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Beyond The Gates (2016) Review

rsz_1rsz_btg1Beyond the Gates (2016)

Director: Jackson Stewart

Starring: Graham Skipper, Chase Williamson, Brea Grant, Barbara Crampton

Out now on UK DVD

“Most of this junk just blends together”

Estranged brothers Gordon (Skipper) and John (Williamson) reunite when they have to close up their father’s video rental store because their father has been missing for seven months. In the back office they find a VCR board game called Beyond the Gates. Gordon takes it back to his father’s house where he’s staying and along with his fiancé Margot (Grant) and John, they decide to play the game. Surprise, surprise, Beyond the Gates has them trapped in a deadly game. The stakes, no less than their lives.

A lot of movies, and a lot of horror movies in particular, set out with the premise of “a deadly game that must be played to completion”. It’s not exactly an original concept, and it has been done better in other films. Beyond the Gates has a few charms but they can’t make up for slow pacing a mediocre script and modest acting. The film rides high on the recent wave of nostalgia that is sweeping films and horror right now. This is the third or fourth attempt at an 80s throwback I’ve seen and it’s not the strongest entry. Beyond leans a little heavily on viewers fondly remembering the days of video rental stores and knowing what a VCR game is. The film then has to explain what a VCR game is because even if you grew up with a VCR, the games where a niche market. Maybe not the strongest premise for a movie, when it has to be explained even to people as old as I am.

rsz_beyond_the_gates_1Premise aside Beyond the Gates is a mixed bag. The pace is slow. The board game is played out over days instead of forcing the characters to play through all at once. The game itself is overly easy, the clues dull. A lot of time is wasted in conversation as the characters flip back and forth, alternately trying to quit the game and progress. The film feels a lot longer than its lean run time of 84 minutes. The build up to actually playing the game is long as well. First we have to meet Gordon and John, then Gordon’s fiancé Margot, then John’s gross redneck friend Hank (Justin Welborn), THEN we have to establish the relationships and antagonisms between all of these characters. THEN they start the game. THEN people start dying.

What the film was actually good at, was not the horror aspects, or the VCR game shtick. It was actually an interesting film about estranged brothers with a troubled past and uneasy relationship mending fences. I actually felt the same way watching Beyond the Gates as I did watching The Innkeepers, which was a great romantic comedy and a terrible horror movie. Beyond the Gates was a good family drama about reconciliation and a pretty mediocre horror film.

But, the horror wasn’t all bad. There were a lot of practical effects used for gruesome death scenes that were pretty entertaining. However that’s about the best that can be said for the horror side of things. Unfortunately amusing death scenes don’t make up for the slow pace.

rsz_beyond_the_gates_2Kudos for: Gordon’s nerdy hipster vibe

Lesson learned: It takes more than a synth soundtrack to cash in on nostalgia.

6/10

Fright Night (1985) Eureka Blu-Ray Review

fright-night-1FRIGHT NIGHT (1985)
Director: Tom Holland
Cast: Chris Sarandon, Roddy McDowall, William Ragsdale, Amanda Bearse
Running time: 106 minutes

Released by Eureka! Entertainment on standard dual format (Blu Ray/DVD) 10th April 2017
(An exclusive Zavvi limited edition steelbook released 26th December 2016 is now OOP)

The UK has been waiting what seems like centuries for a decent release of Tom Holland’s fangtastic 80’s cult classic on any format. Thankfully Eureka! Entertainment have finally delivered on a disc which is surely destined to become one of the must-have blu ray releases of 2017.

The Film: For those unacquainted with Fright Night, it follows teenage horror fanatic Charley Brewster (William Ragsdale) and his ongoing attempts to prove to his mother, girlfriend Amy (Amanda Bearse) and best friend Evil Ed (Stephen Geoffreys) that his charismatic new neighbour Jerry Dandridge (Chris Sarandon) is a vampire. His suspicions are further confounded by the strange activities he sees going on next door including a coffin being taking into the property and Jerry’s friend and live-in helper Billy (Jonathan Stark) assisting with all daytime activities.

