Monday, 30 April 2012

Dream House (2011): Review

Dream House is a 2011 psychological thriller film. Directed by Jim Sheridan (My Left Foot, The Boxer) starring Daniel Craig (Casino Royale, The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo), Rachel Weisz (The Mummy) and Naomi Watts (The Ring, King Kong). The cast and crew were reportedly so unhappy with the final cut of the film that Sheridan tried to have his name removed and the cast refused to do any promotion for the film's release.

The film follows Will Atenton (Craig), his wife Libby (Weisz) and their 2 children as they move into their dream house in a seemingly quiet suburban neighbourhood. However things are not as they seem as the family start to notice strange figures watching their house and bizarrely, teenagers squatting in their basement. Will soon discovers his new house was the site of some grisly murders as local Peter Ward was accused of slaughtering his own family 2 years previous, this prompts Will to perform his own investigations as he becomes obsessed with what happened in his house and who has been stalking his family.

Dream House is a very nuts and bolts, cliched film. It is directly comparable to horror classics such as The shining (1981) and The Amityville Horror (1979) and certainly rehashes the very tired "family move into a house with a haunted past" schtick, however I'd be very reluctant to call Dream House any kind of horror film. Though suspenseful in parts there is a noticeable lack of scares or atmosphere surrounding what is supposed to be a very creepy house and no clear antagonist to speak of. Derivative in many ways, the film's most predictable element is it's "shocking twist" given away fairly early in the runtime, this twist has been directly cribbed from a recent well-known (and certainly more acclaimed) movie which I won't mention as it would spoil the surprise (if you hadn't already figured it out).

The film received a royal kicking from most critics and clearly the actors were embarrassed about their involvement but they shouldn't be, the 3 central performances  from Craig, Weisz and Watts are the only things that keep the film from being an utterly boring, predictable chore. Craig himself plays it a little bit wooden but Weisz gives a fine performance but as ever, Watts shines through whenever she's given enough time to do so. If anything I feel Watts was underused, especially as she has a proven track record in horror (The Ring, Funny Games) and I feel it would have been better to have given her the female lead over Weisz.

Cliched, predictable and boring at times but still enough intrigue to keep you guessing and engaged in the acting at other times, Dream House is a mixed bag. Nowhere near as terrible as the reviews suggest but instantly forgettable, I would only recommend the film to big fans of Craig, Weisz or Watts.

2 Stars **

What did you think of Dream House? Do you think the general critical consensus was fair?

Friday, 27 April 2012

Superior Remakes #2: Let Me In (2010)

Let Me In is a 2010 remake of the 2008 Swedish romantic-horror film Let the Right One In, itself an adaptation of the 2004 novel of the same name. The film is directed by Matt Reeves (Cloverfield) and stars Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass, Hugo), Kodi Smit-Mcphee (The Road) and Richard Jenkins (The Cabin in the Woods, Stepbrothers). The film was one of the first production projects for the newly ressurected Hammer studios.

 The film follows the story of 12 year old Owen (Smit-Mcphee) and 12(ish) year old Abbey (Moretz). Owen is a lonely bullied child growing up in small town New Mexico, his life takes a turn for the better when Abby and her "father" (Jenkins) move into the local apartment complex. The pair soon become inseparable companions and Abby gives Owen the confidence to violently confront his bullies, however the budding romance soon takes a turn for the worst when it is revealed that Abby is actually a vampire who is hundreds of years old. Her guardian is not actually her father but rather the individual tasked with collecting blood so Abby doesn't have to get her hands dirty, but after he opts out of the relationship Owen and Abbey have nobody left but each other and their unconventional romance flourishes.

Let the Right One In is a tremendous film, original and groundbreaking in terms of the vampire sub-genre but as good as it is, Let Me In is simply better. The film's strengths are the same as the original in that it swings wildly between suspenseful, atmospheric horror and beautifully moving romance. The reason why Let Me In improves upon this dynamic is mainly due to the central performances by Moretz and Smit-Mcphee, this was Moretz's second major picture after her breakout in Kick-Ass and her performance in Let Me In solidifies her as a future star. In the original film I found the Oskar and Eli characters a lot less likeable and rather 2 dimensional at times which affected my investment into their relationship. However due to the performances in Let Me In the characters of Owen and Abbey are played with a lot more vulnerability and pathos creating a much more compelling romantic storyline.

Something which has divided audiences and fans of the original is the supposed exaggeration of the horror elements of the film when compared with the original. Although the Swedish version did underplay the horror brilliantly and used a more melancholic piano score it was not consistently subtle (CGI cats spring to mind) and I prefer the special effects of the remake, however much they steer the story into cliched territory. The muted palette of the original is also retained and is used very effectively to create the isolated setting of the film, as mentioned the score of Let Me In does employ a more melodramatic feel but I really enjoyed this and thought it evoked the gothic-romantic elements of a vintage hammer film.

It's not often that a tremendous foreign film is improved upon by an American remake but I truly feel that Let Me In is the superior film. Stronger acting, score and production values create an utterly immersive story that create the anomaly of a romantic horror film that doesn't wallow in sentiment or overplayed horror conventions, and that is a very tricky balance. I'm not a great fan of vampire films but I would place this amongst the absolute classics of the 21st Century, the original is definitely worth checking out as well but Let Me In is the version that will stay with me the longest.

5 stars *****

Which version do you prefer?

Final Chernobyl Diaries Poster

After a steady drip-feed of promotional material, it looks like we've arrived at the final poster for upcoming found footage flick Chernobyl Diaries, and it's badass! The Oren Peli (Paranormal Activity) produced movie will hit cinemas May 25th and will follow a group of American tourists who discover that the ghost city of Pripyat is not so abandoned.

What do you think of the poster?

