The Scope of Horror by Christopher Stewart

The Scope of Horror by Christopher Stewart

October is a distant memory as we draw to the end of November but I can’t help but think back to the Halloween month, when people discuss what’s the best horror films. Numerous top ten lists to decide what to watch on the spookiest night of the year. More lists will be spawning around the web shortly to decide what was the cream of the crop for 2015 as we enter December. This article isn’t to discuss that, everyone is entitled to what they thought was the best this year or what are the best horror films ever. Instead I want to turn the focus on the other discussion, the discussion that determines why some of your favourites aren’t horror.

In every comment section of every top ten article, the horror fans are up in arms. Why is Shaun of the Dead in that list?! Don’t you know it’s a comedy! Why is Se7en there!? It’s a Thriller. Underworld!?! Are you mental? The lines where horror crosses over into other genre are loose boundaries, areas of contention. It seems that some people are afraid to walk too close to the horizons of horror in fear of falling off the side into some genre oblivion. A nightmare abyss where Rom-Coms lurk.

 

I’ve often had to defend the Horror Comedies when it comes to their place on my horror DVD shelf. They are often disqualified due to their inability to generate dread compared to a true horror film. I would say that when it comes to the properties of a horror film, how scared it makes me is not a factor that I care deeply about. If I was to judge my horror film collection based on that sole characteristic, my shelves would be quite bare. It’s more about the content the film offers, morbid tales of monsters and murder are how I would determine a horror film.

That personal boundary is challenged by one specific genre cross, the Action Horror. Films like Resident Evil, Underworld, and Van Helsing, don’t really fall under my personal scope of what horror is. The reason for that is due to the characters’ lack of vulnerability. There’s a similar issue when it comes to horror gaming, one example being Condemned 2. While there are a bunch of monsters raising hell, there’s also a protagonist with an unnatural level of badassery, equipped with either magic powers, genetically modified superpowers, or a long history of kicking ass and taking names. It’s the reason why I wouldn’t classify Predator as a horror film, Arnold Schwarzenegger is a powerhouse who can go toe to toe with his monster. In comparison to Simon Pegg in Shaun of the Dead, Arnie has a much tighter grasp on his situation than Pegg does.

 

The other genre that battles for the classification of horror films is the Thriller. With films such as Se7en, Silence of the Lambs, and Shutter Island, it’s often questioned which camp they fall under. The term Thriller is often joked as being “A horror film with a shot at an Oscar” due to The Oscars long time snubbing of the horror genre. I’d usually determine a thriller based on which perspective the film is being seen from, particularly if it is coming from a police investigation angle. The inclusion of an investigation usually moves the film away from a stalk and kill formula and asks questions to the killer’s motivation and providing the film with a more intellectual approach. However this usually only accounts for films with a human killer, and yet there is the sub-genre of the Supernatural Thriller which tries to “legitimise” paranormal and monster movies under the Thriller header.

 

At the end of it all, horror is still subjective. If you want to only recognise the films that scare you, it’s going to limit your appreciation of an extensive genre. A genre that takes the old folk tales of vampires and werewolves, and splices it with modern life either as side-splitting comedies like What We Do In The Shadows, or as gun-toting leather-fetish showcases like Underworld. The more film makers get weird and wild with the boundaries of horror, the more original stories we’re getting, for better or worse. You just have to decide if you want to step off into that abyss.

The Creature Walks Among Us (1956) DVD Review

creaturewalks1The Creature Walks Among Us (1956)

Director: John Sherwood

Starring: Jeff Morrow, Rex Reason, Leigh Snowden, Gregg Palmer.

UK DVD Release – Out NOW from Fabulous Films!

The third and final Creature From The Black Lagoon feature. This time The Gill Man is captured and turned into a breather of air, because his gills are a bit broke and..well, just because. Obviously, the Creature is quite miffed at all of this, but can’t really express himself. If only they could have arranged for therapy.

The disc has extras including picture/poster galleries and a trailer which mostly consists of the final ten minutes.

