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Lost After Dark (2015) DVD Review

ladLost After Dark (Canada, 2015)

Dir: Ian Kessner

Starring: Kendra Leigh Timmins, Robert Patrick, Elise Gatien

UK DVD Release – Feb 29th 2016 from Metrodome UK

Plot: Adrienne (Timmins) and her friends have decided that instead of attending a high school dance, they are going to sneak off to her family cabin for a night of teenage debauchery. When the school bus they hot-wired breaks down the group seeks refuge in an abandoned farm house that turns out to be less than abandoned. With the last member of a family of cannibals stalking the group, is it possible for them to make it out alive?

lad1Another release from Raven Banner, the producers behind a plethora of titles such as Turbo Kid, and Wolf Cop, gives us another throwback to the 80s, Lost After Dark. This homage to 80s slasher movies is the first feature length film from writer/director Ian Kessner, and it strives to be an accurate depiction of the films that inspired it such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Halloween, and Friday the 13th. Set in 1984, Lost After Dark harks back to a time when teenagers could be brutally murdered by a silent psychopath without having to explain why they didn’t just use their smartphone to snapchat the police into saving them. It follows the trend set by Tarantino and Rodriguez in their Grindhouse double feature, and Ti West’s House of the Devil, penning a love letter to horror films of old.

Following the old formula of slasher films, Lost After Dark sets up it’s group of oh-so-killable teens with deception of parents and teachers alike, the Laurie Strode-esque Adrienne with her book-smarts and honour roll status highlighted as the obvious final girl. The group is the usual mish-mash of teen stereotypes, the fat stoner guy, the blonde bimbo, the athletic girl, the asshole rich kid, the football player, and the athletic black guy complete with afro (and ‘fro comb). To continue the worship of slashers past, each character is named after either a classic horror director or scream queen. To round off the cast there is Adrienne’s father, and more notably Robert Patrick as the vice-principal who’s sub-plot mission to find our delinquent group provides moments of relief from the continuous stalk and slash. Patrick’s name and Terminator 2 fame seeks to give Lost After Dark a little more legitimacy although his character is absolutely ridiculous, but I’ll get to that in a second.

lad3Lost After Dark is mostly a serious in tone homage to the 80s slasher classics, however that tone is tested a few times, specifically by Robert Patrick’s vice-principal character and the blonde bimbo character, Heather. Heather is a Paris Hilton style dumb blonde who reinforces the bitchiness of her rich asshole boyfriend, Johnny. While she seems like a typical mean girl at the start she generates most of the laughs from this film, especially when dealing with the dog she bafflingly pulls out her handbag. As for Patrick’s character, he is a by-the-rules vice-principal who wants to see these teenager tow the line, but he is also a Vietnam veteran. His veteran status is handled through extremely awkward dialogue that will not let you forget he was in a war. Examples of this including him asking where the cabin is by asking “What are their coordinates?” and later screaming “I was in the ‘Nam!” Between these two characters it makes you question if this film is supposed to be a very subtle parody.

As an homage Lost After Dark recreates the style, both visually and through it’s writing, considerably well. It also takes the Grindhouse route by mixing in scratches and distortion to make it feel like an old print of the film. There is a problem with their use of that style, Kessner seems to only use it half hearted. It got to the point where I thought they had just given up on it, until they used it to obscure part of the plot so they could use it as a twist later on. While that’s slightly clever it also feels intentional, like the “intact” film would have been worse for not cutting the “lost” scene in the first place.

lad2Overall Lost After Dark is a fun love letter to slasher cinema. However by mimicking the films it loves so much it limits itself. Lost After Dark tries so hard to be those films that it can only be as good as those films. It risks nothing. If it had tried to make something a little more original it could be something greater than what inspired it. Instead it can only be judged based on the merits of what it is trying to recreate. It succeeds in showing us what was great about those films but makes you wish that you had just watched one of those instead.

6/10

The Messenger (2015) DVD Review

messengerdvd1The Messenger (UK, 2015)

Dir: David Blair

Starring: Robert Sheehan, Lily Cole, Jack Fox, Joely Richardson.

