Thursday, June 30, 2016
DIRECTOR: Victor Zarcoff
WRITER: Victor Zarcoff
Claire and Ryan have just moved across the country and into their new house. The newlywed couple is also awaiting the birth of their first child. Moving into their new home, cracks begin to appear in the foundation of the marriage when Claire suspect that Ryan may be cheating on her. Little do they realise that their marriage troubles are not their own but they are being watched by their creepy landlord.
Looking at the poster for 13 Cameras, I wasn't sure what to expect. I went into this movie blind. I wasn't even aware that this was another Found Footage or Home Invasion film. I went into this thinking I was about to watch something along the lines of Torture Porn. 13 Cameras felt like it was extremely similar to another 2016 Found Footage film called Hangman. The only difference this time around was that the intruder wasn't always inside the residence but instead was the landlord of the property.
Being that I recently watched Hangman and found it very similar to 13 Cameras. I couldn't help but compare the two as both films feature marital drama and an intrusive and disturbed villain who doesn't know the meaning of boundaries. I found Hangman to be the better of the two films as I found the characters in Hangman to be much more relatable and less dislikeable than the couple in 13 Cameras. Also, Hangman came across as a lot more creepy than 13 Cameras.
Watching 13 Cameras, I found that Neville Archambault who plays our disturbed landlord Gerald to be the best thing in the film. He really does genuinely come across as weird and perverted. I haven't seen him in any other roles but here he plays the villain like it was written directly for him. I almost felt like had Martin from The Human Centipede 2 grown old and became a landlord he may have changed his name to Gerald and continued to brutally murder people.
The acting from PJ McCabe and Brianne Moncrief is also quite impressive for a film with this type of budget. The actors both show great promise in this film. However, the biggest issue I had with the characters in this film is that they come across as unlikeable. Ryan's automatically unlikable as his character is cheating on his pregnant wife. You immediately see him as a piece of shit. So when the ending strikes, you simply don't feel sorry for him. Claire nags all the time which throws into motion the whole cheating aspect of their marriage. Not a couple that you root for in the end.
I love me a dark and bleak ending. In the last month, you would've seen me mention it on a few of my reviews. This movie is another movie that chooses to end the film on a dark tone. It's not a happy ending but by now, I've seen this same sort of ending several times in 2016 genre films and just like Hangman, it ends pretty much the same way. Only, this time, I haven't cared for the characters which make the ending of 13 Cameras, less of an impact when the film does try to hand us this bleak ending.
In terms of scares and tension, I found that 13 Cameras lacked both. The film never really does try to throw out jump scares or loud noises at the audience. It, in turn, tries to work that slow burn approach which doesn't quite work in the film's favor. I thought that the movie just came across as more boring than anything. With nothing happening right up until the film's ending, it just has no momentum in terms of storytelling or suspense building.
The movie does contain a few scenes that may turn people's stomachs. There is a moment that involves a toothbrush that isn't anything awful but because our villain is so gross and disturbing, the scene plays much fouler than it would normally. We also have a few scenes involving a dog that I thought were gonna turn really sour by poisoning it but they turn out to be nothing. These scenes involving the dog were the most edge of your seat moments yet nothing happens. It's a fun will it or won't it sort of running gag in the film.
Lastly, one of the biggest issues I had with the film that I must come back to is the ending. The movie obviously ends on a dark note and we have a scene that involves the police coming to the residence to see if they can locate our couple. They go into the basement which they talk about the bad smell coming from inside yet they do nothing to investigate it? Any officer I think would assume that black plastic in a basement and a dreadful smell might assume a dead body, but they don't end up doing anything with the scene and it sort of just ends. It's a frustrating ending that loses points for the film.
DEATH TOLL: 2
BLOOD AND GORE:
- Someone has their skull bashed in with a hammer.
- A woman is attacked and kept a prisoner in a basement.
- Someone is drowned in a pool.
13 Cameras has a few solid performances and one of the creepiest and grossest villains I've seen since The Human Centipede series. However, the movie is littered with such unlikeable characters that you don't end up feeling or caring for them once the rather unimpressive ending strikes. I've seen this type of movie recently and it was done just slightly better.
Tuesday, June 28, 2016
DIRECTOR: Danny Roew
Lauren Kitt Carter
Set in a post-apocalyptic world, Dead 7 tells the story of a group of gunslingers who are sent to protect a small western town from a mass zombie attack. Humans are being kidnapped, turned, and led into battle by an evil woman called Apocalypta who wants to take the town of Harper's Junction and continue to make Hell on Earth for all those who are living in a post-zombie world.
When heading into a Syfy movie production, you know you are about to watch a movie on the cheap. They aren't cinematic masterpieces. We know we are going into a movie that is short on acting, special effects and quality. Syfy over the last few years has staked their claim on cheap genre films that sometimes manage to turn out as guilty pleasures. Just look at the Sharnado series which has surprisingly become somewhat of a cultural phenomenon and a must watch event during the television season.
