Eurohorror Spotlight #7: Thale (Norway, 2012)

thale1Eurohorror Spotlight #7: Thale (Norway, 2012)

Director – Aleksander L Nordaas

Starring – Silje Reinamo, Jon Sigve Skard, Erlend Nervold

The spotlight is back and returns to Norway for a horror/fantasy film that is worth seeking out…

Two crime scene cleaners, Leo (Skard) and Elvis (Nervold), are busy searching for body parts and remainders of a dead man. He lived in an isolated area of Norway, with his home surrounded by a forest. The pair have a lot of ground to cover and get to work. But Elvis discovers a large hole at the back of a small shed near the house.

Going through the hole they find that it has some steps leading down to a small room. They go into the room and notice there is nothing in it except a locked door. Elvis forces the door open and they head into another hidden room with a torch. It appears to be some sort of scientific lab but also has many empty food tins inside.

thale2Elvis plays a tape on an old cassette radio he finds on a bench as Leo heads back upstairs to report the rooms to his higher up’s. The tape features a man talking about a specimen he was working on. Just then a naked woman bursts out of a bath tub full of white liquid and grabs Elvis by the throat, starting to choke him. Leo runs back in and tries to talk her out of killing his friend. Finally she let’s go revealing that she is completely naked and she appears to be very confused.

Leo and Elvis are told to wait in the rooms with this woman and keep an eye on her until the higher up’s arrive. While they wait the pair discover that various diagrams on the walls seem to relate to the anatomy of females matching the naked woman as well as some strange tailed creature/girl. They begin to find out more about her and that she is very special, yet dangerous, as somebody outside arrives with murder in mind.

A surprisingly strong film despite a short run time, 74 minutes, and next to no budget. The director Nordaas has revealed Thale cost just $10,000 and as a result he did various other roles in the making of the movie in order to cut costs. Despite the rock bottom budget the film appears to be very polished and slick. Nordaas knows how to get his money’s worth.

thale3This could be why the filming locations are limited to the shed-come-underground-lab and its surrounding forest and woodland. The external shots are often beautiful, like a video postcard of scenic Norway, while the internal shots of the hidden rooms are dark and creepy. The subterranean scenes were shot in the basement of the director’s father to further cut down on costs.

Not many actors appear during the brief movie but those that do are very strong. Skard and Nervold, who play Leo and Elvis, are very likeable as the two mates trying to stay cheery despite mopping up dead people (Elvis usually throws up while Leo rolls his eyes). When Thale, as it turns out is the name of the girl, is first found it is Elvis who reacts badly and is frightened of her. As the plot moves along he begins to overcome his fear and wants to seek more out about her. It is a believable change in direction for the character and well acted.

Reinamo is undoubtedly the star as the titular Thale. From the moment she first appears on-screen until the very end of the run time she delivers a brilliant performance. Her character never speaks a word but this is overcome by her ability to fully express a wide range of emotions with her face and body language. She is certainly an attractive woman and this will no doubt not harm the films quality. She is also naked for most of the film which will definitely catch the eye of some watching.

thale4The plot is intriguing and makes good use of Norse/Scandinavian mythology. As Leo and Elvis learn more about Thale it comes to light that she could be a ‘huldra’: usually assumed to be a beautiful woman with a tail that lives in the forest. How she ended up in the underground lab and appearing more human than she should is teased throughout with the truth finally emerging at the end of the picture.

A great Norwegian horror/fantasy film Thale is slowly growing in popularity across the world and is definitely recommended.

A sequel is currently in the works.

8 out of 10.

Available on region 2 DVD via various websites as well as being streamed on lovefilm. With English subtitles.

 

An Interview With Brooke Lewis by Dean Sills

bl1An Interview With Brooke Lewis by Dean Sills

UKHS – Hi Brooke, welcome to UK Horror Scene. Thank you for giving us your time especially when you are busy filming. You are a stunning actress, beautiful Scream Queen, talented writer and producer. How did you get into acting and can you tell us a little about your production company ‘Philly Chick Pictures’?

BL – I was singing and dancing from a young age, which led me into musical theatre in Philadelphia, which led me into comedy in New York. I got my first “break” in the New York Off-Broadway Comedy “Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding”, then went on to do TV sitcoms like “Quintuplets” and “Mafiosa”, then acted in mobster dramas like “Pride & Loyalty” and “Sinatra Club”, then broke out in the horror genre with films like “Kinky Killers”, “iMurders” and “Slime City Massacre” earning the title of a ‘Scream Queen’, then combined my experience in comedy, mobster movies and horror and created the role and brand, which I am best known…Ms. Vampy!!!

In 2002, I created Philly Chick Pictures to “produce entertainment with an attitude”. I was always the actress with a ton of energy and a business brain, who would call in a favor to attach talent, crew, locations or think fast enough to do damage control on a set. After doing this work for other people’s companies or projects and not being credited or compensated properly, I finally realized that I had been “producing” all along! I learned that I have a creative soul and a business mind, so I started Philly Chick Pictures to further my acting and producing career, make films with an edge and find and develop strong roles for women.

UKHS – You have appeared in many different genres, including the mystery thriller ‘iMurders’, the mobster movie ‘Sinatra Club’ and loads of Horror. What is the hardest role that you have had to play and do you go to extreme lengths to prep for your parts and stay in character?

BL – I’ve been lucky to have had quite a few roles that were tough in different ways, but I would say Maura in Roger Scheck’s “Sprinkles” really challenged me as an actress, tapping into some deep emotional stuff. Maura had been raped in college and had a tremendous ‘back story’ that affects the present with layers of psychological darkness.

Sprinkles Trailer:

[youtube=www.youtube.com/watch?v=JXoxnqtOos4]

In Neil Johnson’s Sci-fi films “Starship: Rising” and “Starship: The Coming Darkness”, I have to say playing Staris was a new and exciting challenge, because I really had to learn the tone and technical workings of a real spaceship film or series. It was spaceylicious! I always work with my acting coaches before a film or TV role, watch shows that have similar characters with actors I admire and I am big on rehearsals when time and directors allow. I am super serious and committed to the work, while filming…but, I will definitely be partying and doing tequila shots at the wrap party!!!

bl4UKHS – I love your performance as the sexy, lovable Vampiress from Brooklyn, Ms. Vampy. I thinks it’s really cool you cover issues like Sex On The First Date and Who Pays On The First Date. I believe a Man should pay all the time and not just on the first date. How did you come up with the idea for Ms. Vampy and do you find yourself giving advice out to teens as Brooke Lewis and not just as Ms.Vampy?

