It Comes At Night (2017) Review

ican1IT COMES AT NIGHT (Dir- Trey Edward Shults, USA, 2017)

Starring- Joel Edgerton, Kelvin Harrison Jr, Christopher Abbott, Carmen Ejogo, Riley Keough

Another American indie horror arrives with a wealth of praise and has set out to continue the consistent drive of intelligent and original genre flicks coming out from across the shore. Is it a sign of film-makers responding to the increasing polarised splits in the country through politics and society that has caused this rush of horror films that reflect the current climate? Only time will tell. However, one thing for sure Trey Edward Shults IT COMES AT NIGHT does arrive with a marketing campaign that significantly points to this film being a straightforward horror which in reflection it is to an extent. But those expecting a quiet-quiet-boom shock laden horror story might be disappointed.

The film opens with a family disposing of a relative who has been infected by a fatal disease that has supposedly ravaged most of America. The family in question is husband and father Paul (Edgerton) his wife Sarah (Ejogo) and their son Travis (Harrison Jr). The infected relative in question is Sarah’s dad and Travis’s Granddad. The family are locked up in a house in a secluded woodland area. Boarded up and closed off as if to suggest no one is occupying the place. It’s not long though till an intruder breaks in, Will (Abbott), who after being subdued informs Paul that he has a family desperate for food. After eventually trusting Will, Paul brings the family into the boarded up house and it seems as if everyone is getting along fine and working as a unit. Yet its not long before a couple of incidents involving Travis’s dog and the son of Will and his wife Kim (Keough) sets off a tense and chilling conflict between both family groups.

One noticeable trait of IT COMES AT NIGHT is that setting a post apocalyptic story in a woodland area on the edge of civilization will allow the film-makers to at least not worry about the factors of production design or portraying the ravaged city scape that usually features in bigger budgeted outings that feature the world in devastated form. This is however essential to the story as it’s focus is on it’s characters and it also makes the ongoing threat of contagion ever more disturbing as once our characters don gas masks we know that their paranoia of the plague is real and its their actions that lend the films dramatic edge.

ican2Essentially this is a story of decent people driven to desperate means for survival and breakdown in any decency when it comes to folk wanting to protect their own family unit which makes the films conclusion, and I wont lie its not a pretty one, even more darker and in the long run with the characters actions, essentially futile. There is no denying that Shults film has a certain resonance with the current climate in America and even in our own country with a society split and mistrust felt by all sides against every one be it foreign or domestic. Paul’s protection of his own unit and his own boarded up house seems to fend off any intruders yet even welcoming them in eventually leads to confusion and chaos and acting on own selfish impulse which ultimately can seal ones own fate.

Edgerton (who is always a great character actor see THE GIFT for proof of that), also working as executive producer, is brilliant as Paul presenting him as an ex school teacher who seems to relish the role of protector and commander in chief of his house, yet his obsessive nature of sticking to rules and routine distracts him from the fact that his own son is suffering from the nightmarish reality that is happening around to him. As Travis, Harrison Jr, is also brilliant managing to convey the film from his perspective and its from the eventual fiery disposal of his granddad’s corpse that we see the film through his eyes, from listening to Will and Kim’s intimate conversations in the attic space, to his possible affection for her and his own horrific nightmares which add as some of the films intense shock scenes. It might have been better for Shult’s to flesh out the female characters a bit more as they seem more to be in the background for much of the running time. However Ejogo does have one of the best lines in the film that pretty much foretells the bleakness to come. When Paul states that “everything’s gonna be all right, to which she replies, “You don’t honestly believe that do you?”

However Shults also works brilliantly with his cinematographer Drew Daniels to capture the confined space of the house with its widescreen cinematography giving it an edge and elevating it to be its own character. The murky almost entirely dark spaces occasionally lit by lantern or flash light add an intense visual feel. Even a long tracking shot towards a door is filled with tension as in the viewer is left at the mercy of the camera as it approaches making us expect or anticipate either it to be busted open or a loud knock to unsettle bot the characters and the audience in what awaits beyond it.

ican4Like Robert Eggers THE WITCH, IT COMES AT NIGHT portrays the stark breakdown of the family unit and its unwillingness to cope in desperate situations and just like that film from last year this is another fine example of American horror going through a renaissance in both reflecting troubling times and using genre cinema as a template whilst retaining an original independent feel.