UK DVD Release 2nd November 2015 from Metrodome UK

Plot: Jack (Sheehan) is a reluctant messenger between the living and the dead. The spirits of the dead seek out Jack to contact their loved ones, an act that has left Jack as a social outcast and in question over his mental state. When Jack gets involved with Mark (Fox), a murdered journalist, it puts Jack in danger with the police and strains his already frayed relationship with his sister, Emma (Cole).

I’d like to start this review by stating that The Messenger isn’t really a horror film. It is a film about ghosts but it’s more of a psychological drama, closer to The Sixth Sense than House on Haunted Hill. The Messenger focuses almost entirely on the character of Jack, the task that has been set upon him and if it is or isn’t all just mental illness caused by childhood trauma. If you’re expecting rattling chains and creeping apparitions you will be sorely disappointed here.

messenger4The Messenger has some wonderful acting, mainly carried by leading man, Robert Sheehan. I have to admit I’m mostly aware of his work on the Channel 4 show Misfits and The Messenger is a much more serious role. Yet Sheehan still manages to bring a bit of humour to it with Jack sarcastic quips as a reluctant anti-hero. Lily Cole (The Imaginarium of Doctor Pernassus) is particularly notable as Jack’s sister who just wants to help him, but I felt she was a little underused.

David Blair shows his directorial professionalism in The Messenger, his extensive work in film and television shining through. He manages to craft a very intimate story with a non-linear plot, using flashbacks to flesh out Jack’s troubled past. The film’s thematic balance between the psychological and the paranormal helps to keep the film grounded in a gritty realism. The Messenger doesn’t seem to be set in one specific British town, maybe leaning a bit towards London with the journalist’s problems, but it manages to capture a side of British life that could be anywhere. Specifically in the flashbacks, anyone who’s grown up in a poor neighbourhood, in a troubled home, can relate to Jack’s upbringing.

messengerdvd3The Messenger is a slow boiling drama, there’s a lot of brooding as Jack fights against the task he’s been burdened to shoulder and I can imagine that some people would just want him to get on with it but it’s a film about struggle. It’s a haunting film but Jack isn’t just haunted by ghosts. I felt that while his mental state is questioned, it doesn’t go about painting mentally ill people as dangerous, something that often happens when mental illness is mixed with horror tropes.

If you’re looking for something dark and brooding, The Messenger is a good film to watch. It’s not really a film for casual viewing. If you ever wondered what would happen to the kid from The Sixth Sense after the credits rolled, then The Messenger is a much watch.

7/10

The Passage aka Lemon Tree Passage (2014) DVD Review

passage1The Passage aka Lemon Tree Passage (2014)

Director: David Campbell

Writers: Erica Brien, David Campbell

Stars: Jessica Tovey, Nicholas Gunn, Pippa Black

UK DVD Release – 5th October 2015 from Metrodome UK

A group of American backpackers on vacation in Australia are befriended by two local guys and introduced to the “true story” of Lemon Tree Passage – a remote stretch of road that is haunted by the ghost of a motorcyclist who appears to warn drivers to slow down. Doubtful of the legitimacy of the tale they decide to put it to the test and go for a late night spin along the famed passage. Of course, they end up with much more than they bargained for and are killed off one by one in violent fashion by a mysterious malevolent entity. An entity that is definitely not there to discourage reckless driving.

The urban legend of the ghostly motorcyclist on Lemon Tree Passage is actually true… to a degree. Apparently it became somewhat of an internet phenomenon a few years ago when a YouTube video of a mysterious headlight following behind a car and then vanishing in to thin air went viral. However, anyone hoping for a film about the apparition of a motorcyclist will be sorely disappointed, as writer-director David Campbell and co-writer Erica Brien merely use this urban legend as a springboard for their own ghostly yarn (and no doubt an excuse to plaster ‘based on actual events’ on the promotional paraphernalia).

passage2There is some nice cinematography throughout the film and Australian actor Jessica Tovey gives an excellent performance as American tourist Maya. This is a well made, slick looking film but unfortunately that is about all I have in the pro column. Not that this is a bad film, it is just gloriously mediocre. There is nothing that you haven’t seen before and nothing that you will be eager to see again, and it does not do itself any favours with its slow pacing and lacklustre deaths. The actions of the characters defy logic every step of the way as it limps along towards its grand finale, which goes off not with a bang but with a whimper. I can only really recommend watching this if you are a fan of Jessica Tovey or a die hard fan of Australian horror.