BL – (Well, Dean, since you are a true gentleman who pays, maybe we should go on a date!!! 😉 LOL)

I looked at the body of my biggest acting work and what I loved to play and from comedy, horror and mobster genres, Ms. Vampy was born! She was inspired by some of my favorite famous characters: Betty Boop, Mona from “My Cousin Vinny” and Elvira! I, too, am very excited about the latest web series we launched “Ms. Vampy’s Love Bites”. Here’s the vampylicious scoop:

“Ms. Vampy is America’s funniest, sexiest, sassiest and most high maintenance Brooklyn vampire! Her personality is as big as her hair and is often described as Betty Boop meets Marisa Tomei in My Cousin Vinny. She loves pleather and fur and wouldn’t be caught “dead” without high heels! But, there’s much more to this loveable Vampiress. While she looks young and vibrant, Ms. Vampy is one of the oldest gals on earth. At 110-years-old, she was born in Transylvania. She was a shy and innocent child, but after a few too many shots of Lauder’s Scotch Whisky on her 18th birthday, she jumped on the bike of a tattooed mate and sealed her fate! Moments after being bitten, she grew wildly thick hair, fangs, plump lips and bodacious tatas. As she puts it, “I went from being a brainy bookworm to a blood-loving, vampire sexpot in just minutes.”

In the 1920s, Ms. Vampy’s travels took her to New York and she fell in love with Brooklyn. It was there where she developed her attitude, sarcastic sense of humor, and ridiculous accent. She spent most of her time in the big apple filming movies and seeing Broadway shows, but she has a secret many don’t know…Ms. Vampy went crazy for Philadelphia Eagles football and soon became an assistant coach, but was fired after one month for not showing up to any day games. She moved back to New York for a short time, but a torrid love affair with a very jealous and young Wall Street vampire went bad, so she headed west to seek out new friends and victims. These days, Ms. Vampy lives in her Hollywood Villa and is a Life Coach and Dating Expert to the rich and famous. She is often
seen on night shoots, shopping in Beverly Hills for Dior or hanging out at Lakers’ games with her celebrity friends.

bl2She loves 80s rock and disco, her favorite band is Vampire Weekend and she never misses American Idol, The Voice or Millionaire Matchmaker on TV. Her secret dream is to join the cast of HBO’s True Blood (of course, she thinks it’s a “reality” show)! She enjoys Godiva Chocolates and Bloody Marys and she loves to play Xbox when she’s feeling feisty. While she has yet to marry or have children, she freely admits to being boy crazy and hopes to someday make-out with Robert Pattinson. Now, who better to give the world LOVE & DATING advice than a 110 year old Vampire who has seen it all and has a HEART of gold? Check out her new show MS. VAMPY’S LOVE BITES
www.MsVampy.net
Starring: Brooke Lewis as Ms. Vampy; Produced by: Matt Raub and Brooke Lewis; Directed by: Staci Layne Wilson; Director of Photography: Matt Raub.

Ms. Vampy is forever sexy, funny, young, and obnoxious, but her heart is as big as her mouth. If she ever bites you, it’ll be with love. – Editor, Vampity Fair”

Watch Ms. Vampy’s Love Bites:

http://www.msvampy.net/love_bites_episodes.htm

And, as far as ‘Brooke Lewis’ goes, I am always inspired to help teens and do a lot of charity work to support teens with issues such as self-esteem, body image, bullying and a lot of people do not know that I am also a Board Certified Life Coach and coach and speak to a lot of teens.

Watch Be You…And Be Fearless!:

http://beyouandbefearlesslifecoach.com/videos.php

UKHS –  I would be honoured to take you out on a date but not as Ms. Vampy. It maybe love at first bite but Ms.Vampy would be a nightmare to take out to dinner, avoiding food like garlic and Steak (stake) haha!

Congratulations Brooke on being a Board Certified Life Coach and the work you do. This is a remarkable achievement, I have so much respect for people who always help other people out. Well done!
Ok, what would you consider to be the three main ingredients that you need to make a classic horror flick?

BL – SEX, GORE & HOT CHICKS!!! Hahahahaha!!! KIDDING!!! To me, I don’t care what genre we are talking about, it all starts with the script, good actors and good direction! I happen to be a huge Hitchcock fan, so I favor the old school thrillers, mystery and suspense…films that make me think! BUT,  some of my fave horror films in the world are “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, “Friday the 13th” and “Prom Night” (the originals). They just seemed to hit the mark with enough gore, chills and an interesting story.

bl3UKHS – Ok last question, Brooke. Are there any projects you’re working on at the moment that you can tell us about?

BL – Well, here is the detailed scoop on a thriller, horror and two Sci-fi films I have releasing in 2014:

THE MOURNING (Thriller; Directed by Marc Clebanoff who directed me in BREAK & GERALD):

SYNOPSIS: Aaron returns to his small Middle America hometown, inexplicably not having aged a day since his mysterious disappearance in Desert Storm 20 years prior. Unable to speak initially, Aaron must come to terms with the losses and evolution of his loved ones in his absence. Concurrently, Aaron’s loved ones must come to terms with the reappearance of the boy who they grieved over and let go years prior.
As Aaron begins to assimilate himself into the lives of his family, his best friend and his long lost lover, it’s slowly revealed that Aaron’s homecoming is not permanent. A conspiracy theorist and a mysterious angelic figure both stalking Aaron build toward a finale in which Aaron must tie up loose ends before disappearing again forever.

LISA ASS FACE: Lisa was the “unattractive” girl in high school who used to like Aaron and the lead guys. They never gave her the time of day, but when Aaron returns from his mysterious disappearance and reunites with his high school friends, he sees a “sexy” girl at the local hangout bar and his friends tell him she is Lisa “Ass Face” from high school. Aaron can’t believe it and realizes how much things REALLY have changed, since his mysterious disappearance. Lisa gets drawn into the Sci-fi drama that ensues with Aaron and his friends and finds herself with more than a hookup!”

STARRING: Dominique Swain (Lolita), Louis Mandylor (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), Peter Dobson (Frighteners), Larry Hankin (Home Alone), Michael Walton (Gerald) and Brooke Lewis (iMurders).

LAZARUS: DAY OF THE LIVING DEAD
(Horror/Mystery; Directed by Thomas Churchill):

SYNOPSIS: It is the year 1957 in Hollywood, CA. A telegram arrives at the office of George Lazarus, an insurance investigator with the assignment to look into a suspicious claim that was just put in by Harvest International Tobacco Company. Lazarus begins to schedule routine interviews with the twelve employees that are named on this claim. He learns that they all had just gotten fired for being sick at the job. He never makes it back to the office. What seemed to be a normal fraud investigation case may have turned out to be the beginning of the end for the human race. His fiance Bethany begins to worry as she realizes that he hasn’t been back at the office since early that morning and he hasn’t checked in either. Not the behavior from a man who lives by daily routine. She decides to follow his path in hopes to locate him. Nothing can prepare her for what she is about to witness in this eerily horrific pre-apocalyptic tale.

