Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Unhinged (2017)



Dan Allen
Scott Jeffrey


Kate Lister
Lucy-Jane Quinlan
Becca Hirani
Lorena Andrea
Michelle Archer
Zak Russell-Jones


When four friends who are celebrating one of them getting married. This bridal party is taking a road trip through the backcountry of England on their way to the wedding. When they are involved in a terrifying incident with a strange man and end up having car troubles. They come across a secluded house and decide to stop for help. It's sole resident, Miss Perkins offers them shelter, food, and a place to stay until help arrives. Something far more sinister awaits the four friends.

When I first came across Unhinged, I had never heard of this movie. Reading up on it, I discovered that this was in fact, a remake of a Video Nasty from the eighties. Never seeing the original film, myself. I cannot compare these two stories, I shall only judge the remake on its own merits. With this latest attempt at remaking a slasher from the decade that basically solidified the slasher genre. I believe they missed the mark. The eighties was the quintessential period of the slasher, and sadly, this latest update was a swing and a miss.

From my understanding, the two films both have the same basic setup as a group of friends have car troubles and come upon a house where something terrible befalls all of them. I think in the original, the group of friends have a car accident as opposed to car troubles, and the house that they come upon is a family and not a single spinster. Other than that, I don't know how wildly different the movies are beyond these small changes at the beginning of the film. I wonder how violent the original is if it secured a spot on the notorious video nasties list?

If Unhinged does anything right, it's that it wastes no time in throwing the audience straight into the deep end. The movie opens with a woman having her throat sliced with a pair of garden shears as her child watches on. Does this opening scene have any real connection to the rest of the film or characters? Not at all. Will you be left with a lot of unanswered questions throughout the running time? Probably. I think this all falls back on the writing. I'm not sure if the original flick feels as disjointed and uneven as this film does here. That is unknown until I sit down and watch it.

We go from a mother being tortured in front of her daughter to this bridal party who are suddenly stalked and attacked on a deserted road by a strange man in the rural English countryside. This sets into motion our characters coming across Miss Perkins. An utterly bizarre but welcoming middle-aged woman who loves her gardening while offering refuge to strangers. From this moment on, the movie goes from zero to one hundred when a maniac who is wielding a pair of garden shears, while wearing this haggard face mask and donning a wedding dress shows up.

The problem that I have with Unhinged is that it feels really rushed. I think this falls back on the editing. Once our maniac starts picking off the bridal party, one by one. The way this thing plays out feels really choppy. One victim appears to be repeatedly stabbed with shears only to be strung up in the next shot where she is tortured. Later on, she shows back up and is alive. Another woman is buried alive by the killer in one shot, and when she is later found by her friends, her body is now half hanging out of a grave. No one seems to care about continuity here.

If it's not our bridal party characters coming and going or being dead then alive with no resolution. It's that third act twist and reveal of the killer. It's not at all a surprise or shock at who the killer turns out to be here. In the Grudge-like attic reveal we are shown who the killer turns out to be, and I had guessed it from the moment that this person steps on screen. What they try to do with it is an M. Night Shyamalan type of twist where the killer has some form of a split personality disorder and can alter their voice to throw the audience off, but I felt like it's a case of 'seen it all before'.

Is Unhinged at all scary? I didn't find it creepy. The film is more about the stalk and slash element, and it feels very much in the vein of a Torture Porn than an outright scary and suspenseful slasher. I'm sure some of the scenes of torture and gore may end up shocking some viewers, but I think due to it's lower budget and limited set-pieces hurt this more than they offer up tension or suspense. As I had stated above, due to the way the horror-orientated moments are edited, I feel they also kill a lot of the tension in the story.

Lastly, we come to the performances. I think for such a low-budget horror movie. I found that all five of the actresses were above average in their delivery. It's just sad that all of the characters were written to be so unlikeable. We have this odd subplot about two of the bridal party hooking up and being possible love interests that goes nowhere. It feels like it's just there to add a lesbian sex scene. Another issue which hinders the acting is that all of these people are written continuously to be idiotic and make frustrating character decisions. 



