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The Belko Experiment In UK Cinemas 21st April 2017 from Vertigo Releasing

rsz_belko_quad_3_lrThe Belko Experiment In UK Cinemas 21st April 2017 from Vertigo Releasing

rsz_be1rsz_be2In a twisted social experiment, a group of 80 Americans are locked in their high-rise corporate office in Bogotá, Colombia, and ordered by an unknown voice coming from the company’s intercom system to participate in a deadly game of kill or be killed in order to survive.

Presented by Orion Pictures, an arm of MGM, The Belko Experiment is directed by Greg McLean (The Darkness, Wolf Creek), written by James Gunn (Guardians of the Galaxy, Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2) and produced by Peter Safran (The Conjuring, Annabelle) and Gunn. The film stars John Gallagher, Jr. (The Newsroom, 10 Cloverfield Lane), Tony Goldwyn (Scandal), Adria Arjona (True Detective), John C. McGinley (Stan Against Evil, Scrubs), Melonie Diaz (Fruitvale Station), Josh Brener (Silicon Valley) and Michael Rooker (Guardians of the Galaxy).

Sprung from the mind of acclaimed filmmaker James Gunn and directed by Greg McLean, The Belko Experiment raises provocative questions while offering a black-humoured thrill-ride that pushes ruthless corporate behaviour to terrifying extremes.

rsz_be3rsz_be4When office workers arrive for work at Belko Industries’ isolated high-rise campus outside Bogotá, Colombia, the morning starts much like any other. Mike Pelk (John Gallagher, Jr.) smokes weed in the bathroom and flirts with his beautiful officemate Leandra (Adria Arjona) while new employee Dany Wilkins (Melonie Diaz) settles in for her first day on the job. Everything changes when an anonymous voice comes through the intercom speakers ordering employees to kill two of their colleagues within 30 minutes. Many of the 80 employees assume the order is a sick joke, even when steel-plated doors snap shut sealing off all windows and exits. When they fail to comply before the half hour is up, the heads of four randomly chosen office workers explode.

Panic reaches a fever pitch when the disembodied voice issues his next command: thirty people must be killed within the next two hours or 60 people will die. Belko COO Barry Norris (Tony Goldwyn), a former Special Forces operative, commandeers a vault filled with guns, assembles an ad-hoc death squad and begins executing elderly and childless employees. In the ensuing melee, ordinary office workers including stoner Marty (Sean Gunn), nerdy Keith (Josh Brener), creepy Wendell (John C. McGinley) and maintenance guy Bud (Michael Rooker) reveal their true colours.

Ibiza Undead (2016) Review

iu1IBIZA UNDEAD (Dir- Andy Edwards, UK, 2016)

Starring- Jordan Coulson, Cara Theobold, Ed Kear, Homer Todiwala, Emily Atack, Matt King, Marcia Do Vales

Out NOW on UK DVD from Soda Pictures

Zombies go on holiday and the last place you would expect it to end up at would be in the Spanish party capital. Renowned for being a mecca of massive club nights, cheap booze and drunken horny teenagers who are more commonly seen to end up collapsing outside a club spewing up their guts and being filmed for a tawdry late night holiday expose of boozed up Brits abroad, IBIZA UNDEAD attempts to combine that tradition (sort of) with an attack of the living dead kind. Admittedly horror and comedy can be tricky bedfellows but with a decent and eye catching title can Edward’s film make the heads of genre fans tick whilst delivering gut busting belly laughs and gut munching?