As his mother and friends believe him to be crazy, he goes to the one person he is convinced will believe him and be able to help. Peter Vincent (Roddy McDowall) is the presenter of his favourite late night horror show Fright Night, however he is just that – a TV personality – and not an actual vampire hunter. However, as Charley’s girlfriend and best friend become seduced by Jerry’s charms, it is up to Charley and Peter to destroy the evil next-door and hopefully save the neighbourhood.

Following a rather lacklustre remake in 2011 starring the late Anton Yelchin, Colin Farrell and David Tennant, this release of the original (and best) version of Holland’s homage to horror and vampire lore is an essential purchase for any horror fan. For those new to it, Fright Night is intentionally a horror comedy however its attention to providing full on gore and graphic transformation scenes is also the reason it ranked the second highest grossing horror film of 1985 behind Freddy’s Revenge.

fright-night-2The Disc: I never saw the previous US Twilight Time or European blu ray releases of the film, so cannot offer comparisons but this release is based on the Sony 4K scan of the original negative overseen by renowned film restoration specialist Grover Crisp. It looks excellent and is certainly a vast improvement over my DVD copy or any version I’ve seen before on TV. There is a more natural colour palette, finer image detail and Crisp has ensured that classic 80’s look and ‘sheen’ isn’t lost in the restoration. Like a severed artery the film is overflowing with old school SFX and whilst on blu ray some of these do stand out more prominently, it is such a pleasure not to be browbeaten with CGI and instead I was left with a nostalgic glow. I watched the film again in its original Stereo and had no concerns with dialogue or indeed Brad Fiedel’s excellent score. Eureka! have also included a 5.1 Surround Sound option for those wanting a more immersive experience and English SDH subtitles. Sadly, they have not included a chapter menu on either the main menu or via pop-up menu, although this was apparently also lacking on previous releases.

Special Features: Apart from the excellent transfer, what really makes this release of Fright Night an undead treat is the wealth of extras which run at just over six hours. Eureka! have really spoilt fans with the highlight being an edited (two and a half hour version) of Dead Mouse Productions recent You’re So Cool Brewster documentary. A retrospective piece that includes contemporary interviews with cast, crew and many more it mainly focuses on the first Fright Night film and follows the film’s inception, production, casting, special effects, memories of filming and the film’s sleeper success. Fright Night: Part 2 (1988) is also mentioned but fans will need to pick up the full documentary for more in-depth discussion about the sequel.

Fear Fest 2008 Reunion (54 mins) is a panel discussion with cast and crew from both Fright Night and Fright Night: Part 2. There is some repetition from the documentary however we learn more about the sequel, including its now infamous troubled release and the change in attitudes to sexuality and diversity between both films. Holland also mentions upcoming talks for a possible remake/sequel and the script variations he is aware of.

Shock Till You Drop – Choice Cuts (28mins) is an interview with Tom Holland where he discusses his involvement with The Beast Within (1982), his work on Psycho 2 (1983), its release, effect on his career and his views on the studio system. He also discusses his transition from a theatre and TV actor to writer including early writing credits, the initial inception of Fright Night and the film’s major influences.

Vintage Electronic Press Kit (93 mins) is a nice addition but is taken from a VHS copy (with clock counter) and therefore suffers from vertical rolls and frequent cut outs. The kit includes US reviews, two music videos, a making of, three featurettes, news wraps, open end interviews and TV scene clips.

What is Fright Night? (11 mins) is a talking heads piece which appears to be an additional segment from the You’re So Cool Brewster documentary. Cast and crew from both original Fright Night films discuss what they believe the films are about.

fright-night-3Tom Holland: Writing Horror (9 mins) is a special feature which is also available on the You’re So Cool Brewster documentary disc. Despite the title, it has little to do with his writing techniques and is mostly about his directing style. There is also some information overlap from the Choice Cuts extra.

Roddy McDowall: Apes to Bats (21 mins) is a featurette about the actor’s history in Hollywood and cast and crew from both Fright Night films reminisce about their time with him. Again, there is some information overlap from the Choice Cuts and Reunion extras.

Also included are two theatrical trailers (G and R rated versions), plus an image gallery of 64 behind the scenes, props and memorabilia photos.