4/10

White God aka Feher Isten (2014) DVD Review

wg1White God aka ‘Feher Isten’ (2014)

UK DVD Release Date: 3rd August 2015

Director: Kornel Mondruczo

Producer: Viktoria Petranyi

Starring: Zsofia Psotto, Sandor Zsoter, Lilli Horvath, Luke / Body as “Hagen”

Runtime: 117 minutes

UK Certificate: 15

Released through Metrodome Distribution

“Everything terrible is something that needs our love.”

So the first frame of ‘White God’ tells us, effectively setting the theme of the piece – the creatures we find under our stewardship look to us for physical and emotional sustenance in return for whatever assistance or companionship they provide, and this film from ‘Delta’ and ‘Tender Son’ director Kornel Mondruczo ponders how badly the worm may possibly turn should we not ‘treat as we would be treated’.

This Hungarian-Swedish-German co-production centres around 13 year old Lili (Psotto) and her beloved dog Hagen, a faithful Lab / Shar Pei cross breed who unfortunately finds himself living in a time when Hungary has begun imposing a new dog ownership law that outlaws the keeping of mixed breed mutts, levying a heavy fine on anyone found housing one. Lili’s father Daniel is dead against having Hagen in his apartment, which Lili is reluctantly staying in whilst her mother is away on business. The two clash over the matter and despite Lili’s obvious devotion to her canine pal, Daniel eventually sets Hagen loose on a nearby motorway.

wg2Distraught, Lili searches tirelessly for him, little knowing that he is to be passed fleetingly through a handful of new masters, all planning to use him for their own ends – and so begins the animal’s transformation from softie to savage, a process which the viewer can only hope will be reversed by the eventual return to his young mistress.

‘White God’ in many ways follows the themes of other animal-centred horror classics such as ‘The Birds’ and ‘Cujo’ – the menace of the ever-increasing ‘pack’ of stray dogs Hagen befriends and the metamorphosis of Hagen over time will put viewers in mind of both, but the film is not as gore-heavy as it could easily have let itself be and although tense moments are there, the overall feel is understated rather than overblown.

The acting is of a good quality too, with newcomer Zsofia Psotto giving a passive yet powerful performance in the lead role, and indeed the canine interaction is something to behold. Mondruczo’s action shots of all the (many!) dogs are brilliantly done, most notably when the pack escapes the animal shelter and brings chaos upon the city, and kudos must be given to the animal handlers involved as the action involving the four-legged actors is convincingly choreographed and presented.

Whilst Psotto engages the viewer through Lili’s struggles with teen isolation, there are moments of real tension and some outrage at Hagen’s situation as he is physically modified, tormented and ultimately brutalised within the distinctly ugly underworld of illegal dog-fighting – incidentally, as one might imagine, this one is a tough watch for any dog lovers out there (although there is nothing too graphic shown)!

wg3On the other hand, it’s also maybe not one for any canine-phobic viewers – Hagen and his comrades as one force are rather unsettling and there is some bloody comeuppance for the humans who have abused them. However, if you’re someone to whom neither of the above apply then you should find ‘White God’ a worthy watch – visually it’s very enjoyable (the final frame is a beauty) and the acting and direction showcase a high level of talent, with hopefully more of the same to come from both, overall serving up an intriguing and memorable film for the horror enthusiast and general film buff alike.