I've always been a huge fan of zombie films. I love my undead, viral outbreak and apocalypse movies. There is something scary about the whole aspect of a virus wiping out the planet and the dead coming back to life to feast on the living. While the zombie aspect of a viral outbreak will 'probably' never happen and is the stuff of horror lore. The outbreak aspect is a very real possibility. In today's current climate, it wouldn't be surprising if someone was to unleash a virus on mankind just out of a sheer act of terrorism.
I mention the above paragraph because I want to make it clear that I respect and love zombie films very much. So when a movie is released that misses every single mark, I get angry. But I also mentioned in the first paragraph, we go into Syfy films with the very real prospect that we might witness a pile of cheap, low-budget movie making that turns out to be crap and sadly with Dead 7 we get exactly that.
I feel like Dead 7 was ultimately made just for the teenage girls who loved all the boy bands such as The Backstreet Boys, N'SYNC, O-Town, 98 Degrees and whatever other boybands who had a few hit albums during the late nineties and naughties. This movie while written by Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys is clearly not a love letter to the zombie genre. It's a chance to get all his mates together and hope that the teenage girls who loved them during their heyday, get one last hit of nostalgia. Dead 7 is more a gimmick than a solid piece of Zombie filmmaking.
The biggest disappointment in Dead 7 for me was seeing the iconic Debra Wilson who was one of the original members of MadTV and a comedy genius who is slumming in a Syfy production. This woman is one of the best impressionists and a genius when it comes to comedy. Here she plays the villain and is left to scream and screech and do not much else. She is so much more worthy and talented than Dead 7. It hurt me to watch her in this film.
When it comes to the acting by everyone else. They shouldn't quit their day jobs of living off their royalties from the songs that may have written one or two words on. Leave the acting to professionals. Nick Carter is probably the only one in the cast who looks like he's trying to take his performance seriously. Joey Fatone from N'SYNC looks like he's slowly turning into Randy Quaid in Dead 7. I actually thought it was when he first popped up on screen.
The gore and violence are the reason why I decided to give Dead 7 one out of ten. The movie while having the budget of a Syfy film, I still enjoyed the bloodshed that was shown on screen. We get a ton of head popping, limb slicing, and blood splatter to make this gorehound happy. While the gore looks rather fake, I still found the amount of gore to be at least one watchable aspect of Dead 7.
Lastly, the production value of Dead 7 isn't anything to be noted. I can see that the cinematographer tried to add a few scenic mountain shots and some nature but it really doesn't add much to the film. The opening credit sequence also blatantly steals the sound effects and quick-cut technique that made the Dawn Of The Dead remake credits so brilliant. The only thing that is different is Syfy clearly couldn't afford the use of Johnny Cash - The Man Comes Around. All in all the movie is one of the worst zombie films I've seen in many years.
DEATH TOLL: 10 (Opening Credits Massacre) + 70 (Estimated)
BLOOD AND GORE:
- Tons of zombie head shots.
- A few exploding zombie heads.
- Someone is stabbed in the neck.
- Limbs are blown and sliced off.
- Fingers hacked off.
- Teeth are ripped out.
- Flesh is eaten.
- A samurai sword is used to decapitate zombies.
- A skull is crushed by a Jeep.
- Pool cue is used to impale a zombie.
- Someone's throat is slashed.
Dead 7 has a few solid moments of gore. Sadly, this is the only element that works in the film. The movie is clearly a grab at getting the nostalgic feeling of seeing your favourite nineties and naughties boyband members all in the one movie together. This is your typical, low-budget Syfy production, nothing more. This isn't even so bad it's good like Sharknado. Skip this movie and watch Dawn Of The Dead instead.
Sunday, June 26, 2016
DIRECTOR: John Suits
WRITER: Doug T. Benson
Danielle Rose Russell
Set in the near future, a virus has struck the planet that has turned the vast majority of Earth's inhabitants into violent and murderous "zombies". The five stages of the virus slowly turn people with flu-like symptoms into bloodthirsty killers. Four people are recruited and now sent into the infected zone to try and locate and safely bring back the previous crew who went off the radar and are now missing.
Does Pandemic sound like another very iconic and famous "Infected" movie? So it does, does it? That might be because the plot is extremely similar to 28 Days Later. Imagine if 28 Days Later was set in the bus from the Dawn Of The Dead remake and you pretty much have the synopsis for Pandemic. The movie isn't exactly original by any means and borrows heavily from many other "zombie" films but by the time the film finished, I found myself more in favor of the film than I was against it. It's not perfect but it's not the worst movie I've seen in 2016.
In 2016, it feels like I've reviewed enough Found Footage "First Person" type movies to last me a lifetime. So color me shocked that Pandemic is also entirely shot from a first person perspective and adds the Found Footage element to its proceedings. It's gotten to the point where I'm so over this gimmick that I really can't be bothered reviewing them anymore but that would leave me with nothing to review in the horror genre as it's over populated with these type of movies.