In conclusion, Eureka! have done the UK proud in bringing Holland’s cult classic to our shores in a release it totally deserves. However, folks will have to wait until April 2017 for it to hit the shelves but I can tell you it is absolutely worth the wait… Until then, be as a cool as Brewster and pick up a copy of the Dead Mouse Productions excellent documentary and pray that one day Fright Night: Part 2 gets a similarly stunning release.

Cult Cinema: An Arrow Video Companion – Book Review

arrowbook1Cult Cinema: An Arrow Video Companion – Book Review

Hardcover: 246 pages
Publisher: Arrow; 1st edition (11 April 2016)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0993306012
ISBN-13: 978-0993306013
Product Dimensions: 28 x 3 x 22 cm

Is it possible to love a book too much? I’m not talking about going all the way…that’s a really good way to get paper cuts you definitely don’t want to explain in the doctor’s office. No, I’m talking about reading a book over and over, poring over the details like an Edgar Wright movie, finding more and more nuggets of goodness the longer you look.

And so we come to Cult Cinema: An Arrow Video Companion. For the last seven years, Arrow Video have been putting out quality reissues of all your favourite pieces of off-kilter cinema, from trash epics like Hell Comes to Frogtown, to cult offerings like Night of the Comet. If you ever glimpsed the cover on a plastic rack of de-boxed sleeves in the local video store, back in the glory days of VHS tapes, chances are Arrow have the distribution rights. They love cult movies, so putting out a book celebrating them and their creators makes a lot of sense.

arrowbook2For your money, you get a collection of 30 essays covering the history & making of movies ranging from Battle Royale to Zombie Flesh Eaters, plus the effects they had on cinema in general. You also get glances back at influential directors, actors and genres. Snippets of interviews, both recent and historical, add valuable and interesting insights into the film-making process, and the influences which shaped some of the most beloved genre classics.

There’s a lot to take in here, and a lot to like, from the recreations of artwork and stills from the movies discussed, to fascinating behind-the-scenes information. Films you may have overlooked, are shown to have layers far deeper that you might expect. There’s a touching history of Wes Craven’s contributions to the horror genre, an analysis of Romero’s zombie (and non-zombie) works through the years, and a superb look back at Vincent Price’s time in the movies, drawing from old interviews. This was my favourite essay in the bunch, but then, I could read about Price – and imagine his voice – all day if I could. The history of the giallo written by Michael Mackenzie was also a great read; but again, as a big giallo fan, I’d happily eat up anything to do with that genre.

The only thing knocking this book down from a perfect score-perch is the fact that many of these essays have been printed before, in the booklets accompanying the films they mention. Not a terrible thing, as even an avid collector like me doesn’t own every one of these movies (or at least, not the Arrow versions), but devout Arrow fans may be disappointed to find they already much of what’s been collected here.

arrowbook5This is more than just a regathering of old material though (and arguably easier to refer back to than a DVD booklet); it’s a loving look at the films which exist on the edges of the mainstream, slowly pushing their weird tentacles into the public consciousness. Just like the world of cult cinema itself, there’s something for almost every genre fan here, from spaghetti westerns to food horror, highbrow Asian cinema to lowbrow video nasties. Recommended for horror fans and cinema junkies alike.

Score: 8/10

Book links:

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0993306012/
Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/dp/0993306012/

You can read more about Arrow releases at http://www.arrowfilms.co.uk and follow them @ArrowFilmsVideo for release info and general horror-related goodness.

P.S. The answer is no. You can’t love a book too much. Just don’t expect them to spoon you back at night.

Backwater (2013) Review

BACKWATER (2013) Review

Director: Christopher Schrack

Writer: Christopher Schrack

Stars: Thomas Daniel, Andrew Roth, Justin Tully, Liana Werner-Gray

UK Release TBC

A young couple, Cass and Mark, go camping in the woods for a weekend. Before long they begin to suspect they might not be alone and that someone might be stalking them.

Written and directed by Christopher Schrack, Backwater is a wonderfully intense, incredibly well made thriller. It has been made on a budget of $40,000…. Which is not very much in the world of films and plaudits should be made to Schrack for doing so well with that budget. He has made a very good thriller much in the same vein plot wise as Hostel or Turistas. More thriller than horror but still features some pretty horrible moments.

