he takes out his rage on instead of those causing him grief in the first place.

dk3Shot in 16mm THE DRILLER KILLER ranks up there with films that document a period in the time of New York of the late 70’s and early 80’s such as TAXI DRIVER, MANIAC, BASKET CASE, COMBAT SHOCK and even part of NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN in its portrayal of a city in the midst of sleazy often dangerous areas, exploitation cinemas, punk bars, artists apartments and in this films case a massive homeless problem brought in part by the closure of mental hospitals (which is briefly mentioned in the shot of a front cover of a newspaper). This is the period before Rudolph Giuliani cleaned up the city in the early 90’s, of a city that had a grit and rough edge to it and often a sense of desperation which is perfectly captured by Ferrara who has even hailed this a documentary in parts, and in some respects the rough edge of the film adds a realist approach and makes a perfect nightmarish setting for the action as Reno’s mind slowly starts to break and he succumbs to violent urges.

The film has an almost languid freestyle approach to the pacing with occasional scenes of the Roosters band practising, Reno trying to finish his painting, trying to get money off his art agent and also witnessing the homeless problem and violent crime around the city and this slow style is punctuated by viscerally brutal scenes of violence sound tracked by a hypnotically, psycho-esque synth score that acts in a JAWS type of way of building the ensuing attack on vagrants, with Reno being the proverbial shark wandering the streets with his power drill stalking his prey. Its this style and energy which makes the film work and stand out amongst the “notorious video nasty” label and earns it a level of realism towards the genre and might put those expecting it to be a straightforward horror, off. Admittedly even amongst the drilling and blood there’s an attempt to skewer horror clichés, such as a scene where Reno sees Carol and Pamela sleeping in bed and its suggested that he is about to kill them in that build up where the murderer strikes yet this ends in no carnage but with Reno just staring at them making it an anti climatic scene altogether and could almost buy into Ferrara’s explanation that he classes this film as a black comedy.

dk2Throughout the viewing of DRILLER KILLER there’s a sense of seeing Ferrara taking his first steps at themes that would punctuate his work throughout his career, especially the use of the setting of New York and its effect on an individual that would become more common especially in his next film MS 45: ANGEL OF VENGEANCE, the superb KING OF NEW YORK, his masterpiece BAD LIEUTENANT and his other (meta) horror themed film, the philosophical vampire flick THE ADDICTION. It is also a chance to see the second film (his first being a porn film called 9 LIVES OF A WET PUSSY) from a director who has remained constantly interesting, changing and ever evolving.

9/10

EXTRAS

Of course when it comes to extras Arrow tend to pull out all the stops on gathering enough for film fans to pick over and whilst it might not be a jam packed package, there is a nice selection of features that complement the main film. Most notably impressive is the addition of a feature length documentary by Ferrara and the first time its been released in the UK of MULBERRY STREET, which chronicles the directors neighbourhood one which he has grown up in and used in his films and that he lives in and the various characters that populate all based around the traditional Italian feast of San Gennaro. It’s an interesting documentary that gains engaging insight into the working of a community and the ever increasing commercialisation of traditional areas of New York as well as featuring the weird sight of Matthew Modine on a segway scooter.

dk4Added to this we also have LAINE AND ABEL which is a brand new interview with the director, WILLING AND ABEL: FERRAROLOGY 101 a superb and insightful visual essay by author Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, trailers and a funny audio commentary with Ferrara and Brad Stevens author of ABEL FERRARA: THE MORAL VISION (the best book on the director that you should seek out), which whilst offering insights into the film also allows Ferrara to take sly digs at his work (my favourite quote on the commentary track by him “finally a god-damn zoom shot…after an hour!”). Added to this the contents of the package include a booklet and reversible sleeve featuring new art work by the Twins of Evil on one side, and a recreation of that notorious video nasty sleeve on the other so you can shock your neighbours when they come round (if you trust them!). Credit should be given to the transfer as this looks the best I’ve seen this film in, well, since I first encountered it on the cut release back in the late 90’s.

Arrow have gone back to the original negatives and spruced it up nicely making the film look and still, retain the grittiness of its urban landscape but at the same time cleaning it up nicely and creating a brighter more sharper picture. This again is another example of Arrow’s commendable work in restoring classic often looked down upon genre fare that would usually get sub standard releases and not display any effort put into it, though here, again they have made another fine example of there dominance in the cult genre home entertainment field.

9/10

James Pemberton’s Top Films of 2016 !!

James Pemberton’s Top Films of 2016 !!

It’s that time of year again where we take in what we’ve seen over the past 12 months and condense it into a best of list. Whilst 2016 to some has been a bit of a depressing year in terms of news story’s, with more terrorist incidents plaguing mainland Europe, countless deaths of celebrated personality’s (R.I.P David Bowie), the UK deciding to take the drop off the cliff and vote to leave the European union (though some will no doubt like that and wont see it as depressing, I for one is still in a state of confusion) and the ensuing rise in hate crime and clear divisions within the UK, and then finally the USA deciding to elect a misogynistic, racist, former reality TV host as the next President elect in the form of Donald Trump, you’d think the world is about to slip into complete chaos, I don’t think it will but you never know and anyway if it does I’m sure it will supply some good inspiration for future horror films. Yes that’s what where here to discuss, horror films and which ones stood out for me in this year. It’s certainly been a strong year and with a return to Edinburgh’s wonderful Dead By Dawn for myself this year and attendance at a strong and superb Grimmfest this past October, the festival circuit has also produced some surprises that will hopefully be out on general release soon. Here then is my list, its not done in alphabetical order but rather in order of time in the year I saw them, and its not the standard ten more like eleven or twelve or thirteen, maybe, I don’t know its been hard to whittle this down, see what you think…….

btBONE TOMAHAWK (Dir- S Craig Zahler, USA, 2015)

Thankfully getting a release, albeit brief, at the cinemas, Zahler’s film is a fantastic, brilliantly written and often brutal combination of western and horror film. Working almost like an inversion of John Ford’s THE SEARCHERS it follows Kurt Russell, leading a posse of townsfolk after a group of cannibalistic troglodyte tribes people kidnap some of the residents. Working on a superb script and attracting a great cast who give it there all and take the proceedings seriously, with some superb roles from Russell, Patrick Wilson, Richard Jenkins and Matthew Fox the film is a great slow burn to begin with establishing the characters on their mission and then exploding into some strong, gripping and very bloody action with the cross over into the cannibal tribes territory and the groups initial underestimation of the savagery that they come up against. Destined to become a cult classic, BONE TOMAHAWK will probably shock those going into it thinking its a western as be prepared this might be the first time you can say a film has elements of classics of the wild west genre crossed with an Italian cannibal movie.

the-witch-poster1THE WITCH (Dir- Robert Eggers, USA, 2015)

Eggers period piece horror flick will no doubt make it onto the list of many horror fans and even normal best of list’s of this year, if it didn’t already do so on its festival run last year. A completely evocative, uneasy, eerie and disturbing “New England Folk-tale,” Eggers film places a puritanical family and there decision to leave a community rather than face banishment and establish there own land holding and living space in an area next to a large secluded forest far away from any community. There decision brings about strange happenings, tragedy and eventual relapse into possible madness, suggestions of punishment from god for sinning and the overall break up of the family unit, possibly caused by the unknown forces and possible witches that supposedly lurk in the woods. With a script that is written and performed as spoken dialogue from the period and with a superb and evocative production design that lend the film its authenticity THE WITCH looks and sounds fantastic as well as creating the respected unease through its unsettling soundtrack that complements the action, suggesting to the viewer that what we could be watching is a collective delusion rather than an actual supernatural force. We could see the break up of the family as a warning, a folk-tale uttered to those around that time, never to leave the community or face the possibility of gods wrath and being at the mercy of whatever lurks outside. Like IT FOLLOWS last year THE WITCH is a fantastic example of highly original film-making that breathes new life and makes you respect the genre even more. It will no doubt be interesting to see how Egger’s takes on the material in his next film, a re-make of NOSFERATU.

green-room-poster-02GREEN ROOM (Dir- Jeremy Saulnier, USA, 2015)