MS. DANIELS: The no-nonsense Betty Page-esque Ms. Daniels is an Executive over at Topaz Insurance company. The company who sends investigator George Lazarus down a mysterious road into the mouth of darkness.

STARRING: Natalie Victoria (DeadHeads); Ray Capuana (Emerging Past); Stephen Geoffreys (Fright Night, 976-EVIL); Brooke Lewis (Sinatra Club, iMurders); Josh Hammond (Jeepers Creepers 2, The Tripper); Brian Andrews (Halloween, Three O’Clock High); Thomas J. Churchill (Mr. Hush, Emerging Past, Monster Man); Janet Tracy Keijser (House On Haunted Hill); Krista Grotte (Emerging Past) and Taylor Morgan Lewis (Women of Wrestling).

bl5STARSHIP: RISING (Sci-fi; Directed by Neil Johnson who directed me in ALIEN DAWN) and part II is STARSHIP: THE COMING DARKNESS:

SYNOPSIS: A corrupt planetary federation… The ultimate weapon of destruction. One starship captain stands between them….and intergalactic armageddon. The film is about what happens when a Starship armed to the teeth with missiles gets taken over by a revolutionary. Neil Johnson describes it as “Game Of Thrones in space.”

STARIS: Staris is the pilot of the greatest space vessel in the Federation…. Starship One. When the vessel is mutineered, Staris is torn between her love for a man, and her duty towards the Federation. Staris wants nothing more than to be Captain of her own Starship, and will do anything to achieve this.

STARRING: Claudia Wells (Back to the Future), Brooke Lewis (iMurders), E.J. De La Pena (Jingle All The Way), Marilyn Ghigliotti (Clerks), Darren Jacobs (Hollyoaks TV series), Rajia Baroudi (Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers) and Musical Star Emii (“Zombie Boyfriend”).

And, I am very grateful that I have several exciting projects lined up to act in this year, including Robbie Bryan’s “Black Hat” and “The Eyes”, Roger Scheck’s “The Closing” and Thomas Churchill’s “Beautiful Nightmare” and “Lazarus II: Rise Of The Dead”.

UKHS – Congratulations Brooke on all those amazing projects. Good luck with each one. Thank you for your time, it’s been a real joy interviewing you and I hope we can chat again in the near future. Keep up the great work.

BL -Wanna send the UK readers and fans LOVE and they can always find out what’s up with me at:

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0506989/

http://brookelewis.com/

http://msvampy.net/

https://twitter.com/BrookeLewisLA

https://www.facebook.com/pages/THE-OFFICIAL-BROOKE-LEWIS-FAN-PAGE/337389067701?ref=ts

Images courtesy : Brooke Lewis, Genna Sandler photography, The Mourning, Starship and Ms. Vampy.

Peeping Tom (1960) Review

peeping1PEEPING TOM (1960)
Dir. Michael Powell

“How would I look on your camera?”
“Not you. Whatever I photograph, I always lose.”

Each and every night, the whir of the film projector can be heard in Mark’s room. It is a solitary sound for a solitary young man, it is the only sound that matters because it means Mark is where he belongs: watching the women, their faces, their mouths, their eyes, and their terror play out before  him on the silver screen.
Each and every night.

While films about serial killers were not exactly new in 1960, two films made their mark that year as bringing a new level of all-too-human terror to the silver screen, Hitchcock’s PSYCHO and its lesser known U.K. cousin, PEEPING TOM. In horror film criticism, there has been much written about the male gaze. PEEPING TOM is a textbook example, and yet perhaps something more.

Our film opens with a man, whose face is not seen but who has a camera around his neck, approaching a Soho prostitute. The shot then changes so that all we see is what his camera sees, he looks her up and down, and follows the prostitute to her flat, always keeping her in the crosshairs of his lens. As she starts to undress, he adjusts the camera and starts moving in, closer and closer. The prostitute, seeing something we don’t, begins to scream and her terrified face is recorded for posterity as the killer closes in.

peeping2We then cut to a small movie screen, where black and white footage of the crime is being replayed for the viewing pleasure of the killer/cameraman. It soon becomes clear this killer is Mark, a mild-mannered photographer who goes nowhere without his camera. When not practising erotic photography for hire, he is a cameraman for a movie studio.

But his hobby of watching women through a camera lens, and then capturing their expression of sheer terror as they are killed, makes him a wanted man, and as police probe the series of mysterious murders, the best/worse thing that can happen to Mark does—he finds a young woman who loves him. In addition to being a masterfully shot and edited film with compelling acting by the entire cast, what makes PEEPING TOM a work of genius is the way in which it is a rich visual essay on the fetishistic gaze and how it can isolate human beings.

Powell presents scene after scene in which characters are either staring at photos (including those of nude women) and watching film footage, are behind the camera, or in front of the camera. The subject of the gaze is usually female beauty and sex or fear and violence. Watching it, the viewer can’t help but think who’s watching who, why, and who is really in control here—the moviemaker, the subject or the audience?

peeping3A good example of this layered approach to the concept of gaze is an early scene where Mark peers through a window into an apartment where a 21st birthday party for his future love interest, Helen, is taking place. She spots him and invites him into the party, but he declines, presumably because he doesn’t like crowds and Mark retires to his own apartment in the same building and sits in the dark, watching an old movie.

Helen interrupts his viewing with a rap at the door and an offer of birthday cake. He rushes to put away the film as if he had been caught masturbating.  She enters and they chat, but Mark is awkward until he sits her down and starts his projector. He shows Helen a film his father took of Mark as a young boy watching a couple kiss in the park. He then shows her a film his father took of Mark being awakened in his bed and the subsequent fright he feels as his father puts a lizard in his bed.

It gets stranger as Mark attempts to photograph Helen watching the lizard film, a look of fear and disgust on her face. They then watch a film showing Mark at the death bed of his mother, followed by swimsuit footage of his new mother, and finally the moment Mark received his own camera, just before his father and new stepmother left on their honeymoon. Mark’s father was a scientist, a man who who wanted a video record of a child growing up so Mark never knew a moment’s privacy. On top of that his father wanted to learn about how children respond to fear.

peeping4Mark’s “origin story” ends when another person attending the birthday party comes in and beckons Helen back to the fun. She invites Mark, who declines. He is left staring at the piece of birthday cake she brought him earlier, isolated once again in his own mind, layer upon layer.

But PEEPING TOM is also an effective thriller. While it’s no mystery to the viewer as to whom the killer is, there is a question as to exactly how Mark’s victims are being slain (which is explained during the film’s climax), as well as the question as to whether Mark can overcome his compulsion to kill after meeting Helen? Can he be cured? Mark is a compelling psychological study. He has been warped by his upbringing, and yet he knows it and can’t seem to do anything about it.

