Zombie Lake (1981) Review

rsz_zlZombie Lake (1981) aka Le lac des morts vivants

Director: Jean Rollin

Starring: Howard Vernon, Pierre-Marie Escourrou, Anouchka

Out NOW on UK DVD from Black House Films!

Back in the 1980s there’s no denying that as a film genre Horror was at one of it’s highest peaks in terms of creativity, we saw the likes of Jason Voorhees slicing through our anxiety to Freddy Krueger making insomnia suffers blessed. Debuts by characters that are both highly regarded as the figureheads of the horror culture we live in today.

Amongst many classics during this period today we delve into Jean Rollin’s Zombie Lake. Jean originating from France sadly left us back in 2010 however is remembered for his unique cinematography, off-kilter plot progression and poetic dialogue which showed us the likes of The Living Dead Girl and The Night of the Hunted.

Zombie Lake is no exception to these sentiments. Set in a quiet rural village somewhere in France post World War II. Zombie Lake opens in a very Jaws-esque manner. A young local girl decides to take a mid-afternoon stroll followed by a casual skinny dip, little does she know there’s something lurking in the depths. The soothing sound of what can only be described as elevator music provided by composer Daniel White accompanies the opening. One can only assume that it was Jean’s intention to make the audience feel at ease prior to all hell breaking loose.

zl2After a savage attack by what everyone’s expectations of a zombie should be, green, angry and ready to eat the terror off someone’s face, there is a slight difference as these aren’t your traditional Zombies these are Nazi Zombies. Word travels fast throughout the village and grabs the attention of the village Major portrayed by Swiss actor Howard Vernon, who makes a very convincing job of knowing something that the audience do not at this stage of the film.

Very much a slow burner, after a brief back story of how the terror came to fruition the film very quickly changes its pace when a group of teenagers decide to go for a refreshing dip in the now suitably named The Damned Lake. Very much like the lives of the teenagers sadly this change in pace is short lived.

Although at times Zombie Lake tends to be lacklustre, you can’t deny that when it gets to the point where it’s about to go bat shit it is executed in a brilliant way. I also feel that Zombie Lake could have benefited from having a lot more gore within certain scenes. I couldn’t help but think while watching this that George A Romero’s 1978 classic Dawn of the Dead must have been a key influence on the making of this film overall.

zl3In 2017 Nazi Zombies are predominantly a lot more present in popular culture however in the 80s this was a completely new take on the zombie concept . It’s easy to see how Zombie Lake has influenced modern takes on this concept such as the Dead Snow films and even the Call of Duty Video game franchise.
Slow burner or not Zombie Lake is definitely worth the time of any zombie based film enthusiast.
This certainly won’t leave you wanting to go Skinny dipping, or will it? 😉


Grave Walkers (2015) Review

gw1Grave Walkers (2015)

Starring: Charlene Amoia, Vladimir Kulich and Tony Todd
Writer: Ari Kirschenbaum
Director: Ari Kirschenbaum

Out NOW on DVD from Matchbox Films

Supernatural forces are locked into a college town police force’s basement jail. The sheriff and his deputies are subjected to psychic attacks, preying on the fears of the loyal officers and only those with the strongest wills can survive.

Grave Walkers begins in black and white on a Halloween night. We see Deputy Hancock (Charlotte Amoia from How I Met Your Mother, NCIS: New Orleans and Adrenaline) having to put an injured stag out of its misery. Hancock gets called to a nearby incident, because of the date it’s suspected to be a college prank, and in those first few minutes we’re subjected to some of the film’s most unsettling scenes.

Hancock comes face to face with a zombie/demon, complete with glowing eyes and malicious intent. In the monochrome lighting, this has the same sinister verismo quality that can be seen in found-footage horror, such as the night scenes in Blair Witch. Hancock has little resource available to her except to cuff the zombie/demon and take the creature back to the local sheriff’s jail.

gw3One of the most innovative ideas in this film is the demon’s malevolent influence on those nearby. Sheriff Pete (Vladimir Kulich from The 13th Warrior, The Equalizer, Vikings and Angel) doesn’t see the creature as a zombie/demon: he sees his hated late father. Deputy Eric (J, Richey Nash from Hitting the Cycle, Staying Alive and Bat $#*! Crazy) doesn’t see the creature as a zombie/demon: he sees the Bear Mountain Killer – the sadist whose reign of terror inspired Eric to join the police force. Others see the zombie/demon as specific menaces from their pasts and, each of them wants to kill this perceived nemesis.