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Grave Encounters 2 plot details

Fans of last year's excellent found footage satire Grave Encounters will be pleased to know a sequel is on the way. This time the film uses a meta-narrative as a team of young ghost hunters return to the abandoned asylum to recreate the team's ill fated investigation!

Did you like the first film? What are you looking for in the sequel?

Dear God No! (2011): Review

Dear God No! is a 2011 exploitation revival movie. Written and directed by James Bickert and starring Jett Bryant and Paul McComiskey. The film includes many exploitation sub-genres such as; bikersploitation, nazisploitation, nunsploitation and psychedelic.

Dear God No! follows a gang of bikers known as the impalers as they indulge in their favourite hobby, raping and murdering the locals. After butchering rival biker gang "Satan's own", the gang chase after a pregnant couple who've had the misfortune of bearing witness to the slaughter. This leads them to a secluded cabin in the woods occupied by anthropologist Dr Marco (McComiskey), who lives with his strange daughter Edna and had invited the couple to see the results of his questionable experiments. The gang storm the cabin and proceed to do all sorts of reprehensible things to the women eventually leading to the discovery that Dr Marco's wife has been locked in the basement due to some sort of mutation experiment he had performed. This leads to the revelation that Dr Marco is a mad Nazi scientist and through his twisted experiments on the local wildlife has managed to create a vicious Sasquatch! This spells bad news for the bikers as they receive their comeuppance from the abomination, all with plenty of blood, fire and psychedelic music.

I think the exploitation revival movement is a great idea. With better technology and budgets, film makers are now able to recreate vintage trash but in the form of a more watchable movie. My favourite movie of the revival so far has been 2011's Hobo with a Shotgun, and this film very much follows in those footsteps both in terms of tone and ambition. The sheer range of exploitation sub-genres crammed in is mind boggling. Not content with making a straight forward bikersplotation movie (which this mostly is) the film makers throw in nuns, strippers, nazis and somehow, bigfoot! All set to a soundtrack of psychedelic rock and a backdrop of multi coloured collages bleeding into the picture at times which certainly creates an empathy between the viewer and the acid dropping bikers.

The budget on Dear God No! is dangerously low, with the effects and production values just passable but this is the beauty of exploitation revival. You can render a faithful homage to grindhouse on a shoestring budget because those films never aspired to be anything more than outrageous trash. Even wiser that they stuck with practical effects instead of being tempted into shoddy CGI and ending up like a sy-fy channel movie. The characters are two dimensional and certainly the biker gang all bleed into one entity, also some of the dialogue did stick out as being poorly written (even for an exploitation film) and didn't quite fit with the rest of the film.

Like most exploitation films Dear God No! is an acquired taste and will probably only appeal to genre fans. After the mainstream success of the Grindhouse double feature (2007) and cult success of Hobo, we are likely to see more ambitious tributes to vintage exploitation in the future. This film certainly won't achieve anything close to the success of those films but it does make quite an absurd attempt to cover all possible exploitation sub-genres in less than 90 minutes, and for me that made it a rather enjoyable watch.

4 Stars ****

What did you think of the film? What's your favourite "sploitation"?

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Mel Gibson for Machete Sequel?

News has emerged that Robert Rodriguez is keen to get Gibson on board for upcoming sequel Machete Kills. The film will see Danny Tejo reprise his role as the murderous federale but it is unclear what role Gibson would play and whether this would be good for his faltering career.

Do you want to see Gibson in the movie? Are you looking forward to the sequel?

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Seven Psychopaths Poster

The first poster has been released for upcoming crime-comedy film Seven Psychopaths. Directed by Martin McDonagh (In Bruges) the film features a stellar cast in Colin Farrell, Sam Rockwell, Tom Waits, Woody Harrelson as well as the lovely Olga Kurylenko. It is expected to be released this autumn.

Are you looking forward to this? Did you like In Bruges?

Monday, 23 April 2012

The Cabin in the Woods (2012): Spoiler-free Review

The Cabin in the Woods is a 2012 horror-comedy. Directed by Drew Goddard (Cloverfield writer) and co-written by Joss Whedon (Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Serenity) the film stars Chris Hemsworth (Thor, Star Trek), Richard Jenkins (Stepbrothers, Let Me In) and Bradley Whitford (The West Wing). The movie was completed in 2009 but was delayed due to MGM's financial troubles.

The Cabin in the Woods follows 5 college kids as they go on a weekend break to stay in the titular cabin. To say anymore than this would hint at spoilers (although the film's trailers certainly reveal more) and as you may be aware this film is best enjoyed with minimum prior knowledge so although I will aim to continue the review spoiler free, I would strongly recommend you see the movie before reading this (or any other review).

The film is a simultaneous homage and lampoon of the horror genre, reminiscent of Evil Dead 2, and like that film it's biggest strength is the highly comedic script. This is one of the funniest films I've seen for a good few years and it's also to the film's credit that not every gag relies on geeky knowledge of the genre. However, I did feel that the balance often swung too much in the comedy direction leaving minimal scares to be had,  also the monsters relied upon for most of the film are pretty generic and unimaginative and although this is the satirical nature of the film, I quickly tired of them. One of the best things about the script is the drip-fed revealing of the mystery behind the cabin, rather than cheap knee jerk twists the movie opts to give you the pieces of the puzzle and then it's up to you to put them together in time for the film's epic climax.

