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Essex Spacebin (2016) Review

rsz_spacebinEssex Spacebin (2016)

Writers/Directors: Philip Thompson and David Hollinshead

Starring: Lorraine Malby, Caryl Griffith, Joerg Stadler

To quote Charles Manson: You know, a long time ago being crazy meant something. Nowadays everybody’s crazy. This sentiment I feel couldn’t ring any truer with Essex Spacebin which was unleashed on the world back in December 2016. Essex Spacebin is a twisted tale which follows protagonist Lorraine’s journey to another dimension in Essex. Not sold yet?

All round debuts by Philip Thompson and David Hollinshead, from directing to acting, these guys introduce us to their world like an acid trip without the chemicals. Our protagonist Lorraine is portrayed by Lorraine Malby who’s previous works include Born to be Kind and Cleaning in progress. Lorraine’s tale begins from a very early age when she encounters a gentleman on a beach who explains his quest to find the key for the stargate, a portal which connects our world to a different universe.

The story then picks up many years later with Lorraine now an obese senior marketing executive for a chicken shop. Determined not to let the chains of reality hold her down Lorraine is on a quest to find the gate through to a different world while trying to not lose her family in the process. Now that we’ve established the basis of this tale, the energy of this Essex Spacebin does not let up for one second. Like an attack on the senses I found that while trying to keep up with the dialogue there was always something visually that made this a challenge to do so. From milk bottles being bounced off characters faces to stealing televisions, if the Directors intention was to make the viewer feel exhausted they have smashed it out of the park.

rsz_spacebin1Very much the visual equivalent of ADHD, it can be hard at times to gauge the overall plot and journey of the characters which adds to the intensity and makes the viewer questioning what could happen next which in the Essex space bins case is anywhere. Ceephax Acid Crew provide the music throughout the feature and they really compliment the outlandish scenes and helps the overall flow of the film.

All the fundamental traits that make a B-movie are very present, from the charm of low production but colossal ideas to non-convincing but believable acting. This film oozes creativity but can be hard to appreciate with the fast-paced nature of the dialogue and plot. I can draw parallels between films such as the Greasy Srrangler and Toxic Avenger in many ways. Essex Spacebin feels very much like a film that was made for a certain audience, not intended for mass appeal and more trying to appeal to a cult film following.

rsz_spacebin2As debut directors, it’s exciting to see where they go from here as originality and creativity can be few and far between these days which brings me back to my opening. As Charles Manson rightly said if back in the day being crazy meant something and nowadays everyone’s crazy, I expect to see Philip Thompson and David Hollinshead do something pretty fucking crazy.

4/10

Satanic (2016) Review

rsz_satanicSatanic (2016)

Director: Jeffrey G. Hunt

Starring: Sarah Hyland, Steven Krueger, Clara Mamet, Justin Chon, Sophie Dalah

Out NOW on UK DVD from Soda Pictures

“One devil shrine does not a douche-bag make.”

Satanic starts off promising, with good production values and a talented cast lead by Sarah Hyland from Modern Family. Unfortunately it goes downhill pretty quickly, failing to deliver on the occult thrills promised by the title.

Chloe (Hyland), David (Krueger), Elise(Mamet)and Seth(Chon) are on their way to Coachella with a two day stop in Los Angeles for their own private murder tour. Chloe’s cousin Elise and her boyfriend Seth are little baby goths looking to hit some Satanic hotspots, like the Church of Satan LA chapter. They check into a dive hotel room where a woman named Laney Gore slit her own throat back in the 70s. The budding young Satanists, Elise and Seth try to contact the deceased while Chloe pouts nervously and her preppy boyfriend David makes snide remarks. That is everything you need to know about the characters, and as much depth as any of them truly have.

rsz_satanic_1Back to the plot. Elise and Seth are in charge of the LA itinerary while David complains constantly but drives them around anyway. After a rude reception at the Church of Satan Elise and Seth get booted out of a magic store at knifepoint. The group decides to follow the clerk after he leaves the store, to find out if he’s really a Satanist or just a jerk. Well, he turns out to be a Satanist and our intrepid Scooby Gang interrupts a ritual of some kind, and are driven off again, this time at gunpoint. Seth, who is definitely the Shaggy of the group, drops his phone at the site of the ritual. The next day they get a call from Alice, who may, or may not have been a ritual sacrifice. And then a bunch more stuff happens. The plot is honestly exhausting to try and describe because it accomplishes so very little in so very much time. There’s a lot going on but not much happening.

The acting is good. The characters aren’t particularly sympathetic except for doe-eyed Chloe, who is sympathetic because she 1-has empathy and 2-has giant doe eyes that would emote with or without her. The other young actors all have impressive resumes and it’s the script that fails them, not their talents. They are given shallow characters with very little personality to work with, and even so they manage to act through trite dialogue and well worn horror clichés.

Satanic seems likes it’s trying to be a throwback to the 1970’s wave of occult inspired films. At the same time it doesn’t seem aware that those films exist and that they did it better. It’s a shallow satanic film as these things go, lacking the accoutrements and ambiance of older occult movies. There are some stock standard robes, a satanic alter… and not much else. Even the locales aren’t gothic.

rsz_satanic_3The actual interesting bits kick in about fifty minutes into the film, but by then it’s too little too late. And then the film STILL has to wander around doing not much of anything, except lots of screaming, for another twenty minutes. The majority of special effects are back loaded into the last half of the film as well, and none of them are worth much of a mention except that for most of the movie I wondered if there were even going to BE any special effects. I am almost sad that my question was answered. The ending is a boring mess

Kudos for: Hardcore, but not too hardcore Satanists.