Deputy Hancock, most strong-willed of the group, has to repeatedly threaten violent repercussions to anyone who attempts to take the law into their own hands.

I’ll admit here that this movie didn’t work for me. The film started off scary. There were flashes of colour between the black and white footage, disturbing images that were bloody and diabolical. But, halfway through, the film seemed to become a comedy and the serious themes were transformed into a comical pastiche. Don’t get me wrong: there is something vaguely absurd about the notion of zombies and humour can often work as a counterpoint to horror. This worked to good effect in Shaun of The Dead, Zombieland and Me and My Mates Vs the Zombie Apocalypse.
However, in Grave Walkers, the balance struck me as a little off.

gw2The film begins as a credible horror, and then seems to drift into comedy – as though the horror is no longer working. The black and white footage is atmospheric but the shifts into colour break the suspension of disbelief. When the film does shift fully into colour, similar to the shift Dorothy experiences when she lands at the foot of the yellow brick road in The Wizard of Oz, it’s another reminder of the artifice of the narrative.

There were some great ideas in Grave Walkers and, if the film had stuck to being either a horror or a comedy, it might have managed its aims far more successfully. The special effects were sophisticated and convincing. The notion of characters becoming undone by the exacerbation of their own private hatreds was ingenious. And, of course, Tony Todd (Candyman, House of Grimm and the Final Destination franchise) is a bankable addition to any horror film. His pot-smoking pastor, who faces a hoard of glowing-green-eyed zombie/demons, was one of the genuine highlights of the latter half of the film.

gw4In truth, I can see that this one would prove entertaining for many. The film was original, innovative and stylish in places. My only issue was, whilst it was stylish in places, sometimes the film seemed to sacrifice substance and story for the sake of style: 5/10.

Train To Busan (2016) Review

ttb1TRAIN TO BUSAN (2016)

Dir: Sang-ho Yeon

Starring: Yoo Gong, Soo-an Kim, Yu-mi Jeong, Dong-seok Ma, Gwi-ha Choi, Myung-sin Park, Soo-jung Ye, Eui-sung Kim

UK cinema release: 28 October from StudioCanal

Train to Busan is 28 Days Later on a train in Korea. If that description appeals to you (and it really, really should) you’re going to love it. If not, well, let me convince you.

The plot really is that simple, Seok Woo (Yoo Gong) a divorcee fund manager is escorting his daughter Su-an (Soo-an Kim) back across the country to her mother by train. The pair are joined on their journey by fellow passengers including a pregnant woman, Sung Gyeong (Yu-mi Jeong) and her burly no-nonsense husband Sang Hwa (Dong-seok Ma); some high school students, including a baseball team; elderly sisters In-gil (Soo-jung Ye) and Jong-gil (Myung-sin Park); middle-aged self-centred businessman Yong-Suk (Eui-sung Kim); and an agitated homeless man (Gwi-ha Choi) who has snuck onboard without a ticket.

ttb2However he isn’t the only unauthorised passenger – just as the train departs an injured girl jumps onboard… narrowly escaping a bloody massacre on the platform.

As the train crosses the country the passengers become aware of a wave of violence sweeping through Korea caused by a mysterious virus, and they soon come face-to-face with the problem when the wounded girl succumbs to her injuries.

What follows is a tense battle for survival against mindless blood-thirsty undead as the train rattles along the tracks… But what will be waiting for them at their destination?

I’ll cut straight to it — Train to Busan is the best zombie film I’ve seen this year (although I’ve yet to catch The Girl With All The Gifts). The story isn’t the most original (right down to the obligatory dastardly human villain) but it is an intense, action-packed and solidly plotted zombie flick.

The cast are all very good, with the standouts being gung ho action man Dong-seok Ma, lead Yoo Gong and little Soo-an Kim, who is a real revelation for her tender years.

ttb3But as good as the cast are, it’s the full-on, intense action sequences that are the film’s biggest stars.  Remember the pulse-pounding chase scenes in 28 Days Later and its sequel? Or the high-octane violence of Zack Snyder’s Dawn of the Dead? Well, now you’re picturing all the best parts of this film.

Wringing every drop of claustrophobia from its compact train setting, plus some stunning practical and digital effects, the thrills and chills in this film come from the reckless, ravenous undead hurling their bodies over one another in a frantic attempt to sink their teeth into the survivors.

