Don’t Hang Up (2016) Review

rsz_dhu1DON’T HANG UP (2016)

Starring Gregg Sulkin, Garrett Clayton, Bella Dayne and Sienna Guillory

Directed by Damien Mace and Alexis Wajsbrot

Written by Joe Johnson

Out on DVD on 12th June 2017 and Digital on 26th June 2017 courtesy of Solo Media and Matchbox Films

An evening of drunken prank calls becomes a nightmare for a pair of teenagers when a mysterious stranger turns their own game against them…with deadly consequences“.

Social media themed thrillers are everywhere now. Some are actually quite successful, with Unfriended somehow managing to make a film entirely shot through webcams gripping, and the glossy thriller Nerve was a fun time. But they all come with a built in flaw, one that is completely incurable. As soon as they’re released, possibly as soon as they’re scripts are finished, they become dated. Social media is constantly evolving, on a daily basis. Seriously, how many Facebook updates have you had in the past month? In the digital age, a techno thriller has a tough task staying up to date for its savvy target audience.

Enter Don’t Hang Up, which does itself no favours by having characters who are still using consumer camcorders when they have 4K iPhones that can upload their pranks directly to YouTube! I wouldn’t bring any of this up if not for the fact that this is all vital to the plot and characters. And it’s details like these which start chipping away at the believability.

rsz_dhu2Speaking of characters, there are no heroes here. Our protagonists are dicks, particularly Brady (Clayton), an irritating dick. And no matter how lovesick Sam (Sulkin) is, he is still a dick. Which is fine, we don’t need likeable characters, as long as they’re interesting. But these are just those pricks Lad Bible like to make famous. The opening scene, involving their horrible prank on Sienna Guillory’s mother, establishes that. Now, this would all again be fine, if the film took a more satirical stance, and really analysed these YouTube personalities and their affect on society. But the filmmakers go with a traditional thriller instead, stalked by an all seeing malevolent home invader playing a twisted game Jigsaw would do after he watched When A Stranger Calls, and the suspense in those only works for me if I give a shit about the people involved. And I really didn’t.

The leads struggle with the script, which forces Sulkin and Clayton to be hysterical as soon as the shit hits the fan. It would have been much more fun to see the snivelling little sociopaths begin to show their true colours. But they are just asked to cry or look like they’ve been crying a lot. It’s annoying.

I’ll say one thing though, the directors know how to make a small film feel big, with lots of cinematic stylistic flourishes throughout a very brisk runtime. It’s just a shame the writer didn’t share their ambitions.

rsz_dhu3This all may sound like I didn’t enjoy Don’t Hang Up, but I actually did. It’s a fairly fun contained thriller, with some nice sadism thrown in and some actual surprises. But this subject is so rife and relevant and ready for an ambitious exploration that I wanted more. It just fails to live up to the promise of its premise for me.

6/10

Beast Within aka Uncaged (2016) DVD Review

beastwithindvd1Beast Within aka Uncaged (USA, 2016)

Dir: Daniel Robbins

Starring: Ben Getz, Zack Weiner, Kyle Kirkpatrick

Out on UK DVD March 21st 2016 from Matchbox Films

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

4/10

Matchbox Films To Release ‘Deadly Virtues’ on DVD 28th September

deadlyvirtuesDEADLY VIRTUES – A FILM BY ATE DE JONG

AVAILABLE ON DVD FOR THE FIRST TIME FROM 28th SEPTEMBER
“Funny Games crossed with Bound… A stylish, classy thriller” Starburst

***Over 250,000 Trailer hits on You Tube***

Ate de Jong’s DEADLY VIRTUES, Produced by Raindance Raw Talent will be released on DVD for the first time through Matchbox Films on September 28th. Tom (Matt Barber) and Alison (Megan Maczko) are a married couple about to settle down for a steamy night of sex when Aaron (Edward Akrout) breaks into their house and assaults them. When they come to, they find that they are both bound and helpless. Tom is left tied up in the bath and Alison hung from the ceiling in the bedroom.

As events progress Aaron’s actions grow increasingly more violent and dangerous and things come to the surface showing that both Tom and Alison have secrets.

