He Never Died – The Jason Krawczyk Interview

he-never-died (1)He Never Died – The Jason Krawczyk Interview

Before I head straight into the interview I wanted to give a little back story as to the thinking behind this interview. The Grimmfest film festival in Manchester is held during the first weekend in October and always has a core of new and exciting horror films. I personally have been attending since 2011 and each year I always choose three films that I know are showing and I avoid all media, so I can go in without any preconceptions. This is very difficult when you are the editor of a horror film website!!

Anyway one of this year’s Grimmfest  films was He Never Died starring Henry Rollins. And it just blew me away! Rollins is simply amazing , the small cast are superb and the story is just genius. I won’t give away any more as I want you to enjoy the film as much as I did, BUT when He Never Died is released TRACK IT DOWN, buy it and watch a film that was for me one of the highlights of genre cinema in the last 5 years.

I am well known for waffling ( to speak or write at length in a vague or trivial manner) so I will keep this brief. After watching He Never Died I couldn’t get it off my mind, so I decided to try to contact the writer & director Jason Krawczyk so I could ask him about it. Now one of the great things about the indie filmmaking community and the horror genre in particular is the camaraderie and friendship within it (there are exceptions but then again there is at least one turd in every field of roses), and when I reached out to Jason he was nothing short of amazing. He has been happy to answer my questions, he sent me exclusive pictures and behind the scenes shots and he gave his time freely and for that I must thank him. Sometimes running a website is a thankless task (I know BooHoo me), but at UK Horror Scene we have the best group of writers as well as fantastic readers, followers and friends. And when people like Jason just take a little time to help out then it makes it all worthwhile! So like I said I waffle so without further ado here is the interview!!

HE NEVER DIED SS 5UKHS – Hi Jason and thanks for taking the time to chat to us at UK Horror Scene. Please could you tell our readers a little about He Never Died?

JK– It’s a gritty super natural noir comedy that stars an immortal cannibal that’s exhausted from existing. It’s always been hard for me to nail down an elevator pitch for the film. Kate Greenhouse (she played Cara) said it was Twilight for cynical 40 year olds. I always kind of liked that description.

He Never Died BTS 2UKHS – For me what made He Never Died was the superb casting especially Henry Rollins. Henry just seemed made for the role. Did you have him in mind from the start and what was he like to work with? Did he really get involved in everything as I expected?

JK – Henry Rollins was always the visual representation of the character and he’s always been an idol of mine. I saw a few live shows of his and kind of retrofitted the script for him.

It was surreal working with him. What are the odds that you write something with a role model in mind and then years later your doing it? I have to admit it took about a week for me to get comfortable working with him. But if you ever wondered in the legend matched the man, the answer is a resounding yes. He’s delightful to work with. He’s incredibly creative and collaborative and he never broke from being pleasant and professional. He was humbling to say the least. He set a tone for a great shoot.

He Never Died BTS 5UKHS – Jack (Rollins) is a loner. He sleeps up to 14 hours a day, plays bingo, religiously visits a local diner daily , seems to be suffering from depression oh and is a cannibal. Can you explain a little about your thought process when writing for Jack?

JK – I’ve seen so many suave vampire movies. They always seem so confidant and elegant with themselves, but immortality seems more like a hinderance to me. The zest for life must become dulled over so quickly once you’ve experienced everything over and over again. Immortality much do an incalculable amount damage to your psyche.

Having a character devoid of fear is fun to write. A gun means nothing to him. In fact, he’d probably trade anything to have the sensation of fear again. He would like to feel anything again, but emoting also means the valleys as well as the hills. And the valleys for Jack means piles of innocent bodies, so that’s where the existential crisis comes into play. Is life worth living if you can’t die? I don’t know, but probably not.

He Never Died BTS 6UKHS – Without giving to many spoilers, He Never Died has a lot of religious references . Is this from a personal perspective or just for the story?

JK – It’s primarily for the story. I think He Never Died is as religious for me as “Spawn” was for Todd Mcfarlane or “Preacher” was for Garth Ennis. Religions do come with a fascinating mythos that I think a lot writers are drawn to. The dichotomy of good versus evil and divine unfathomable concepts are ripe for story telling.

UKHS – He Never Died is a very dark film yet full of humour , how did you get the balance right?

JK – There might have been a bit of dumb luck involved, but I do believe that you can’t sway in one direction too fully. When something seems so impossibly dark, it’s time for some levity, and when a scenario is getting too fun, it’s time to ground it. That way, no ones totally satisfied.

I did believe for the humour to work it has to come from a sincere and vulnerable place. Jack is damaged enough as it is and I don’t think being ironic or cynical would have boded will with the character.

HE NEVER DIED SS 4UKHS – The blood, gore and FX are all superb as is the use of Jack’s physicality . Stomach churning at times and Henry gets really involved . Can you explain your thoughts on the use of the FX & stunts in He Never Died.

JK – I do believe that you should do as much as you can with the actors themselves and practical effects before you start adding stunt doubles and VFX’s. Saying that, this movie had an extremely minuscule budget so you have to work with what is pragmatic and not ideal.

There was only one “throat rip” prosthetic and only one pool table crash, so there’s a lot of rehearsal time involved. Forming ideas out of restrictions is a fact of film making so the best thing to do there is listen to as many ideas as possible and think what best incapsulates the scene.

He Never Died BTS 7UKHS – He Never Died has a truly ‘indie’ vibe running through it. Was it a collaborative effort and what are the pros & cons of independent filmmaking?

