My Little Sister (2016) DVD Review

rsz_1rsz_mls1MY LITTLE SISTER (Dirs- Maurizio Del Piccolo, Roberto Del Piccolo, ITALY, 2016)

Starring- Holli Dillon, Mattia Rosellini, David White, Astrid Di Bon

Out NOW on UK DVD from Left Films

The woods are always a great setting for a horror film and the natural habit is greatly used in this gritty stalk and slash thriller with elements of a torture porn flick thrown in for good measure. Whilst it’s low budget from the start and the setting pretty much confirms that since what’s the better way than to use a sparse woodland area without having to spend money on difficult locations that can be inevitably hampered by unsanctioned walk on cameos by members of the public and MY LITTLE SISTER uses the woodland to its extent.

The plot is basic in that it starts off with a couple going deep into a forest to meet up with some friends. They bump into the oft used horror character of the scary local, warning them that Little Sister will get them and to not take the non-threatening name lightly. Naturally they ignore this nutter’s warnings and its not long before the couple are having to fight off this vicious killer wearing what looks like a human skin mask and who has a nice line of peeling men’s faces off while making their loved ones watch on in horror, fulfilling the torture porn feel of the film from scene one. Throw into this a suspicious derelict farm house which seems to be the home of the killer and a mad women who wanders around the woods, seemingly harmless but somehow has a link to the house and to the madman.

rsz_mls2Opening with a nicely done scene of brutality with some unfortunate captives being tortured by the aforementioned Little Sister including one man being removed of his face in grizzly and impressive effects fashion MY LITTLE SISTER starts off in impressive attention grabbing kick off. This opening allows the Del Piccolo’s to start off strong and keep the viewer interested and to stay on board for the duration. Whilst there’s no doubt there are some flaws in this film there is also a lot to be impressed about. The central bad guy Little Sister or as he is also known by his really name, Igor, my have one of the most daftest sounding nick names for a bad guy but somehow comes across off as an effective villain with a grim mask made up of faces of previous victims looking pretty grim and unnerving.

rsz_mls3With hunchbacked slouch and stumbling walk as well he is the typical slasher bad guy one with a handicap yet somehow this still doesn’t impead him and he manages to outwit able bodied victims easily, which is also a classic trait of the slasher film. There is no doubt that the directors have been studying their horror homework as there’s the standard reference to slasher flicks and also a nice reference to the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE which plays into the backstory of the little sister and his family abode, a run down and decaying farm house which is a nice backdrop to the film and as a set is an impressive find for the film-makers. Though like any horror film you wonder why a character running from a mad man would take a chance running into a clearly deserted grim farm house knowing clearly well this might not be a place with a welcoming or comforting vibe.

rsz_mls4Clearly the film does have a few flaws. Dialogue wise the decision to go with an Italian cast speaking English seems somewhat unusual and whilst the dialogue is minimal the lines delivered seem stunted and flawed. This is marred by some wooden dialogue and admittedly were not here to witness a master-class in acting but it seems at times unintentionally comic particularly from the doom saying woodsman who is known in the cast as Ben. His delivery of the aforementioned “you’ll all be doomed” speech comes off as more cheesy and it doesn’t really help that he has an axe in his hand which makes him look more like a threatening local hill billy rather than a to be laughed at idiot local. At times less dialogue and maybe even no dialogue would have been a better choice or route to choose that could have added an originality to the piece. The cinematography is impressive for much of the running time though some earlier shots suffer from a slight sense of amateurish filming. As if part of the earlier section of the film is shot on a smartphone as it has that sense of image stability and picture panning which feels as if the screen is being dragged rather than the camera being moved.

rsz_mls5It’s not an overly original piece of film-making we have on hand here and with some flaws there’s still plenty to admire in MY LITTLE SISTER and the Del Piccolo’s have put their heart and time into this. To their credit they pull it off efficiently and with some gritty style, it has an unironic full on traditional slasher film feel, with an intention of trying to possibly set up a titular horror character in the form of Little Sister.

6/10

Scars (2016) DVD Review

rsz_1rsz_scarsScars (2016)

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

Out NOW on UK DVD from LEFT Films

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

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

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

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

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

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

5/10

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

Consumption (2016) Review

consumption1Consumption (2016)

Written & Directed by Brandon Scullion

Starring Sarah Greyson, Arielle Brachfield, David Lautman

UK DVD release October 10th from LEFT Films

“In the snowy Utah mountains, an ancient being terrorizes four friends as they try to survive.”

