Sunday, 1 May 2016

Movie Review: Dark (2015)

Dark Poster
Well here I am again, out of retirement (again) but the opportunity to watch and review a film sent to me by the production company is always a no-brainer.

Let me begin by saying this film is not classically HORROR but it's subject matter and the means of delivery firmly set it in the psychological thriller category so it's all good.

DARK tells the story of a young former model (Kate) who is struggling with major personal issues. Left alone for the weekend after her girlfriend goes away, her internal hell rears it's ugly face in every possible way. Oh, and to top it all off, it all unfurls during the 2003 New York Black-out (I checked, it was a real thing!)

Her descent into madness is beautifully captured as we follow Kate on a journey that takes her from random bars drinking with strangers to being a self-imposed prisoner in her own home.

When I say follow, I really do mean follow! I counted very few seconds of screen time without Kate being prominent. This aspect is far from being a bad thing, Whitney Able's portrayal of Kate is a shining beacon worthy of so much praise for it's infinite beauty!

Whitney Able is supported on her ride by Alexandra Breckenridge who plays her absent girlfriend Leah along with Brendan Sexton, her neighbour and Michael Eklund as Benny, a welcome distraction for Kate on this night of madness! In addition and one of those bizarre coincidences in life, Redman has a very small cameo as a doorman and familiar face for Kate. 

So, what about the coincidence you ask? I received the DVD copy of this film just 2 days after seeing Redman in concert with Method Man, Not much I know but when you live in the UK and see a duo like that in concert the same week you're sent a film which features one of the act, it's fairly weird. On a side note, Redman was fantastic as was Method Man, The former even selling his material from the stage and good enough to sit around after the gig signing everyone's gear! Good guy!


Anyway, back to the film. Dark is a consistent slow burner but it creates the kind of tension that will keep you gripped throughout. The slow pace continues BUT to great effect as you, as the viewer are taken through all emotions possible in this artistically voyeuristic tale! 

Elias who provided the screenplay here previously gave us the film GUT which had the same artistic stamp. Directed by Nick Basile (who also has connections to GUT) delivers a great film here and hopefully it and him will get the recognition they rightly deserve.

Whitney Able DARK
Another quick word on the star, Whitney Able. I can't praise her performance enough and after seeing her previously in MONSTERS, another low budget, cultish slow burner! I can only hope we all get to see a lot more of her in the future.

Dark serves as a piece of artwork which needs to be appreciated! 90 minutes of edge of your seat tension which really gets under your skin and keeps you guessing all the way through. It succeeds greatly and it's fantastic conclusion will make you think long after the credits have rolled!

I would highly recommend this film and while I believe it's going to be doing the festival rounds, I do hope for a wider release soon.

My Rating: 8

Saturday, 30 May 2015

Movie Review: Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2014)

From the first time I watched a trailer via a friends Facebook share, I have been looking forward to seeing Wyrmwood. Even thought the trailer I saw was nothing more than a 30 second teaser, I could still see the potential and so when I spotted a copy in my local HMV, I quickly snapped it up with the intention of watching it immediately. The night came, the kids were asleep and the drinks were ready so in went the newly purchased Blu-ray disc and away we went.

The film begins with a future event which perfectly sets the scene of what we are about to enjoy and enjoy is a very mediocre way of describing this film. I don't know about you but I think the Zombie genre has become very stale of late, left to stagnate and rot thanks greatly to the poor efforts of The Walking Dead. Hollywood has an uncanny knack of taking something which has, over a long period of time garnered an impressive following and admiration and turning it into something “for the masses” which ultimately pushes the old faithful away.

I may be talking from personal opinion and the few true Zombie aficionados that I have encountered but the Zombie fan, I mean the real lumbering, shuffling zombie fan does not like The Walking Dead or what it has done for future entries into the zombie category. While World War Z was enjoyable in parts, it didn't live up to the book and certainly didn't light the genre up like it had promised. I much prefer the truly original entries into the fray. Films like Pontypool which put an extremely brave twist on the genre and one I watched recently called Open Grave* which may not be your typical zombie film but in trying something new, they have gained huge points in my eyes (*Review to come).

Anyway, on the surface, Wyrmwood appears to be an example of the aforementioned stale and stagnating variety however there is more originality in this 98 minute long feature than The Walking Dead has mustered in five seasons! Ok, forgive me, I really dislike the Walking Dead and I may not gain many fans for my opinions but they are that! My opinions...

Following a meteor shower a zombie outbreak plunges the world into chaos. We follow Barry who is trying to get to his sister Brooke. He is joined along the way by Benny and Frank as they battle zombies and the military in a frantic fight for survival. As always, I'm not giving any of the plot away on the off chance you haven't already seen this movie and like me, enjoy watching films for yourself without having them spoiled by idiotic publications and critics who think you only read their posts because you don't want to watch films for yourself!