First up, Pandemic is a film that moves very quickly. I found the pacing of the film to be one of its biggest positives. The film is never dull when it comes to propelling our characters from one horrific scenario to another. The movie is on the ball from almost the word go right up until the credits begin to roll. We are thrown into the action almost immediately and it never really slows down for the entire running time. It's one of the movie's biggest strengths.
The acting in Pandemic is also solid. The three standouts come in the form of Missi Pyle who most will know in her many comedic roles, here does a stellar job in one of her most dramatic and horrifying roles. Alfie Allen from Game Of Thrones is in fine form as the take no shit bus driver. He's an extremely talented actor and I loved seeing him have a little fun with his role. Lastly, Mekhi Phifer is also great in the smallest role of the four. He is still able to make an impact and you care for all three of these characters.
My biggest grievance in terms of performance comes from actress Rachel Nichols who is the main star of the movie. Not a bad actress by any means but the way her character is written and the motives of the character which reveal a sort of twist towards the end make her come across as a bumbling idiot in the beginning of the film. A lot of screaming, being the reason why other characters are killed off and many moments that had me thinking she's a complete idiot are the biggest issues for the character which in turn killed her performance.
Another element of Pandemic that I enjoyed was the absolute carnage on display here. While the film is certainly no George A. Romero film in terms of gore and violence, the movie does dish out a fair amount of blood and gore. The film gives us a ton of gun related violence. Anytime the movie gets the chance to use an everyday tool, it doesn't hold back. For anyone looking for a decent amount of bloodshed, you won't be disappointed.
In terms of scares and tension, Pandemic isn't very creepy at all. The movie does have a few scenes where the quick cuts and the first person perspective work in its favor as the jump scares and loud noises play an important part in getting you to jump out of your seat but the movie doesn't provide many suspenseful and tension building moments. This is a movie that relies heavily on jump scares and it's not always successful.
Lastly, we come to the predictability on display in Pandemic. As I mentioned at the beginning of this review, the movie isn't original in terms of the sub-genre known as zombies. We have many scenes that feel very similar to other movies. Even the ending feels like it's been done before. It tries to go the route of being dark but instead isn't really a shock when the ending hits because it's expected in this film.
DEATH TOLL: 20+ (In Massive Shootout). 55 (Estimated).
BLOOD AND GORE:
- A lot of people are mowed down by machine guns.
- People are shot in the face.
- Skull crushed to a pulp by a shotgun handle.
- Eyes gouged out.
- Scenes of cannibalism.
- A crowbar to the back of the head.
- A screwdriver in the chin.
- Lots of bloody dead corpses.
- A dead baby is shown.
- A Tomahawk to the chin.
- Head stomped on until skin falls off.
- Throats are slashed.
- An ax to the head.
I went into this movie expecting another low budget zombie movie. I expected to come out the other side hating it. While the film is low budget, I think I enjoyed the movie. Pandemic isn't perfect, it's not very original and feels like it borrows from several other bigger and better zombies film. I did, however, enjoy the acting, the pacing, and the film dishes out a few solid scenes of bloodshed. So not a bad hour and a half.
Friday, June 24, 2016
DIRECTOR: Tripp Rhame
Sarah has just gotten married to the man of her dreams, they've just purchased a new house and she's now pregnant with her first child. Things appear idyllic for the couple. To celebrate the pregnancy and upcoming birth, Sarah and Matt invite their closest friends to their new home to celebrate. When Sarah's 'Ghost Hunting' brother Eric shows up, things go from good to bad when he suggests that the group of friends go and explore the ruins of a burnt out prison that housed one of the most prolific serial killers.
Looking at the poster for Bleed, I was under the impression I was about to witness another film that dealt with a woman giving birth to the spawn of Satan. In the last decade, there have been countless films that have gone down the route of evil kids and botched births. The sub-genre has become so saturated with these type of films that I took a deep breath and prepared myself to be greeted with another one of these films. Bleed thankfully doesn't go down that path which was a welcome relief but the film is still riddled with problems.
The first act of Bleed is rather enjoyable. This is where we are introduced to the very happy couple and their friends that they invite around to celebrate the impending birth. For a horror film, most of the characters are relatively likable in the beginning. The only character who ends up being the biggest annoyance is the brother character. But as with most horror movies, he is meant to be the 'screw up' who the older sister has to baby. It's a trope as old as time itself.
Once the group of friends heads to the ruins of this burnt out prison in the second act, this is where things begin to fall apart in the film. The characters all become blithering idiots once things head south. We have one of the cheapest looking car crashes put on film which in turn leads our pregnant protagonist to not head for help or home but instead go to a burnt out prison which she avoids initially when dropping off the rest of the group of characters because she is with child and isn't a fan of ghostly dwellings, makes sense.