7/10

The Falling (2014) DVD Review

falling1The Falling (2014)

102 mins

Directed by Carol Morley

Starring Maisie Williams, Maxine Peake and Florence Pugh

UK DVD & Blu-Ray release 24th August 2015 from Metrodome

1969. Somewhere in the English countryside a group of girls have a lot of growing up to do in the confines of a strict and structured all Girls School. Charismatic and intense Abbie (newcomer Florence Pugh) along with troubled Lydia (Maisie Williams, TV’s Game of Thrones) are the closest of friends. After a tragedy strikes, a mysterious fainting epidemic breaks out threatening the school and the girls friendship.

Director Carol Morley’s last effort, the dreary documentary ‘Dreams Of A Life’ left me cold. With documentaries I can pretty much engage with any topic however weird and wonderful, but Dreams Of A Life (a story of a young women dying in her flat and not being noticed as missing for many years) had me hooked, but the film left me bored. Going into The Falling I was optimistic maybe that director Morley could work better magic with a script and narrative structure rather than talking heads.

Opening shots remind me of the opening shots of (the far superior) Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris, where the shot looks like a famous painting. Colourful trees weep into crystal clears rivers with no ripples in sight, with river and trees merging into one. If I could take a screenshot and hang it on my wall, I would certainly do that. Morley goes for the same aesthetic choice and it works well, sucking you into the autumnal nooks and crannies of the girls school.

falling2Whether its 1969 or 2015 people go through the same problems, none more so than the teenager. We have all been one and can understand the problems most go through on film. Having never been a teenage girl I found it a little difficult getting to know the characters. What they were going through as girls I have never been through. The periods and the bodily changes kept me at a distance but not so much where I disengaged completely.

The overall tone of the film is very ethereal, stagy and poetic. The way the script reads (sample line – “Millions of people have babies, and its life and life only”) stagy and the cadence the girls speak in is very play based, with clipped English tones and enunciation. The film almost comes across in parts like a Kate Bush music video with weird body movements and songs.

Over the last few weeks I’ve watched a fair few movies and one thing my ear always picks up on is the soundtrack, whether it be the score or the original songs within a film. The Falling has original music and songs performed by Tracy Thorn, (who hit it big with the 90’s band Everything But The Girl) The songs fit in with the overall tone of the film with the girls even singing some of the songs within the films on instruments such as the xylophone, which is different to see in films.

One thing portrayed that we don’t necessarily all go through is a death in our youth. If you have been lucky enough not to have a loved one or friend pass away when you are young maybe you will feel this film is less resonant, but maybe revisiting this film in the distant future you may get more out of it then rather than now.

falling3I’m happy to say I liked The Falling, thankfully a lot more than director Morley’s last film, Dreams Of A Life, catch it on Amazon Instant/Netflix, which is where I saw it. The running time is sufficient, not feeling too short (which can befall low budget films) or overly long. The acting is strong especially from Maisie Williams, as you would expect after being in an HBO series for 5 seasons. I look forward to what comes from Carol Morley next especially if it is a narrative film rather than a documentary.

6/10

American Ghost Story (aka Devil’s Mile) (2014) DVD Review

americanghostAmerican Ghost Story (a.k.a. Devil’s Mile) (2014)

Written & Directed by: Joseph O’Brien

Starring: David Hayter, Maria Del Mar, Casey Hudecki

Out Now from Metrodome

Joseph O’Brien’s feature directing début, this is a low-budget affair that turns a fairly standard gangster/revenge set-up into a genre-bending supernatural nightmare. Three kidnappers are transporting their latest victims; two Japanese girls; intending to deliver them to their boss, the mysterious and much feared Mr. Arkadi. The three of them all seem to be at varying points in the process of a nervous breakdown, and have the sort of group chemistry that could easily see them kill each other over a game of charades. The freeway is taking too long, so one of them suggests taking a shortcut down an unmarked, desolate side road. After a cryptically foreboding warning from a shopkeeper is ignored & the troupe continue on the road it’s unsurprising that everything soon starts to go horribly wrong for all involved.