If movies have taught me one thing, it’s that you should never go on holiday in the woods to a remote cabin with friends. It never ends well. It usually ends badly. Very badly. This is information I’ve gleaned from a variety of informative films including The Cabin in the Woods, Cabin Fever, The Evil Dead, Dead Snow, Tucker and Dale Vs Evil, Zombeavers and many, many others. The latest film to put me off the idea of spending a weekend away in the not-so-great outdoors is Consumption.

The film introduces us to four friends, each of whom (we discover later) is harbouring a substantial secret. They’ve driven from LA up to the desolate snowy wilderness of the Utah mountains for a remote weekend getaway.
David Lautman (Broken Horses, Ru, Making the Rules) is playing Seth, the designated driver for the group. He looks tired and we later discover this is not just because of the arduous journey. Seth sets the tone for the movie when he asks his passengers, “Do you know any good ghost stories?”

consumption4When he gets no response, Seth shares the quirky story of the disappearing bride: a ghostly figure who is often seen standing at the side of the road by passing motorists and then mysteriously disappears from view. It’s also in this scene that Seth shares the secret that his mother has recently died.

In the car are Becca (Sarah Greyson: animation production assistant from The Simpsons and reality star from Road Rules and The Challenge), Mallory (Arielle Brachfield: The Haunting of Whaley House, Chemical Peel, Axeman) and Eric (Chris Dorman: 8.13, Halloween: The Bogeyman is Coming, Blood Bath and Beyond). It’s clear that tempers are a little frayed amongst the four of them when they arrive but, after a drive from LA to Utah I suspect any of us would be a little road-raw.

There are some scenes in this movie that we’ve all seen before. Seth is defensive with regards to the bags he has brought – and it transpires there is good reason for his defensiveness. The foursome are greeted at the door to their accommodation by ‘the Pats’, Patrick and Patricia Smith, played with a delightful blend of the frenetic and the friendly by Geoffrey Gould (Pride of Strathmoor, Careful What You Wish For, Everything) and Nancy Wolfe (Helter Skelter, Horror in the Attic, Mark of the Witch).

consumption3The Pats seem to have a strong religious agenda which doesn’t accommodate Mallory’s atheist views. Later we discover that their religious beliefs are very important to them. And then we have a brief appearance by a wood-chopping Myles Cranford (Hunter Gatherer, Interwoven, Erasing Eden) as Ferry, who gives the group the cryptic warning, “You’re not supposed to be here. That’s exactly what they want.” Ferry then spends the remainder of the film looking obscenely cool with a long-handled axe propped on his shoulder.

To some extent we have seen most of these horror tropes before but, if they weren’t included in a cabin-in-the-woods-type film, as viewers we’d be disappointed by their absence. I did enjoy the camerawork of this movie. There were some shifts in image that hastened the speed of the narrative but also leant something to the sense of the uncanny that was being presented. I also thought there were a couple of surprises that I hadn’t anticipated and they made the whole experience all the more entertaining. Maria Olsen (Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, Paranormal Activity 3, Starry Eyes) as always, takes on a disconcerting role and delivers a quality performance. I also thought there was some deliciously dark humour apparent in the background of this one.

consumption2The version of this film that I saw had a major issue with sound quality. Background noise repeatedly fought and won over dialogue, making it difficult to follow some of the narrative. However, that could be an issue that’s since been resolved. If not for those sound issues, I’d have marked this higher. The film does steer away from traditional narrative approaches – and that can always make for interesting viewing. If you’re inviting friends over to your remote cabin for the weekend, Consumption would be ideal viewing material and deserves a respectable 6/10.

Cowboy Zombies (2016) aka Walking Dead in the West

cowboyzombies1Cowboy Zombies (2016) aka Walking Dead in the West

Directed by Paul Winters.

Written by Gahan Wilson and Paul Winters

Starring Paul Winters, Greg Bronson and Jean Paul Turgeon.

Out now on UK DVD from Left Films

“A new frontier of fear.”

Crumpit, Arizona Territory, 1876. A meteor hits the earth and reanimates the dead.

Given that the pioneers who genuinely westernized the west had to rely on incredible survival skills, it seems apposite to present them here as characters with the challenge of surviving a zombie apocalypse. It also seems like an innovative way of remembering the achievements of the brave and resourceful frontiers-folk who shaped the America we know today because, as adversaries, zombies are seldom perceived as undeserving when it comes to frontier justice.