After a slain actress is found in a trunk at the studio where Mark works, the police investigation intensifies. But Mark doesn’t seem to mind, and even films police interrogations of studio staff, explaining that he is making a documentary. Of what, he won’t say. A co-worker says to him, “Mark, are you crazy?” to which he replies, “Yes, do you think [the police] will notice?”

peeping5Another example is when Mark is confronted by Helen’s mother, a blind woman who spend her evenings on the sofa drinking whiskey. She doesn’t like Mark, a man who walks “too softly” and who peeps in through her window—the latter she knows because she can “feel” Mark’s gaze. It makes the hairs on her neck stand up, and when she shakes his hand, she can feel his pulse and tell when he’s lying.

Every night she hears him turn on his film projector, eager to watch … something. She asks what is it he’s so eager to watch?  The projector plays and she can’t see Mark’s footage of his latest victim playing across the screen, a terror-stricken, beautiful face.  But he can’t bear to kill her and she tells him, that all this filming can’t be healthy and that he needs to get help, quickly. “What’s troubling you, Mark? You’ll have to tell someone. You’ll have to.” Powerful stuff.

The horror of PEEPING TOM comes from the fact the viewer is forced to accompany Mark in his murders, sees what he sees—the masks of fear on his victims’ faces. We can’t look away. After all, we don’t want to miss any of the movie, right?

And there is morbid food for thought in the notion that we can’t look away, isn’t there? It was one thing to make the point—that as cinema-goers, we all are voyeurs—to shocked film audiences in 1960.

peeping6But PEEPING TOM is even more relevant now, when movies have moved out of the cinema and into our streets, our living rooms, our bedrooms, with us as both spectators and actors.

Cameras are ubiquitous, with many people photographing and shooting video of the minutiae of their daily lives. Children are growing up seeking validation from an unblinking lens. There is video content of anything you can imagine, and some real life things you can’t, available at the swipe of a finger.

Everyone is watching everyone else, often alone in the dark. Like Mark.
9/10

DéFago – Roots of Evil – Album Review

defagorootsDéFago – Roots of Evil – Album Review

Spanish electronic guru DéFago’s follow up album to 2013’s outstanding debut, Call of Darkness is set to be issued by UK horror label and firm UKHS favourites Graveyard Calling on the first of April.

 

Roots of Evil, 9 tracks of eerie and melodic EDM is much of the same style and frantic pacing which DéFago is known for and on a whole doesn’t disappoint, the tracks feel a lot more experimental than the first album with DéFago coupling and layering familiar synth sounds to create an alien yet inviting world which encapsulates around the music.

 

The simple, robotic opening track, Bag Full of Nightmares lures the listener into a false sense of security before unleashing the familiar and haunting sounds found in a spate of 80s horror opus’.

 

Hardly allowing the listener to skip a beat before the aural assault continues DéFago delivers a shorter sequence of tracks ( the first three tracks have a relatively short runtime) all of them offering something different to hear and plenty to discover on repeated plays, the tiny nuances on the layering and different musical equipment delivers a fresh and interesting sequence of compositions that reward the effort that is put into them.

 

The fifth track, The Uselessness of 4am is an undoubted highlight of the album, starting slowly and pulsing, a shallow rise luring in the listener until a third of the way into the track it evolves perfectly from a frantic paced sequence to a subtly haunting finale showcasing DéFago ‘s talent for composition and storytelling through music.

 

Our Lady of Shadows is a complete 360 from the previous track, isolation and desolation are created with the use of negative sounds and a really creepy extended loop, sounding harmless at first but suddenly mutating into the crying and desperate sobbing of a woman; this is a completely unsettling song, harshly throwing the listener into the peril and tightly grasping them with sonically weird, yet compelling sequence.

 

defago1The final two tracks are the closest to his first album, 80s horror synth mixed with an psychedelic, pulsing pace that could be placed directly into Escape from New York and become part of that world.

 

The aptly titled Epitaph closes the album perfectly bringing back the dual layered synth working as a round would bringing an upbeat and catchy loop to end the journey perfectly. The woman (presumably) from Our Lady Of Shadows is back yet this time not screaming but harmonising washing a calming, angelic feel over the track closing the album and with it her journey.

 

Futuristic, scary and strangely inviting DéFago is carving a name for himself in this sonic landscape and the comparisons to Carpenter and Howarth are undeniable; as is the magnitude of influence they left in the 80s horror soundtrack world but look to DéFago to see the evolution of the style as he manipulates the commonplace into a whole new creature, using the familiar to alienate and astound, shattering preconceptions as the runtime winds on.

 

The album swiftly passes and If there is any quibble to be had is that some of the earlier tracks feel as though they could’ve been revisited and expanded allowing more time for the audience to soak them in, yet this also helps the middle section of the album come into its own.

 

The Call of Darkness was a highlight of 2013 for me and to compare this second album to it is unfair, both showcase the talent that DéFago possesses but also his ability to utilise his influences to his own effect, creating two different entities using the same instruments is outstanding.

 

Part of the fifth double feature cassette from Graveyard calling with label-mates Werewolves in Siberia second album the other and presented on an transparent purple tape; Roots of Evil comes highly recommended and has plenty for horror music and horror movie fans alike.

 

graveyardcalling1Graveyard Calling and its bands are laying down the gauntlet for the horror music community and every double feature is perfectly coupled. The limited nature of the releases and the resurgence of horror labels over the past few years makes this home-grown label one to keep an eye on.

 

8/10

Roots of Evil comes out on Cassette and download on April 1st from Graveyard Calling on their site here – www.graveyardcalling.co.uk 

A trip through the less popular films in the Alien film series – Part 2

aliens1A trip through the less popular films in the Alien film series – Part 2

At the start of autumn 1997 I found myself in the agreeable position of having just moved to Manchester with a student loan/grant itching to be jettisoned out of my bank account like an intoxicated face-hugger. In those exciting times it’s fair to say that I had much less invested in the fourth installment of the Alien franchise than I had placed on Alien 3 years earlier. I recall taking a trip to the (sadly now closed) grand 1930s Odeon building on Oxford Road with my new German friend Pete, himself an ‘ Ausländer’, to see my first and only ever big-screen experience of an alien film, ‘ Alien: Resurrection ‘ .

It seemed an unwise move at the time to admit to liking Jean Pierre Jeunet’s darkly comic and surreal take on the xenomorph saga, but I did with caution then and I do with pride now. It was certainly more accomplished and relatable than a film I sat through around the time at the nearby art cinema in which the almost silent central character spent two hours selling waffles from a kiosk. I suspect that the arrival of a xenomorph would have improved matters considerably.