JK – I approach directing as a massive collaborative effort. It’s pretty easy to talk your head off, but for me, being patient and listening gets some of the greatest results. I try to plan as much as possible in pre-production. So before I’ve started shooting the DP and I have a detailed shot list that makes sure the visual language is consistent and evolves with the characters and the actors and I have rehearsed and discussed their arch and history. Keeping everyone relaxed and able to focus on their craft seems to work the best.

The crew for this film was unbelievable. I couldn’t believe their level of enthusiasm and how talented they were. They made my job a pleasure. The production designer, Diana Abbatangelo, was pregnant during the production and that didn’t slow her down by a millisecond. It was inspiring to say the least.

UKHS – And on filming , how long did the shoot last and was there many night shoots?

JK – It was a 20 day shoot. I always want more time, but just days though, not longer hours. God no to longer hours. I like 12 hour days. If everyone gets a chance to be home and get a full eight hours of sleep, they are so much happier the next day.

Half of the movie was shot in a studio, which was a first for me. I enjoyed not fighting the elements and the proximity to the crew and actors. Sometimes you’re hundreds of feet away from shooting when you’re on location.

The movie was shot in November and December in Toronto, so it was a bit frigid. Henry was a champion though as he didn’t complain once and refused to wear an extra jacket. He had to do a scene, wet, on a day that it was snowing and didn’t complain.

HE NEVER DIED SS 6UKHS – He Never Died is character driven , which is something that is becoming rarer in modern horror. What are your influences in cinema?

JK – I think it’s important to find influences outside of the genre you’re trying to make or just not have an intended genre. “About Shmidt” and “As Good As It Gets” with Jack Nicholson (ironically) was a massive influence for “He Never Died.”

UKHS – Have you sorted a UK release yet for DVD?

JK – I’m not 100% sure on an international DVD release yet, but I do know it’ll be available on VOD on December 18th.

UKHS – What is next for you , anything you can tell us about?

JK – As of right now, Zach and I are in full pitch mode for He Never Died: The Series. I wrote the series out during post production for He Never Died, so that was a fairly ideal landscape to keep me focused. I have to keep in mind that TV is different than movies, so those scripts are subject to change, but hopefully it can retain their themes, humour, and unceremonious violence.

Outside of He Never Died, I’m still writing a cosmic trucker horror that’s been hounding me for a little too long now. That along with my press photography blog everyonequestion.com keeps me busy.

HE NEVER DIED SS 1UKHS – Finally as we are a horror site, what are your 3 favourite horror films and why?

JK – Alright, there’s a ton, but the three that influence me the most are:

Jaws: Jaws is just an immaculately made movie and it still holds up. I don’t know what it is about Jaws, but it just hits every aspect of film making with a sledge hammer. The Spielberg slight of hand “oner” is something I take great inspiration from and Jaws is a great example of it.

The Thing: John Carpenter really set an atmosphere that can’t be replicated. It’s such a slow burn with such a creeping sense of paranoia. The fact that there were no women and they killed dogs early in the film set in an incredibly unsafe vibe.

The Hitcher: The fact that you have no idea what the hell Rutger Hauer is or wants is absolutely amazing. It’s also a beautifully photographed film. I was more entertained than horrified from the Hitcher, but I was mesmerized by it’s execution.

Thank you Jason for your time and help. And again when He Never Died is released please check it out! 

The Binding (2015) Review

bindingTHE BINDING (2015)

Director: Gus Krieger

Stars: Josh Heisler, Amy Gumenick, Max Adler, Leon Russom, Catherine Parker, Larry Cedar, Max Adler

UK RELEASE TBC

Sarah (Amy Gumenick) and Bram (Heisler) are a devout religious couple overjoyed at the birth of their first child, Scaia. This event is celebrated by the church community where Bram is a pastor, and senior clergyman Father Uriel (Leon Russom) is among those to add his congratulations.

Life is good for the pair — right up until Bram reveals that he has been having a recurring dream in which God himself says that Bram must sacrifice Scaia to avert the End of Days. At first Sarah thinks this is something that the pair can cope with together, praying side by side. However, as she realises that Bram’s visions are intensifying and her husband is starting to become swayed by these powerful messages, she becomes increasingly desperate.

Can she protect her daughter from the man she loves? And at what cost?

binding1The Binding (written and directed by extremely impressive first-timer Gus Krieger) is a compelling story driven by a fascinating dilemma — can faith go too far?

It’s an intelligent plot, featuring likeable, believable characters that draw us into the complex web that Krieger weaves. The film takes its title from the biblical Binding of Isaac, in which God commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac at the future site of Temple Mount where, at the point he was about to strike, an Angel intervened, preventing the sacrifice. There are obvious parallels with the plot of this film, but the title takes on a deeper meaning when looking at the themes of Krieger’s story. Bram is bound by his vows to the Lord and his own struggles with addiction, but it is the manner in which Sarah is bound to Bram as his wife and as the mother of his child that is key to the entire plot.

Sarah (brought to lbinding2ife with a brilliant performance from the talented Amy Gumenick) and her struggles with her faith, her role of mother and her perceived responsibilities as a wife, are at the heart of the story. It is impossible to not feel for her, watching as her preconceptions about her role not just in the church but in her family are torn down. It’s committed and flawless work from Gumenick, not shying away from her character’s flaws and showing us glimpses of the terror and fragility beneath the surface.

Josh Heisler’s Bram is also wonderful, playing him just right to avoid any melodrama. It would have been easy to veer into hammy, cartoonish lunacy, but Heisler instead provokes sympathy, showing us that this devout clergyman is no caricature. Instead he is a man that is struggling. With a history of mental illness and alcoholism in his family, it becomes easy to see how guidance from religion could have helped him to find the right path. That this very same faith should now be the source of his anguish is heartbreaking and Heisler nails this with his performance.

binding3Elsewhere Leon Russom and Catherine Parker provide excellent support, but make no bones about it, this is primarily the tale of our leads.