The third act of the film is what puts the final nail in the coffin. The movie ends up making no sense whatsoever. The connection from the beginning flashbacks of our brother and sister witnessing supernatural events and being saved by butterflies make no sense when the serial killing cannibal spirit who has been killing the group of friends reveals he's the one that sent butterflies to save them as kids. It's one of the weirdest and most nonsensical twists I've ever seen in a horror movie.
The movie also decides to throw in some other random scenes that also makes no sense in the end. We have a cult of local townspeople who are sacrificing babies, a woman who can scream across landscapes to alert the locals of fresh new victims, a sheriff who is hell bent on killing or sacrificing people, a ghost who can turn into balls of fire and a reveal that the prison guards are the reason the prison burnt down. I think it tries to be David Lynch in its weirdness but comes off more like some Uwe Boll silliness.
The one moment that worked for me in the end of Bleed is the final few seconds before the credits roll. We are given one of the darkest and most mean-spirited endings I think I've seen in 2016. It's not one that will be seen as original by any stretch but I expected a little levity in the end and the writer and director clearly had other ideas for everyone involved. The movie doesn't go out on a happy note and for that, I commend them for not folding and giving us some typical happy ending where it's all 'happy families'.
The acting is also above average for a low budget horror movie. While the characters are all written to be grating by the second act. I think the acting, for the most part, is passable. Our loving couple Chelsea Crisp and Michael Steger have chemistry and they work well together. Riley Smith as the screw-up, ghost hunting brother I know from True Blood, Eight Legged Freaks, and Not Another Teen Movie also does a decent job with a role where he's meant to be annoying.
Lastly, while I didn't love Bleed, I must say that for a film that is made on a budget of just over half a million. I think a shout out needs to go out to Tripp Rhame for making a movie where the final act manages to give us scenes of a fireball fuelled killer and it does not look like some dodgy Syfy production. The visuals aren't half bad for a film with such a low budget. It's worth mentioning as I was pleasantly surprised even if the scene made no sense.
DEATH TOLL: 10
BLOOD AND GORE:
- Visions of a bloody, cannibalistic ghost.
- Stabbed in the throat with a metal rusted spring.
- A woman is raped by a ghost.
- Human body parts hung from the ceiling.
- A throat is ripped open.
- Someone is shot in the head.
- People are burnt alive.
- A woman is chopped into pieces and put on display.
- Intestines pulled out.
- Throat slashed.
- Someone is beaten to death.
- Someone has their hand chopped off.
Bleed is a movie that ultimately makes no sense in the end. We have a movie that tries to be weird and original but in trying just comes across as a big mess. However, the movie is not all bad, for a movie that cost half a million dollars to make, the film has visual flair and even has a few passable performances from the main cast. I'd be interested to see what the director does next if given a bigger budget.
Tuesday, June 21, 2016
DIRECTOR: Burr Steers
WRITER: Burr Steers
Set in 19th Century England, the five Bennett sisters are highly trained from a very early age to be able to fight and protect themselves against the ever-growing zombie apocalypse. While training for battle they are also being groomed by their mother for marriage. Will they have time to be able to fight and survive the hordes of flesh-eating undead and make time for all the eligible bachelors that seek their hand in marriage?
The troubled production of Pride And Prejudice And Zombies is widely known in the land of film. From the first announcement of a film adaptation going into production back in 2009, it seemed like nothing could bring this film to the big screen. Many directors dropped out of directing the film and Natalie Portman who was originally cast in the lead role also left the film. It appeared as though Pride And Prejudice And Zombies was looking at a long slog to get itself into theatres. Close to seven years later, the film saw itself hit cinemas.
After tepid critical reviews and a poor box-office take, it seemed like nobody was interested in this zombie period romance. When I first heard that Indie dramedy filmmaker, Burr Steers was at the helm, I had some faith that maybe he could manage to blend together the period romance and zombie outbreak elements well. I was a big fan of his first feature film Igby Goes Down. I thought after everything, we might get to see a decent film.
I'll be the first to admit that I've never read the original source material by Jane Austen or the parody novel that this movie is based on. So I will never compare the source material to this film. I've also never been interested in costume "period" dramas either. I find them all rather boring and dull to watch. So adding zombies and gore into the mix was the right way in getting me to actually sit down and watch one of these types of films. Was the melding of genres a success? I think they personally blended well together for the most part. The film is far from perfect but as a guilty pleasure, I think it works.
I think the first big problem that I had with Pride And Prejudice And Zombies was the pacing. The film while containing a few entertaining and explosive set pieces, it somehow still feels like it's really slow. The pace of the film feels shoddy. When the action isn't being thrown at the screen and audience, the film feels like it really drags. At almost an hour and fifty minutes, the film feels a lot longer and I think this comes down to the pacing of the film.