There’s some dark humour in this film, especially in an early scene where a pair of criminals, rustlers and murders, are being hanged just as the meteor strikes. One of them cries, “God, please, give these people a sign. Don’t kill the innocent.” As soon as he’s said the words there is the boom of a meteor striking earth and the criminal says, “See! I told you. A sign from God almighty.” And, whilst this might look like divine intervention to some, the criminal is still hanged. In the moment of their deaths the two criminals are transformed into zombies and then spend the remainder of the film, dangling from the ropes that killed them and growling hungrily whilst their legs tread air.

cowboyzombies2Paul Winters (Nate and the Colonel, The Homecoming of Jimmy Whitecloud), gives a convincing performance as the NRA-prototype Marshall Frank Wilcox. Wilcox gives expository voice-over narration throughout the film. He is a character who solemnly intones: “I learned early on in my life that the only thing that can stop a bad man with a gun is a good man with a gun.” By the end of the movie, Wilcox is leading a ragtag collection of survivors who seem to represent a broad spectrum of the west’s cultural diversity.

And, for me, I think this was one of the film’s major flaws. The Wild West, according to my understanding, was not known as an exemplar that embraced its rich cultural diversity. The Wild West was a brutal conflict between cultures of the indigenous native Americans and the invading pioneers. Whilst this film allows members from those cultures to band together and kill zombies, it seems like it’s glossing over some key issues on the bloody truth of the west’s westernisation.

And it is fair to say that this is a very diverse team. Calion Maston (Atomic Shark, The Coldest Kiss) plays the black US Army Sergeant Bale. Lee Whitestar (Nate and the Colonel, The Homecoming of Jimmy Whitecloud) plays the old Apache, warrior chief Datanta. Mark Trombino (The Dog Wedding, Men Cry Bullets) plays Jasper the barman. Although Jasper is a person of short stature, he’s a key character in the film and, in one of Winters’s gravel-voiced narrations, we are told, “He could shoot a pistol real good. Back in those days, that was the difference between you living and you dying.”

Together with a handful of others, including the excellent Greg Bronson (Western X, Hot Bath an’ a Stiff Drink, Coyote Requiem), the likeable Sam Keller (Mimi and Mo, A ‘K’night Lost in Translation) and the lovely Sandy Penny (Trial 2020, Re-Do), these characters form a cadre determined to get out of Crumpit’s Double Peach Saloon and find a safe haven away from the threat of zombies. It’s entertaining and fun for anyone who enjoys kicking back and watching cowboys and zombies with maximum hijinks and minimal gore. These are the sort of slow-moving zombies that we’d all like to encounter if/when the apocalypse happens – but only because they’d be easy to shoot and relatively easy to outrun.

A043_C025_0826I5I came away from this film thinking that it worked, less like a stand-alone movie, and more like the pilot for a proposed TV series. Given the success of Deadwood and The Walking Dead I could understand how this would be a zeitgeist idea to be pitched to the studio bosses behind the big box sets. Maybe it could even have been called The Walking Deadwood.

And, having said that all of that, who doesn’t love cowboys and zombies?

7/10

The Devil’s Woods (2015) Review

devilswoodsdvdTHE DEVIL’S WOODS (2015)

Starring Stephen Cromwell, Caoimhe Cassidy and Richard Mason

Written & Directed by Anthony White

UK DVD release – September 12th from Left Films

A group of friends trying to repair their strained relationships decide to spend the weekend camping at a music festival. En route they stop off at a small town in rural Ireland. However, this seemingly idyllic country town is darkened by a history of strange events. Can a town this inherently evil literally tear them apart? Can they survive…the Devil’s woods?

A great thing about the horror genre is that it can be fantastic training for filmmaking in general. Every film no matter what genre needs shocks, suspense, surprise…and those are never more present than in horror. So many prestige directors cut their teeth with terror to prove this point. But what also makes horror a great training ground for filmmakers is the fans willingness to embrace a film no matter the cast, no matter what the budget. It will get seen. And feedback, good or bad, will be given. It’s the best way to improve. Sam Raimi, James Cameron, Wes Craven, John Carpenter, even Spielberg to an extent all started with a tiny chiller and look where they are now.

