The Zombie King (2013) – Review for ukhorrorscene

Unusual in the horror genre, this is a low budget zombie movie. However, with a lot of dry British humour and cameos from Edward Furlong & Corey Feldman it stands out a bit more than the standard fare. Despite being made in 2013 it’s only getting a UK DVD release this August. Is the saying true; “good things come to those who wait”? My review is on ukhorrorscene here!
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P.O.V (2014) – Review for ukhorrorscene

Now available to watch on VOD site TheHorrorShow.tv, P.O.V is a truly independent, zero-budget UK horror that is shot – as my more astute readers may have guessed from the title – entirely in first person. Not in the ‘found footage’ sense; we actually see through the character’s eyes. Incredibly ambitious, this winds up being a decent film for the non-existent budget. Click the poster to take a look at my review!

If that doesn’t work, click here. Or just click there anyway. I dunno,it’s your call.

PS: I spent a couple of days writing the review, and so on, repeatedly seeing this poster, but only now did I realise there are demons crawling out of his eye-holes. I am incredibly unhappy about this and shall spend the rest of the day crying in the corner. Enjoy my review with this in mind! pov

American Ghost Story – a.k.a. Devil’s Mile (2014) – Review for ukhorrorscene

An interesting concept, blending a standard American road movie with Supernatural, J-Horror elements and Giallo-style visuals, American Ghost Story is the new painfully generic, cash-in name for Devil’s Mile, featuring an equally irrelevant and boring cover image. Oh well, the film isn’t THAT great anyway. More on that if you click the image below!
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Frankenstein vs. The Mummy (2015) – Review for ukhorrorscene

 Here’s another DVD review for ukhorrorscene. This time featuring the ultimate face-off of two of the most iconic movie monsters of all time, Frankenstein vs. The Mummy is out in the UK next week & I believe it’s already out in the US. I’ll say now that I enjoyed writing this review far more than any moment of the movie itself, so it may be worth a look!

Click the poster to read:

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As Above, So Below (2014) – Review – “Indiana Bones!?”

Hello there everyone! I have been somewhat quiet the last week or two, largely because I went on a trip to Paris. This is not purely to boast about my travels; I visited the Catacombs while there so I opted to watch this on my return because it’s based almost entirely in them. I read terrible reviews when it first came out & thought the nostalgia might at least make it bearable.

Yet another entry into the found footage genre (I seem to be watching a lot of them lately, this is genuinely not a conscious decision), As Above, So Below opens on Scarlett, a female version of indiana Jones, sneaking into a strictly off-limits abandoned Iranian mine where she believes her late father had pinpointed the location of a terribly important undiscovered artifact that might lead her one step closer to his life goal of finding the Philosopher’s Stone (spoiler: it was found in Hogwarts like 20 years ago). She does indeed find the Rose Stone but barely makes it out alive as it just so happens to be the day the government have decided to blow up the dangerous passageways once and for all. She winds up in Paris where, unable to decipher some ancient text, she must reunite with her ex whom she abandoned in a Turkish Prison, and who spends his spare time breaking into old churches and fixing the clock mechanisms. With Benji making a documentary about her expedition the three go around Parisian landmarks looking for clues & solving tricksy puzzles like a photorealistic Professor Layton game. It’s absolutely ridiculous, I actually had to pause the film at one point because I was crying with laughter as the characters intuitively solve centuries, but it moves with such pace; like a true adventure B-Movie it doesn’t feel the need to apologise for being so silly; and the cast do a great job at conveying the eccentric & likeable characters that it’s incredibly fun.

“Let’s split up and search for clues!”

All the bonkers running around Paris inevitably leads them to venture into the Catacombs, under the guidance of Papillon & his friends who have unprecedented knowledge of the passages, apparently because all the young attractive characters don’t need jobs to support their expensive hobbies. It’s impressive to note that all the underground scenes were actually filmed in the Catacombs beneath Paris, which were filled with the bones of 6 million residents a few hundred years ago due to overflowing graveyards. It goes without saying that this lends an authenticity to the film and the labyrinthine corridors’ eerie quality & gruesome residents make it perfect for a horror movie setting. Some ‘odd’ events are the worst that happen however, with the Scooby Gang’s treasure hunt taking centre stage. I was happily swept away by it, but did realise after an hour that I’d forgotten this was meant to be a horror movie. Luckily the writers seemed to realise the same thing, because the final act has some genuinely creepy and surprising moments & brings the movie to a great climax. Unusually some heartfelt themes are also evident in this final act, raising it above much of the found footage dross out there.

……. oh sorry, back to the review.

