Burn (2017) Short Film Review

rsz_burnBurn (Short 2017)

Director: Judson Vaughan
Writers: Chris Barnes and Judson Vaughan
Starrings: Max Cavenham, Emma Kelly and Matti Kolirin
Runtime: 15min

Synopsis (from IMDb): “In the midst of national hysteria and incomprehensible personal tragedy, a child is born bearing the scars of other people’s sins.”

To say I was burning to see this would be an understatement. It feels like forever since I found out Chris Barnes would be going on his very own film journey. We had since discussed the film a little bit but finally I have had the pleasure to watch it.

Burn tells the story of a personal tragedy and life thereafter for the family involved. The father of the family Peter (Max Cavenham) has made some videos to be played after he is gone for his son Charlie (Matti Kolirin). Due to the circumstances surrounding his father’s death, young Charlie becomes distant and disconnected as his mother Lou (Emma Kelly) tries her best as a single parent, with the added pressure of public scrutiny weighing heavy on her.

rsz_burn2As the story unfolds the relationships get more strained, leading to a satisfying conclusion.

In the tradition of discussing short films, I have to remain vague but rest assured Burn is worth your time, you’ll… Burn through it! Excellently crafted with tight narrative, if I had a hat I’d tip to Chris for trailblazing his way down his own filmmaking path (I’m not sorry for the puns). I believe Chris even made a cameo so had his on screen debut too, fairplay.

If you’re a fan of horror and especially independent film please support Burn and Chris over at www.TheSlaughteredBird.com for more horror and independent film coverage.

Verdict: Feel the Burn!


Listen to my conversation with Chris Barnes and UKHS’ own Andy Deen on The Bazaar – The Fear Merchant Podcast below:

Romeo’s Distress (2016) Review

rsz_romeo_official_poster_1_copy_copyRomeo’s Distress (2016)

Director: Jeff Frumess
Writer: Jeff Frumess
Stars: Nick Bohun, Alex Echevarria and Jeff Frumess
Runtime: 82min

Synopsis (from IMDb): “”Romeo’s Distress” is a Weird, Shakespearean, Gothic, Horror-Thriller that tells a story of a boy name James, his unrequited love for a girl named Jane, and her father’s sadistic (yet dutiful) response to it all.”

Heralded as zero budget film making, I just had to have a look at what a $2,500 can get you for a full feature film. Budget aside, we need to have a look at this film on its merits and not rest on the backstory and production to maybe give some leeway.

Romeo’s Distress follows the life of James (Anthony Malchar), a dorky young man, with an unhealthy obsession and a forbidden love for a girl named Jane (Kimberely A. Peterson). In comparison to James, Jane is knockout gorgeous and the problem here is she has no idea who James is. A clichéd plot no doubt but the presentation makes for an interesting watch.

The story is told in smatterings of flashbacks and panicked present day goings on. James’ time inside and outside his home is stressful to watch, his only relief is stalking the unsuspecting Jane and taking unsolicited candid photo’s. But this sort of carry on comes with a price! I don’t want to go into to much more detail as the plot unravels nicely and isn’t just another cookie cutter story about star-crossed lovers.

rsz_screen_shot_2014-09-08_at_102727_amTechnically, the whole thing is put together surprising well, acting is on point and performances are both engaging and entertaining. All considered, if you are fan of independent film then Romeo’s Distress is a master class in shoestring filmmaking. If you’d like to hear the whole story of how this was achieved, check out my chat with Jeff Frumess himself below.

Verdict: Success from Distress

Interview here with Jeff Frumess on The Bazaar | The Fear Merchant Podcast

The Last Testament of Thomas Griffith by Martin Adil-Smith – Book Review

tgThe Last Testament of Thomas Griffith – A Review

The Last Testament of Thomas Griffith (TLTOTG) is a short story set in the universe of The Spirals of Danu by Martin Adil-Smith.

