Monday, 29 August 2016

Frightfest 2016 Day Five

The Windmill Massacre



In which the spirit of Jean Brismee’s THE DEVIL’S NIGHTMARE is revisited with a Dutch setting and an almost Amicus feel. A group of individuals on ‘Happy Holland Tours’ get into trouble when the bus breaks down near an old windmill. When a hideous monster starts bumping them off it becomes clear they aren’t there by chance. Old school Euro-horror done well, and a real treat for fans of this kind of thing.

Alternate Title: Amsterdamnation


Man Underground




The gentle tale of a geologist who once worked for the government and believes he saw aliens. Now he has his own youtube channel (350 hits) and spends his time trying to convince the tiny audiences who attend his lectures that They are out there. When he decides to make a movie of his life in five days with the aid of his friend and a waitress he meets at the local diner, he fails to appreciate that the project may end up liberating him in all the wrong ways. A tiny budget, endearing performances, and a low-key feel to the proceedings made this an excellent early afternoon entry.

Alternate Title: Man Overground and Wombling Free


Director's Cut





What happens when a lunatic crowd funder grabs the film he’s funded, recuts it, adds a commentary track, and then kidnaps the lead actress to film his own ending. Often hilarious and managing the difficult feat of pulling off three different narratives (the movie, the re-edited movie, and the commentary) with tremendous skill, this is a very funny satire on the nature of low budget moviemaking that often had me laughing out loud.

Alternate Title: Reshoot First, Ask Questions Later!



Blood Hunters



Living up to the promise of its charmingly 80s VHS cover-style poster, this one’s about an underground medical facility where blood-sucking monsters are on the rampage. Obviously very low budget, and with a plot that tries to touch on both religion and science, mortality and life after death, its reach is probably just a bit too ambitious for what should essentially be a bit of pulpy action fun. When this hits DVD it’ll be okay for a slow evening.

Alternate Title: Underground



Train to Busan




And we finish Frightfest 2016 with what might well be my film of the year. The best fast-moving action zombie picture ever made, the best train-set horror picture ever made, and the best film ever to close Frightfest. It gets a UK release in October. Just go and see it.

And that's it for another year! It's now close to 1am on Tuesday morning. Once again I find myself exhausted but exhilarated, blissfully happy at so many great films and so many lovely people, and yet very sad that it's all over now. Some of these films will find themselves in my top ten of the year (and my bottom five, oh yes indeedy). Normal service will be resumed later this week but for now I have a train to catch, and after that final film I feel quite unnerved about doing so.

Sunday, 28 August 2016

Frightfest 2016 Day Four

Downhill




Kicks off with an altar, a sacrifice and something wiggly. Then we cut to some cyclists in the countryside, and what should have been RACE WITH THE DEVIL on bikes. Instead we get half an hour of absolutely nothing at all. I didn’t like the director’s previous HIDDEN IN THE WOODS and I didn’t like this. No more of his stuff, I think.

Alternate Title: Skid Marks



Let's Be Evil



Evil hyper-intelligent kiddies in the CHILDREN OF THE DAMNED mould in this low-budget virtual reality British picture. A fun twist at the end but there was rather too much running around in the dark in this one for me.

Alternate Title: Prodigies of Pain



Broken




Girl with serious problems of her own ends up looking after obnoxious, self-obsessed, tetraplegic ‘rock star’ who caused his own spinal injury through stupidity. A collection of damaged and / or unpleasant characters in a grim tale that I suspect is striving for 'gritty realism'. Unfortunately it just goes all daft in the last act & I ended up not liking it very much at all.

Alternate Title: Crack Heads


Crow



The spirit of Arthur Machen strikes again with this marvellous, atmospheric Welsh horror tale of a valley and the ancient spirits that protect it. Some truly excellent photography gives the landscape a personality all its own, and the movie also boasts some great performances. A real discovery and one of my favourites.