Lesson learned: Just take the murder tour bus, it’ll save time.

4/10

Don’t Knock Twice (2016) Review

rsz_dkt_poster_1_sheetDON’T KNOCK TWICE (2016)

Starring Katee Sackhoff, Lucy Boynton and Nick Moran

Directed by Caradog W. James

Written by Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7/10

Zombie Cats From Mars (2015) Review

Zombie Cats PosterZombie Cats From Mars (2015)

Director: Montetré

Starring: Bransen Sands Koehler, Benni Harper, Janae’ Werner

“Death is a cat from Mars”

For awhile now I have been riding high on a good run of micro-budget, self-aware, indie horror flicks. I had hoped that Zombie Cats From Mars would continue this run and be a worthy follow-up to personal classics like Attack of the Killer Shrews and First Man on Mars. Sadly the winning streak is over.

Zombie Cats From Mars is a tough one to sit through. Amateur in every way, shape and form. One IMDB member called it a “web series masquerading as a film”. Which it certainly could be. But I’m not going to try and find out, the movie doesn’t warrant the research.

The plot is simple. A cat from Mars lands on Earth and begins terrorizing a Portland (Oregon) neighborhood. The Martian cat somehow enlists–possibly through mind control– earth cats who join in the carnage. There is a whole absurd legend about a cat named Lord Sassafras and how humans banished him to Mars and now he’s come back for revenge and to rule the universe. Or something. Hard to tell. The legend is read out loud by one of the “actors” who read it too quickly and didn’t enunciate. Billy (Koehler), the main character, puts two and two together and comes up with cats. Well, he doesn’t so much as come up with the answer as read his grandfather’s book about the secret history of cats from Mars (written in ballpoint pen I would like to add). Billy decides he must fight the cats on his own using their weakness, Holy water.

rsz_zombie_cats_2Pretty much every single minute of Zombie Cats from Mars is painful to watch. Everything about it is bad, and not in a good way. The acting is terrible, it’s really a bunch of amateurs and their friends making a movie (or web series) in their back yard and the digital effects would embarrass even Ed Wood Jr. The dialogue has nothing to do with how human beings speak, and is actually bad enough to be distracting, making the viewer question WHY the character is spouting such nonsense every few lines. And it’s not just the dialogue which is bad, the poor writing extends to plotting, and character development, of which there is none. The camera work is also particularly heinous, shots are blurry until the camera can auto-focus. And it’s obvious the film was shot on a video camera. The sound is terrible, the dialogue is frequently soft and drowned out by background noises or echoes. The attacking cats were obvious plush toys which the actors (I hate even calling them that) had to pretend to wrestle with. The cat scratch make-up effects were actually not too terrible, but also incredibly simple and let me just say, mortician’s wax goes a long way.

The one and only laugh is when one of the zombie cats gets out a hacksaw and cuts the gas line. Shot entirely from the “cat’s” POV it’s amusing to watch kitty paws operate a hacksaw. There are several scenes from “kitty vision” with puppet cat paws performing various actions that are pretty funny. If the entire film had been done in “kitty vision” it might have had a gimmick that would have made it bearable to watch. Instead there are only a couple salvageable scenes lost in an abyss of clumping cat litter.

rsz_zombie_cats_3Kudos for: Any house cat that can inflict blunt force trauma

Lesson learned: Portland in NOT the new Hollywood

2/10

Get Out (2017) Review

rsz_goposterGET OUT (Dir- Jordan Peele, USA, 2017)

Starring- Daniel Kaluuya, Alison Williams, Catherine Keener, Bradley Whitford, Marcus Henderson, Betty Gabriel

In Cinemas now

Arriving on a lot of critical acclaim and a hit opening weekend at the US box office Jordan Peele’s GET OUT is one of those horror films that combines both sharp satire and creepy unease to maximum effect. Rather than hit below the belt at an obvious choice of redneck racist southern hillbilly’s he goes for the throat of liberal attitudes towards race and benefits from a sharp underpinning of characters that come off as more patronising and cringe worthy but underneath it all is a sense of danger and nastiness which slowly reveals its true face strengthening the films genre credentials.

Photographer Chris (Kaluuya) is preparing with his girlfriend Rose (Williams) to spend a weekend at her parents. Chris is obviously concerned about the trip since as he says he’s black and his girlfriend is white, though Rose assures him that her parents are very liberal and that her dad would “have voted for Obama for a third term if he could.” Naturally this is one of the first things Dean Armitage (Whitford) points out when he meets Chris along with his wife Missy (Keener) who in the first meeting with their daughter’s new boyfriend seems friendly at first though with moments of cringe worthiness, especially when Dean is making the aforementioned Obama comment and showing Chris the many souvenirs he has picked up on his travels. Dean also apologies to Chris for the presence of black groundskeeper Walter (Henderson) and servant Georgina (Gabriel) as if it seems too much of a cliched throwback to the past even though Dean states that the two where helpers to his parents and didn’t want to see them go.

rsz_go2The same weekend there is a party at the Armitages household where local guests come around and seemingly Chris finds the presence and the patronising comments of liking Tiger Woods and that black is the new black etc too much to take. Though the odd behaviour of the only black guest at the party and the increasingly strange reactions Chris finds from speaking to the Walter and Georgina starts to freak him out to the point. With contact to his best friend Rod (a brilliant laugh out performance from Howery) he starts to pick up on clues that something is not right with whats going on and that maybe he might be better away from “too many white people.”