The two leads in Backwater are Cass and Mark played by Liana Werner-Gray and Justin Tully. They start off playing a couple very much in love, they flirt, kiss, skinny dip….in their underwear…. they genuinely appear to love spending time together. I won’t ruin the plot but a certain point in the film, everything we have seen gets questioned.

Justin Tully plays Mark as the bog standard boyfriend character; he comes across as immature, jokey and up for some forest fun with his Mrs as you would be with a girlfriend who looks like Cass….He is pretty clearly infatuated with Cass and seems to be a pretty nice guy but seems pretty inept and useless in the situation he finds himself in, which makes later events all the more shocking and heart wrenching.

Liana-Werner-Gray is Cass, an Australian girl loving life with her boyfriend or so it would appear. As soon as Cass is introduced you get the feeling that she will be heroine of the film. She knows how to escape and hide an attacker pretty well and surviving seems like second nature to her. To say anything else about her development through Backwater would ruin the twists and turns, but her motives and who she really is are called into question. But it’s a testament to Liana Werner-Grays acting to keep the audience rooting for her, she also very attractive which makes for nice viewing in a film with shocking and gory subject matter.

The other supporting characters don’t show up until the final third. But just like Tully and Gray, they play their individual roles brilliantly. The characters of Deputy Helm played by Thomas Daniel and mild manner fisherman Glen played Andrew Roth are thrown into the mix when Mark is searching for help. They both raise suspicions and make the audience questions if they are involved with the events unfolding on screen. This is down to good acting and a good script. It’s been a long time since I have seen a film where I question every single character whether they are good guys or bad guys. I found this part of the film most interesting and it kept me on the edge of my seat.

Backwater is not your usual “couple get lost in the woods and then get picked off by unseen assailants” film. Schrack Has made a very clever and shocking thriller full of twists and turns which keep the audience on the edge of their seats. Cliché’s and standard genre tropes are played with in very interesting and surprising ways. When one mystery is solves another one opens up which makes the audience wonder what is going to happen next and how is it all going to end.

There is a bit of gore on display here. Most of it is either off screen or hidden in darkness. Saying that though what gore is seen is still pretty devastating as we actually like both of the main leads. With a bigger budget I feel this film would not be as successful because with more money I feel like Schrack may have been tempted to make Backwater more convoluted and twisted than it already is. For once the lack of budget actually benefits the film and makes the final product so much more satisfying and well made. Schrack has made quite the brilliant mystery here which needs to be seen by as many people as possible.

When suggesting to your friends to watch Backwater try to not give any of the plot away as the mystery and twists and turns this film takes are what makes it so damn good. The lead actors are extremely likeable and it’s well made.

If you are looking for an intense “surviving unseen attackers in the woods” film look no further. Backwater is so clever for twisting the standard genre into an engaging mystery/ thriller unlike many before it. Watch it, tell people to watch it just DONT TELL THEM WHAT HAPPENS!!!!

Rating 8.5/10

Follow me on Twitter @NLouse91

Scary Little Fuckers: A Christmas Movie (2015) Short Film Review

slfrev1Scary Little Fuckers: A Christmas Movie (2015)

Director – Nathan Suher

Starring Anna Rizzo, Josh Fontaine and Rich Tretheway

Runtime – 23 mins

It’s Christmas eve. An inebriated dad brings home to his adolescent son a gift he hopes will mend their faltering relationship, a Fookah, a devilish and disgusting creature that in turns wrecks havoc on their lives.

When watching short films you live and die (pun intended) on the story. In the small amount amount of time your film plays you have to get across your story, build your characters and resolve the point you are trying to make. With a short running time of 23 minutes Scary Little Fuckers has a good go on all points.

Being a massive fan of horror and 80’s horror in general, I immediately zoned in the opening scenes homage to Gremlins. A father goes to a dilapidated shop run by an inebriated owner dressed up as Santa to find his son a last minute Christmas present. Finding a Fookah, he takes it home. The scene also played like a scene from the BBC show ‘The League of Gentleman’, the local shop. They even have a rule – Never put them in the same cage together.

