Thursday, June 30, 2016

13 Cameras (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 Victor Zarcoff

WRITER: Victor Zarcoff

CAST:


Neville Archambault
Brianna Moncrief
PJ McCabe
Sarah Baldwin
Jim Cummings
Gabriel Daniels
Heidi Niedermeyer

PLOT:

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 blind. I wasn't aware that this was another Found Footage or Home Invasion film. I went into this thinking I was about to witness something along the lines of Torture Porn. 13 Cameras felt like it was remarkably similar to another 2016 Found Footage movie 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 movies. They both feature marital drama and an intrusive and disturbed villain who doesn't understand the meaning of boundaries. I found Hangman to be the better of the two movies as I found the characters in that movie to be much more relatable and likeable. The couple in 13 Cameras were the complete opposite. They are written to be dislikeable.

Watching 13 Cameras, I found that Neville Archambault who plays our disturbed old 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 and made directly for him. I almost feel like this may have been Martin from The Human Centipede 2 had he grown old and became a landlord and he may have changed his name to Gerald and continued to 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 movie is that they come across as unlikeable. Ryan's automatically unlikable as he is cheating on his pregnant wife. You see him for the piece of shit that he is. So when the ending strikes, you simply don't feel sorry for him. Claire nags him all the time which throws into motion the cheating aspect of their marriage. Not a couple that you root for by the end of the film.

I love me a dark and bleak ending. In the last month, you would've seen me mention it in a few of my reviews. This movie is another movie that chooses to end the film on a dark note. It's not an upbeat ending, but by now, I've seen this same sort of ending several times in current horror 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.

Regarding 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 favour. I thought that the movie just came across as more boring more than anything else. With nothing happening right up until the film's ending, it sadly has no momentum regarding storytelling or suspense building.

The movie does contain a couple of scenes that may turn people's stomachs. There is a moment that involves a toothbrush that isn't anything remotely bloody but due to our villain being so disturbed, the moment plays much nastier than it normally would. 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 naturally 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 do nothing to investigate it? Any officer I think would assume that all black plastic in a basement and a terrible smell might mean 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.







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 contains a few pretty solid performances and one of the creepiest and grossest villains that I've seen since the second Human Centipede movie. However, the movie is littered with such unlikeable characters that you don't end up feeling or caring sorry for a single one of them once the rather unimpressive ending strikes. I've seen this type of movie a lot recently, and it was done to a better degree. Just watch to witness one of the nastiest villains that I've seen in years.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Dead 7 (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 Danny Roew

WRITERS:

Nick Carter
Sawyer Perry

CAST:

Nick Carter
Debra Wilson
Joey Fatone
Jeff Timmons
A.J. McLean
Erik-Michael Estrada
Howie Dorough
Chris Kirkpatrick
Frenchie Davis
Art Alexakis
Carrie Keagan
Lauren Kitt Carter
Chloe Lattanzi

PLOT:

Set in a post-apocalyptic world. Dead 7 tells the story of a group of gunslingers who have been 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 production. You know you are about to watch a film on the cheaper side. They aren't cinematic masterpieces. We know we are going to witness a movie that is short on acting, special effects and quality. Syfy over the last few years have staked their claim on cheap genre films that sometimes to turn out to be 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 massive 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 whole zombie aspect of a viral outbreak will 'probably' never happen. The outbreak element is a real possibility. In today's current climate, it wouldn't shock or even surprised me to see some nut job 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 crappy, cheap, low-budget moviemaking that turns out to be terrible and sadly with Dead 7, that's exactly what we get with this movie.

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 early naughties. This is written by Nick Carter of the Backstreet Boys and is clearly not some love letter to the zombie genre. It's a chance to get all his mates back 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 the 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 morphing 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 somewhat fake due to heavy use of CGI blood and gore and basically no practical effects. 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 recent memory.







DEATH TOLL:
 10 (Opening Credits Massacre) + 70 (Estimated)

BLOOD AND GORE:

- Tons of zombie headshots.
- 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.
- A pool cue is used to impale a zombie.
- Someone's throat is slashed.







Dead 7 has a few solid moments of carnage and 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. The movie isn't even so bad it's good like Sharknado. Skip this film and watch Dawn Of The Dead instead. Actually, watch the terrible Day Of The Dead remake as it's more entertaining than this dreck.