Many issues are evident from the beginning of this film – jilted scripts & uneven acting make the hardened criminals’ squabbling feel more like siblings fighting over Pokemon cards on a road trip, and daytime scenes are treated with the most appalling grading that makes everything painfully overexposed & bleached out. Thankfully, however, after stumbling through the first act more and more promise starts to creep through, and night time scenes are completely the opposite: giallo-style imagery with high contrast with coloured lights gives the film a stylish appearance; it’s surely no coincidence that the majority of the second and third acts take place at night.

devilsmile1One particular set-piece sets the main events into motion, and despite what is clearly a shoestring budget, O’Brien has created an action-packed & dramatic sequence skilfully. This flair for set-pieces carries throughout the film, albeit visibly restrained by the lack of resources. The main ‘villain’ is lifted directly from every single Asian horror movie you’ve seen, but is put to unique use in this type of storyline and occasionally takes on a far more terrifying form that is only let down by brief glimpses of generally adequately-disguised sub-par effects.

After the awkward first act sets up the characters, the issues with acting and script do subside, leaving room for some unexpectedly deep moments exploring the motivations and histories of the characters. The quality remains patchy however, with the script sometimes becoming a bit of a slog, and the performances sometimes appearing wooden, but there are more than a few moments where it all somehow manages to click into place, and once again in these points it’s clear that O’Brien has potential. The final moments tie up the story in an admittedly unexpected twist, but not one that particularly makes much sense. Containing the level of logic that would be acceptable in a short film, where the sole presentation of an interesting concept is enough, the ‘final reveal’ does not stand up to the scrutiny that a 90 minute feature warrants.

devilsmile3This is not a great movie. Not even a great low-budget movie. But to watch it with a critical eye there are more than enough moments that O’Brien displays great potential with the visuals, the writing, and the whole style of his filmmaking to stop them feeling like happy accidents. Even if this film misses the mark at least as often as it hits, displaying a strong, unique vision (even if it is comprised almost entirely of borrowed concepts like a scrapbook of horror) and no end of ambition I am still very interested to see what he is capable of with a bigger budget.

4/10.

American Ghost Story is available to order from Amazon UK here – http://www.amazon.co.uk/American-Ghost-Story-David-Hayter/dp/B00PY6PD0C/

Discopath (2013) DVD Review

discopath1Discopath (2013)

Director – Renaud Gauthier

Cast – Jeremie Earp, Sandrine Bisson, Ivan Freud, Francois Aubin, Ingrid Falaise

UK DVD Release – May 4th 2015 from Metrodome.

The début feature of Renaud Gauthier, Discopath centres around Jeremie Earps character Duane Lewis, a New York cook who goes insane any time he hears the low bass of the latest disco hit. The film is geared towards the horror gorehound who like their films low budget and their gore full on. I could see Discopath playing local horror film festivals and midnight madness style presentations.

Jeremie Earp plays Duane Lewis a sexually inexperienced New York short order cook where everybody’s accents play quick and loose with the location, sometimes slipping into a little bit of Canadian ‘eh!’ belying its actual shooting location. After getting fired and killing a lip smacking ‘lady of the night’, the opening scenes play out quick and fast setting the story out well, as the film and our main character hotfoots it to Montreal.

discopath2In Montreal, taking a new identity, and starting work as a handyman in an all girls school, he wears a hearing aid to fend off the incessant drone of the disco filled hallways. At this point, we learn that our character got his perversions from a childhood electrocution involving his father. Gauthier revels in the decadence of the 70’s with sharp suits and the latest fashions, but, as limited budgets go, the same song plays multiply times on the soundtrack (Walter Murphy Bands ’76’ if you are wondering pop pickers).

A favourite scene involves two local high school girls just about to strip down and get experimenting with kissing when Duane intervenes and decides to take the phrase ‘music from the heart’ a little bit too literal, using the vinyl of the day to make you squirm in your seat as the claret flows.

The film does have some flaws though and this comes in the way of two cops who give line readings so stiff they are practically suffering from rigor mortis. This takes away from the horror and at times feel semi-comical, making the film lose its way a little. The main aspect of the film that really worked was the score. Not being a lover of Disco (except for the excellent ‘I Was Made For Loving You’ by Kiss, which is included here) the score by Bruce Cameron is so John Carpenter it hurts and that’s a positive, the moody synth permeates most scenes and really works for the tone and look .

discopath3At the outset I thought it would be a chore to get through, but I really enjoyed Discopath and congratulate the filmmakers who had a good sense of story and never tried to pad out the length, so coming in at a perfect 75 minutes it doesn’t feel overly long or outstay its welcome.