And what a tale it is, raising plenty of questions but never preaching to its audience — there are no heavy-handed criticisms of organised religion or bull-headed proclamations that only Christ can save us. Instead the issue is dealt with thoughtfully examining the themes on an individual basis rather than making sweeping generalisations. That Kriegler’s thought-provoking story is presented in an eye-catching and clean fashion by cinematographer Jeff Moriarty — especially during some genuinely frightening nightmare sequences — is just another boon.

binding4The Binding is not heavy on jump-scares, nor is there a huge body-count. Instead there are some superb twists and, despite the somewhat sedate pacing, the mounting sense of dread builds to a truly gripping climax.

The Binding is a mature film and, if you are prepared to work with it, a film as likely to keep you awake at night pondering its weighty themes as through its effective scares. Here’s hoping that it finds the audience it deserves on the festival circuit.

8/10

Kingdom Come (2014) DVD Review

kingc1KINGDOM COME (2014)

Director – Greg A Sager

Starring- Ry Barrett, Camille Hollett- French, Jason Martorino

UK DVD release from High Fliers Films – June 29th 2015

The sins of the past come back to haunt a group of strangers in Greg A Sager’s KINGDOM COME, when they all wake up in an abandoned building with no idea of how they got there and why. An intriguing concept to start off with, the film grips straight away with its initial idea and build up but towards the end of the film and in its final climatic pay off, it soon starts to lose the promise it began with.

The whole concept of people being trapped in a derelict reminds much of SAW series, but rather than escalate into a torture porn copy, KINGDOM COME uses its idea to focus on the characters trapped in the building for a more specific reason. Once the characters have been established we soon realise that the majority of them fall under an already established stereotype. We get an angry black man, a racist, an ex-junkie, a child molester, and the two central characters that seem to be wholly decent for the majority of the picture (played by Barrett and Hollett-French). Those these characters have past discrepancies that soon become the focus of why they are there.

Once they soon figure out that there past sins, such as drug addiction, murder and paedophilia are the reason they are there and being punished in some way, it soon dawns on them that there are not alone and are being tested by a Satanic like figure, Daniel Levine, played with some scenery chewing relish by Jason Martorino, who is accompanied by some demonic creatures who carry out his bidding, whenever he puts the strangers to the test on whether they can forgive and forget or carry out vengeance on those who’ve caused them harm.

kingc4As mentioned at the start of the review the film begins strongly, despite the stereotyped characters there’s a great air of menace and setting when the characters awaken to find where they are. The abandoned building is also a great setting, looking like a dark dingy setting familiar from the SAW films (as mentioned before) or even the first SILENT HILL film, and the initial use of one set works, as in any horror film having your characters subjected to the confines of single area makes it a more threatening and claustrophobic experience especially when the initial threats start to appear. Visually this works as well, and Sager and his cinematographer, Gary Elmer do a fine job in capturing the gloomy dark aspect of the film, and avoid painting it with a sepia toned grey wash that can be the standard in many horror flicks of recent memory.

Mention should also go to the decent creature design of Levine’s demonic helpers, that look pretty impressive, and look like horrific characters of the devils twisted disfigured helpers. All this is hampered by some poor dialogue that is wooden in delivery and even though it’s not noticeable at the start, it soon becomes more apparent as it goes along, with only Martorino coming off as entertaining in his camp over the top delivery but even then I would have liked this to have gone further with a possible Tod Slaughter-esque clasping hands and laughing manically for “souls” though that might just be me and maybe a bit too niche.

kingc3Though the aspect of the devil testing these souls, is a great device and plays into horror’s eternal use of the battle between god and Lucifer, I won’t be surprised if some people find that the element of one of the character’s being subjected to this damnation, due to having an abortion as a bit troubling. Yes even myself felt this was erring on the side of right wing Christianity, pro-life brigade thinking, though I don’t think it’s the film makers intentions (hopefully not), if anything it might be something that will get people angry possibly, maybe even placed in there deliberately.

Though as a horror fan if a film does use the aspect of some slight pro-Christian views, in terms of the genre I don’t mind it in some respects as God and Satan are always great foes in using humans in there never ending battle for their souls, and this has and always will be a genre staple. This doesn’t make me a Christian nor does this make me anti-abortion (far far from it I’m pro-choice), but part of me admires the aspect of filmmakers bringing in a almost pro-Christian message into genre films, especially in an age where Christianity (quite rightly) has lost some of its prevalent stronghold over society.

If you want a better example of an almost, but not quite, pro-Christian horror film check out SEANCE: THE SUMMONING, from 2011, a film that starts off with dumb teens conjuring up the devil and then turns into a bat shit crazy and silly pro-Christian style horror flick. Better get back to the film, and yes the ending of KINGDOM COME, without giving it away is silly, and at times a bit loosely put together in the terms of what has gone on before, and will make some viewers feel cheated, especially with the syrupy sentiment that concludes it, but of course there always a final punch line to add a nice if almost generic final genre-style twist.

kingc2Admittedly while being pretty flawed throughout, and suffering from some wooden acting, stereotyped characters, and a slightly pro-Christian, possible/not possible pro-choice sentiment, that could possibly have the tendency to annoy or make some irate, there is still something to admire in KINGDOM COME as it does have a strong enough first half, a nice visual touch, a decent and hammy villain and some interesting take on the themes of forgiveness and revenge. It’s a shame that the film does lose its way and drags in the second part to its slightly silly conclusion.