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Pandemic (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 John Suits

WRITER:
 Doug T. Benson

CAST:


Rachel Nichols
Missi Pyle
Alfie Allen
Mekhi Phifer
Paul Guilfoyle
Pat Healy
Danielle Rose Russell
Amanda Baker
Sara Tomko

PLOT:

Set in the near future. A virus has struck the planet that has turned the vast majority of Earth's inhabitants into fast, violent, and murderous "zombies". The five stages of the infection 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 had finished. I found myself more in favour 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 colour 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 to review them anymore. That would basically leave me with nothing to review in the horror genre as it's overpopulated 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 the next. The movie is on the ball from pretty much the word go right up until the end 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 decent. 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 performances. Alfie Allen from Game Of Thrones is in fine form as the take no shit bus driver. He's an incredibly talented actor. I enjoyed seeing him have a little more fun with his role. Lastly, Mekhi Phifer is also great in the smallest part of the four. He is still able to make an impact, and you care for all three of these characters.

My biggest grievance regarding performance comes from actress Rachel Nichols who is the main focus of Pandemic. Not a bad actress by any means but 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 at the beginning of the film. There is lots of screaming and that is the reason why other characters are killed off. Its moments like this that had me thinking she's a complete idiot. The biggest issue of the character which in turn killed her performance.

Another element that I really enjoyed was the absolute carnage on display. While the movie 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 frantic zombie, bloodshed won't be disappointed with Pandemic.

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 favour as the jump scares and loud noises play an essential 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 zombie cinema. We have many scenes that feel very similar to other zombie movies. Even the ending feels like it's been done before. It tries to go the route of being dark but instead, it isn't really a shock when the conclusion hits because it's expected all the way through the 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.
- We witness 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 jaw.
- Head stomped on until skin falls off.
- Throats are slashed.
- An axe to the head.







I went into this movie expecting another low budget zombie movie. I had expected to come out the other side hating it. While the film has a small budget, I think I enjoyed the film. Pandemic isn't perfect, it's not very original and feels like it borrows heavily from several other more significant and better zombie films. I did, however, enjoy the acting, the pacing, and the film dishes out a few solid scenes of bloodshed. So not the terrible hour and a half that I had expected.


Friday, June 24, 2016

Bleed (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 Tripp Rhame

WRITERS:


Tripp Rhame
Ben Jacoby

CAST:

Chelsey Crisp
Riley Smith
Michael Steger
Lyndon Smith
Elimu Nelson
David Yow
Raj Kala
Izzy Watts

PLOT:

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 Hunter' brother Eric shows up. Things go from great to terrible 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 deliveries. The sub-genre has become incredibly saturated with these types of films. I took a deep breath and prepared myself to be greeted with another one of them. 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 group of friends that they have invited around to celebrate the impending birth. For a horror film, most of the characters are relatively likeable in the beginning. The only character who ends up being the biggest annoyance and problem 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 mates 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 ever committed to 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 characters because she is with child and isn't a very big fan of the haunted prison. Yeah makes total sense.

The third act of the film is what puts the final nail in the coffin for me. The story 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 just makes 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 protect them as kids. It's one of the weirdest and most nonsensical twists I've ever seen in a horror movie.

The movie decides to throw in some other random scenes that also end up making no sense in the end. We have a cult of local townspeople who are sacrificing babies. We see an old woman who can scream across landscapes to alert the locals of fresh new victims. A sheriff who is hell-bent on killing and sacrificing these victims. A ghost that can suddenly burst 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 at the end of Bleed is the final few seconds just before the credits roll. We are given one of the darkest and 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 plans for everyone involved. The movie doesn't go out on a happy note, and for that, I do 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 do have real chemistry. 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 at the end of the film.







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 film that tries to be weird and original but in striving to do so just comes across as an astronomical mess. However, the movie is not all bad, for a film 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 he's given a bigger budget. I see some promise here.


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Pride And Prejudice And Zombies (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 Burr Steers

WRITER: Burr Steers

CAST:

Lily James
Bella Heathcote
Sam Riley
Douglas Booth
Matt Smith
Jack Huston
Lena Headey
Suki Waterhouse
Charles Dance
Sally Phillips
Millie Brady
Ellie Bamber

PLOT:

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 preparing 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 while also making time for all the eligible bachelors that seek their hand in marriage?







The troubled production of Pride And Prejudice And Zombies is widely known across the land of cinema. From the very 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 project. Natalie Portman who was initially 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 weak box-office take. It seemed that nobody was really interested in the zombie period romance genre. When I first heard that Indie dramedy filmmaker, Burr Steers was at the helm. I had faith that maybe he could've managed 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 this turned into a decent movie.