When films, or shorts in this case, try to straddle more than one genre, it can become confusing. Scary Little Fuckers has this, it comes across part comedy, part horror, it does take a moment to get used to, but works for the most part.

slfrev3The characters are likeable and self serving from the drunk father, the irritating immature son and the horny girlfriend (who has an attraction to the father for no reason). Another homage comes in the Fookahs themselves. Looking like a possessed Furby the effect surprisingly works as long as you accept what the filmmakers are going for and the budget they have to work with.

In conclusion, I commend the filmmakers for working within the restraints they have and for keeping my attention for the short running time. If they had just taken a bit more to stick to a genre the short would have felt a lot more whole.

6/10

Links

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/scarylittlemovie

Website – http://www.scarylittlemovie.com

Twitter – https://twitter.com/IM_Filmworks

Aaaaaaaah! (2015) Review

Aaaaaaaah! posterAaaaaaaah! (2015)

Director: Steve Oram

Starring: Lucy Honigman, Julian Barratt, Holli Dempsey, Noel Fielding, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Tom Meeten, Toyah Willcox.

Aaaaaaaah! Is a hard film to process and at times to watch. On the surface it’s a sort of comedy, but I didn’t find it that funny. The director likens it to Romeo and Juliet meets Planet of the Apes. Another reviewer compares it to John Water’s Pink Flamingoes which was actually my first thought even though I haven’t seen Pink Flamingoes. But I have heard of Pink Flamingoes and the infamous eating of the doggie poop scene. Eating dog shit is about the only line Aaaaaaaah! doesn’t cross. There is, violence, masturbation, nudity, cannibalism, people pooping, people peeing, vomit and stabbings.

Those are all the reasons I didn’t like it on top of the pacing. However those are exactly the reasons I recommended Aaaaaaaah! to a friend on Facebook and sincerely think he’ll get a real kick out of it.

Aaaaaaaah! 1The premise of Aaaaaaaah! is basically ‘what if people acted like monkeys but the modern world remained unchanged’. All the dialogue is made of gestures, grunts, howls and guttural noises. And to its credit the film is perfectly understandable.

The plot revolves around a young woman (Honigman) stuck in a domestic situation she doesn’t like and breaks out of it by hooking up with a marauding dominant male, played by Oram, who shows up at a house party thrown by, her housemate/mother’s boyfriend? (I don’t know, the social dynamics are very different than humans in this film which is actually an excellent bit of worldbuilding on Oram’s part.) Honigman’s father, the former dominant male of the household (Barratt) has been forced out by his younger rival (Rhind-Tutt) and lives in the garden.

Aaaaaaaah! 2The film is not long, but the actual set-up for the plot eats at least twenty minutes of screen time. Nearly the first half of the film simply established the separate lives of Honigman’s and Oram’s characters. Oram mourns his late wife by pissing on her photograph while tended by his subordinate male sidekick Meeten. Meanwhile Honigman and her hilarious gal-pal played by Holli Dempsey, have their own misadventures. At long last Honigman and Oram meet, fall in love, romp through a house they broke into and come into violent conflict with Rhind-Tutt.

Better reviewers than I have given Aaaaaaaah! glowing and far more intelligent reviews than I could hope to manage. All I can say is this; I did not likes this movie. I found myself wondering what simian behavior is really like and whether Oram just watched a couple of documentaries on monkeys and called it good, or if consulted some experts. Either way the world he’s put on screen is unsettling, unique, complete and not for everyone. Fans of body horror will like Aaaaaaaah! Anyone not wigged out characters taking a shit on the kitchen floor or cannibalism will like Aaaaaaaah! Some of the favorable comparisons that other critics drew were Lars Von Trier, John Waters, and a film called Themroc.

Aaaaaaaah! 3If you like, and have heard of, any of the above you will probably enjoy Aaaaaaaah! However, it’s a film most people will either love or hate and I while I appreciate Aaaaaaaah! I don’t like it.

Kudos for: Oooh ook aaah eek.

Lesson learned: Aah ah ooh ack ook.