Another issue where I think Pride And Prejudice And Zombies suffers is the tone. Tonally the film works when it's dishing out the zombies and more horror related stuff. Even the period romance worked for me. I think where the film has issues is the comedy element. The film has moments of levity and tries to throw in a few jokes but I felt like these rarely landed. Theses scenes just came across as awkward and unfunny.
In terms of visuals and cinematography, I thought the film was gorgeous to look at. Burr Steers and Co. do a great job of nailing down 19th Century England. The costume design was also great in this film. Everything looked and felt authentic. I even thought the fight choreography was well done within the film. I really enjoyed the final set piece with the bridge explosion. I thought it was quite impressive and added a decent helping of action to the film.
In terms of performances and acting, I'm a fan of Lily James and as our main heroine. I think she delivered for the most part. I saw a few reviews that state she was miscast but I think she did a decent job. Matt Smith of Dr. Who fame was the standout for me. He plays the dorky role well. Douglas Booth and Bella Heathcote have great chemistry. I also really enjoyed Jack Huston in the villainous role. Lena Headey is seriously underused in the film and Sam Reilly as the brooding love interest is my least favourite performance in the movie. I find him rather bland overall as an actor.
Lastly, I must mention the zombie effects and violence. I think where Pride And Prejudice And Zombies missed an opportunity was going all out with its gore and violence. A lot of the scenes within the film seem to shy away from the gore. It's either done by using CGI which makes all the makeup work look fake or it's done from the zombie's point of view so we don't get to see a lot of the gory violence. I really wish this would have tried for a hard R rating.
DEATH TOLL: 21 + (Roughly 20 In Ballroom Massacre)
BLOOD AND GORE:
- Zombie POV of being stabbed with a broken bottle and beheading.
- Ballroom Massacre (Lots of stabbing and blood spray was shown).
- Zombie's hand sliced off and head stomped on.
- Infected wounds.
- Heads are blown off.
- An ax in the back of the head.
- Four zombies are blown up.
- Arm snapped backwards and crushed by rocks.
- Fingers chopped off and thrown in an oven.
- A rotting baby and mother are seen.
Pride And Prejudice And Zombies is a mixed bag. I think this movie is more a guilty pleasure than anything else. In terms of the zombie genre, it's far from being the best the sub-genre has to offer. The movie has its problems. The tone and the pacing being the biggest of those issues. However, the film's cast, cinematography, and visual set pieces do push the film into securing itself a positive review. It's worth a once off watch.
Monday, June 20, 2016
DIRECTOR: Darragh Clancy
WRITER: Darragh Clancy
A company that is going into foreclosure has a skeleton crew working a twelve-hour late shift in their large warehouse. The warehouse is in an isolated and industrial area and one by one a killer is seeking revenge on the company for firing them and begins to murder the crew. The crew must try and survive the night and escape the clutches of this mentally deranged killer.
So when I originally came across Skeleton Krew, I was immediately drawn to the film based on the poster. I thought the poster was quite clever and had a very retro sort of feel to it. I hadn't seen the trailer or heard anything about the film itself. I expected at worst we might have a cheesy slasher film and at best we might have a clever throwback to the seventies or eighties horror film like Ti West's brilliant and underseen The House Of The Devil. After watching the film, I was wrong on both accounts. This is quite possibly the worst horror movie I've seen in the last decade.
This film begins by revealing the only person to escape the central plots twelve-hour massacre. This is the film's first major problem. Because we are shown this character and a title card that explains twelve hours earlier, we immediately know who is going to survive the ordeal. There is no element of surprise to what's going to happen or even a shock twist in the end. The film just follows the standard stalk and slash plot and offers nothing new at all in terms of slasher cinema.
When it comes to quality, Skeleton Krew feels like a film school project. This feels like a movie you would make with your friends on the weekend with a digital video camera with practically no budget at all. Sometimes these can be the best type of indie horror films when imagination and creativity come into play. I would've even settled if the film had a cinema-verite style but within this film, it's just a badly made movie across the board.
The film is set in Ireland and has an all-Irish cast. I lived in the UK for close to two years and met many Irish people in my time and understood them perfectly but here I even felt like I needed subtitles while watching the film. The sound production in Skeleton Krew is extremely poor. As I advised above with the quality of filming feels like it was done on digital video and this may have also affected the sound quality as I struggled to understand a lot of what was trying to be said here. At some points, the quality became inaudible.
The editing in this movie is a massive drawback as well. A lot of the scenes are quick cut and edited down to the point where the film looks choppy and badly edited. Anytime that the movie features a scene that contains a chase or a character is killed off, it's so poorly edited that it renders the scene unwatchable. A lot of the kill scenes are done in a way where you can clearly see they didn't have the budget for blood and gore effects so the scene starts with the weapon already placed at that spot and the character falls over to make it appear like they have been murdered. It's just hard to watch.