5.5/10

Kingdom Come is released in the UK on June 29th and is available to pre-order from Amazon UK NOW – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Kingdom-Come-DVD-Ry-Barrett/dp/B00TZZZB4G/

Curse of The Witching Tree (2015) DVD Review

witchingtreeCurse of The Witching Tree (2015)

Writer, Producer, Director: James Crow

Cast: Sarah Rose Denton, Lucy Clarvis, Lawrence Weller

Running Time: 90 minutes

UK Release date: 18th May 2015

UK Certificate: 15

A classic tale of a cursed past brought bang up to date with unexpected scares to boot.

Opening with an atmospheric and concise prologue, we learn the story of a local woman who was accused of brutally murdering her son and subsequently hung as a witch. She cursed a nearby tree and all the children who played around it, causing further loss and horror. Flash forward 500 years and a troubled family move in to their new home, an old farmhouse near the woods and the cursed tree itself. Their arrival sets in motion a chain of events that reawakens the ghosts of the past and the family find themselves terrorised in the midst of this classic horror setting.

Dropping us straight in to the action, the plot moves along swiftly, exploring the tensions and issues faced by the family. With their father being in a coma and a new environment to adapt too, they have enough on their plate. So when the son (Jake) is bullied in to playing with a Ouija board and unleashes old spirits, he finds both himself and his family in grave danger. The script is exceptionally well structured and cleverly weaves the different story strands together. The family’s own personal troubles compliment the main plot, adding a depth to the film that otherwise might be lacking.

kid bath 2James Crow, writing, producing and directing his first feature, has not only constructed a strong story, but also displays a talent for pacing and style. Haunting music hits you from the very outset, adding to the production value and opening up what is essentially a small scale story. It’s a smart choice that adds style to a well-produced film. From the beginning the tension is slowly built, with small scale scares that genuinely make you jump. The action then moves along at a pace that would be hard to fault. That’s not to say there isn’t the occasional horror cliché, such as taking a bath at an inappropriate moment, but rather than jar, these moments are executed cleverly enough for you to smile and enjoy.

Further in to the film, we are introduced to some important new characters that serve to add another layer and provide more information for both the audience and the existing characters. It is a credit to both Crow and the actors themselves that this manages to feel natural rather than too contrived. There are a few moments that feel a little expository, but again, I was happy to overlook them in order to get to the next scare.

The main cast deliver some great performances, particularly Lucy Clarvis (as daughter Emma) who seems a visually perfect actress for the horror genre. She has an ethereal, light quality but also exudes a strong presence. As she drives the story forward, she creates a believable, relatable character. Sarah Rose Denton and Lawrence Weller (as mother Amber and son Jake) complete the strong central trio. Although I was initially distracted by the feeling that Sarah Rose looked a little young to be playing Lucy’s mother, her performance won me over. Equally, Lawrence (in his first film role) does a sterling job of portraying the terrorised young boy.

screaming with blood eyesThe Curse of the Witching Tree ties together all its elements to create a well-rounded horror film and for a 15 certificate, there are more scares and disturbing images than you might think. It may be that there is a little too much going on at times, but when you are having this much fun, that seems like a churlish comment. Ultimately, Crow juggles the domestic and the horror plot expertly and delivers a glorious ending that definitely hits the mark.

7 out of 10

Curse of The Witching Tree is available to order from Amazon UK here – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Curse-Witching-Tree-Sarah-Denton/dp/B00SX54D9S

ABCs of Death 2 (2014) DVD Review

abcs2dvdABCs of Death 2 (2014)

Various Writers, Directors & Stars

Producers – Ant Timpson & Tim League

UK DVD Release – 23rd March 2015 from Monster Pictures

“Another 26-chapter anthology that showcases death in all its vicious wonder and brutal beauty.”
Anthologies are always divisive in the horror community, not least collaborative releases like this series and V/H/S – some find the sharp shifts in tone & content and most importantly the uneven quality a turn-off while others enjoy the opportunity to discover directors established and new to the scene trying out new ideas, or just having a bit of fun (or in Ti West’s case, offending and disappointing practically everyone). I have to say I’m quite firmly in the second camp – I think the idea behind ABCs of Death is fantastic, where 26 directors each choose a letter of the alphabet & are given $5000 to produce a short. As with the first instalment, and with every collaborative anthology movie I’ve seen, it goes without saying that the resulting shorts vary wildly; some are slickly produced on the meagre budget while some look like a few friends bought some ketchup & spent the rest of the money on booze. I think it’s only fair to judge them individually before remarking on the movie as a whole, so first I’m going to look at each segment.

A is for Amateur – Directed by E.L. Katz (Cheap Thrills)
This is a stylishly shot short about a hitman that balances comedy & tension superbly. It’s not massively gory but I personally find myself squirming more at someone slamming their hand down on a nail than someone getting their arm chopped off, so it was suitably cringeworthy for me. The final scene feels disappointingly scruffy in comparison to the rest but overall it’s a very decent bit of fun. 7/10

B is for Badger – Directed by Juilan Barratt (The Mighty Boosh)
Fake B-Roll footage from a nature documentary, I’m really happy to see some dry, sarcastic, and ultimately goofy British humour here. Barratt also stars as the smarmy host of the documentary, building a hateful character in a matter of a couple of minutes. No scares but some very funny gruesome moments, this would not be out of place in a Monty Python episode, and that’s very high praise in my books. 8/10