Since the previous alien film Dark Horse Comics had made some serious waves in the 90s comics industry and enjoyed success in expanding the Alien universe considerably. Predator, Star Wars and Hellboy comics also found their home at DHC. In 1992 the anarchic ultra-violent shocker The Mask became the subject of a successful celluloid adaption, despite having been severly diluted into an (admittedly fun) family film. Notably ‘Aliens Book 2: Nightmare Asylum’ featured the cinematic fully painted artwork of Den Beauvais which left many a comic-book fan drooling over the lavish pages. The story placed an adult Newt and a scarred Hicks into the path of a military vessel which was breeding xenomorphs to use as a weapon. Obtaining all the original issues of book 2 became an impossibility for me at the time, due to it’s popularity, and I wasn’t surprised to recognise themes of the book re-emerge in Alien: Resurrection.

aliens2For example, Joss Whedon’s original script featured a clone of Newt as the main character and the scientist’s attempts to tame the beast gave us the initial set-up on the USM Auriga. The recently published ‘Aliens Omnibus Volume 1’ collects the first 3 books of the Dark Horse Aliens run (available for less than a tenner online) and is notably penned by TV scribe Mark Verheiden of the rebooted Battlestar Gallactica fame.

The plot of Resurrection centres around the ramshackle mercenary crew of the Betty, who could easily be imagined in a punch-up at the Mos Eisley Cantina or in a rigged game of poker with the Time Bandits. They deliver several kidnapped humans in stasis to the covert military led project on the Auriga, where the cargo of people are used as unwilling vessels for a new batch of aliens. Things obviously take a turn for the worse and our morally dubious protagonists quickly find themselves trapped amongst an alien outbreak, but this time equipped with both the same level of weaponry as the colonial marines combined with the resourceful scumbag nature of the Fury residents.

To address the elephant in the room I think it was a very odd decision to clone and restore Ripley as the lead character. Weaver had shone blindingly bright in the Ripley role previously and was quite rightly granted a martyrs death and a bow-out of operatic proportions, but it wasn’t enough for those in control of the franchise. I found Weavers attempts to play a more feral Ripley (due to the alien DNA splicing) poorly executed and a constant reminder of the fragility of the cloning concept. Lines like ”Who do I have to fuck to get off this boat?” seemed crass and out of character and, at the risk of sounding archaic, Weaver also now seemed less physically convincing as an action hero as her half-century creeped ever closer from inside the air-duct. That said I’ll take a 50+ Ripley over the obligatory hollywood perfume-ad pouters anyday! Thankfully, by the final third of the film the classic Ripley character re-emerges to restore her dignity.

aliens3A more commendable decision by far was handing the directorial reins to Jeunet. His exterior and interior shots ooze the same confidence as Scott himself, albeit now tinged with an influence from Japanese manga/anime in the wake of the success of Ghost in the Shell, Akira, Patlabor, Appleseed and their ilk. Jeunet can also appreciate the magnificence of a ‘characterful’ mug. For me Ron Perlman’s Johner steals every scene and sets the template for the belligerent but lovable nobhead he would mostly play from then on. Within the first few minutes of the film he has deliberately dropped a knife into the paralysed leg of his crewmate Vriess (Dominique Pinion) out of pure boredom, and later when Vriess demonstrates amazing resourcefulness to escape death and re-join his compadres, Johner immediately suggests that they ”Ditch the cripple” to avoid being slowed down.

Pinion’s compressed head and Beano-like facial features are a fitting match for Perlman’s simian charms. Both are made to look twice as unsightly when placed next to Winona Ryder, whom I don’t think has ever been more enchanting onscreen for me than as the android activist Call. I’ve often wondered if Ryder was originally in the running to play Newt in the earlier pre-Ripley concept of the fourth installment. I could see Ryder, Fairuza Balk (Return to Oz, The Craft) or perhaps even Claudia Black (Farscape) all doing the Dark Horse Comics version of Newt some justice onscreen in the 90s. Worth a mention also is that the one surviving Auriga soldier Distephano is a young Raymond Cruz, who went on to play Breaking Bad’s Tuco Salamanca.

Whilst the return of Ripley didn’t sit right for many, for me the worst crime of Resurrection is the haste in which the briefly badass leader of the Betty crew Elgyn (Michael Wincott) is criminally squandered. Exuding the same brand of sombre cool as the likes of Rick Deckard, Elgyn is established nicely but then prematurely butchered by an alien. As if to twist the knife further he is then cowardly used as a human shield by the now more morally dubious (and mildly annoying) Ripley. After seeing Wincott play both a credible villain in The Crow and flex his solid character-acting muscles in Basquiat, I think in Elgyn we lost a character with the potential to have been a classic in the Alien series. It’s purely speculation but perhaps a fresher direction and new start for the franchise may have been acheived by handing Wincott or Perlman the lead in the fourth film. Lance Henriksen was to later return for AVP and to me always seemed a more obvious choice as the character to resurrect than Ripley, seeing as all he would need is some new parts and a few pints of evaporated milk to get him up and running.

aliens4In Alien: Resurrection Jeunet’s style adds an almost Gilliam-esque sense of humour to events that was previously absent. Though very darkly comedic I did find that the less serious tone reduced the impact of the more horrific scenes and, for me, it’s the least scary of the franchise. That said it’s almost impossible not to be dazzled by Jeunet’s handling of the xenomorphs themselves, particularly the Queen. No longer confined mainly to the shadows or in strobe lit gun battles we see the beasts in all their glory for lengthy periods, jet black and dripping with an almost silver liquid. The first pan back across the
Queen’s skull frame is as epic as any of the lengthy spaceship hull pans throughout the saga. Also the scene where Ripley discovers a room of failed cloning attempts becomes disturbing and genuinely moving as we are shown a hideously deformed Ripley/Xenomorph hybrid in agony and begging to die. It’s as-if the present day Sinead O’Connor had gone to the loo nude in the middle of the night and ended up taking a bad fall down the stairs.

Where Jeunet really shows his pedigree is in his ability to create a scene of true panic, mania and chaos through lots of sudden sharply tilted extreme close-ups and Raimi-like bursts of energy. The best example is perhaps when the vile Dr Wren (J.E. Freeman) comes to a grim end via the hands of the test subject he has doomed (Larry Purvis), who gives him a Droog-worthy savage beating and satisfyingly channels the chest-burster through Wren’s face in a vaguely sexual manner. Those caffeinated manic moments of insanity feel similar in tone to me as the more bizarre scenes from Jan Kounen’s ultra-violent epic ‘Dobermann’, and are equally as enjoyable.