When it comes to the gore and blood effects, I mentioned above the editing is done in such a way that it hurts the quality of the kills. No murder in the film is actually shown in its entirety. It's all off screen or done in a way where we only see the aftermath and if anything is shown, it's set up where they clearly need to do it around the film's very low budget. I'd be shocked if you told me this film had a budget higher than a thousand pounds.
Skeleton Krew also tries to inject humor into the story that ultimately falls flat. As an example, we have a scene where we see three of the crew members go to a bar during the murders and get kicked out when one hits on a random girl and talks about her tits. How about the odd lunch room exchange, the news reporter, and her hecklers or the second false ending where we see two people having a picnic and are murdered after a sexual exchange between the two. None of the scenes are funny or feel like they fit in this film.
Lastly, the acting is absolutely atrocious. I can't even class this cast as actors and actresses. This is just a group of mates who came together and have made a cheap looking horror film. I couldn't even find a standout or one person or the character they played who I thought even tried to deliver a good performance. Even when the villain is revealed, I thought maybe, just maybe the bad quality would lend the film some over the top and maniacal killer, but even that failed in the end.
DEATH TOLL: 14
BLOOD AND GORE:
- A blood corpse is shown.
- Someone is stabbed to death with a pocket-knife.
- Someone is strangled to death.
- Someone is gutted.
- Death by way of drill.
- A Throat is slashed.
- Someone is shot in the head.
- Someone has their head bashed in with a hammer.
- Someone is hit in the back of the head with an ax.
(Note: All Scenes are off-screen or aftermath only)
I can't even remember the last time I watched a slasher this bad. I honestly couldn't find one redeemable feature about this film. Every single technical aspect with this film is dreadful. The direction, the editing and sound design is bad. As is the acting, the blood and gore effects and even the credits are of low, Microsoft movie maker quality. This has all the makings of a film school project that lacks any creativity. Worst movie I've seen in a very long time.
Sunday, June 19, 2016
DIRECTOR: Adam Levins
January and her boyfriend Callum have been enjoying years of traveling abroad when a scooter accident ends in them having to return back to the UK. January who is now suffering memory loss and is also bound to a wheelchair is trying to settle back in with her family that she has no memory of anymore. As she tries to settle into life back in the UK she also tries to understand why she left in the first place and begins growing suspicious of her new family.
When I finished watching Estranged, I was glad to be done with the film. It felt like a marathon. It took me two nights and three attempts to actually finish the film. I will put this down to a mixture of me being tired and the film being rather slow in terms of building tension. A day after watching it and thinking more about the film, I think I may have judged it too quickly. I even decided to change the score for the film from an average five to a positive six as the more I thought about it, the more I realised what a nasty little film Estranged turned out to be. It has its issues but it really does nudge itself across the line in the end.
Estranged is a slow burn horror film. The film takes quite a lot of time to build up to its bloody conclusion. It also takes its time in revealing its nasty little twist. While I'm a fan of a good slow burn horror, I found Estranged was a trial to get through. As I mentioned above, the film took a few goes to finally finish. I will, however, say in defence of Estranged that over the course of it's running time, the film does dish out a few scenes that will likely disturb some audience members who aren't big on violence against women.
The scenes that involve the more disturbing and taboo content are where Estranged packs the biggest gut punches. This movie never really goes into great detail in those scenes and it's a case of less is more in this film but what the main character goes through is rather disturbing. We are hit with scenes of our main character being beaten which are a little hard to watch and even being raped by what we believe to be her father. It's these scenes that hit the hardest and will likely disturb people.
The twist in Estranged is a pretty nasty one. I got half the twist pretty early on and guessed certain elements of the twist but didn't see all of it coming when it's finally revealed. I found the film's twist to be pretty dark and clever. I think due to the film revealing certain elements early on, part of the reveal is lessened. Reading a few reviews on the film, I see that the twist confused quite a few people. So in that sense, I think the twist will either work and floor people due to the twisted nature of it or you will pick up on it pretty early on.
While this film isn't overly bloody or extremely violent in the beginning. The film does ramp up the violence towards the end of the film. The vast majority of this film is less is more but once our heroine decides to take matters into her own hands and seek revenge, we get a decent helping of bloodshed. The film is certainly not gory but our main protagonist does some decent damage with a shotgun. It's the final two kills that had me cheering her on and wanting to see her dish out the gore.
Now in terms of suspense, tension, and scares, Estranged was void of all three. It has the disturbing scenes nailed but none of the scenes are really all that suspenseful or frightening. It also doesn't try to dish out major jump scares which can be seen as a positive or negative depending on where you stand on how this film flows in the beginning. Where I found the film slow, a little suspense or tension would have done wonders and probably scored the film a higher score in the end.