The plot to The Devil’s Woods is nothing to write home about. Two couples drive out into the countryside to take drugs, drink and fuck. Little do they know, they are not alone…Add in a dash of folklore and yeah, it’s a bit old hat. But what is refreshing is the amount of time White spends with his characters, building their relationships. While not always entirely successful, he at least tries to make us like them.

devilswoods3His direction too shows great ambition. While wearing it’s homages and inspirations on its sleeve, The Devil’s Woods does replicate that feeling of grindhouse terror and unease felt in seventies horrors like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. An effective score, with some great, thoughtful shots and the rugged, muddy landscape combined with the obviously ultra-low budget give a sense of unpredictability to the piece. Who are these filmmakers? What the hell are they going to do next?

Performances are what you would expect at this level from supporting actors, and better from the leads. Stephen Cromwell is convincing as the Jack the lad and, rarely for this kind of deal, isn’t annoying. He’s actually very likeable! As his other half, Danielle Keaney is a calm and natural presence, even if her character isn’t given too much to do until towards the end. As the other couple, Daniel Mahony and Caoimhe Cassidy have fun with their fractured relationship. The group as a whole are nice to be around, but one flaw hampers their performances. The bloody sound recording. It’s almost as if much of their dialogue was done with ADR, which only points out when it wasn’t. They’re all either too loud and clear or too quiet and vague.

The sound recording isn’t the only issue. The Devil’s Woods is fairly predictable, and some strange dream sequences just feel like filler. The pacing, which I know I just praised, does become an issue too, when you get to 50 minutes into a 73 minute film and the shit has only just hit the fan. I would’ve been happy for at least 10 more minutes of action at the end, more reward for the audience.

Now, I’m not saying Anthony White is showing signs of being the Next Big Thing or anything. But The Devil’s Woods shows enough guerilla smarts and frugal filmmaking spirit to suggest that if he keeps at it, keeps ironing out those wrinkles, works on the writing, the sound recording, then he has a bright future ahead of him. He knows what the horror community wants, and to a large extent knows how to deliver it. I wouldn’t say he even needs the bigger budget, he just needs to work on what niggles are contained here.

devilswoods2Like another cash-strapped passion project I reviewed recently, The Torment of Laurie Ann Cullom, this is inventively shot, well performed, with a pretty killer soundtrack and some outlandish gore. The Devil’s Woods is a micro-budget effort to be proud of.

7/10

Bind aka American Conjuring (2016) Review

bind1BIND (aka AMERICAN CONJURING) (2016)

Starring Lynn Csontos, Darren Matheson and Morgan Lindsay Lane

Directed by Dan Walton and Dan Zachary

Written by Ken King and Dan Walton

UK DVD Release – August 8th from LEFT Films

A family move into an abandoned orphanage and they soon learn that their charming orphanage has a disturbing history and is convinced they are not alone”. Dan Walton.

Now I don’t know about you, but I would never, ever look at an abandoned orphanage on right move and think you know, that’s a great place to raise a family. So imagine the struggle from the opening to the close of American Conjuring to suspend my disbelief as not one but TWO families movie into what is OBVIOUSLY a horrible haunted place where bad things will happen to kids.

bind2Although acted terribly (but it’s a bunch of inexperienced kids so we can give them a pass) the film starts well with the combination of kids, a butchers knife and some spilled intestines. It’s gleefully nasty and offensive and sets you up for a fun splatters supernatural horror.

But, we don’t get that. Not for the most part anyway. Because writers and directors Dan’s Walton and Zachary insist that for our protagonists, we must suffer the most annoying family I’ve seen in a long time. I know it’s the norm for horror films to have detestable characters but these lot take the biscuit:

Dad (Matheson) is almost completely nondescript, and his wife (Csontos) is thick as pig shit a lot of the time. But the kids are the worst. Oh I prayed to Satan for them to die horrible deaths like the opening. The worst is Zoe (Mackenzie Mowat) who just HATES EVERYBODY BECAUSE SHE’S A TEENAGER AND A BIT GOTH AND STUFF. Pleas ghost, take her next.

bind3To be honest, aside from the usual low budget technical issues such as sound, this is really well made. Choppy editing doesn’t distract from the well composed shots and the gloomy tint, and story wise things ain’t that bad. They’re slow, and filled with needless scenes of bickering but once you get used to all that it’s a fairly fun time.

The gore is plentiful and manic, and from what you could tell is all practical. And the ending really notches the action up, and for a little while this monster gets quite intense.