I'll be the first to admit that I've never read the original source material by the iconic writer Jane Austen or the parody novel that this film is based on. So I can't 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 thought it worked.

I think the first big problem that I had with Pride And Prejudice And Zombies was the pacing. The movie while containing a few entertaining and explosive set pieces. It still somehow feels like it's slow and drags. The pacing of this movie feels really shoddily handled. When the action isn't being thrown at the screen and audience, the film feels like it moves at a glacial pace. 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 with the tone. Tonally the movie works when it's dishing out its own brand of zombie justice and the more horror related stuff. Even the period romance worked for me. I think where the movie 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 moments rarely landed. These scenes just came across as awkward and unfunny.

Regarding the 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.

When it comes to the 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 state that she was miscast, but I think she did a fantastic 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. I believe that Lena Headey is severely underused in the movie, 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 the violence. I think where Pride And Prejudice And Zombies missed a perfect opportunity was going all out with its gore and violence. A lot of the scenes within the film seem to shy away from the carnage. 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 carnage. 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 axe in the back of the head.
- Four zombies are blown up.
- Arm snapped backwards and crushed by rocks.
- Fingers are chopped off and thrown into an oven.
- A rotting baby and mother are seen.








Pride And Prejudice And Zombies is a mixed bag for sure. I think this movie is more of a guilty pleasure than anything else. Regarding the zombie sub-genre, it's far from being the best that the sub-genre has to offer. The movie has its problems. The tone and the pacing being the biggest of those issues. However, the movies cast gives it their best shot with the material, the cinematography is gorgeous and the visual set pieces do push the movie into securing itself a positive review. It's worth a once off watch. An enjoyable mash-up of zombies and period dramas.


Monday, June 20, 2016

Skeleton Krew (2015)








DIRECTOR:
 Darragh Clancy

WRITER: Darragh Clancy

CAST:


Desmond Bird
Dorcas Reamonn
Darragh Clancy
Desmond Daily
Janine Hardy
Gerry Wade
Izii Monet
Gary Rutledge
Justyna Koss
John Dixon

PLOT:

A company that is going into foreclosure has a skeleton crew working the 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 initially came across Skeleton Krew. I was immediately drawn to the movie based on the poster. I thought it was quite smart and had a very retro feel to it. I was yet to see a trailer and hadn't heard anything about the film itself. I expected at worst we might have a cheesy slasher and at best we might have an amusing throwback to the seventies or eighties horror movie like Ti West's brilliant The House Of The Devil. After watching this movie, I was wrong on both accounts. This is 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 this horrible ordeal. There is no element of surprise on what's going to take place or even a shock twist at the end. The movie just follows the standard stalk and slash plot and offers nothing new at all regarding slasher cinema.

When it comes to quality, Skeleton Krew feels like a film school project. This feels like the sort of movie that you would make with your friends on the weekend with a cheap digital video camera and practically no budget at all. Sometimes these movies can be the best type of indie horror film when imagination and creativity come into practice. I would have been happy if the film had a cinema-verite style, but within this film, it's just a badly made movie across the board.

The movie is set in Ireland and has an all-Irish cast. I lived in the United Kingdom for close to two years and met many Irish people in my time and understood them. Here I felt like I needed subtitles while watching the film. The sound production in Skeleton Krew is abysmal. As I advised above, the quality of filming feels like it was all done on digital video and this may have also affected the sound quality as I really struggled to understand a lot of what was being said here. At some points in the movie, the sound quality became inaudible.

The editing in this movie is a massive drawback as well. A lot of the scenes are quick cut and edited to the point where the movie looks choppy and poorly 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 these scenes 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 or gore effects. So the scene starts with the weapon already being placed at that spot with all the characters falling 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 or death scene 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 apparently need to do it around the film's very low budget. I'd be shocked if you told me this movie had a budget higher than a few thousand pounds.

Skeleton Krew also tries to inject humour 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 while the murders are taking place 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 class this cast as actors or actresses. This is just a group of friends who came together and created 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. Yet when the villain is revealed, I thought maybe, just maybe the lousy quality would lend the film some over the top and maniacal killer, but even that failed in the aspect.







DEATH TOLL:
 14

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A bloody 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 axe.