8.5/10

It Comes At Night (2017) Review

ican1It Comes At Night (2017)

Dir: Trey Edward Shults
Stars: Joel Edgerton, Carmen Ejogo, Kelvin Harrison Jr, Christopher Abbott, Riley Keough, Griffin Robert Faulkner, David Pendleton

Released 7 July in cinemas by Universal Pictures

The world has been devastated by a lethal, highly contagious disease. In the aftermath of the outbreak, Paul (Joel Edgerton), his wife Sarah (Carmen Ejogo) and their son Travis (Kelvin Harrison Jr) have managed to create some semblance of a life for themselves in their heavily protected isolated rural home, yet they still mourn the loss of Sarah’s father, Travis’s grandfather. Even so, their very survival is reliant on following a strict list of rules and precautions from which they cannot deviate. However, one night the family are disturbed by an intruder in their home and, after subduing him and taking him captive, learn that the man, Will (Christopher Abbott) claims he is desperately foraging for supplies for his own family.

Paul is then faced with a series of impossible decisions that will have him questioning his own humanity.

Aside from the record-breaking Get Out, has there been a genre film this year more heavily hyped than Trey Edward Shults’s It Comes At Night? A darling on the festival circuit, yet subject to some backlash from some early viewers, I can see both points of view.

Sadly the marketing and even the title of the film are somewhat misleading. A lot of fans were led to believe It Comes At Night was some of sort of horror/mystery, the sort of project M Night Shyamalan might have penned a few years ago. Yet it is no such thing.

ican2However, what it IS is a fantastic film in its own right.

Shults’s film is a claustrophobic, devastating masterpiece and one of the finest pictures I’ve seen this year. It looks exquisite, with camerawork that is truly mesmerising at times. The visuals – along with an unsettling soundtrack that is truly worthy of high praise – cultivate a deep and permeating sense of dread that runs throughout, ratcheted up during some truly terrifying nightmare sequences. Seriously, these sequences are unbearably tense and make for some of the most genuinely frightening moments I’ve seen on the big screen this year.

It’s a story about battered, damaged human decency and the consequences of decisions. It’s a film with a message, a sort of visual poem, and it is one that is guaranteed to provoke a strong visceral reaction in audiences.

The cast are uniformly incredible, with Edgerton and Abbott at the fore, both absolutely nailing their roles as men we sympathise with and yet come to fear in equal measure. Ejogo and Riley Keough are fantastic too, delivering nuanced performances that show both actresses’ considerable range. Harrison also delivers as the most decent and innocent character in the film, but even his Travis is not without fault. It’s these human faults, not just in Travis but each and every character that drives the story. The disease, as terrifying as the idea of it is, is simply a McGuffin. It is what this mysterious virus has caused these people to come that truly drives this story.

ican3It’s a story that is personal, sentimental, heartbreaking and beautifully told. I don’t believe this will be a film for every taste – I’m sure some viewers may find it a little slow-moving or unnecessarily abstract in some sequences, but those who do connect with it will genuinely relish the experience. I’m not sure that It Comes At Night is even a horror film (although it contains sequences that will horrify even the hardiest of viewers) but I am sure that in this reviewer’s eyes, it is quite simply brilliant.

A must see.

9/10

The Madame in Black (2017) Short Film Review

rsz_mib1The Madame in Black (Svarta Madam) (2017)

Directed by: Jarno Lee Vinsencius
Written by: Jarno Lee Vinsencius
Starring: Demis Tzivis, Ida Gyllensten and Ellinor Rosander

“After playing the infamous urban legend game “The Madame in Black”, Alex and his sister, Sarah, experience the wrath of the evil witch Madame in Black.”

On some levels, short horror films can be far more effective than full length movies. With short horror films there is little time for the audience to second-guess surprise developments. Knowing that there’s less than half an hour of a film makes us (as viewers) aware that every second of the narrative is important and will likely have some bearing on the resolution. This brevity of time is one hell of a tool for focusing attention. The Madame in Black uses this brevity to shrewd effect.