C is for Capital Punishment – Directed by Julian Gilbey (A Lonely Place to Die)
The Brits are taking over this movie! A strange ‘local’ court convenes in a pub to sentence a man accused of kidnapping a young girl. Think The League of Gentlemen without any comedy. This short swiftly creates a high-tension situation and has a particular protracted scene of gore that is shot so directly, in daylight, with astonishingly good effects, that it’s the first time gore alone has made me feel physically sick in a number of years. For that alone I’d give it credit, but the short also carries a heavy message. You can’t ask for much more than this offers. 9/10

d is for delousedD is for Deloused – Directed by Robert Morgan
A stop-motion short that is impenetrable in the sense that I have no idea what it was about, it nonetheless offers excellent twisted, gruesome visuals from the beginning. If Jan Svankmajer directed an episode of Salad Fingers you’d end up with this. 8/10

E is for Equlibrium – Directed by Alejandro Brugués (Juan of the Dead)
Two castaways meet a beautiful woman in this funny, dialogue-free short. Despite extremely heavy-handed grading it’s shot very simply, with long handheld takes that have a few tricks up their sleeves in some impossible timing. This camera trickery alone makes the short worthwhile, otherwise it’s enjoyably whimsical, even if certain members of the audience might not find it’s ending so funny… 6/10

F is for Falling – Directed by Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado (Rabies, Big Bad Wolves)
An Arab boy encounters an Israeli woman who has crash-landed her parachute in a tree. Respect is due to the duo for submitting a serious segment to this anthology but while it’s clearly trying to convey some meaningful point, it’s not entirely clear what it is. It isn’t boring, but unfortunately forgettable. 5/10

G is for Grandad – Directed by Jim Hosking
An irritating young man lives with his Grandfather, berating him for his outdated ways & décor. It feels odd straight away, but soon becomes much more so. It’s shot well but features a specific type of humour where things are straight up odd for the sake of it and I just found it a bit pointless. 4/10.

H is for Head Games – Directed by Bill Plympton
Animated in a deliberately scruffy, scribbly style, a man & woman kiss resulting in bizarre visuals assumably representing some sort of “battle” between them. There’s no denying the imagination shown, but I’d expect to find this in the ‘dark part of youtube’ rather than here. 3/10.

I is for Invincible – Directed by Erik Matti
A group of siblings are trying to kill their seemingly invincible mother to inherit her wealth. This is brilliantly shot, with hyper-real visuals and gothic set design. The sheer desperation of the siblings is hilarious, and the ending is somewhat inevitable but it doesn’t take away from the rest of the short. 7/10.

J-is-for-Jesus-1-ABCs-of-Death-620x400J is for Jesus – Directed by Dennison Ramalho
A tense opening soon turns into a brutal depiction of a wealthy man having his gay son tortured by some sort of priests to ‘cure’ him. Nightmarish visuals portray the victim’s fear brilliantly, and the whole thing is very well acted. Another meaningful entry, it covers a topic rarely touched on in horror. 8/10.

K is for Knell – Directed by Kristine Buozyte & Bruno Samper (Vanishing Waves)
A woman sees an strange “goo-orb” floating over a neighbouring apartment block before everyone inside starts killing each other. Soon this black goo starts pouring into her apartment. I didn’t find it anywhere near as tense or clever as it seems to aim for & the woman never seems more than slightly troubled by what’s happening. The effects of the “goo-orb” are the main highlight here. 2/10.

L is for Legacy – Directed by Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen
An African tribe set out to sacrifice a man, but things to wrong resulting in a visit from one of the worst movie monsters I’ve ever seen. The acting & effects are beyond awful, making it hilarious for the wrong reasons. It is the first Nigerian horror movie I’ve seen though so that’s something I guess. 1/10.

M is for Masticate – Directed by Robert Boocheck
Somehow the winner of a competition set out for the public to submit their ‘M’ entries, this features an almost nude man in contact lenses running amok down a street in slow motion, with garish contrasty visuals like a 90’s music video. The final comic reveal pushes the limits of tasteless humour but I suppose this film isn’t supposed to take the moral high ground. 4/10.

N is for Nexus – Directed by Larry Fessenden (Beneath)
A young man hurries across town to meet his girlfriend on Halloween. Camerawork is very basic, verging on awful, making it on one hand come across as amateurish, but on the other it works in giving the short a claustrophobic and disorientating feel. It is however quite clever, with a morbid ending that works brilliantly with the title. 6/10.

O is for ochlocracyO is for Ochlocracy (Mob Rule) – Directed by Hajime Ohata
This Japanese short puts zombies in control of a court, trying the uninfected humans who were killing zombies before a serum was found to reanimate them. A brilliant twist on the old zombie trope, it builds up its mini-universe with a number of great ideas & plenty of awesome imagery. 9/10.

P is for P-P-P-P-SCARY!!! – Directed by Todd Rohal
Filmed in the style of a 1920’s short, with three characters talking like they belong in a Looney Tunes cartoon, this runs the risk of being plain annoying, but kept my attention whilst they encounter a creepy man and a baby. It’s totally bizarre; I’m not entirely sure what I watched. 5/10.

Q is for Questionnaire – Directed by Rodney Ascher (Room 237)
A rather simple, streamlined short featuring a man excelling at a street-side intelligence test. I can’t say much more without spoiling anything but it’s unexpected, funny and unpleasant in equal measures. 7/10.

R is for Roulette – Directed by Marvin Kren (Blood Glacier)
A black & white noir showing three people playing Russian Roulette in a basement, this is high-energy despite no action, with excellent acting & skilled editing drawing every bit of tension out of the situation. A very clever ending defies our assumptions of the game’s purpose. 8/10.

S is for Split – Directed by Juan Martinez Moreno
A man phones his wife while away on business. This is shot very simply, but a cleverly employed split-screen effects means we are constantly watching every character & their actions/reactions, never cutting away. Unashamedly brutal in places, but the ending is slightly underwhelming. 7/10.

t is for torture pornT is for Torture Porn – Directed by Jen & Sylvia Soska (American Mary)
A young woman is being treated awfully at an audition by the misogynistic crew, making an unexpected discovery after forcing her to undress. It offers up some disturbing imagery with the unpredictable twist but it did still feel a bit weak. 7/10.

