Blood Punch (2014) DVD Review

rsz_bloodpunchBlood Punch (2014)
Starring: Milo Cawthorne, Olivia Tennet and Ari Boyland
Writer: Eddie Guzelian
Director: Madellaine Paxson

Out in the UK on Jan 16th – Blood Punch will be available for purchase from ASDA, HMV, Fopp, Amazon, The Hunt and Base. And available for streaming from iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play, Vubiquity, TalkTalk and Vimeo on Demand.

A young man is lured into a dangerous love triangle that begins to take a series of shocking and grisly supernatural turns.

Milton (Milo Cawthorne, Deathgasm, Mega Time Squad, ASH vs Evil Dead and When We Go to War) wakes up on Tuesday morning. He wakes to the annoying sound of wind chimes and the urgent need to puke. We can see he’s been sleeping on the couch at a hunting cabin. The walls are littered with brutal reminders of murder and mutilation (such as axes, crossbows, mantraps and mounted hunting trophies). And, once Milton has looked up from the toilet bowl he’s been worshipping, he finds himself staring at a tablet that bears a note saying ‘PLAY ME’.

The intrigue deepens when Milton presses play and finds the tablet contains footage of himself, explaining how the current situation has come about. His surprise at seeing himself on the screen is not because he was wasted the previous night, or because he’s endured some memory-eradicating substance. The reason turns out to be far more ingenious.

rsz_bp1The content of the tablet leads to a little bit of backstory and a proper introduction to the story’s hero.

Milton had been incarcerated in a juvenile detention centre. He’d been there because he was a chemistry student and he’d been caught using his knowledge of chemicals to cook crystal meth. Whilst appearing to repent for his sins, and maybe take a step toward atonement, he encounters a shed load of trouble in the shape of Skyler (Olivia Tennet, Lord of the Rings, Boogeyman and Shortland Street).

Skyler is a forthright character and conducts herself with a ruthless determination that is irresistible. She is looking for a meth cook and she uses her feminine wiles to tempt Milton to fill her vacancy. After showing him that crystal meth has a positive effect on her libido, it doesn’t take long before Skyler’s convinced Milton to join her. She’s even arranged to have her psychotic boyfriend Russell (Ari Boyland, The Tribe, Shortland Street, Power Rangers R.P.M.) organize a jail break. And, for Milton, this is where the troubles really begin.

As a story, Blood Punch has traces of Breaking Bad, Cabin in the Woods and Groundhog Day in its structure – but it is so much more than merely a homage to existing works. One of the clever things about this film is the way everything is made to look so effortless. The story, in less capable hands, could have been confusing and nonsensical. Instead, it’s compelling, quirky and intriguing. The characters, drug dealers, psychopaths and the criminally insensitive, could have been difficult to like. But, instead, they come across as relatable, likeable and even loveable.

rsz_bpIt’s easy to see why Blood Punch has won so many awards (Phoenix International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival: Best Horror Feature 2015; New Orleans Horror Film Festival: Best Feature Film 2014; Hoboken International Film Festival: Best Feature Film, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Actor, Best Actress 2014). The film has a compelling story that comes from a well-crafted script. The acting is strong and confident from a cast who know what they’re doing. The direction is masterful and assured throughout.

I can’t recommend this one highly enough and would say it’s one of the best horror films I’ve watched in a long time: 10/10.

Night of Something Strange (2016) Review

rsz_112819375_994557477247045_1782208119961988031_oNIGHT OF SOMETHING STRANGE (2016)

Dir: Jonathan Straiton
Stars: Rebecca C. Kasek, Trey Harrison, Michael Merchant, Toni Anne Gambale, John Walsh, Tarrence Taylor, Nicola Fiore, Wayne W. Johnson, Janet Mayson, Kirk La Salle, Al Lawler

Released by Hurricane Bridge Entertainment. See it at the Horror-on-Sea Film Festival on 21 January at 5.30pm.