The storyline is relatively simple and it’s nothing we haven’t seen touched on in Candyman (1992), Urban Legends: Bloody Mary (2005) and countless other movies. A character sits in front of a mirror and says a name three times in an attempt to summon a supernatural entity. In this film, starting in Hörby, Sweden, 1995, brother and sister Alex and Emma try this childish summoning with their grandmother’s mirror.

rsz_mib2It does not end well.

Fast forward twenty-two years and, whilst Alex and Emma are physically mature, their idea of a fun evening’s entertainment remains as childish as it had been back in 1995. To make the situation worse, they still have granny’s mirror.

The Madame in Black is a masterclass in tension and suspense. With moody lighting, awkward camera angles, strong performances and lots of shocks, this works on every level. It’s no surprise that this film has claimed awards at the Actors Awards, Los Angeles (2017), Barcelona Planet Film Festival (2017), Direct Online Film Festival (2017), and many, many others. Well worth checking out. 9/10.

Wish Upon (2017) Review

wu1WISH UPON (2017)

Dir: John R Leonetti
Stars: Joey King, Ryan Phillippe, Sydney Park, Shannon Purser, Mitchell Slaggert, Ki Hong Lee, Elisabeth Rohm, Sherilyn Fenn

Released 28 July by Orion Pictures

Clare (Joey King) is a teenager who has plenty to deal with. After her mother committed suicide before her eyes when she was little, her father Jonathan (Nineties star Ryan Phillippe) has struggled to make ends meet, resorting to scavenging for valuables in dumpsters. This makes Clare a target for bullying from the popular kids at school and leaves her without the confidence to pursue her unrequited crush on handsome fellow student Paul (Mitchell Slaggert).

But this all changes when her father discovers a curious music box – one that Clare soon learns has the power to grant wishes. After turning her fortunes around, Clare is living a charmed life… until she realises there is a price to pay for each wish.

I think it’s best to cut to the chase and state that Wish Upon is very much a teen horror movie. That doesn’t mean it’s bad, but if you’re expecting the complexity and emotional depth of a Babadook or The Witch, you will be disappointed. This is Blumhouse-style horror, nothing more and nothing less.
Instead Wish Upon is a fun update on The Monkey’s Paw for the Pokemon Go generation.

wu2A blend of Wishmaster and Final Destination, with a little The Craft sprinkled in for good measure, director Leonetti delivers a film that looks great and even manages to deliver a couple of moments of surprising gore and spookiness. Yes, this does include a couple of feeble jump-scares, but we’re now at the point when I feel those are inevitable in a new release. One effectively tense sequence during a thunderstorm is a real highlight.

The cast are all competent at worst, with King carrying the bulk of the film’s emotional weight admirably. Last seen by genre fans in The Conjuring, she is developing into a very impressive actress. She is ably backed up by the supremely likeable trio of standout co-stars Ki Hong Lee, Shannon Purser and the scene-stealing Sydney Park, who is certainly a face to look out for in the future. It certainly helps that each of the characters gets to recite well-written and often very witty dialogue from Barbara Marshall’s sharp screenplay.

There’s also some eye-catching production design on display, especially in the sinister music box which feels like a nice mix between the creations of Guillermo Del Toro and Hellraiser’s infamous Lament Configuration puzzle box. I imagine a line of replicas will be forthcoming and will make a significant amount of cash!

wu3However, the film does have some flaws. It isn’t the most original of plot lines (at times lifting quite heavily from the superior films that came before) and the story is perhaps a little too simple, missing some opportunities to be cleverer. Also, some emotional beats miss their mark by some distance (every cool-dad-saxophone scene is excruciatingly cringe-worthy) and, sadly, the ending is heavily telegraphed and marred by some iffy effects work.

Nonetheless Wish Upon is an enjoyable way to spend 90 minutes, and I imagine it will go over very well with youngsters who are only just discovering the genre.

Perhaps the biggest compliment I can pay it is that Wish Upon feels like a fun, intriguing, opening chapter of a new sleeper franchise – and I will certainly be on board for any further instalments.