- A woman's head is severed with a pair of garden shears.
- A woman is stabbed in the stomach with garden shears.
- A man is repeatedly hit in the head with a rock.
- A woman has her foot almost severed with a shovel.
- A woman is smacked in the head with a shovel, splitting her head open.
- A woman is bitten on the arm.
- Two women fight and fall off a balcony.
- A woman has petrol poured down her throat and lips sewn shut.
- A woman is hit in the head and back with a metal rake.
- A woman is buried alive.
- A woman is repeatedly suffocated with a plastic bag.

You go in to remake a movie that was notorious for landing a spot on the UK's Video Nasties list. Your goal is to remake, and with any luck, you one-up the original story. While I can't compare the two films. If this remake is better than the original, I have to wonder how bad the original is as this missed the mark for me entirely. A slasher that lacks suspense, exciting kills, continuity, or even some kind of memorable twist. The only thing positive I can say about Unhinged is that the killer looks creepy and the movie is quickly paced.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Bad Match (2017)

DIRECTOR: David Chirchirillo

WRITER: David Chirchirillo


Lili Simmons
Jack Cutmore-Scott
Noureen DeWulf
Brandon Scott
Chase Williamson
Christine Donlon
Kahyun Kim
Talisa Friedman
Trent Haaga


Harris is a bit of a dating-app playboy. All he wants to do with his life is hookup and have one night stands with hot girls. When he ends up meeting his latest conquest, he may have finally met his match in Riley. After they sleep together, things quickly turn sour when Riley catches Harris out on a lie. After being deceived, Riley decides that she is going to ruin his life.

From the twisted mind of Cheap Thrills comes his take on the jealousy and obsession story. The film also deals heavily with dating apps and everything that can go wrong with them. I know firsthand and from personal experiences that using these hookup apps don't always deliver positive results. I've had strangers turn up to my unit and look nothing like their photos. I've had situations where I've asked someone to leave because things took a pretty strange and uncomfortable turn. I have even walked out on a dinner date because I wasn't feeling it. You never know what you'll get when you use these apps.

Bad Match takes a look at jealousy and obsession in the age of Tinder, Plenty Of Fish, and Grindr. We have a story that deals with the consequence of a dating app playboy who uses the wrong girl for sex and ends up paying for his lies. Watching this movie, I got a sense that the director and writer may have been a bit of a fan of Audition as there feels like there is a parallel between the basic plot of the two stories. Only, this has been updated for the millennial generation and doesn't go as far with its revenge towards our main character.

What sets this film apart from other jealousy and obsession based movies is that for the first act of the story, it's injected with a nice dose of comedy. There is an almost pitch-black and twisted spin on these types of films. For a genre that plays it straight and most of the time, dark. Bad Match is somewhat fun. It's only towards the second and third acts does the story really move into darker territory, and it begins following the tropes of the obsession film. While you'll have seen a lot of these in other movies, I still found myself enjoying this more than a lot of the other films.

After Harris meets Riley and things start spiralling out of control for him. I still liked this film. I think where this foregoes all the bunny boiling. We have updated the way that Riley can try and ruin Harris's life. With the internet being apart of everyday life, we have hacking, child porn, job opportunities destroyed. This feels like an authentic way to really shatter someone's entire world in this day and age. I think that's what sets this apart from other films of this ilk. It was nice to see an obsession film where she didn't just go on a murder spree and kills his friends or family like a lot of these other stories.

I think what also makes this more enjoyable is that with other films, you have a clear victim and villain. I guess because Harris is the playboy that uses women, you sort of don't know who to side with after Riley is used for a one night stand. This guy is quite smug. At times, I was siding with a person who is meant to clearly be the villain. Bad Match subverts those expectations for the most part. You have a scorned woman, but you almost feel sorry for her because she isn't a bad person. It's when things start to go south, do you really question who you should be rooting for here.

The third act provides a pretty fun twist. After our two characters come to blows in a scene that you would've seen in every other obsession film. The victim and the villain battle it out. It's in a revelation that throws a spanner in the works and gives us a bit of a gut-punch and downer final. The movie doesn't just ruin the lives of one person, it destroys two. It's a case of jumping to conclusions, assuming, and lessons learned. Once that mobile phone rings and all is revealed. It pulls the rug from out underneath you, and I really enjoyed the way this film concludes.