U is for Utopia – Directed by Vincenzo Natali (Cube, Splice)
Visually stunning with fantastic effects, this is a very slick portrayal of a seemingly perfect future with a dark twist. Straight forward, with the simple message that perfection isn’t necessarily all that great being portrayed very effectively without being totally overt. 9/10.

V is for Vacation – Directed by Jerome Sable (Stage Fright)
A guy videocalls his girlfriend from his hotel while on holiday, the entire short being seen as though we are looking at the girlfriend’s phone. It’s pulled off pretty well but the plot amounts to little more than an excuse for nudity & gore. 5/10.

W is for Wish – Directed by Steven Kostanski (Manborg)
If you saw Manborg you know what to expect from this short, featuring two boys who wish themselves into the world of their favourite toys with gruesome results. It features the same deliberate, faux-retro visual style mixing squishy practical effects, miniatures & stop motion creatures together with some ropey greenscreen work. It looks terrible and the acting is awful, but just like Manborg it’s all clearly deliberate and somehow being so bad makes it fantastic. 9/10.

X is for Xylophone –Directed by Julien Maury & Alexandre Bustillo (Inside & Livid)
A little girl is playing her toy Xylophone as her mother sits by. This compact short ends on a mortifying, taboo-breaking image that genuinely shocked me, and crucially makes that seem like a good thing. An understated gothic styling really adds another layer to this short. 9/10.

y is for youthY is for Youth – Directed by Soichi Umezawa
A teenage girl fantasises about various brutal & imaginative ways for her abusive & neglectful parents to die. Her internal monologue narrates the gruesome and totally bizarre imagery, all pulled off with rudimental but effective practical effects. I think it could only be a Japanese short that could manage so well in portraying hilariously ridiculous visuals whilst simultaneously invoking genuine sympathy for the main character. Very basic filming works in its favour, with some fantastic editing elevating it further. 9/10.

Z is for Zygote – Directed by Chris Nash
Dark fantasy & body horror meet in this twisted short about a woman eating mysterious roots to prolong her pregnancy while waiting for her husband to return from wherever he’s gone. The child continues to grow however, and the effects are fantastic at selling impossible to comprehend images. Defying the odds, it gets many times more horrifying before the end. I loved this short but if I met the person who dreamt these images up I don’t know if I’d shake their hand or run away! 9/10.

All in all, it’s obviously a mixed bag, but that is unavoidable when 26 very different directors are given free reign. That said, the good outweighs the bad and there are very only a small handful of segments that I thought were awful. While many anthologies have the luxury of mixing the order to perhaps bury a poorer segment in between particularly good ones for example, ABCs restricts itself to a definite order, so there are some unfortunate low points, particularly in the middle from K to M, but luckily the last 4 are consistently some of the strongest in the whole film.

It’s interesting also to see how many segments take the opportunity to say something, rather than just being exploitative. Speaking of which, sit through (or fast-forward) the gargantuan credit sequence for a cool post-credits scene with a cameo from a certain controversial figure. Taking an average of my scores for the shorts works out to about 6.5/10 and actually, factoring in the cool styling between segments and generally the fact that I love the whole idea, despite the restrictions of the anthology format meaning it’s not consistently great from start to end, I think that’s near enough right.
7/10.

Release date and trailer released for new UK Horror ‘Curse of The Witching Tree’

witchingtreeRelease date, trailer and exclusive pics (below the trailer) released for new UK Horror ‘Curse of The Witching Tree’

The début feature for director James Crow and starring great British actors Sarah Rose Denton, Lucy Clarvis, Dean Maskell and the great Jon Campling. And after watching the great trailer (see below) , then this looks like something special.

The UK DVD is released on May 18th 2015 from 4Digital Media – http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00SX54D9S

The USA DVD is released on May 19th 2015 from 4Digital Media – http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00T5DYUFE/ref=cm_sw_su_dp

An innocent woman, accused of murdering her son and hanged as a witch, curses a tree and the children who play around it. The effects of this act of revenge echo through the years and centuries, and restless spirits haunt the house where the bodies of the cursed children have been buried. A family move into their new home, and begin to uncover the terrible truth behind The Witching Tree and the murdered children upon which they unknowingly sleep…

Starring Sarah Rose Denton, Lucy Clarvis, Lawrence Weller, Jon Campling, Danielle Bux, Caroline Boulton, Lydia Breden-Thorpe, Shane Green, Liam Ponder, Charlie Bond, Lorraine Gray, Dean Maskell, Viv Bonney, James Sibley, Alexandra Lawes

Written, Produced & Directed by James Crow

Check out their Facebook Page – https://www.facebook.com/CurseOfTheWitchingTree

Check out their Twitter Page – https://twitter.com/WitchingTree

And finally check out the IMDB page – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3796936

cwt8 cwt7 cwt6 cwt5cwt4 cwt3 cwt2 cwt1

James Simpson’s World of Horror: REC Apocalypse (Spain, 2014)

James Simpson’s World of Horror: REC Apocalypse (Spain, 2014)

Director: Jaume Balaguero
Starring: Manuela Velasco, Hector Colome, Paco Manzanedorec4cover

Language: Spanish with English subtitles
Run time: 1 hour 34 minutes
Available on DVD and Blu-ray from 2nd March

Angela Vidal wakes up in a high-security quarantine facility, the sole survivor and witness to the horrific events inside an apartment block plagued by an unspeakable evil. But does she remember what happened to her? Is she carrying the mysterious virus responsible for the horrors of that night? Distrust and uncertainty soon spreads throughout the isolated facility as their suspicions are confirmed and new, even deadlier forms of evil take hold. – Entertainment One

A journey that has taken several years and a handful of movies comes to an end in the fourth REC title – Apocalypse.