From the start GET OUT pitches its subversion on its sleeve in a clever skewering of convention. The opening scene features a black man walking through a tree and hedge lined suburb, uncomfortable and out of place with the setting and a car pulling up beside him blaring out “Run Rabbit Run” on the stereo. Peele sets a fantastic switch around of the white suburban middle class fear of ending up in the wrong side of town and feeling misplaced. At the same time this recalls the suburban terror and unease of HALLOWEEN and more recently IT FOLLOWS where the white picket fence hides something more darker and hidden. It’s this opening scene that sets off Peele with both his fulfilment of genre recognition and satire as lets face it even if there is bite in the films humour and portrayal of liberal racism, this is also a horror film and our director doesn’t want you to forget that.

rsz_go3It’s the opening scenes that are brilliantly written, witty and well performed by the cast that keeps us engaged with some of the awkwardness of Chris’s situation, particularly an excellent turn from Whitford as the head of the household who seems eager to please but as Rose states, doesn’t seem to have an off button. Yet throughout these opening scenes there’s a clever build up of unease throughout whether its the odd behaviour of the two servants or Missy’s insistence on placing Chris under hypnosis seemingly to cure him of his habit of smoking, which is a superb, unnerving and stylishly nightmarish sequence.

Even in the presence of the party with the guests and their consistently patronising questioning of the only black man surrounded by white folk, which is both awkward and cringe worthy then devolves into a more darker prospect in one particular moment which when revealed adds a chilling twist to set up the films final section. In the final section of the film there’s a twist that seems pretty predictable but then we are confronted with an even more bizarre and darker turn of events that bends the film into the realms of schlock yet still retains the films twisted subversion.

rsz_go4Much can be made of the films placing at a time when racial tension is still a relevant subject in the States and there’s no denying that Peele’s film picks up on this simmering tension and fears felt by black Americans. Even in the films climax with the arrival of a police car, this sight feels more like a possible threat rather than the usual sign of assurance. GET OUT is superbly written and a brilliant example of horror as social satire delivered with veritable wit and unease that both has a deep genre quality and sharp swipe at liberal attitudes towards race that cuts deep as well as being very funny. It will certainly make you think twice about being put under hypnosis!

9/10

Bare Breasted Countess (1975) aka Female Vampire – DVD Review

fv1Bare Breasted Countess (1975) aka Female Vampire

Starring: Lina Romay, Jack Taylor, Monica Swinn, Alice Arno
Director: Jesús Franco

Out now on UK DVD from Maison Rouge Films

Attention all Francophiles! A key piece in Franco’s filmography has been given a brand new re-release. Female Vampire, A.K.A Bare Breasted Countess is one of Franco’s most iconic sexy vampire pictures, and is ready to be consumed by a new wave of cult horror followers. Franco’s career, of course, spanned decades and about every subgenre of horror that one could conceive, cementing him as one of the top European horror makers of the 20th century, and certainly one of the most prolific. Last year I reviewed the rerelease of his Bloody Moon, which was a wonderfully kitsch ‘80s slasher with a throbbing vein of noir running through it; Female Vampire is a very different picture, and one that Franco looks to have put much love into.

As the titular Bare Breasted Countess is the lovely Lina Romay, Franco’s partner and muse who appeared in or worked on the majority of his films over the years. She is the mute Countess von Karlstein, the last remaining member of a vampire dynasty, who feeds not on the blood of her victims for survival but on their sexual energy, leaving the superstitious local coroner and the dismissive local investigator butting heads to explain the deaths. Romay, a dark and wide-eyed beauty, has a bitter fragility and makes the most of her non-speaking role with her expressive face, occasionally confiding in the audience about her longing for love and peace in the face of a terrible curse. Her face wonderfully compliments the low-angled and shadowy look that Franco gives to the entire piece.

rsz_7209You’ll notice, while watching Female Vampire, that the sex is prominent. Of course, it is pivotal to the plot, but Franco likes the camera to linger and wash over the scene as it unfolds, and the movie is punctuated by long love scenes. Turns out that this is one of three versions originally shot, as was often the case during the era, with a hardcore cut intended for the more open-minded European market, leaving we frigid Brits with the tame version. But, as Franco often explained, this movie is erotica, not porn.

Even when focusing the camera directly between Romay’s legs, symbolism is achieved; the countess gently sways her legs like wings, the dark unfocused shadow of her crotch taking flight, like the bats and birds that theme the movie throughout. The countess’s sexuality is key to both her pain and her joy, a delicate, dangerous double-edged sword that is her freedom and her captor all at once.

rsz_7208Female Vampire is an acquired taste, for sure. Even those who like Franco’s work are not guaranteed to enjoy it – it is a far cry from Bloody Moon or any of the more standard horrors, and is not really intended to scare or entertain in the way that slashers do. Franco goes right back to the basics of the concept of vampirism, and the inherently sexual quality of their being. Visually not dissimilar to some of the earlier efforts of Hammer featuring the likes of Ingrid Pitt, but going far further with the eroticism than the ‘60s stifflips at Bray Studios ever dared, Franco’s vampires are very European figures of eroticism. Those who enjoyed Tony Scott’s critically-panned The Hunger with Catherine Deneuve and David Bowie will enjoy the moody sensuality of Female Vampire.

7/10

Bloodrunners (2017) Review

rsz_1rsz_bloodrunners_poster_hiresBloodrunners (2017)

Directed by: Dan Lantz.
Written by: Dan Lantz and Michael McFadden.
Starring: Ice-T, Michael McFadden, Chris James Boylan and Airen DeLaMater.