Now we come to the performances. I am a huge fan of the Cinemax series Banshee. Lili Simmons starred on the show for the entire four seasons, and I absolutely loved her in the show. Here she is in fine form as Riley. At times, I felt incredibly sorry for her character just as much as I did in seeing her dish out her brand of revenge. Jack Cutmore-Scott plays a douchebag very well. He is playing a guy who uses women. It takes talent to hate and like a guy in equal measures. You love to hate him, but you also feel his pain. I think these two also had great chemistry at the beginning of the film. If this was a romantic comedy about dating in this day and age, I think they'd have worked out well in the end.

Lastly, Bad Match isn't scary. This is a pitch-black comedy thriller. Several scenes go for jump-scares and may even work within the context of those scenes. However, it isn't a scary type of film. If you've seen the director's previous work in Cheap Thrills, you will likely know what type of movie you're in for with Bad Match. This is dark, at times violent, and somewhat hilarious. This is more about tone than it is frightening the audience. I think this film sets out to subvert and shock rather than scare those watching this hookup gone awry.



- A guy punches a mirror and cuts his hand.
- A woman is stabbed in the stomach.
- A man is smashed in the head with a glass vase.
- A woman is strangled.
- A man is seen with his teeth knocked out and a gash in his face.
- A woman is slashed with a pocket knife.

Bad Match offers up a dark and twisted spin on the obsession subgenre. Updated for the millennial and dating app age. We have a thriller that at times offers a humorous approach. What starts out funny descends into a pretty nasty little story of revenge. This movie does enough to set itself apart from other films of this type. Some great performances and a nice third act twist throws a spanner in the works. I recommend that all you lovers swipe right on Bad Match.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Totem (2017)

DIRECTOR: Marcel Sarmiento


Marcel Sarmiento
Evan Dickson


Kerris Dorsey
Ahna O'Reilly
James Tupper
Lia McHugh
Lawrence Pressman
Braeden Lemasters
Jocelyn Ayanna


A teenager must protect her family from a malevolent supernatural entity.

The family being terrorised by an entity in their own home is a plot device as old as time itself. Over the long history of cinema, we have seen this story done countless times. All done to varying degrees of success. The Amityville Horror, Poltergeist, and The Conjuring are probably three of the finest examples of these types of movies. I still find myself enjoying these films. There is something so inherently creepy about an unseen force, that slowly breaks down the family unit. This is probably why I also enjoy my Home Invasion films.

Your own home is a place that you are meant to feel safe. So when someone that you don't know destroys that feeling of security, it's a horrifying aspect. It's like someone has invaded your own personal space. Totem takes that very premise and gives us a small scale idea of that story. This feels like a family drama that you would see on the Lifetime Network with a splash of supernatural horror. Being branded with both of the Blumhouse and Cinemax labels. This feels more Cinemax in scale than it ever does a Blumhouse production. Don't go in expecting some grandiose ghost story.

For the first and second acts of Totem. This operates more like a drama. Our teenager character is coming to terms with her father moving on after the passing of her mum. When the father decides to move his new girlfriend into the family home, this delivers a lot of teen angst and infighting between the core family. It also brings the arrival of something far more sinister. This presence is now thought to be communicating with the youngest daughter, who claims that their dead mother is speaking to her. Cue the ghost story elements of the movie.

While Totem is littered with little moments of the supernatural throughout. This only gets moving in the third act when all hell breaks loose. What ends up breaking loose is quite small-scale and confined to one location, which is the family home. Nothing here in this story feels like it contains any large-scale horror set-pieces which we've come to know with other supernatural horror films. It slowly descends into a bit of a bloodbath, but it feels like a bit of a slug in getting to the point. There didn't feel like much momentum with the pacing of Totem.

The third act twist is where Totem really wins points from me. The director's previous movie Deadgirl was a pretty controversial and disturbing little tale about two teenage boys who find a corpse in the basement of an abandoned mental hospital. What they do the body is pretty nasty and grim. So going into Totem where it feels really reeled back regarding the subject matter. The twist is where we see taboos and lines being crossed. It's nowhere near as shocking, but where this decides to go, and the things that it insinuates is enough to throw out one uncomfortable little curveball.