Forget Romero’s shuffling ghouls, these are zombies that will run you down and rip you to shreds, and director Sang-ho Yeon shoots each and every setpiece flawlessly.

However, it’s not all blood, guts and adrenaline. The script is tight and driven by some very effective characterisation. There are plenty of reasons to sympathise with our leads, especially as Seok Woo evolves from an aloof and distant dad as he comes to realise the true meaning of fatherhood. There’s something inherently sympathetic about expectant mothers and young children, so we’ve got plenty to invest in emotionally.

ttb4The story is even pretty clever with its zombies — the use of the undead’s reliance on visual stimuli makes for some very novel, tense sequences as the train hurtles through darkened tunnels.What’s more, the film is prepared to go big when necessary, with some extremely expensive looking sequences late on that remain utterly convincing and seriously compelling.

Train to Busan is not a game-changer, but it’s the best entry to a genre that many people feel has grown stale in a long, long time. It offers thrills, gore, interesting characters and a surprising amount of heart.

In short, you really do need to get onboard.



I Am Alone (2015) Review

I Am Alone (USA, 2015)

Dir: Robert A. Palmer

Starring: Gareth David-Lloyd, Gunner Wright, Marshal Hilton

UK Release TBC

Plot: While filming the latest episode of reality survival show “I am alone” out in the Colorado wilderness, a zombie outbreak occurs. The show’s host Jacob Fitts (David-Lloyd) is out alone in the forest while his producer, Mason Riley (Wright) desperately searches for him. After living through the chaos, Riley ends up in a military stronghold and made to re-watch the footage recovered from both survivors to help the military figure out just what happened.

When it comes to making a low budget horror film there’s some genres that are considered easier to do on the cheap. There are countless zombie movies and found footage films that have been put together on a micro-budget. Those two sub-genres have crossed path many times with the likes of [REC], Diary of the Dead, and The Zombie Diaries to name a few. However just because you can do it, it doesn’t mean that it’s easy to make it good. I Am Alone is the second feature of director Robert A. Palmer, and I can’t comment on his first feature, yet it’s still early days in his career. I’d recommend that in his next feature, he steers clear of Found Footage.

The unique angle that Palmer uses to spin the zombie sub-genre is the crossover with survivalist reality television. Gareth David-Lloyd does his best Bear Grylls, although it mostly involves sitting around camp fires and talking to the camera. The majority of this film is Fitts and Riley making video diaries on the quiet moments from evading zombies. In a survival scenario, you’d think your vlogs might become a secondary priority after ensuring your own survival.

The film also includes a framing device that feels similar to the one in the VHS films, in which a scientist who has Riley locked in a military interrogation room needs him to watch the found footage because Fitts’ transformation into a zombie is slower than normal and the scientist believes that Riley’s intimate knowledge of Fitts might lead to a solution to this mystery and maybe a cure of the infection. It doesn’t really make any sense, watching the footage isn’t going to make Riley know his friend any better, especially the footage of himself. They make Riley watch the footage he recorded himself. Also an autopsy of Fitts would turn up more solutions that watching the footage. Also there’s a problem with the “Found” part of the Found Footage, the footage is made up of video from many different sources, including CCTV footage from various buildings Riley has been to. The military bunker they are holed up in is under siege by the zombies, I don’t know when they found the time to get it all together.

There’s a presumption that Found Footage films are easy to do. They are not easy to do well. I Am Alone makes the mistakes of many flawed Found Footage films. The biggest mistake is having too many cameras. Whenever Riley or Fitts has a moment to pour their heart out to the cameras they have always got two cameras on them at the very least. Fitts in particular who is supposed to be deteriorating mentally, still has the mental capacity to set up a second camera so they have something to edit between. Speaking of editing, the second error this film makes is that it uses too much editing, not only choosing the best angle for the moment but also adding a soundtrack. I’m sure that it was a big priority for the military to pick the best music to convey emotion while Riley watched.

On the zombie side of things, I Am Alone doesn’t bring too much to the table. The main focus is on Fitts’ slow transformation but it’s done much better in films like Contracted. Fitts’ gets the most extensive zombie make up in the cast but it’s very minimal and pretty standard. Everyone else sprayed with a little fake blood and sent on their way.

I Am Alone does try to be something bigger than the average indie zombie film by having multiple running story lines but those story lines don’t add up to anything more than scared men run around with cameras and occasionally make glum video diaries. It tries to be a big movie on a small budget but it doesn’t hit the mark. You would have thought that reality television and found footage would be perfect together, both try to take something fake and present it as real. However it just comes off as something kind of bland.