With a cast totally unknown to me, Wyrmwood was a breath of fresh air. Jay Gallagher whose portrayal of the main protagonist Barry, was instantly likeable and he is joined on his journey by Leon Burchill playing the part of Benny and Keith Agius as Frank. The cast is rounded off by Bianca Bradey who plays Brooke, Barry's sister. The mix of kick-ass action, suspense and humour is perfect
and the balance between the cast makes this film a truly enjoyable experience.

Upon the films conclusion, I found myself wanting more. It has always taken a lot for me to dislike something which is why it's unusual to so many that I don't like the Walking Dead but for me to instantly want more after a film is finished is a huge compliment. I have my fingers crossed for a sequel and while it is only rumoured at the moment, I'm hoping the success of this film will be enough to persuade them to make another.

I would highly recommend this film to all, whether you're a fan of Zombie films or not. It has everything you could possibly want. An enjoyable and at times hilarious film with zombies in it. Ticks all the boxes really!

Released: 2014

Wyrmwood: Road of the Dead (2014) on IMDb

My Rating: 8

Saturday, 11 April 2015

Movie Review: The Dyatlov Pass Incident (2013)

I picked this film up some time a go during one of my “customers also bought” Amazon spending sprees. As with most, it arrived and promptly founds itself placed neatly on my shelf to await such an opportunity to grace my TV screen.

Having watched a trailer for a film called The Devils Pass, I went to add it to my wish-list and was happy to learn that I already own it only under a different name. So The Devils Pass or The Dyatlov Pass Incident which ever you want to call it, was set off and I settled down to enjoy.

I had already gathered from the trailer that I was once again stepping into the world of the Found Footage variety. As someone who is possibly in a small group of people who love found footage genre no matter how it comes, I was looking forward to seeing what joy's this attempt would bring.

We're given a very impressive back story and introduced to the main characters who we'll be getting to know over the next 100 minutes or so, immediately sucked in and liking what I was seeing.

The story of the original incident is really quite interesting. A real incident that befouled a group of Russian skiers back in 1959. The group led by Igor Dyatlov, were discovered in the snow at various locations having mysteriously fled their camp site abruptly one night. There must have been an immediate or sudden threat as some were found barefoot. More intriguingly was the fact that even though there was no sign of a struggle a couple of the ill fated group had suffered serious injuries.
The film itself introduces us to Holly King, a student who has been researching the incident. Her work has been rewarded by a grant in order to allow continued research in mother Russia herself! Co-Director Jenson, sound engineer Denise and “expert” climbers J.P and Andy make up the rest of the group and after a small intro, they set off on their adventure!

A twist I've always liked is when the film begins by telling us the fate of the characters, it doesn't always work and sometimes it can spoil a good film but when done correctly, it allows us to relax and enjoy the film knowing that we are simply watching how events unfolded in a very candid and somewhat voyeuristic way. Blair Witch nailed it and this film gives it a pretty good go too!

As usual I'm not going into any more detail, I'm afraid if you want to know what happened to them, you'll just have to watch the film. If you do decide to watch it, you may, like me be pleasantly surprised. A very well made and well acted film which will keep you gripped all the way through. Even if one of those actors is Gemma Atkinson. A very likeable and good actress who has the unfortunate stigma of having starred in a British soap called Hollyoaks. Soap's are like anti-television and something I have never really understood but then I suppose you have to start somewhere, lets face it you, if you're from Australia, chances are you started out in either Home and Away or Neighbours! Maybe a few exceptions.... but not many! It doesn't always work that way in the British isles however. I can't think of too many successful transitions from Eastenders or Corrie to Hollywood but what do I know?


I have always found it difficult to critique films of any variety but especially horror films. It takes a very special something for me to dislike a film. I'm not the kind of person who says things like “seen one seen them all” I would much rather just see what other film makers can do with a similar premise. So with this film, despite it basically being a love child of The Blair Witch Project and The Chernobyl Diaries, there is nothing to dislike! Those are two of my favourite films after all.

Couple the back story being a true story along with my fascination with Russia and its super secretive history, The Dyatlov Pass Incident was fully enjoyable and one which I'm sure I'll watch again and again. This genre of film is brilliant at hiding things in plain sight and even as I watch The Blair Witch and Chernobyl Diaries again, I still discover new things! After all, it usually takes at least two viewings to take in all that there is to see! Or is that just me?

Year Released: 2013
Devil's Pass (2013) on IMDb
My Rating: 7.5

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Movie Review: The Realm aka The Ouija Experiment (2011)

The Realm
I sometimes forget where I pick these films up, this one was either 1p on Amazon (Thanks Zoverstocks) or it was £1 in Poundland. Either way, its been in my collection for a while and I randomly selected it for viewing.

I learned a long time ago that in no way should you ever judge how good a film may or may not be by the content of its cover. This is no exception. On first glance, a very professional looking cover with a picture that is vague enough to have you instantly intrigued. It even included a cardboard sleeve slip case for extra professionalism. Whichever way you look at it, I was impressed by the presentation. But, what about the important thing, the film itself???

We follow Brandon, You Tube “Star” with a whole 20 views and his friend Shay who is taking Brandon to her, stay with me on this, “hot boy friends” best friend, Michael's house! Still with me? Good!