Sadly, Totem lacks when it comes to thrills and chills. I was really hoping that it would provide a few decent shock moments and while the twist delivered on that front. The rest of the movie feels rather tame. I didn't find myself at all scared or on the edge of my seat. While the tone is indeed dark and Totem has this family in peril vibe with the sense of sadness looming over the younger characters. What it felt like it was missing here were that dread and tension. I was hoping for more here. I think with that third act switch-up that plays more disturbing than it does scary and supernatural. I think the writers were relying on that to be enough to carry the horror.

Visually, I found Totem to be decently made if you think of this story as a made-for-television film. This really does feel more like a TV Movie than some large theatrical release that we've come to know from Blumhouse. The entire scale of the film feels smaller in comparison. I think if you look at Totem in that way, and not like the next big release from them, this isn't a poorly made movie on a production level. Marcel Sarmiento has moved on from Deadgirl and is slowly getting a more grand vision. I would love to see what he would do with something more grand and bigger budget.

Lastly, we come to the performances. I think the standout here is Ahna O'Reilly who plays the new girlfriend. I'm aware of her from a few of James Franco's recent indie films where he played star and director. She is the only one I knew in the cast, and she delivers a great performance. Kerris Dorsey looks like she gets to have all of the fun here. She has the most significant character arc, and you'll love to see the dark places she goes with her role. Must have been fun playing a role that allowed her to cross some lines and hit a taboo or two.



- A woman cuts her hand on some glass when it shatters.
- A dead body in a plastic bag is shown.
- A woman drowns in a bathtub.
- A teenage girl repeatedly stabs herself in the legs with glass.
- A man is stabbed in the heart.
- A cat is crushed by a falling cabinet.
- A teenage boy is hit in the head with a trophy.
- A man has a heart attack and is deprived of his inhaler.
- A woman's face is seen rotting.
- A woman impales her face on a piece of wooden art.

Totem is a low-budget, supernatural horror film from the director of the controversial Deadgirl. While this movie never reaches the disturbing peaks of that film. This has a third-act twist that is sure to shock some audiences members. Sadly, a fine twist and a few solid performances weren't enough to bring this movie out of feeling like some made-for-television horror film. The first and second act are sluggish and only does it really gain momentum in the third act. If you're a fan of evil entities breaking down the family establishment. Look to the classics.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Dave Made A Maze (2017)

DIRECTOR: Bill Watterson


Steven Sears
Bill Watterson


Nick Thune
Meera Rohit Kumbhani
Adam Busch
James Urbaniak
Frank Caeti
Scott Narver
Stephanie Allynne
Kirsten Vangsness
Scott Krinsky


Dave is an artist who builds a cardboard fort in his apartment out of frustration. When his girlfriend Annie returns after being away. She finds that Dave is now trapped in his own creation. When Annie goes and leads a band of oddball explorers into the fort on her own rescue mission. It will soon become apparent that they should have listened to Dave and his warnings about entering the fort as it's laced with boobytraps, pitfalls and an array of creatures.

I first heard about Dave Made A Maze on one of my favourite Horror Movie Podcasts. The group were talking about whether or not this could be reviewed or even classed as a horror movie. Due to the story being whimsical in nature and all of the gore and violence that is shown is done in a way that feels both creative and playful, they were debating about the genre. They ended up not including it in their best of lists for that year because they had concluded that it wasn't a horror film.

After hearing them discuss the film, I was all of a sudden interested in this movie. I believe that Horror is a subjective thing. It is different for every person. I think with my last review of Brawl In Cell Block 99. The type of genre of these two stories can be discussed and debated. But should they be able to be reviewed here on Schlock Horror, though? In the case of Brawl In Cell Block 99, I believe it should be as it's so violent and dark. It lends itself and feels adjacent to the horror genre. After watching Dave Made A Maze, I think that it also has those elements.

Will Dave Made A Maze scare people? No. This is not spookiest in the slightest. This feels like it has elements of an action and adventure movie that took me back to the classic Steven Spielberg's franchise Indiana Jones. The story is filled with enjoyable boobytraps that made me think of the poison darts from Raiders Of The Lost Ark or the boulder chase. I felt that the adventure element gave this a sense of excitement. The fact that the movie is so fun will be one reason why film fans will dispute IMDB listing this as a horror film.