Three mates, Alex (Coulson), Big Jim (Kear) and Az (Todiwala) are off to Ibiza for a holiday of “booze” and “bitches.” Lo and behold though Alex being a cheapskate hasn’t changed the name on the fourth plane ticket and his ex-girlfriend, who dumped him, Ellie (Theobold), is still coming along much to the annoyance of his mates. They meet up with Alex’s big sister Liz (Atack) who has rented a villa to stay at. Rather than hang out with his sister and her mates who don’t want him there in the first place, Alex and the boys hit the town, managing to meet an angry club girl street promoter (Do Vales) who recommends the the best club in town which is run by shady owner Karl (King) who has smuggled zombies into an already over run by the living dead England, onto the holiday island to be part of his club’s main dance attraction. However a shipwrecked boat full of zombies that was caused by the actions of a dimwit underling of Karl and Big Jim’s stupid decision to feed the undead dancers booze sets off an attack that causes the island to be overran by the rotten kind of tourist who wants to dine on the all you can eat buffet of booze soaked youngsters.

iu4Pitching itself clearly as a combination of THE INBETWEENERS and SHAUN OF THE DEAD, IBIZA UNDEAD does manage to pull out some likeable elements and set pieces throughout its flawed, often uneven 95 minutes. The entertaining irony that is obvious in the film and is pitched nicely is that as much as Ibiza in real life has had an influx of drunken loutish debauched British youngsters invading the island and bringing down some areas over many years since its rise as a party capital, in IBIZA UNDEAD its the Brits again who cause the zombie epidemic. Partly through Big Jim giving booze to zombies and dodgy Karl importing them illegally to his club. It’s a nice swipe at British attitudes and loutish behaviour abroad that is reckless and clueless to its effects. There’s also an interesting brief side story mentioned at the start that explains how Britain is under a zombie epidemic currently controlled by the military and that a certain political party is blaming it on immigrants. The film does deliver at least a decent bit of zombie carnage though not much gore, aside from a pretty grim amputation scene that is played for dark manic gallows humour and is one of the highlights of the film as it sets out to shock in its over the top gleeful gory-ness.

iu3Though the use of CGI blood is an annoyance and one thing that still perplexes me as to why filmmakers would use it. Added to this the cast are obviously having fun and enjoying it but there performances are pitched between mildly irritating to annoying especially Kear as Big Jim. Playing a type of Nick Frost Ed character from SHAUN OF THE DEAD, Big Jim is the loud mouth of the group but unlike the character from SHAUN who is clueless to his idiocy, Big Jim just comes off as sounding crass and annoying with his constant boasts of sexual prowess and wanting to find all the “sluts” which seem almost demeaning rather than being funny. Even in a moment, which is well delivered, where Jim exposes some vulnerability to Liz, he soon steps back into his annoying one note bullshit artist role and returns to grate your nerves.

Whilst the film does balance humour and gore reasonably well in certain areas of the narrative, other scenes come across entirely forced and almost uneven. Such as one character, who I wont reveal but still MINOR SPOILERS AHEAD, who makes an unusual entirely selfless decision and soon regrets it due to his own lack of knowledge. Yet rather than suggest that the same character could pop up in a later comic reveal towards the end, instead it ends up on a rather sombre note that perceives a grizzly fate that seems entirely out of touch with the films tone.

iu2Admittedly in a sub-genre that is always cramming out more fresh/rotten corpses off the production line, in the zombie film arena its hard not to admire parts of IBIZA UNDEAD with its attempt to combine a drunken Brit twat’s abroad vibe with laddish humour with gut munching undead. And Edwards works well with the limited budget he has and certainly pitching this at an audience who are fans of THE INBETWEENERS and, well fans of zombies. But in the end the proceedings come off as predictable, flawed and whose characters might drive some viewers to actually not care at all what happens to them and whether they get off the Island or not.

5/10

Bethany (2017) Review

Bethany PosterBethany (2017)

Director: James Cullen Bressack

Starring: Stefanie Estes, Zak Ward, Shannon Doherty, Tom Green

“You’re not just some stinky zombie, honey.”

After Claire’s (Estes) mother dies, she and her husband Aaron (Ward) move into her childhood home. The couple is struggling both from financial issues, which makes the free rent attractive, and personal setbacks, their son was stillborn and Claire is recovering from a suicide attempt. As Aaron’s job future brightens, Claire seems to descend into a personal hell as old memories of her abusive mother surface amidst strange visions and supernatural phenomena.