Discarding of the horror humour vibe of the previous entry this thankfully attempts to be more serious and in keeping with the originals intense atmosphere. Although it doesn’t fully revert to REC or REC 2 as the use of first person or ‘found footage’ is all but ignored. The only time it crops up is when some CCTV footage is briefly used. For the most, however, Apocalypse reclaims some of the franchises past glory.

rec4angVelasco as ever is a brilliant actress. Sadly she is not used as often in this film as she had been in the past and as it is obvious this character is something of a new ‘final girl’ icon’ (pardon the cliché) in the horror genre it is a disappointment that she is under utilized.

The scares are lacking for quite a while, only really going to ‘REC extreme intensity level’ for the closing 15 minutes. Occasionally a fright crops up during the first 70 or so minutes of the run time although it feels more like an exercise in pacing the viewer for the ‘main event’ than being anything too meaningful.

When the frights do arrival they have the intensity that is expected for a movie with the prefix REC. When the hapless victims are claimed by the virus/demon it is in a visceral manner that looks gritty and sublime. There is one sequence featuring possessed monkeys (yes, you read that correctly) that is hi-octane and has some impressive effects.

rec4 (1)Is it the glorious end fans have wanted? Not quite, the first two instalments set the bar so high that even a sequel with ‘Apocalypse’ in its title would never be able to meet such high expectations. This being the horror genre, there will be a way to make more REC movies or even a reboot of the series some years down the line. But for now, this is an acceptable horror flick.

Verdict.
Taken on its own merits this is a fine horror but based on past glories this could have (and should have) been so much better.

6 out of 10.

@JSimpsonWriter

“Soldiers of the Damned” European Film Market Screening & New Trailer

SOLDIERS_OF_THE_DAMNED_ARTWORK_EXAMPLE_3“Soldiers of the Damned” European Film Market Screening

World War 2 psychological Horror Thriller is to be screened at the European Film Market in Berlin.

UK production companies Blackdog Productions’ and Viking Film’s World War II psychological horror thriller Soldiers of the Damned has just completed post production at Twickenham studios and will be screened at the European Film Market in Berlin on 7th February. Vantage Media International will be handling international sales.

The feature, set on the Eastern front in 1944, follows Major Kurt Fleischer, (Gil Darnell), war-weary commander of an elite troop of German soldiers, after he is ordered to escort a female scientist (Miriam Cooke) into a mysterious forest behind enemy lines to retrieve an ancient relic. As his men begin to disappear in strange circumstances Fleischer realises that the scientist is part of the Nazis’ occult department and there is something in the forest that is far more deadly than the Russians.

Soldiers the_troop_SOTDThe film also stars Lucas Hansen (The Human Centipede 2) and Nicky Bell (Awaydays) and marks the debut feature for T.V., commercial and music video director, Mark Nuttall.

Nigel Horne’s production company, Viking Film (The Wedding Tackle), co-produced along with Blackdog’s, Stephen Rigg, (producer of the award winning short “Fizzy Days”) from Horne’s original screenplay.

For more information and updates on Soldiers of The Damned then you can visit their Facebook page here – https://www.facebook.com/SOTDfilm .

And finally you can can watch the brand new trailer here below – ENJOY!!

Trancers (1984) Blu-Ray Review

t1 (1)TRANCERS -1984

88 FILMS

DIR: Charles Band

STARRING: Tim Thomerson, Helen Hunt

88 Films bring another of Full Moon productions B-movie ‘classics’ to Blu-ray, and afford it more respect than most big budget releases get these days. Considered to be one of Full Moons better productions Trancers is offered a little more love than most B flicks, but how you feel about it will depend on how you respond to its low budget eccentricity. Sitting somewhere in between Blade Runner and The Terminator it has a low budget charm and surprisingly slick visuals that set it apart from many other sci-fi films of the era. It has dated somewhat, but 88 have given it a top notch spit and polish that fans will love.

The story follows the time-travelling antics of hard boiled ‘Trooper’ Jack Deth (Thomerson) as he hunts the leader of a futuristic cult known as Trancers. Going back to 1984, the present at the time of the film’s release, he hooks up with Helen Hunt’s kindly punkette and sets about trying to save the future by changing the past. If that sounds familiar it is because it very similar to James Cameron’s seminal The Terminator, and plot wise the two walk very similar paths. But in all fairness, Trancers probably owes more to Ridley Scott’s ground breaking Blade Runner. Both visually, and thematically Trancers attempts to recapture some of the Raymond Chandler/Philip K Dick detective future noir that helped make Scott’s movie so compelling.

t2 (1)Trancers doesn’t really have the resources to match Blade Runner, but it manages to stretch what it does have to the limit and is armed with plenty of wit and charm. The future it presents is believable looking both advanced yet wearyingly apocalyptic; a place where humanity has lost much of its soul and seeks refuge in dark places. Its time travel set up is neat too; offering a believably brutal and grounded idea. Free from the perils of modern CGI it is a brilliantly jarring moment when the film switches time lines. The film loses some of its visual prowess once it lands itself in the 1980’s, but it ups the wit and offers up some genuinely inventive set-pieces that have been repeated in bigger budget films since.

A particularly smart sequence in which Jack Deth slows time in order to avoid injury and death is repeated in the recent, mega budget X-Men: Days of Future Past. Bryan Singer’s blockbuster is more spectacular, but the influence is there and it’s to Charles Band’s credit that a little B-Movie like Trancers was able to form its own identity and become influential in its own right.