Alternate Title: Druid’s Revenge


Bad Blood: The Movie



Oh yes - this is what we want on a Sunday night! People turning into giant frog monsters and going on the rampage! Gleefully wearing its Frank Henenlotter influence like a dripping slimy crown, this is terrific splattery fun - well directed, with amusing performances and some great non-CGI effects. Full marks for BAD BLOOD.

Alternate Title: Night of the Werefrogs (even the director admitted it’s probably going to get a release as something like that)


Saturday, 27 August 2016

Frightfest 2016 Day Three

The Rezort


Ever wondered what the trashy Italian zombie movies of the early 1980s might have looked like if they’d been made by someone with actual talent? Wonder no more as this exceptionally entertaining British zombie picture explores what it would be like if zombies were kept in a theme park on an isolated island for the amusement of the rich and jaded. I doubt if director Steve Barker would admit Bruno Mattei as an influence even if that infamous director’s HELL OF THE LIVING DEAD might have actually been an inspiration. Unashamed trashy fun and the first genuine surprise of the festival so far.

Alternate Title: JuraZic Park


Abattoir


And sadly we follow with the biggest disappointment so far. The central idea of someone taking the rooms in which people have been murdered in order to construct some kind of house of hell is great, but it requires a considerable degree of panache and confidence to make it work. ABATTOIR has neither, and instead throws in several extra plot ‘twists’, two screamy sweary leads who quickly get tiresome, and a denouement that’s more ridiculous than the ending of some episodes of SOUTH PARK. For people who like James Wan movies, ABATTOIR desperately wants to be one, and it fails miserably. For those who don’t like James Wan movies - it’s just like a James Wan movie.

Alternate Title: James Wannabe

The Master Cleanse



What a curious, quirky and charming film! Anjelica Huston and Oliver Platt’s intensive laxative therapy course leads to the birth of cute little bowel monsters that they claim are made up of all one’s ill-feelings. Will Johnny Galecki and Anna Friel be able to complete their purification course by killing their new offspring or not? Delightfully strange and appealingly original, this is well worth a look when it gets a release.

Alternate titles: Bowel Babies / Colon Children / Motion Monsters 



The Creature Below
 


This year’s FrightFest really is full of surprises. I expected very little from this one and was delighted to discover that on a tiny budget we can say hello to a whole new subgenre of British suburban Lovecraft. Girl goes ultra deep sea diving and brings back an egg which she keeps in the basement of her Yorkshire semi-detached. The egg hatches to yield a tentacled thingy that loves blood. Very rough around the edges, the love for old HPL shines through - we even have characters drinking Charles Dexter Ward wine! A suitably apocalyptic and insane ending rounded off this very pleasant surprise indeed.

Alternate Title: Little Shoppe of Cephalopods

 
The Love Witch




Camp and colourful, and as much a tribute to Stephanie Rothman’s THE VELVET VAMPIRE as the movies of Douglas Sirk, THE LOVE WITCH is a beautifully designed and shot piece of luscious film-making. It does go on a bit, mind, and if you haven’t fully bought into the more-soapy-than-horror premise of its central character trying to find love at any cost you might find yourself looking at your watch quite a bit before the end, especially if renaissance theatre performance isn’t your thing. Gorgeous stuff, though, and that includes the lead actress, who deserves to star in a neo-giallo if there’s one going.

Alternate Title: Set A Course For...Witchcraft!


Blood Feast



Good God someone has remade H G Lewis’ 1963 load of old rubbish BLOOD FEAST. Robert Rusler is actually great as Fuad Ramses, who forgets to take his meds and is convinced he can hear the goddess Ishtar talking to him during his night job at the local museum. By day he runs a diner on the outskirts of Paris (France. Yes France). Soon he’s hacking up the locals before inviting his wife and daughter to take part in the feast of the title. Rusler is excellent, everything else is decidedly ropey. Even the gore effects are only slightly better than the original.

Alternate Title: How can you possibly improve on BLOOD FEAST?