Night of Something Strange opens with a messy sequence in which we discover the origin of an STD that transforms its victims into ravenous rapist-zombies(!). From here we meet a gang of youngsters on a Spring Break road trip. There’s good girl Christine (Rebecca C. Kasek), her best friend Carrie (Toni Anne Gambale), Carrie’s obnoxious boyfriend Freddy (Michael Merchant), nerdy Jason (John Walsh) and pothead Brooklyn (Tarrence Taylor). On the way to a party destination, they choose to stop over in a seedy motel. Also at the motel are bad chick Pam (Nicola Fiore) and her tough boyfriend Dirk (Trey Harrison) who are hooking up for a night of passion. However, unbeknownst to our horny high-schoolers, the infected necrophiliac who kickstarted this whole mess is on his way to the motel…

Inside the first six minutes of Night of Something Strange we are treated to a prolonged sequence of necrophilia, a man urinating in a woman’s face before he violently rapes her, a bloody wound complete with arterial spray and somebody ripping out an unspecified, but gore-soaked part of a woman’s genitalia with his bare hands, then eating it. Then the film REALLY gets going.

rsz_14917277_1155870461115745_3324279579145028734_oIf that sounds a bit much for you, then you should probably steer clear. Night of Something Strange is a shocking movie that is full-on, in your face, and legitimately disgusting at times… and THAT is why it is so good. Think classic Eighties splatter horror-comedy Night of the Creeps crossed with the excesses of South Park — NoSS is chock-full of gross-out moments, from sexual misadventures to a veritable explosion of body-fluids. As such, it’s absolutely hilarious!

It certainly helps that these moments are brought to life with visual effects and make-up far more impressive than NoSS’s modest budget might lead to you expect. But over-performing is pretty much the norm for this movie.

Take the cast — I think it’s safe to say that most of the leads in the movie probably won’t be immediately recognisable to many viewers, but that doesn’t stop them from knocking their performances out of the park. Harrison does a tremendous job of delivering some killer tough-guy lines with a straight face, while the impressive Kasek shows some real potential as a future Scream Queen. Gambale shows real dedication to her craft with a couple of her scenes, as does the simply fantastic Merchant. It is Merchant’s crass Freddy who very nearly steals the film. Merchant is brave, utterly shameless and throws himself into his role with gusto. He’s awesome! Elsewhere, Fiores clearly has fun playing the witchy Pam and she’s a joy to watch.

rsz_12513692_1002519173117542_1525579911595151897_oOf course, the actors are only as good as the material they’re given to work with, and the writing team of director Straiton, Ron Bonk and Mean Gene deliver great dialogue, some brilliant set-pieces and a plot with some pretty out-there twists. The violent monsters are suitably terrifying villains, especially the menacing Wayne W. Johnson as the lead undead sex-fiend, Cornelius. As the zombies mutate even further later in the flick, their genitalia transforming into lethal weapons, they become reminiscent of the ‘sickos’ in Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse segment, Planet Terror, and, along with the laughs and outlandish action, the film even manages to pack in some well-crafted scares and some intense sequences.

This is all under the steady guidance of director Jonathan Straiton, whose keen eye for a good shot is a massive contributing factor to the success of NoSS. Bravo sir!

rsz_11157579_843957512307043_3862393676166830435_oAn unapologetic fist (or perhaps another body appendage) in the face, Night of Something Strange takes your typical Eighties splatter horror flick, sticks it in a blender with some late Nineties gross-out humour, and produces a heady, hilarious, horrific cocktail that really does need to be seen on the big screen with a crowd of laughing, shrieking, gasping genre fans. This is the ultimate horror party movie and it needs to be seen the right way!

7/10

Beyond The Gates hits UK DVD On Feb 20th from Signature Entertainment UK

rsz_1rsz_btg1Beyond The Gates hits UK DVD On Feb 20th from Signature Entertainment UK.

Get ready to experience this season’s freshest horror. Highly praised during it’s recent premiere at FrightFest, _Beyond the Gates_ is a gore-filled tribute to 80’s horror and board games of the same era.

Seven months after their father’s disappearance, estranged brothers Gordon and John Hardesty reunite to liquidate their Dad’s anaemic video store. Soon after, they unearth an old VHS board game that acts as an inter-dimensional hub to a nightmare world where their Father’s soul is trapped and can only be saved by playing the game…

Tense, scary and full of nostalgic thrills, _Beyond the Gates_ is directed by Jackson Stewart and stars Graham Skipper, Chase Williamson, Matt Mercer, Brea Grant and Re-Animator’s Barbara Crampton.