6/10

Spidarlings (2016) Review

rsz_spidarlingsv2SPIDARLINGS (2016)

Starring Sophia Disgrace, Rahel Kapsaski, Lee Mark Jones and Rusty Goffe

Written and Directed by Salem Kapsaski

Available NOW online at – http://watch.troma.com/

Poverty stricken lovers Eden and Matilda have enough trouble just getting through the days. Their Landlord is trying to terrorize them and strange things seem to be going on at “Juicy Girls”, the place where Matilda works… but when Eden buys a pet spider the real troubles start.”

Despite a myriad of technical issues, Spidarling’s is a pretty endearing piece of trash cinema, and it’s easy to see why it was picked up by Troma.

Opening with a funk-tastic animated title sequence that’s accompanied by a quite polished punk song, Spidarling’s immerses you unapologetically in the lives of skint couple Eden and Matilda, lovers who are the definition of punk. Their tiny flat and style screams “I don’t give a fuck and I don’t give a fuck if you give a fuck that I don’t give a fuck” but a lot of this is blamed on their lack of income. Eden is smart but lazy and doesn’t work, and Matilda appears to just lounge around the burlesque club Juicy Girls. Bored, fed up, behind on their rent and without a clue what to do. Enter, a spider!

For what will be a penny budget Spidarlings doesn’t lack ambition. While technical issues are rife, the experimentation is great to see. Lots of inventive animation and sudden disorienting edits, as well as ransom cutting to songs all really sell the attitude and world of the characters.

rsz_sd1However, Spidarlings falls into a lot of traps that show a lack of experience. Whether down to a choppy colour grade or lack of equipment, the film looks as if it were shot on a consumer camcorder from the nineties. It misses a lot of visual detail and just looks jarring. Also the sound was flimsy. Eden seems dubbed in post while Matilda is often inaudible, and many of the musical sequences are either too loud or too quiet.

But then again, this all adds to the DIY, trashy John Waters micro-budget transgressiveness of it all. You don’t feel like you’re dealing with a safe group of filmmakers, which is great. And it’s two hour runtime manages to flirt from body horror, domestic melodrama, black comedy, slasher and musical as if it’s on shuffle. Each situation however shares a common theme, and that is the strong undercurrent of feminism. Every bloke around the lovers is either a pervert, greedy fucker and often much worse. Some of it doesn’t always hit the spot but that’s the risk of throwing the kitchen sink in there.

The performances are eager and veer from OTT, to delightfully strange, or almost zombie-like and it all adds to the kaleidoscope of tones. Disgrace and Kapsaski hold the thing together and are a surprisingly sweet couple. Along with the engaging leads and diverse supporting cast are the the tunes, and again while the recording and editing holds them back, they are still surprisingly catchy and may just stick in your head for better or worse!

rsz_sd2With gallows black humour and a story that throws the rules out the window, Spidarlings won’t be for everyone. And it can’t be denied that at two hours it’s way too bloody long. But for fans of John Waters, Troma and underground cinema you could do a lot worse. One thing is undeniable, the feminist blood runs strong through this with, viscerally and unapologetically.

Is this a good film? I’m not sure it’s trying to be. But it’s an experience.

6/10

Bella In The Wych Elm (2017) Short Film Review

rsz_bellaBELLA IN THE WYCH ELM (2017) – Short

Directed by Thomas Lee Rutter
Cast: Lee Mark Jones, James Underwood, Traci Templer, James Taylor
Running time: 36 minutes
Distributed by Carnie Film Production.

In 1943 four young boys were out poaching illegally on the Hagley Hall estate in Worcestershire when they discovered a human skull hidden inside a wych elm tree trunk. Initially reluctant to tell anyone, one of the boys was too shocked by their discovery and confessed all to his parents. Upon police investigation, an almost complete human skeleton was found forced inside the trunk of the tree, with a hand discovered some distance away.