The film has been directly compared to Wes Craven Scream (1996) in terms of it's meta-story and a widely used quote for the film is "groundbreaking, a real game-changer", this is a quote I feel would be highly appropriate for Scream but not for The Cabin in the Woods. For some historical context, when Scream was released in 1996 the horror genre was in one hell of a slump and the film helped to redefine and rejuvenate the genre for years to come. Goddard and Whedon claim the horror genre is in a similar state now due to the "torture-porn" subgenre but I personally don't buy into that, torture porn has come and gone and although that fad has been replaced by another in found footage (a fad which Goddard himself helped to popularise) horror is perfectly healthy in 2012. Therein lies my main gripe with Cabin, it has ideas above it's station and often comes across as obnoxious and far too smart for it's own good. Although the whole point of the movie is not to take absurd horror films too seriously I found myself caring less and less about the outcome as a direct result of being hammered over the head with the message that this is all one big joke and it doesn't really matter what happens.

The Cabin in the woods is neither groundbreaking nor a game-changer, and it's a good job too because if it were then horror movies for the rest of the year would be ruined. What it is, is a highly enjoyable, funny and crazy b-movie romp (albeit with a very mainstream release) and as long as you go into the movie expecting that, then you won't be slightly let down as I was. Perhaps the rave reviews have come from people who had much lower expectations than me, but I doubt that Cabin will be the best horror movie of this year, let alone the best horror movie in years.

4 Stars ****

What did you think of the movie? What were your expectations?

New Sinister Poster

A new poster has emerged for upcoming found footage film Sinister. Directed by Scott Derrickson (The Exorcism of Emily Rose) ad starring Ethan Hawke (Training Day, Daybreakers) The film follows a journalist who moves into a house where a family were murdered and soon uncovers footage that reveal the horrors. The film comes out on October 5th.

Are you looking forward to this? Are you sick of found footage?

Friday, 20 April 2012

Movie B Bad #2: Basket Case (1982)

Basket Case is 1982 exploitation horror film. Directed by Frank Henenlotter (Brain Damage, Frankenhooker) and stars Kevin Van Hentenryck (Basket Case trilogy). The film is considered a cult classic and spawned two sequels in 1990 and 1991.

The film follows the eccentric Duane Bradley as he arrives in New York City from a small upstate town carrying only a large wicker basket. After checking into the sleaziest motel he can find Duane sets about visiting a local doctor in regards to an enormous scar down the right side of his body. It is revealed that the wicker basket carries Duane's former conjoined twin Belial and now he's helping the monstrous lump to take his revenge on the doctors who forcibly separated them. Along the way Duane falls for a local receptionist called Sharon but soon finds that Belial 's vendetta somewhat interferes with his social life resulting in the two brothers confronting each other in the closing moments of the film.

Basket Case is a very poorly made film, from the low budget camerawork to the hilarious acting and script. The film is most famous for it's creature design and Belial is certainly one of the more unique looking monsters in movie history. Described by Duane as a "squashed octopus" Belial is essentially a rough cast of Van Hentenryck's face popped on a latex lump of twisted flesh and bone. This is a brilliantly grotesque look and Henenlotter wisely holds back showing Belial until about half an hour into the movie to add more suspense and shock. We mostly see Belial either as a puppet or as a pair of monster gloves through a first person perspective however the film's most famous scene is created through some very shoddy stop motion animation as Belial trashes his hotel room in a jealous rage, complete with hideous screams.

For the portions of the film where Belial is safely stowed in his basket the entertainment is provided by the atrocious acting and also Van Hentenryck's rather comical hairstyle (very much an extra character in the film). At times bizarre and always wooden, the performances in this film are something to behold. The Hotel itself offers an array of cartoon characters including the goodtime girl, the shifty old man, the Super Mario-esque owner as well as the evil doctors that are confronted. One inexplicable scene in particular involves Duane having a drink with the local barmaid and the pair splitting their sides over the fact that he used to be a mailman and of course, nearly every character in the movie has the honour of uttering the film's catchphrase "What's in the basket?".

 Rightfully revered as a cult classic, Basket Case is a thoroughly entertaining bad movie and created a little known horror icon in Belial the lumpy Siamese twin. The sequels that would follow nearly ten years later would recognise the humour in the original and steer the franchise in more of a slapstick direction (much like the Evil Dead franchise) and are still enjoyable, in a very twisted and absurd way, but the original is still the best.

5 negative stars *****

Have you seen Basket Case, what did you think?

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Cosmopolis Trailer

A trailer has emerged for David Cronenberg's highly anticipated return to madness Cosmopolis. The film stars Rober Pattinson as a young billionaire who loses his fortune whilst riding around in his limo prompting to delve into the darker side of his own mind. The film will premier at Cannes and be released theatrically later in the year, check out the trailer over at Total Film

What do you think of the trailer? Are you excited for Cronenberg's return to form?

Area 407 Trailer

The first trailer has been released for upcoming found footage film Tape 407: The Mesa Reserve Incident. The film follows flight 37a as it crash lands in a restricted government are where it's passengers are stalked by....dinosaurs? Looks like an interesting one and I'm sure aliens will be involved too, check the trailer.

Are you looking forward to this? Does found footage need something different?

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

The Hunger Games (2012): Review

 The Hunger Games is a 2012 film adaptation of the best-selling novel of the same name written by Suzanne Collins. Directed by Gary Ross (Seabiscuit) starring Jennifer Lawrence (X-Men First Class), Josh Hutcherson (Bridge to Terabitha, Journey to the Centre of the Earth), Woody Harrelson (Zombieland, Natural Born Killers) and Donald Sutherland (Don't Look Now, Invasion of the Bodysnatchers). The film has been hugely commercially successful and had the third best opening weekend in history.