There is something really endearing about these old black and white horrors. The characters are cut outs and the acting decent, but nothing different to all the other characters and performances that inhabit other movies of this ilk. In fact, I found myself wondering if there was a Creature Feature Performance School that trained budding hopefuls to perform in certain ways when stumbling blindly, or not so blindly, into certain situations. How to look, which way to look, how to ensure your hair is quiffed or tossed in exactly the right way to suit the situation. Which stance to take, how to position hands and feet. Then I started wondering, if there wasn’t such a school and if there still isn’t, maybe there needs to be and maybe I am the man to get it started. Then I got back to the film…

creaturewalks2The writer of the original Creature From The Black Lagoon, Arthur A. Ross, returns for this venture and all in all it is a pretty satisfying ride. A boat crew go looking for the creature, because if they didn’t there wouldn’t be a film and upon finding and attacking him have to perform surgery to open his lungs to breathe air like a man, because his gills are damaged (not to lay blame, but if they’d let him be, it wouldn’t have happened). This triggers events which see things go not so well for the crew. And why would they?

Honestly, did these people never hear of Frankenstein??

It all takes a little long to get going, especially considering the audience has been here twice before. We see the creature swim around a bit, but it’s not until around the forty minute mark the story actually starts. It’s all set up before that, which is a little unnecessary as we just wanna see the Gill Dude. This doesn’t spoil the film and I suppose it’s nice that time was taken, even though I imagine the time taken was more to do with budget. Maybe I’m being cynical.

With time running the out the Gill Dude, having been shot by a spear gun, burned and then operated on decides to grab some screen time and get involved in the film. The make up is good, though the poor thing does seem to have a permanently baffled look on his face. Perhaps, he’s puzzled by how little time he’s on screen, especially as he is The Creature of the title. Or perhaps he’s baffled by the claims that he is gentle and less violent because they have treated him kindly, as he stands in a cage that is surrounded by an electrified fence. There is some nice dialogue concerning the nature of man and beast and nature versus nurture. Who is the real monster, the baffle faced Gill Dude or the brilliant minded Doctor Barton?

creaturewalks3We find our answers at the climax as the true beast is revealed and Gill Dude practices Feng Shui.

An entertaining piece which perhaps lacks a little more action, but still holds the attention.

5/10

The Nightmare (2015) Review

thenightmare1THE NIGHTMARE (2015)

Director: Rodney Ascher

Stars: Yatoya Toy, Nicole Bosworth, Siegfried Peters, Elise Robson, Steven Yvette, Age Wilson WITH: Kate Angus, Forrest Borie, Christopher Bleuze-Carolan, Ana Malagon, Stephen Paynter, Jeff Reed, Korinne Wilson, Connie Yom

Released on 9th October 2015 from Altitude Film Distribution

The Nightmare is a documentary in which director Rodney Ascher speaks with eight individuals regarding their experiences with Sleep Paralysis. Each speaks candidly about the physical symptoms that each bout brings, most notably the sensation of being aware of their surroundings, yet unable to move.

However, beyond this initial simple symptom, they also recount several others including some downright terrifying sensory phenomena. From eerie sounds to nightmarish visions, these are also recreated onscreen using actors and some impressive effects work. The subject matter of The Nightmare is fascinating and whatever the truth behind these experiences, they are interesting, if not downright horrifying.

thenighmare2Ascher is a skilled documentarian (perhaps best known for his examination of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining, Room 237), who wisely focuses on his eight subjects, giving each plenty of time to tell their story. The key moments of each account are then presented in fantastically stylised dramatisations. These scenes are genuinely frightening, even squeezing in the odd jump scare, and are the key element that has seen the film embraced by horror fans. For good reason, these nightmare sequences are among the most terrifying moments I’ve ever seen committed to film.