The acting was one of the most solid aspects of Estranged. Amy Manson gets put through the wringer in this film and suffers a lot at the hands of her family and she does a solid job of portraying someone who is being tortured and abused. I think the standout is the villain played by James Cosmo. He's evil and repulsive and you really do hate him. He does his role well. James Lance also has a pretty twisted role as January's perverted and incestuous brother. His role is also one that comes across as disturbing but he delivers when playing a sleaze.
Lastly, in terms of cinematography and the way this film looks, this is very low budget. The film doesn't deliver any amazing shots or the cinematography but I put this down to the budget. This film almost looks like it was done on digital video. For a film like 28 Days Later, this gave the film a sense of realism. In a movie that is set mostly within an old mansion, it just makes things a bit hard to see when the film gets into the darker scenes.
DEATH TOLL: 6
BLOOD AND GORE:
- A bloodless scooter accident.
- A woman is raped by her "stepfather".
- A woman is beaten.
- A pregnant woman is hit in the stomach with a shotgun.
- Someone is stabbed in the chest.
- A skull is bashed in.
- Someone has their head blown off with a shotgun.
- Someone is shot in the stomach and chin with a shotgun.
Estranged is a nasty little indie film. While the build up is slow and the film lacks any real scares or suspense, the movie does deliver a few twisted moments that should disturb viewers. The acting is also a standout in this film. A solid lead and villain make you care and hate the characters. Anyone looking for a low budget, indie shocker with a nice twist that gives you less is more will be happy with Estranged.
Friday, June 17, 2016
DIRECTOR: Adam Mason
Eric Michael Cole
After the Miller family returns home from their vacation, they find that their home has been broken into and ransacked. After they spend the day cleaning up the mess and moving on with their everyday lives, they soon begin to feel like something isn't right as strange occurrences begin happening and their young son claims to be seeing someone in his nightmares. Is the person responsible still in the house?
My previous review was of the very similar Found Footage film Ratter. Like Ratter, Hangman is very similar in terms of plot, the only difference between Hangman and Ratter is that this movie involves a family of four and not a single woman. This film is also slightly nastier in terms of dishing out the violence. The entire film though is basically step for step in terms of how things flow and where the film ends up going. Both involve slow building tension and deliver a dark and twisted ending.
Hangman begins and we are thrown straight into the murders of a husband and wife. Nothing is given to the audience and we are then introduced to the Miller family. The Miller family are the run of the mill, typical American family. A nice loving mother and father with a good relationship and the annoying, fighting teenage sister and her younger brother. The story is really held together by the central relationship and characters played by Jeremy Sisto and Kate Ashfield.
The film slowly builds for the first hour and twenty minutes. We as an audience are shown little glimpses of the stalker and it's revealed pretty early on that our villain is living in the house. So for most of the running time, we are well aware that the killer is inside the property and the family has no idea. The opening scene and a few follow-up scenes do reveal the killer to be one who strikes and attacks his victims without any remorse. These scenes while not overly violent do have a disturbing element to them.
The disturbing elements don't end there with this killer. The killer also has a habit of jerking off while watching the parents have sex. He's also extremely voyeuristic towards the family. There is also a scene where he kills a teenage kid which comes across as pretty nasty. What hangman does that I quite enjoyed is that they never reveal who our killer is even at the end of the film. The fact we are never shown his face makes him that little bit more creepy.
We also have an odd scene where the teenage daughter is using a vibrator. We never see her using it but when her room is turned upside down by the stalker, he leaves it out for her father to find it. It's almost as uncomfortable and weird as the scene where the intruder likes to jerk off to the parents having sex. I did like the fact that the parents discuss it and play it off as a joke as they are almost as embarrassed to know that their teenage daughter is coming into womanhood.
While I enjoyed the fact that we never see who the killer is, it ends up being a double-edged sword in the sense that we are also never given the reasons behind why this guy kills families or what turned him into this disturbed, voyeuristic killer. The only moment we see involves the killer saying 'Say you love me'. I'm sure this choice is also meant to add a sense of bleakness to the overall tone of the film but I actually wanted to know why he did it in Hangman.
I didn't personally find Hangman to be all that scary or suspenseful. The ending is very much like Ratter where the film gets most of its tension from the ending of the movie. It's pretty dark and disturbing. It comes out of the blue and just ends on such a disturbing note. It's also the movies winning moment. Both films while slow on the build up, manage to deliver in their final scenes. For that, this movie gets a few points.
Lastly, the performances are also great in Hangman. I really enjoyed the chemistry between both Jeremy Sisto and Kate Ashfield. Both felt like an actual married couple so it works when cheating allegations are thrown into the mix. You also feel very sorry for the couple when the end of the movie strikes. I really thought both actors worked well together. The biggest shock in terms of acting was having the extremely underrated Amy Smart in a cameo scene that lasts all of one minute. She deserves better than this bit part.
DEATH TOLL: 6
BLOOD AND GORE:
- A couple of corpses are seen hanging from a noose.
- Someone is shot in the head at point-blank range.
- A couple of people are repeatedly stabbed.