The film is set in a dystopian future where the poorest citizens are forced to compete in gladiatorial combat in a media extravaganza known as The Hunger Games. The central character is Katniss Everdeen (Lawrence), a young adult from the mining-based district 12, who along with fellow local Peeta Mellark (Hutcherson) ends up being ferried to the Capitol to compete in the annual games. Upon arriving in the Capitol, the pair receive their training from Haymitch Abernathy (Harrelson), a former victor of the games, but soon discover the games revolve largely around politicking and gaining the support of the populace. Meanwhile the outlying districts begin to revolt as the 24 participants massacre each other in the woodland arena causing major problems for President Coriolanus Snow (Sutherland) and his advisers as the fates of our protagonists hang in the balance.

It is impossible to review The Hunger Games without mentioning the glaringly obvious influences on both the novel and the film. 1982's The Running Man was written by Richard Bachman (AKA Stephen King) and adapted into a 1987 film starring Arnold Schwartzenegger. The film featured convicts who were forced into combat as part of a game show format, the main theme of the film was media satire and the sensationalist approach to reality-based T.V. This is definitely present in the middle section of The Hunger Games as the combatants are forced to pander to their audience in an effort to gain sponsorships. The more obvious influence on the film would be the cult Japanese film Battle Royale (2000), another literary adaptation. The premise of Battle Royale being that a class of school-aged teenagers are dropped onto an island and forced to kill each other by their totalitarian government. This really takes the shine off The Hunger Games and reduces it to a rather derivative and unoriginal piece, although Suzanne Collins claims to be unaware of these other works it doesn't change the fact that most people of a certain age will have seen this concept at least twice before.

When talking about The Hunger Games age and demographics are crucial to it's success, the fact is the films target teenage audience will not be aware of previous incarnations of this story and as an update or loose remakes of those movies it actually works quite well. Since the 80s and even the year 2000, global society has changed an awful lot and reality T.V and teenage violence is possibly more relevant now than ever before. The film should also be commended for it's illusion of violence, being a 12A there is a very minimal amount of graphic violence and blood on show but the style in which it's shot manages to mask that and still come off as shocking but lose no commercial appeal. As a "family film" the movie has a surprising runtime of 142 minutes, whilst this isn't  unusual for a mainstream film I did feel the pacing suffered and the films momentum is stunted by several long and dull stretches.

It's all too easy to write off The Hunger Games as shameful rip-off of The Running Man and to a stronger degree Battle Royale, however the similarities cannot be ignored. However that won't matter to most of the teenagers who will go and see the film and as a standalone piece it's a fairly entertaining movie. I'm not a huge fan of Battle Royale but it is a really clever piece and  if you enjoy this film I would certainly recommend it

3 Stars ***

What did you think of the hunger games? Have you seen The Running Man or Battle Royale?

New Prometheus Viral Clip

A new Prometheus viral clip has been released from the Weyland Industries website. The video is a mock advertisement for David the android played by Michael Fassbender to highlight android technology and how useful they can be to your business. Check out the clip.

What do you think of the clip? What role do you think David will play?

Monday, 16 April 2012

The Darkest Hour (2012): Review

The Darkest Hour is a 2011 alien invasion film. Directed by Chris Gorak starring Emile Hirsch (Into the Wild, The Girl Next Door) and Olivia Thirlby (Juno). The film was shot entirely on location in Moscow, Russia.

 The film follows young entrepreneurs Sean (Hirsch) and Ben as they travel to Moscow for a business meeting to promote their new travel app. Upon arriving they discover they've been shafted by company exec Skyler (great Russian name) as the firm they had hoped to sell the idea to has simply copied the format and made their own app. As the boys commiserate on their failings they meet up with fellow globetrotters Natalie (Thirlby) and Anne in a local night club, however the party is cut short with a citywide blackout and subsequent alien attack. After huddling down in the basement for several hours, the group eventually emerge to find a post-apocalyptic Moscow and are forced into a fight for survival with the alien invaders.

 The Darkest Hour is directed by a man who had previously only been involved in production and art design, and it really shows. The film is nothing more than a hollow CGI vehicle with very little attempt at any plot or character development. This would be less insulting if the CGI was creative or original, the effects are of an impressive standard but there is a real lack of imagination with the creature design. The best thing I can liken the alien design to is a Van Der Graaf generator or perhaps disembodied Christmas lights, bland and unimpressive. This design relates to the fact that the aliens are essentially electro-static balls of energy and when they come into contact with humans, the victim turns to dust. The dust effects actually work quite well but the completely intangible nature of the aliens is not scary and builds no sense of dread for the suspenseful scenes.

 The worst thing about this film by far is the diabolical script and it's poor delivery. Even more worrying is the fact that writer Jon Spaihts has co-written the highly anticipated Prometheus (2012), as The Darkest Hour does not demonstrate an aptitude for science fiction screenwriting. Although initially I quite liked Hirsche and Minghella as the downtrodden buddies stuck in Moscow, this wore extremely thin incredibly fast and the characters who joined them were equally bland. Hirsch receives most of the terrible dialogue such as "It must be some electro-magnetic shit" and other such astute explanations for the aliens and their plan to take over the world. The real shame is, if the movie had chosen to take a more tongue-in-cheek approach then this probably would have worked, but the fact that the ridiculous premise is taken way too seriously is definitely it's downfall.

The Darkest Hour is a hollow pointless romp across Moscow featuring unlikeable characters and unconvincing antagonists. The shiny CGI and baby faced Hirsch will probably attract younger fans (after all the film is a 12A) but seasoned genre fans and anyone with half a brain will see straight through that. I would suggest that this film be retitled The Dullest Hour, but I wouldn't want to mislead anyone into thinking that it's so mercifully short, one to avoid.

1 Star *

What did you think of The Darkest Hour? Has the alien invasion genre run out of ideas?

Hatchet 3 to Start Shooting

Horror legend and star of the Hatchet franchise, Kane Hodder has announced the threequel will start shooting at the end of the month. Details are scarce but Hodder has stated the film will be shot on location and will be the goriest yet! I haven't been a huge fan of the outrageous slasher homage so far, but Hatchet 2 was a lot better than the first.