Following the Small’s Lighthouse incident of 1801, as the title suggests this is the last testament of Thomas Griffith to his wife before his descent into madness. For those of you unfamiliar with this story, two lighthouse keepers on St David’s Peninsula, Wales , Thomas Griffith and Thomas Howell. Curiously however, Howell was a love rival for Griffith’s wife. During a terrible storm, when no relief could reach them, in a freak accident Thomas Howell managed to fall, hit his head and die (so the story goes). After Howell’s untimely death Griffith maintained it was an accident with no mal intent. Normal protocol was if someone had died in the lighthouse to throw the body overboard lest you wanted to cosy up to a bloated rotting corpse in the pale moonlight.

Griffith for whatever reason, be it out of guilt or the beginnings of his madness, tied Howell’s body up outside so that maybe he could be examined to determine he wasn’t murdered once the relief team could reach them. It was the worst storm in a number of years, supplies were plenty but morale was low.

Adil-Smith’s take on this tale takes us down a darker more sinister road altogether. He attempts to fill in the gaps between when Howell’s died and the days leading up to the relief crew’s arrival. They, finding Griffith as a bumbling wreck. Written as a diary entry; a last will and testament. Brief in its presentation, yet chilling all the same. If ever there was a piece to give you a taste of the wider universe of The Spirals of Danu it’s TLTOTG. The story teased me just enough to want more, to uncover the secrets of the world. That is a testament (pun intended) to Adil-Smith’s wordcraft. Luckily for me there is a series already out there for me to sink my teeth into. If you’re into dark fantasy, the strange and the occult you may enjoy this short story. I look forward to picking up the rest of The Spirals of Danu to see if the quality continues!
If you’d like to hear myself and Martin discuss this short (among other things) follow the link below to listen to my conversation with him.

Verdict: 8/10

Find Martin below:

To Buy “The Last Testament of Thomas Griffith” –
Website – spiralsofdanu.com/
Facebook – www.facebook.com/SpiralsOfDanu/
Twitter – twitter.com/SpiralsOfDanu

Cocks from Outer Space by Richard Little – Book Review

cfosCocks from Outer Space by Richard Little -a review

Buy it now: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Cocks-Outer-Space-Richard-Little-ebook/dp/B01IAA3CDI

A tale of courage, betrayal, pride and penises! (bizarro fiction)

On the surface, one might be quick to dismiss this book based solely on the title, never mind the cover (which is exactly as you’d expect ) but the story itself is not at all what I expected. Roughly speaking the story is split into three parts. Our main protagonist is One-Eyed Snake, an anthropomorphised two foot tall penis; joined by his regimental buddies Chode, Big Black and Japseye. Once you get over the initial absurdity of both the names of the characters and their physical form you begin to have fun. The Penii as they are known live in Cockland, the Penii are the warrior class and the Flaccids are the commoners. The Assholes are the sworn enemies of the Cocks and their leader is naturally: Shitler. There is an initial battle of the Hershey Highway where the team chase down Shitler. On the other side of the river of piss; The Uryne, is the Cuntry the home of the Pussies (yes please bare with this).

In the battle of the Hershey Highway which makes up the main part of what I will call Act 1. There are undertones of tribalism, xenophobia, racism, elitism, colonialism behind the absurd premise and plenty of puns and toilet humour. Because, I think at the end of the day it isn’t obviously supposed to be serious but whether it was intended or not, if you strip away the silliness there’s some real moral messages to be found here. Like Animal Farm only with giant cocks! (That’s a free one for the blurb Mr. Little) We get to laugh along at the ridiculous puns and imagery which the author gets to unleash upon us under the pseudonym Richard Little (not too hard to work out that play on words either). For the likes of me not writing this review under a pseudonym I have to stand tall and chalk it down, that yes, I’ve read a book named Cocks from Outer Space.