Certificate: 15

Running Time: 87 Minutes

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The House At The End Of Time – UK DVD release 27th April

THE HOUSE AT THE END OF TIME
A FILM BY ALEJANDRO HIDALGO

AVAILABLE ON DVD FOR THE FIRST TIME FROM 27th APRIL

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Alejandro Hidalgo’s HOUSE AT THE END OF TIME will be released on DVD for the first time through Matchbox Films on April 27th.

Set in 1981 it tells the story of Dulce, a mother who lives in an old house with her young children and her husband. After terrifying encounters with mysterious apparitions in the dark, the ghost of an old woman leaves Dulce a series of messages warning that her husband will kill their children. Desperately, she tries to avoid this prophecy, but is helpless as the terrible tragedy begins to unravel. Dulce is sentenced to the maximum penalty of imprisonment for a crime she did not commit.

Thirty years later, an elderly Dulce, returns home to continue her sentence under house arrest. There, with the help of a Priest, Dulce will try to uncover the mystery and tragedy that has tormented her for so long.

You can read the UKHS review here – http://www.ukhorrorscene.com/the-house-at-the-end-of-time-2013-review/

Voted No.4 in Britflicks’ Top Films of FrightFest 2014

Winner – Best Film and Best Director at Screamfest, Los Angeles.

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Certificate: 15 Running Time: 101 Minutes
Catalogue number: MBF079 RRP: £15.99
Language: Spanish

The House At The End of Time is available to order from Amazon UK here – http://www.amazon.co.uk/House-End-Time-DVD/dp/B00SYKE7P2/

Devoured (2012) DVD Review

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Devoured (2012)
Dir. Greg Olliver
Starring – Marta Milans, Kara Jackson, Bruno Gunn, Tyler Hollinger.
Released UK – 16th September 2013
UK release Matchbox Films .

Lourdes (Marta Milans) is a single mother who has left her son with her Mother in Mexico and travelled to New York to work. She needs to earn as much money as possible to send home as her son is ill and needs an operation.

So Lourdes works at a high-class restaurant through the night where she cleans and prepares it for the next day. She earns minimum wage and the only thing that keeps her going is her son with whom she speaks to every night.

Lourdes has to deal with the harsh, uncaring modern New York where poverty sits hand in hand with decadence. Her employer Kristen (Kara Jackson) is a bitch. She sleeps with the chef, bullies Lourdes continually and drinks a lot of red wine!

The chef Billy (Tyler Hollinger) is a seemingly threatening sexual predator who Lourdes has to keep at arm’s length as her boss Kristen threatened to “cut off her hands and feed them to her” if she ever touched Billy.

Lourdes does have some comfort in a chance meeting (well bumping into) with local fireman Frankie (Bruno Gunn) who is friendly and a shoulder to cry on.
So that is Lourdes world, a struggle for everyday survival in a foreign and strange city. BUT Lourdes is also seemingly having a mental breakdown due to the pressure of her situation.

She is seen talking to a friend at the bar of the restaurant whilst the CCTV image shows her alone, she also continues to see a dark , silhouetted figure of a man in the restaurant. And she continues to have flashbacks of happier times with her son Oliver, and everywhere seems to reminds her of him.

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As the film progresses Lourdes seems to be slipping further towards a full breakdown, but Lourdes believes there could be a supernatural elements at play here.
So Lourdes must try to get as much money as possible back to her son so he can get his much-needed operation.

Devoured is just a joy. It is a very slow-paced psychological thriller, with some wonderful horror and supernatural elements. It draws you in from the start and keeps you on the edge of your seat with a gentle increase in tension minute by minute.
Marta Milans is just wonderful as Lourdes , she is almost silent for the first half of the film apart from the odd conversation with her son & mother on the phone. Every minute of her performance is utterly convincing and at the moment THE stand-out performance of 2013 by a male or female lead (in this humble reviewers opinion) .