Are you looking forward to this? What do you think of the Hatchet franchise?

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Rock Signs up for Lore

Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson has today announced that he's on board for upcoming monster movie Lore. Adapted from a graphic novel and described as "Men In Black with mythological monsters" the movie will see The Rock join a secretive organisation tasked with keeping monsters at bay much in the same vein as 2007's Jack Brooks: Monster Slayer. Here's hoping it's better than MIB!

What do you think of this announcement? Are you a fan of the novel?

Friday, 13 April 2012

IT!....Came From the 50s #2: Them! (1954)

Them is a 1954 giant monster science fiction film. Directed by Gordon Douglas (The Little Rascals) starring James Whitmore (The Shawshank Redemption), Edmund Gwenn (Miracle on 34th Street) and James Arness (The Thing From Another World). The film is considered one of the pioneers of the atomic age monster movie.

The film opens with Sgt Peterson (Whitmore) and his partner investigating some local disturbances in the New Mexico desert including break-ins and murders. There are strange circumstances surrounding the crimes in that nothing is stolen except sugar and the only witness is a mute little girl. The FBI quickly send in agent Robert Graham (Arness) followed by father and daughter team Dr Harold (Gwenn) and Patricia Medford to aid in the investigation. This leads to the discovery that due to the testing of the atomic bomb in New Mexico, a new breed of giant radioactive ants has emerged to take over the world. After a Queen ant escapes from the nest and threatens to populate California with the oversized bugs, emergency meetings are called as the government declare marshal law in an attempt to wipe Them out!

Them! is truly a pioneering film of it's day, following on from the equally groundbreaking Beast from 20,000 Fathoms (1953),the contemporary Gojira (1954) and of course the revolutionary King Kong (1933). Opting for puppet-based mechanical monster effects, as opposed to rubber suits or stop motion, has caused the film to age really well and the fact that the creatures were hand-built, hand-operated creations is a feat of engineering. The sound effects are equally important, the iconic ringing noise that the ants make creates a kind of tinnitus effect for the viewer and builds up a real sense of dread for the arrival of the monsters (occurring about a third into the movie). As well as the creature noise it's also worth noting that the film employs the now standard Wilhelm Scream, created only three years earlier, in some of it's key action scenes.

The trouble with Them! is it's slow, really slow. The first 30 minutes of the film plays out as a painfully slow murder mystery and for the rest of the runtime action sequences involving the ants are kept to a frustrating minimum. This may well be due to the constraints of the technology and the budget however it's telling that the 94 minute running time feels like an awful lot longer, and at times the film can be quite boring. The acting however, is solid enough to fill these lulls in action with great performances from both Whitmore and Arness as the investigatory double act. My favourite performance though, is from Edmund Gwenn as the allegorical entomologist, every 50s sci-fi movie has these characters to preach against the perils of nuclear power, scientific experimentation etc but the difference is Dr Medford is really likeable. This produces a rather schizophrenic character that is both doomsayer and comic relief, as his bewildered exchanges with the younger characters genuinely bring a smile to the viewer.

Them isn't the best 50s science fiction film, or the best giant monster film but it did legitimately break new ground and paved the way for hundreds of monster movies such as Jaws (1975) as well as giant insect movies such as Starship Troopers (1997). If you can patiently sit through a bit of tedious sleuthing you'll be rewarded with some vintage 50s sci-fi action and the film rightfully takes it's place as one of the classics of that golden era.

4 Stars ****

What did you think of Them? Do you like "giant bug" movies?

You Can't Kill Stephen King

The first trailer has been released for upcoming horror-comedy You Can't Kill Stephen King. The film follows a group of teenagers as they search of the legendary author at his lakeside retreat but get more than they bargained for. It looks like a pretty funny send-up of the genre, let's just hope it doesn't veer into Scary Movie territory. The film gets it's festival release on April 14th, check out the trailer.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Henge Trailer

A trailer has emerged for upcoming Japanese body-horror Henge. The film follows a young man who starts to develop strange side effects after a mysterious attack and certainly evokes memories of Cronenberg's Videodrome (1983). Check out the trailer over at Bloody Disgusting

What do you think of the trailer? Are you a fan of body horror?

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Intruders (2011): Review

Intruders is a 2011 psychological horror film. Directed by Juan Carlos Fresnadillo (28 Weeks Later) and starring Clive Owen (Children of Men), the film is a British/Spanish co-production with English subtitles for the Spanish language portions.

The film follows two parallel storylines, one involving a young girl named Mia and her father John (Owen) based in London and the other following a young boy named Juan growing up in Madrid. They both revolve around the children being haunted by a phantom called "Hollowface" who invades their bedrooms at night. The film opens with a dramatic rainy sequence in Spain where Hollowface comes to visit Juan and then shifts to England, where after discovering a ghost story hidden in a tree, Mia starts to see the same ghoul. The story shifts back and forth in this way until the dramatic truth is revealed about Hollowface's origins and the link between the two timelines.

I was a huge fan of Fresnadillo's 28 Weeks Later (2007) and was expecting big things from his next project, Intruders shows that same potential but eventually let me down. The direction can't be faulted, Intruders is a stylish and beautiful film to look at however it does seem to be a case of style over substance. The split timeline is a great concept and it does a great job of keeping the pace and making the film more interesting than it has any right to be but the central premise is flawed. The back story of Hollowface is set up in a fairytale style and the film centres around children but Owen seems intent on dropping F-bombs at every opportunity. This really comes off as a confused film, not knowing whether it wants to be a horror film or a twisted fairytale in the style of Pan's Labyrinth (2006).