By the final act things take an almost fairytale-like turn as Dr Gediman (Brad Dourif), in a delusional near-death state, begins to creepily narrate over the awesome spectacle of the Alien Queen enduring a human-like birth via a womb she inherited from Ripley. The alien/human hybrid creature that emerges for some reason looks alot like a combination of Skeletor and a roast chicken. Whilst I suspect that the creature looked great as a concept illustration it feels more comical than sinister onscreen, particularly when it starts mewing like a kitten. Jeunet was at first adamant that the hybrid have a large penis/labia combo on it’s belly but, perhaps wisely, was talked out of the decision by 20th Century Fox. The genitalia were removed digitally in post production and Jenuet proclaimed that “…even for a Frenchman, it’s too much”. Credit I will give to the newborn hybrid is that it does have a fair bit of absurd character I find hard not to enjoy. It also endures a particularly tragic and gruesome ending as it is betrayed by it’s adopted ‘mother’ Ripley and slowly sucked into space via a pea-size hole in a viewpane.

aliens5In 2004 a longer edit of the film was released showing more of the decimated Planet Earth in a final scene where Ripley and Call discuss hiding from their corporate/government enemies in a fallen Paris. Perhaps a 5th film would have seen Hollywood draw from another commendable Aliens comic titled Earth War, in which Ripley becomes a resistance leader in the fight back on Earth. Sadly, that’s the last we saw onscreen of Ripley, Call and the crew of the Betty as the AVP films were the next port of call for the xenomorph.

Alien: Resurrection certainly wasn’t the film I was expecting but I think it’s fair to credit Jeunet for delivered a very stylish, whitty and enjoyably bizarre film from the bastardised script he was given. It’s a shame that the original franchise was unable to continue but, to quote the phrase my German pal Pete would take every opportunity to use during his year in Manchester, ”That’s the way the cookie crumbles”.

Black Water Vampire (2014) DVD Review

bwv1BLACK WATER VAMPIRE (Dir Evan Tramel, USA 2014)

Starring- Danielle Lozeau, Andrea Monier, Anthony Fanelli, Robin Steffen, Bill Oberst Jr.

Released in the UK on DVD from Image Entertainment on March 24th 2014.

 

My second review of 2014 for UK HORROR SCENE and I’m back in the found footage genre again (see my previous review for MUIRHOUSE) and it’s found footage of the usual BLAIR WITCH PROJECT kind, that seems to emphasise a fundamental lack of originality in this sub-genre.

The film follows of a group of amateur filmmakers led by Danielle (Danielle Lozeau), her friend Andrea (Andrea Monier), a cameraman for hire Anthony (Anthoy Fanelli) and their sound guy Robin (Robin Steffen), who are going to film a documentary about the killings in Danielle’s small town of Black Water and try to disprove the guilty verdict of killer convicted of the murders, Raymond Banks (Bill Oberst Jr), who has been convicted of the murders and is currently on death row.

On their arrival in the town we see interview footage with locals, some believing and retelling the tales of the black water vamp, and some saying that they hope Banks burns in hell and that they believe that he is the guilty one. We also get interview footage with the victim’s families and also an interview with Banks, who comes across as a paranoid, wild-eyed stared loony, though could his rants and ravings be true, which then leads into the second part of the film where the group trek into the woods and hope to film at Banks’ cabin and at the murder sites.

Though as soon as dusk falls, and camp is set up, it’s not long till we start hearing strange noises and screams from the outside of the tent, and when dawn comes strange symbols are found on the tent itself, leading the hostility and infighting within the group to arise, and divisions to be formed. Also it doesn’t help that Danielle, is a virgin, believing in abstinence before marriage, which is not good to have, young virgin blood, when their might be a vampire around.

bwv2When I mentioned at the start of this review that this film lacks originality that can so often be seen in found footage, I meant that this film in particular, takes its cues from one of the hallmarks of the genre THE BLAIR WITH PROJECT. The similarity’s are pretty obvious, film crew in the woods, reporting on a local legend that has caused mysterious deaths in the past, symbols being drawn on trees and eventually getting lost in the same woods, and tensions, bickering and arguing between the filmmakers.

The only difference is, is instead of a supernatural entity attacking the group, this time it’s a vampire, which is a neat trick and one that for my knowledge hasn’t been used before, but when it’s placed in the context of woodland area along with symbols associated with the legend, it’s end up being something like the Blair Vampire Project instead.

That’s the disappointing thing about the film, if it was released back in 1999, this would have probably been a superb and original idea, but flash forward 15 years later and it comes off as unoriginal and pretty mediocre, and the concept of a found footage vampire movie, certainly would intrigue me, and I had hopes going in to this one, but ended up finding it more disappointing, that the filmmakers could have done more with the story rather than end up with a laboured running-around-the-woods- in-the-dark shaky camera horror film!

bwv3A couple of plus points, the vampire itself looks pretty cool, and effects wise it’s well done, and Bill Oberst Jr’s one scene performance as the paranoid convict Banks, is good in a scenery chewing sort of way. Overall BLACK WATER VAMPIRE has an idea that could have been approached with some originality instead the filmmakers have opted for a pretty un-original and standard premise which unfortunately does not make the film stand out in the overcrowded found footage sub genre.

3/10

 

 

Dolls (1986) BluRay Review

DOLLS 001DOLLS (1986) Blu-ray

Review by: Dave Wain

Stars: Stephen Lee, Guy Rolfe, Hilary Mason, Ian Patrick Williams, Carolyn Purdy-Gordon

Written by: Ed Naha

UK Certification: 18

UK RRP: £14.99

UK DVD Region: 2

Runtime: 77 minutes

Directed by: Stuart Gordon

UK Release Date: 17th February 2014

Dave Jay’s tremendous book ‘Empire of the B’s’ was a joy to behold last month upon its publication (check out our review), but the one downside that accompanied this great work was the fact that many of the films mentioned are strangers to the UK DVD market. After completing the book there was almost a sense of despair that so many of the films detailed were so hard to locate! Some of Empire’s greatest works – Zone Troopers, Robot Jox, Eliminators and Enemy Territory (and many more) have frustratingly never been released on these shores since their 80s VHS heyday. Thankfully though with companies like the awesome 101 Films managing to gauge just what the fans want, we can now cross Stuart Gordon’s excellent Dolls off the list (as well as Cellar Dwellar come May).

Fresh from his worthy success as director of Re-Animator (1985), Charles Band was keen to tie Stuart Gordon down to a multi-picture deal with Empire. Gordon, having had the idea for further Lovecraftian adventures with From Beyond was open to such a deal, but Band insisted that beforehand he must tackle a quickie horror flick entitled ‘The Doll’. As Dave Jay noted in his book, the creation of the movie came from the crazy process that Charlie Band had of designing a poster THEN hiring a screenwriter to pen the film. A visit to the Empire offices from Ed Naha following the success of Troll (1985) soon spiralled into a swiftly knocked up script for what became Dolls, then in late ’85 the relevant parties assembled for the shoot – and considering the pace of production, it turned out exceedingly well.

