Saturday, July 30, 2016

Scare Campaign (2016)








DIRECTORS:


Cameron Cairnes
Colin Cairnes

WRITERS:

Cameron Cairnes
Colin Cairnes

CAST:

Meegan Warner
Ian Meadows
Olivia DeJonge
Cassandra Magrath
Josh Quong Tart
Patrick Harvey
Steve Mouzakis
John Brumpton
Sigrid Thornton
Kaiting Yap
Jason Geary

PLOT:

Scare Campaign is a hugely popular Australian prank show that's been a huge ratings hit for the past five years. The producers of Scare Campaign decide that they need to take the next season further and make it scarier when they have competition from a new 'Snuff' Prank web series that they assume is fake which is run by a group called the 'Masked Freaks'. Little do the Scare Campaign crew realise that their next series is being watched by the group and they have far more sinister plans in store.







Being Australian, I always love to go and watch our homegrown horror movies as it's pretty rare for us to produce and make solid entries in the genre. Lately, we've been on a great run with movies like The Babadook, Wolf Creek, Snowtown, and The Loved Ones. So I ate up the chance to give this latest Australian slasher a watch and while it's not as great as the movies that I mentioned above. It's still a fun and bloody little slasher that attempts to entertain.

The movie begins with an entertaining and scenery-chewing performance from The Loved Ones, John Brumpton. His scene is so over the top regarding performance that it almost comes across as Razzie worthy. However, once the scene delivers its payoff. It comes full circle and sets the films somewhat darkly comedic and vicious tone. The Australian 'sense of humour' is ripe in this film. I have to wonder if US audiences will take some of the performances in the film the wrong way and automatically assume they're dreadful.


The second act of Scare Campaign is where things get really entertaining. Once the movie begins setting up the latest episode where the Scare Campaign crew decide to prank a man who was actually the gardener of the location they plan to prank him in. This is where the story begins to get real bloody and the violence starts to unfold. All of the death scenes are some of the most entertaining and gruesome that I've seen in the horror genre this year. Gorehounds won't be disappointed.

Where this movie squanders several points is the incredibly predictable twist that gets thrown into the mix towards the middle of the movie. The twist isn't very original and has been done to some degree in other horror movies. Once the twist is revealed and the 'Masked Freaks' come into play, the violence starts back up, and the movie keeps entertaining. I believe that if you don't like this film, I can guarantee the gorehounds will find something to enjoy.

The final few minutes is where I think the movie lost me again. By the time that the ending rolls around, I have seen this type of ending before and done to a much better degree. I'm all for those bleak and dark endings but it sort of feels like a huge cop-out when it does the old cut to the credits. I'd have preferred the movie had it gone for an extra ten minutes with a final showdown between the Scare Campaign crew and the Masked Freaks. I think the low casualty rate on the Masked Freaks side of things could've used a few more brutal deaths.

The acting from the cast is somewhat solid for the most part. We have a cameo from the excellent Australian actress Sigrid Thornton. Meegan Warner and Ian Meadows as our two lead characters do a fine job of portraying a bickering couple who are thrown into a nightmarish situation that threatens their relationship. Cassandra Mcgrath from Wolf Creek also delivers a solid supporting turn. The best performance is delivered by Josh Quong Tart who plays our unstable gardener. He has a deliciously evil role that sees him having a lot of fun in his role.

When it comes to the suspense and tension, the movie has a few genuinely enjoyable chase and stalk scenes. This is probably where Scare Campaign gets most of its thrills and chills from. The movie also relies heavily on loud noises and sudden jump scares. The jump scares aren't always entirely satisfactory or land very successfully. But for all those horror fans who are easily freaked out, these scenes should make you jump out of your seat.

Lastly, I have to mention the gore and makeup effects in this movie. For a low-budget Australian horror film, Scare Campaign delivers gore by the bucket loads. The gore is also very well done and extremely impressive in this movie. Not since Brad Pitt having his head severed during The Counselor, have I seen a film use a metal wire tightening device for decapitation executed so well. We are also witness to one of the goriest and violent machete kills that I've seen in a film in a very long time.







DEATH TOLL:
 7

BLOOD AND GORE:


- Someone's head is chopped off.
- Repeatedly stabbed with scissors.
- Hanged from a ladder by a noose.
- Throat cut open.
- People are attacked with an axe.
- Stabbed in hand with an ice pick.
- A machete through the face.
- Head ripped in half with a tightening wire device.
- People are stabbed in the chest.
- Someone is sliced down the chest with a chainsaw.
- Someone is buried alive.







While Scare Campaign contains a couple of dodgy performances, a rather predictable twist midway through the film and an ending that feels like a bit of a cop-out. These several fallbacks aren't enough to kill the overall film. If you're looking for a highly entertaining and violent slasher film, you'll walk out of Scare Campaign somewhat entertained. I think the movie should cater well to fans of gory Ozploitation-type slasher films. A guilty pleasure in the making.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Ghostbusters (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 Paul Feig

WRITERS:


Paul Feig
Katie Dippold

CAST:

Kristen Wiig
Melissa McCarthy
Kate McKinnon
Leslie Jones
Chris Hemsworth
Cecily Strong
Andy Garcia
Micheal Kenneth Williams
Matt Walsh
Bill Murray
Dan Aykroyd
Ernie Hudson
Sigourney Weaver
Annie Potts
Charles Dance
Ed Begley Jr.
Zach Woods
Karan Soni
Neil Casey
Michael McDonald

PLOT:

High school friends Erin and Abby are two paranormal enthusiasts who once wrote a book about the paranormal. Both of their lives have taken different paths, and when Abby puts the book back on Amazon for sale. Erin fears it will be seen as crazy, and she will lose her teaching job. When video surfaces of Erin claiming that ghosts are real, she is fired from the university as they fear it will ruin their reputation. Jobless, Erin decides to join Abby in her paranormal research, and they discover that someone is trying to release an otherworldly threat on Manhattan.