One of the first feature I viewed at this years Dead By Dawn, my first return back to the wonderful Edinburgh based horror film festival after 8 years and a great start to boot. Saulnier’s previous film before this, BLUE RUIN, made my best of list in 2014 and the hype and expectation for this third feature by him was certainly high. It does not fail and manages to knock up the tension and intensity in its story of a group of punk musicians, The Aint Rights, who witness a murder after playing a gig at a neo-Nazi run backwoods bar. Having to hold up in the so called green room, the punks have to fight it out against the Nazi’s in gruesome, often darkly comic blitz of action. Whilst in his previous film Saulnier managed to inject a pretty un-original story of a man out for revenge, completely out of his depth and craft something unique and highly entertaining, he again adapts the same method for a group of punks out of there element against a group of ruthless individuals, organised in military fashion by there commander in chief and owner of the bar, Darcy (a brilliant against turn from Patrick Stewart). As well as containing a brilliant soundtrack (the bands rendition of Dead Kennedy’s Nazi Punks Fuck Off is a superbly hilarious and tense scene), the film speeds along at a fast pace and never lets up in the tense stand off between either side. Its a shame to see that not long after this films release one of its stars, Anton Yelchin, tragically died in a freak auto-mobile accident at his home in Los Angeles. Yelchin is well known for his performance as Chekov in the STAR TREK film re-boots, yet he has previously shown in this film, Jim Jarmusch’s ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE and even the flawed ODD THOMAS, often interesting and intense characters and showed that he was an actor who would have had a promising future ahead, but unfortunately had that cut short.

antibirth-posterANTIBIRTH (Dir- Danny Perez, USA, 2016)

Again premiered at Dead By Dawn, Perez’s mad, trippy, off the wall stoner horror was quite unlike anything I’ve seen this year. The film focuses on Lou (Natasha Lyonne) who lives and works in a town full of drug addled marines and spends most of her time partying, getting stoned and taking any other drug available. After one particular warehouse party she wakes up and finds herself afflicted with a strange illness that brings on signs of pregnancy as well as weird visions and spends most of the film trying retrace her steps of what happened whilst getting fucked up on many recreational toxins in the process. Elements of conspiracy thriller, science fiction, body horror and of course stoner comedy abound in a completely original, often hilarious film that somehow leaving you with the feeling of loving it and going along with the films insanity, makes you want to see it again to make sure you did see what you just saw. Perez has crafted a superb film that came out of nowhere and has its own level of uniqueness to recommend to anyone, well those willing to take the ride. Aided by a superb performance from Lyonne, who is the most reckless character on screen trying to find out what is happening to her but all the time getting wrecked. It’s credit to Lyonne manages to make Lou become an engaging character rather than someone to pity, or have one of those ‘life changing’ moments in the film where the character changes their bad habits. No Lou essentially doesn’t care and would rather get smashed which makes her somehow likeable and a perfect character to accompany the films mad and original tone.

neon-demon-movie-posterTHE NEON DEMON (Dir- Nicolas Winding Refn, USA/DENMARK/FRANCE, 2016)

A film that’s likely to divide audience into definite hate it or love it camps, THE NEON DEMON for me fits into the latter group. A hypnotic, dark descent into neon lit world of Los Angeles fashion industry with almost fairy tale like influenced tone in its story of a young wannabe fashion model trying to make it as a model and falling into a clique of other more experienced models who want to literally feed on her beauty. Refn again singles himself out as a maverick and original director. Invoking brilliant stylised frames and characters almost made to look like a fashion shoot. The director still knows how to deliver the requisite shock scenes and violence that add an exploitation esque showman tone to his picture making it uniquely original in its combination of art house and genre. There are two brilliant central performances from Elle Fanning and Jena Malone as the young model Jesse and the make up artist who brings her into the fashion clique who have their sights set on devouring the new blood and a fantastic against type performance from Keanu Reeves as a sleazy scumbag of a motel owner. Refn makes films for himself and that’s clear from the outset and THE NEON DEMON will confuse but at the same time it makes for unconventional and original viewing, blessed with a strong singular visual style and like his previous works another superb soundtrack.

dontbreatheDON’T BREATHE (Dir- Fede Alvarez, USA, 2016)

Admittedly I wasn’t that struck on Alvarez’s previous film, the much hyped remake of THE EVIL DEAD and ended up feeling disappointed by it finding it to end up in that typical style of modern day horror remakes that offers sepia toned washed out visuals and loses the fun and charm of the original source material. Yet his brand new film took me by surprise and learning nothing about it before seeing it on its initial cinema release ended up being hooked by its tense, simple story of three thieves trying to break into the house of a blind war veteran and steal the loot that he has kept locked up inside. Accept nothing goes to plan and the thieves end up facing a more clever and ruthless foe in the blind war veteran who also doesn’t want these thieves finding out what he has in his basement. Combining some smart and tense thrills with its use of camera style and trickery, including a brilliant sequence shot entirely in what looks like night vision where the actors seem like they are generally walking around in complete darkness. Alvarez manages to crank up the action and combines this with a dark and somewhat nasty twist that lends the film another perspective that will change audiences sympathy to the characters involved. He is well helped by the young trio of actors who handle there roles as the clueless thieves well, one of whom, played by Jane Levy, is one of the main characters to be the most empathetic to the audience as she is looking to use the money from this score to get out of the crap home life she has. Except its Stephen Lang as the Blind Man who manages to pull off a fantastic physical performance, at first seemingly innocent and vunreable to the youngsters yet convincingly turning the table on them and exploiting there underestimation to his full advantage. A simple story that at first seems unoriginal in set up but thanks to Alvarez and his co-writer Rodo Sayagues, manages to lend it an intense and unique edge that holds the viewer in its vice like grip for its brief running time.

train-to-busan-posterTRAIN TO BUSAN (Dir- Sang-ho Yeon, SOUTH KOREA, 2016)

Arriving with a lot of hype since its premiere at Cannes earlier this year and then its screening as the closing film of this years Frightfest, TRAIN TO BUSAN was added to the Grimmfest line up un-surprisingly and certainly had expectations highly raised. It didn’t disappoint and delivers on all fronts in action, characters, emotion, tension and spectacle. Simple set up story of a estranged father, more obsessed with his work, taking his daughter to see her mother who he has recently split from. But whilst the train to Busan is leaving Seoul station a zombie virus starts to break out and unfortunately one of the infected has managed to sneak on board, leading to our two central characters banding together with others to try and make there way to the front of the train and avoid becoming one of the undead. Yeon manages to orchestrate some superb action scenes throughout, a central character who at first seems a bit arrogant yet becomes the main hero of the piece, who has to struggle with the situation all the while protecting his child which again lends the film another added element of danger and like the train itself starts slow on the tracks but then speeds up and grips the audience throughout to its emotional conclusion. Asian cinema manages to somehow always impress and deliver dramatic nuanced characters that the audience care for making there scenes of willing sacrificial bravery all the more powerful and its a trait that it is good at. Added to that the film is a fantastic blockbuster and might just be the best blockbuster made this year, over what ever superhero stuff came out from Marvel or DC this year (I don’t know I haven’t seen anything) and demands to be seen on the big screen. Like DONT BREATHE previously on my list, it’s a simple premise handled brilliantly see it know as they are already planning the inevitable English language remake!

trash-fire-2016TRASH FIRE (Dir- Richard Bates Jr, USA, 2016)

Bates Jr’s last film, SUBURBAN GOTHIC, almost made my 2014 list, but thankfully he has come back with another twisted, often funny take on a completely dysfunctional family that certainly owes more to the dark nature of his first film EXCISION, with its balance of black comedy and tragedy. The film follows misanthropic Owen (Adrian Grenier) and his attempts to maintain his relationship with his girlfriend Isabel (Angela Timbur) who is pregnant and his reunion with his relatives, including his horrible and very religious grandmother Violet (Fionnula Flanagan) and his sister Pearl (AnnaLynne McCord) who was disfigured in a fire Owen inadvertently caused in his past and which left his parents dead. Its a completely uneasy and often disturbing, acidic reunion and the film burns a crescendo up to an unexpected ending that certainly shocks in its unpredictability. Bates is fantastic in creating his character’s both realistic and clearly flawed and manages to crank out some laughs in the films early scenes which are both twisted and brutally honest and its in this initial first half where the film starts off like a relationship comedy, up until Owen goes back to his homestead and the second part of the picture starts to take an unexpected twisted turn which highlights certain character’s damages, hypocrisy’s and possible relapses back into madness. With three films to his name Bates is slowly turning out to be one of the best talents in the genre, managing to crank out often startling, sharp and original material.

tonight%20she%20comes%20festival%20posterTONIGHT SHE COMES (Dir- Matt Stuertz, USA, 2016)