Bella in the Wych Elm is a black and white documentary short which tells the tale of the skeleton from discovery to her presumed identification. It was two years in the making and is clearly a labour of love for all those involved with two versions of the film existing, the original and a special silent movie edition with intertitles. I watched the original version which is narrated by ‘Tatty’ Dave Jones, who has a very broad Birmingham accent and he relays the tale as if chatting to you over a pint in your local pub. The film is made to look old and damaged with the filmmakers citing influences ranging from early silent films such as Haxan: Witchcraft Through the Ages (1922), the works of Guy Maddin, the book and film of Wisconsin Death Trip and exploitation pseudo-documentaries such as Legend of the Witches (1969).

rsz_bella_2It was deduced from forensic examination that the body was forced into the trunk whilst still warm as it could not have been achieved once rigor mortis had set in. However, the discovery did not really come into public conscience until three years later in 1944 when the first graffiti message relating to the mystery appeared on a wall in Upper Dean Street, Birmingham, reading “Who put Bella down the Wych Elm – Hagley Wood”. Since the 1970s the Hagley Obelisk near to where her remains were discovered has also been sporadically defaced with graffiti asking “Who put Bella in the Wych Elm?”

Rutter’s short places the story in the realms of witchcraft and ritualistic murder, although the reality of her death is shown to be far less fantastical. He drops in a couple of very effective scares, what appears to be an original score and his influences, in particular Haxan, are definitely apparent.

Bella_SkullHowever, the short is also strongly tied to its geographical roots and it would be hard to imagine it having the same provincial tone if made by a non-local film crew. Although limited by a low budget at times, this creepy little tale lingers after the closing credits and comes recommended. 6/10

Bella in the Wych Elm has its premiere at Kidderminster Town Hall on 19th July 2017. More information can be found on Facebook (@BellaInTheWychElm) and Twitter (@Bella_Wych_Elm).

Altar (2017) Review

rsz_altarALTAR (2017)

Starring Stefanie Estes, Brittany Falardeau, Deep Rai and Jessica Strand

Written and Directed by Matthew Sconce

ALTAR is the terrifying story of a group of former college classmates who get lost driving to a college reunion camp out in the Sierra Nevada mountains. After stopping for the night, they stumble onto something much darker. They must battle to escape the evil they unleashed to not only save their own lives but their souls as well.”

I’ve watched so many found footage horror movies at this point that I kind of want to know what attracts filmmakers to the format. It’s not like they have a particularly good reputation now with critics and audiences, and the big hitters like Blair Witch and Paranormal Activity feel like an age ago now. I’m honestly curious, because the amount of found footage movies in recent years that have found a real genuine reason to be made in such a way is very small. Most of the time it just seems to be an excuse by a filmmaker to get away with dodgy camerawork and sound. As if it excuses a lack of skill or talent. Which it absolutely doesn’t. Because if the story isn’t still told right in the edit, and if the performances aren’t even more believable than in a traditionally shot movie, then the audiences attention has already jumped ship. Truth is, it takes real skill and passion and filmmaking prowess to make a good found footage movie.

Which brings me to Altar. Which, to my surprise, was actually a very cool found footage horror!

rsz_altar1All those complaints in my little rant? Well, it seems Matthew Sconce has the same, and sought to avoid them all here. The camerawork is coherent while still convincingly “found”, the sound is effective and the acting is mostly very engaging. And you know what, it’s actually pretty scary occasionally. We can’t forget that!

As you can probably tell from the plot description, the storyline for Altar doesn’t offer anything in the way of originality but the ace up its sleeve is the characters and actors. The lead siblings Maisy (Estes) and Bo (Parr) are incredibly engaging. Complete opposites, with Maisy outgoing and spirited and Bo introverted and suffering from crippling anxiety and shyness, they nonetheless have an incredible bond that is not something you see many genre films even attempt to develop. Not only that, but Bo’s characterisation is what justifies the found footage format, with the camera being a kind of protective barrier for the aspiring filmmaker. The rest of the cast do well too, each character transcending stereotypes and it’s a pleasure to see.

rsz_altar3Once the horror does kick off (and it admittedly does take a while) the film is in a race to get to the finish line which I really did not mind. It felt very well-structured as the films emphasis is much more on characterisation. There’s a few great jump scares and some fantastic tension, but in terms of violence, due to the ambiguous nature of the threat it’s all a bit PG 13. Also, the production values in one pivotal scene kind of give away the budget, with a plastic-looking set that really draws attention to itself when it should be creating fear.