The film’s director of photography Bridger Nielson ensures that they are evocative, using bold, visually striking colour and rich, deep shadows to capture a fever-dream atmosphere. Should Ascher and Nielson ever join forces to create an out-and-out horror flick, we could see genre gold.

thenightmare3The real-life subjects of the film are something of a mixed bag, however, the frankly barking Forrest (whose hippyish stories sound like the product of a bad trip) and the witty, world-weary Chris are among the standouts. Unfortunately, the subjects are also one of the film’s weaknesses — from inferred hard-living to fantasy prone personality disorders via way of personal gain from their experiences, a handful of the subjects lose some credibility under closer inspection. These motives are fascinating in their own right, but can prove detrimental to any attempts to treat Sleep Paralysis as a serious subject. In truth each of the eight: Forrest, Chris, Stephen, Ana, Kate, Korinne, Jeff and Connie, is a decent storyteller and each has an interesting tale to tell.

However you feel about their stories, each is deeply tormented by their experiences and that real-life, human side to The Nightmare is the area in which it strikes deepest. The anguish in their voices as they recount times in which they felt close to death while being menaced by shadowy visions is far more horrifying than any Hollywood CG could hope to be.

thenightmare4As the viewer listens to their stories it is impossible to avoid wondering ‘what if?’ — what if this is all true? What if this were to happen to you? And what if the shared experiences they recount hint at something darker?
The fear of falling victim to Sleep Paralysis is not aided by anecdotes stating that merely hearing about Sleep Paralysis has been enough to instigate cases, while theories about the phenomenon are presented by the victims and Ascher himself. These include frightening similarities between accounts of Sleep Paralysis and alien abduction. Equally chilling are the inferences that maybe the ‘shadow people’ of their visions could be demonic or malevolent forces from another dimension. Fans of horror fiction will lap these up.

However, another shortcoming in the documentary is that it doesn’t feature any qualified medical professionals, sleep therapists or even psychologists. It would have been nice to hear an expert in the field offer some scientific reasons for the phenomenon alongside the speculation presented in the film.

Ultimately it is better to look at the documentary as a chillingly personal look at the plight of eight everyday people rather than an in-depth look at the condition they share. With some horrifying recreations and a disturbing subject matter, this is a film sure to haunt you in those moments before you drift off to sleep.

7/10

Ghoul (2015) Review

ghoul1GHOUL (2015)

Director: Petr Jákl

Stars: Jennifer Armour, Alina Golovlyova, Jeremy Isabella, Paul S. Tracey, Vladimir Nevedrov, Yuri Zabrodskyj, Inna Belikova

UK RELEASE TBC

Ghoul opens with reporter Jen (Jennifer Armour), cameraman Ethan (Jeremy Isabella) and director Ryan (Paul S. Tracey) heading to the Ukraine to film a documentary, Cannibals of the 20th Century. The group has chosen the locale after hearing tales of how Stalin’s cruel regime caused a famine so terrible that some locals were forced to resort to cannibalism to survive.

The trio’s driver Valeriy (Vladimir Nevedrov) offers them a major scoop — a guaranteed meeting with suspected killer and cannibal Boris (Yuri Zabrodskyj). So, camera in tow, the filmmakers, Valeriy and Katarina set out for the isolated house in the countryside in which the crime occurred, joined by timid translator Katarina (Alina Golovlyova) and local ‘witch’ Inna (Inna Belikova). Upon reaching the farmhouse there’s no sign of Boris, so the group drink a bottle of vodka they discover in a cupboard. As the booze flows the group finds a large pentagram/Ouija board carved into the table and decides to conduct a séance to contact Boris’ victim (despite Inna’s warnings not to), then falls into a drunken stupor.

The next morning sees one of their number missing, and Inna warns them that now the group is trapped in a haunted house by restless spirits…

One of the biggest positives that Ghoul has going for it is its grim and ominous atmosphere. Director Petr Jákl and
cinematographer Jan Suster ensure that the location work feels awash with storm-laden skies and dank mud.

ghoul2Of course achieving a suitable atmosphere is nice but doesn’t do the job if we aren’t given characters to care about. Thankfully the cast are all very good, especially the talented Armour and the ‘local’ actors.