If you go into this expecting a start-to-finish scare-fest as the marketing suggests you may well be disappointed, because it’s much more a found-footage adventure movie for the first two-thirds, turning into a horror towards the end. I think it would have been much more clever to market it as such, with the horror “twist” being a surprise rather than an overdue expectation. As it stands, it’s hard to defend much of the silliness, but I personally found it incredibly enjoyable & would happily watch it again as it is great fun, with some decent scares thrown in for good measure. Surely even the most hardened horror buff can have some fun occasionally?

6/10

ABCs of Death 2 – Review on ukhorrorscene

Any of you in America have been able to see this film for ages but it’s only coming out on DVD here in the UK on Monday! And because of this I have reviewed it for UK Horror Scene – read my in-depth (but spoiler-free as always!) review HERE!

PS I am going to be in Paris for the next week (I’m writing this on a Megabus) so there is not likely to be any reviews from me in that time. Stop crying, I’ll be back soon enough!

Chappie (2015) – Review

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I’m going to start this review with a sentence very similar to a lot of other people’s reviews of Chappie that I’ve read: I absolutely loved District 9 and was incredibly excited to see what Blomkamp was able to do with a similar, alternate-reality South African setting, a higher budget, and assumably more experience. I still haven’t seen Elysium, partially due to laziness, partially because I can’t stand Matt Damon, but largely because of the bad things I’ve heard about it. Even Blomkamp himself recently said he “fucked it up”, so I’m still not dying to see it. Back to Chappie however; based on his 2004 short Tetra Vaal,  merging Blomkamp’s brilliant way of creating an overblown, yet entirely believable alternate world with ideas reminiscent of Robocop, Artificial Intelligence, et al, pitting foul-mouthed underworld gangsters against high-tech scientists, and throwing in a couple of sick He-Man: Masters of the Universe references, this is by no means a “safe” blockbuster. In fact, this film is absolutely barmy, whether that’s a good thing or not.

“Right, imagine there was a ROBOT, that was a COP…”

This film is all over the place. That isn’t even necessarily a bad thing; it’s consistently entertaining, and it’s very hard to predict what is going to happen next when you aren’t always entirely sure what just happened. That’s not to say the film is hard to understand, but it relentlessly fires what feel like key scenes at you like a cinematic gatling gun, each offering up new moral questions, plot threads, motifs, or setpieces. For every idea to be fully developed and resolved the film could easily run four hours or more. What we’re left with is not necessarily a film that makes us think about any of the interesting & well-meaning, but ultimately half-baked issues for a particularly long time, but a ridiculously fun rollercoaster that would not be out of place in a 1980’s video store.

Ninja spends the film making silly faces and talking in gibberish, like an alien who’s pretending to be a human.

Another layer to the unique experience that Chappie offers is just how incredibly odd certain aspects of it are, mostly in the casting and direction of the characters. The oddest thing of all is Die Antwoord. Everything about them really. In fact, I was tempted to subtitle this review “Why Antwoord?” or “Die AntWhy?” but they’re both terrible ideas. Yolandi and the embarassingly named Ninja play characters of the same names, who drive around in their incredibly ‘gangsta’ style whilst listening to music by Die Antwoord (or some approximation of music anyway) and wearing Die Antwoord merchandise. This confused me perhaps much more than it should have done, as I tried to work out whether Die Antwoord exist in this movie’s universe and they are playing their own fans, whether they were depicting fictional equivalents of themselves, or what the hell was going on with this cross-promotional nightmare. Ninja is incredibly unlikable, a trait that it seems is not so much the result of good acting, but reality shining through the fiction. Apparently he was a total nob on set, with Neill Blomkamp writing him out of pickups just so he didn’t have to bear with him on set, and an unnamed cast member referring to him as “that pile of shit”. Yolandi, however, is impossible to define. Frankly I find her irritating to look at with her otherworldly make-up & garish clothing, her voice is grating and her acting resembles the panicked enthusiasm of a high school drama fanatic. But somehow she’s so damned likable that I feel immensely guilty for finding her annoying, a really warmed to her character as the film progressed. Dev Patel is once again playing a cardboard cutout of himself, with an emotional range that extends from slightly happy to slightly upset while Hugh Jackman & Sigourney weaver are fantastic, with Weaver playing an unquestionable authority figure and Jackman being so angry even Wolverine would be passing him a Mars Bar to try and calm him down. Most of these characters are so extreme, and feel deliberately two-dimensional without becoming hollow and boring. It’s all like a live-action cartoon. Not an adaptation of a cartoon, literally a live-action cartoon. That’s not necessarily a bad thing for me, but may make outsiders of other viewers.