PRECISION PICTURES PRESENTS BEYOND THE GATES ON DIGITAL FROM 13TH FEBRUARY & DVD 20TH FEBRUARY, 2017

Pet (2016) Review

rsz_petPET (2016)

Directed By: Carles Torrens
Written By: Jeremy Slater
Starring: Dominic Monaghan, Ksenia Solo, Jennette McCurdy
Score: 8/10

Introduction
‘Pet’, is an independent, psychological horror/thriller, that is being compared to the likes of ‘Hard Candy’, due to its claustrophobic nature. An announcement was made that the film would make its world premier in March 2016, at the SXSW Festival, and was very well received. ‘Pet’ was released theatrically on December 2nd, 2016 and will be available on VOD and DVD on December 27th, 2016.

Synopsis:
Seth (Dominic Monaghan), is a down on his luck young man, who works at an animal shelter. One day on his way home from work, a girl who he has not seen for years, but had crushed on in school, gets on the bus. She is a beautiful, young woman, called Holly (Ksenia Solo). He starts to stalk Holly, firstly, online on her tinder profile, and then moving on to following her around at nights in the dark, and repeatedly going to see her at work where she is waitress.  Lacking the confidence to ask her out, he decides he has had enough, and kidnaps Holly, and puts her in a cage in the basement of the animal shelter where he works. In this tale full of twists and turns, is Holly who he thinks she is and who will end up the real victim?

rsz_1pet2Review:
This is a full on roller coaster of a film that will have you gripped from start to finish. The further into the film you get, you find out about more about the characters disturbing secrets, and of Seth and Holly’s night time activities. The character development is absolutely superb, and the performances from the films two main characters is brilliant, and both play their parts incredibly well. Their back stories aren’t thrown at you in one big lump, but are more drip fed to you, leaving you locked on, craving more information about the pair, and wanting to know what depths each are prepared to go to, to satisfy their own personal lusts and desires. As more of this awesome story unfolds, the twists are brilliant and well thought out. As you venture into the awesome finale, you’ll be sitting on the edge of your seat in anticipation, of how this power struggle, between the two will ultimately play out.

Dominic Monaghan, who portrays the character ‘Seth’, is presented as a loner and a nobody who is invisible to the world. We see his boundaries completely disappear, as his lust for Holly turns to infatuation and his is mind descends further into madness and obscurity. He meticulously plans the kidnapping and incarceration of Holly, as he works towards what is his ultimate goal of having this girl as his pet, someone he can have power over, and control. You get the sense from him that there may be no limits of what he is capable of. His intentions are not of a sexual nature and he keeps repeating to Holly that he wants to help her. He seems to want to systematically break her down psychologically. But the more he thinks he is succeeding with his plan he is actually playing straight into Holly’s hands, who has got plans of her own.

rsz_pet4Ksenia Solo, who portrays Holly, is the girl that Seth becomes completely obsessed with. From the day she first met Seth on a bus ride home from work, she becomes more and more conscious of the fact, that Seth is popping up everywhere she goes. She finds herself constantly looking over her shoulder and develops a huge sense of paranoia. Once kidnapped, and as each day goes by, we find out more about Seth’s prisoner, and Holly is definitely not what she first appears to be. Seth is presented with some major problems that he could never have anticipated, turning the film completely on its head and presenting the unusual situation which sees the hostage take complete control from the confines of her cage.