But all this can be forgiven. Altar is a slow build chiller that gets away with it because those slow moments are filled with characters you’re interested in spending time with.

7/10

Florida Gothic by Mitzi Szereto – Book Review

florida gothicFlorida Gothic – Book Review
Written by Mitzi Szereto

UK Amazon Link https://www.amazon.co.uk/Florida-Gothic-Book-1-ebook/dp/B06ZZ6QCXN/

A hit-and-run driver leaves Ernesto Martinez to die by a Miami canal. Then an alligator comes along to finish the job. Being dead gives Ernesto plenty of time to think. He thinks about his wife, taken from him too soon by illness. He thinks about his daughter, the victim of a drunk driver. He thinks about his death as he watches his body slowly decompose. Most of all, he thinks about injustice.”

Full disclosure before I begin: I’ve known Mitzi Szereto for more than a decade. Not only is she an author I respect and admire, and someone with whom I’ve collaborated in the past, but she’s also a good friend. So, if you’re thinking this review is going to be biased in her favour: you’re absolutely right.

Florida Gothic is a well-crafted story with a strong focus on character. Written in the present tense, which gives all events a powerful sense of immediacy, the story shifts chapter-by-chapter into the lives of various characters who develop as they insouciantly propel the story’s plot. Cleverly, because Szereto has dropped a lot of Spanish vocabulary into the text, the sense of place is as vivid as the sense of character. Occasionally this vocabulary lesson can be a little distracting, but it is a constant reminder of the story’s well-rendered, exotic location that helps to keep the reader immersed in the physicality of the story.

One of the things that makes this story particularly compelling is the unlikability of the characters in the story. It’s easy to desire justice when you’re reading about people who seem deserving of punishment. And Szereto makes sure the journey to justice is thoroughly enjoyable.

With endorsements from esteemed figures in the horror world such as Peter Straub and Nancy Kilpatrick, Florida Gothic is an intelligent dip into the supernatural that bodes well as the starting title in the series. I’m sure I’m not alone in looking forward to the next title. 9/10.

The Baylock Residence (2018) Review

rsz_baylock_posterThe Baylock Residence (2018)

Director: Anthony M. Winson

Starring: Kelly Goudie, Sarah Wynne Kordas, Karen Henson, Kieron Brook

This is making me very uneasy.”

During the London Blitz, Patricia Woodhouse (Kelly Goudie) receives news of her estranged sister Susanna’s (Karen Henson) death. With nothing left in London Patricia goes to Baylock house and meets Annabel (Sarah Wynne Kordas), her sister’s maid. Patricia tries to carry on, seeing to her sister’s things, but strange things begin to happen. Noises wake Patricia in the night, voices come from the shadows and strange dreams assail her. Annabel is disbelieving until she too witnesses the terrifying phenomenon. Patricia is determined to find out what is happening in her house and what happened to her sister. The haunting seem to link back Susanna’s husband Victor who disappeared without a trace years before.

The Baylock Residence has an equal number of pros and cons. So much so that they cancel each other out and what’s left is a zero sum.

Pro: The acting is pretty decent. Goudie and Kordas carry a lot of weight and the vast majority of the screen time. They do a decent job overall.

Con: In a scene when Patricia tells Annabel that not only has she lost her sister but her husband has died in the war and her home was bombed. Goudie delivers this information with all the emotion of reading a grocery list.

Pro: Pretty decent haunted house type plot including creepy dreams and a secret in the attic.

Baylock 1Con: Nothing it done either in color palette or film quality to distinguish past from present, dream from reality. It’s the same one note film throughout.

Pro: I love period pieces and was excited when Baylock opened and the setting was WWII.

Con: The costumes were… not good. Wilson obviously didn’t have the money to pull off a period piece. The hair, costumes, and even the setting aren’t period accurate. It looked more like the actors and extras were asked to provide their own wardrobe out of anything vaguely 40s style pulled from their closets.