As a youngster in the late eighties and early nineties. I was never really that hot on the entire Ghostbusters craze. Being that I was born in 86', I never got or understood all the hype. Being that I was so young at the time and when I did finally come of age where I could start going to the cinemas, Jurassic Park was unleashed on my world. I was blinded to anything else that was released before or after that movie. Missing the craze, I never had that obsessive love and devotion for the two original Ghostbuster films. So I went into this with an open mind.

From the first moments that this reboot was announced, it didn't stand a chance. I don't think a comedy has caused this much controversy since Seth Rogan and James Franco's North Korean parody The Interview. Once it was released, the controversies didn't stop. Leslie Jones who is one of the stars of the movie was hacked and racially abused online in a sickening display of keyboard warriors attacking her in the vilest of ways. An actress merely doing her job and it turned into something so horrible. The somewhat reported poor box office take also spelt disaster for the studios who had invested so much in the reboot.

When the first few trailers and promotional material were released for the reboot. I was worried as I'm sure many fans of the original film were as well. The trailers tried to deliver the laughs and ghostly gags, but nothing was landing for me personally. It seemed like a miss before even seeing the film. Everything that was released just fell flat. This was a worrying sign as the original is seen as a classic supernatural comedy. It's also worrying because this remake has four of the funniest actresses working in film today and a very talented comedy director at the helm in Paul Feig.

After watching the reboot of Ghostbusters, everything I feared had happened. The biggest flaw with this latest incarnation of Ghostbusters is that it just isn't that funny. Clocking in at over two hours, the movie is very sparse when it comes to the laughs. While the four leading actresses all do their very best to deliver the goods, the gags never really land. In the entire two hours, I think I may have laughed maybe five or six times. While it may be suitable for regular comedies, it's not when you have this much talent on display in Ghostbusters. A sad state of affairs.

The visual effects that are on display in this 140 million dollar production also fell short for me. While the original was made in 1984, I found myself thinking that the original looked more well done compared to this reboot. That's a scary thing to say when you think about how far visual effects have advanced in 32 years. A lot more CGI is thrown around with less practical effects work, and it really shows in the film. I think the original has this schlocky type of look to it that the reboot foregoes all of that for polished effects that aren't all that great in the end.

I think the film's biggest win is the chemistry between all four leading ladies. Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, Melissa McCarthy, and Kate McKinnon all do their very best with the material they are given. I can't fault that these women are incredibly talented actresses when it comes to comedy. I think what lets them down is the writing and material they are given. I also need to give props to Chris Hemsworth who steals the show as the Ghostbusters, male receptionist. He gets a lot of the biggest laughs in the film.

The supporting cast is filled to the brim with great comedic talent. The biggest laugh in the film is delivered by SNL's Cecily Strong. I still laugh to myself when I think of her telling the news reporters that the 'four women are all crazy and they must have read Eat, Pray, Love once and ran with it'. Still the highlight of the film for me. I think what will get the movies most significant round of applause is seeing all the original members returning in small cameos. Loved seeing Annie Potts and Sigourney Weaver return in cameos.

Lastly, I think I need to delve deeper into the comedic aspect of the film a little more. When I mentioned earlier that the movie falls flat, I think this is probably down to the fact that a lot of the comedy feels like the ladies doing improv. A lot of the jokes seem to go nowhere, and this is probably down to Paul Feig letting these talented ladies go and roll with it and letting them do their own thing. While it works for something like SNL, it didn't always work in this reboot.







DEATH TOLL:
 1

BLOOD AND GORE:

(No actual blood or gore is shown)

- A ghost vomits green goo on someone.
- Someone is thrown from a window to their death.
- A spirit enters someone's body causing them to leak snot and vomit.
- Lots of exploding ghosts.

The movie is very PG-13 friendly.







The reboot of Ghostbusters is sadly hit and miss for me. I really wanted to enjoy this much more than I did as I'm a fan of all involved in this movie. The negatives end up outweighing the positives. The movie has a talented comedic cast but minimal laughs. A lot of the jokes end up falling flat and being that the movie is a big-budgeted visual effects-heavy film, the effects aren't all that great. The best moments in the movie come from the nostalgia of seeing the original cast cameoing in the movie.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Beautiful Prison (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 Joel Vallie

WRITERS:

Joel Vallie
Eric Machiela

CAST:

Kaelin Stockwell
Kristen Barrett
Benjamin Chamberlain
Ernesto D'Alessio
Liam Matthews
Leila Garza Stockwell
Jason Riley
Valentia Arnold
Monica Almanza

PLOT:

Ben is a young guy who has been in an accident that has left him suffering from brain damage which has affected him his entire life. When Ben gets involved in a fight with his brother-in-law and is hit by a car. He awakes to find that he has abilities that have been gifted to him that he didn't have before. These new skills also show Ben horrific nightmares that begin playing with his mind. What is real and what is not?