The pacing of each scene is brilliant. You’re not left lingering and waiting for something to happen ,in saying that after what are some pretty heated conversations between the two, you have the time to digest the mind games being played and prepare yourself for whatever is coming next.
The scenes filmed in the basement between Seth, and Holly are so intense and enticing and what compliments this greatly is the dialogue, it’s simply brilliant. The exchanges between the pair intensify with each visit, and with this, we see the balance of power shift back and forth between the hostage and her keeper. After they’re through talking for the day, each of them are left with some food for thought, and sit rehearsing how they’re going to play out their next move in this most dangerous game of cat and mouse.

rsz_pet3Final Thoughts:
Although this film was the lowest grossing film of any theatrical release in 2016, taking in a measly $70, I’m struggling to come to terms with how such a good film can slump so badly in the theatres. It may be a lack of publicity, or just a sign of the times, with films being so readily available online… or simply that the film was released at a time, where it was swamped by bigger box office films. This really is one of the best psychological films that has come out in quite some time. Its extremely clever, brilliantly written, and fantastically performed. I expect that this film will do much better when released on VOD and will be one that i’m sure will be appreciated for the fine film that it is.

8/10

Dead End aka Drifter (2016) Review

rsz_deadendDEAD END aka DRIFTER (2016)

Starring Aria Emory, Drew Harwood and Monique Rosario

Directed by Chris von Hoffman

Written by Chris von Hoffman and Aria Emory

UK DVD Release from High Fliers Films on March 6th

A pair of outlaw brothers seek temporary refuge in a desolate town inhabited by a small family of psychotic cannibalistic lunatics“.

The story of Drifter pretty much goes like this. If you take the Gecko Brothers from Tarantino and Rodriguez’s classic From Dusk Till Dawn, roughed them up and put them in the middle of an arid post-apocalyptic, just about to go Mad Max wasteland, and then had them stumble upon the family from Texas Chainsaw Massacre and their mutant cousins from The Hills Have Eyes, then you’ve pretty much got it.

Seriously. The script actually replicates wholesale dialogue, even scenes, from those films and others. This kind of thing is basically the reason I’ve grown so tired of Tarantino and Rob Zombie. So why the high rating?

rsz_deadend1Because this film is an absolute assault on the senses, that’s why. In his feature debut, director Hoffman, a veteran of music videos and short films, has less directed the script as directed the living shit out of his script. Imprinting a gritty, flashy, grimy and relentless vision all of his own, Drifter is less directed and more choreographed, like an 80’s dubstep goth rave in the desert. There are images here that are truly stunning, the way Hoffman frames the landscape, follows his characters, captures the day and the night. It all feels iconic. His energy behind the camera is non stop, reaching even crazier heights in the moments of savagery.

And choreography is nothing without music. My oh my, the soundtrack in this rhymes with the visuals in a way we rarely see these days. It’s a pulsing, pounding, monstrous beast from Nao Sato, and it’s a marvel. I swear there were moments in this film where the combination of movement, framing, action and soundtrack nearly had me cheering. Everything just clicks to create a sensory overload. I think this is what makes the film work so well. The script and story may lack originality, but its execution is anything but derivative. The feel of this film, the texture of it, the sound of it, is like nothing I remember seeing. Yes, it’s showy and attention seeking but it bloody well deserves it. Drifter is Hoffman trying not to make a splash, but to kick all the water out of the tub. And I need to own this soundtrack immediately.

The performances are also extremely fun. As our heroes, Emory and Howard take stock characters and rough them right up, make them lived in and raw. But our villains have the most fun. James McCabe is fantastically sinister as the childlike patriarch of the clan, Doyle, and Rebecca Frasier is the most devious white trash doll you will find. But the standout was Anthony Ficco as the Danny Zuko on acid Latos. A twitchy, nightmarish bottle of bloodthirsty rage, he’s a fantastic villain.

rsz_deadend2Although technically the film is a striking marvel, with sights and sounds that are seared into my brain, it’s a real shame that the script is such a hodgepodge of scenes and dialogue from other movies. In this case it’s not a deal breaker, but it would’ve elevated this to cult-classic status. But maybe the reason it’s all so blatant is because that was the point. So, if Drifter is a love-letter to a particularly grimy type of cinema, it’s a kinetic and visceral success. But we will have to wait for the next film from Hoffman for originality.

As it stands, Drifter is an everything and the kitchen sink project done right. An angry, vicious, grindhouse fever dream.

8/10

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.