7/10

METRODOME DISTRIBUTION ANNOUNCES 9th MARCH HOME ENTERTAINMENT RELEASE DATE FOR AMERICAN GHOST STORY

ags1METRODOME DISTRIBUTION ANNOUNCES 9th MARCH HOME ENTERTAINMENT RELEASE DATE FOR AMERICAN GHOST STORY

A FILM BY JAMES O’BRIEN

STARRING DAVID HAYTER (X-MEN), CASEY HUDECKI (TV’S NIKITA) MARIA DEL MAR (TV’S HANNIBAL)

A relentlessly-paced hybrid of gritty crime thriller and Lovecraftian supernatural horror, American Ghost Story follows a trio of kidnappers who take an ill-advised detour en route to deliver their hostages – two teenage girls – to their mysterious and powerful employer. When they accidentally kill one of the girls during a botched escape attempt, their simmering mistrust explodes into shocking violence. But what they thought was their worst case scenario is only the beginning, as they are engulfed by the hellish forces that haunt the road – a road they realize they may never escape. Now captors and captive must fight together to escape the monstrous forces pursuing them and somehow survive…

Release date 9th March 2015
Certificate 18 & Running time 88 Minutes
DVD RRP / £14.99

ags

Vengeance Road aka American Muscle (2014) DVD Review

vengeanceroad1VENGEANCE ROAD aka American Muscle ( USA, 2014)

Dir- Ravi Dahr

Starring- Nick Principe, Robin Sydney, Todd Farmer, Trent Haaga

Out Now in the UK from Metrodome

Ravi Dahr’s VENGEANCE ROAD, treads a familiar path in story and style, with a nod to the grindhouse aesthetic that has been so over done (sometimes good, sometimes god awful), that clearly is shown in its colourful opening titles, and it’s overall trashy content. Yet that’s not to write the film off, as amongst the sex, nudity, sleazy characters there’s a film that does try and gain enough attempts to push it above the usual straight to DVD fare, and not just be another lazy Grindhouse homage with a good title but nothing else going for it.

Originality is not the calling card for the films plot, which focuses on recently released prisoner John Falcon (Prinicipe), who has just finished a 10 year sentence, and has revenge only on his mind. Particularly revenge on his brother, Sam (Farmer) who was the one who left him to take the fall for a botched robbery, and his brethren’s gang of sleazy crooks, which also include Falcon’s wife, Darling (Sydney) who seems to be mostly stuck in a drug haze, thanks to an addiction to crack, and is being used for sex by Sam’s group. We learn in flashback how Falcon fell for Darling, and we see her slowly being taken over by her addiction, with his wife still around Falcon seems headed towards his brother’s hideout but on his quest for bloody vengeance, and to reunite himself with his beloved he takes a few shots and receives some bloody injuries along the way, and it’s not long before the initial showdown and confrontation where we start to see the true picture of what happened on the night of the botched robbery.

Vengeance-Road-1Admittedly as mentioned before, plot wise we are not treading on anything new here, but that is okay as at first what the film lacks in this department, it more than makes up through some style and performances. Dahr is confident to work with his material and add depth and some semblance of originality in his visual style, adding a surreal quality and stylish tone particularly in some of the drug haze scenes featuring Darling, and in her flashback scenes. He is also confident in handling some of the brutal actions scenes and gore, which hark back to the grindhouse style and will please fans, and on top of that putting in necessary moments of sleaze, as the film has plenty of nude ladies on display, and some sleazy OTT characters, particularly one of Sam’s group who is a tattooed and mohawked gun toting lady henchwoman, who looks like a suicide girl, and is more than willing to go up against Falcon. Casting wise Dahr has certainly managed to pull some interesting and familiar genre regulars.