Belikova in particular does a sterling job delivering some material that could have seemed decidedly hokey in less assured hands and really helps ratchet up the fear.

This is an area in which Ghoul delivers. The eerie mystery behind the characters’ plight is unnerving (with the discovered film-within-a-film a stomach-churning highlight for me) and when the story starts to tie into the real life horrors of serial killer Andrei Chikatilo’s reign of terror the frights hit a new level. This source of inspiration may well polarise viewers — the crimes of Chikatilo were sickening and genuinely terrifying, so to mention them as the source material for what is, at heart, a rather inconsequential work of fun fiction could seem in poor taste.

Ditto, the references to the very real and horrific Holodomor, the man-made famine that claimed up to 7 million lives. As such, viewer discretion is advised.

Even the hackneyed first-person flight through the tunnels finale works, proving that even if something has been done before; if it’s done well it can still make an impact. Here Jákl does it very well indeed.

That Ghoul is a Found Footage film may well act as a barrier to some viewers. This is a good example of the genre, but if you’re sick and tired of these films, it doesn’t do anything likely to change your mind. Luckily Jákl is a gifted director and uses every available trick to keep the audience unsettled, from superb framing of shots to an assured, slow-burn pace that takes its time to reveal it’s many mysteries.

ghoul3Jákl is also credited for the story of the film and co-wrote the screenplay with Petr Bok. The pair did a pretty good job too, coming up with realistic dialogue and characters. The story blends plenty of creepy elements to give a decidedly unique (and VERY Eastern European) feel to a genre in which a film needs to work very hard to stand out from the crowd. Some may find the backwards portrayal of the superstitious locals a little condescending, but it certainly adds colour.

With some fascinating folklore combined with the crimes of one of the most prolific serial killers in history, it is easy to see why Ghoul has smashed box office records in Jákl’s native Czech Republic. If you haven’t yet had your fill of Found Footage, this is a heady horror goulash sure to whet most appetites.

7/10

Short Sharp Shock #20 – The Root of The Problem (2012)

Short Sharp Shock banner no boltWelcome to UK Horror Scene’s Short Sharp Shock. This is where we will feature a short film each week for your viewing pleasure. Short films are the foundation of Horror, it is where many of the established directors cut their teeth . The amount of quality short films out there is incredible and it is our pleasure to choose you a new one each week that we think will blow you away. So every Friday we will give you ‘Something for the Weekend’ and issue your weekly Short,Sharp,Shock! Enjoy!

The Root of The Problem (2012)

Director – Ryan Spindell

Writers – Mark E. Davidson, Ryan Spindell

Starring – Alison Gallaher, Brea Grant, Ptolemy Slocum

IMDB – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2271366/

Runtime – 14 Minutes

Infernal (2015) DVD Review

infernal1Infernal (USA, 2015)

Dir: Bryan Coyne

Starring: Andy Ostroff, Heather Adair, Alyssa Koerner

UK DVD release 24th August from Signature Entertainment

Plot: Nathan (Orstroff) and Sophia (Adair) are a young couple beginning their life together, moving in together, marriage and the birth of their child, Imogene (Koerner).However their marital bliss is short lived as Imogene starts to exhibit strange behaviour. They seek medical help with what they assume is autism and are instructed to film Imogene’s day to day life. The camera captures the dark occurrences of the supernatural happenings around the house as well as the collapse of Nathan and Sophia’s relationship.