This came out of nowhere. A directorial debut for Stuertz and a world premiere at Grimmfest, TONIGHT SHE COMES can be described as just an insane ride of dumb, promiscuous teenagers meeting at a cabin in the woods, a naked almost possessed looking women covered in blood and a group of devil worshipping hill-billy’s who turn out to be the more saner (if that’s possible in this film) and level headed of character’s involved. Both startling in its execution, sleazy in its lay out and with plenty of blood on offer the film is a fantastic homage to extreme horror, late 70’s/early 80’s slasher films, even the more ridiculous entry’s of the slasher genre (the ones such as the later HALLOWEEN films that go far away from Carpenter’s original), carried with a frenetic pace that makes you wonder what turn the film is going to take next and then surprising you when it takes you on another completely insane angle. It also has a scene which I think must have used tons of blood to almost numbing effect. A crazed, confident and fantastic debut and one that I hope gets a decent release as its certainly to be enjoyed on the big screen on a loud sound system, cause just as the film states at the start its meant “to be played loud.”

prevenge_01-600x400PREVENGE (Dir- Alice Lowe, UK, 2016)

Written, directed and starring Lowe whilst she was pregnant, PREVENGE might be the first prenatal serial killer movie, made by a pregnant women. The end product is however a superb, darkly comic, often bloody serial killer horror about the trauma of loss and a maternal fear of pregnancy, with its central character being driven to kill supposedly by the voice of her unborn child. Lowe manages to make a central character be at once both unsympathetic but also engaging in the process and her portrayal of Ruth is not one of a vulnerable pregnant women who will be in danger at any moment, but instead is someone who is strong, very aggressive and violent and possibly mentally disturbed, yet feels justified in her quest for vengeance on an un-caring and hypocritical society that she sees. Like the film she starred in with another actor who went onto make his own film Steve Oram (who went onto make AAAAAH!), SIGHTSEERS, PREVENGE contains that quaint near obvious recognition of the landscape of Britain and its inner city’s and towns populated with its often sleazy, tragic and patronising character’s, that will be familiar to many viewers and combines it with a darkly comic and savage serial killer flick. Adding again as mentioned in my original review, another superb British addition to the genre with its highly original and often subversive take on a the psychotic killer flick. This has recently been announced
to be released on February 10th , in 2017 just in time for Valentines day so it will make a perfect date movie!

i-am-not-a-serial-killer-movie-poster-2016-1020776401I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER (Dir- Billy O’Brien, IRELAND/UK, 2016)

One of the last films I saw this year at a preview screening and yet somehow it still has remained to me a great film to end the year on. A fantastic tale of a social awkward teenager with slight sociopathic problems, tracking down a spate of serial killings in his home town and inevitably awaking his own potentially dangerous urges, the film is boasted by superb cinematography done in 16mm that catches the grit and snow of the town setting and its darkened hidden night-time. It also boasts two superb performances from Max Records and the ever brilliant Christopher Lloyd and if you haven’t read Dan Wells original novel that this is based on then the twist that occurs in the film is at once predictable but then throws another twist into the works that completely changes the course of the picture. A fantastic piece that deserves more recognition and hopefully will gain a cult following in due course as its not hard to see the comparisons that many have been making with this film and DONNIE DARKO as it does contain that unusual charm of unlikely, almost socially awkward high school loner living in a small town and witnessing events that are highly unusual.

FILMS THAT ALMOST MADE MY LIST…..

A list of films that like the heading says, almost made the list, all very good and should be seen…….

CURTAIN (Dir- Jaron Henrie-McCrea, USA, 2015)

Originally screened at Frightfest 2015 and released on their label this year, CURTAIN is one of the films that has a ridiculous premise on paper (a women discovers a portal in her bathroom wall that keeps taking the shower curtains and ends up in a lot of trouble with weird cults and demons) but manages to pull it off completely remaining a quirky superb and nicely paced 76 minutes. A superb, often rough around the edges low budget horror that has a likeable and offbeat edge to it that makes it a must see.

WE GO ON (Dir- Jesse Holland, Andy Mitton, USA, 2016)

Screened at Dead By Dawn the new film from the directors of YELLOWBRICKROAD is a superb and twisting supernatural thriller that throws a distinctive and brand new take on a genre that sometimes relies too heavily on jump shocks. Yes the shocks are in this film but they are delivered along with a superb brilliantly paced story that throws up a few surprises along the way and confirms this duo of directors as a strong genre talent to look forward to.

THE CORPSE OF ANNA FRITZ (Dir- Hector Hernandez Vicens, SPAIN, 2015)

Again screened at Dead By Dawn, a surprisingly brutal, raw and disturbing study of macho attitudes, celebrity culture, desire, control and necrophilia that will unnerve and possibly anger some viewers, but this is the directors intention and it doesn’t slip into exploitation. Superbly acted by all involved and running in at a neat 76 minutes that doesn’t let up in its pacing and in its disturbing nature.

DIRECTORS CUT (Dir- Adam Rifkin, USA, 2016)

Joyously daft and darkly comic directors cut version of a sub-standard serial killer flick, yet the person who has done the directors cut and is providing the voice over seems more and more obsessed with the original films lead actress. With some brilliant laugh out loud moments, an idea that sounds possibly interesting to begin with and somehow could work or fail badly, is pulled of with superb blackly comic glee.

THE GREASY STRANGLER (Dir- Jim Hoskins, USA, 2016)

Fucked up is probably the best to describe Hoskins darkly comic horror thriller/serial killer thriller/family drama and its all the better for it. A mental stream of random scenes, gore, grease and fire hose penises combined with a love or recognition/tribute to midnight cinema, this is a film that left me baffled, confused but loving its insanity. Not for everyone might also be another way to describe this.

RAW (Dir- Julia Ducournau, FRANCE/BELGIUM, 2016)

A queasy, intelligent study of cannibalism and coming of age for a young veterinarian student who undergoes a brutal hazing ritual and starts to develop a taste for meat, RAW is a film that lies in a meta horror tradition of films that approach a particularly dark subject and combine it with normal traits that add a another level to the film that is partly a body horror flick. Not as vom-inducing as the reports of people passing out at its Toronto Film Fest premiere would have you believe, it still manages to contain some brutal and realistic effects work and carries an intelligent, effective and original approach to the genre.

And finally a few honourable mentions to Ben Wheatley’s very good and confident adaption of JG Ballard’s HIGH RISE, Joseph Wartnerchaney’s superb study of a mentally damaged loner in DECAY, Karyn Kusama’s portrayal of a separated couples uncomfortable reunion that takes a turn for the worse in THE INVITATION and a chance to catch the JJ Abram’s backed 4K restoration of Don Coscarelli’s masterpiece PHANTASM which looked great on the big screen and a fitting tribute to one of its most famous character’s The Tall Man, and the man who played him, Angus Scrimm, who sadly passed away at the start of this year. R.I.P Tall Man!

One more final thing THE WORST FILM OF THE YEAR!!!

classroom6-posterYes it has been a strong year for genre cinema but alas there will always be stuff that comes out that you think, how and why did that get made. Originally I was going to nominate BLAIR WITCH but felt that was more disappointing than anything else, as from a technical stand point its well done despite it being a pretty unoriginal found footage film, plus I’m sure its director and writer, Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett, who have already shown they can create decent genre flicks, will go onto something better and a lot more memorable. However my nomination for worst film of the year will have to go to CLASSROOM 6 which is ironically is a found footage flick and the laziest kind, with a predictable plot that carries every cliched found footage trait in the book. It’s enough to make you see why some horror fans don’t like this sub genre and to make you wonder why this managed to get a release!

So that’s the 2016 list done and a strong year at that in the genre, plus on a side note I got to see John Carpenter play live which will go down as the best gig of this year!!! What does 2017 have in store for us? More of the same I hope, so see you in another 12 months, cause I’m done with this list now and will finally bugger off. Have a Great Krampus day and a New Calender date change day as well!

 

I Am Not A Serial Killer (2016) Review

ianasc1I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER (Dir- Billy O’Brien, IRELAND/UK, 2016)

Starring- Max Records, Christopher Lloyd, Laura Fraser, Karl Geary, Lucy Lawton

Out in UK Cinemas 9th December

Recently viewed at a special screening hosted by Grimm Up North, before the screening took place Grimm’s head honcho Simeon Halligan did a brief quiz asking what film the director, Billy O’Brien, had previously done. Trying to job my consistently leaking brain I could vaguely remember, however when it turned out to be ISOLATION, I was kicking myself. O’Brien’s first feature was an impressive and taut début that benefited from the ironically isolated setting and marked a director to keep an eye out for. After certainly a long gap in between films and only one full feature to his name O’Brien has however been busy trying to bring Dan Wells novel to the screen having to navigate the various problems of funding that inevitably hampers a film such as this. However his patience has worked off and what we get is a feature that plays on expectations and relies on an interesting central and pretty troubled, borderline sociopathic character as its lead.