The Mothertown (2014) Review

MOTHERTOWN1The Mothertown (UK, 2014)

Dir: John Williams

Starring: Pete Bennett, Daniel Alexander, Maura Judges

Available to buy here – http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/The-Mothertown-DVD-/121815112138

Plot: After an experimental chemical is accidentally dropped into the water source for Stoke on Trent, the whole town becomes infected with a zombie virus. The Mothertown follows the various groups of survivors as they fight off the undead.

It’s impossible to talk about The Mothertown without mentioning the circumstances under which it was created. After undergoing surgery to remove a brain tumour, John Williams was told to take six months off work. While most people would submit to a six month purgatory of day time television, John Williams decided that his six months would be better spent making a zombie movie and that is a fantastic way to prioritise your time. The film that came out of that is an inspirational piece of indie film making.

Filmed on a budget of £500, The Mothertown is an example of what you can do with a micro-budget and the help of a community. Most low budget zombie films have a small cast with a half dozen extras for the zombies. The Mothertown had over a thousand extras taking to the streets of Stoke on Trent to take part is Williams’ zombie apocalypse. Not only that but you can really see that the community really collaborated with Williams, filling the soundtrack with local music, and pooling resources. Resources like drone footage, and parkour stunts.

mothertown2The film starts with a warning that there is no continuity in The Mothertown, although it’s not too bad on that front. The film has the limitations of it’s budget and chooses to put the money on it’s more elaborate set pieces. That means that the money isn’t spent on making sure that the audio or lighting is the best that it can be but it doesn’t matter. It’s a rough diamond but it’s still a diamond, and it’s roughness only adds to it’s DIY punk charm.

The plot is almost an anthology of different survival tales, bouncing around between different survivors before they meet up at the end to face the film’s climax together. While all the characters are dealing with the same problem they are all dealing with it in different ways and that’s what keeps this film interesting. Some are better than others but it has those differences that will make certain characters appeal to different parts of the audience. My personal favourite is the man who follows the instructions to stay at home and lock your doors, hilariously subversive as he survives just by following the rules.

While the film’s main threat is the zombies, there is one character who could be classed as the villain of The Mothertown, Keith the reporter. Played by Big Brother winner, Pete Bennett, he still has that manic attitude that he uses to great effect as the self-absorbed reporter who is exasperating the zombie apocalypse for his own gain. Definitely a stand out in the cast, Bennett is easily one of the film’s most interesting characters.

mothertown3While it lacks the polish of a big budget Hollywood feature, The Mothertown has the heart and passion of indie horror with a flavour that is unique to Stoke on Trent. A must-watch for fans of low budget cinema and aspiring film-makers alike. The Mothertown is currently available to buy on eBay for £5 which will be raising money for local charities – HERE.


Links to John Williams new film The Slayers

Website – http://www.theslayersmovie.com

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/The-Slayers-1555861784666895/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/theslayersfilm

Scouts Guide To The Zombie Apocalypse (2015) Review

ScoutsGuideZombieApocalypse_posterSCOUTS GUIDE TO THE ZOMBIE APOCALYPSE (2015)

Director: Christopher Landon

Stars: Tye Sheridan, Logan Miller, Joey Morgan, Sarah Dumont, David Koechner, Halston Sage, Niki Koss, Cloris Leachman

UK Cinema Release: 6th November by Paramount.

Ben (Tye Sheridan) and Carter (Logan Miller) are part of a tiny scout troop, led by Scout Leader Rogers (David Koechner). Long-term members, they have lost interest in scouting, instead finding themselves more into the opposite sex.

Ben has an unrequited crush on Carter’s older sister Kendall (Halston Sage) while Carter lusts after her vacuous pal Chloe (Niki Koss). But — despite their misgivings — the two have felt unable to quit the troop due to their friendship with earnest Augie (Joey Morgan). However, on the day of a camping trip to celebrate Augie earning his coveted Condor patch, the other two receive an invite to a party that Kendall and her friends will be attending.

That evening things don’t go to plan when first Scout Leader Rogers doesn’t show, then Augie catches the pair sneaking off. Heartbroken, he tells them to leave. But, as a deadly virus rips through the town, all three boys find their survival skills pushed to the limit…

scouts1Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is the latest entry in the zomcom sub-genre. Now, unlike some horror-comedies that forget to actually be funny, Scouts Guide is hilarious.