(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 of this film is dreadful. The direction, the editing and sound design are 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

Estranged (2015)








DIRECTOR:
 Adam Levins

WRITERS:


Simon Fantauzzo
William Borthwick

CAST:

Amy Manson
Craig Conway
James Cosmo
James Lance
Nora-Jane Noone
Simon Quarterman
Eileen Nicholas

PLOT:

January and her boyfriend Callum have been enjoying years of travelling abroad when a scooter accident ends in them having to return back to the UK. January who is now suffering from memory loss is also bound to a wheelchair and 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 that Estranged was a trial to get through, as I mentioned above. The movie took a several goes to finally finish it. 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 movie but what the main character goes through is pretty disturbing. We are hit with scenes of our main character being hit and 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 to some extent. 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 their own hands and seek her 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 her own brand of justice and violence.

Now in terms of suspense, tension, and scares, Estranged was void of all three. It has the disturbing scenes nailed down but none of the scenes are really 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 movie 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 here. 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 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 in the backwoods of England, 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 excellent in this movie. A solid lead in Amy Mason and creepy 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. Go in knowing nothing.


Friday, June 17, 2016

Hangman (2016)


 





DIRECTOR:
 Adam Mason


WRITERS:


Adam Mason

Simon Boyes

CAST:

Jeremy Sisto
Kate Ashfield
Ty Simpkins
Ryan Simpkins
Amy Smart
Eric Michael Cole
Ross Partridge
Ethan Harris-Riggs

PLOT:

After the Miller family returns home from their sunny 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 quite right as strange occurrences start happening and their young son claims to be seeing someone in his nightmares. Is the person who is responsible for the break-in still in the house?







My previous review was for the very similar Found Footage movie Ratter. Just like the movie Ratter, Hangman is very similar regarding the plot. The only difference between both movies is that this film involves a family of four and not a single female student. This film is also slightly nastier when dishing out the brutal violence. The entire movie though is a step for step regarding how things flowed and where both of these movies end up landing by the end credits.

When Hangman begins, we are thrown straight into the murders of a random couple. Nothing is given to the audience, and we are then introduced to the Miller family. The Miller family are that typical, run of the mill, nuclear American family. Both the loving mother and father with a good relationship and the annoying, fighting teenage sister and her younger brother. The story is indeed 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 remorse. These scenes while not overly violent have a disturbing element to them.

The disturbing elements don't end there with this calculating killer. The killer has a habit of masturbating while spying on the parents as they make love. He's incredibly voyeuristic towards the family. There is also a scene where he kills a male teenager 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's almost as uncomfortable and weird as the scene where the intruder likes to masturbate 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. It's a scene that adds a bit of character and levity to this dark story.

While I enjoy 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 conclusion of the movie. It's pretty dark and disturbing. It comes out of the blue and just ends on such a depressing 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 from me.

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 actually 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 of the actors worked well together. The biggest shock regarding acting is witnessing 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 similar 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

Ratter (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 Branden Kramer

WRITER:
 Branden Kramer

CAST:

Ashley Benson
Matt McGorry
Rebecca Naomi Jones
Kaili Vernoff
Michael William Freeman
John Anderson
Karl Glusman
Jon Bass
Ted Koch

PLOT:

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 her new 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 becomes more obsessed with her. His invasion of her privacy escalates to horrifying heights.







I'm one of those horror movie fans that is incredibly torn when it comes to the whole Found Footage sub-genre. I applaud the original Blair Witch Project as a masterpiece of psychological horror. It also had one of the most creepy, intelligent, 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 that 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 the 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 sadly a film that I found 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 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 movies before.

The biggest problem that Ratter faces is the first fifty minutes of the movie. It's just not much happens at all 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 the tension or get the film going. After the first fifty minutes, the movie starts to deliver on its creepy premise. The stalker begins 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 exceptionally dark. It's not a happy one at all and when it strikes, it's incredibly unsettling. The movie 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 absolute 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 movie 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 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 as 'I'm left with questions'. I found myself wondering how the stalker managed to keep accessing her apartment so often. It felt really implausible as a lot of buildings in Brooklyn and NYC are only accessible by being buzzed in. I had to assume that her stalker was a neighbour or she lived in a building that had no buzz-in access. I had several questions 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 an excellent central lead performance from Ashley Benson are the standout moments. The movie, however, falls short with a few implausible moments and a very slow build up. The first fifty minutes of this movie, nothing really happens and this is where the film has it's biggest problems. If it had more tension in the build-up, I believe I might have enjoyed the movie a lot more.