John Wayne Cleaver (Records) is a troubled, well rather very troubled teenager living in a snowy mid-western town which is currently being plagued by some strange serial murders. These murders ironically provide business for his family’s funeral home, in which John assists in the preparation process of the cadavers before the service along with his long suffering mother April (Fraser) who has to cope with being called into school when John does write up assignments on serial killers. Naturally he stands out as the unusual weird, creepy kid prone to confrontations in the lunch hall with bully’s. He has help from a therapist Dr Neblin (Geary) who gets him to use coping mechanisms from curbing his violent sociopathic urges. Yet his obsession with the current serial murders happening around him starts to bring out John’s inquisitive and dangerous side and this leads him to suspect that his elderly neighbour Crowley (Lloyd) is hiding something that may be linked to the killings.

This is not the first time that I’ve said this in a review, but to reveal any more would ruin I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER, as there’s a twist in this that throws everything off balance and a twist that is a daring one at that. Even myself while watching the film predicted what was going to happen but then I was wrong as there’s a further revelation I did not expect at all and made an interesting spike in the story that turns it into a new even almost genre bending angle which benefits the material as it blends normal serial killer thriller tropes with other genre elements to create something original and almost un-classifiable in terms of genre. O’Brien handles the proceedings efficiently and confidently taking time and introducing us into the world of John and his dysfunctional family and his own sociopathic tendencies.

A great scene has John being confronted by the arch-typical bully at a school Halloween dance and rather than whimper or look away from the thug, he stares at them smiling, explaining politely that he’s thinking about killing him but doesn’t want to do that but has to think that in order to curb him from acting on it. It’s a well written scene that both skewers the bully and bullied dynamic and will have anyone who faced this in high school cheering or laughing along. Records is brilliant as John and nails the role perfectly managing to make a character who is un-predictable at best but somehow is completely engaging and likeable as the misfit who turns amateur sleuth.
Records who has been on hiatus from acting since the Jonah Hill comedy THE SITTER, is a revelation as he makes John a realistic character in the way you can see there would be many teenagers who are like this, sociopathic, oddball but somehow more interesting than most others of his age. He is also brilliantly complemented by Lloyd as neighbour Crowley, a kindly old man, who somehow is hiding something that he doesn’t want anyone to see.

ianasc5Lloyd manages to convey perfectly the ageing process, and despite his character’s revelations we start to somehow convey sympathy for him as the film progresses. As a veteran actor Lloyd has always been associated with the Doc Brown role from BACK TO THE FUTURE and whilst he may have been pigeon-holed into comedy roles before, he has shown he can play dramatic and complex character’s. Just witness his brilliant support turn in the 1995 darkly comic gangster thriller THINGS TO DO IN DENVER WHEN YOU’RE DEAD. Now he can add I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER to this list in showing that the actor can still produce interesting roles in his later years.

Added to this O’Brien is helped by fantastic 16mm cinematography by Robbie Ryan which captures the snowy, bleak landscape of the mid-western town in a grainy look that emphasises the small town setting and the night time scenes shot, also project the dark isolated area as if to hide something threatening in the darkness that might be watching our character’s. The only downsides, which there is little of, is the initial first twist which is pretty easy to see, however this is further turned upside down by the previously mentioned further twist. The twist itself might end up throwing and disappointing viewers expecting a straightforward serial killer thriller, who may not be willing to accept the outcome of it and find it a hindrance to the overall plot.

ianasc3There is also a relationship between John and another girl Brook(Lawton) which doesn’t seem fully realised and somehow is not explored more and could have been something taken from the original source novel that worked in that medium but not fully realised in the film version. Yet these are small discrepancies and criticisms in what is a highly entertaining and original film that skewers conventions and creates realistic likeable character’s, in a real world setting thrown into a dark situation that is sprinkled with some dark humour.

In a strong year for horror overall this is a great film to end it on (unless something turns up between now and the 31st December that is even better) and its a testament to the genre that it can still throw out material that confidently bends expectations.

8.5/10

Prevenge (2016) Review

prevenge4PREVENGE (Dir- Alice Lowe, UK, 2016)

Starring- Alice Lowe, Jo Hartley, Kate Dickie, Kayvan Novak, Tom Davis

After a screening at London Film Festival, Alice Lowe’s directorial début is the first film to kick off a pre-Halloween weekend small season of horror films at Manchester’s HOME cinema, which includes many interesting titles already screened from the LIFF line up, with RAW, WE ARE THE FLESH and the new 4K restoration of PHANTASM. It’s great to see this season on in what is essentially an art-house cinema, albeit an impressive one and as its an inaugural event here’s hoping it continues the following year after this as with so many horror films being released at the moment and the majority only making their way to Blu Ray, DVD or VOD releases this gives a good chance to catch something that wont necessarily make it onto the cinema. That said the opening film is the directorial debut of actress Alice Lowe and a fantastically dark, funny and often pitch black serial killer movie and maybe the first film where the killer in question is pregnant.

Lowe plays Ruth a heavily pregnant women who is recently bereaved after the father of her unborn child died in a climbing accident. Ruth wants to take revenge on those responsible and in many ways on society in general that pitches its condescending attitude towards pregnant women. She encounters various sleazy male characters along the way including a pet shop owner who has a really crass array of flirtation that just border on the worse kind of double-entendre and a 70’s disco DJ who throws up in his afro wig and still lives with his elderly mum. Some of these people are nasty and sleazy and in some respects don’t gain our sympathy for being rid of. Though Ruth does end up taking the lives of some who don’t seem to deserve it. The only thing that sets Ruth apart or has her believing that what she is doing is right is the fact that she believes her unborn child is telling her to kill. Is Ruth just suffering from paranoid delusion and a fractured mind, or is it the fear of responsibility and neglect she feels in having to bring a child into this world on her own that has set her off?

prevenge3What struck me most about PREVENGE is the treatment of its main character. Pregnant women in films always seem to be the ones who are the weakest, always having to be looked after and sometimes in danger of having their water break and the first labour pains to happen at an inconvenient moment. Ruth on the other hand is the opposite and is the strongest character in the film though for reasons that are entirely wrong. For one thing she’s a character that is conflicting in that she is both unsympathetic, yet strangely by the end of the film you end up feeling a certain slight tinge of sympathy for her and her quest for vengeance on what she sees as a hypocritical society. In many respects she is an anti hero, a Travis Bickle type character, yet rather than her targets being drug dealers and “scum of the earth” Ruth sets her sights on those she feels are repellent, have no idea of what its like to lose someone or bear the responsibility of bringing a life into this world. Its a potent mind set that drives her character to believe that her unborn child is giving her instructions to kill.

But this is a manifestation of the rage she feels at society and some of the condescending attitude towards pregnant women, most notably in the form of a midwife (Jo Hartley) who almost delivers her talks to Ruth in a child like calmed manner as if she is trained to project her voice in that way. Most of the scenes involving Ruth and the midwife are superbly written, such as when the health official on finding out that Ruth’s husband is dead, states that its natures way, to which Ruth sarcastically replies “Well nature’s a bit of a cunt.” Another exchange that is perfectly captured between the two is when the Midwife mentions social services, which understandably sends Ruth off in a near panic attack instantly making her think that her child will be taken away, realistically showing whenever social services is mentioned it can send any parent or expectant mother into a panic.

prevenge5The central performances from these two actresses are some of the best in the film. Particular praise should go to Lowe, who in true guerilla style film-making method was 6 months pregnant whilst making the film. Her character of Ruth is repellent in her actions, yet anchors the film and keeps us fixed witnessing her killing spree whilst her actions as a pregnant single mother is a complete subversion of what we idealise the expectant female to be. Film wise this reminded me strangely enough of Narciso Ibanez Serrador’s WHO CAN KILL A CHILD from 1976, where the kids are the murderers in that film and the main female character featured is also an expectant mother. Though tonally this reminds me of Jennifer Kent’s THE BABADOOK, which used the horror film template to focus on maternal anxiety’s. However this film takes a more darker edge to its story and its this that might put some people off from relating to the film’s central character and some may find her killing spree somehow a bit unbelievable in that there seems to be a distance from a real world setting, despite its English surroundings, that Ruth would be caught pretty quickly by the authority’s, especially with some of the areas where she commits her murders.

prevenge2Like her co-star in the fantastic Ben Wheatley directed SIGHTSEERS, Steve Oram who directed AAAAAAH!, released last year, Lowe has confidently jumped from in front of the screen to behind the screen (well also still starring in the film so technically still in front of the screen) and has crafted a neat, often very funny, but in many ways bleak psycho thriller of brooding maternal fear that embraces an alternative look at established roles of motherhood and pregnancy in its own violent manner and its great to see the British genre scene producing surprising and original, often transgressive work.