Upon arrival the pair are met by Lynette who is said “hot boyfriends” sister. “Hot boyfriend” will henceforth be known as Calvin and as we are introduced to Michael, the whole group is now ready to begin.

Once the pleasantries are dealt with, Michael informs the group that they are all in fact there to enjoy a leisurely game of Ouija Board! As you do... The group begin their game and we are treated to the stereotypical spectrum of reactions. From “Its real” all the way down to jovial scepticism, the whole thing feels a bit silly at first. What ensues turns this innocent game into a dangerous game of cat and mouse!
The Realm 1

So, when we drill it down, The Realm had the feel of a low budget You Tube film. The script was so-so and the delivery was believable enough to hold it all together. Fortunately for the viewer we are treated to a few frights, seldom seen low budget or Random Horror Films.

Nothing in this world is scarier to the average red blooded man than the female of the species and even more so when that female is 5 years old and... oh yeah, dead! The Little Girl Ghost has always been a creepy prospect for me, ghost stories as a kid and of course the twins from the eerie hallways of the Overlook Hotel!

The Realm features some very satisfying scenes. Anyone who has seen the You Tube video of the girl ghost crying in a hallway will appreciate some of the scenes in this film. I am not deluded enough to believe that the videos people post of “Real Ghost Captured on camera” are real but I enjoy watching them purely for how inventive and well made some of them are. There's a definite artistry involved!
The Realm 2
The Realm doesn't quite deliver on its early promise but it did have a few scenes that was enough to make me enjoy watching, even if it did take a few detours along its way towards a slight twist ending. The only reaction that could be generated with the telegraphed “twist” however was “I saw that coming!”

So, for the guts of it, The Realm feels low budget and I suppose it should, according to IMdB, the budget for this film was $1,200! With that knowledge, I am more than impressed with what the film makers managed to achieve. Its definitely worth a watch but don't expect too much!

Year Released: 2011
The Ouija Experiment (2011) on IMDb

My Rating: 5.5

Saturday, 7 February 2015

Movie Review: Sanatorium (2013)

While out and about doing my weekly shop, I came across a DVD with the tell tale “After Dark Original” banner splashed across the top of the case. I'm something of a Blu-Ray snob these days, so much so that I have just started archiving all of my DVD's in cool little Disc selector while re-buying some of the better ones on BD but its not everyday I find an After Dark Original in my local Tesco store so I made an exception. In hindsight I could of ordered the Blu-Ray on Amazon but I needed something to watch that night so I just bought it.

Now I haven't reviewed as many of the After Dark titles as perhaps I should have but I have about 12 in total. From memory, The Task and Husk are probably among the better ones with only The Scream of the Banshee being on the poor side, from the ones I've watched so far.

I suppose most people would be saying. Oh no! Not another found footage film about a group of paranormal investigators in some cliché ridden abandoned house with a wonderfully sinister back story!

Personally, I love them! Although the quality varies and some are bordering on the criminal. Every now and then one stands out and succeeds at creating something enjoyable and fun.

With Sanatorium the group are called The Ghost Trackers and for their 100th episode they have travelled to the 'notorious' Hillcrest Sanatorium for a night of spook spotting. With an impressive build up story complete with details of a grizzly murder/suicide involving a mental patient and some children, the group set up the standard equipment and begin their investigation.

On the anniversary of the murderer's suicide, The Ghost Trackers go through the usual paranormal investigation rituals. The time honoured EMF reader, digital recorders, infra-red imaging and even motion sensors equipped with an alarm that sounds whenever they're triggered. All good touches.

There is very little to say in terms of storyline because as most will know, all of these films are very similar. Its the little differences that set the good ones apart. Satisfactory acting coupled with a good script tick those boxes. In terms of actual scares, the fear factor for Sanatorium is generated more by what you think you saw as opposed to what they actually show us. I have seen some terrible versions where the apparitions are on full display in all their CGI 'glory' but executed so badly, it eliminates any semblance of atmosphere and fear. No problems like that here though as we are treated to a few creepy moments and the odd jump.

If I have one criticism, it is that where they succeed in maintaining a creepy atmosphere, they did not utilise that to its full potential. I think a little too much time was wasted getting them into the building and not enough time focusing on the build up to the final “showdown”. One of my favourite's from this category, Grave Encounters found the mix perfectly and should be the benchmark for all others.

Saying that, films I have seen recently like The Speak and Episode 50 fail miserably, so finding that balance is the most important aspect for any future hand held ghost hunter style horror film.

After all is said and done, Sanatorium impressed me and I can say I wholly enjoyed the experience. I would watch it again, if only to see if I can spot more hidden “what was that” moments.

After a small bit of research, I think the Hillcrest Sanatorium is actually a real place. Located in Howell, MI, it did house people with TB. I can't comment on the story given in the film and I'm fairly sure the actual filming location is somewhere totally different. Still, it is quite unnerving to try and imagine the pain and suffering that was felt within walls of places like this...