7/10

Fire City: End of Days (2015) Review

Fire City posterFire City: End of Days (2015)

Director: Tom Woodruff Jr.

Starring: Tobias Jelinek, Danielle Chuchran, Keely Aloña, Kimberly Leemans

“You said you wouldn’t let us starve.”

Fire City is a little confusing. It takes about twenty minutes for the plot to come clear and even then it’s sort of a ‘best guess’ situation. Atum Vine (Jelinek) is a demon living with others of his kind in a low rent Los Angeles apartment building. The demons feed off human misery and the dysfunctional tenants keep them fed. All that changes one day when the humans suddenly find happiness and their troubles melt away. The starving demons are locked inside the apartment for fear they are the cause of the viral enlightenment. Atum makes it his business to find out what is going on why he himself seems to be the key to the mystery.

The demon society itself is a little murkier. Plenty of the characters have titles such as the Interpreter (Chuchran) who is part of a society of demons who interpret signs and seem to hold a great deal of power. Some scenes only make sense when one character explains to another what just happened. The exact nature of the bad guy (good guy?) at the end remains opaque. But the worldbuilding is interesting and the visual appeal is strong.

Fire City 1The make-up and characters are compelling enough to keep going even if the mystery soaked noir script isn’t the greatest. The same cannot be said for the sets. Oh goodness. I haven’t seen that many settings draped in plastic to disguise, well, an empty set, in ever. The apartment building is serviceable. Unless it’s the plastic draped basement.

And the one change of scenery takes the audience to– a plastic draped demon night club. The sets might be on the cheap but the performances are also good. Some of the actors can’t act through their make-ups but the quality of the special effects are good enough that the immobile masks can be forgiven. In fact the make-up really seems to be one of the driving forces behind the film, and the opportunity to showcase practical SFX make-ups. Director Woodruff has a background on special effects and the attentions to detail shows. It’s just a shame the script couldn’t quite keep up.

Fire City 3Under all that make-up, and occasionally seen in their human forms, are a number of excellent actors. Everyone of the cast of characters does a good job. Even Keely Aloña who plays Sara, Atum’s neighbor who has a pivotal role in his development. Child actors can be the downfall of any film but young Aloña delivers a solid performance.
Fire City is a low budget special effects make-up extravaganza.

Recommended for fans of Face Off and aspiring SFX make-up artists. Pair with Nightbreed for a double creature feature where the monsters are front and center.

Kudos for: The make-ups.

Lesson learned: Plastic sheets go with any decor.

6/10

Bound To Vengeance (2015) DVD Review

btv1Bound To Vengeance (2015)

Director: José Manuel Cravioto

Stars: Amy Okuda, Richard Tyson, Tina Ivlev

UK DVD Release – January 18th 2016 From High Fliers Films

A young girl, chained in the basement of a sexual predator, manages to escape and then turns the tables on her captor. She learns he has more girls locked away in various locations and forces the man to show her where they are and free them….

Bound to Vengeance is very well made, fantastically acted and is a really enjoyable revenge thriller. I am glad this film didn’t go down the torture porn route of the I Spit on Your Grave films. The physical and mental torture these girls go through isn’t shown graphically or gratuitously. It’s merely implied or we are shown the aftermath/ after effects, which I think makes the acts seem all the more harrowing for the viewer.

I knew from the moment the credits started, I was about to witness a very well made film. The way the cast and crew credits scrolled in showed a lot of professionalism. I really enjoyed Bound to Vengeance right from the beginning until the very end shot.

btv2Starring a relatively unknown Tina Ivlev, whom I am sure we will be seeing a lot of in movies to come, as the sweet but revenge filled Eve. We learn from splices of “home move” footage cut in between acts of violence and mental torture, that she has a boyfriend and appears very much in love. I enjoyed this aspect of Bound to Vengeance. I was already rooting for this girl to get her much deserved revenge but with the “home movie” edited in, I could see what sort of person she was before she was ruined by this disgusting man.