8.5/10

Tonight She Comes – An Interview With Director Matt Stuertz

gf2016MATT STUERTZ interview- Grimmfest Sunday 9th October 2016

On the final day of Grimmfest I took some time to sit down with TONIGHT SHE COMES director Matt Stuertz whose film had just had its première to have a chat about his brilliantly bonkers gore laden movie and it’s inception.

James Pemberton- First of all I really enjoyed the film, it was awesome and completely mental.

Matt Stuertz– Thanks. My thought was that hopefully no one going into this movie is going to predict where its going to go and so far everyone I have talked to has been like “yeah didn’t thought it was gonna go there!”

JP – First to start off with can you give us a bit of background of yourself, where you started off with and how you got to making your first feature?

MS – Yeah,yeah, I’m from the US, kind of the midwest, like right in the middle of the country and I made a ton of shorts before this and I met half of the people that was in this movie (TONIGHT SHE COMES) beforehand doing horror shorts and random youtube videos. I made a little found footage movie which stars one of the actors from TONIGHT SHE COMES which is coming out in a week. Then I was like lets do something way bigger than that, way crazier and when I was writing the film I was “Let me write the craziest thing possible and its gonna be impossible to film and I’m never gonna get money to film it….who cares lets just do it anyway,” and then that happened and I gave the script to people and they really liked it and I was wow I didn’t expect them to like it as much as they do and I was just talking to these regular people and they where really digging this insane script and yeah it came together really fast.

JP – You mentioned in the Q and A after the film, an influence of 70’s and 80’s horror films. Anything in particular or was it a mish-mash of different influences from different films?

MS – Yeah I mean basically any big slasher film, I love the whole Friday 13th series, part 7 is one of my favourites and a lot of the movies that people hate like the middle weird franchise entries like HALLOWEEN 4 to 6. HALLOWEEN 6 in particular I love but a lot of people think its trash, but I like it a lot. But then I would draw some weird influence from ROSEMARY’S BABY or HOUSE OF THE DEVIL, these serious arty sort of movies that are fantastic and then take some tiny elements from that and throwing them into this insane, wacky slasher film.

mattsuarez1JP – I certainly liked the characters, they reminded me a bit of TUCKER AND DALE VS EVIL where the rednecks are the heroes and I thought there was a little bit of the influence from that film where the inner city folk come out to the country are technological/mobile phone obsessed, pretty ignorant and just want to get wasted and have sex…..

MS – …….and then they accidentally die. Yeah TUCKER AND DALE was one of the best comedy horrors of all time. I sort of wanted to take these people that are sort of standard average people, but I didn’t want them to be the bad guys so I wanted them to be the heroes for a little bit, but I also wanted to take the rednecks, though in this case there not like good natured rednecks there pretty legit bad guys but wanted to force them into a situation where the heroes and villains combine together to combat the greater evil. I always love villains in films, in slasher films you always like the bad guys but I wanted to take the bad guys and mix them up with the good guys and kind of throw things around in a weird way.

JP – Can I ask how you got the film funded, was it through a independent funding/finance or crowd funding route?

MS – It was independent financing, basically I talked to a lot of people who made smaller investments and was like “hey guys I’ve made some stuff before, you can totally trust me I’m gonna make this movie it’s gonna be really good and your gonna like it,” and luckily they believed me, but honestly most of my investors probably would hate the movie and never watch it, but they where nice enough to believe in me and give me some money and make this thing.

JP – You sort of mentioned that the investors didn’t know what they where putting their money into other than a film, were there any who were wanting to see a script beforehand?

MS – Luckily no. I lucked out on this and had total creative freedom and really some of them where like “Would we really want to watch this movie?” and I was like no you should never watch this. But they where like “alright we trust you, where super happy for you, horror’s not really our thing but we want you to be successful at this.” So I had a lot of friends who I talked to, a lot of people I know who have been really great and could not have made this movie without them and huge thanks for them who gave me money to make this thing.

tsc1JP – So this is your world premiere, how did you find it?

MS – Oh man, I had a blast in the audience. This is the first time I’ve watched it in a theatre with more than two people, just hearing people laugh at the jokes. I didn’t expect it to get more laughter than I thought it would at stuff that was supposed to be kind of funny but this is what I wanted it. Some movies you want people to be quiet and not talk, I want people in this movie to be loud as possible, it was pretty amazing just the response. The Q and A afterwards was great and so was speaking to individual people after the screening.

JP – I want to talk about the soundtrack, which carry’s on this resurgence of 80’s themed horror synth scores particularly as you had the same composer as the previous film screened today BEYOND THE GATES (composer Wojciech Golczewski), was this sort of what you had in mind for the composition did you want an 80’s style soundtrack?

MS – Oh totally. I spoke to Wojciech who did the soundtrack, I’m a huge fan of synth and Carpenter is the master of that, I told him I wanted this to be a synth soundtrack and “basically don’t give me anything that’s not from an old-school keyboard.” He told me he was way into it and he was going to go as lo-fi as possible. A lot of it was from one keyboard in particular and I was like yes that’s amazing. He loved 80’s films as well but didn’t want it to be exactly like an 80’s film and did his modern twist on the 80’s and it works really well. He’s been really great to work with and gave him a lot of freedom which he was happy with. I had a temp score for the film and the temp score sucks and luckily his score was completely better.

JP – I want to talk about the excesses and effects work, particularly the final part where there was so much blood and people cutting each other up bleeding over a pentagram, but this ties in that you used a lot of practical effects and no CGI.

MS – Yeah I wanted to go as practical as possible, there was a few CG elements used to just to blend things together but as much as possible I wanted it to be practical. There was gore stuff we had to cut out and it was crazy cause we went through so much blood. The really funny thing was the house we filmed in was rented through someone on the crew who knew someone, and we paid them for it and they let us use it. We were coming in drawing pentagrams on the floor and covering everything with blood and hope it washed off otherwise the owners would turn up and be like “what the hell have you done to our quiet country home?”

tonightshecomesJP  -After this what’s on the horizon are we going to get a sequel like TONIGHT SHE COMES AGAIN?

MS – Honestly If someone wanted to give me money for a sequel I would be so down for it. I have some insane ideas for a sequel which would be literally like nothing like this movie at all. It would be like kind of in the way in it being totally unexpected like everything you expect from a sequel I would throw that out. This would be like when you watch it you would be like how is this even a sequel to that film but it is. Then on the other hand I do have some other script’s I’m working on some pretty crazy body horror stuff. It would take it in a totally different tone than this but takes it pretty extreme with the gore and heavy, heavy effects, like as much as possible, I love effect shots and want to do that as much as possible.

JP – As for TONIGHT SHE COMES are you taking it to any other festivals this year?

MS – Yeah we are taking it to Leeds film festival at the end of a night of horror and heard some of the other films on that line up which will be a blast. Then where taking it over to America and I will be really curious to see what the reaction is from a U.S. audience compared to a European audience, as I know certain things are considered a bit extreme by Americans but not so over here so it will be interesting to see the response I will get from different crowds.

That’s right kids as Matt said TONIGHT SHE COMES is on at Leeds Film Festival Night Of The Dead all-nighter on Friday 11th November at the Hyde Park Picturehouse and is well worth staying up all night to watch!

Big thanks to Matt Stuertz for taking his time for this interview.

The Greasy Strangler (2016) Review

greasy1THE GREASY STRANGLER (Dir- Jim Hosking,USA, 2016)

Starring- Michael St Michaels, Sky Elobar, Elizabeth De Razzo, Gil Gex, Joel David Walters

Out NOW on UK DVD & Blu-Ray from Spirit Entertainment

From seeing the trailer earlier this year THE GREASY STRANGLER is one of those films that was on my radar from seeing the preview and wondering what on earth is this in front of my eyes? Something that from the trailer looked part gross out comedy and real life cartoon the film arrives with a certain heavy credential with Ben Wheatley as executive producer and Elijah Wood as producer on board respectively, the film will have a broad appeal and seems to be designed form the out set as not for everyone. But if you can take on board its absurdity and midnight movie credentials then THE GREASY STRANGLER might appeal to those who like their films with a bit of madness, crudeness and greasyness.

Big Ronnie (Michaels) and his son Big Brayden (Elobar) run a disco walking tour, a very dubious tour based on such facts as “this is where Kool from Kool and The Gang used to work.” However unbeknown to Brayden is the fact that Big Ronnie is the Greasy Strangler (a plot point that isn’t much of a spoiler since its made clear from the first murder scene), a ghastly site of a man who covers himself from head to toe in grease and goes round strangling unfortunate strangers, only then cleaning the grease off in a car wash owned by Ronnie’s blind friend Big Paul (Gex).

greasy2In this set up comes Janet (De Razzo) who was on one of the walking tours. Brayden falls for Janet and the two start seeing each other, yet Ronnie is jealous and also starts to try and get into her as well leading to constant bickering and arguments between father and son and to Brayden leading his own investigation into the Greasy Strangler after his friend Oinker (Walters) falls victim to killer.