Released: 2013
Sanatorium (2013) on IMDb
My Rating: 6.5

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Movie Review: Deliver Us from Evil (2014)

As readers of mine may or may not be aware, I have an unrivalled hatred for the “classic” that is The Exorcist. In my humblest of opinions, the single worst “big” horror film ever spawned. That does not make me completely averse to the Possession sub-genre. In fact, The Devil Within proved to be very entertaining indeed but the less said about The Last Exorcism and its unholy sequel the better!

I would probably put Eric Bana in the bracket of “bigger” Hollywood stars and it is nice to see some bigger names appearing in these types of films instead of using them as a stepping stone to something bigger.

The film carries its own pedigree, Directed by Scott Derrickson whose previous film was the brilliant Sinister. Another bigger horror film starring an established Hollywood actor (Ethan Hawke) and his possession experience spans to the film prior to that, The Exorcism of Emily Rose, which put a very enjoyable twist on the sub-genre.

When you stand back and take a look, Deliver us from Evil promises a lot. The question is however... Does it work? Short answer, Yes. I suppose I should talk about the film itself really, so here goes.

With Deliver us from Evil, we have another slightly different offering for the possession mould. If I knew nothing about the film before watching it, I wouldn't be blamed for thinking I had just started watching a crime thriller. In reality, that's not too far from the truth. Eric Bana stars as New York Police Officer Sarchie who along with his partner Butler, played by Joel McHale begin investigating a strange series of events.

When a woman seemingly goes crazy and throws her infant son into the lion enclosure at Brooklyn Zoo, the partners find themselves delving deep into the depths of demonic possession. After being joined by catholic priest and exorcist, Mendoza played by Edgar Ramirez, Sarchie unravels a mystery which threatens to engulf even his own family.

At first, I was unsure how to take this film. The acting is certainly of a high standard and the storyline is quite captivating but the way its filmed made me feel that maybe the budget was slightly heavy on the recruitment side. Its not terrible but it just didn't feel like a Hollywood effort that one might expect from Derrickson. Not to mention a production credit for Jerry Bruckheimer. Once I had got used to the way it looked though, I was able to really sit back and enjoy it.

I didn't know much about it before watching but I did remember seeing a trailer for it a while back after one of the more creepy scenes involving Sarchies' daughter and a stuffed owl!

All in all, Deliver us from Evil was fairly good. It didn't set the world alight but the use of The Doors' songs certainly put a smile on my face. One of my all time favourite bands and with the song People are strange, really quite fitting!
I have to make a special mention for Sean Harris who plays a character called Santino. He is the main focus of the evil and cuts a sinister figure on screen. I first saw Harris, who hails from England, in a music video for the song Stop Me by Mark Ronson. His role in Harry Brown alongside Michael Caine was brilliant and apparently it was that role which made Derrickson cast him in this film without even having an interview! *interesting wikipedia fact.

After watching, I did a very small bit of research and I discovered that the film is supposed to be based on real life events as detailed in the book Beware the Night written by the real life Ralph Sarchie. On further reading though, it doesn't actually use any of the cases written by the NYPD officer turned demonologist.

Watch it, make of it what you will but hopefully, like me you will find a fair amount of enjoyment in the whole experience.

Released: 2014
Deliver Us from Evil (2014) on IMDb
My Rating: 7

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Movie Review: Alien Abduction (2014)

So, here it is. My first blog entry in nearly two years and I have decided to review one of the many films I watched last year which, in my humble opinion, was extremely underrated.

I don't think the world has given enough love to the found footage sub-genre of Horror films. A sub-genre which I find highly enjoyable, as evidenced by some of my past posts, Skew, Grave Encounters and V/H/S to name but a few and of course, my number one horror film The Blair Witch Project.

The love for this sub-genre, sadly died almost as quickly as it had emerged. From the seldom seen gems like said Witch project to a barrage of low budget, sub-standard and almost identical blunders, it could be easy to see why.

As I said though, every now and then we find a film which not only reignites our love for a certain sub-genre but reminds us why we ever loved it at all!

Alien Abduction follows the Morris family whose autistic son Riley, is capturing the families camping trip on film. Along with his Brother, Sister and parents the family begin to fall foul to strange occurrences. Jumps, jumps and a few more jumps along with the occasional “did I just see that” moment keep things moving along very swimmingly. Some good characterisation is built as the film plays out and the ever present Riley, does a great job with the camera.

Riley's autism brilliantly lends itself to a very plausible explanation for the continuous filming. An aspect that a lot of found footage films glaze over with the time honoured “People need to see” excuse but in reality, why is the camera not the first thing to find itself flung to the floor as the rational people run for safety?

The film obviously includes more than that and when I say more, I really do mean it but I, as always do not like to give anything away and that includes the very basic of basic!

Having read a few other reviews of this film I was disappointed and somewhat surprised to learn that my enthusiasm for this film was not shared by many, if any at all. What some might call formulaic and predictable, I might call... well. Formulaic and predicable but why is that necessarily a bad thing? Sometimes when you watch a horror film or a sci-fi film or any film for that matter it really shouldn't make any difference if you predicted what was going to happen or who was going to bite the dust. Relax, enjoy it, it's not a competition to see who is the best wannabe Director. If you think you're that good, do it!