When I initially saw the poster for Beautiful Prison, I almost passed on the movie as I thought this was going to be a Sci-Fi Drama based on the artwork. It wasn't until I sat down and saw the trailer where I witnessed toothy demons, chase scenes, and blood-soaked carnage. It was at this point that I decided to give the film a watch and hoped for the best. At worst, I went into the movie preparing myself for a silly, low-budget, zombie movie. A film I've seen many times.

To my complete shock. Beautiful Prison is a movie that is unlike anything that I think I've seen in the horror genre this year. I went in expected this half-assed indie zombie movie and left utterly mindfucked with what I just witnessed. It was a movie where I needed a few days to come to terms and think about the film I had just watched. This is a genre-bending and at times sombre story with a few brilliant ideas that tell a tale of what is essentially the human condition.

Beautiful Prison begins a little slow. I fear that its first forty minutes or so will have impatient viewers turning it off and giving up. I say this as I almost gave up myself. I was so confused by the story and wild mix of genres that I almost passed this off as a mess of clashing ideas and styles. The movie in its first forty minutes throws a lot of ideas at the audience but I say stick with it. We have elements of dark subject matter that involve drama and domestic abuse. Scenes that play like comedy horror and the weirdest being a telenovela.

It's at around the halfway point of Beautiful Prison where everything starts falling into place. The movie has what can only be described as a reveal. I don't want to say twist as it doesn't feel like that at all here. It feels like every little piece of this weird puzzle begins falling into place for the audience and it comes across as an a-ha moment. It's not shocking but explains why the first half of this movie is so weird and a clashing of genres. I think, for the most part, this is one of the smarter ideas I've seen this year in indie horror.

Is Beautiful Prison always successful in its storytelling? No. There are moments where things aren't entirely clear to me, but that may be a case of me still not connecting all the dots as this is one bizarre little movie. This also could have been a case of our two writers having so many grand ideas that they just didn't have the time to thoroughly execute within it's running time. I can't fault Joel Vallie and Eric Machiela for trying. With so many poorly made horror films, at least this decided to be a wildly different.

Another issue that I had with the film is from about the fifty-minute mark up until the hour and ten-minute mark, the movie becomes so ludicrous. The movie after a very dark first fifty minutes adds a little levity and comedy to the story and while it makes sense in the scheme of things. It sort of kills the vibe for roughly twenty minutes. The joyriding, the date to the movies, the dressing up to meet at the airport is all a little silly. It took me out of the story for that chunk of the story. Once things return and come full circle, I enjoyed the last ten or so minutes.

Visually, I found that Beautiful Prison is a rather impressive looking indie film. With the blending of the different genres and an almost absurd quality to what's thrown on the screen, it worked for me as a whole. The makeup and creature effects were also great for the most part. I think I may have noticed a few poorly produced computer-generated touches here and there, but it's not enough to bring down the quality of the films look. Within the small budget, they did a lot.

Lastly, the acting is pretty hit and miss for the most part. The standout for me here is Kristen Barrett. She delivers the most heartfelt performance of the group of actors. In her last scenes, they turn out to be pretty heartbreaking. Kaelin Stockwell is our main star and he seems to have a lot of fun in his role, and you'll see why with a few of the more outlandish moments. A few of the supporting characters come across as trying way too hard, It was actually distracting at times. But it's not a total loss.







DEATH TOLL:
 3

BLOOD AND GORE:

- Someone is hit by a car.
- A few scenes of domestic violence.
- A child is thrown head first into a nightstand.
- Guy breaks open wound (blood gushes out).
- An old lady has her head repeatedly smashed in a fridge door.
- A demon vomits blood all over a person's face.
- A woman is hacked to death with a machete.
- Someone blows his head off with a shotgun (offscreen)
- A hand is stabbed with a machete.
- Someone is burnt alive.







Beautiful Prison is a genre-bending and weird little movie. We have dark domestic drama meets comedy horror. The film can't be faulted for trying to throw so many wild ideas at the viewer. While not always successful in its approach, the filmmaker, writers, and cast deserve a hand for at least trying something a little different. You can't fault a movie for trying to be original. The movie also contains a rather clever reveal that warrants this movie a watch.



Monday, July 25, 2016

Satanic (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 Jeffrey Hunt

WRITER: Anthony Jaswinski

CAST:

Sarah Hyland
Steven Krueger
Clara Mamet
Justin Chon
Sophie Dalah
Anthony Carrigan
Marc Barnes
Stevin Knight

PLOT:

Four friends make a stop off in Los Angeles to visit the most infamous occult murder sites from around the city. After a visit to a creepy occult shop in downtown LA ends in a heated confrontation. The group of friends decides to follow the shop owner into the hills for a bit of fun but little do they realise that they'll witness the darker side of Los Angeles that will throw into motion a series of horrible events.



Growing up as a teenager and still to this day. I'm utterly fascinated with true crime and serial killers. I'm also a huge fan of the paranormal. So colour me shocked when the first act of Satanic is about a group of friends who take a trip to LA to visit all the sites of infamous crimes and murders. I absolutely loved the first act of Satanic as it reminded me so much of me and my mates who like to visit the creepy, strange and paranormal sites from around the world.