For more information visit – www.bloodrunnersmovie.com

“Set in 1930s prohibition, a corrupt cop discovers that the popular speakeasy in town has been infiltrated by vampires”.

I often wonder if vampires should still be included as one of the horror story’s staple monsters. In the seventies and eighties Anne Rice made vampires mysterious & sexy. In the nineties, Buffy the Vampire Slayer made vampires fun. In the noughties, the Twilight series seemed to emasculate vampires and sprinkle their embarrassed memory with glittery sparkles. As a consequence of so much distillation, dilution and homogenisation, our modern-day vampires are now so far removed from their ancestors (such as Nosferatu, Varney the Vampire and Dracula), that they come across as homeopathic incarnations. They are as scary as the risk of not having checked your entitlement to PPI. Which is why it was kind of refreshing to watch Bloodrunners.

Director Dan Lantz (Bloodlust Zombies, Ninja Babes from Space and Modern Marvels) brings his capable hand to a cleverly-crafted story of vampires in the time of the prohibition. The conceit of vampires shipping bottles of blood across the country gives motive to a plot that is carefully balanced and enjoyable from start to finish.

rsz_br_prod_still00104Early on we’re introduced to slightly-corrupt-cop, Sergeant Jack Malone (Michael McFadden: The Breaks, Bull and Gotham). Jack later describes his motive for joining the police force, with the words, “I was handy with a gun and I needed a job.” It’s this pragmatic attitude that makes him likeable throughout the film. Jack’s backstory, which includes some of the guilt and PTSD he’d suffered as a participant in the first world war, was an intelligent contribution to the narrative and allowed for his character develop.

The background romance between Willie (Chris Boylan: Killers, Redcoats and Zeroes) and Anna (Airen DeLaMater: Apparition, A Crime to Remember and Redrum) is probably not the most compelling subplot you’re likely to encounter this season. I say this, although I’m willing to admit my lack of investment in this detail is likely down to my own puerile response of giggling when Anna was desperately calling for help from her beau by shouting, “Willie! Willie! Willie!”

But it is Chesterfield (Ice-T: Law and Order: Special Victims Unit, Johnny Mnemonic and Tank Girl) who steals this movie. Commanding every scene he’s in, Chester is presented as a talented showman able to command the stage of his speakeasy; a skilled smuggler who can slip illicit drinks past the authorities; and an uber-competent gangster who doesn’t suffer fools. He has a suave sense of dress, a harem of women at his command, and his own personal finger collection. The fact that he’s also a vampire is a detail that only serves to make him more likeable.

rsz_br_prod_still00063I genuinely enjoyed this one. It’s clear that a lot of time and effort has been invested in recreating the authentic look of 1933 New Jersey. The cars and clothes make the experience immersive. The special effects are sophisticated and the whole feel has a strong sense of the dangerous theatrics that we once used to associate with vampires. More importantly, this film should be seen just for those of us who’ve wanted to see Ice-T say the words, “Human blood should be enjoyed like fine wine.”

Well worth your time. 8/10

Steven Hickey’s Essential Guide To Creepypasta – Part 40: Laughing Jack

creepypastaSTEVEN HICKEY’S ESSENTIAL GUIDE TO CREEPYPASTA — PART 40: LAUGHING JACK

Pennywise. 100 Tears’ Gurdy. Killjoy. American Horror Story’s Twisty. The Killer Klowns From Outer Space. Long before scary clowns started terrifying members of the public on both sides of the Atlantic, the grease paint-wearing circus ‘funny men’ have enjoyed a nightmarish relationship with horror fans. The term Coulrophobia, while not a strictly recognised specific phobia, has been coined to describe a fear of clowns. Whether this is an officially recognised phobia or not, it is one of the most common fears. You almost certainly know somebody who will use the term ‘creepy’ to describe clowns. So it will come as no surprise to any of you to hear that Creepypastas have their very own diabolical clown.

The story of Laughing Jack was first posted on DeviantArtist Snuffbomb’s page back on 3 March 2013. You can read it here: http://snuffbomb.deviantart.com/art/Creepypasta-Laughing-Jack-357523173 It’s a haunting story about a single mother caring for her five-year-old son, James, who starts to talk to her about his imaginary friend. Dismissing the talk as merely childish exuberance, the boy’s mother laughs it off. However, that night her dreams are haunted by wounded, malevolent childish figures and the old nursery rhyme, Pop Goes The Weasel. From here James’s behaviour takes a bizarre turn, and a series of strange events around the house causes our narrator to start to worry. Each time she asks James about the source of these disturbances she receives the same ominous response: ‘Laughing Jack did it.’ Finally, one dark night, after witnessing a terrible atrocity, the poor mother discovers that Laughing Jack has one last trick in store for her and James…

The reasons Laughing Jack works are plentiful. Of course, there’s the obvious elements — the uncanny valley aspect of clown visages that causes discomfort in onlookers. Clown face paint offers a unique juxtaposition in that it presents an exaggerated expression, yet also hides the true face of the wearer. It is both overwhelmingly open and a mask all at once. It is a look certain to cause a degree of confusion due to its self-contradictory nature.mThe evil clown trope (and the Laughing Jack story in particular) also utilise that Creepypasta staple of subverting and warping childhood innocence to unsettle and unnerve the audience. I’ve covered this phenomenon at length here during the course of this series, so I shan’t go into too much depth once again. Suffice to say the imagery of Laughing Jack (the toys; the hard candies; and the nightmarish theme park) plus the recurring Pop Goes The Weasel motif, all use this storytelling device to fantastic effect.