Infernal is the second film of director Bryan Coyne (His first being Harvard Park, a baseball documentary)and first feature as a writer. Infernal has a complete absence of baseball but it does keep a hint of the documentary style by being a found footage film. It follows in the stylistic footsteps of Paranormal Activity but I have to say that I wish that it had chose a more traditional film making style. While I can find the merit in a well made found footage film, the choice here doesn’t really work. Many scenes don’t have the motivation required to have the camera switched on and the characters actively refuse to revisit the footage for the majority of the film and when they do it’s always met with a conflict of interest. There is clearly a demonic presence, Infernal makes a bold choice by having physical demons on screen, yet the couple refuse to seek help until it’s much too late.

infernal2Imogene is the focus of all the spooky occurrences of the film, channelling more of The Omen’s Damien than The Exorcist’s Regan. However unlike The Omen with it’s ambiguous nature, Infernal is quick to clarify that Imogene is a demonic force and her parents are right to be afraid. Except they’re rarely afraid,at least at the same time. When Nathan sees something on the footage that’s clearly not normal, Sophia can’t find the time to care. When Sophia wants to get a priest involved, Nathan doesn’t believe anything is wrong with their daughter. It often feels that the two would rather be right than help their daughter, or at the very least save themselves. They spend a lot of time being angry and not much time showing that they are part of a loving relationship.

Nathan and Sophia’s relationship is built up on screen through their proposal and wedding video as a way to stay in the framework of the found footage but it’s not enough to believe that their life is not that hellish before the demons show up. Perhaps without the found footage there could have been at least a montage of their relationship but the film chooses to jump forward eight years after their marriage to get to the action and it felt very jarring.

There are positives about Infernal,it’s got decent production values even behind the shaky camera movements and the occasional dark scene. The sound is always clear and some of the more demonic scenes are well orchestrated.

infernal3The film has potential. The actors deliver good performances but they could have used more material than be angry and be confused. Bryan Coyne has shown us that he can do what so many others have done with found footage/evil children films but I hope that his next film can show that he can take it to the next level.

3/10

The Human Centipede 3 (Final Sequence) (2015) DVD Review

hc1The Human Centipede III (Final Sequence) (2015)

Director: Tom Six

Writer: Tom Six

Stars: Eric Roberts, Bree Olson, Dieter Laser, Laurence R. Harvey

UK DVD out now from Monster Pictures UK

Taking inspiration from The Human Centipede films, the warden of a notorious and troubled prison looks to create a 500-person human centipede as a solution to his problems.

From the opening scene we are made aware of the intentions of this film. It is to be an even further satire of itself. The Human Centipede III (THC3) goes full meta, transcending the initial sequel’s self-referential tone once again. This time around however, there is more focus on the dark humour rather than the visceral imagery, leaving the centipede itself almost as an afterthought. For those of you unfamiliar with THC trilogy, the original claiming to be “100% medically accurate” introduced us to the ‘pede. Many would have avoided the film on this premise alone. In actual fact a lot was left to the imagination while gore and filth were left clinically censored. It was up to you the viewer to envisage the horror, which was in itself slightly plausible, adding to the discomfort.

hc2Wondering how this concept could possibly be expanded, Six did in fact manage to take it a step further in the follow up THC2. If there was any doubt as to how this franchise could get more disgusting, it was delivered in full here. Using the first film as inspiration, a mentally disabled and sexually abused night watchman, takes it upon himself to make his own human centipede. The result was a less clinical, blunt, violent filth fest, which was utterly fantastic. An intentional decision I believe, as it was actually a lot more believable than the first,proving Six is not afraid to push the envelope.

With the magnum opus that was THC2, under his belt; Six had to deliver something really special to top THC2. Enter please THC3 (Final Sequence). We are introduced to prison warden Bill Boss (Dieter Laser), a man at his wit’s end with the prison. High riot rates, medical costs and prisoner turnover, he has resorted to any means to keep the prison population in check. Involuntary castration, boiling-water boarding, anything! It doesn’t work. His accountant, Dwight Butler (Laurence R. Harvey) has an idea; a prison-centipede, 500 men long. He got the idea from watching the first two films. Under pressure from Governor Hughes (Eric Roberts) to rectify the situation in the prison, Boss is eventually convinced to move ahead with the ‘pede, that will, quite figuratively, bring the inmates to their knees. Tom Six is himself drafted in as consultant human centipede expert, who also gives his blessing to the project adding to the absurdity of it all.