If you want something that kind of riffs on most classic supernatural fare such as The Shining, Amityville and even Sinister, you could do a lot worse. Just try not to punch the family through the TV.

6/10

Captive (2016) DVD Review

captivedvd1Captive (2016)

Starring: Rob James Capel, Marty Nolan, Nic Furlong, Bernie Kavanagh

Director: Stephen Patrick Kenny

Out Now on UK DVD from Left Films

I have to lay down a condition before starting this review: I love movies, and I love independent movies, and have the utmost respect for those who work 20 hour days on nothing but Coca-Cola and Doritos for months on end for almost no pay to help create an artwork they feel passionately about. But I can also distinguish between a well-made movie, an entertaining piece of crap, and just a bad movie, and I must be honest. This is what makes having to write a bad review for a really low-budget indie so heart-breaking. I make quite a craft of slating cynical, commercially-driven bollocks that’s bad in every way, but I know a lot of people worked hard on this movie, so let’s look away and await the sharp scratch…

Stephen Patrick Kenny’s ‘Captive’ is basically ‘Saw’ with less budget, gore and imagination. It’s ‘Cube’ without the wacky sets and deaths. To be frank, it’s completely unoriginal, but I figured I could at least look forward to some darkly comical pick-offs. A dozen or so people wake up in some bleak warehouse, not knowing why or who’s done it. A cell phone rings, and a voice electronically distorted almost beyond comprehension tells them that they have 24 hours to figure out their common ground, and if they don’t, or if anybody tries to escape, they die.

captivedvd2The year is 2021, except the film is incessantly punctuated by ‘80s Alien-style green monologue computer sequences which far too simply reveal the plot. While the movie sort of gets itself going with the first two or three deaths, after that its interest trails off, killing most of the others off-screen and only informing us of it via monologue computer, which is always (except once – editing error?) followed by an annoying loud fizzing.

One of my real problems is that the movie is very fragmentary – it seems that Kenny couldn’t or didn’t want to pull off scenes of any real length or, as a result, any proper pace or sequence. It feels like a compilation of five or seven minute episodes, the dramatic flow constantly interrupted by monologue computer titles. This might just be passable if the action that actually happened were decent.

But a good half of all dialogue is either “What are we gonna do?”, “I don’t wanna die,” or a contribution by one of several characters who have stupid catchphrases, such as an old dude who keeps insisting “Nobody else is dying today” and a guy who says little other than “This is bullshit!” The real is gem when a woman in office get-up from 1992 kneels next to a young girl and asks “Are you scared?” When the kid replies in the affirmative, the woman says “Yeah, me too.” I mean, wow – super comforting.

captivedvd3When none of the above is being uttered, there is an unnatural disjointedness to the action. The actors seem to take turns at saying their bit rather than keeping the scene going, and many reactions are too measured to be believed. The chaos that should befall a situation of this sort never quite arrives, but it’s made up for by bursts of much-too-loud static sound. When the ending finally came around – and I was feeling nothing short of deflated when it did – it was a real shame, because the premise of the big revelation is actually a pretty good one, and could have been the bones of a much better movie, even at this budget.

Friends, this has not been easy to write. But I am here to be well-informed of the genre, and of us freaks who enjoy it, and to write about it accordingly. And I am sad to say that you are unlikely to find a horror fan that enjoys this movie. There’s not enough of anything, we don’t have to follow or figure anything out, there’s no gimmick or gore, and it’s simply not scary. Sorry.

Rating: 2/10

The Blood Harvest (2016) DVD Review

thebloodharvestThe Blood Harvest (Ireland, 2016)

Dir: George Clarke

Starring: Robert Render, Jean-Paul Van Der Velde, Rachael Stewart

UK DVD Release – 25th Jan 2016 from Left Films

Plot: Jack (Render) is a police detective who thinks he’s finally got a lead on a serial killer case he’s been working on for ten years. The police chief doesn’t agree with Jack’s wild theories with their supernatural leanings and fires Jack. This doesn’t deter Jack and with the help from friend and fellow detective, Hatcher (Der Velde), Jack seems closer than ever to solving this case.