The movie had me thoroughly intrigued during the entire first act. I was thoroughly enjoying the scenes of this group of friends travelling around Los Angeles and going to the Sharon Tate house and other famous murder sites. As this is something I would totally do this when I get a chance to visit Los Angeles. The movie had me. I was also enjoying the chemistry between the four friends. While somewhat annoying at times, I was sold on the dynamic of the group.

Once the movie gets our group of friends into the tailgating of a couple of the satanic worshippers into the Hollywood Hills. This throws into motion a series of events that will have our group of friends fighting for survival. 
This is where I started to see some cracks in the foundation of the film. The movie from this point gets dragged down by stupid character choices and decisions that end up taking the reigns. It's hard to feel sorry for characters who are the catalysts for their own demise. 

I think the movie has a few neat ideas up its sleeve, but they weren't all executed well. I liked the idea behind the summoning ritual. The five willing people who are needed to complete it and the idea of hell as a plane of existence which is suffering and confusion. The movie does try its best to give us something a little different, but by the time the film wraps up. I think I was left with more questions than answers. I found that the film has a lot of filler in the second act.

Satanic is a movie that people disregard immediately as making no sense. I think the film and its ending will be left up to interpretation for each different viewer. I have my own thoughts on the overall idea behind the movie. The conclusion is also one that I think will anger people due to said interpretation. I enjoy a nasty ending and fans of Modern Family may be in for a bit of shock. I guess while the film is left up to each viewer. The movie isn't without its loose ends.

The acting is alright for the most part. Main star Sarah Hyland from Modern Family has seen much better days. In time I think she could be a solid scream queen, but sometimes she came across as somewhat cheesy. Clara Mamet and Sophie Dalah were the standouts for me. Sophie Dalah has the most extreme performance in the film. Her ritual scene will be a lot of folks highlight. It's both Justin Chon and Steven Krueger who play second to the girls. The guys come off more like caricatures than fleshed out characters.

Regarding cinematography and visuals, I think the movie delivered for the most part. The movie made me want to book a trip to LA to go occult and famous murder sight hunting. The film looks like a decent size production from the locations and quality of filming. The movie isn't exactly heavy on visuals but does contain a few poorly done and produced scenes involving a pool and ravens that you can tell is the work of some terrible CGI.

Lastly, Satanic on the scare scale isn't very high. I think some loud jump scares will definitely have people jumping out of their chairs, and maybe the ending will have fans of Sarah Hyland shocked and annoyed due to her rather a tame image on the show but the film, for the most part, is light on scares and tension. The abandoned building, warehouse scene at the end is probably the only scene in the movie that ramps up the suspense.







DEATH TOLL:
 4

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A woman slices her own throat.
- Stomach sliced open with intestines hanging out.
- A raven is nailed to an Ouija board.
- A pool full of dead ravens.
- Someone is burnt to death.
- A girl is seen melted to a ceiling.
- Someone's arms are hacked off.
- Mouth is sewn shut.







Satanic is a movie that has a few neat ideas at its centre. While not all of the ideas are executed well, and the film has a lot of throwaway scenes in its second act which are used to try and ramp up the suspense, It's not the worst film I've seen in 2016. I had a lot of fun with the film's first act, and the ending is an extremely dark and bleak one. If you want something a little different from the typical slasher, give Satanic a once off watch.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

All Girls Weekend (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 Lou Simon

WRITER:
 Lou Simon

CAST:


Jamie Bernadette
Katie Carpenter
Gema Calero
Karishma Lakhani
Hannah Gourdine
Sharron Calvin
Michele Gourdine

PLOT:

When four high school friends, now women, reunite for a weekend outing into the mountains. They hope that a weekend away that will allow for some girl bonding as they haven't seen each other in a long time due to adult life getting in the way. Little do the women realise that there is a curse in the mountains that will have this group of friends fighting for survival. They will need to fight against the harsh elements and a forest that is far more alive than they can imagine.







As I sat down to watch All Girls Weekend. I noticed pretty quickly that the director of this movie was apparently inspired by another very famous horror film that was about a group of women who meet up for a weekend of girl bonding that goes horribly awry. Instead, that group of women go spelunking into caves. That movie is Neil Marshall's terrifying and claustrophobic The Descent. Come to my surprise (not really) that as soon as I checked IMDb and seen in the trivia section that this movie was inspired by The Descent, it all made perfect sense.

When the movie begins, we get a short opening scene where a mother murders her daughter as the forest appears to come alive, telling the mother to kill her own child. We then cut to our group of four girlfriends all meeting up. This is where the film goes downhill. Immediately, we notice this group of high school friends have all taken their different paths in life, and some are still harbouring some pretty nasty resentment that is still continuing on from high school.

All Girls Weekend is basically an hour and a half long movie of five women who snap, bitch and snipe at each other like high school girls. Instead of these five women just acting like adults, we are subjected to them all moaning at each other. From the very first moment that we are introduced, it never lets up. It became tiring very quickly. I had enough of the constant snarky comments. I spent most of this movie wondering why these girls were ever friends in the first place.

Once our five women get to the mountains, this is where things head south very, very slowly. After an accident in the forest leaves one of the women severely injured, cue the mounting tension. The movie basically gives us some backstory on the mountain being cursed and from that point on, it's pretty much death, destruction, and all of the women fighting for survival, all the way up until the movie begins to roll the final credits. Still while portraying most of them as awful human beings.