hc3While I can appreciate what it is that is trying to be done here, as I myself am a huge fan of the series, it just didn’t deliver on its promise. When one has to turn on the subtitles to understand the film, which is in your native tongue, you know you’re in trouble. As much as Laser captivated audiences as the maniacal Dr. Joseph Heiter in THC1, his role as Bill Boss here is completely overacted. Scenes are filled with unintelligible shouting, hence the reason for subtitles. In an era where people expect a degree of intelligence to their villains, this performance stands out like a sore thumb in comparison to the supporting cast. Harvey then, as a result is overshadowed by Laser, who actually gave a good performance as the insecure and sheltered Butler. (It must be noted also that an unused alternate ending in my opinion, would have justified Boss’ persona while also wrapping up the series in a nice bow.)

Shouting aside, the production value and supporting cast were actually rather good. THC3 had its moments, admittedly I found myself both laughing and cringing at some of the antics in the prison. Six himself can be seen struggling to keep a straight face when present on screen as a reminder, that this film is meant to be a big two fingers to all the critics. For this I admire Six, he made a third instalment… because he could, and then went completely over the top with it, for better or for worse.

17933300729_7fee1ba1c0_zWeighing it all up, the final sequence of the trilogy entertained. It had its flaws but somehow worked in its own way. In Six’s own words the film is a “…pitch black comedy and total insanity”. I agree, but in taking this approach, it did deviate from the shock horror that the franchise is known for. This is in line with what Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 did for its franchise, as the previous instalment could not be trumped for its horror; a dark comedic direction was taken in its place. With the prison human centipede getting severely limited screen time however, the film could have stood on its own without it. This would leave the fantastically complementary First and Full Sequence intact as shock horror icons paving the way for new and fresh ideas that I’m sure Six has plenty of, for example, the upcoming The Onania Club.

Flawed, silly, but a bit of fun all the same.

6/10

Eat (2014) DVD Review

eat1Title: Eat (2014)

Directed by: Jimmy Weber

Written by: Jimmy Weber

Starring: Meggie Maddock, Ali Francis, Jeremy Make

UK Release: 27th July 2015 from Monster Pictures UK

Runtime: 92mins

Synopsis (From IMDB)
Novella McClure is like most struggling actresses in Los Angeles: she’s in her early 30s, her fake name sounded cooler ten years ago, and she hasn’t landed a role in three years. To top it all off, she’s developed a disturbing habit of eating her own flesh. Novella desperately tries to hide her strange condition from her motherly landlord, Eesha, and somewhat psychopathic best friend, Candice, but her body and mind continue to deteriorate in the depressing world of failed auditions and sketchy night clubs. Can a romantic relationship with her psychiatrist prevent her from self destruction? Or will her fatal habit continue to eat away at her?

A blonde woman wakes with a start, just before her bedside alarm goes off. Looking a little dishevelled she sits up and nurses her alcohol-fuelled headache, before stepping into the shower to get ready for the day ahead. As her preparation progresses we get the idea that she is an actress looking for work, leaving the house with a pile of head shots and a list of auditions to attend; and so we are introduced to Novella McClure (Meggie Maddock – Fire Ripples, Butcher).

eat2We quickly discover that, not only does she not have much luck within the world of acting, but her life is a sad repetition of disappointment and downright misery. With her days spent, unsuccessfully, auditioning for many acting roles and her nights persuading men to buy her drinks with which to drown her sorrows. Seeing the disappointment in her face as she awakes to the same thing every morning is simply depressing.

We learn quite a lot about Novella’s life within a short space of time, not enough that you feel like you’ve heard her life story, but more than enough to sympathise greatly with her as a character. The act of self-cannibalism seems to be linked to frustrations with her depressive life.