It's even more of a shame that the plot is all over the place considering there are really strong performances from Clive Owen and Ella Purnell (Mia), creating a believable father-daughter relationship. Actually it's unclear as to whether Owen is really acting or just being himself but his delivery of the dialogue feels really natural and he carries the film as the male lead. The sequences involving Hollowface are scary and atmospheric but personally I had a problem with the special effects. In an age where every type of creature or monster has already been created this film opts to simply have a hooded figure with a lack of a face. Whilst perhaps an attempt to return to a simpler era of shadows and ghosts, this comes across as bland and lazy and made it difficult to invest in the monster.

Intruders is an interesting attempt to blend fairytale, ghost stories and home invasion conventions, however it ends up as a bit of a shambles and the payoff feels a little bit cheap. There are certainly good performances and Fresnadillo is very adapt at creating a stylish and atmospheric film, unfortunately the end result is a horror movie as bland and hollow as it's antagonist.

3 Stars ***

What did you think of Intruders? Would you like to see more international co-productions?

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Zomboobies trailer

A teaser trailer has been released for upcoming wacky horror-comedy Zomboobies. As the name suggests the film is set to be very mammary-centric as a group of scientists try to create the perfect pair of breasts but ended up turning into booby-crazed undead. The film is set to be released later in the year, though probably not in a cinema near you.

What are your first impressions? Are you usually a fan of this type of Japanese film?

Monday, 9 April 2012

Hostel: Part 3 (2011): Review

Hostel: part 3 is a 2011 straight-to-DVD horror film. The film is directed by Scott Spiegel and stars Kip Pardue and Brian Hallisay. The third in the "torture-porn" franchise, the events are now taking place in Las Vegas as opposed to central Europe.

The story follows the soon-to-be-married Scott (Hallisay) as he's whisked away by best buddy Carter (Pardue) for his stag night. Shockingly the pair aren't going golfing in Palm Springs, but are actually meeting up with friends Mike and Justin in "sin city". The obligatory strippers, booze and wild partying ensues, but the group soon find themselves in the wrong side of town as they become prisoners in an extremely suspicious complex. It is revealed that the pay-as-you-go torture service known as the elite hunting club have now set up operations on American soil and are exploiting the gambling capital of the world as part of their service. This involves our victims being placed in an glass-walled room, where wealthy clients are able to observe the carnage from the comfort of their theatre seats. One lucky client still gets to do the dirty work,  but the observers are able to vote, using their laptops, on what kind of torture is going to be performed, allowing them to gamble on the outcome. Our heroes (aka drunken idiots) are ultimately forced to tap into their own sadistic urges to escape their demise and bring an end to the EHC's Vegas branch.

 The poster for Hostel 3 is one of the most atrocious pieces of box art I've ever seen. I don't usually judge a movie by it's cover but when I first saw this I thought it was laughable, unfortunately this is definitely a case of "what you see is what you get". The deadly serious (and sometimes stylish) approach of the first two films is abandoned in favour of a lighter and more comic b-movie style. This would be fine were it not for the fact that this is supposed to be a torture-porn film! There is nothing more unfunny than watching someone being sadistically tortured for their own gratification, and this results in one of the most ill-judged horror sequels of all time. The jokes that are attempted come off as a lame pastiche of contemporary dross such as The Hangover (2009) and fail to make any of the main characters in the least bit likeable.

The other glaring element missing from this film is the gore, where is it? Apart from quite a neat flaying incident, the movie is almost completely absent of any kind of original or creative use of gore, as seen in the rest of the franchise. From what I could gather, the film makers spent all their budget on Ariel shots of Las Vegas and inexplicably long dolly shots of women's behinds, when what they should have been doing is concentrating on the special effects needed to create a gore film! I don't think I'll be spoiling anything when I talk about twists, because there are about half a dozen! The writer seems to be obsessed with swerving the audience; Oh you thought the eastern Europeans were the bad guys? You thought this was the club headquarters? You thought this was the ending? These techniques are not big or clever and if M. Night Shyamalan has taught us anything, it's that the audience will resent repeated twists.

Hostel 3 is a wretched piece of amateur film-making. It lets the franchise down, it let's the sub-genre down and more importantly, it let's horror fans down. Now that the Hostel franchise has sunk to the similar depths plumbed by the contemporary Saw franchise, it would seem that the torture-porn fad is now coming to an end. If you are looking for better efforts I would suggest opting for the more classy French efforts (Haute Tension, Martyrs), however, as far as this film is concerned it's not so much a torture film as just plain torturous.

1 Star *

What did you think of the movie? Are you a Hostel fan?

My Top Ten Zombie Movies

Here is my personal top ten favourite zombie films. I have chosen to focus on the traditional style movies and so have left out the excellent 28 days/weeks later and REC/REC 2 as "infected" movies.

1. Return of the Living Dead (1985)

2. Dawn of the Dead (1978)

3. Braindead AKA Dead Alive (1992)

4. Shaun of the Dead (2004)

5. Night of the Living Dead (1968)

6. Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979)
7. Evil Dead (1981)

8. Dead Snow (2009)

9. Day of the Dead (1985)

10. Plague of the Zombies

Have I missed any major movies? What are your favourite zombie films?

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Zombie Ass Trailer

A trailer has emerged for upcoming Japanese zombie movie directed by Noboru Iguchi (Machine Girl, Robogeisha). The bizarre movie follows a group of teenagers as they go out into the woods only to be infected by a parasitic worm! After frequenting the outhouse the group are then attacked by a hoard of poo zombies, this is what we've come to expect from Iguchi et al. Check out the outrageous trailer.

Are you looking forward to this? Or are you disgusted?