rsz_ask_laughing_jack_by_felishaus-db030qtHowever, it’s not just the obvious elements in Snuffbomb’s tale that instill fear. It also touches on the very real fear we all nurse deep inside of losing touch with reality and sanity. The protagonist finds herself unable to trust her own senses, forced to accept the impossible situation in which she finds herself as true, and even at the end unsure as to which, if any, of the story’s events are real. We all rely on our senses, to comprehend the world and to keep ourselves safe from harm. But what happens if our senses and our minds lie? In that situation, the world becomes a very, very dangerous place indeed. The story also makes very clever use of the fear that all parents feel towards protecting their child, plus the general fear of protecting those closest to you. This fear is one used in plenty of horror movies in which adults struggle to protect their children (The Babadook and The Monster are recent high profile examples of this), and in this case (SPOILERS FOLLOW) the horror is worsened with the final reveal that not only does the mother fail to protect her child from harm, she’s actually the one to inflict it.

Whatever the reason, Laughing Jack has proved to be a VERY popular pasta. So much so, in fact, that Snuffbomb returned to his story to create an origin story, which you can read here: http://snuffbomb.deviantart.com/art/The-Origin-of-Laughing-Jack-419616829

It’s an interesting tale, one that starts back on the cobblestoned streets of Victorian London and introduces an abused young boy, Isaac Grossman, Laughing Jack’s first playmate. Originally an innocent and fun figure, Laughing Jack becomes corrupted by his conduct with the boy, who in turn was corrupted by the horrors of his own upbringing. As the young and naive Isaac becomes the worst kind of monster, Laughing Jack looks on, learning, until the day he once again faces his ‘old friend’…

This story is certainly more intense than the previous one, and includes some truly sickening sadistic moments, but then that’s entirely the point of their inclusion. It’s also startlingly original. So many ‘origin’ stories feature the monster as an all-too-human moping teen. They lose so much of their mystique (see Michael Myers in Rob Zombie’s Halloween), and it can often come across as a little bit ‘Mary Sue’-ish. This is certainly not the case with Laughing Jack who remains a mystical and decidedly monstrous otherworldly entity. In short, it’s a clever, well-written expansion to the mythos that enhances the story, rather than detracts from it in any way.

With this in mind it will come as no surprise to hear that the story has struck a chord with literally thousands of fans. The growing fandom has produced numerous works of art, many of which are excellent, while the demand for more of the character — from unofficial spin-offs and crossover stories with other popular pasta icons (some of which are surprisingly entertaining, others… ahem… less so), and the ubiquitous YouTube readings. It’s a testament to the popularity of the story that there are over…. Laughing Jack videos there, with readings by all the biggest names on the scene such as Mr Creepypasta, who has covered the first story (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UZSvPU8HzY8) and the origin tale (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54XPnDaCtwo)

That’s not to say that all the additional Laughing Jack material is unofficial fan fiction — far from it, as the hands-on and hard-working Snuffbomb has continuously reimagined his creation in multiple formats. One of these was the popular Youtube web-comic, Creeps, which he created with deviantartist SabrinaNightmaren. Jack himself plays a major role in the comic, and displays a more playful side to his personality, complete with dark quips and decidedly off-colour jokes. You can find the first part of the comic here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cItO2pQ3kQs

It was in the pages of Creeps that a strange offshoot of the LJ mythos was introduced — Laughing Jill. With an eye-catching visual design, the chainsaw-wielding dark clown can almost be viewed as the Jane the Killer to Jack’s Jeff. While not ‘officially’ regarded as canon, Jill has captured the imagination of a segment of the fan base, and a host of (often contradictory) origin stories have cropped up online, such as this one: https://www.quotev.com/story/4647633/Creepypasta-Origins/14 , this: https://www.quotev.com/story/5633756/The-origin-of-laughing-Jill/1 and this: https://www.fanfiction.net/s/10738044/1/The-Story-of-Laughing-Jill

Unlike the antagonistic relationship between Jeff and Jane, Jill is often romantically linked to Laughing Jack, and regularly portrayed as his spouse!
Laughing Jill does seem to have caused some conflict in the fandom, with some fans (often teens) using the character to romanticise a character that many fans prefer to keep as an inhuman monster. For the most part the fans tolerate each other, but sometimes heated arguments have been known to break out between the two camps, those who are Pro-Jill and those who Anti-Jill.

Either way, it’s pretty obvious that plenty of fans are very passionate about the Laughing Jack character and the mythos surrounding him.

rsz_b61aaf161063aea425eaf5d36eaa77bbHowever, this popularity has also been linked to tragedy. On 23 July 2015, in Indiana, a 12-year-old girl fatally stabbed her stepmother, Maria Torres, then set fire to her family’s home. Later, during questioning, she claimed that she had committed these terrible crimes because Laughing Jack told her too. Media reports have likened this incident to the infamous Slenderman stabbing, in which two teenage girls brutally attacked a classmate, the crime at the heart of the acclaimed HBO documentary Beware the Slenderman.

Of course the perpetrator of the crime is a deeply disturbed individual and her actions in no way reflect those of the huge majority of the Creepypasta community who are a creative, welcoming and passionate group, many of whom have been of tremendous assistance to me in the writing of these features.

One such individual is the imaginative, outspoken and very personable Snuffbomb himself, who was kind enough to speak with UK Horror Scene about Laughing Jack, Creepypastas and his exciting future projects.

Our interview follows below.