I will be the first to admit that this film was not at all what I was expecting; reading the synopsis prior to viewing I anticipated more of a gore filled story, centred almost completely on Novella slowly devouring herself, this was not the case however. This film is not just here to disgust you with scenes of teeth tearing away at flesh, it’s much too intelligent for that. The amount of graphic scenes are enough to satisfy those watchers with a love for gore, without taking away from the bigger picture.

Eat was a welcome breath of fresh air in a time when so many of the films that are now being released are either remakes or reboots of films that were previously very popular or have a cult following. It’s unusual to not only have something that is original but is also very well executed, the direction is wonderful and the soundtrack fits in perfectly with Novella’s thoughts, feelings and mood throughout the picture. The whole thing was seamless and I was completely blown away.

eat3One thing I feel that I must mention is the special effects done by the amazing Monster Make-up Effects. Not only was it all done with practical effects but it was believable enough, to me, to the point where I was torn between feeling completely sickened by it and really wanting to eat a steak (But that could just be me!).

In conclusion I can safely say that I am thrilled to have had the pleasure of viewing this gem of a feature. I won’t be forgetting it in a hurry, it is definitely a film I would recommend and something I will return to and watch again.

8/10

Army of Frankensteins (2013) Review

aof1Army of Frankensteins (2013)

Directed by Ryan Bellgardt

Starring Jordan Farris, Christian Bellgardt, John Ferguson and Rett Terrell

UK DVD release September 14th 2015 from High Fliers Films

In the aftermath of a savage beating by a street gang, Alan Jones ends up at the lab of a mad scientist, Dr. Tanner Finski, and his sidekick and all round child genius sidekick Igor. Within the lab Jones discovers that he is the key to an experiment that involves Frankenstein’s monster. After the experiment invariably goes wrong, Finski sends Igor back in time to the American Civil War where an inter dimensional portal has allowed a gang of monsters to converge.

In any new take on classic monsters the question will always remain, what can be done differently? How do we get a modern audience to engage with age old material that has been filmed until there’s no more life left in the material (pun intended). In Ryan Bellgardt’s (director of 2011’s Two Movie Guys’ Intergalactic Holiday Showdown) Army of Frankensteins, the director tries to a bit of everything from setting some of the scenes in modern day America to sending characters back to the past, in a time of war, when the USA was fighting itself. Rather than have one Frankenstein’s Monster, have a whole army. This works well and the make up effects hold up.

Bellgardt pays homage through the film to other genre directors and it doesn’t feel disingenuous. Take for example, the shot of Igor, shot from within a car boot, looking up ala any of Tarantinos films especially Reservoir Dogs. These little touches help the film along, feeling like a nod rather than a blatant rip off.

Another nice touch are the scenes with Frankenstein’s vision, I for one cannot remember the last time I saw a film with Frankenstein’s monster vision, think The Terminator without the digital displays. Also the film had some well made effects on the budget that was given ($65,000). Clearly they aren’t blockbuster quality but they have a certain charm.

aof2The film also tries to take on the discrimination between white and black soldiers with one character decrying that the Frankenstein monsters are merely understood and discriminated against because they look different. Its an odd take on the character but a different and well played out take on the age old monster.

With the film set in the American Civil War, as other films have done recently, they brought in the most famous of Presidents, Abraham Lincoln. It was a nice touch to see how they bring the character into the plot and how they pay it off. I wont spoil anything in this here review but , the question is asked, would you change history if you could? What would happen if you could save someone who dies, how would this affect the rest of history? It’s an interesting question and very entertaining.

As the film closes the end titles appear and they are startling up turn in quality, where a low budget film of this nature may stump up for simple black on white, these titles are an explosion of cartoon almost Sin City style look.

I would applaud Bellgardt on his films ambition and his vision for someone so young, the scope of the film is grand with many locations, some with big sets and epic lighting. It is great fun with nice characters  (Igor looks like a steam punk style genius) but this is where the film starts to lose its way a little. As the film becomes more epic in scope we lose the sense of storytelling and it turns into a genre mashup that the effects, cast and direction cant quite cope with. From pantomime style acting and almost joke-like false moustaches, the film does stumble and you feel it almost immediately.

aof3Army of Frankensteins is an award winning film winning Best Special Effects at Action on Film International Film Festival 2014 and Best Fantasy Feature at Buffalo Dreams Fantastic Film Festival 2014.