Bethany is a solid thriller and twisty ghost story whose disparate threads come together at the very end, possibly too neatly. As well crafted as the film is, it handles some things much better than others. First, some of the good. The film is nicely shot, and while the budget wasn’t listed on IMDB it’s a safe bet that it wasn’t a lot. The cool twilight blue lighting and camera angles make the most of the limited setting. Most of the film takes place in Claire’s mother’s house. To that end the set/location was very important and Bethany makes the most of its real-estate. Much of the plot questions Claire’s sanity as memories of her abusive past intrude into her daily life and weird visions haunt her waking hours.

Bethany 1Claire’s mother Susan (Doherty), was a shallow, looks obsessed pageant mom, bent on turning Claire into the perfect little princess. To escape, Claire turned to her imaginary friend, Bethany, who may not have been as imaginary as Claire thought. There is a literal ghost, and a lot of misdirection. Which is fine, for awhile, not 90% of the film. It is not until the VERY end of the movie that Claire’s visions, past, and the haunting all come together with a series of deus ex machina coincidences that provide all the answers to the viewer. And while the last ten minutes or so are certainly the most enjoyable, as Aaron at last encounters the supernatural, freaks out, and then Claire solves the mystery of her past, it is very predictable. Except for one spectacular moment of wrap-up that is probably the best scene in the entire film and I cannot spoil for you.

The acting is very good. Though at times Estes falls into over-acting. Still, in a horror movie, better more than less. Zak Ward does a good job as the mostly supportive and loving Aaron. In the few marital fights that appear on screen, he is a real jerk and the attitude seems more a contrivance of the script, and doesn’t feel true to the character as established. Tom Green is surprisingly restrained as the couple’s web therapist who pays an ill fated visit to Claire and Aaron. Shannon Doherty practically has “wicked” stamped on her forehead and even when she phones it in, does a creditable job as Claire’s overbearing mother.

rsz_bethany_3After a bit of poking around on IMDB I found out that director Bressack has been called “horror’s new hope”  (StudioCity Patch – Mike Szymanski), among other accolades. He is young, and prolific, that’s for sure. But to live up to such a lofty critique I would expect far more from his work. Bethany is an okay movie , it’s entertaining but nothing that hasn’t been seen and done before in any number of films. It’s a good B-movie but nothing more.

Kudos for: Having a basement.

Lesson learned: Lime Jell-O will help you out of handcuffs.

6/10

Essex Spacebin (2016) Review

rsz_spacebinEssex Spacebin (2016)

Writers/Directors: Philip Thompson and David Hollinshead

Starring: Lorraine Malby, Caryl Griffith, Joerg Stadler

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

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

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

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

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

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

4/10

Satanic (2016) Review

rsz_satanicSatanic (2016)

Director: Jeffrey G. Hunt

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

Out NOW on UK DVD from Soda Pictures

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kudos for: Hardcore, but not too hardcore Satanists.

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

4/10

Don’t Knock Twice (2016) Review

rsz_dkt_poster_1_sheetDON’T KNOCK TWICE (2016)

Starring Katee Sackhoff, Lucy Boynton and Nick Moran

Directed by Caradog W. James

Written by Mark Huckerby and Nick Ostler

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

7/10

Zombie Cats From Mars (2015) Review

Zombie Cats PosterZombie Cats From Mars (2015)

Director: Montetré

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

“Death is a cat from Mars”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lesson learned: Portland in NOT the new Hollywood

2/10

Get Out (2017) Review

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

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

In Cinemas now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

9/10

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

fv1Bare Breasted Countess (1975) aka Female Vampire

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

Out now on UK DVD from Maison Rouge Films

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

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

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

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

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

7/10

Bloodrunners (2017) Review

rsz_1rsz_bloodrunners_poster_hiresBloodrunners (2017)

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

For more information visit – www.bloodrunnersmovie.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well worth your time. 8/10