UK HORROR SCENE: Hi Snuffbomb, please allow me to extend my gratitude for agreeing to speak with me.

SNUFFBOMB: Thanks so much for this interview! I’ve never been interviewed before.

UKHS: The most obvious first — In your own words, tell us a little about Laughing Jack?

SB: Laughing Jack is what you get when you cherry-pick all the things kids like such as clowns, toys, laughter, fun, etc. then twist and pervert them into all the things that kids fear, such as clowns, creepy dolls, darkness, jagged crooked teeth, exaggerated features and so on. He is the bump in the night in your child’s bedroom sending them into a panicked dash to your room for comfort. The thing that tells your child to hurt the cat or to break mommy’s expensive china. At the end of the day however, I think Laughing Jack is simply what he is. A clown. He wants to make the world laugh, whether they are willing to or not. He sees human life like a joke and humans as props in his routine. He is much like a child himself in a way, mirroring the same (if not somewhat distorted) views of the world where most of what he sees is new to him.

UKHS: What served as your inspiration for the character and the story?

SB: I came across Creepypasta in early to mid 2011, back when Slenderman was but a haunting whisper on forums and blogs. This was a huge inspiration, the “grit” and overall obscurity added a great deal to the creep factor in those days. The most inspiring story for me was The Rake. In fact for a week or so Laughing Jack’s “in development” name actually was The Rake, almost as tribute of sorts. I liked how visceral the character was in leaving behind mostly entrails and broken families like sick reminders of loss and terror.

On a more visual level Laughing Jack was inspired by a little known marionette stage play called The Fortune Teller. One character in particular in fact. I think anyone who looks it up will know exactly which one I’m talking about as the two bear slight similarities in appearance. As for personality and even voice, I always pictured a cross between Beetlejuice and the Crypt Keeper with a dash of Freddy Krueger for good measure. Finally, as for his powers and abilities I just like to think of him as a homicidal genie. Once released from his box all hell breaks loose, a bit like Stephen King’s IT, but less spider-monster and more circus clown.

UKHS: Which idea came to you first, the image or the story?

SB: The image certainly came first, actually about a year prior to the story being written. I originally did a rough sketch of him on a piece of notebook paper, and although I was proud of it at the time, he honestly looked like the lost member of KISS and I knew this wasn’t what I was going for. He went through several design changes before he became the clown he is today and his design is still being tweaked and tinkered with, like a painting I just can’t leave be.

UKHS: Are you a fan of Creepypasta? If so, what is your favourite Creepypasta by a creator other than yourself?

SB: When it comes to my taste in Creepypasta I definitely prefer the classics, such as The Rake and Russian Sleep Experiment. The Tall Man was one that always stood out due to its bleak, dark ending which explains that the most horrific things can still happen to the most innocent and undeserving of people. I have a few guilty pleasure pastas though as well, like Happy Appy and NES Godzilla. With Creepypasta I feel it’s less about how much it scares me, and rather more about how much I enjoyed reading it.

UKHS: Why do you think Creepypastas in general, and especially Laughing Jack, have been so popular with the fans?

SB: The stories themselves have always been the heart of Creepypasta, but I believe that it’s the visuals that really pull people in. I think most people see a picture of Slenderman, Jeff the Killer, Laughing Jack and so on first then become intrigued, which leads them to the stories and other content. I think a lot of core creepypasta fans (those who write and read the stories) dislike this.

They want their stories to stick out on their own, rather than live in the shadow of Slenderman or Jeff the Killer. Honestly, I think more people are drawn to Laughing Jack because of his personality and character rather than the two semi-average stories I wrote about him. Laughing Jack himself has grown exponentially more popular than his stories, which is why I believe the stories are often called “overrated”. I agree in a sense. Laughing Jack evolved, almost growing up in a way. He went from being this pure simple horror character to a horror-comedy icon. No longer does he make fans afraid to sleep with their lights off, but rather makes them laugh at disgusting humor and grotesque acts, all of what dark comedy has to offer. This transformation is much like the ones of horror-comedy icons you see on the big screen, like Freddy Krueger and Chucky. Horror and comedy go hand in handy really, something jumps out at you, you scream, you realise you’re not in any danger and just shrieked like a banshee in front of all your friends, and everyone laughs about it. People wouldn’t like horror if it didn’t make them feel good in some way, and that mindset is one I keep when I’m making my content.

rsz_laughing_jack_by_shadowkisses91-d5yfa02UKHS: Which writers, horror or otherwise, do you consider yourself a fan of?

SB: This may sound cliche as all hell, but I really love the writing in the old Tim Burton movies. Most films and stories focus on a normal person going on a journey of some type. The old Burton movies focused on someone odd and eccentric trying to find some sort of normality in their life — Beetlejuice, Batman, Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands. If anyone reading this gets a chance, look up “Tim Burton Hansel and Gretel”. That short film was incredibly inspirational for me and my work.

UKHS: What work of your own are you most proud of?

SB: Obviously I’m most proud of creating Laughing Jack, I often joke that he’s like my child. Honestly though, I don’t think I could point to any work I’ve done and say: “I’m proud of that!”. I see everything I do as an improvement of what came before it. I always look at my work as a critic and figure out what I did well and what could have been improved, then I revise it all and use what I’m left with to do a better job next time. If I had to pick however, I’d choose The Origin of Laughing Jack. I think It succeeds the first story in just about every way, though it is still far from perfect.

UKHS: The fans are very passionate about the character. Are there any examples of fan art, such as images, films or readings, in particular that have impressed you?