The next element of Dave Makes A Maze that I wanted to talk about is the comedy. This movie has that indie dramedy sort of mood to it. The tone and the comedic far outweigh any of the horror elements here. You won't find even the biggest scaredy-cats hiding under the covers here. This is all about the fantasy and fun. It's another reason why people will pull out the pitchfork and torches and set fire to anyone who tries to call this a horror film. In most cases, they are right on the money. This is the type of horror movie that I feel Michel Gondry would direct.

Dave Made A Maze while not big on the storytelling feels like it conveys a lot of what it has to say through the oddball and bizarre visuals. You will not likely see a film that looks anything like this in 2017. Some may even say that this is style over substance. However, I enjoyed every single second of it. I mentioned Michel Gondry in the above paragraph. If you've ever seen his music videos with Bjork or any of his films, he has one of the most distinct visual styles that I've ever seen, and this looks like it came straight out of his mind.

When it comes to the horror side of things. I think what makes this one eligible to be reviewed for Schlock Horror is that it features this boobytrapped cardboard labyrinth where people end up dying in glorious ways, and it features a menacing minotaur and plenty of origami creatures. The film looks like an art project exploded in here. People are decapitated, impaled, and pulled to their deaths. The blood and gore that is used here are all done with streamers and glitter. It's all art supplies replacing the carnage, and it makes for a visual feast for the senses.

What I think works well here also is the characters. I enjoyed all of their relationships and friendships. I think that they felt authentic in a world that was unrealistic. While some of these characters feel like they are there to add a body count and aren't really fleshed out. The central characters really do hold this story together. I wanted to see them make it out of this labyrinth alive. I think this all comes down to the writing and acting. Everyone is in fine form here and believable.

Our lead actor is Nick Thune. I know him from the 2016 horror movie Urge. I thought he was great and incredibly mean-spirited in his role. His girlfriend is played by Meera Rohit Kumbhani. I felt that she was the heart of the movie. While we care for Dave in this story. She is the one that risks her life to save him and through the whole thing. I wanted to see her survive. Lastly, we have Adam Busch as the best friend. I enjoyed him as Warren in Buffy The Vampire Slayer. Here he is playing a less evil character and gives him to shine as a comedic talent.



- A guy cuts his hand on a piece of cardboard.
- A woman is decapitated when she steps on a boobytrap.
- A man is impaled on a spiked trap.
- A woman is barged over by a minotaur, blood sprays out.
- A man is pulled into a hole, and red streamers come out.
- A man has his stomach ground up.

All blood and violence are done with art supplies.

Dave Made A Maze not be your typical horror movie. In fact, many would call this a comedy or an adventure film before they ever classed this as horror. But amongst all of the visually gorgeous cinematography, the set design, the colourfulness. There are set-pieces that piece this story together and play like your standard SAW film. While there is no gore or bloodshed to be found. What this feels like is some art-installation come to life. I guarantee you will not see anything else like this in horror 2017.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Brawl In Cell Block 99 (2017)

DIRECTOR: S. Craig Zahler

WRITER: S. Craig Zahler


Vince Vaughn
Jennifer Carpenter
Don Johnson
Udo Kier
Marc Blucas
Dion Mucciacito
Geno Segers
Willie C. Carpenter
Mustafa Shakir


When Bradley Thomas is fired from his mechanic job. Things quickly go from bad to worse when he discovers that his wife has been having an affair after she suffered a miscarriage. When she falls pregnant again, and they start to work on their marriage. Bradley is sent to prison after a drug deal goes wrong. When a ruthless gang ends up kidnapping his wife, they advise Bradley that he must kill a fellow prisoner because if he doesn't, they will perform a horrific operation on his unborn child.

There are just some actors who can turn you off a movie. The name alone is enough to make you wary of the quality of the film that they are headlining. One such actor for me is Vince Vaughn. When he first burst onto the scene in movies like Swingers and The Lost World. I enjoyed him as an actor. He kept delivering on the worthwhile performances in darker material like The Cell and Clay Pigeons. Then the noughties happened, and he kept starring in these subpar comedies where I lost all enjoyment of his work. I had all but given up on him.

Now we come to the last five years, and things have changed. Vince Vaughn has now played a villain in the divisive second season of True Detective. He also headlines the incredibly dark and ultra-violent action crime film Brawl In Cell Block 99. This is also the sophomore effort of S. Craig Zahler who directed the horror western movie Bone Tomahawk. I decided to review his latest because this feels as adjacent to the horror genre as you get. This has enough violence and gore to rival most genre films these days. This is dark stuff right here.