From the opening scene in which a cleaner mimes and dances along to Iggy Azalea and Rita Ora’s Black Widow to some sidesplitting dialogue and some truly gross humour, this is a film that brings the laughs. However, I know there are people out there who will find the gratuitous T&A and bawdier elements puerile. If you enjoyed American Pie, you’ll dig this. If, however, gross-out comedies are not your thing, you may want to skip it.

Having a funnyman like Koechner doesn’t harm the film’s comedy-cred, but it’s not just the Anchorman star that delivers. The three young leads are excellent, each capturing the essence of their character (Sheridan’s Ben is the nice one, Miller’s Carter is the smart-alec, while Morgan’s Augie is the earnest nerd). Each is superb and all three are given their moments to shine, especially during the bloody climax.

scouts2What’s more, the striking Sarah Dumont shows acting chops to match her looks as she delivers a strong performance as Denise, the no-nonsense cocktail waitress that regularly saves the boys’ skins, even if hers isn’t the strongest arc. Elsewhere the wonderful Leachman ratchets up the laughs with a memorable turn as Carter’s crotchety cat-lady neighbour.

Of course the cast are only as funny as the material they’re given to work with. The writing team of director Christopher Landon (whose writing credits include the Paranormal Activity franchise), Emi Mochizuki and Carrie Evans, scripting Lona Williams’ story, do a fantastic job, coming up with some ace set pieces.

However, the script isn’t so shallow as to just give us a series of jokes — it also boasts some nice moments of real heart, most notably in the scenes exploring the friendship between the Ben, Carter and Augie. That Landon and his cinematographer Brandon Trost keeps the footage of the boys’ antics so eye-popping throughout is a real bonus, especially during the aforementioned kick-ass climactic battle and some frenetic chase sequences. This is an area in which many horror-comedies fall short, but Scouts Guide keeps the action exciting and, as is so important in the post Walking Dead zombie-movie landscape, the effects work is top notch, giving us some memorable zombies.

scouts3I’m loathe to spoil the finest moments here but suffice to say one zombie with a particularly gruesome facial injury at the heart of a hideous (and hilarious) set piece late on in the movie was especially horrible. Credit must go to Jared Baker’s crew, the folks at Atomic Fiction and everybody else who delivered the fantastic effects of the film. Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse is great fun — Superbad meets Zombieland. It combines a talented cast with some superb visuals and plenty of gross-out humour. It may not quite hit the heights of zomcom classics like Shaun of the Dead and the aforementioned Zombieland, but it is still a fine movie.


Nuclear Zombies from Area 51 announce Kickstarter and awesome cast !

nz1Nuclear Zombies from Area 51 announce Kickstarter and awesome cast !

Well-known stand-up comics Dante and Joey Medina will shuffle behind the lens for Golden Artists Entertainment’s Nuclear Zombies from Area 51.

Scream Queen Rebekah Kochan leads a cast that includes Shandalia White, Chris Salvatore, Daniel Skelton, Tiara Lanai, Ash Hollywood and porn legend Ron Jeremy.

“The movie takes place at a diner on Halloween night that’s being robbed near Area 51 where a terrible accident takes place – that accident kills half the people in the town; the other half are either turned into zombies or, if they’re in an enclosed area, they live and have to fight off zombies”, says Dante.

Dante and Kochan wrote the project. Dante, Kochan and Justin L.Jones (The Ouija Exorcism) produce.

To help cinematically contain the outbreak of undead, Golden Artists Entertainment have gone the crowd-funding route to contribute to the budget. You can donate to their Kickstarter here and watch video testimonials from the cast, including Ron Jeremy, here. For as little as $500 you can even end up in the film – as a zombie!

Nuclear Zombies From Area 51 coming to a blood-soaked screen near you in 2016!



Fear The Walking Dead – Complete 1st Season hits the UK on Blu-Ray & DVD 7th December

ftwd1FEAR THE WALKING DEAD is the brand new record-breaking companion series to the TV franchise that became a global phenomenon. Living in the same universe as The Walking Dead, FEAR THE WALKING DEAD is the gritty drama that explores the onset origin of the undead apocalypse through the lens of a fractured family. Don’t miss the brand new deadly series as FEAR THE WALKING DEAD: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON comes to Blu-ray and DVD on 7th December 2015, courtesy of Entertainment One.