SB: This is a hard one to answer because I think just about everything the fans do is pretty incredible. It was really amazing to see my stories translated and narrated into so many different languages, and seeing PinkStylist do his take on the Laughing Jack makeup (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dv3E8dqi3RE) was very flattering as well. I absolutely love what Mr. Betty Krueger does with Laughing Jack in his audio dramas, I think it’s hands down one of the best interpretations of the character (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N0EzTotOGhE&feature=youtu.be). As for traditional art, I could fill a book naming all those who do absolutely stunning and even horrifying illustrations of Laughing Jack. To know that my character inspired thousands and thousands of illustrations from so many talented artists across every website on the internet is really indescribable.

UKHS: While looking at your DeviantArt page I noticed a comment from you in which you voiced displeasure at a segment of the fandom that seem to have twisted your creation into a friendly (and, in some cases, sexy) pin-up. This is something that other Pasta creators, such as sesseur and Jason the Toy Maker’s Kristantyl, have bemoaned in interviews with me. Would you care to elaborate on this point here, to give the comment a little more context?

SB: This is a strange area for me. On one hand, I don’t tell anyone they can’t use my character for whatever they want, but on the other hand the weird fetish stuff makes me kind of uncomfortable. Canonically Laughing Jack is like a ragdoll and has no internal organs or genitals, so you might as well try to have sex with Woody from Toy Story. Honestly though, I just try to ignore it and let people do what they want. I don’t think the smut is shoved in other people’s faces or anything, so it’s really not a big deal.

UKHS: Sadly, this next question is a little uncomfortable, but I’d be a terrible journalist if I didn’t at least ask you about it. I was deeply shocked and saddened when I read about the Maria Torres stabbing in Indiana, especially when I read that the alleged perpetrator supposedly committed the crime ‘for Laughing Jack’. Obviously no creator should ever be held accountable for the actions of a seriously disturbed individual, so I don’t believe you have any duty to address the situation, but I just wondered if you would care to comment?

SB: It’s very unfortunate what happened to Maria Torres, and extremely unfortunate what happened to her step daughter. This case is often compared to the 2014 Slenderman Stabbing, however they couldn’t be more different.

The Slenderman incident was perpetrated by two misguided teens who knew full well the horrible crime they were committing, and the Torres incident was committed by a very mentally sick little girl who, according to the reports, begged for help days before the incident. This girl is the real victim, she was failed by everyone even after pleading to her parents and school for help. Her illness was reaching a destructive boiling point and that was going to happen whether or not Laughing Jack was a part of it. I’m very upset with the slant the media put on this incident with articles titled “Indiana girl killed stepmom to please Laughing Jack”. This is a story about a sick girl who was failed by the world and needs serious help, not one about a devoted fanatic who sacrificed her stepmother at the request of an evil internet clown. My heart goes out to all those involved in this incident.

UKHS: Can I get your thoughts on Laughing Jill?

SB: Laughing Jill was created as a spoof genderbend of Laughing Jack. She was created by me and the original artist of my old Creepypasta comic, Creeps. She was meant to be a joke, parodying the uncreative trend of making a romantic interest or sibling for a character simply by switching their gender. Laughing Jill was never meant to be anything more than a single drawing, however some of the fangirls felt differently. The original artist of Creeps wanted to develop Jill into her own character, however I strongly disagreed as I did not want Laughing Jack to have to share his spotlight with a cheap imitation.

rsz_laughing_jack_by_snuffbomb-d5wsy9wUKHS: Your artwork is incredible. Where did you learn to create such evocative images? How do you get inspiration for the creative process?

SB: First of all I would not describe my art as “incredible” but I’m glad someone out there would! In all seriousness though, I have always been a very artistic person. Art classes in middle school, creative writing and theatre in high school, film major in college, I’ve had my hand in art all throughout my life. One thing I always disagreed with all my teachers and professors about is that art has a set of rules — it has suggestions but not rules. The day that people say this one way is how all art/film needs to be made, is the day that the creative process dies. Where most desire to be a “professional artist” I desire to be an “unprofessional artist.”

I often do the opposite thing professional artists tell you to do. “Don’t write creepypastas in 3rd person” — I wrote Origin of Laughing Jack. “Use only the best makeup and materials” — I used hot glue and acrylic paint. “Make a clean convincing set and use good lighting” — I hold my set up with duct tape and use cheap $10 lights I got from Walmart. Art is about challenging rules, not coloring within the lines.

UKHS: Will you ever return to the story of LJ in the future? What else can your fans look forward to from you in the days ahead? And finally, are there any sites or projects that you’d like me to send my readers to for more of your work?

SB: I think the future is going to be bright for Laughing Jack. I want to drive him in a whole new direction and remove him from the Creepypasta scene to stand on his own as a horror-comedy icon alongside a cast of new characters I think my fans are going to love. I’ve completed production on the first episode of my new series, The Snuff Zone (You can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H1VDdersmGE ). It’s a comedy series starring a heavily distorted caricature of myself (Snuff Bomb) and his insanely lovably hateable, not-so-imaginary friend Laughing Jack, along with an assortment of colorful original characters.

It’s a buddy comedy series about a sociopath and a psychopath who seek fame online but can’t seem to stay out of trouble. It also features the talent of Mr. Betty Krueger as “The Producer” and BaptismOnFire as the clinically depressed and suicidal teddy bear “Spencer”. So far the first episode has puke, pee, satanic rituals, AIDS, an actual decapitated deer head, and enough subliminal messages to turn Mr. Rodgers into Charles Manson. This and a slew of new content including the controversial SnuffCast is coming real soon. I greatly encourage everyone to subscribe to me on my youtube, SnuffBomb (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UClLWpLHAP-Hv-TRCgiKeEBQ) and follow me on twitter at @TheSnuffBomb to see all this great new content.