6/10

Society (1989) Blu-Ray Review

society1Society (1989) Blu-Ray Review

Directed by Brian Yuzna

Starring – Billy Warlock, Devin DeVasquez, Evan Richards

Runtime – 99 minutes

UK Release – Dual Format Blu-Ray & DVD from Arrow Films OUT NOW

Every teenager goes through the stage where they feel they do not quite fit in, but for Bill Whitney (Billy Warlock) his suspicions about his idyllic high society family might well be right.

Beginning much like any run of the mill teen comedy, we are introduced to troubled teenager Billy visiting his psychiatrist, he voices his concerns about a possible conspiracy,his disassociation from his family and thoughts that he may well have been adopted. His psychiatrist attempts to put Bill’s mind at ease but his hallucinations and numerous on screen innuendos are just the first signs in a lesson that will really make you question his own sanity. When his sisters ex-boyfriend attempts to bring to his attention evidence of his family’s incestuous parties, Bill tries to seek help, first from his girlfriend who seems more interested in her own social status and then his psychiatrist who’s best advice is, “you have to learn to accept society’s rules of privacy. If you don’t follow the rules, Billy, bad things happen.” and then to top things off, Bill’s only ally is disposed of in a freak accident.

This is a fair warning that kicks Billy’s suspicions in to overdrive in this weird mix of John Waters style humour, Cronenberg-esque body horror visuals and an ending that is the pure definition of WTF!

society2Directed by the great Brian Yuzna in his first outing as director, Society is a very clever (if somewhat bizarre) take on the class system and how an individual can try to fit in but at the end of the day you are what you are and trying to be something you are not, never works out. Yuzna who is better known for producing the awesome From Beyond and Re-Animator and later went on to direct the re-Animator sequels sequels as well as a favourite of mine, Return of the Living Dead III, shows that he can bring to the screen a very unique vision competently.

This early outing as director allowed Yuzna to hit the floor running, this is a true mind fuck of a film and one that should grace the collection of any Body Horror fan. Sure it has some questionable acting but hey, this is the late 80’s Billy Warlock is one of the Baywatch alumni, there is an ex playboy bunny and the budget was extremely low for the time, needless to say, these folks were hired for looks not talent. But with that being said there is enough there to make the audience connect with Bill and share his paranoia, any normal film would have ended with the Rosemary’s Baby inspired revelation of conspiracy, but this is not a normal film.

The final reel will definitely be engraved in your memory for a long time to come.I cannot write about this film without bringing to your attention the mastermind behind the special effects, Screaming Mad George, who is this film is credited as ‘Surrealistic Makeup Designer’. I’m amazed at how nasty and disturbing the final sequence is and yet there is absolutely no blood, apparently this was one of Yuzna’s ways of getting around the rating system.

Screaming Mad George delivers some truly disgusting imagery that is sure to make anyone squirm, his previous work included Poltergeist II and A Nightmare on Elm Street 3 and 4, a man who’s work on this film seems to be the combined offspring of Peter Jackson’s Bad Taste and David Cronenberg’s Videodrome. The Effects are pure genius, no surprise then that Screaming Mad George has been Yuzna’s go to FX guy ever since.

society3This is yet another great release from Arrow Films, again not sparing on the extras, the Blu-Ray features a collection of interviews with the director, principal cast, the FX crew, there is also a lengthy conversation with the director at the UK World Première, a Screaming Mad George music video as well as a trailer and audio commentary
‘The society that kills to keep it’s existence a secret’.

Society is a great film that is only let down by budget restraints. A classic that I still found disturbing, over twenty years since my last viewing.

7.5 out of 10

And as an extra shout to Arrow Films then please check out the stunning artwork and packaging for Society.

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