Pro: The piano music isn’t terrible.

Con: The score/background music is almost nothing but piano music and it begin to grate after an hour or so.

Pro: The plot takes some nice twists and turns and Patricia has to engage in my favorite thing in horror movies: research at the library.

Con: Toward the end the story wanders off into inscrutable. Horror filmmakers- please just offer a coherent explanation. Impenetrably vague endings aren’t fun and mysterious. They just plain don’t make sense.

Pro: There are ghosts.

Con: The ghosts are boring.

Pro: Wilson made an entire movie an estimated £3000 and it’s not terrible.

Con: It looks about like you’d expect a movie the cost £3000 to look and feel.

Baylock 3So, bottom line. The Baylock Residence isn’t terrible. I’ve certainly sat through much worse. But I’ve also watched much better films of equivalent budget. It’s not bad, it’s not good. It could be worse. It could be better. The most notable scene in the entire film is a terrible CGI composite of a bombed London street that is laughably bad. But after that there are no more special effects and the film is better for it. Baylock offers a decent story with some clever filmmaking for a micro budget film. But it’s not truly scary or atmospheric.

Kudos for: Sob fighting.

Lesson learned: Just leave the bloody house.

4/10

Bonejangles (2017) Review

rsz_bj1Bonejangles (2017)

Directed by: Brett DeJager.
Written by: Keith Melcher
Starring: Reggie Bannister, Elissa Dowling and Julie Cavanaugh.

While transporting the legendary serial killer Bonejangles to an asylum, a group of police officers break down in a town cursed with demonic zombies. The only way they can survive the night and save the town is to release Bonejangles to help them fight the curse, with something much worse.”

The other night I was discussing comedy/horror movies with a colleague. He opined that, to get the balance just right, a comedy horror needs to be written by someone who loves the genre they’re mocking. In his opinion, this is why successful films like Shaun of the Dead and American Werewolf in London work so well, whilst films less popular titles such as Pervert, Lesbian Vampire Killers and Zombie Strippers fail to satisfy large audiences. It’s a compelling argument and the reason why I mention it is, with that criterion of love, my friend could have added a film to the list of successful films: Bonejangles.

Bonejangles begins by introducing a janitor, (Wade Everett, Tilt, Wunderland and Tombstone-Ramoshon). It’s late on his shift, he’s wanting to settle down with his copy of the beautifully titled periodical ‘Melons and Muff’, but he gets summoned to an emergency clean up. As the janitor says, “If it’s not one thing, it’s another in this damned shithole.”

And then he’s killed by Bonejangles.

rsz_bj2Interestingly, Bonejangles kills him with the copy of Melons and Muff, giving an important clue to the psychological underpinnings of the story that’s about to unfold. As it is with so many good comedy horror stories, one of the key motifs in this film is the idea that sex is a bad thing: something that merits punishment. Consequently, the story keeps going back to those natural urges that govern most of our poorest decisions.

I’d like to say that Bonejangles is not your ordinary criminal, but that would be misleading. He looks like a composite of Jason Vorhees and Michael Myers, with maybe a little Ed Gein thrown in for good measure. Several times characters such as police unit leaders and news reporters and other authorities explain, “Conventional weapons are useless against him.” But this is done in a delightfully deadpan way, as though there is nothing remarkable about his well-known ability to withstand bayonets, bullets and bombs.

The main comedy in this movie comes from the superb performances of police officers Wes (Bret DeJager: A Prairie Wind, The Legend of Cooley Moon and Hair Rules) and Randy (Jamie Scott Gordon: Lord of Tears, Good Intentions and The Unkindess of Ravens). These two play off each other with a banter that is childish, cowardly, credible and constantly amusing.

rsz_bj3This is a wonderfully campy comedy homage to 80s slasher horror, in the vein of The Final Girls or Zombeavers or the early examples from the Scary Movie franchise. It’s witty. It has genuine moments of shock, fright and surprise, and it’s entertaining throughout. Unless your next seven days genuinely involve you transporting an indestructible serial killer through a zombie-infested remote town, this is the most fun you’re likely to have all week. 9/10