Just before our credits roll, we are given a slightly bleak ending. It all spells doom and gloom and ends on a downer. I have to say, though, the conclusion is the most creepy thing about the film. Is it entirely original? No. But I do enjoy that the movie tries to make a point that nature always fights back. The movie may have The Descent as a considerable influence, but I also saw some serious love for The Long Weekend in this movie as well. Both films deal with nature being a catalyst for the events that take place in the film.

This movie is an extremely low budget horror film. I found more often than not that a lot of the gore and makeup effects looked rather cheap. I put this down to the budget and doing the best that the crew can with what they had to work with. I will say that I didn't see any use of CGI and it all looked like practical, in-camera effects. So I have to hand it to them for taking that route and not giving us horrible computer generated blood or gore.

The acting in the film is one of the low points for me. Immediately, I felt like this was a group of mates making a movie, and not some casting call for theatrically trained actresses. I will say that I enjoyed that it was an all-female cast, though. If I were to highlight anyone in the cast, it would be lead actress, Jamie Bernadette. She was the one that stood out the most for me, even if at times her side-eye and bitchy remarks came across as cheesy. She has the most potential.

Lastly, All Girls Weekend wasn't scary or tension-filled. The movie basically flatlines when it comes to those elements. The movie comes across as a slow build type of film and not once does it ever really try to dish out loud noises or jump scares. Usually, I'd be all for the slow-building tension, and fewer jump scares but when the movie builds up to nothing at all. I had begun to hope that we would at least get some loud jump scares, which sadly never arrived.







DEATH TOLL:
 6

BLOOD AND GORE:

- Dead animal carcass.
- A stick goes through someone's leg.
- Heads are crushed with rocks, and someone is decapitated.
- Someone is ripped limb from limb.
- A body is seen with eyes were torn out.
- Frostbitten fingers need to be amputated.
- A severed hand is found.
- Some glass is seen being removed from someone's hand.
- Someone dies by being covered in leaves and dirt.
- A fingernail falls off.
- Infected hand and vagina from wiping with Poison Ivy.







All Girls Weekend feels like a film that tries to pay homage to Long Weekend and The Descent. It's just a shame that it lacks anything that made those two classic slices of horror cinema so good. This movie falls short of acting, makeup effects, story, and contains the most annoying bunch of characters that I've seen in a horror movie in quite some time. Watch a double bill of Long Weekend and The Descent instead.


Friday, July 22, 2016

ClownTown (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 Tom Nagel

WRITER: Jeff Miller

CAST:

Brian Nagel
Lauren Compton
Andrew Staton
Katie Keene
David Greathouse
Tom Nagel
Greg Violand
Maryanne Nagel
Ryan Pilz
Christopher Lawrence Chapman

PLOT:

Four friends who are on their way to a concert, stop in at a roadside diner in a small rural town. One of the group leaves their phone on the counter in the restaurant. Not wanting to miss the concert the friends call the mobile phone and a man answers. He tells the group of friends to meet him in the next small town over. Little do the friends realise that they are being led to a deserted town that is run by a group of murderous and malevolent clowns.







With the current onslaught and fascination of reported clown sightings from all over the world making their way onto every known news outlet. Clowntown couldn't have picked a better time to be unleashed on the horror community. This movie is almost that exact fear put up on the screen. People are all up in arms at the moment about these clowns turning on us. Could these possible clown sightings become much more sinister as reports claim that a clown 'purge' night may happen on Halloween?

If ClownTown is anything to go by, we may very well have an apparent clown 'purge'. Let's hope that if a real clown purge takes place that it's better than the one displayed in this movie. While I think ClownTown has a few very fun elements and tries to add a twist to the mix. I just didn't love it as much as I was hoping I would. I really wanted to enjoy this as I have always been a fan of those creepy and evil clown movies. This just doesn't make it across the line.

The movie starts off rather interestingly. I was seriously intrigued by the plot being set within this small town that keeps its doors locked and is basically deserted at all times due to three evil, murderous clowns who run the streets at night and murder any out-of-towners that may drive through their small town. I found this entire idea to be very cool. The movie had me glued to the screen during the whole of the first act. After the first act, it sort of stumbles.

I think the introduction of the three clowns is pretty well done. I thought our main lanky, Gary Busey toothed clown is one evil looking son of a bitch. He's easily the most frightening creation of the movie. The other two members of this murderous clown crew seem to look like ex-wrestlers or members of Insane Clown Posse. They just aren't as frightening as our main villain. He's no Twisty or Pennywise but in this film, he's flat-out evil, and it works for the most part.

Once our group of friends is introduced to the three murderous clowns, it all becomes rather routine. This is where the stalk and chase begins. We go from scene to scene with the entire group hiding, being found, running and being killed off. This happens pretty much right up until the credits begin to roll. The movie does try to throw out a twist towards the end that ties back to the opening scene, but you can pretty much guess what the twist is, very early on in the film.

I need to put it out there that I thought Tom Nagel did a bang up job with how good this movie looks. The opening credits scene in ClownTown gave me serious Outcast Cinemax opening credit vibes. The deserted town and overhead camera angles were exceptional. I assume this had a meagre budget going off the unknown cast and indie type production. So the film gets points for delivering a production that looked a lot grander than the budget probably allowed.