Her gradual descent into madness is compelling yet heartbreaking, this is a woman leading a back-breaking existence to send home her meagre wages to save her son’s life whilst having to work in an environment where people pay hundreds of dollars just for a meal!!
Director Greg Olliver is mainly known for his documentary work , which includes the great film Lemmy (the legendary Motorhead frontman). But with Devoured he shows that he is ready and very able to work in full length features and his touch and vision is very well suited to this type of psychological horror.

As Lourdes is silent through a lot of the film then the background noise becomes almost the foreground noise. The sounds of the railway and the traffic noise in the background gives a feeling of almost isolation and solitude yet in a city of millions.

The soundtrack is very understated with light piano just to add to the melancholy of Lourdes daily routine and her sad existence in a small, bare room with no soul or even sign of life.
A couple of things that I really enjoyed were the use of the CCTV in the restaurant, which seemed to show what was *really* happening rather than what Lourdes was thinking was happening and secondly the use of very small brief scenes. Throughout Devoured I think there were only about 3 scenes that lasted more than 2 minutes, it was just a quick scene followed by another but these were all beautifully linked together and a feeling of continuity was apparent throughout, with each scene and set exquisitely arranged and filmed. Everything on film is their for a reason and perfect down to the most minute detail.

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Finally there are a few twists and turns along the way that lead to a great ending, I saw these coming a long way off but this in no way took anything away from the film itself. In fact it is nice sometimes when the pay-off at the end actually works and the viewer is not left thinking “What the hell?”.
Devoured has some genuinely frightening moments and a drip-drip of constant dread and fear. A beautiful film that shocks, scares and may just break your heart.

A quite shocking and often disturbing film that shows poverty and decadence can live quite unhappily together in modern times!

Verdict 8.5/10

The Girl From Nowhere (2012) DVD Review

the-girl-from-nowhere

The Girl From Nowhere (2012)
Matchbox Films
Run time: 91 minutes. French with English subtitles.
Dir. Jean-Claude Brisseau
Starring – Claude Morel & Virginie Legeay

Michel (Claude Morel) is a retired maths teacher who has lived alone since his wife’s death 29 years ago. He is a great lover of film and culture and occupies his time writing a planned book about the beliefs that shape daily life from an intellectual level. Hearing a noise outside the door to his flat, he opens it to find a young woman, the homeless twenty-something Dora (Virginie Legeay), being brutally attacked by a ‘jilted lover’.

Taking pity on her, and perhaps because he is lonely, he takes her in until she recovers from her injuries. Her presence brings something new to Michel’s life, but gradually the apartment becomes the site of mysterious happenings. As the film nears its end, Dora reveals she has ‘abilities’ and senses Michel will die soon. But he believes she is the reincarnation of his dead wife and wants her to stay with him no matter what. Is Dora right, is Michel at risk of dying?

The film is notable for its subdued performances. Morel is an elderly actor and while his character is supposed to be one of great intellect and a deep thinker his reactions to certain events in the movie make it appear as if he is seeing something different to what is happening. When Dora shows off her mystic like talents, in The Girl From Nowhere’s most memorial scene, he stands and looks on as if he were watching something he finds deeply boring. Legeay at times suffers from this technique too and while she does display some real emotion when Dora tells Michel of her self-destructive attitude it is frustratingly too little from an actress who is clearly talented. At times this approach works, such as when Michel calmly tells Dora his theory on her being his deceased wife, yet at others it spoils the movies bizarre paranormal incidents.

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What does come across well throughout is that Michel is a deeply lonely man and while he seems annoyed by Dora, to begin with, he finds her attractive for her mind and knowledge. The story concerns itself with the philosophical and ancient history. Many high brow subjects are talked about at length and as the film progresses these ideas and themes arise in the plot. The Girl From Nowhere has so many different theories and hidden meanings going on at once it is unclear what the movie is trying to convey.

The last ten minutes only add’s to the confusion felt throughout yet, if the heavy subject matter previously talked of is recalled, what Michel and Dora experience is something that not only had to happen, it was their destiny. It is literally written in the stars.
It is not a movie to take likely, the subjects and other theories explored within make The Girl From Nowhere a film that gives food for thought and perhaps an insight into the concept of eternal love.

 Verdict  7 out of 10.