Narrowly avoiding running down some thumbing hitch-hikers (and by the shouts of “wanker” we presume we’re set the UK!), we’re introduced to the well-to-do couple of David and Rosemary Bower (Ian Patrick Williams and Carolyn Purdy-Gordon) who are speeding through the countryside on vacation. After managing to get their car stuck in the mud, they have no alternative but ask the proprietors of a local property if they could spend the night with the intention of getting help in the morning. As they walk towards the luxurious home we learn that the couple’s daughter Judy (Carrie Lorraine) has quite the imagination, as following Rosemary confiscating her teddy bear she vividly imagines her cuddly toy coming back to life, eight feet tall and ripping her father and stepmother to pieces.

DOLLS 002Once inside the lush abode they meet the kindly elderly owners Gabriel and Hilary Hartwicke (Guy Rolfe and Hilary Mason), who agree to offer them a bed for the night along with some food. Gabriel informs his guests that he’s a doll maker, and enquires as to why Judy doesn’t have one for company, to which Rosemary swiftly interjects with an excuse – but not before Gabriel supplies her with a temporary friend for company in the shape of a Punch doll. The five quickly become eight, as also victim to the storm are the two hitch-hikers Enid and Isobel (Bunty Bailey and Cassie Stuart) as well as Ralph (Stephen Lee), the good natured man who gave them a lift.

Gabriel shows everyone to their rooms where we then become party to the true nature of their the guests hidden agendas as we discover David and Rosemary are planning of getting rid of the burden of Judy, while Enid and Isobel plot to steal some of the “antikees” (antiques) that fill the house – “they’ll be dead soon, they’re not gonna miss ‘em”. Thankfully the marionettes, puppets and dolls that feature in every corner of the residence are about to have the last word on these nefarious individuals.

Despite the rushed nature of the movie, I think Dolls turned out pretty darned fine. There’s an interesting blend of philosophies in the film from Ed Naha’s initial ‘old dark house’ leanings, to Stuart Gordon’s Freudian fairy tale influence, to Charles Band’s gore insistence – it manages to utilise elements of the three effectively. For me, the set that would eventually be used in From Beyond is perfect and does echo some classic horror scenarios with lightning relentlessly pouring through the windows, and flickering candles dominating the lighting in a number of scenes. Conversely despite its 1940s origins, this IS an ‘18’ certificate and quite justifiably! Some of the doll attack sequences are gruesome and disturbing while the work of puppeteer David Allen is joyously sinister.

DOLLS 003With any film that is reliant largely on one location the cast are pivotal to its success and here Gordon has assembled an excellent ensemble, the stand out being his own wife as Rosemary who is deliciously spiteful playing the evil stepmother. Elsewhere Guy Rolfe and Hilary Mason, who would do further work for Band are perfect as the old-fashioned but knowing proprietors, while Carrie Lorraine is the perfect embodiment of childhood innocence with Stephen Lee her childlike ally. Gordon directs with his usual assuredness and utilises the familiar Band crew of Mac Ahlberg as DP and John Buechler for makeup effects. The picture quality of the 101 Films blu-ray is damned smart indeed, and having only been afforded a VHS edition up to now, watching the movie in such clarity is so far one of the thrills of 2014.

 

 

8 out of 10

Extras:

Commentary with director Stuart Gordon and writer Ed Naha ported from the 2005 MGM release. Sadly the cast commentary track doesn’t make it over, but still listening to Gordon and Naha’s thoughts on the inception of the movie as well as production tales are fascinating to say the least. From the character of Rosemary being based on Cruella Deville, to thoughts on Val Lewton and Charlie Band’s passion for little creatures even stretching to an unsuccessful (thankfully!) attempt shoehorn them in to Pit & the Pendulum!

The Jungle (2013) DVD Review

JUNGLE 001THE JUNGLE (2013) DVD

Review by: Dave Wain

Stars: Igusti Budianthika, Rupert Reid, Michelle Santos, Agoes Widjaya Soedjarwo

Written by: Andrew Traucki

UK Certification: 15

UK RRP: £12.99

UK DVD Region: 2

Runtime: 81 minutes

Directed by: Andrew Traucki

UK Release Date: 17th February 2014

Andrew Traucki, the Australian born director made quite an impact with his first two feature films. In 2007 he debuted with the tense Black Water which was a terrifying tale of survival in the mangrove swamps of Northern Australia. In 2010 he followed it up with The Reef about great white sharks terrorizing the crew of a capsized boat along the Great Barrier Reef. His latest survivalist adventure is The Jungle and swaps his native Australia for a dense forest environment in Indonesia, and is shot from a found footage perspective. Did I just lose half my readership with those three last words!? Don’t fret horror people, it’s better than you think.

JUNGLE 002The Jungle tells the story of an Australian leopard conservationist, Larry Black (Rupert Reid) who ventures into the remote Indonesian jungle with his documentary filmmaker brother Ben to investigate the reported sightings of a remote species of leopard. Prior to going in we see them detailing the equipment that they’re taking in as well as getting Larry used to speaking to camera. Meanwhile we see his wife Susan on camera saying how much she worries about him, albeit aware of the importance of the work that her husband does.

When they finally arrive in Indonesia they meet up with Budi (Agoes Widjaya Soedjarwo) and the tracker Adi (Igusti Budianthika) who will assist their venture into the Indonesian jungle. As they’re about to enter, Adi confides to them that he’s a particularly superstitious person – as a lot of the locals are, and believe that a ‘forest demon’ inhabits the jungle which he thinks will add great danger to their trek. Obviously the two Australians treat this confession with a level of disbelief, but as they progress deeper and deeper into the thick undergrowth the warning signs become apparent that something sinister lurks within.

Your enjoyment of The Jungle is likely to be dependent on your patience level instead of your tolerance of found footage, as the film really does take its time to tell the narrative. Personally, I found this to benefit the picture as you get to know the brothers quite well and also gain a good understanding of how the locals respect their environment. I would certainly classify this jungle adventure as more Cannibal Holocaust than Anaconda, as along the way we’re teased at the nature of what is out there with bloodied animal remains, big paw prints, claw marks and severed body parts. It’s a clever ploy as this dangling carrot keeps you glued to the screen hoping for further clues to the nature of the beast.

JUNGLE 003Considering the pedigree of Andrew Traucki it’s really a no-brainer to put your faith in his ability to deliver something tense and frightening. The two Australian leads give great authentic performances while the addition of the two Indonesian guides offer the film some authenticity. Yes – this IS found footage, and yes – if you’re bored of it then you’re likely to rebuff it regardless of what I say, but this IS found footage done well. The location is claustrophobic and scary, while the sighting of some glistening eyes on a night vision camera paired with a subtle but deep growl makes for simple but terrifyingly effective horror.