FEAR THE WALKING DEAD features an incredible cast including; Kim Dickens (Gone Girl, The Blind Side) as high school guidance counsellor, Madison Clark; Cliff Curtis (Live Free or Die Hard, Last Knights) as English teacher and Madison’s boyfriend, Travis Manawa; Frank Dillane (In The Heart Of The Sea, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) as 19-year-old drug addict and son of Madison, Nick Clark; Alycia Debnam-Carey (Into The Storm, The Devil’s Hand) as top student and daughter of Madison, Alicia Clark; Lorenzo James Henrie (Star Trek, Warrior Road) as rebellious teenager and son of Travis, Christopher Manawa; Elizabeth Rodriguez (Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, The Vampire Diaries) as single mother, Liza Ortiz; Ruben Blades (The Counselor, Safe House) as El Salvador refugee and barber shop owner, Daniel Salazar; Patricia Reyes Spindola (Bleak Street, Bad Habbits) as Daniel’s wife, Griselda Salazar; and Mercedes Mason (NCIS: Los Angeles, The Finder) as their daughter Ofelia Salazar.


ftwd2Set in a city where people come to bury their pasts, a mysterious outbreak threatens to disrupt what little stability high school guidance counsellor Madison Clark (Dickens) and English teacher Travis Manawa (Curtis) have managed to assemble. The everyday pressure of blending two families while dealing with resentful children takes a back seat when society begins to break down, and as the necessary survival of the fittest takes hold, they must either reinvent themselves or embrace their darker histories.

Don’t miss the beginning of the end of the world as FEAR THE WALKING DEAD: THE COMPLETE FIRST SEASON arrives on Blu-ray™ and DVD from 7th December 2015, courtesy of Entertainment One.

Release Date: 7th December 2015
Certificate: TBC
Genre: Drama / Horror
Format: 2 Disc Blu-ray™ and 2 Disc DVD

Cooties (2014) Review

cootiesCooties (2014) Review

Director: Jonathan Milott, Cary Murnion

Writers: Leigh Whannell, Ian Brennan

Starring: Elijah Wood, Rainn Wilson, Alison Pill

Runtime: 88 mins

UK Certificate: 15

UK DVD / Blu-Ray release date: 12th October 2015 from Universal Pictures

“I’m givin’ you kids an ‘F’ – for ‘FUCK YOU’!!!!”

‘Cooties’, the first directorial offering from Jonathan Milott and Cary Murnion, brings us a zombie / infection horror in an as-yet unexplored (or am I mistaken?) location – an elementary school. Aspiring writer Clint Hadson (Wood), newly returned to his home town of Fort Chicken, finds himself booked on a supply placement at a local elementary school – a place overrun with teachers who mostly make the staff of ‘Bad Education’ look professional, and kids who are pretty feral even before the virus takes hold.

After witnessing one of his charges bite a chunk out of another’s face, Clint thinks the day can’t get any tougher – and worse still, no-one he has mentioned it to seems to appreciate the genius of his ‘evil boat’ thriller-in-the-works, ‘Keel Them All’. However, he then has to contend with his long-nursed feelings for teacher and childhood crush Lucy (Alison Pill, ‘Scott Pilgrim Versus The World’) who is dating redneck PE teacher Wade (‘The Office”s Rainn Wilson) – oh yes, and now the children, fallen prey to the consumption of infected chicken nuggets, have dismembered the vice principal and are viciously attacking and eating each other and anyone else they can find!

cooties1The film starts off on a really promising note – right from the spot-on queasiness of the opening titles showing the manufacture of nuggets from live chicken to napkin on plate in all its grisly detail, and the introduction of the misfit band of teachers which delivers a good level of laughs and gives the viewer an assurance that they’re in for a fun ride. The gore is high up the chart too, as expected of the infection sub-genre – tonnes of splatter, blackened brains and general entrails abound, and the child actors deserve a mention for their display of all-out aggression and flesh lust, not to mention sinister giggling at their own murderous antics.

However, after the initial threat is released and realised, the high quality of the starting 20 minutes or so sadly then begins to wane – a lot of the humour begins to fall flat and the pace does start to drag as the adults get to a safe room and discuss what to do next. The cast is decent, with Elijah Wood as effortlessly charming as ever, knowingly playing the nice guy with delusions of writing grandeur, but a lot of the other characters lean into caricature – the writers actually seem to have got together and just thought “Hmm, what’s funny? Ah, stereotypes!” Enter, then, the gay male teacher who is of course totally camp and the Japanese janitor who eats a nori packed lunch and has an in-depth knowledge of martial arts.