The next stage of the story involves humans landing on planet Genitalia and giving everyone STI’s, this leads to a trip to Earth to look for a cure, a forbidden romance, a giant cock; Cockzilla and a civil war. This story has it all, racing along puns blazing. I would say this book is best suited for teenagers, a demographic who find toilet humour hilarious (I know I did). I could honestly see this as a live action series or ending up on Adult Swim. It is a bit of a lengthy read but good fun in the end. As my first bizarro fiction, it has opened my eyes to this interesting subgenre.

Verdict: 6.9

You can find Richard Little on Twitter @fromouterspace3

Mr. Little has also very graciously offered 5 eBook copies of the book up for grabs.
The first 5 people to email me will get a copy of the book with a catch:
Subject Line: I want Cock
Body: You must tell me why you deserve a Cock From Outer Space
Email me at: thefearmerchant@gmail.com
Happy Hunting!

Ashley’s Tale by Mike Duke – Book Review

asht1Ashley’s Tale by Mike Duke – Book Review

Available on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Ashleys-Tale-Mike-Duke-ebook/dp/B017FOE77U/

Ashley’s Tale is an exhilarating novella, a tale of loss, endurance and the power of will.

We are introduced to Ashley, straight in the thick of an encounter with an as of yet unnamed assailant. She is threatened with both physical and sexual violence. We soon learn she is being held captive in a large workshop type area, belittled by her captor, made to feel worthless and weak. As the reader the escalation of the torment and violence has us at a state of unease. What is this man’s objective? What did Ashley do to deserve this?

This man knows everything about her yet she knows nothing about him, he even knows to bring up the dark depths of her past, the horrors of uncle Tim. With this revelation he straps her into a harness and leaves her with a choice; rape or a beating. Ashley chooses the latter, a harrowing scene but it doesn’t last long. This poor woman her fate in the hands of a mad man.

The man has his own motivations, he wants to train Ashley, to prepare her so she can challenge him; he loves a strong woman. This goes on for some time and we eventually learn his name; Jake. He teaches her to kill pigs, and to hunt and how to survive in the wild. With each day she learns and grows stronger, her burning desire to kill this man also grows by the hour. On a few occasions Ashley almost got her wish, but she is not quite there yet. Where will this journey of self discovery lead her?

Ashley’s Tale is a well rounded story, it mixes elements of psychological thriller, self help and spots of erotic fiction (confused boner naturally, I think that was the point). The intrigue is there and we are really behind Ashley is her endeavours to escape her captivity. Jake however, unveils his humanity over time, who really is the bad guy? Touches on themes of early childhood abuse, self empowerment andrevenge, it really is a whirlwind of a ride.

As it so happens, Mike Duke has since written a prequel story “Ashley’s Tale: Making Jake” (available here: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B01GDHHOFM) and as of yet unreleased sequel “Ashley’s Tale: The Initiation”

If you’re into suspenseful thrillers you should really check out Ashley’s Tale, it’s a quick read that’s worth your time.

Verdict: 7.5/10

Mr Topps (2016) Short Film Review

mr_topps_poster_1Mr. Topps (Short 2016)

Writer/Director: Adam de la Cour

Stars: Claire Brookwell, Benjamin Campbell Piggott and Adam de la Cour

Runtime: 11min

Synopsis: A rowdy magician, gets to revisit some bizarre people and events from his past, in this surrealist performance art short.

Mr. Topps is a surrealist fever dream centred around the performing magician Percy Topps (Benjamin Campbell Piggott).

We are planted head on in front of Mr. Topps who is tied up in a darkened room. A disembodied voice, named Deep Throat (Adam de la Cour) fills the room and begins to interrogate and coax reactions from our namesake protagonist.
Flashing through past events and run ins with people from his past.

Is this a trial, is this a final judgement in this crazed limbo we find ourselves in?