- Someone is suffocated with a plastic bag.
Hangman is hit and miss for me. After watching the very similar Ratter, I found both have quite equal elements. Both are very slow burn in their build up toward a rather dark ending. The end of the movies both are the elements that made me enjoy parts of the film. The performances are also worth noting from both films. Hangman is just slightly more violent. Both are worth a once off watch but you'll either love or hate both movies depending on their endings.
Thursday, June 16, 2016
DIRECTOR: Branden Kramer
WRITER: Branden Kramer
Rebecca Naomi Jones
Michael William Freeman
Emma is a student who has recently moved to Brooklyn and into her new apartment. Far from home, she is currently studying and adjusting to life in the big city. Little does Emma realise that she may not be alone in her new apartment. Someone has been watching her every move and hacked into every piece of her technology. As her stalker begins to get more obsessed with Emma, his invasion of her privacy escalates to horrifying heights.
I'm one of those people that are extremely torn when it comes to the whole Found Footage sub-genre. I applaud the original Blair Witch Project as a masterpiece in psychological horror and it also had one of the most creepy, clever and mysterious campaigns leading up to its eventual blockbuster release back in 1999. It's also said to be one of the pioneering films that gave birth to Found Footage. I'm also a fan of the first Paranormal Activity and the Spanish horror film REC. Paranormal Activity kind of breathed new life into the Found Footage film.
Ever since 2007, the Found Footage genre has exploded with dozens of films a year. It's gotten to the point where Found Footage has become fatiguing as an audience member. It also doesn't help that the ratio of good Found Footage films is a lot less compared to a number of horrible ones that are shifted into cinemas in hopes of a quick buck. It's rare these days that we get one that's special. It's become a case of 'I've seen it all before'. The genre just doesn't feel all that original anymore.
Ratter is a film I found that sadly falls just short of securing a positive review. I've seen Ratter twice now and it pretty much had the same effect on me on its second viewing. I neither enjoyed it anymore or any less than I did the first time. The film is a very slow burn type of story. It takes its sweet time in building up to an ending that will either anger and disappoint audience members or delight people who enjoy the sheer bleakness of how dark the film turns out. It is, however, an ending that isn't highly original as I've seen it in other genre films before.
The biggest problem that Ratter faces is the first fifty minutes. Just not much at all happens in this time. The fact that the film is light on suspense and scares makes the fifty minutes an almost struggle to get through. Shadows and the odd voyeuristic shot just isn't enough to build on the tension or get the film going. After the first fifty minutes, the movie starts to deliver on its creepy premise. The stalker starts to up his game and things begin to start getting more intense. It's just a little too late when the film is only an hour and twenty minutes long.
My favourite moment in Ratter for me is the ending. Even on a second viewing, the ending gave me absolute chills. As I said above, it's an ending that people will either love or hate. The ending is extremely dark. It's not a happy one and when it strikes, it's extremely unsettling. The film scores points just for that ending which I loved just as much as I did when seeing it the first time. I also stated above that this is an ending that's been done to some degree before but with this film, I think I had expected an entirely different outcome to the one I got and for that, it worked on a creepy level.
Pretty Little Liars' Ashley Benson is the main focus in this movie and for the entire running time, she owns it. She's a pretty talented actress and gives it a good go in this film. During the one hour and twenty minutes running time, I grew to really like her character and by the film's end, you want to see this character get out alive and make it to safety. I think it's a testament to the performance of Ashley Benson. She really does make you feel for her as she goes through some pretty nasty stuff in this film. The ending brings out her best and it will give you chills
Matt McGorry who is best known for his work on How To Get Away With Murder and Orange Is The New Black plays the nice guy and love interest. He's not really given much to do in the film besides looking pretty and to be the caring new man on the scene. I think he is there to also make you believe he's the stalker. If we are going by those, he knocks it out of the park. Also was shocked to see basically a blink and you'll miss it role from Karl Glusman who was recently seen in Gaspar Noe's Love.
Lastly, Ratter has some further problems that come across more as 'I'm left with questions'. I found myself wondering how the stalker managed to keep accessing her apartment so often. It felt implausible as a lot of buildings in Brooklyn and NYC are accessible only by being buzzed in. I had to assume the stalker was a neighbour or she lived in a building that had no access. I had a few questions like that throughout the film. Not everything connected and these felt like elements that took away from the finished film.
DEATH TOLL: 0 (Left up to interpretation)
BLOOD AND GORE:
- A dead cat.
- A girl is attacked. Screams and a struggle are heard.
A lot of the violence is not shown and offscreen.
Ratter is a film that has its moments. The ending is an extremely unsettling one and a good central lead performance from Ashley Benson are the standout moments. The film, however, falls short with a few implausible moments and a very slow build up. The first fifty minutes of this film, nothing really happens and this is where the film has it's biggest problems. If it had more tension in the build up, I may have enjoyed the film a lot more.