I don't buy into the Academy way of watching films where only films with a message or cultural relevance can be viewed as good or acceptable. If I watch a film and I don't find myself checking the timer to see how long is left, then there is a good chance I enjoyed it!

While the storyline is not the most original, the film is full of little treats for the eyes, good acting and a level of tension is generated that befits a film of this subject matter. As the camera rolls and the story progresses, we lose some of the tension but not to the point where we lose all interest.

I cant change anyone's opinion and I don't try to, I simply put my own views on films across and if you disagree, that's your opinion. Funny how that works hey? If you haven't already seen this and you've just read my “review” to try and influence your decision on whether to watch it or not, please do but don't watch it expecting to see the greatest film ever made, or even something to make your top 500. Instead watch it the way I watch all films... Suspend all belief, have no expectations and just enjoy it for what it is. A low budget but well made hand held film about aliens. Alien it is not be but then again, how many films can claim they've come anywhere close what is in my opinion the bar for the sci-fi/horror genre?

Year Released: 2014
Alien Abduction (2014) on IMDb

My Rating: 7

Sunday, 25 January 2015

I'm back

Hello Horror people. It has been nearly two years since my last post and I have decided after much soul searching to make a come back. A brief explanation as to my absence is in July of 2013 my wife, my best friend and the mother to my kids sadly passed away.

As you can imagine, with two young children to worry about and between many other things, I simply have not had the time to sit down and do much of anything. I am not going to go into any further details, all I will say is, its been very tough but I have found watching horror films to be a good distraction from everything and in some weird and twisted way, its very therapeutic! Even the bad ones!

So, with that being said I am here to say, I'm back.

Watch this space for the good, the bad and as always, the ugly of the horror world!

Monday, 10 June 2013

Short Movie Review: The Prospector's Curse (2012)

This short film was first brought to my attention by director Josh Heisie way back in February 2012. Due to “unforseen events”, the film missed its initial slated release target of Summer 2012. However, I was recently updated as to the status of the film and I have also had the opportunity to sample the work for myself...

Set in Gold-rush era Wild West, Theodore “Tubby” Ellsworth and Jack smith are two criminals on the run. As they make their escape in the woods, they come across a dying Prospector. Lying on Indian ground and knowing of his impending demise, he makes the pair promise to give him a Christian burial. They fail on their oath, instead opting to steal the old man’s gold. Little do they know, the prospector is about to return to claim what is rightfully his and inflict terrible vengeance on the two naive outlaws!

While I may not hold a massive space in my heart for short films, there are the odd ones that manage to weasel their way into my consciousness. The last such short was the brilliantly sinister and atmospheric Familiar. In what seems to be delevoping into a pattern, the amazing lead from Familiar, Robert Nolan also stars in this bite-sized reel of fun!

Nolan appears as the prospector himself, with just as much gusto and tongue in cheek genius as other antagonists like Freddy Krueger and Chucky.

As I watched the 15 minute short, one of the main things that struck me was the professional feel of the finished article. A lot of work clearly went into making this as good looking as possible and they certainly succeeded in that respect. Further to this, special effects feel almost out of place in a short. Something of this quality more than deserves to be in a feature.

Maybe it’s over the top slapstick approach takes away from the real horror element but when watching, you barely notice. Instead, I found myself sitting up and appreciating the whole experience as a fun-filled romp in the woods complete with some awesome imagery.

On the whole, The Prospectors curse provided me with as much enjoyment as I needed and more than I was expecting. If I have one criticism, Ok, not a criticism, more of a light grumble. The Prospectors Curse more than deserves a feature. At 15 minutes, there was barely enough time to fully enjoy and appreciate all that this film could be.

Released: 2012

My Rating: 7

The Prospector's Curse - Trailer from Josh Heisie on Vimeo.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

Movie Review: Trick 'r Treat (2007)

Trick R Treat Cover
This is a film that has sat on my shelf for far too long. Christmas 2011 I believe. Anyway, after a small amount of deliberation with the misses, we decided to make it the next film on the Random Horror watch list.

We sat down, drinks ready and open minded. Ready for whatever would come from this relatively mysterious looking DVD. Were we in for a treat?...

I am going to do this slightly differently because of the nature of the film. In actuality, it’s not really a film. Rather a collection of 4 tales of Halloween woes. The connections being the setting (all in the same town) and Sam, a tiny trick or treater in an orange suit with a burlap sack over his head reminiscent of a jack-o-lantern. Although characters do appear in differing stories at differing levels, the main connection is Sam!

In what plays like a ‘horror-stories-around-the-camp-fire’ sort of way, we weave in and out of story arcs as the film runs. The opening, being a stand-alone story which sets the tone for the film sees Emma and Henry returning home from what has obviously been a fun-filled evening in full costume. Emma begins to tidy up the OTT garden decorations but soon falls foul of a Halloween trick! From here, we are taken to an earlier setting and the first of our four treats!