All will be revealed in time but until that time you will be left scarcthing your head while feeling a gnawing unease as the contents and direction of this trail as we’ll call it, wanders completely left of field.

topps_analAs we dive into the knitty gritties of Mr. Topps your enjoyment will entirely hinge on the state of mind you’re in when and if you decide to watch it. I’d hazard a guess and say this short is best enjoyed under some chemical influence. Watching this blood sober leaves this a complete head scratcher, audibly hearing myself say “what the f@#k?” at some of the surrealist imagery.

Is this an art house attempt at some offbeat dark humour? It most certainly is. Is Mr. Topps worth a watch? If you’re into cerebral dark humour, yes of course. Breaking down the film, it was produced fantastically, Mr. Topps himself was entertaining seemingly unphased that he could be meeting certain death from the ominous disembodied antagonist, Deep Throat.

The water shed conclusion is where we find find ourselves at a loss but that is exactly what was intended.

Verdict: Topp of the head scratcher



Richard Martin’s Top 10 Films of 2015

Richard Martin’s Top 10 Films of 2015

Admittedly it has been a very poor for me on the film front (plenty of stellar TV to fill my precious free time), watching under a measly 35 films in 2015, of those, 17 were released this year and only 12 were feature length so bear with this rather hodgepodge Top 10!

Top 10 Films of 2015 in reverse order!

jwnew110. Jurassic World (Cinema)
JW was a pretty decent popcorn movie and was made for the big screen. Great to see the park open finally, a really immersive world was created here. I really wish JW was a real park! Daydreaming aside, beyond the gorgeous visuals there wasn’t much substance to the story. Character actions were sometimes completely nonsensical and this pulled me out of the illusion. Had some elements been presented a bit differently JW could have gone from good to great with little changed from the core viewing. I still enjoyed it though, go T-Rex!

9. Spectre (Cinema)
One of two spy thrillers on this list; Spectre was quite enjoyable to watch. It has been criticised for its relevance in this day and age, with the character himself in-film, getting criticised for his own relevance since Goldeneye. Well I agree in so much that how can you tell the same story for 50 years; tall, dark, handsome international man of mystery, secret spy, kills the baddies, finds the hidden liar, gets the girl and drives the car. Albeit for newer audiences Spectre is another solid entry into the already jam packed back catalogue of Bond movies. It just fell a bit flat for its third act, not as good as the previous Skyfall.

antman8. Ant-Man (VOD)
I didn’t end up seeing Ant-Man when it first came out in the cinema. As with a lot of people I didn’t feel a lot of hype around the character and assumed it was just Disney cashing in on Marvel’s b-listers. Sitting down one recent Sunday to Netflix and chill and decided I’d watch AM. With no expectations going in I was blown away at the quality of the film, its story, action and humour rivalling that of Guardians of the Galaxy and Avengers Assemble. Paul Rudd fits the role perfectly and I look forward to future entries in the series that incorporate the Ant-Man!

7. The Martian (Cinema)
Being at the butt of a few jokes regarding Matt Damon’s uncanny ability to be on the receiving end of a retrieval in a few films to date, The Martian still managing to tell a convincing and relatable story. The problem with these types of rescue films however, is that you can be fairly sure the stranded character is going to be rescued; be this person lost at sea, an island, a prison and in this case another planet. If they don’t survive the 90mins runtime the emotional investment is wasted. This aside, the banter had with Damon’s character and him coping with rationing and survival is worth the journey.

tgblu6. Terminator: Genisys (Cinema)
As a lifelong fan of Arnie, it could be a bit biased of me to include the 5th instalment of the Terminator franchise on this list. Boiling it down, it’s a reimagine of T1 and T2 set in a staggered future, telling the same story for the fifth time; Skynet vs Sarah and John Connors and Kyle Reese. But let us be honest with ourselves, nobody was expecting story telling brilliance. Great action and nostalgic quips with Arnie reprising his role as an aged T-800 Model 101 named “Pops” was worth the ticket price alone. A recommended watch for both Terminator and Arnie fans alike.