Speaking of said disgusting man; Richard Tyson does make for one hell of a horrible bastard, No offence Richard, if you are reading this. It’s a compliment to his acting. He plays his character of Phil terrifyingly fantastically. As I said earlier, the sexual violence is implied or happens off screen. But we do get a fair bit of actual blood and guts gore, in good measure too. There is an impaling, a fair few gun shots, the occasional stabbing and a lot of punching and hitting with bricks, planks of wood etc. All of the gore and violence is handled and shown in a realistic manner. There’s no Kill Bill style blood spraying.

The plot of Bound to Vengeance is simple yet effective. This always makes for the best kind of revenge film. There’s no overly complex or confusing storyline. Everything is easy to follow and keep track of each plot point as the story unravels. There are a couple of twists and turns but non which you don’t see coming.

btv3Director José Manuel Cravioto’s does a brilliant job with his English language début feature. His CV consists mainly or short films and documentaries. I think after Bound to Vengeance, we will be seeing a hell of a lot more from Cravioto in years to come. I will be keeping an eye out for every and any film he directs from now on.

If you’re after a revenge thriller which doesn’t pride itself on violence and refrains from showing acts of sexual assault, this film is a must for any thriller fan out there. It’s so well made and acted; It’s definitely going to help explode the careers of the director and leading lady. I highly recommend this film to everyone. Watch it. Be impressed by it. Be shocked by the zinger of an ending and just go through the ride with Eve as she tries to rescue Phil’s other girls.

Rating 8.5/10

Follow me on Twitter @NLouse91

V/H/S Viral (2014) Review

vhsviraldvdV/H/S: Viral (2014)

Directors
Marcel Sarmiento “Vicious Circles”
Gregg Bishop “Dante the Great”
Nacho Vigalondo “Parallel Monsters”
Justin Benson “Bonestorm”
Aaron Moorhead “Bonestorm”

Starring – Patrick Lawrie, Emilia Ares Zoryan, Celia K. Milius

UK DVD Release – 19th October 2015 from Koch Media

The third and final film in the so far, so good, found footage based V/H/S series. The second in the series took the concepts from the first and upped the ante, my expectations going in to this were quite high, hoping that the winning formula would continue and step up the craziness. Sadly I expected too much.

As always, an anthology film needs a wrap-around story tying all the pieces together, this time around we are treated to only three segments; a tale of a magician and a mysterious cloak, a man who builds a door to a parallel universe with dangerous consequences and finally some skaters in Tijuana who battle Mexican cultists. There is a fourth segment “Gorgeous Vortex” by Todd Lincoln but for one reason or another it was cut and left out.

vhsv2First off we have “Dante the Great” with Justin Welborn playing a failed magician who comes into possession of a cloak which once belonged to Houdini. The cloak gives him magical powers and he becomes the greatest magician of all time but there is a price. This is actually a really enjoyable segment, very well acted, nicely scripted and a decent concept. It feels slightly out of place in a V/H/S film, it is more like a documentary; some sections are news reports, interviews with family, police, people after one of Dante’s shows and backstage crew footage.

The found footage element seems to be vacant for the last five minutes making it feel even more out of place in a V/H/S anthology. Welborn pulls off the crazed magician solidly and the special effects are really well done bar the last few seconds. The fight scenes are brilliant, quick camera cuts and some nice bone breakages.

Next up we get an excellent piece from Nacho Vigalondo who brought us “Timecrimes” and the “A is for Apocalypse” segment in “ABC’s of Death”. Gustavo Salmerón’s character Alfonso, creates a doorway into another universe, through the door is another version of himself. They decide to switch universes for fifteen minutes out of curiosity and things begin to get very weird, very quickly. From the get go we have a feeling of awkward dread about the whole situation but I never imagined it would go the way it does. The short was on the way to being a dark, twisted tale of cross dimensional creepiness, then the film takes a huge leaf out of the book of Troma. I love Troma films so I’m not complaining, it just might be a bit too ridiculous for some. Don’t let that put you off though, this is the best acted and best shot in the collection, absolutely loved it.

vhsv1Our third and final segment is “Bonestorm”, think Larry Clark’s “Kids” or “Wassup Rockers” with an occult twist. Two skater friends and a cameraman travel to Mexico to skate, film, smoke weed and drink. A local brings them to a deserted area with obvious occult markings on the ground. As they skate, strange cult members start appearing and before you know what’s going on, a huge fight has broken out, which lasts until the end of the short.