The principal follows the mishaps of a serial killing school principal. With slightly macabre undertones,
The Principal
the principal himself is as sinister as he is clumsy and definitely naive to boot. His taste for Halloween tricks will undoubtedly bite him in the arse later!

The second story sees a group kids travelling to a local rock quarry regaling tales of murderous pasts involving a school bus full of unfortunate kids. The kids had supposedly met their doom at the bottom of the quarry one fateful Halloween night. A Halloween prank which goes horrendously wrong proves more than enough for the kids’ enjoyment.

Thirdly, we follow a group of girls getting ready for a party. Laurie, Danielle, Maria and Janet are all set for a good night. Laurie, being a shy girl stays behind a while. She is later prompted to join the group in the woods. While travelling to meet them, alone, she is joined by someone else and all hell breaks loose in what is probably the most fun segment of the film!

The final short comes in the form of the grouchy neighbour of Principal Wilkins, Kreeg! As we had heard from the principals own segment, Kreeg is a bit of an irritable, cantankerous old man whose dislike of Halloween is fairly obvious. Following on from the parts we had previously seen, Kreeg does battle with Sam the pumpkin boy in his own home with varying levels of success.

The whole thing is wrapped up nicely as we see most of the pieces of this Halloween jigsaw fall into place before our very eyes!

As Halloween themed films go, this one is really enjoyable. The list of themed films admittedly isn’t great but I would have to put this somewhere near the top end. A stella cast ably perform their roles throughout as we are taken into a world of Jack-o-lanterns, costumes, girls, death, zombies, vampires, werewolves and anything else the horror genre can associate with the favoured holiday!

The able cast of which I speak are also fairly familiar faces with Dylan Baker as Principal Wilkins who is just creepy and Anna Paquin playing the shy, retiring virgin is a brilliant twist on what follows! The always brilliant Brian Cox providing the grouchy neighbour with a secret is another great casting move.

As for atmosphere... Well, when you have so much dry ice floating around, the kind of comic-book style atmosphere that was clearly the target is easily achieved and very effective. While the film may fall ever so slightly into the tongue in cheek category as a result, what it lacks in real horror and scares, it more than makes up for it with its own brand of black comedy and drama.

While reading some background information, I noticed that no official cinema release was given and baring a few small screenings, it was released direct to DVD in 2009. It seems such a shame that films of this calibre find it difficult to get a general cinema release when some of what Hollywood puts out is so poor, it begs the question why bother!?

On the whole, Trick ‘R Treat is an enthrallingly entertaining and an all round enjoyable watch. I would definitely recommend to anyone looking for a fun filled film to enjoy on any random horror night, not just on October 31st!

Released: 2007
Trick 'r Treat (2007) on IMDb
My Rating: 7.5

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Movie Review: Apartment 143 (2012)

I found this film in a bargain bin in my local DVD retailer with a rather inviting £3 sticker on it. As such, I snapped it up and set about making it the latest in the long line of found footage style films on my watch list.

Apartment 143 follows the story of Alan White and his two kids, Caitlin and Benny. Alan moves his family into the small apartment to try and escape the strange occurrences that have plagued the family since the death of his wife. Upon moving however, the hauntings continue. Desperate, he calls in a group of parapsychologists to try and explain or even help the family get through this difficult phase.

The group consisting of Dr. Helzer and his two assistants Paul and Ellen start setting up all sorts of technical equipment around the apartment to monitor and document everything. Hoping to find either some compelling evidence or to just help put the families’ worries at ease, they soon get more than they had ever hoped for!

Ok, basics out of the way, now down to the brass tax. Essentially, Apartment 143 is another film in the long list of found footage haunting stories. A solid cast is able to carry the film quite well throughout its 80 minute duration even if the dialogue is a bit hammy. The main plus point for this film has to be the level of atmosphere that is generated. A tension that can only be garnered from good filmmaking and good filmmaking is exactly what I witnessed in Apartment 143.

Its high levels of atmosphere could also be construed by some as slightly slow or maybe even boring but in my opinion sometimes less is more. I was not a great lover of Paranormal Activity as such but the concept and the delivery really intrigued me. Similarly with Apartment 143, it does tend to fall slightly towards its conclusion but less so than in others. 

There is not a massive amount of special effects but when we do see something, it is very impressive. One scene in particular made me jump. I won’t tell you which, if you’ve seen it you may know which bit I am referring to but it again was an example of good filmmaking because even though I could see it coming from a mile away, it was done in such a way it still made me jump! For me, that’s filmmaking! For so many years atmosphere and tension has been sacrificed for poor music and scares that fail to have the kind of impact that many good directors are able to have nowadays.

It is very hard to try and pick enough to say about a film when all the best bits could be considered spoilers. My outlook being such that I avoid giving away too much about the film otherwise I would be just another critic with an opinion. This way I’m just a film lover with an opinion!