Friday, 26 August 2016

Frightfest 2016 Day Two

Through the Shadow


As far as colour versions of the Henry James story The Turn of the Screw go, this isn't bad at all. Jack Clayton's THE INNOCENTS will probably never be bettered, but this is a fine, atmospheric, and above all passionate interpretation of the James story, with measured performances and some excellent imagery. Setting the story on a coffee plantation allows for some original, but entirely appropriate, touches in this Brazilian picture. I just hope the subtitles get a bit of a polish before any formal disc release. 

Alternate title: The Nightgoers (sorry)

Enclosure



Fiona Dourif and her husband who ‘just wants to be in a band’ celebrate their second wedding anniversary by hiking off into the woods, not knowing that their planned route runs through monsters and Jake Busey. This one’s a slow burner but the climax is a Machenesque keeper. Deserves sticking with, and director Patrick Rea is a lovely chap whose enthusiasm for the genre shines through in his work. 

Alternate Title: In the Woods

Lost Solace


Not sure about this one. It’s well made and some of the imagery, especially the really trippy bits, is excellent. But the plot is all over the place. Tagged as LIMITLESS meets AMERICAN PSYCHO, this is sort of both of those, but with a few too many plotlines going on for its own good. Not a disaster by any means, but by the time you reach the end you may well feel a little frustrated that it isn’t rather more satisfying.

Alternate Title: A Clockwork Pineapple

Night of Something Strange


The spirit of Peter Jackson’s BAD TASTE is straining to be emulated in this, but unfortunately it’s a bit too much bad and too little taste (and a lot of straining). Body fluids of every description, vomit-filled toilet bowls, bloodstained tampons and condoms plus talking vagina dentata and absurd prosthetic penises all vie for comedy space amidst the zombie mayhem of this one. Despite all that, this one feels a lot too amateurish for much of it to work, and there are plenty of opportunities for comedy that are sadly missed. One for strong stomachs and no sense of taste whatsoever.

Alternate Title: Night of the Living Dead Bums, Willies and Other Rude Things

The Similars


What Frightfest is all about for me - a raving mad Mexican subtitled movie with a thunderous music score and a healthy sense of genre heritage that I wouldn't get to see anywhere else. Why are the people convening on a remote bus station during a rainstorm all growing beards and turning into the same man? Is it the rain? A government experiment? I’ll leave you to find out. Absolutely one of the highlights of the festival so far. 

Alternate Title: Facial Hair - Everywhere!

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Frightfest 2016 Day One

It's time for House of Mortal Cinema's annual trip to London for Frightfest, this time held in the sunny surrounds of Shepherd's Bush. Five days of movies, many of which are world premieres, plus guests, surprises and free stuff (so far I have CELL T-shirt, a rubber heart, a CELL phone case, a Horror Channel T Shirt, and a collection of postcards. I didn't say the free stuff was actually covetable). 

          The festival kicked off with Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson giving us the welcome news that Lionsgate are going to film their stage hit GHOST STORIES, with Nyman and Dyson directing and Martin Freeman featured in the cast. The short clip they then showed proved to be the highlight of the evening, as the films on offer to kick off the festival were, to be charitable, all strictly 'B' grade material. Here's what I thought:

My Father Die



Continues the Frighfest tradition of the opening film being, well, not terribly good, really. In the scuzzy deepest depths of the deep south, deaf and dumb Asher learns that the father who deprived him of his hearing and killed his brother has been released from prison 'because of overcrowding'. He leaves his enormous bedridden mother, puts a wolf on his head, and catches the bus into town to beat his father's head in. He doesn't quite hit him enough times with the spade, however, allowing the film another hour of miserable characters wallowing in their own grimness, peppered now and again with voiceovers and shots of classical paintings to make this picture seem a bit more profound than it actually is. Can you guess this one ends badly?