Somehow through the grease, gore and madness of the film and its loose plot there is a strange story or family drama type set up of father and son getting back together. Throughout the film they constantly berate each other often uttering the line “I call bullshit on that!” which seems to be the films catchphrase, well that and “Bullshit” and “Bullshit artist.” However as the film progresses and it reaches its conclusion there’s a simple story about father and son seemingly connecting via the inclusion of serial murder and a women/love interest. Whilst the film does have a plot so to speak, the initial depiction of it seems to have been projected through a random stream of consciousness in a world set in the underside of Los Angeles that seems entirely other worldly even David Lynch esque in some parts.

greasy3It’s no surprise that this film has a midnight movie feel to it like Lynch’s début ERASERHEAD and even echoing the early works of John Walters such as PINK FLAMINGOS. Whilst it may not have the requisite charm of those works and maybe trailing in their path THE GREASY STRANGLER still remains a site to behold with grotesque imagery such as eyeballs being popped out, faces being caved in in almost cartoon like fashion and Big Ronnie’s ridiculous fire hose penis and on top of that is his obsession with grease which is hilariously grotesque and visually ugly such as when he demands Brayden take the sausages he has cooked lathered in grease to be taken back as they’re “not greasy enough,” or when he buys a hot dog from a street vendor and covers it in grease from a bucket filled of the disgusting yellow substance.

This is all brought on around scenes of random comic situations, madness and dialogue such as an Indian tourist trying to pronounce the word “Potato” much to the confusion of a Senegalese tourist all seemingly absurd in its depiction yet fitting in the film sense of randomness and at the same time sound-tracked by a score that seems completely off the wall and unusual as it is annoying yet creating the perfect accompanying lunatic score that trails off like some music coming from a deranged persons mind.

greasy4Admittedly this wont be for everyone and its a film that is going to split the audience and would be the worst date movie choice ever. But if your willing to go along with it and have a warped sense of humour like myself then you might well be willing to spend a and hour and a half in the demented world of THE GREASY STRANGLER and enjoy it’s absurdity and grotesque imagery. Put it this way of you recommend this film to friends then most likely two things will happen. Some of them will like it and be grateful for your recommendation and others will hate you for it and probably never ever trust your film choices again!

8/10

Grimmfest Sunday 9th October 2016 – Reviewed

gf2016GRIMMFEST 2016- SUNDAY 9TH OCTOBER – Reviewed by James Pemberton

And so at last its the final day of Grimmfest and with another heavy line up of films packed in, 6 altogether and starting early today at 10:20am, so early that I overslept and by the time I got into the centre of Manchester the screening of DARLING had just started so rather than run across town to get in and miss possibly 10 minutes of the film feeling agitated, hungry and still barely awake I went to get some breakfast.

From the talk I heard DARLING went down well and its one I hope to catch soon. I did arrive in time, well really on time for the screening of…..

 

 

beyond-the-gates-poster-frightfestBEYOND THE GATES (Dir- Jackson Stewart, USA, 2016)

Two estranged brothers Gordon (Graham Skipper) and John (Chaise Williamson) reunite at their father’s video store to help clear out the place since its been liquidated and since dad has gone missing under mysterious circumstances. Whilst clearing out the old VHS stock they stumble upon an old VCR board game called Beyond The Gates and along with Gordon’s girlfriend Margot (Brea Grant) decide to play it. The board game starts to have a weird effect and leads to some mysterious deaths of some of the brother’s friends but they only have one choice but to play on as the game may hold a clue to their father’s disappearance. Entirely steeped in a retro admiration for 80’s horror and VHS culture BEYOND THE GREATS is an entertaining treat that creates an effective homage to those films that you grew up watching which is only heightened more by Wojciech Golczewski’s synth score.

The brothers are convincingly sketched characters and Stewart builds them up before launching into the gory horror, by having certain, if slightly cliched traits. Gordon is straight forward and sensible and a former alcoholic and John is a slacker and also is hanging around with dubious friends. Whilst it does take a while to go into full horror once it begins the film delightfully brings up some excellent gore effects and even though the climax looks slightly cheap and limited by budget constraints and time there is  a certain hint that this is a deliberate decision to further increase the retro VHS trash fest feel and use of prosthetic make up effects. There are also some nice supporting turns by Barbara Crampton looking stunning as usual as the host of the video game and Jesse Merlin gloriously over the top as an occult store owner (“Do you like……board games?”). It may seem overly retro fitted to the point that it might not quite work for some but there’s no denying BEYOND THE GATES is entertaining for anyone who grew up with VHS.

7.5/10

tsc1TONIGHT SHE COMES (Dir- Matt Stuertz, USA, 2016)

After a girl goes missing her two friends and some strangers are drawn to a cabin in the woods where they party, drink, laugh, masturbate, fail at having sex all the while not really paying attention to the seemingly naked women who is approaching them and who is not at all she seems where. From reading the run down of this film in the festival brochure I was expecting something that was going to be a bleak film with a downbeat nasty tone instead I wasn’t prepared for what I was about to see. Starting off like a teen slasher film even with point-of-view of the killer style camera shots TONIGHT SHE COMES starts off with a lot of energy and never lets up even when things take a complete U-turn and go even crazier, cramming in crazed hillbilly satanic rituals, completely over the top kills and a scene which seems to involve characters spilling every bit of blood from their body, including a bloody tampon!

Stuertz also brilliantly works a twist on the characters with the hillbilly’s being the ones who have a plan and are willing to go to any lengths to stop what ever evil lies outside the cabin and the partying outer town folks being the ones who are ignorant, sleazy and pretty much prone to fucking everything up and making things just as bad, a trait which reminded of the brilliant subversion in TUCKER AND DALE VS EVIL. The film also pays great homage to exploitation cinema, backwards hillbilly horror, slasher films and even body horror or alien films certainly with its ending XTRO springs to mind and trust me you wont forget the ending. Full of dark comedy, unpredictable shifts in gear and down right tons of use of blood and brilliant use of practical effects throughout, its a thoroughly twisted and original mish mash of genre extremes. It would be hard to further describe watching this its just best to go with the flow and be prepared for an energetic and crazed hour and half. The film opens with a title card saying “This film should be played loud” and that’s a truer statement as any.

9/10

I skipped THE REZORT as I had interviewing duties with Matt Stuertz who was present for the world premiere of his film and since our editor in chief Andy Deen who originally was on the interviewing tasks, was not well and was unable to make most of Saturday and today. From what I heard the film had some favourable recommendations though some saying it was decent enough if nothing to shout about. Hopefully another film to catch soon.

VillmarkAsylum_KeyArt_03-04-694x1024VILLMARK ASYLUM (Dir- Pal Oie, NORWAY, 2015)

Five contract workers take on the task of checking a huge sanatorium for hazardous waste before its inevitable demolition. However the massive building hides some secrets of its own and the workers soon face a more darker threat from within the sanatoriums walls. At first reading the synopsis of VILLMARK ASYLUM I instantly thought well this sounds familiar, SESSION 9? It does seem almost identical in parts to setting and plot set up. Though Anderson’s film is more psychological focusing on one characters mental breakdown that worsens inside the asylum, VILLMARK focuses on more physical presence that is a threat to the contract workers. The film does make fantastic use of its setting however it lacks deeper characterisation and starts to rely too much on characters stumbling around in the dark hearing noises.

The characterisation is also pretty standard and in many respects you end up not really getting that too concerned with their fate and it becomes a by the numbers game of predicting who will be knocked off next. Visually well made especially with the use of the sanatorium building, but pretty standard throughout and I just couldn’t get that feeling that I was watching a Norwegian version of SESSION 9 out of my head.

5.10

riftTHE RIFT (Dir- Dejan Zecevic, SERBIA, 2016)

A US military satellite crash lands in Eastern Serbia leading to a team of American and Serbian agents on a mission to secure the area and retrieve the remains. But all is not what it seems when they arrive at the crash site they find that something has come back with this satellite and something that is not of this world. Made in Serbia and co-written by Milan Konjevic who also co wrote another Serbian made horror film which starred Ken Foree called ZONE OF THE DEAD, THE RIFT is certainly made with the intention of being sold to an international mainly English speaking audience especially with having horror icon Foree in one of the lead roles cementing its genre selling potential.