Regarding acting, I found the acting to be decent for the most part. Our four friends who are played by Brian Nagel, Lauren Compton, Andrew Staton and Katie Keene all did fine in their roles. All four had good chemistry. Even at times if things got a little cheesy, I still found the overall performances to be worthy. The standout here is David Greathouse as our chief creepy clown. I think his villain will one day be featured in a 'Creepiest Horror Movie Clown' list. You can quote me on that one.

Is ClownTown scary? I think if you have a fear of clowns, this may do some damage to those nerves of yours. For me, I didn't find the film all that creepy. The movie in the beginning scenes has a sense of dread about it all, but once the clowns start to strike, the movie isn't all that scary. If loud noises and quick cut attempts at a jump scare are your thing, then this movie should have you cowering in fear. If you want real clown scares, pick up the original or remake of IT.







DEATH TOLL:
 14

BLOOD AND GORE:

- Hit repeatedly in the stomach with a meat cleaver.
- Someone is crushed in a garbage truck compactor.
- A crowbar to the throat.
- A crowbar hook to the face.
- Head smashed in with a crowbar.
- Many people are attacked by clowns.
- A knife in the stomach.
- Smacked in the head with a 2x4.
- Smacked in the head with a crowbar and burnt alive.
- Someone is stabbed in the stomach.








ClownTown has an interesting concept, some solid cinematography, a couple of decent performances from the principal cast and a creepy lead villain. What the movie lacks is some serious suspense, scares, and offering up something original when it comes to the whole clown sub-genre of horror. The movie is middle of the road and standard slasher fare. Those with a fear of clowns may find something terrifying here, but all others will probably have seen it all before.


Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Intruder (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 Travis Zariwny

WRITER:
 Travis Zariwny

CAST:


Louise Linton
John Robinson
Moby
Zach Myers
Aaron Trainor
Teresa Decher
Steven Beckingham
Susannah Mars
Mary McDonald-Lewis

PLOT:

Elizabeth is a talented cellist who is at a crossroads in her life and career. She is being trained by a mean-spirited and pervy cellist teacher and also not talking to her on and off again boyfriend. She is simply trying to live her dream. Little does she realise that this will be the least of her worries. As she sleeps, eats, showers, and even leaves her apartment, she is being watched. Elizabeth is unaware that someone is watching her every single move and is already inside her apartment.








In 2016, we've had two films with the title Intruder. This movie is not to be confused with the other film Intruders. This film is the more minimalist and straightforward of the two movies. Intruder may have a pretty colourful, creepy, and somewhat vibrant looking poster but this movie is anything but lively. Instead, we have a film that really doesn't offer anything new in the home invasion sub-genre of horror. In fact, this may be one of the most lifeless and dull home invasion films.

This will also be the second film this year that I've seen from director Travis Z. It's also now the second time he's flat-out disappointed me with one of his movies. The first film is the utterly pointless remake of Eli Roth's cabin in the woods movie, Cabin Fever. A film that used the same script and was almost shot for shot, death for death. Offering nothing new seems to be Travis Z the trademark at this point. Let's hope he impresses with his next film.

I see a lot of people and reviewers throwing around the term 'amounts to nothing' or 'it makes no sense in the end'. Intruders is the very definition of those comments. It opens with a lady being suffocated with a bag who is connected to our main character Elizabeth. Yet after her murder, we never see or hear if Elizabeth finds out about the death. This also happens later in the film when another character close to Elizabeth is killed in her apartment, yet we never see any resolution to her two mates deaths. It all seems rather pointless.

Intruder also tries to throw a few red herrings at the audience but ultimately fails. It's unsuccessful due to its predictability. You'll have no problem guessing who the villain is after our first encounter with them. We have all the typical and standard male red herring tropes. We have the addition of a pervy music teacher, the creepy next-door neighbour, the boyfriend who comes into her life again and the genuine, nice guy. If you've seen any horror movie ever, you'll have this figured out in no time.

The film is completely dry when it comes to suspense or scares. A few jump scenes and loud noises are attempted in the movie, but they never landed for me. I think Intruder was trying to win an award for the most use of 'creepy out-of-focus' villain standing in doorways or closets. The movie uses this trick so often it bordered on nausea. It wasn't scary the first time nor was it the fiftieth time. Repetitive is an understatement with Intruder.

By the time the ending rolls around. Intruder gives us one of the weakest endings I think I've seen in horror cinema in 2016. It also feels like it has as many endings as Lord Of The Rings: Return Of The King. Not one end credit sequence but two. When the movie abruptly ends after an hour and thirty minutes where our intruder never ends up striking or attacking Elizabeth, it all feels like a build up for nothing. The first scene in the credits hints at a dark outcome, but it's just not satisfying to me.

The acting is also terrible. I'm sure Louise Linton is a decent actress usually, but In Travis Z's hands, she is dreadful. She was given the worst role in the Cabin Fever remake, and now she has nothing to do here in this movie. Let's not get me started on her going in and out of her accent in this film. I was unsure if her character was meant to be from Scotland or she was putting on an American accent as it was all over the shop. I couldn't place her as it's never explained where she is from. It all just comes across as awkward. John Robinson is underused in this film, and Moby looked utterly uninterested in his small role.