“I am SO mad right now! 😡 #angry”

Saving the best for last, Chappie himself is truly the star of this film. His character seems to be developed far greater than any human on screen (perhaps in a deliberate move, nudging us towards the central questions the movie presents). Little touches in his movements, intonations in his voice, and subtle expressions created only by a small LED panel & some moving bars on his “face” all contribute to conveying this. You really feel for his character, no matter how much Ninja & co aim to twist his morals, no matter how foul his language becomes in some hilarious scenes, he consistently retains a childlike innocence & an unquestioning loyalty that is impossible to dislike. I’m a special effects snob; bad CGI takes me right out of a film; but I realised through the third act that I had genuinely forgotten Chappie was not really there. His interaction with the real world and actors is pulled off stunningly but filmed in such a matter-of-fact manner. It’s all very reminiscent of the incredible FX work on District 9, and showcases what is clearly a strength in Blomkamp’s filmmaking.

OOOOH THIS PICTURE MOVES!!! Oh and effects are very good.

It’s not going to be a film for everyone, I feel many of the points I made could be seen as good or bad depending on your view, and throwing in countless logical anomalies (“How is this arms dealer so easy to steal from?” etc) it’s easy to see how someone could write a scathing review but I found it entertaining from beginning to end & the two hours flew by and that’s enough for me. It’s so odd I see it becoming something of a cult hit over time, not least because it straddles being far too good to be an all-out B-Movie, but is far too ridiculous to be a mainstream, serious film. Unashamedly unique, there’s a hundred things I’d have done differently if I’d made it, but this is Neill Blomkamp’s film – he’s certainly made it his own. And that’s an increasingly rare trait in big-budget films these days.

7/10

The Twisted Death of a Lonely Madman (2014) – Review on ukhorrorscene

Exciting news! I am going to be writing for ukhorrorscene.com, reviewing new DVD releases and the like. I’ll still be posting regular nonsense on here, along with the occasional link to external reviews I do for ukhorrorscene. My first review for them went up yesterday, of the excellent low budget British psychological horror, The Twisted Death of a Lonely Madman. Click the image to give it a read!

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SHITFEST 2015: MOVIE 43 (2013)

This is a review that I took much greater pleasure in writing than I got from watching the film itself. Written for Isaacs Picture Conclusions Shitfest 2015, there’ll be a vote for the best review come the end of the week. Did I mention how lovely I think you all are?

Isaacs Picture Conclusions

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THIS ENTRY SUBMITTED BY THE BRILLIANT:

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Before we get into this mercilessly shit movie, I have an announcement to make. This is the last movie entry for Shitfest 2015! Tomorrow will be the big WHOSE BOOBS reveal and champion and Friday will be the big Closing Ceremony! I can’t thank you all enough for all of the support this year! This has been incredibly fun! But more on that Friday!! Here we go (oh – and the Stone pictures are there because, well, you know):

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This is my first time taking part in Shitfest, and at first I thought it would be easy – find a shit horror movie & trash it. But then I remembered that I have a terrible habit of ENJOYING shit horror movies. So I racked my brains for a movie that I would surely despise, a movie that would be so hateful that I would…

View original post 1,880 more words

Hate Crime (2013) – Review – was it right to ban this film?

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This film is the center of a whole lot of controversy in the UK right now because our classification board, the BBFC, has refused to grant it a certificate. This means it is completely banned for sale or broadcast of any kind, unlike in America for example where a film can be released “unrated”. If you exclude a few extreme pornos, this makes Hate Crime only the fourth movie have been banned here in the last decade after the awful Japanese torture film Grotesque, Bunny Game (which I have not seen), and perhaps most famously The Human Centipede 2 (Full Sequence), which was rather soon granted an 18 certificate after a few minutes of cuts following an online backlash against the decision. The debate has opened up once again, weighing up freedom of speech against the perceived harm these films may cause. The only options for someone in this country to see Hate Crime are to wait weeks for a DVD to be imported, or to illegally download it (which I legitimately do not endorse). I was lucky enough however to have director James Cullen Bressack let me see this film so I could make my own mind up about this whole furore.

Hate Crime follows the home video of a Jewish family celebrating their young son’s birthday. Very soon into the film their home is broken into by three Neo-Nazis who commandeer the camera as they degrade, torture, rape, and murder members of the family. It’s an undeniably grim prospect for a movie, and touches on a variety of incredibly sensitive topics, but this film does not tread lightly, diving headfirst into the brutality. Unflinching and persistent, this film is a truly unpleasant experience – the things the family endure are sadistic and inhuman, and added to that, the family have no dark secrets, no connection to the invaders; the film doesn’t offer the slightest bit of motivation behind the attack beyond warped prejudice. But that’s the whole point; not everything always ties up neatly and it makes the film feel like a frighteningly realistic representation of such attacks that occur all too often in real life. Horrific things are done to the characters but this is normally just out of shot or otherwise obscured leaving the gruesome details to our imagination. So there is very little gore and no graphic nudity in this film, defying what I had prepared myself for given the BBFC’s ruling. This, along with the pervasively grim tone, complete absence of comic relief & lack of any music or score, prevents the film sensationalizing the violence, and from feeling like it’s intended to be entertaining in any way.