Its an interesting if often muddled combination of horror and sci-fi that acts like a part haunted house film as well and often contains some neat visual ideas and tries to expand beyond its low budget. Whilst its not all bad the film it seems to be combining many ideas into a short running time that stretches the films already low budget and moments that drag in the middle section, along with clunky dialogue and certain scenes that come off as confusing the further it reaches towards it’s conclusion. However it works enough to hold your attention and seemingly wears its B-movie credentials on its sleeve as the director knows to combine the relevant genre moments even incorporating a TWILIGHT ZONE-esque feel to the story.

It’s also good to see Foree in a lead role and looks especially cool when he goes all crazy mode swinging an axe and also there’s a brief cameo from Mick Garris as well. Whilst the language is not in Serbian this is wholly been funded and made in the country and in many respects seems to be a chance for a foreign director to showcase his talent to a wider audience and the language of genre film-making is an especially smart way to do this. A flawed but overall entertaining enough final film for Grimm and much better than last years closing festival film.

5.5/10

After this there was a talk with Foree via Skype from Los Angeles which was an interesting and nice end to the weekends proceedings. Overall this years line up has been strong and whilst some films have been disappointing even then they still contain some interesting ideas and from the the best of the festival there’s been a few that will possibly make it onto my best of list at the end of the year or might not as it will be a tough call. But for now here is my top list of new films screened at Grimm of the best to the, er, not the best………

1. TRAIN TO BUSAN
2. TONIGHT SHE COMES
3. DIRECTORS CUT
4. TRASH FIRE
5. PET
6. BEYOND THE GATES
7. THE UNSEEN
8. MY FATHER DIE
9. ANOTHER EVIL
10. THE TAG ALONG
11. OBSERVANCE
12. BROKEN
13. LET ME MAKE YOU A MARTYR
14. VILLMARK ASYLUM
15. THE RIFT
16. THE CHAMBER

Well done Grimmfest, see you next year!

Grimmfest Saturday 8th October 2016 – Review

GRIMMFEST- SATURDAY 8th OCTOBER – An overview by James Pemberton

observance1OBSERVANCE (Dir- Joseph Sims-Dennett, AUSTRALIA, 2015)

Parker, a private investigator who is estranged from his ex-wife after the death of their son, accepts a job from a mysterious employer to watch a young women from an abandoned apartment that is opposite to hers and to photograph and record her movements. However the further he stays on the job he starts to see strange happenings around her and also in the abandoned apartment he is based in. While the employer keeps the purpose of his investigation away from him, things start to slowly fall apart for Parker. Is it the apartment and the job causing this or is he suffering from a break down.

An intriguing psychological horror that benefits from its REPULSION like setting of a derelict abandoned apartment OBSERVANCE will probably frustrate some with its loose connections between certain scenes and deliberate use of suggestion to what is going on in the mind of our protagonist or is it the apartment itself that’s causing the gradual breakdown. It kind of gives itself away with one plot point that is mentioned and you kind of expect how the story will conclude. Yet it still retains a strong interest throughout with its creeping sense of dread and some nice visual touches throughout especially in some strong dream like sequences. There was a mention of a comparison to THE CONVERSATION in the description of this film in the Grimmfest programme and that certainly sprung to mind as like Coppola’s masterful film it follows an individual following his own obsession of surveillance that leads him to being orchestrated by shadowy unknown groups using him for their own gain.

7/10

NSFW (Dir- Cosmo Wallace, UK, 2016)

Before the screening of THE BURNING we had a chance to see a locally made short film from Cosmo Wallace, which follows a self proclaimed paedophile hunter who is planning on meeting and trapping a predator in a meet up in the woods by posing as a child online. Smart, impressive and interesting short film that manages to be a relevant tale of deception, vigilantism and the obsession with internet stardom. The central protagonist is just as interested in trapping paedos as he is in getting to become famous for doing so and sending out his online tweets and blogs.

8/10

burningTHE BURNING (Dir- Tony Maylam, USA, 1981)

Being presented in a new remastered version soon to be released by Arrow Video, THE BURNING is a classic slasher film one of those off shoots of the period craze for killers stalking and killing teens in the woods. Containing some fantastic brutal effects work from Tom Savini, the film is a simple set up or retelling of the Cropsey legend (if you want to know more about this then check out Joshua Zeman and Barbara Brancaccio’s fantastic documentary of the same name) in which a former summer camp caretaker who was badly burnt in a fire five years ago, returns back to the same camp to get his revenge on the young teens, who want to spend their summer having fun and pre-martial sex (bloody heathens!).

Like MADMAN there’s a great charm with this film that is hard not to enjoy and even after seeing it previously, a long time ago, there is a bit more grit and grime with THE BURNING on this viewing and some well staged shock moments. Yes it has aged and some of the dialogue is cheesy and some characters are irritating to the point of self parody, but there’s no denying that its a deservedly enjoyable and entertaining slasher flick and its good to see it getting the five star Arrow treatment.

9/10
chamberTHE CHAMBER (Dir- Ben Parker, UK, 2016)

A small submarine below the Yellow Sea off the coast of North Korea is being piloted by a civilian worker who is taking 3 person special ops team on a secret recover mission. When the mission goes awry the sub is turned upside down and the group are trapped in a leaking vessel that starts off a desperate fight for survival. A tense thriller that has an interesting story build up in its background the film does well and gladly and cleverly keeps things simple with its use of one location. Though it felt as if this seemed to be a bit of an unusual choice for Grimmfest as there wasn’t really anything here that felt it seemed genre based.

Even the sense of claustrophobia is not very apparent, as yes its a small submarine the characters are based in, but aside from one characters gradual aggressive and unhinged behaviour, the sense of being trapped isn’t fully utilised. Also as a thriller it starts to slip into a sense of predictability peppered with clichéd dialogue and overall it starts to drag even in its short running time and aside from a strong ending there isn’t much that impressed me with THE CHAMBER and it felt somehow out of place within today’s line up.

3/10

pet_the_movie_posterPET (Dir- Carles Torrens, USA, 2016)

Insecure loner Seth (Dominic Monaghan) bumps into Holly (Ksenia Solo) a girl he was at school with and whom he was obsessed with. After she rejects his attempts at romancing her with various visits to the diner she works at as a waitress and even offering to take her to gig, he does the only thing an insecure loner would do and kidnap her and place her in a cage underneath his place of work, an animal shelter. Yet Holly proves to be someone who has more to her than meets the eye. A neat and strong horror that starts out at first as possibly entering into a kind of torture porn territory with its story of a women capture by a desperate man yet thankfully takes a neat twist and starts to become a more darker tale of power, control, perceived perception and deception.

Both stars are brilliant in their roles and deliver strong performances that adds layers of sympathy and ugliness to their characters and on top of that the film contains some strong and gory effective moments. Torrens whose previous feature was the efficient if unremarkable APARTMENT 143 also shows confident depth in creating a fantastic two handed twisted relationship story of obsession.

8/10

trashfireTRASH FIRE (Dir- Richard Bates Jr, USA, 2016)

Owen (Adrian Grenier) finds out that his long suffering girlfriend Isabel (Angela Timbur) is pregnant. Reluctant to have a child at first due to his often bitter and cynical nature, he realises the only way he can try and mend his ways with Isabel is to change his attitude and on her demand go back and visit the remaining members of his family. However he is still effected by the events of his past where a fire he caused killed his parents and disfigured his sister Pearl (AnnaLynne McCord). He reluctantly goes back buts it not long before both him and Isabel find both a hostile and often unpleasant welcome from Owen’s horrible and religiously obsessed grandmother Violet (Fionnula Flanagan) and its only through his own chance to try and mend his relations with Pearl that keep him there despite the increasing volatile and disturbing nature of Violet.

Starting off like a relationship comedy, a dark one at that with some disturbingly funny scenes and laugh out loud but completely inappropriate lines, TRASH FIRE soon ends up becoming a more twisted, warped and disturbing when Owen ends up visiting his home town. Bates again shows that he is an original director as he delivers believable characters and situations that start off normal but soon take a warped and twisted turn. TRASH FIRE does feel more similar to his début EXCISION especially in its conclusion which is both jarring, disturbing yet somehow relevant, but still retains the comedy of both his début and his previous film SUBURBAN GOTHIC. Superb performances from the cast especially Flanagan whose is especially nasty and hypocritical in the portrayal of Violet. Dark as hell it is but at its black heart there is a certain warmth and believability to these fractured characters.

8.5/10

tagalongTHE TAG ALONG (Dir- Wei-hao Chang, TAIWAN, 2015)

A radio DJ, her real estate boyfriend and his grandmother are targeted by a “hungry ghost” that may have been brought down from the mountains in the form of little girl in a red dress and who preys on fear and guilt of its victims. Naturally its a race against time to seek out the reasons of the ghost and why its targeting them and how to get rid of it. Essentially a J-horror that is transposed to Taiwan, THE TAG ALONG did at first sound like it would be unremarkable as the Asian horror movement of so many ghosts with long black hair has been done to death.