UKHS: Since the Snuffzone has going live and it seems to have found a very appreciative audience. What has the feedback been like? How does it feel to see your work finding new fans in a different medium?

SB: Well my favorite genre of horror is retro horror-comedy. The cheesy and often comedic practical effects and over the top monsters from the 80’s horror movies really inspired me in making The Snuff Zone and shaping the personality of everyone’s favorite killer clown. I’ve often said “Scaring people is fun, but making them laugh is a lot more satisfying. So why not do both?” Once The Snuff Zone went live, the fan reaction was immediate. Fans are finally seeing the Laughing Jack that they’ve been wanting to see since they first read the stories. One that can creep them out one minute, then make them smile the next.

With a refreshingly down-to-earth attitude and some very original ideas on how to build on his character’s success, SnuffBomb is ensuring that Laughing Jack will go down as one of the classic Creepypasta stories.

Be sure to check back next time when I’ll be covering another classic story — and one of the most acclaimed of all time.

First Trailer for Saudi Horror Film He Belongs To Us released from Director Gigi Hozimah!

rsz_hbtu1First Trailer for Saudi Horror Film He Belongs To Us released from Director Gigi Hozimah

Saudi Arabian Filmmaker Gigi Hozimah has just released the trailer to her first feature film He Belongs To Us. To coincide with the release of the trailer , the official poster illustrated by Sam Wolfe Connelly has also been released.

He Belongs To Us is a psychological horror drama about Remy an isolated young man haunted by vivid nightmares about his Mother’s death, his neglected childhood and his spiralling depression. These same nightmares however begin seeping into his waking moments taking a sinister hold over the shattered remains of his life.

A Saudi/US co-production , this is the first feature directed by Saudi independent filmmaker Gigi Hozimah , and is the first film of it’s kind to come from Saudi Arabia. He Belongs To Us is an existential horror founded on nightmares and surrealism.

Gigi was born in Makkah, Saudi Arabia and was never aware that her cinematic vison would one day find it’s way on to the global stage. Coming from a nation that has held back the progress of women she refused to accept her traditionalist surrounding and when 19 she left for England and has as yet never returned.

He Belongs To Us is currently being entered into film festivals worldwide!!

Ghosthunters (2016) Review

rsz_gh1Ghosthunters (2016) Review

Director: Pearry Reginald Teo

Starring: Francesca Santoro, Stephen Manley, David O’Donnell, Liz Fenning, Crystal Web.

Out now on UK DVD from High Fliers Films

“Ghost DNA.”

After Henry’s wife and daughter are murdered in an abandoned house used by a serial killer, he and his group of ghosthunters go back in to extract their souls. Henry (Stephen Manly) and his friends have been working on a machine to find and preserve ectoplasm. They were testing the machine at the site of the murders when everything went wrong. Now Henry and his cohorts face the angry victims of the serial killer. A serial killer who may not be done.

Well, it sounds okay in theory. And it’s certainly not the worst movie ever. It’s an Asylum film. So that right there should tell you a lot about Ghosthunters. Don’t expect too much and you won’t be disappointed. Ghosthunters manages to be a mediocre supernatural thriller. It has some fun special effects and creepy ghosts. The jump scares aren’t terribly effective, they pop up right about where expected, negating their effectiveness.

There is also a delightful amount of techno-babble the likes of which haven’t been heard since Star Trek went off the air. The techno-babble actually makes for a pretty hilarious scene of really terrible exposition about the ghost hunting machine. It’s basically a ghost trap from Ghostbusters. Don’t give it too much thought.

rsz_gh2Aside from the mediocre plot there is also plenty of mediocre characters performed by so-so actors. The good news is that no one is stand-out terrible. The problem is they are also stuck with a pretty ridiculous script. The most weighty role is given to Manly who does pretty good as the grief stricken Henry but could have brought a lot more personality to the role. Especially since one of the major twists hangs on his. David O’Donnell plays Henry’s friend and confidant Neal who built the ghost trapping machine. Neal also brings along his reporter girlfriend Amy played by Francesca Santoro, who is arguably the main character, but nothing in the movie indicates that fact. Then there is computer programmer Jessica played by Liz Fenning. Crystal Web plays the sadly under-utilized psychic Devon. No one has much character development and nothing more is known about the characters at the end of the film as was known in the beginning.

There are a lot of wasted opportunities in Ghosthunters too. Devon brings a knowledge of the occult to the “science” of paranormal investigating, and in a good scene that goes nowhere, she tries to trap the ghosts in the house using salt. The combination of the occult and science would have been a really interesting development. But the script slogs along with paint-by-number predictably.

The best thing about the film are possibly the props. The best prop in the entire movie is a pair of steampunk styled ghost spotting goggles. Second runner-up is a steampunk styled plague doctor mask worn by the killer. Sadly the ghost trapping machine itself is a bland jumble of spare parts that look like they could be anything. The rest of the special effects are okay, but not great. There is some CGI enhancement of the ghosts, but it looks like most of the effects were achieved practically. It’s not a special effect heavy film, probably due to budget constraints, and it manages with what it has. Over all Ghosthunters is pretty skippable.

gh3Kudos for: The organ music.

Lesson Learned: Say ghost DNA often enough and it just sounds silly.

5/10