Top 10 Horror Films of 2016 by Elliott Maguire

Top 10 Horror Films of 2016 by Elliott Maguire

swmb110. SHE WHO MUST BURN

Something that has and will always fascinate me is religion, and what those devoted to their God will do in their name. She Who Must Burn examines this in such a realistic way it’s almost a docu-drama. A horrifying look at religious extremism in a small town with a sense of inevitability and dread that is palpable.

9. CREEPY

Another title that completely caught me off guard, this dense, slow-burning psychological thriller was all about the characters and the performances, and oh boy did they do a good job of getting right under your skin, especially Teruyuki Kagawa as the last person you would want living next door. Truly the work of a master filmmaker, like the characters in the final frames, Creepy will leave you scarred.

tank8. TANK 432

Coming from Ben Wheatley’s frequent collaborator Nick Gillespie, I had high expectations for Tank 432 until I saw the trailer. Then I thought I had all the twists figured out. So happy I was wrong. This was a much smarter film than its surface would suggest, a hallucinogenic trip to to into the belly of the bull. War is hell indeed.

7. THE CONJURING 2

This was the most purely entertaining cinema going experience of the year for me. An epic horror crowd pleaser, every inch of the screen was used to smartly construct some of the biggest jump scares of 2016. Emotional, terrifying and full of wonder, this was just so much fun.

invitaqtion6. THE INVITATION

From the writers of Night At The Museum and the director of Aeon Flux and Jennifer’s Body…I didn’t see this going well. But imagine my surprise when this turned out to be one of the smartest and most  disturbing paranoid thrillers I’d seen in years. An absolute must-see.

5. TABLOID VIVANT

I had never heard of Tabloid Vivant until I watched it for a review, and I still don’t think I’ve seen anything like it. This is an art house film, literally about art, but don’t let that put you off. It’s also accessible, transgressive, imaginative, stylish, unique, funny and in the end quite tragic. It’s also available on Amazon Prime now, so I say open your mind and give it a go.

mindseyeeeee4. THE MIND’S EYE

Our fearless leader Andy Deen recommended this to me and all I can say is fuck me gently with a chainsaw, this is just the shot in the arm jaded horror fans are looking for. Lovingly retro without being cutesy, this is too drawer indie filmmaking. Complex characters, in a simple story told with passion, vigour and ingenuity. It’s stunning. For fans of Cronenberg, Verhoeven and Eric Red, it has to be seen. Bravo Joe Begos. Bravo.

3. GREEN ROOM

I think this was the film I was anticipating the most this year, and it exceeded my expectations. After this and Blue Ruin, Saulnier has the directorial and storytelling vision that I can relate to the most. This is old school genre filmmaking, the Walter Hill or John Carpenter kind. Every shot is thoughtful, every line important, and every scene of violence painful. Led by the late, great Anton Yelchin as an unconventional hero, this really is one of the most visceral and uncompromising horror films of the year.

2. HIGH RISE

Ben Wheatley can do no wrong in my book. He’s a true visionary whose films are always distinctive and High Rise was no different. Disturbing, hilarious, anarchic and horrifyingly relevant right now, this one will is going to stand the test of time.

wailing1. THE WAILING

I still can’t stop thinking about The Wailing. It’s such a layered and literate story, that takes its time burrowing into your consciousness. This is the ultimate kind of horror. It ticks all the boxes, but it all feels natural. Psychologically devastating, horrifyingly violent, and emotionally engaging, there truly hasn’t been a film like this in years. Steeped in folklore and character, this feels like an adaptation of an amazing Stephen King novel. It’s not, but it’s seriously that rich and imaginative. If anything comes close to it in 2017 it will be a very good year for horror.

Honourable Mention: THE NEIGHBOUR

The Neighbour is bound to be one of those films that flies under the radar, but, even though it’s technically more of a thriller than horror, it’s well worth checking out. A tight, smart, brutal crime thriller with standout turns from Josh Stewart and Alex Essoe.

Biggest Letdown: LIGHTS OUT

I’m a big fan of David F. Sandberg’s short films and an even bigger fan of James Wan’s. It should be a match made in horror heaven, but I found this a poorly developed effort. Dumb characters, an uninvolving plot and unimaginative scares made this extremely forgettable unfortunately.