Also, ‘Lost’s Jorge Garcia turns up for no obvious useful reason as a stoner grounds employee – cue lots of ‘humour’ concerning ‘shrooms and generally being stoned, the like of which may only really appeal to a young adult audience. Saying that, it is obviously a movie which is going for the goofy and the gross-out right off the bat, and playing to the teenage crowd of course isn’t something to knock points off for on its own – it’s just that it can be done without caricature and with higher-brow humour (‘Housebound’, ‘Cockneys Vs Zombies’, to name two).

cooties3To sum up then, ‘Cooties’ is a decent enough infection horror film with plenty of gore, but just isn’t as funny as it thinks it is – best watched when you’re in the mood for something kind of silly with a few beers and you’re not expecting your next dream horror film.


Jeruzalem (2015) Review

jeruz1Jeruzalem (Israel, 2015)

Dir: Doron & Yoaz Paz

Starring: Yal Grobglas, Yon Tumarkin, Danielle Jadelyn

UK Release TBC

Plot: To clear her head after the death of her brother, Sarah (Jadelyn) is taken on holiday by her friend Rachel (Grobglas) to Israel. Opting to follow fellow traveller Kevin (Tumarkin) to Jerusalem instead of their intended destination of Tel Aviv, the girls start having a wild time in Jerusalem. The wild times are soon interrupted as the dead rise and the biblical apocalypse rains down on Jerusalem. The film follows Sarah and her friends as they try desperately to escape the city.

The directors of Jeruzalem set out to create a film that captures the holy city of Jerusalem as it really is, despite that it’s a notoriously hard city to film in due to it’s religious significance. Especially with horror films, because we all know how much hardcore religious people love horror movies. Films like World War Z had to shoot their scenes of Jerusalem in Malta so it’s a brave task that the Paz Brothers have taken on. Jeruzalem manages to shoot in some of Jerusalem’s major landmarks including the Wailing Wall, getting around the red tape of shooting by lying that they were making a documentary.

Jeruzalem’s other feature that makes it somewhat unique is that it is made to look like it’s all filmed through a Google Glass headset. Essentially it makes Jeruzalem a found footage film but the difference between the camcorder and Google Glass makes for some decent gags. Some of them seem a little cheesy at first, there’s a lot of use of the facial recognition software, which links to a Facebook profile of the character in a sub-screen. It seems a little like forced exposition but it also works as foreshadowing for further use of the feature. Also by capturing it all from a single POV it feels more like the recent remake of Maniac than another Paranormal Activity.

jeruz2One of my normal problems with found footage is that the film makers try to ignore the limitations of the medium, primarily when people would stop filming. While I’m not familiar with Google Glass enough, I’m sure it’s not always filming. However if the film is just from the point of view of Sarah it does take away that problem but that might be argued with some of the camera blackout moments or when she’s got the Google Glass off. However Jeruzalem doesn’t fall into Found Footage pitfalls like having too many unexplained camera angles. The only real issue I had was with the obligatory smashed lens sequence near the end, I found it a bit more tedious than an exercise in realism.

Choosing to set the film in a biblical apocalypse also means a different batch of monsters from the usual horror roster. Jeruzalem’s main monsters are dark angels that look abit like zombies with wings and also share the zombie trait that they are infectious, causing other characters to turn into monsters. The monsters get quite a lot of screen time but still have the less is more approach, rarely staying in frame for long. There’s also a giant that is smashing up the city but it never really gets in the way of our protagonists which is a shame because I would have liked to see more of it.

jeruz3My only problem I found with Jeruzalem is another pet peeve of mine, the main protagonist choosing the love interest over the life long best friend when it comes to survival. Sarah and Kevin have a decent courting relationship during the quieter moments of the film even though he makes a huge dating error at one point which some people might write him off for. Later in the film, Kevin figures out that hell is about to break loose and ends up getting sectioned and in the midst of the apocalypse Sarah chooses to save him rather than get the hell out of dodge with Rachel. I understand that altruism could account for saving him but in the sense of priorities, I’d choose my best friend over someone I’ve spent less than a week with. Perhaps that’s just me.

Jeruzalem is a good movie, taking the found footage monster movie and giving it the Israeli cultural twist to give us something fresh and exciting. I look forward to seeing what’s next for the Paz Brothers.