Trancers may not be as memorable, or as important as The Terminator or Blade Runner, but it is successful within its own boundaries and manages to transcend its influences by creatively side stepping its budgetary limitations and some inspired casting.

t3 (1)88’s Blu –ray is packed with plenty for fans to enjoy. The film itself looks fantastic in 1080p and it still amazes me how well some of the older films scrub up on Blu-ray. As for extras the film has plenty of interviews with many of the main cast and crew and some oddities for those who like to dig deeper. Cybercrime: The making of Trancers is a fun talking heads documentary that gives a decent history of how the film came into being and how it became the cult hit it is today.

The rather superfluous Flashback Weekend featurette is just a few fans at a showing of a special Trancers work print. Probably of most interest to die- hard fans is Trancers: City of Lost Angels: a 25 minute piece of Trancers history that was believed lost for 25 years. It also has a commentary from Charles Band and Tim Thomerson along with a wealth of trailers and promo materials. A genuine must buy for fans of the film.

Film 7/10

Extras 8/10

The Woman In Black: Angel Of Death (2014)

wib1The Woman In Black: Angel Of Death (2014)

Dir: Tom Harper

Written by: Jon Croker and Susan Hill (story)

Starring: Phoebe Fox, Jeremy Irvine, Helen McCrory, Oaklee Pendergast and Adrian Rawlins

Running Time –98 mins

During WWII, a group of children and their two teachers are evacuated to the run down and dilapidated Eel Marsh House in Crythin Gifford. It soon becomes apparent that the house is still home to a previous resident with designs on one of the children, the ghostly Woman in Black.

With the first WIB film doing a mostly admirable job of recapturing the essence of what made Hammer Horror so great and staying faithful (until the silly ending) to the original novel, it was hard to really see the need for a follow-up. With the novel’s author, Susan Hill, on hand for the story, this lessened the feel of a cash-grabbing franchise and it is true to say that there certainly was scope to bring back the icon of spookiness that is the Woman in Black herself.

WIB4It comes as somewhat of a surprise that the film does have a fairly decent stab at trying to keep the classic spirit of Hammer alive from the first film. Despite the fact that it has already had the perfect setting laid out on a plate, director, Tom Harper, clearly understands just how crucial it is to create the perfect atmosphere. The over-bearing, impenetrably thick fog still lies heavily over the gloriously Gothic architecture, setting imaginations alight as to what terrors are lurking inside it. It is also fascinating to see how beautifully the film captures the oppressively vast Nine Lives causeway and is able to deftly counter balance this with the narrow and shadowed claustrophobic corridors of Eel Marsh House itself.

The decision to keep the WIB as almost a piece of the scenery is also a master-stroke. Over-exposure to anything will lessen the fear-factor and it is an astute trick that for much of the film, she merely glimpsed out of the corner of the screen or blended into the shadows. This adds the extra fear that she could be literally anywhere, watching and supplements the air of tension and dread whenever there is a night-time scene. To those who have seen the first film and the stage play, the most terrifying element in the rocking chair is still present and still just as capable at causing an eruption of goosebumps. It says a great deal to the credit of the film that even the sickeningly endless noise that signifies that it is going to appear soon still makes it just as terrifying, even when you know what is coming.

It has to be noted that a key area in which the film falls short is in not having a strong enough lead for the audience to identify with. It is true that actress, Phoebe Fox, is not given an easy task to make us care, due to incredibly clunky and dull dialogue. Her performance, much like the rest of the cast, is entirely forgettable and more akin to the stiff upper lip-ness for a particularly spooky episode of Downton Abbey.

WIB3Conviction is, perhaps, the key thing that’s lacking, few of the cast seem to be properly terrified of the events happening around them and the budding romance between Fox and an on auto-pilot, Jeremy Irvine, is about as scintillating as two slices of bread lying on top one another.

One of the scariest elements of the first film was the total sense of isolation that we as an audience experienced with Radcliffe. Alone and cut off from the mainland with only a horrific supernatural presence for company, this feeling is lost completely when there are so many characters on the island and in the house. The film also makes a huge mistake in moving some of the action to an airfield and its underground bunker. This completely dispenses of the gloriously creepy setting of Eel Marsh House in favour of a bland setting that does not match up to the film’s primary focus of being a classic and contained ghost story.

The fact that we as an audience are now aware of the Woman in Black’s motivation from the first film also diminishes the wonderful sense of mystery that was slowly unravelled as the terror mounted. With what little distinctly uninteresting back story that is given to the two leads, it is fairly simple to figure out in precisely which direction the film is going and ultimately, their fates. The tremendously Gothic sense of loss of grievance so well conveyed by Radcliffe is all but non-existent here as the two lifeless performances, combined with the wooden dialogue does little to win over any sympathy.

WIB2The sequel certainly did not learn from the mistakes of its predecessor. The final act of the film takes a huge nose dive after it had done such an admirable job at replicating the original’s superbly chilling atmosphere. With a load of expensive-looking pyrotechnics being set off in the airfield and a splurge of CGI nonsense come the final confrontation, there is a tremendous sense of frustration at the fact that the film almost couldn’t seem to resist the urge to show off its budget. With a pathetic repeated use of a stinger ending, both WIB films unfortunately seem to have lacked the courage to do something different and daring, when there was ample opportunity, and instead go for the easy, modern option and as a result, end up feeling quite pedestrian.

Certainly much better than could have been anticipated, however, a lack of properly defined characters and over-reliance on cheap jump scares sadly prohibits the film from matching the Gothic grace of the first film.

Verdict: 6/10