Biggest Surprise: THE INVITATION

5 Most Anticipated for 2017:

a-cure-for-wellness-uk-movie-posterA CURE FOR WELLNESS

Gore Verbinski returns to the horror genre with what looks like a visually stunning mind-fuck. I don’t want to know anything about this going in but I can’t wait to watch it and find out.

GET OUT

A racially-fuelled Wicker Man from Jordan Peele and Jason Blum? Hell yes. I don’t think this could’ve been made at a better time and can’t wait to see what’s surprises it has in store.

PREVENGE

Everything about this, from the story behind it’s making to the concept, excites me. Everything I’ve heard so far tells me Alice Lowe has made a defining British cult classic.

leatherface_2016_posterLEATHERFACE

The directors of INSIDE. Directing a TEXAS CHAINSAW film. As a horror road trip. With STEPHEN FUCKING DORFF. WHY IS THIS TAKING SO LONG TO COME OUT!?! There is absolutely no way this can be as bad as the last one, so just put the ultra violence in my eyeballs now!!!

THE DEVIL’S CANDY

I’m a HUGE fan of The Loved Ones, and have been patiently waiting on another Sean Byrne film. Another unique eye with a huge passion for the genre, he’s a fantastic talent and this melding of a metal and the supernatural sounds awesome

Onus (2016) Review

onusONUS (2016)

Starring Robert Render, Anthony Boyle, Caroline Burns Cooke and Vivian Jameson

Directed by George Clarke

Written by George Clarke, Robert Render and Anthony Boyle

Out NOW on UK DVD from LEFT FILMS!

A boy wakes up below a cliff, bloodied, with a gun in his hand, and chained to a man who lies beside him. He stresses hard to remember what happened, and soon the puzzles of the day’s events come back to him. The story begins”.

Made for a budget of £500, Onus reads like a textbook example of how to make a next to no-budget feature. Shot mostly outside in natural daylight, with a minimal cast and very little to nothing in the way of special fx, Onus still manages to beat its minimal budget. While rough around the edges, there is enough promise here to suggest director and co-writer George Clarke is a talent worth watching.

Keiran Flynn (Boyle) and Mr Andrews (Render) wake in the woods, linked by handcuffs and gaffer taped handguns. As they come to terms with their dire situation, the plot thickens and the tension between the two rises. In the aftermath of the events in the woods, Andrews wife Liz (Burns Cooke) and Kieran’s mother Joan (Jameson) come together to try to make sense of it all…

Stripping everything back allows the performances to be the focus, and in the main they work very well. Render and Boyle make for a compellingly conflicted double act, a much more dynamic and tense relationship than the similar one featured in the original Saw. Burns Cooke and Jameson fare a little poorer but not for a lack of talent. Rather, their issues are one of many in the structure of the film.

anthony-boyleI have to highlight the main flaw in Onus and that is the rather ambitious but unsuccessful narrative structure. It’s a film of two halves, with the first half focusing on the chained together scenario, and the second half focusing on the aftermath. You can see Clarke’s intentions, but they don’t translate well. The script is less tight and focused in the second half, and the film falters technically as well, the sound hampering the acting.

All of this is very frustrating as the first half is so visually disciplined, well written and performed, that it could have easily been the focus of the entire feature. As it is, you are left with the aftertaste of a missed opportunity.

But you can’t fault the ambition here. On pennies, Clarke has made a thought-provoking and intriguing movie, that also reads as a textbook for aspiring filmmakers. I’d be very interested in seeing how Clarke pulled all this off, as would other students of the form I think.

6/10

We Have A Copy of The Church on DVD to Give Away from Shameless Films.

churchThanks to our good friends at Shameless we have 1 x DVD of Michele Soavi’s stunning The Church (La Chiesa) to give away to a lucky UK reader.

The Church is available from Shameless Films here – http://www.shameless-films.com/shop/The-Church-aka-La-Chiesa.html

There’s an ancient evil lurking beneath…THE CHURCH!
Stunning visuals, creepy atmospheric horror and gasp-inducing shock! From director Michele Soavi (DELLAMORTE DELLAMORE, THE SECT) and writer Dario Argento, comes the first ever UK Blu-ray release of this Italian horror classic.