Yet the film is surprisingly efficient and benefits from its use of a Taiwanese urban legend whilst at the same time having some interesting and effective scenes where the characters are placed in situations that start to bend the narrative viewpoint and deliver some creepy scares. It also benefits from an interesting dynamic in basing the hungry ghost targeting the 3 central related characters rather than a group of unrelated people adding an emotional depth to the film especially in terms of family relations and commitment. Though it is let down by a dip into overkill on unconvincing CGI effects in its finale, it still retains enough interest in its story and atmosphere that makes it if not really original but overall still entertaining watch.

7/10

One more day left. Who will survive and what will be left!!!

Grimmfest Friday 7th October 2016 – Review

GRIMMFEST 2016- Friday 7th October – AN Overview by James Pemberton

unseenTHE UNSEEN (Dir- Geoff Redknapp, Canada, 2016)

The first full day of films kick off with a screening of this interesting sci fi tinged horror film about a former hockey player Bob Langmore (Aden Young) who etches a living as a mill worker in a snow covered small Canadian town. Langmore however is suffering from a genetic disorder which was passed down by his dad and is rendering his body invisible. He wants to re-connect with his daughter before he fully disappears and along the way agrees to deliver a package for a local drug dealer. This puts him in the cross-hairs of many various criminal types as well as placing him on the hunt for his daughter when she goes missing. Redknapp is known more for his work as an effects guy on various big budget films, most recently this years DEADPOOL and the sense of visual effects is present especially in Bob’s increasingly invisibility which is superbly staged and often visually gruesome in parts but impressive none the less.

Combining a character study of broken blue collar lives along with supernatural sci-fi elements, a kidnapping plot and other sub plots the film does seem to try and cram a lot into its 104 minute running time and could do without some of the various tangents that at times seem rushed and unfulfilled. Yet it has a strong gritty style and essentially its an update of the Invisible Man story but set in the broken lives of a working class small town and even then its invisibility themes reflect Langmore’s decision to leave and isolate himself from his family and besides his job confine him to almost non-existence. The relationship between Langmore and his daughter is a central focus for the film and is one of its strong impressive traits, to a point that it could be retitled THE INVISIBLE DAD, though that would make it sound like a bad 80’s family comedy. A solid debut from Redknapp and a good start for the day.

7.5/10

SHORT FILM SHOWCASE

williebinghamNaturally there’s a chance to catch some impressive shorts and the showcase certainly has an interesting line up especially as one being screened, THE DISAPPEARANCE OF WILLIE BINGHAM, I already caught at this years Dead By Dawn and is even better on a second viewing (my review for it is here- http://www.ukhorrorscene.com/tag/the-disappearance-of-willie-bingham-review/). Other film in the showcase include HADA- A decently made if somewhat predictable shocker which relies too much on jump shocks and effects that are pretty predictable (3/10). QUENOTTES (PEARLIES) is a superb dark tale of a mouse who is the tooth fairy of your childhood who bought you your first coin, however the mouse in this tale is a more darker rodent who is obsessed about maintaining his collection of teeth. A Darkly comic and impressive adult fairytale (7/10).

ADAM PEIPER- Didn’t really know what to think of this, but from what is shown the director seems more interested in the visual style rather than the story which is something involving a man stuck in a repetitive dull job in a controlling 1984-esque society, possibly? (3/10). UNDER THE APPLE TREE- A nicely staged animation showing how its the worms who control the undead, impressive despite finding the overall narrative rhyming tone slightly annoying. (7/10).

LITTLE BOY BLUE- The final film in the showcase is a stylish and impressively staged adult fairy tale (yep, that term again) which manages to combine themes of child abuse, gender identity and repressed desires as well as throwing in a castration as well, both animal and human. It’s style does somehow slow the film down in parts but there’s no denying that the visual aesthetic of the short is strong and impressive and somehow part of me felt this could have even translated better as a full length feature. Still an impressive and pretty dark short film that handles tricky and disturbing material very well without descending into exploitation or shock tactics (7.5/10).

I didn’t watch the next feature WHAT WE BECOME as again I saw it at Dead By Dawn, but recommend it as its a decently made if slightly predictable zombie feature, so I had a break and caught a chance to see daylight before the main 3 evening features.

mfdMY FATHER DIE (Dir- Sean Brosnan, USA, 2016)

Continuing the theme of Southern Gothic set out by the previous nights feature LET ME MAKE YOU A MARTYR, comes this revenge themed noir thriller directed by the son of Pierce Brosnan. Since the age of 12 Asher has been deaf as he had his hearing knocked out by his dad who the same time killed his older brother in a drunken rage. Asher has been waiting and training for his dad’s release and to take his revenge. Though the revenge is not going to be easy and finds Asher on a collision course with his brutish and psychotic father. Stylish in parts to the point that almost relishes the drab and bleak lives of those living in poverty in the Southern USA bible belt, to a stage that I felt it was almost bordering on almost poverty porn, white trash obsession that Rob Zombie would be proud of.

The film’s visual style, straight up brutal nature and violence crossed with biblical references hold the film together and make the prevailing confrontation and mass of destruction caused by Asher’s father in his trail of his son a thunderous tour de force. The performance of Asher by Joe Anderson is handled well spending most of the film communicating in sign language and only having the neat twist of his 12 year old voice narrating the dialogue. However as his father Ivan, Gary Stretch, portrays one of the meanest and nastiest villains. A character who is perfectly described as prehistoric by one of the Sheriffs investigating his latest crime. There are some scenes that could be cut down to tighten up the pacing and one scene that seems entirely gratuitous and unnecessary as it only furthers to portray Ivan’s nasty character which we have already witnessed numerous times. Though its a confident first feature from Brosnan with a dark theme of southern Gothic tinged biblical revenge.

7/10

directorscutDIRECTORS CUT (Dir- Adam Rifkin, USA, 2016)

Herbert Blount (Penn Jillette) presents his directors cut of a film he has hijacked from original director Adam Rifkin. However Blount’s version seems to be focused more on it’s lead actress Missi Pyle, who the budding director is very much obsessed with to the point of casting her against her will in his own version of Rifkin’s film, especially since Herbert helped put money towards the film’s crowd funding it only seems fair he can make his own version, right? At first I had the impression that this film might not work as it starts with Blount making observations on the production of the film over the soundtrack and could easily run out of steam after a half hour.

Yet once it kicks into gear the film takes a decidedly dark and comic twist with Blount’s obsession with the Pyle and his insistence of re-shooting certain scenes from the film using some crap and unconvincing visual effects. Both brilliantly twisted and funny and with a clever execution in its depiction of two films being made simultaneously, its also has interesting depictions of film-making process especially in the age of digital cameras. DIRECTOR’S CUT manages to become even funnier the further it progresses as we are witness to one man’s crappy almost stalker obsessed version of a crappy serial killer thriller and as the lead and our narrator Jillette is fantastic as the unhinged and terrible Blount, whose scuppers a scene in a brief cameo where he messes up the delivery of the one line he is given, in one of the many laugh out loud moments. It might not be to everyone’s taste and some may find it a little over reaching for its own good, but those with a dark sense of humour and interest in film-making will love this twisted and inspired film.

8.5/10

ttbgfTRAIN TO BUSAN (Dir- Sang-ho Yuen, SOUTH KOREA, 2016)

Sok-Woo (Yoo Gong) and his daughter Soo-ahn (Soo-an Kim) are boarding a train to go from Seoul to Busan. However at the same time there seems to be outbreaks of random unexplained attacks happening in the city and before the train sets off a person who doesn’t look too well sneaks aboard. Once a conductor is attacked by the infected passenger its not long before it spreads to the other passengers, and our characters and a few other remaining passengers face a battle of survival against the undead. Much hyped since its premiere in Cannes, TRAIN TO BUSAN has been receiving rave reviews at its numerous festival appearances and its not hard to see why. It’s a fantastic big budget piece that contains numerous stunning set pieces, characters that you root for and hope survive and scenes of high emotion that play well and never feels sentimental especially in the films conclusion.

It manages to take a worn out simple premise of zombies on a train and breath new life into its rotten corpse and produces a highly enjoyable and thrilling 2 hours that places characters in a tight and isolated situation where the undead stand only one carriage away. It should be seen at the cinema and here’s hoping it gets a wider release as the 2 hours of this film produces more entertainment and excitement than many recent American made blockbusters. See it before the inevitable Hollywood re-imaging and the British re-make which will be no doubt be set on a rail replacement bus.

9/10