Don’t Knock Twice (2016) Review

rsz_dkt_poster_1_sheetDON’T KNOCK TWICE (2016)

Starring Katee Sackhoff, Lucy Boynton and Nick Moran

Directed by Caradog W. James

Written by Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler

DON’T KNOCK TWICE is released in cinemas and On Demand from 31st March and DVD 3rd April

A mother desperate to reconnect with her troubled daughter becomes embroiled in the urban legend of a demonic witch”.

Welsh filmmaker Caradog W. James burst onto the genre scene in 2013 with stylish sci-fi thriller The Machine, which has gained quite the cult following in the time since its release. Low on budget but high on style, The Machine was a homegrown attempt at a Hollywood quality product and, buoyed by two great lead performances, it very nearly achieved it.

James is back now with Don’t Knock Twice, and this time he’s shed the sci-fi and opted for a very traditional attempt at supernatural horror. From the opening titles to the very last frame, James distinct and slick visual style is evident. He packs every scene with inventive lighting and colour, and visceral camerawork, the whole film a feast for the eyes. It makes a change from the usual gritty handheld that we get, with composed shots that give everything a very high end feel.

rsz_1rsz_054Another aspect that really helps this thick and polished atmosphere is the score from James Edward Barker and genre fave Steve Moore. While sometimes slightly intrusive, the duo have nonetheless come up with an eerie and memorable theme for the film that reminded me very much of Charles Bernstein’s classic Elm Street score.

The performances are great if purposely subdued. Katee Sackhoff (Battlestar Galactica, Oculus) conveys much more than the script by Howl writers Mark Huckerby and Nick Olster allows, and Lucy Boynton, who I caught recently in the absolutely stunning February, is equally innocent and edgy as her troubled mothers equally troubled daughter. It was also great to see Nick Moran of Lock Stock pop up, for a stock cop character that becomes much more interesting as the story progresses . As the film went on though I felt slightly disconnected with the characters. It’s not the fault of the cast, with both Sackhoff and Boynton doing great work. But the pace of the film leaves very little room for character development, often in a rush to deliver a trailer shot or a jump scare.

rsz_097This in turn affects the actual scares of the film. If we don’t care much about the characters, we don’t fear for them either. Same goes for the antagonist. The film plays its cards a little too early, foregoing the subtle build up and showing most of the big bad quite early, again, rendering it a little less scary. And while the design is indeed creepy and has rightly been earning praise, it reminded me a little too much of the antagonist in last years risible Lights Out.

It’s a shame that one came first because Don’t Knock Twice is easily the better of the two films. I watched an analysis of James Wan’s work recently, observing how he creates an effective jump scare, and the secret is all in the build up. Wan will milk the suspense for as long as he can, avoiding an onslaught of stingers for one big, terrifyingly effective one. But here, everything that can be a jump scare, is a jump scare. And so, they’re less effective.

rsz_163As it is, Don’t Knock Twice reminded me very much of another British film that attempted to emulate the big budget Hollywood style, action movie Welcome To The Punch. On a surface level, they get everything right, but there’s just something missing. The story lacks originality by default and scenes of exposition stop the film dead. But none of this is enough to take away from what is an ambitious chiller. If you’re a fan of Mama, Insidious, or any one of Blumhouse’s productions, you’ll find a lot of enjoyment in this, and it’s great to see Caradog W. James becoming one of the most visually striking directors on this side of the shore. Hollywood must be calling.

7/10

13 Eerie (2013) DVD Review

 

13 EERIE 00113 EERIE (2013) DVD

Review by: Dave Wain

Stars: Katharine Isabelle, Michael Shanks, Brendan Fehr, Brendan Fletcher, Nick Moran

Written by: Christian Piers Betley

UK Certification: 15

UK RRP: £12.99

UK DVD Region: 2

Runtime: 84 minutes

Directed by: Lowell Dean

UK Release Date: 21st April 2014

Distributor: Metrodome Distribution

I may be a little deluded in saying this, but the prospect of a Canadian horror movie does tend to pique ones interest a little more than the more generic American offerings. It’s a purely rose-tinted glasses based assertion I’m sure, but some Canuck-laden menace conjures up memories of the countries finest from Black Christmas to American Mary. With 13 Eerie, a glancing look at the cast raised some expectations as well with none other than Katharine Isabelle (Ginger Snaps) in the lead role, ably supported by Michael Shanks (Stargate) and Brendan Fehr (Roswell).

13 EERIE 002The storyline is actually pretty freakin’ insane, as six forensic trainee students are sent to a remote island (formerly 13 Eerie Strait Penitentiary) to locate dead bodies that have been removed from the morgue and placed in a variety of locations. In charge of the students is Professor Tomkins (Michael Shanks) who appears with a very assertive demeanour and details the rules in which the students have to abide by during their stay, as well as the exact nature of what they will be judged on.

The six students are competitively vying for two places in the much lauded forensic science program, which seems pretty simple, but it soon turns out that the bodies that Tomkins has stashed on the island aren’t the only cadavers out there. It transpires that when it was active, this island Penitentiary was used to undertake scientific experiments on the death row inmates, and that these stiffs are buried across the island. That’s ok though right? After all, these corpses would surely need some kind of re-animation process to bring them back to life… oh wait, is that a mysterious black gooey chemical compound I see there?

For the majority of zombie movies, the reason for them becoming creatures of the undead with always be an eye-rolling point of conjecture. In all honesty I think most people’s demands for a movie featuring the walking dead is a) are the zombies any good? b) will it sustain my interest? and c) is it gory? Contrary to UKHS tribal chief Andy’s review of this picture last year, I REALLY liked these zombies. They’re fairly ‘unusual’ in their appearance, almost old-fashioned, with quite non-descript facial features and standard green colouring. The movie sustained my interest mainly due to the high calibre of the actors involved, although admittedly the first half hour which would have been perfect to add a level of depth to the characters was lacking in any real development.

13 EERIE 003Finally, was it gory? Yes it was, and thoroughly deserving of its ‘18’ certification which is becoming quite the rarity in the home entertainment horror field. We get axes impaled in bodies, decapitations, crushed bodies, gaping wounds, bullets through the head – the works, and all with the camera lovingly refusing to cut away from the oozing brain fragments. 13 Eerie is certainly no masterpiece, and there are plenty of aspects to it that are ripe for criticism. In a post Walking Dead world where zombie movies are released weekly to snatch some coin from the coattails of the popular TV series, this is at least a film with elements of creativity that puts its rotting flesh above many of its contemporaries.

5.5 out of 10