Lastly, I really need to talk about the extremely awkward sex scene that came across looking like some pop 'music video' from the early 2000's or the weird lingering of the camera in the shower that showed complete nudity of our leading actress. I assume this was added for the simple fact that having nudity in the rating might get teenage boys into seats. The film also lacked any blood or violence. So not only is it not scary, but the film is also bloodless.







DEATH TOLL:
 2

BLOOD AND GORE:

- Suffocated with a plastic bag.
- Someone is stabbed in the back of the neck.








Intruder joins a long list of home invasion movies in 2016 that includes; Intruders, Hangman, Ratter and 13 Cameras. Sadly Intruder is at the bottom of that list. The film really doesn't add anything new to the home invasion sub-genre. It also lacks scares, suspense, and blood. The movie even ends up making no real sense, has a predictable twist and terrible performances. There isn't much I found to love about Intruder. This was strike one for Travis Z.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Carnage Park (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 Mickey Keating

WRITER: Mickey Keating

CAST:

Ashley Bell
Pat Healy
James Landry Hebert
Alan Ruck
Larry Fessenden
Michael Villar
Bob Bancroft
Andy Greene
Graham Skipper
Darby Stanchfield

PLOT:

When two bank robbers who have just botched their latest bank heist go on the run from law enforcement. They decide to go and kidnap a local woman while trying to plan their getaway. While trying to evade the police that are still in pursuit of them. They decide to take a turn off onto a back road that unknowingly puts them into the path of a psychotic ex-military sniper and onto his private piece of land that is known as Carnage Park. They will need to fight for survival against an enemy who knows the land and can spot them from a mile away.







At the beginning of Carnage Park. We are shown a title card that says the movie is 'based on one of the most bizarre true crimes in the annals of America's history.' I decided to do some research on the story of Carnage Park. I was unable to find one single article about any of the true crimes that were depicted in this movie. So I'm under the impression that when they use the term 'True Story,' that you'll need to take what happens in this film with a grain of salt.

Carnage Park begins with a man running through the desert who is shot dead by our psychotic sniper. We suddenly cut to a frenetic pursuit with our two bank robbers who are trying to flee the police. I've seen reviews compare this to 'Quentin Tarantino.' I assume they've gone and given this comparison based on the bloody car interrogation from Pulp Fiction that ends with the hilarious yet gruesome gun going off and we see an explosion of brain matter. Stylistically, I can see a few little nods, but that's about where the comparisons end for me.

Once our robber and the kidnapped woman enter Carnage Park, this is where the shit really hits the fan. The movie from this point on, right up until it's third act is a pretty intense ride and never really stops moving when it comes to its pacing. I was pretty much on board for a vast majority of the films running time. It had me right up until our final girl enters the mines and this is where the movie sort of lost points for me.

During the movies first and second act is where it delivers most of its shocks. I was expecting certain characters to stay alive a lot longer than they did. When they are dispatched, which is usually in bloody fashion. I was left with my mouth agape and wondering where things were going to go with the story. Being a Horror film, though, the film eventually gives way to familiar genre tropes, and I was left annoyed with character decisions that lead into Carnage Parks somewhat dissatisfying final.

The third act of Carnage Park is where the film loses most of its points. The movie ends with a mine shaft that sees our final girl try and survive as she is hunted by our psychotic madman. I mentioned earlier in my review of reviews referencing Quentin Tarantino. Here I thought I saw homages to Silence Of The Lambs during the blackout scene. I even saw some House Of 1000 Corpses and My Bloody Valentine thrown in for good measure. The most significant issue with the ending is that it's an ending that's been done countless times. The 'possible sequel' reveal also felt tired.

The acting in Carnage Park is standout. Ashley Bell is an actress who I know from the Last Exorcism gives her most frantic performance. People will say over-acting, but all I got was sheer on the edge of your seat panic from her performance. Pat Healy as our psychotic sniper is also excellent. He spends a vast majority in full military getup and a mask. Without the mask, he's just as menacing. Lastly, we have Alan Ruck in a smaller role who gives a decent performance as well. I loved his scene where he sits in the car, practising his reaction for when the cops nab his brother who is played by Pat Healy. A fantastic cast.

Carnage Park is one stylized looking indie film. We have a lot of frantic cuts, we have scenes of slow motion being used, the blackout scene in the third act and the film is drenched in browns and yellows to give it that retro, throwback seventies feel. Micky Keating delivers a great looking film. I need to note the choices of music used in this movie as well. The use of what I believe to be Asian songs gave the film this bizarre quality that may be the most bizarre element in this movie.

Lastly, Carnage Park is pretty intense as I mentioned earlier. The film at times had me on the edge of my seat. The highlight being a scene where our main female character is standing by a sign and we can hear the pop of a rifle in the distance and it suddenly hitting next to her head. I thought this scene was top notch. Regarding being scary, the film isn't scary at all. This is more adrenalin-fuelled suspense than all-out creepy jump scares. For the most part, it works on that level.







DEATH TOLL:
 5

BLOOD AND GORE:

- People are shot with a sniper rifle.
- An up close shot of a bleeding gunshot wound.
- Someone is shot in the head.
- A corpse with face blown off.
- A hand is completely crushed by a rock.
- Lots of bodies are found.
- Someone is shot in the chest.
- Head smashed in with rifle handle.
- Foot caught in a bear trap.
- Someone is stabbed in the throat.
- Corpses are found in a tunnel.
- Someone is crushed in a mine cave-in.