Firstly Principe, who has a resume covering a lot of recent horror flicks, is physically suited for his role. Over 6 ft tall and covered in tattoo’s he’s the sort of character you don’t want to get on the bad side of, especially one out for blood. Yet while he does have limited dialogue at first (though a particularly great line he says at the start is “They owe. They pay” is very good and becomes his catchphrase, briefly), he does have some emotion and vulnerability to his character particularly in his sequences with Darling, both in flashback and in present. And in casting the double crossing sibling, with Todd Farmer in this role, is a clever move as Farmer will be known to genre fans as the man who wrote the screenplays for JASON X, MY BLOODY VALENTINE re-make and the daft but highly enjoyable Nic Cage film DRIVE ANGRY, and carrying on this genre flavour is the casting of Trent Hagaa who has a brief but entertaining role as the drug addled Styles. Added to this and rounding off the main cast as Falcon’s lady is Robin Sydney, who has certainly made her name as an actress in some of Full Moon Features output, and who puts in a good performance as Darling, showing off her elusive wild nature and slow breakdown into addiction.

Vengeance-Road-2-570x298Despite as mentioned before the lack of originality in the plot, and some annoying uses of CGI blood effects, Dahr has managed to craft an entertaining revenge flick that packs some strong action, blood and sleaze to satisfy the grindhouse crowd or rather genre crowd. Aswell as this he also manages to add some style and depth, particularly with a measured and dark look at drug addiction, rather than sink into mindless homage that this could have ended up as.

6.5/10

The Haunting of Black Wood (2011) DVD Review

haunting-of-black-wood_uk-dvd-coverThe Haunting of Black Wood (2011) AKA Enter Nowhere

Director: Jack Heller

Written by: Shawn Christensen, Jason Dolan

Starring: Katherine Waterson, Scott Eastwood, Sara Paxton

Run time: 90 mins

UK DVD Release Feb 2nd 2015 from Metrodome Distribution.

Following separate car troubles, three strangers become stranded in a woodland cabin, as they try to figure out how to get back to civilisation they realise not everything is as it appears.

It seems odd that I’m reviewing The Haunting of Black Wood for UK Horror Scene when in actual fact the film isn’t really a horror at all, more a psychological thriller, with a few supernatural elements chucked in for good measure, that’s not to say it’s a bad film though, I actually found myself enjoying it quite a lot.

A little bit of background on the film; it was actually released in the US a few years ago and has only just found it’s way to our green and pleasant land. Over there the film is titled ‘Enter Nowhere’. Now I don’t know the specific reason for the title change (there isn’t any haunting of any kind in the film) but I suspect it’s so the film will appeal more to the low-budget horror market, which as far as I know, is booming over here right now. The new title is misleading and I’m telling you this now as it did slightly mar my enjoyment of the film, I felt as if I’d been cheated in some way and I don’t want the same to happen to you.

Haunting of Black Wood Image 1Anyway let’s move on to the film itself. There’s a lot to enjoy here, the premise is highly original (at least to me anyway, it has probably been done before) it plays out a lot like an extended episode of The Twilight Zone. The film is slow paced but this only adds to the building mystery and tension. The twist/s are pretty well judged and never seem forced, every time I thought I had the story figured out something happened that completely derailed my theory.

There are some instances of beautiful cinematography, the opening is a particular highlight and seems to be a very clear homage to the films of Quentin Tarantino. There are welcome nods to other films as well throughout the film the writers and director clearly like to wear their influences on their sleeves.

Not all is good though; there is some terribly clunky dialogue and corny lines. It belittles the acting performances, with a better script I feel the actors could have done a better job but sadly this is not the case.

The soundtrack is very generic; you hear this type of “foreboding” score on hundreds of straight-to-DVD horror films and it never stood out for me.

Haunting of Black Wood Image 2The visual effects towards the end are awful, almost laughable, the film decides to go for spectacle and it just doesn’t work on such a low budget, a more subdued ending would have worked just as well.

Despite it’s shortcomings I found myself still liking the film, it has a certain low-budget charm to it and if nothing else it held my attention. I urge people to give it a chance, just don’t expect any horror.

7/10