In essence, Apartment 143 falls slightly short of its reputation as a great haunted house film but where so many others have failed miserably, this one at least comes close. It constitutes an all-round enjoyable mix of ghostly occurrences and demonic possession. I would recommend this film to anyone who is a fan of the sub-genre or even those who are a bit reluctant to embrace the new breed of horror film.

It is my hope that the found footage film continues to evolve and maybe one day we will have something to rival the very best.

Released: 2012
Apartment 143 (2011) on IMDb
My Rating: 6.5

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Movie Review: The Zombie Diaries (2006)


Quite early on in my evolving love for the Random Horror world, I was given a film called Zombie Diaries on DVD. It was released a short time before George A. Romero’s Diary of the Dead and was a British Independent movie.

My feelings for this film are so great that I am breaking my usually rule of NO SPOILERS! That is all I will say on that!

Zombie Diaries follows three sub-stories which all revolve around the arc of a virus which is slowly making its way to the shore’s of England. The first story finds us following a reporter and crew as they leave London following a lead on the virus. The story takes them to a farm in the countryside. Upon arrival, something seems strange and it isn’t long before the virus they’ve been hunting finds them!

The second story feels more like something from a survival film. Three survivors make their way in a car to a destination unknown, with a gun and some fight about them, they search for useful parts in any place they can. Ultimately though, the infected become a much bigger nuisance than they ever feared!

The third story finds a well knit group of people hold up in a farm house. A bit of hostility towards one another slowly creeps in and upsets the fine balance that had been established within the group. As a result, the attention is diverted from the Zombies which start to make their advance!

Much like the plot of the film, the quality is split into three sections. Unfortunately for Zombie Diaries, none of the sub-stories mean anything as the whole film is spoilt by the ending. A group of un-infected chav’s disturb the creepy tone which had built throughout the film and turn it into another run-of-the-mill slasher film, a direction which has plagued the UK Independent horror market in recent years. The empathy built and we all felt happy when the characters survived the Zombie horde’s. Only for them to be despatched anyway but not by zombies, no, Instead by some jumped up little pricks!

In some respects, Zombie Diaries is a good example of solid British Filmmaking but only if you chop off the last ten minutes. Up to that point I was all ready to give this film a solid 6. However! With an ending that made the whole thing feel pointless and irritating, mainly because I had invested a lot of time and energy into the experience, I have no alternative but to completely disregard this film from my memory banks! Even after my original viewing fell into the abyss of my drunken sub-conscience, I gave it a second chance but low-and-behold, I was left wanting.... Wanting the last 81 minutes back!

The acting for the most part is.... regrettably, forgettable! Some VERY wooden conversations between characters leaves the whole thing feeling extremely scripted, some very hard work is required just to get from one scene to the next. Some browney points are earned with the special effects which were quite impressive for a small production like this but ultimately, not enough to save the film from the chop!

Never the less, I am a sucker for anything random so I shall be partaking in the sequel World of the Dead: Zombie Diaries 2, sometime soon.

Released: 2006
The Zombie Diaries (2006) on IMDb
My Rating: 2

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Movie Review: The Amityville Haunting (2011)

After more than a month out of the game, I returned to the world of Random Horror with a... not quite a bang, more of a piff! I trawled through the Amazon suggests looking for more hidden gems and what I found was The Amityville Haunting!

By now, I think everyone should know the story of The Amityville House and its connected stories, for those who don’t, read about it. Anyway, The Amityville Haunting sells itself as a “Real” found footage film. The tagline reads... “The family did not survive but the recordings did”. I think this pretty much sums up the direction the film will take us.

To begin, we see a group of kids filming themselves breaking into the house whilst it is empty. They fool around a bit and pretty much do what young stupid American stereotype teens do in these types of films. And, equally as stereotypical, they all meet with untimely ends!

We skip forward slightly and a very awkward looking family introduce themselves to a slightly tentative realtor. With this, we are introduced to the Benson family, Douglas, Virginia and their three kids Tyler, Lori and Melanie. The whole experience is being captured by Tyler on his hand held camera. A quick scout around the house and a bit of a Luke-warm discussion between the parents and they decide to take the house. With this in their thoughts, they rush to inform the realtor only to find her lying dead in the driveway!

Unperturbed, the Bensons begin their move. A few removal men get the film-maker treatment as Tyler teases them about the house being the infamous Amityville house and how it is supposedly haunted. They must be the only removal men on the planet who don’t watch films because not one of them seems to have heard of it!

Before the day is done, yet another fatal accident befouls the christening of this young family’s new home. One of the removal men met his maker after falling down the stairs! By now, Virginia is beginning to regret the decision to move but Douglas’s military background starts to show and he insists they stay for at least a few more days. Further angles are added when he installs a security camera but it isn’t long before their decision to live in this fateful house bites them in the arse!

So, pretty much that is the tract of this film. Slow, sometimes painfully so and poorly acted are probably the first words I would use to describe The Amityville Haunting. As a “real” film, the whole scenario and portrayal are totally unreal. Douglas as the man of the house rules with an iron fist but then still persuades the family to vacate the house in order to install an unhidden camera! Ok, perhaps but what plays out through the entire duration (86 Minutes) is a lacklustre, fairly uninteresting home movie which threatens to scare on only one occasion.