Carnage Park is at times intense, stylized, and offers a few substantial shocks during its running time. The movie also features solid performances from its cast. The movie loses points for it's somewhat overused and predictable ending, a few silly character decisions and the inevitable return to familiar genre tropes. The film is still worth a watch for merely unearthing this apparent odd true story which I'm still yet to find any reliable evidence on.


Saturday, July 16, 2016

Worry Dolls (2016)








DIRECTOR:
 Padraig Reynolds

WRITERS:


Danny Kolker
Christopher Wiehl

CAST:

Christopher Wiehl
Kym Jackson
Tina Lifford
Samantha Smith
Yohance Myles
Kennedy Brice
Brea Grant
R. Brandon Johnson
Ashlynn Ross
Naomi Kyle
Daniel James

PLOT:

Two detectives who are on the hunt for a serial killer finally catch and kill him during a rescue mission of his latest victim. They end up retrieving a box full of small dolls from the crime scene. When the detective's daughter removes the box unknowingly, thinking that they are a gift for herself. An ancient curse is unleashed on this small town. Whoever takes possession of the dolls becomes enraged and wants to kill all in their path. It is now up to the detectives to try and track down the dolls and end the curse once and for all.







Going into a movie called Worry Dolls. I can't deny that I was indeed worried about what the outcome might be once I was finished with this film. I hadn't witnessed the trailer or much promotion for the film. Yet with my recent run of terrible supernatural indie films. I anticipated that Worry Dolls may follow down that same path. Luckily for me, this time around. I found a movie that finally broke my horror indie losing streak and gave me a fun hour and a half on the couch.

From the first few minutes of Worry Dolls, I was hooked. We have a scene that almost feels like the opening of the brilliant French film Martyrs. We see a victim tied up who manages to escape what appears to be a warehouse in a remote industrial area. This is where it deviates from Martyrs to deliver one of the best death scenes of the year and the crowning achievement in this movie. The excellent use of gore, blood, and a power drill had me clapping ecstatically in my seat. It was unexpected, and for that, I loved every second of it.

The movie during its second act doesn't do much in the way of trying to build on its plot or even give us much backstory about the Worry Dolls. It's never really explained as to what they do or where they came from during the early stages of the movie. We are shown scenes of people suddenly changing and turning evil when they come into possession of the dolls. A small scene towards the end that explains how they need to be destroyed is about all we get in the way of exposition. It's very light on plot.

I would usually find myself grilling a movie for not having that much depth regarding the story but from the first murder onwards, Worry Dolls moves at a very brisk pace and dishes out gore and bloodshed for the vast majority of its running time. The film never really slows down, and I found myself relishing in the violence. I'm pretty sure many people will call this film a lot of different things, but 'boring' shouldn't be one of them. Pacing is not one of the movie's problems.

The ending of the film isn't anything to write home about either. Once the conclusion comes around, we know precisely how this will conclude. It's somewhat predictable. The first hour and twenty minutes of this movie is a lot of fun but with the twist that you can see coming from a mile away just feels like a bit of a letdown. However, I still found myself enjoying Worry Dolls even if the film lacked on plot or even had a twist and ending that's been done many times in the past.

Visually, I found the film to be well made. The film isn't exactly heavy on the visual effects, but the makeup work and demon effects looked well done. The gore looked great as well. A lot more practical than computer generated from what I could tell. From a cinematography point, the film isn't exactly groundbreaking. I got a feeling from the town that the movie was filmed somewhere in the deep south as they used their locations well. I got a sense of swampland.

As I mentioned above, the movie is incredibly fast-paced. It's not exactly a slow build type of horror movie. We go from bloody kill to bloody kill. The pace of this film really doesn't lend the film a lot of time to build up tension or suspense. We have one attack scene where a character who we grow to care about is murdered and even though we see it coming, this is probably the only scene in the film that had me on the edge of my seat and actually moved me emotionally.

Lastly, the acting in Worry Dolls is solid for the most part. I enjoyed Christopher Wiehl who I'm aware of from his time on an early Buffy episode. He's a decent leading man, and I'm impressed to learn he was also a writer on this movie. I'm glad to see that he is doing more things. Kym Jackson as his partner is also decent in her role. She may get a little hammy in some scenes, but I still found her performance rather well done. She plays a tough as nails detective well.



DEATH TOLL: 9

BLOOD AND GORE:

- A power drill to the skull.
- People are gunned down.
- Crime scene photos of victims.
- Scissors stabbed into someone's throat.
- A shotgun blast to the chest.
- A dog is stabbed to death.
- Stabbed and throat sliced with garden shears.
- A hairdryer is placed on someone's skin.
- Throat cut with glass.
- A woman is stabbed in the stomach and set on fire.







I don't see Worry Dolls winning any Oscars in the future. However, I found the film to be a hell of a lot of fun. Even though the movie is light on plot and has a predictable twist. I still enjoyed the film's fast pace, acting and bloody kills. If you're looking for a movie that is easy on the brain yet delivers on the carnage, I think you should enjoy Worry Dolls. Definitely worth a once off watch if you get a chance. Let it be known that if you try tracking down the film, it's called The Devil's Dolls in several markets.