Friday, 6 April 2012

Rare Imports #2: Kairo AKA Pulse (2001)

Kairo aka Pulse is a 2001 Japanese psychological horror film directed by Kiyoshi Kurosawa and starring Haruhiko Katô and Kumiko Aso. The film (produced by the legendary Toho studios) is a modern day ghost story set in urban Japan, which follows a group of young adults who are at the centre of a paranormal epidemic.

The film follows the two parallel storylines involving
Kudo (Kato) and Kawashima (Aso). Kudo is a young woman who works at plant shop and starts to notice something very wrong with her friends. After witnessing her friend Taguchi inexplicably hang himself at the beginning of the film, one by one Kudo's friends fall into despondent trances and lose the will to live. The victims often receive phone calls from the recently deceased who can only utter the words "help me" and Kudo soon starts to notice doorways lined with red tape appearing all over Tokyo.

Kawashima storyline offers more a of an insight into the mythos of the ghosts and explains that the spirit world has somehow found a portal to spill over into our world via the Internet. Kawashima himself discovers a strange website which shows grainy snuff-like web cams featuring depressed individuals, which asks the chilling question "Would you like to meet a ghost?". Through consulting university staff Harue and Yoshizaki, it is further revealed that it is the isolation in Japanese youth culture that is creating these suicides, and that after realising there is no life after death people simply lose the will to live. The string of deaths eventually escalates in to an apocalyptic situation by which time the two story lines converge as Kudo and Kawashima try and escape the city and it's ghostly inhabitants together.

is a very subtle and underplayed horror film, it won't necessarily make you jump or scare you as you watch it but the imagery and concept will stay with you long after the film finishes. It is certainly the look and feel of the film that gives it it's unique quality; the amateur webcam footage, the slow-mo effects and the look of the ghosts themselves. Instead of the over used pale-faced, long-haired Japanese ghost the film makers opt for a more classical style. For the most part the ghosts are simply shadows, against walls, lurking in public places etc. This is a brilliantly simplistic approach as it encourages the viewer to use their imagination and really engage with the themes of the film. Thematically speaking the film is very rich and philosophical, to understand the film fully though it is important to have some background knowledge on Japanese culture. Hikikomori is the Japanese phenomena referring to young adults who withdraw from society and isolate themselves in their houses, couple that with the well known suicide problem in Japan and you start to see what the film is really about. Which makes it all the more sinister.

The trouble with
Kairo however, is no matter how metaphorically interesting it is or how eerie and unsettling some of the sequences are it is still, at it's core, a faintly silly premise. This was something much more apparent in the hideously misjudged American remake (Pulse 2006) but it's still there. The atmosphere and dread built up in the first half of the film is somewhat undermined by absurd conversations later in the film about how the spirit world is now full to the brim so now ghosts will invade our world and kill anyone they come into contact with. Simply putting red tape around a doorway seems like quite a flimsy safeguard against this and along with a number of other things is never really fully explained. It's a real disappointment that after engineering such a smart and thoughtful concept for a horror film that the execution feels a little bit clumsy and underdeveloped.

If you can suspend your disbelief then
Kairo is a great psychological horror film much in the same vein as Ringu (1998) or Dark Water (2002)with genuinely meaningful metaphors behind the scares. The fractured narrative is typical of the Japanese style and does require extra focus but if you let yourself be engaged, you will be scared out of your wits. The film perfectly encapsulates the feelings of isolation, loneliness and despair which are certainly not exclusive to Japanese youth and also reflect a time when there was still much apprehension about the Internet and it's effects. For these reasons Kairo should definitely be given a chance and just to reassure you, that shadow in the corner of your bedroom is definitely not a ghost.

4 Stars **** 

Have you seen Kairo or Pulse (remake)? Did the film affect you?

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Bigfoot Exists!

Whilst Eduardo Sanchez prepares to release his latest film Lovely Molly details have already emerged on his next project entitled Exists. It would seem Sanchez is exploring that most niche of horror sub-genres, the Bigfoot movie. In the style of Night of the Demon (1980) and The legend of Boggy Creek (1972), the film follows a group of teenagers who go on a camping trip only to be hunted by the mighty Sasquatch!

Are you looking forward to this? Do you like Bigfoot movies?

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

A Lonely Place to Die (2011): Review

A Lonely Place to Die is a 2011 British horror thriller film. Directed by Julian Gilbey (Rise of the Foot Soldier) and starring Melissa George (Triangle, The Amityville Horror) and Ed Speelers (Eragon). The movie was filmed completely on location in the Scottish highlands.

Alison (George), Ed (Speelers), Rob, Jenny and Alex are a group of enthusiastic rock climbers who have pilgrimaged to the most mountainous region of Scotland for an outdoor weekend. Once out on the highlands, the group make a shocking discovery and soon find themselves in the sights of a pair of vicious snipers intent on wiping out the entire group. After managing to escape the lawless mountains, the remaining members of the party make it to a nearby town to raise the alarm. However, the town has been designated as the meeting spot between their attackers and a third party who are seeking to conclude their "business", leaving the climbers stuck in the middle of a deadly firefight.

ALPTD is one of those great environmental movies in which the landscape is as big a character as any of the cast. Although the highland backdrop is only present for the first half of the film, it is a stunning location to shoot with and Gilbey makes fantastic use of it. In this respect it reminds me of Wes Craven's The Hills  Have Eyes (1977), full of pov shots from behind rocks or hovering over a precipice. Plot wise it actually reminded me of the much underrated Stallone film Cliffhanger (1993), in which innocent climbers also become embroiled in a highly illegal and dangerous situation, I would go so far as to say the opening scene of ALPTD is a nod to the memorable opening sequence of Cliffhanger. The unfortunate thing about ALPTD is that it abandons this brilliant setting half way through, and hence all the tension associated with the setting is also abandoned. Although the latter half of the film is still very good and the pay off is semi-satisfying, I was engrossed by the scenery of the first half and the move into a more urban setting caused my interest to dwindle slightly.