5. The Babadook (VOD)
As this film came out in late 2014, it’s a bit of a cheat that it made this list, but I feel it deserved to get a mention in this year’s line up, as I was blown away by the quality of this horror movie. My initial thoughts were; here we go again, another haunted house/possessed child rehash but the overall commentary on stress, grief, PTSD, anger, frustration, parenthood, was such a breath of fresh air and a credit to the team that put this masterwork on the screen. Having slipped under my radar last year I’m so glad this one didn’t pass me altogether. Highly recommended for any horror fan, which I assume we all are, this being read on UKHS after all 😉

kungfury4. Kung Fury (VOD)
Had Kung Fury been a feature length or even just 15min longer it would have made number 1. I followed its Kickstarter from the beginning, the wait was intense. The whole concept in its ridiculousness was exactly what I love; 80’s cheesy action, Miami, neon, synthwave tunes, cop drama, tongue ‘n cheek approach. It was such great fun to watch at only 30min runtime and freely available on Netflix and YouTube, I highly recommend this passion project!

3. Kingsman: The Secret Service (Cinema)
The year for spy thrillers as two have made this list. Kingsman knows what it is and thus, has some fun with it while not making it a complete cheese fest. Yes that means plenty of gadgets, girls and tomfoolery, presented in a convincing and engaging manner and doesn’t devolve into the crudeness of say Austin Powers. Highly entertaining and surprising as this was completely off my radar with no hype around it, I didn’t even watch the trailer so I was completely blind going in, which is a rarity in an age of teaser trailers and pre-teaser trailer teaser trailers (so meta).

mmfr2. Mad Max: Fury Road (Cinema)
A fine spectacle of cinema goodness; I say cinema as this film was made for the big screen. What is essentially one long chase scene; has us at the edge of our seat from start to finish. The burnt out wasteland of post-nuclear Australia where both water and fuel are king is very engaging and entertaining. Saturated vistas and plenty explosions, you can almost smell the clutch, rubber and petrol of the war machines. Charlize Theron steals the show as the one armed Furiosa putting Tom Hardy’s Max in her shadow, which is very refreshing to see a strong and convincing female lead in a summer blockbuster action film. Mad Max narrowly misses the top spot on my list with a very late entry! Mad Max however, is sheer brilliance in simplistic storytelling, fine acting and breath taking action, all perfectly executed as far as I’m concerned.

swtfa1. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (Cinema)
There is little I can say that won’t give away major plot spoilers, as this is a very late addition to this list. For old and new fans of this long running franchise, fret not. This far exceeds the prequel trilogy and really adds new flare and talent. The music, the transitions, the set pieces, the characters, are all stunning. Hitting a fine balance of humour, action and stoicism from the characters, it is a testament to J.J. Abrams and his very talented team. A must see for anybody, Star Wars: TFA is a great way to end 2015 cinema!

Dud 1: Avengers: Age of Ultron (Cinema)
After enjoying the first film this dull, carbon copy of the original brought nothing new to the table and was an absolute snooze-fest. The previous villain swapped out for a new one presenting the same treat as before, a cataclysmic event that will wipe out the planet, the plans (again) foiled after the resolution of the (again) conflicts within the team for them to (again) realise they should work together to (again) defeat the Big Bad. Seriously the height of laziness and a real let down, with less humour and less action than the previous it was pathetic.

FSG_31_5_Promo_BW_3F.inddDud 2: Fifty Shades of Grey (Cinema)
A true talent is needed to make a film that which I’d the lowest expectations for, to even be worse than anticipated. A PG-13 take on the world of BDSM. Painting the female lead as a complete puppet and Mr. Grey as an egomaniacal, borderline rapist is so far removed from the truth of this subculture its embarrassing. What was hyped up to be a porno could never have been as it’s a mainstream studio making this for the mainstream audience. Admittedly only watched out of curiosity, it failed to even arouse that, never mind anything sexual! 50 Shades of Tame.