This is what happens if the BBFC don’t prevent us from seeing nasty things.

Some incredibly poor acting in the opening scene got me worried, but the sudden shift in tone brings with it a far higher standard of acting from the family, and from the invaders themselves, leaping around in an animalistic, drug-fueled frenzy. The actors do an incredible job, genuinely quite terrifying at times, without making it come across as humorous in a manner that reminded me of a much darker version of the droogs in A Clockwork Orange. As the film develops it’s clear the attackers are not a well-organised group with their own conflicts and in one case, some severe issues. It’s far from sympathetic given the horrific things they do, but it’s a brave choice to make them a bit more than faceless masked maniacs. Giving the camera to the attackers allows this to happen, but also gives an interesting new perspective on the home invasion genre; instead of the camera lingering on a victim hiding in the shadows for example, we see the killer furiously searching. It’s actually no less tense this way; either way we desperately don’t want them to be found.

The new production of The Producers took a dark turn

Not pretending to be “based on a true story”, the film takes a somewhat classier approach by ending on a title card stating the rising number of hate crimes in the US & the simple message that “Hate & Prejudice still exists today”. There aren’t many totally new ideas in the film, and there’s a distinct lack of development in the family’s characters, but the unusual twist on the well-trodden genre is plenty enough to make it’s mark, and running almost entirely in a faux one-shot, this film offers an unflinching, gut-wrenching & terrifying view of one of the most unimaginable true-life horrors.

8/10

WARNING: SPOILERS FOR HATE CRIME FOLLOW

Back to the BBFC’s decision however. Their full statement is available here. I understand when the likes of Cannibal Holocaust are banned in their uncut versions in this country because of the scenes featuring staged animal cruelty making it illegal. The same if any film featured other illegal content like paedophilia or whatever else real-life footage some twisted mind thought might be a good idea. The question here though, is the fact that such footage has victims: in the case of every horror movie banned by the BBFC in recent years, the footage has been entirely staged, consenting & fictional, therefore entirely without victims, so the banning isn’t protecting anyone involved in production or preventing future crimes. We then must go to the potential impact the movies have on individuals and society. If this film somehow gave the impression that the attackers were somehow justified in their actions, even made them slightly relatable I could understand it being considered morally unacceptable, perhaps even verging on some sort of propaganda. But the fact of the matter is this film is black & white on the issue: the family are good people, the attackers are very bad & what they do is unthinkably terrible. So the BBFC’s statement that “this work, even if confined to adults… would risk potential harm” is utter nonsense. The vast majority of the population are perfectly capable of understanding that breaking into a family’s home & torturing them is not okay, and anyone who sees a film / video game / any media with violent content like this and thinks “oh boy, I really want to do that!” clearly has some major issues already & needs serious help regardless of whether Hate Crime is on the shelves of HMV or not. The suggestion that the film “would be unacceptable to broad public opinion” is entirely missing the point of extreme cinema, and could be extended to a world where no media can be released in case it might upset a few people, as though we’re all incapable of simply not watching something we don’t like, or of dealing with the unpleasant truths of modern society, much like when you tell a small child to look away from nasty images on the 6 o clock news. They also say that “Little context is provided for the violence beyond an on-screen statement at the end of the film that the two attackers who escaped were subsequently apprehended and that the one surviving family member was released from captivity”. This genuinely makes me quite angry – not only are they willfully missing the point of the movie; that these attacks genuinely do happen for no reason & that is why it is so horrific; but they are omitting the last two, by far most important on-screen messages explaining the uncomfortable yet nonetheless true context of the movie in the real world. It’s one of those cases where someone isn’t directly lying, but is deliberately misrepresenting the truth to make themselves seem right, and I think that is absolutely unacceptable for an organisation with such responsibilities to twist the reality in such a way. I would like to believe that enough pressure can be put on the BBFC, as was with The Human Centipede 2, for them to reverse the decision, but it certainly seems that, since no gore or nudity is featured, it’s the tone of the film that is considered unacceptable, so we may have to accept for now that the people in control of our media have decided we’re not morally mature or intelligent enough to see films that shine a light on incredibly dark sides of real life unless there’s a person on screen for the duration repeating “THIS IS WRONG. DO NOT DO THIS.” like a CBeebies special on “not killing people”.

“REMEMBER KIDS: ANTISEMITISM IS BAAAAD”