Some people may dispute my claims of calling this a horror film. Some folks may not even think I should review it for the blog. Even if this weren't as gory and as violent as it is, I would still say that the entire subplot involving an abortionist who is capable of snipping the limbs of an unborn fetus while in the womb is pretty terrifying. I don't even think most horror movies go to those dark places. I believe that the abortionist subplot may be one of the cruellest ways to blackmail a person into doing something that I've ever seen put in a film plot.

From the very first moment that Vince Vaughn destroys a car with his bare hands on camera, I was hooked. The only real problem that I have with Brawl In Cell Block 99 is that everything from the destruction of the car up to when he enters prison sort of feels like it slows down the pacing. It's not enough to kill the flow of the story, but it does feel like it pulls the breaks for a while. The drug run gone sour, while a pivotal scene and it sets into motion the abortionist subplot. I did feel that these moments really cater more to the action and not the darker stuff which I enjoyed here.

I feel that Brawl In Cell Block 99 feels aesthetically sombre and dark. Not once did I ever think that the characters were safe. While the film is never scary, I found that it was steeped in dread. It also has this Grindhouse sort of feel to it. As soon as Bradley enters the prison and he is fighting his way through inmates and guards, things pick right back up. The movie never slows down from this point on. It's also knowing that his pregnant wife and unborn child might be murdered in such a horrific way that it never stops looming over the audience.

Now we come to the carnage on display here. This is brutal. There is so much bone-crushing violence thrown at the audience that it at times feels extreme. I think what makes the gore and bloodshed so gruesome and hard-hitting is that it looks mostly practical and at times somewhat realistic. There is a scene where someone's face is dragged along the concrete, and the skin peels back to expose the bone underneath. I actually felt every moment of that. It made me wince in disgust and revulsion. This movie isn't for the queasy.

This is the Vince Vaughn's show. This film rests almost entirely on his shoulders here, and for the first time in over a decade, I loved his performance here. Vince Vaughn is a force to be reckoned with, and I think this may be a career best performance from him. He is dropping jokes one minute, is stoic the next, and at times, he's menacing. When he is breaking officers arms and stomping on prisoners skulls, he is a hulking mass. I can admit my wrongs when an actor I once thought wasn't great, delivers a brilliant performance. Vince Vaughn really knocked it out of the park.

Lastly, we have the supporting cast. Jennifer Carpenter is fantastic as always. From Dexter to her performances in The Exorcism Of Emily Rose and Quarantine. I have always had a soft spot for her. Don Johnson and Udo Kier are welcome additions to the cast. I think it's a testament to an actor who can utter lines and be inherently creepy and that's Udo. Marc Blucas is here in a smaller role, but by the film's end, I was cheering him on as he start's defending Jennifer Carpenter against the villains of the film. The entire cast delivers the goods. 



- A man destroys a car with his bare hands, which leaves him cut and bloody.
- Someone's head is cracked open with a barbell.
- A man's head is crushed in a cell block door.
- A man's leg is snapped inward.
- People are repeatedly shot in the face and chest.
- A police officers arm is blown off.
- A prisoner officers arm is snapped back, and the bone breaks through the skin.
- Someone's arm is broken, and their spine is crushed.
- A prisoner is elbowed so hard his teeth get lodged in the person's arm.
- A man's skull is completely crushed when stomped on.
- A man is shot dead when he exits a car.
- Someone's arm is snapped in half.
- Someone's face is dragged along the concrete, and their skull is crushed.
- A man is continuously shocked and electrocuted.
- Someone's eyes are gouged out, and their spine is broken.
- A man is decapitated when his head is stomped on.

Brawl In Cell Block 99 is an absolute blast. With only a few pacing problems early on, this is one of the most gruesome and fun experiences I've had with a film all year. If you want your ultra-violence with a grindhouse and exploitation sort of prison movie vibe to it, this is the one for you. Vince Vaughn delivers a career-best performance. Watching him break bones and stomp on skulls is such a gleefully gruesome time. I would love to see him in these types of movies more often. Drop the comedy and go over to the dark side more often.