This segment feels the most like it fits in with the wrap-around story and the found footage style shooting is quite similar to the go-pro section in the second film, but “Bonestorm” just misses the mark for me. The characters are unlikeable, the camerawork during the fight sequence is almost impossible to keep track of what is happening. Despite the confusion during the fight scene, there are some good effects in play, particularly the look of the cult members the more they get attacked, they really live up to the “Bonestorm” title. The weakest of the three but still worth a watch.

“Vicious Circles”, the wrap-around story for the piece. We open on Kev who is obsessed with filming everything, hoping to get the next video that goes viral and be a “part of something”. An ice-cream van involved in a high speed pursuit rushes past his house, he runs to catch it on camera, hoping to get it on video and be a part of “something bigger”. As the van drives past him, his girlfriend, Iris, disappears, Kev chases the van while trying to call Iris. There is a jump then to a back garden where a fight breaks out and an unfortunate doggy “accident”, and we’re back to the van chase again. When Kev finally reaches the van, things get a little stranger and very little explanation as to what actually happened. I didn’t like the wrap-around at all. There is a massive overuse of tracking interference, badly edited quick cuts and totally failed to get my interest.

VHSv4The individual segments on show here are for the most part really enjoyable, the film as a whole just doesn’t seem to fit together. The individual segments would almost be better presented as stand alone pieces rather than part of a V/H/S anthology. Especially for the “Dante” and Parallel Monster” sections. If you have 70 odd minutes to spare, give it a go, there is definitely worse ways you could spend your time.

5/10

The Killage (2011) DVD Review

killageThe Killage (Australia, 2011)

Dir: Joe Bauer

Starring: Rita Artmann, Joe Bauer, Dryden Bingham

UK DVD – 26th October 2015 from Monster Pictures

Plot: A work retreat goes wrong when a masked psychopath starts to pick the employees off one by one.

The Killage is the first feature film by writer/director/actor/editor, Joe Bauer. Bauer’s vision in The Killage is a spoof of the slasher movie genre, much like Scary Movie. It picks on the tropes and clichés of the slasher movie all the while following those same clichés to reach the film’s conclusion. I went into this film knowing absolutely nothing about it, assuming that the title “The Killage” meant something along the line of a village full of killers, rather than slang term in the sense of “Whoa that’s some immense killage! It’s off the chain.”

killage2Speaking of The Killage’s killage, it does an admirable attempt at the slasher movie ironic death. The stronger examples include the jock (creatively named Jock) being killed with his bar-bells. Bauer tries to match up each archetypal character with a fitting death but some characters don’t really fit an archetype, but also don’t really have a fleshed out character so they get killed with coincidental weapons such as the deck of cards that character was using earlier. The characters are so basic, cookie cutter characters. They are given a singular character trait and that is their whole personality, they are fodder of the weakest variety.

The film does manage to do a lot with what little budget it has. There’s some stand out stuff in their when it allows itself to be imaginative but that imagination didn’t stretch that far. Making fun of slasher movies for being formulaic and cheesy has been done to death. When Scream did it, it was calling out lazy film makers to step up their game. When Scary Movie did it, it managed to make every gross out joke possible. The Killage finds little new material to bring to the table. There was a couple of observational gags that hit the nail on the head but they’re in the minority.

As I said before The Killage follows the exact same clichés that it’s parodying and following that well-beaten path it feels like I’m being begrudgingly pulled along. The characters aren’t very likeable so this is another film where you’re just there to watch them die. That works for some people but I found it a bit tedious.

killage1I can enjoy a good schlock-fest if it’s got something weird and fun about it, film’s like Gingerdead Man where the premise is so silly you just want to watch. The Killage however is like so many other films, trying to beat that puddle of blood and organs that once was a horse called Slasher movie parodies. If you enjoyed Scary Movie, and then Shriek If You Know What I Did Last Friday The Thirteenth, and you’re still hungry for more, The Killage is for you. Whatever you do, don’t get your hopes up for a film about a village full of killers, this isn’t it.

3/10