7 out of 10

Deathday 1.2 by Eugene Bruce – Book Review

dd1.2-1Deathday 1.2 by Eugene Bruce 

Deathday would appear to be the debut novel from Eugene Bruce. “Would appear to be” because there is little information out there about the book or its author. The version reviewed here is Deathday 1.2, which seems to be an updated edition of a book first written in 2007 (revealed by a quick recce of the reviews section on Amazon). The original was self published through authorhouse and the 1.2 version would also seem to be self published.

Difficult to pigeon hole, the book may be best described as an ecclesiastical fantasy farce with some moments of horror. If that sounds like a bit of a mind bender then it’s probably giving you the correct impression. The story revolves around main character Johnny Thade, a man who dies, only to learn upon reaching Heaven that there has been an administrative mistake and that he will be returned to his mortal coil. In his wisdom, Johnny decides to steal a disc holding the death date information for everybody in the world and take it back with him.

What follows in the main body of the novel is Johnny’s attempt (with the help of a tribe of tramps) to get rich using the explosive information he now possesses and Heaven’s attempts to reclaim the disc. Which is never destined to end well….

The plot- and dialogue – rattle along merrily and the machine gun punning and off-hand style are reminiscent of a Ben Elton novel. Whether you see that as a recommendation or a slight is obviously reliant on your opinion of Ben Elton, but Bruce does seem to have a tendency, like Elton, to let his personal opinions and dislikes intrude rather clumsily into his story telling; one passage about people who like monster trucks is particularly scathing and one can’t help but get the impression that Americans are not popular in the Bruce household, although Jack Daniels, conversely, may be revered. Oh, and there is massive soft spot for Kelly LeBrock.

dd1.2-2This (the overt presence of the author’s personal opinions, not the Kelly LeBrock crush) is indicative of a major problem with self published work; the lack of an editor or publisher means that there is nobody to rein in your excesses. And so Bruce’s flair for humour (evident in such witty similes as “gushing like a fountain with a Niagara complex”) is left to run riot to the point where it often crosses the line into not funny. An allusion to a hospital machine which “goes ping” is at best a self indulgent, in-joke reference to Monty Python or, at worst, a blatant rip-off. The theme of distracting the reader through self-referential joking is an issue which persists throughout the narrative and it can sometimes lead to the humour feeling forced.

Another problem which often arises in self published books is the inclusion of numerous type-os and grammatical mistakes. However, whilst this is, in a self published book, the fault of the writer, it is not a problem with the writing itself, so should not be allowed (where possible) to interfere with your enjoyment of the novel.

There are passages where Bruce seems to write himself into a muddle and some descriptive passages seem to contradict each other within the same page, whilst the metaphysical parameters of the story sometimes seem to get forgotten once established. The concluding scene also serves to raise questions about who is doing what and why without seemingly answering them.

This is not to say that Bruce is a writer without talent. Some of the more horrific passages will make your skin crawl and your stomach churn. And the back story leading up to a family man’s suicide is perhaps the most unpretentious and truly moving example of its type that you will ever read.

To conclude, this is not a debut without promise. But a more professional approach and some outside influence are required to direct that promise and, effectively, save Bruce from himself.

4/10 or 6/10 for potential

You can order Deathday 1.2 on the Kindle from Amazon HERE

Or in paperback from LULU HERE

And you can follow Eugene on twitter – @johnnythade

 

Nothing Left To Fear (2013) DVD Review

FEAR 001NOTHING LEFT TO FEAR (2013) DVD

Review by: Dave Wain

Stars: Anne Heche, James Tupper, Ethan Peck, Rebekah Brandes, Carter Cabassa

Written by: Jonathan W.C Mills

UK Certification: 15

UK RRP: £12.99

UK DVD Region: 2

Runtime: 95 minutes

Directed by: Anthony Leonardi III

UK Release Date: 17th February 2014

The most striking thing about the cover for Nothing Left to Fear isn’t perhaps the very appealing artwork, but the inscription above the title – ‘Slash presents’. Indeed, this is the very first production by Slasher films, a production company run by the famed Potteries born guitarist and a few other partners. I’m not exactly who those partners are as this low budget shocker actually has 24 producers listed! What’s clearer though is that the title track of the movie is written and performed by Slash along with Myles Kennedy (Alter Bridge).

Rock connections aside, this movie is a directorial debut for Anthony Leonardi III as well as a writing debut for Jonathan W.C. Mills, and sadly their inexperience is all too apparent. Anne Heche plays Wendy Bramford, and is joined by her family on their journey from the city to start a new chapter in their life as her husband Dan (James Tupper) is to be the Pastor of a small town called Stull. They’re a little lost trying to find the town, but fortunately find the archetypal backwoods farmer who has a penchant of butchering sheep in front of them is happy to guide them towards their new home.

FEAR 002Forgive me for the brief tangent, but the eagled eyed amongst you will recognise the town of Stull from either urban legend or pop culture references. It’s long been considered that Stull, Kansas is a supposed gateway to Hell with several associations to Satan and the occult. It’s also the title of the Urge Overkill EP from ’92 and features prominently in season 5 of Supernatural and the rather forgettable thriller Turbulence 3: Heavy Metal. The town has a fascinating history, which surprisingly doesn’t form the backbone of the film, and the town is only mentioned by name maybe once or twice.

On with the narrative and the Bramford family arrive at their house only to be bewildered to find a team of residents led by Pastor Kingsman – the retiring minister (Clancy Brown) on their front lawn rooting through their wares under the guise of ‘helping’ them get settled. It’s a slightly invasive means of assistance, but the family accept that this is simply the way things are in close knit communities. The first night is an uncomfortable one for daughter Becky (Rebekah Brandes) as she experiences a ghostly encounter with the sight of the town’s residents all assembled in the garden looking up at her room, swiftly followed by a paranormal entity in the room with her.

It’s an event that certainly establishes the tone of the film as a city folk vs religious townsfolk style horror film, a subject that has graced our screens several times in recent years. That’s not to say it’s unwelcome, but it’s essential that it should offer something compelling in order for it to stand out. Sadly it doesn’t, with the main failings being with the script. The first half of the film really drags, so much so I could see viewers losing patience with it, and there is very little character development too. In a film such as this it’s paramount for us to feel a certain affinity with the Bramford family, but we never really get to know anything about them. Anne Heche for example is a good actress and the first name on the poster, but we barely get to know her character at all, whilst the burgeoning relationship between Becky and Noah (Ethan Peck) – one of the townsfolk, takes up too much screen time and stifles the pace of the narrative not to mention the tension.

FEAR 003When things do crank up a few gears, the imagery is nicely shot and there’s a little blood-letting to be had albeit surrounded by snore-worthy CGI special effects. Believe me, I’ve seen far worse horror films in my life, but with Nothing Left to Fear it’s simply down to the potential being wasted. With the town of Stull having such a fascinating history, it feels like a lost opportunity to have created something so average. That too is the most damning indictment of it – it’s just so average.

4 out of 10