After Teutonic Knights massacre a village of ‘witches’ in medieval times, the sinister religious order builds a gothic Church on the site of the atrocity. Hundreds of years later, the church’s librarian (Tomas Arana) accidentally unleashes whatever darkness was laid in the church’s ground that terrible day. At the mercy of the waking demons and satanic spirits, the churchgoers who’ve been trapped inside by the building’s ancient mechanisms soon succumb to the evil in an orgy of diabolic-lust and merciless slaughter. With a brooding score from genre cohorts Keith Emerson and Goblin, Soavi ramps the dread up to 666 before building to a blood-curdling finale!

Shameless is honoured to present its Yell’o® release of the 1st ever 2K HD restored and longest ever version, made from crypt materials and now entirely faithful to Soavi’s original vision. How long has it been since your last confession?… Never repent! Just be suave!

This Shameless presentation of Michele Soavi’s THE CHURCH is complete and uncut. Made from a 2k transfer of the original negative, the film was restored respecting its original colour palette and the formidable craftsmanship of director Soavi and his team. Similarly, THE CHURCH is presented in its original Stereo sound as originally created by its makers.

To be in with a chance of winning this amazing DVD then you must be in the UK and then simply email [email protected] with your name and full address and put Church in the subject line. A winner will be chosen at random when the competition ends on Sunday 6th January.

Thanks and good luck!!

The Devil Lives Here aka The Fostering (2015) Review

dlh1The Devil Lives Here aka The Fostering (2015)

Starring Pedro Caetano, Pedro Carvalho and Mariana Cortes

Directed by Rodrigo Gasparini & Dante Vescio

Written by Guilherme Aranha, Rafael Baliu, M.M. Izidoro

Out on UK DVD now from Matchbox Films and worldwide from Artsploitation Films

“Three teenagers go visit a friend at his old farmhouse for the weekend. What they didn’t expect was to be caught in the middle of a centenary war between good and evil”.

A group of friends head out to a house in the middle of nowhere for a night of fun and shenanigans. But before you can say Cabin In Ten Woods, they find their lives in grave danger when they are trapped in an annual ceremony involving the horrific history of the house…

Folk horror is all the rage on this side of the pond, with A Field In England, Wake Wood and more following in the grand tradition of The Wicker Man. Tales that explore the rich, grim history of this little island to great effect. So now we have a Brazilian folk horror in The Devil Lives Here. Brazil is a country rife with history and culture, although we very rarely see it explored in horror. Although The Devil Lives Here won’t go down as a classic of the genre, it’s a fun flick nonetheless.

dlh2The performances from the young cast are fine if not standout. To be fair, our two female leads, Mariana Cortines and Clara Verdier, downplay their characters and it actually comes across as very naturalistic. A change from the usual overacting and shrieking that comes with this territory. The best and most well thought out character though is our sadistic villain The Honey Baron played by Ivo Muller. But unfortunately, his handling is one of the films flaws…

The main issue is that for a film with such a brisk runtime, the story is needlessly complex, or at least the telling of it is. There’s so much backstory that needs to be explored, that it dominates the entire first half of the film. Even then, I found myself getting a little lost and confused as to what was going on, because after all that setup, the payoff is pretty rushed. So much time is spent introducing The Honey Baron is flashbacks that he only has 20 minutes of runtime left to terrorise our heroes!

Indeed, The Devil Lives Here is genuinely a film of two halves. The first half, although badly paced when looking at the overall finished product, has a sun-drenched atmosphere of dread and intriguing visuals that really work. The direction is unshowy but fresh, and the ideas and performances at play really work. But when all this is just build up to a messy, incoherent and badly lit finale where everything is muddled, it muddies the experience. So many strange moments come right out of left field that I’d imagine there’s a hell of a lot of this on the cutting room floor that should still be there.

dlh3But with such a brush runtime, it’s hard not to recommend The Devil Lives Here. It’s a fun little diversion in the “kids get killed in the middle of nowhere” subgenre from filmmakers that show great promise, and could do well with a better structured story.

6/10