Something that also struck me instantly about the film, and is inseparable from the setting, is the brilliant score. The film opens and closes with a haunting traditional folk piece, set against the landscape in the case of the former. The rest of the score fuses typical thriller style sounds with an underlying bagpipe or penny whistle to add a Celtic flavour to the mix. Quite apart from the music there is also fantastic sound editing throughout; The whistling of the wind over the opening credits, the teeming sound of the woods and the deafening roar of a thrashing river in one key scene. Again this poses nature as an additional villain and creates the isolated effect alluded to in the title.

Stylistically ALWTD reminded me a lot of Ben Wheatley's recent masterpiece Kill List (2011) in that it mashed together lots of genres and elements in a very ambitious way. Like Kill List the film is a horror, a thriller, a crime film and has a smattering of black humour for good measure, making it a perfect companion piece. I liked ALPTD a lot and was thoroughly gripped for most of the film, but it is the film's ill-advised change of setting that eventually held it back.

4 Stars ****

What did you think of the film? Would you like to see more nature thrillers?

Carrie Fan Poster Attracts Director

A fan made poster for the upcoming Carrie remake has been shared by none other than it's director Kimberly Peirce. Whether it will be used for the film in any capacity remains to be seen but it does give you an idea of how Chloe Moretz will assume the role of the tortured teen

What do you think of the poster? Do you think they should use it?

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Lovely Molly Trailer Lands

As previously reported, Eduardo Sanchez (co-creator of The Blair Witch project) has a new film coming out entitled Lovely Molly. The film follows the story of Molly as she returns to her childhood home only to be haunted by her nightmarish childhood once again. The film also appears to incorporate the familiar cinema verite and found footage styles, check out the trailer.

Monday, 2 April 2012

The Thing (2011): Review

The Thing is a 2011 adaptation of John W. Campbell's novella Who Goes There? The film also acts as a prequel to the events of 1951's The Thing From Another World and it's remake 1982's The Thing directed by the legendary John Carpenter. This version is Directed by Matthijs van Heijningen Jr. starring Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs the World, Final Destination 3) and Joel Edgerton (Warrior).

The film follows the events immediately preceding Carpenter's film, in which a team of Norwegian researchers discover a flying saucer under the ice in Antarctica. They are soon joined by a crew of Americans including Paleontologist Kate Lloyd (Winstead) and pilot Sam Carter (Edgerton), as well as Dr. Sander Halvorson, a third party interested in retrieving whatever is recovered from the ice. Indeed they do find someThing (see what I did there) in the ice and decide to bring back the frozen E.T to defrost back at the base.  However when our alien friend awakes, it's in a pretty foul mood and proceeds to divide and conquer the team through it's signature replicating abilities. If any of the team want to make it out of the antarctic circle alive they must decide who they can trust and who is....the Thing!

The first (and perhaps most insulting) thing to mention about this movie is that it's a remake in prequel's clothing. There may be Norwegians involved and it certainly connects directly to Carpenter's film with it's ending, but (ironically) the plot is a suspicious impersonation of a genuine horror classic. The film makers did previously go on record in saying that they didn't feel they could remake such a classic so instead opted to show the story from a different perspective. The thing (ok I'll stop that now) is, they have remade Carpenter's film, and there is no alternative perspective (aside from seeing inside the spaceship). The events of the movie are identical to the original; an alien is found in the ice, it kills a dog, it impersonates people, a test must be performed to find out who is the thing. It's such a missed opportunity as they could have explored other avenues, but this is totally lacking in originality and creativity.

That being said there were attempts to explain and explore certain elements that were not present in the original film, such as the alien spaceship and the biological process involved with replication. Unfortunately this comes across as very unsubtle and a definite over-explanation of the origins of the thing. The thing is ambiguous by nature, that's what created the paranoia and suspense of the original. It could be anyone, it could look like anything, and clumsy attempts to explain the creature really fall flat. The wise decision was taken to use a mix of practical and CGI effects for the creature, anyone who saw Carpenter's film as a child will have those iconic visual effects firmly burnt into their brain and this movie did a good job of replicating that, with some new added elements.

The Thing is not a bad film by any means but it stands in the shadow of a gargantuan measuring stick. Make no mistake, this is a remake. A remake of a remake in fact, and as such really doesn't offer anything new, but is still an enjoyable retread with some very impressive monster sequences. I would say they shouldn't have bothered remaking a classic sci-fi film, but if John Carpenter had carried that opinion in 1982 then we wouldn't have one of the greatest horror movies of all time.

3 Stars ***

What did you think of The Thing? Does any film need to be remade twice?

Full Total Recall Trailer

The full trailer has now been released for upcoming remake of my favourite Arnie film (and yours) Total Recall. It appears to be a very shiny and slick looking sci-fi film, but will it retain the same sense of humour as the original? Check it out below and "Get your ass to Mars!"

What do you think of the trailer? Do you think they've cast the right actors?

Sunday, 1 April 2012

80s Horror Icons Fall on Hard Times

Photographer Federico Chiesa has produced a collection of photographs imagining what has become of the ageing horror icons of yesteryear. Subjects include; Freddy Krueger, Jason Voorhees, Michael Myers and the creepy twins from The Shining. Some are slightly disturbing, some are a bit sad. Check them out below

Sadako 3D Trailer

A trailer for upcoming Ringu sequel Sadako 3D has been released. The film appears to take the franchise into the Internet age, incorporating elements of J-horror classic Pulse as Sadako continues to seek revenge on the Japanese youths. The film is released in Japan on May 12th.