In all honesty, much like the majority of the direct to video releases of the Amityville series, this film could have been called anything. Very little reference is made to the DeFeo or the Lutz families and if I’m totally honest, it might have interested me more in the long run if it had been called something like the Benson Family Haunting. I admit, I bought the film because of its connection to Amityville but all that proves is the draw of the story is still appealing to me (PR at work) but the fact that this film is connected to two of my favourite horror films is quite a saddening thought!

Bad acting, no special effects of note and a story which is non-existent really don’t take too much away from what was always going to be a terrible film. Playing on the recent craze of found footage films only heightens the disaster. A Sub-Genre which has enthralled me in recent times with titles like Grave Encounters and Skew, somehow now however, films like this and Episode 50 have left a bitter taste in my mouth as the entertainment factor is sucked from them at high force!

Much like the Benson family in this film though, I will not be perturbed, I will not give in. My search for good horror from all walks of life goes on. The Amityville Haunting serves as a good benchmark on which to improve upon. Certainly not the worst horror film I have seen in recent times, far from it but for anyone interested in watching this film, I leave one word...... Don’t!

Released: 2011
The Amityville Haunting (2011) on IMDb
My Rating: 3

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Movie Review: Outpost: Black Sun (2012)

This is a film that like the previous sequel I reviewed (Grave Encounters 2) promised so much. Let me take you back a bit. One of my first posts on this website was for a little indie film called Outpost. The film saw a group of mercenaries escorting a businessman in the woods of Eastern Europe only to be confronted by an army of un-dead Nazi SS soldiers. The concept and delivery were brilliant and immediately after watching Outpost, I was ecstatic to learn that a sequel had already been commissioned.

A few years passed and it seemed as though Outpost 2 was never going to be released, I had been following their Facebook/Twitter pages so I knew the film had been made but alas, no release date. Even news of a third instalment didn’t bring with it a release for the second! Eventually, as if overnight, Outpost: Black Sun was released in shops and quickly moved to the top of my wish list! I finally got the opportunity to watch it after a chance visit to HMV provided me with a copy for the bargain price of £3! 

Black Sun begins with a flashback scene to 1945 and a Nazi scientist called Klausener. Klausener is working on some crazy technology to assist the Nazi push; a familiar face in Götz (Johnny Meres), the breather from the first instalment was a welcome sight. Skip forward a few decades and we are introduced to Lena, hell bent on eradicating the world of the last few survivors of Hitler’s army, she is on the trail of Klausener. Little does she know that her search is about to drag her into a world she is ill equipped to handle. A machine that was developed by Klausener is the item it seems everyone is trying to attain. It gives any member of Gotz’s undead army within its radius the lucky advantage of being immortal. As the radius of the machines power expands, it brings with it more doom.

Lena is joined on her voyage by Wallace, who has been on the trail of Klausener for a long time and is well positioned to help even if his motives are slightly sketchy. After joining up with a Special Forces unit, they must go deep into enemy territory to try and stop the massing Nazi army before its immortal reach stretches too far.

As with the first film, there are lots of Nazi zombies to keep everyone entertained but, and I say this with the greatest of sadness, the film lacks in most departments. The storyline seems like something from a Hellboy comic. Too much of the technology is described in far too great a detail than is required for a horror film of this type. For that level of detail, an action film is the direction to go but this is too dark to be considered in that category, so I suppose in essence, very much like Grave Encounters 2, Outpost: Black Sun is a sequel that doesn’t quite fit.

Whereas the first film was inventive, original, creepy and very atmospheric, this instalment just isn’t unfortunately. The story seems to suffer from too much depth and once it starts drowning, it can never quite get its head above water again. As the story develops, we are treated to a few interesting sights and even a few “stop breathing or he’ll see you” moments which do add weight to its horror roots but sadly it’s not enough.

Although the film suffers from many downfalls one good feature is the acting. For the most part, this is done with great ease. Notably from Richard Coyle who plays Wallace. I had only previously seen him in a made for TV Sky programme called Going Postal based on Terry Pratchett’s work. He was good in both. Catherine Steadman played the role of Lena brilliantly too and this did add that much needed extra dimension to proceedings.

All in all, Black Sun was on a slippery path from the beginning. Its main enemy was its predecessor. Had this been a standalone venture with no connection to the original, then I can see how it may have worked however, it wasn’t. No matter how slim the connection, I was always going to compare this to the first and with that being said, it disappointed greatly. What we have learned from this is that with a bit of extra cash, the producers etc have suffered from lottery winning syndrome. Too much money that they didn’t know where to throw it!

I will not let this effort dissuade me from watching the next instalment, Outpost: Rise of the Spetsnaz. Hopefully that will repair all the damage caused here…

Released: 2012
Outpost: Black Sun (2012) on IMDb
My Rating: 4