The Blood Harvest is the sixth film of director George Clarke and his indie production company, Yellow Fever Productions, and it definitely is an indie film. Blood Harvest has a style that I’d compare closer to films by Troma, sharing a love of gore and weirdness. It is this weirdness, however, that makes it a little difficult to gauge The Blood Harvest’s intent. With early scenes showing a killer using a fork as a preferred weapon, or victims making meta-references to the horror genre, it made me question if this was supposed to be a horror comedy. As jokes they fall flat, they lack the delivery, coming across more goofy than funny.

thebloodharvest2When we finally meet the killers, the weirdness continues. The IMDB page for The Blood Harvest makes mention of their inspiration from Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and you can definitely see a little Leatherface in the killers. However the two Leatherfaces come off as either feral or mentally handicapped, the later feeling slightly offensive. Both killers communicate exclusively in grunts and snarls and without the appearance of more level-headed companions, they just come across as baffling. If they were entirely savages, I would have expected them to have been dressed more raggedly.

I have to give it to The Blood Harvest though, there were moments that I thought it was getting predictable and was fooled into thinking it was going to have very traditional motivations for the killer. How wrong I was. Sadly though, the twist of this film is delivered in an exposition-heavy dialogue exchange that reminded me of a Bond villain having to explain his convoluted plan. It could also be compared to the mind-blowing moment in From Dusk Til Dawn, where we find out that this isn’t the movie we thought it was, however here it’s a little more underwhelming.

thebloodharvest1Filmed on an estimated budget of £10,000, it’s a low budget film that does well with what it has. Lack of money isn’t an excuse for some of this film’s problems though, notably the pacing. There was times that I found myself urging this film to get to the point, waiting impatiently for a prolonged gore scene to end. However if you’re a big fan of DIY gore this might be more of your cup of tea. It’s got some cringey acting at times, and the kills could have been a little more varied but at the end of the day this isn’t some polished Hollywood horror. The Blood Harvest is more of a midnight movie, a movie to have a couple drinks to and have a laugh with your mates.

4/10

Nobody Can Cool (2015) DVD Review

Nobody Can Cool (USA, 2015)

Dir: DPYX

Starring: Catherine Annette, David Linski, Nick Principe, Nikki Bohm

Out on UK DVD 22nd February 2016 from Left Films

Plot: Susan (Annette) and David (Linski) are on their way up to a friend’s cabin for the weekend. Their plans go to hell when the couple find the cabin occupied by fugitive criminals, Len (Principe) and Gigi (Bohm). It’s not long before the cat is out of the bag and the criminals take them hostage. There’s only two options for the couple, try to convince the criminals to let them go or fight for survival.

Nobody Can Cool is the directorial debut for writer/director duo DPYX, the collaborative team of Marcy Boyle and Rachel Holzman. There is no indications that this film is a debut, DPYX show that they have the skills and know-how when it comes to film making. The cast also do an admirable job in their performance. Technically this is a good film.

Judging the film based on it’s thrills, I felt that it was lacking. Nobody Can Cool is mostly a hostage thriller and the audience is supposed to be worried for the well-being of Susan and David, but I couldn’t find that emotional bond. They are a bickering couple from the start, having the kind of car-based arguments that just make you uncomfortable to witness. I don’t want to be around them. It doesn’t take too long for the film to get to it’s more horrific scenario, Len and Gigi don’t waste time when it comes to pointing guns. Yet those two are also a bickering couple and the whole thing feels like being a third wheel at a murder mystery evening.

While the film gets to the hostage scenario quickly it’s very slow in offering any other exposition, particularly about the crime that Len and Gigi have been involved in and it made it difficult to gauge what sort of threat they were.

There’s an Tarantino influence going on in this film, at times it has similarities to Reservoir Dogs and I can’t see Len’s Hawaiian shirt without thinking of the criminal couple at the start of Pulp Fiction. Nobody Can Cool lacks the style of Tarantino’s movies, especially in the lighting department as most of the scenes are incredibly dark. It’s the only technical aspect that I found quite jarring but as a début feature it is forgiveable.

There was one other thing that drove me to distraction about Nobody Can Cool and it’s the title because I might just be ignorant about it’s meaning but it sounds like gibberish. Is it some kind of common phrase or literary reference? It’s not from any of the film’s dialogue so I’m not sure what it means and I really want to know.

Nobody Can Cool is the kind of thriller you should check out if you like Mexican stand-offs and bottle episodes in sitcoms. If you can find something you like in the characters of the film, an emotional bond, this film will hold more weight for you. If not, it’s going to be like spending time with the relatives you don’t like, and you’ll be eager to escape.

3/10