Alternate Title: "Oh Dad, Poor Dad, You're a Hillbilly Rapist And I'm A Bit Miffed About it Actually"

Cell



Nowhere near as bad as many reviews will have led you to believe (thank goodness), this starts well, and then follows the time-honoured route trod by movies and TV shows like THE CRAZIES, THE CHANGES, 28 DAYS LATER and even QUATERMASS (that ending). The problem is that all those productions did this idea better, and that's a shame, because CELL had the potential to be as good as any of them. But it isn't. Sadly, the film is saddled with a weak script that could have done with some ruthless editing (that whole Stacy Keach bit needed to go) and some extra bits to help it all make a bit more sense.

Alternate Title: It's For You

Let Her Out




Sadly nowhere near as sexy or weird as the poster art up there promises, LET HER OUT starts off with a memorably sleazy prologue but doesn't go anywhere much at all after that, other than giving us a dull retread of THE DARK HALF. After Mr King and Mr Romero's epic, and Takeshi Miike's IMPRINT episode of MASTERS OF HORROR several years ago, LET HER OUT feels like a seriously retrograde step in the 'twin growing in my brain' subgenre. Some splatter and a semi-transformation scene at the end are all too little, too late, and the characterisation here is strictly one note as well. Shame.

Alternate Title: Splatter Sisters 

Saturday, 20 August 2016

Touched With Fire (2015)


“Non-sentimental tale of love & bipolar illness”

Paul Dalio’s film of two individuals with severe bipolar disease who find love (and inspired by the non-fiction book of the same title) has a planned UK DVD release soon.
Carla (Katie Holmes) and Marco (Luke Kirby) are both poets. She has had an anthology published, he performs his raps onstage. When we meet them, both are veering headlong into exacerbations of the bipolar manic depressive disorder they have suffered from since their youth. When Carla mistakenly checks herself into a local mental facility, and Luke ends up there after a run in with the police, they find their common ground soon leads to a burgeoning romance, much to the worry and concern of their parents.


A frank and refreshingly unsentimental look at the (literal) highs and lows of suffering from bipolar disorder, TOUCHED WITH FIRE does a good job of putting us in the protagonists’ heads, such that we understand why they might not want to take their medication (being manic and in love must be the most intense experience ever) but that they have to (it also leads to violence, accidents and general life-endangerment). There’s a happy ending of sorts for both of them, but it’s a realistic one. 


TOUCHED WITH FIRE does a good job of balancing itself precariously on the knife edge between being overly sentimental and rose-tinted on the one hand, and plunging us into the unrelenting nightmare that mental illness can be on the other. Paul Dalio’s direction (and script and music) is helped immensely by a couple of measured, likeable performances by its leads, and the supporting cast is good too, including the always watchable Griffin Dunne. 



All of this combines to make TOUCHED WITH FIRE an extremely watchable, non-preachy treatment of its subject matter, which makes it all the more of a shame that on the afternoon of watching it we here at House of Mortal Cinema have learned of the demise of its planned UK distributor, Metrodome Pictures. The film was planned for an August 22nd release & I’d be surprised if it doesn’t make it to the shelves this close to the distribution date. Let’s hope it does, while at the same time raising a glass and issuing a deep sigh for the end of one of Britain’s quirkier and more interesting movie distributors. 

Hopefully TOUCHED WITH FIRE will be out on UK DVD on Monday 22nd August 2016 from (sniff and a fond farewell to you) Metrodome Pictures

Thursday, 18 August 2016

Unspoken (2015)



“A Haunted House Story - With a Creative Twist”

Premiered at Frightfest’s Halloween event last year, director Sheldon Wilson’s UNSPOKEN (on the publicity) or THE UNSPOKEN (on the credits) or THE HAUNTING OF BRIAR HOUSE (Channel 5 last Christmas Eve, apparently) gets a Digital Download, DVD and Blu-ray release from Arrow Films.
In 1997, the police are called to the remote Briar House to find bloodstains on the crucifix-adorned walls, the family vanished, and the babysitter covered in blood and raving mad.  


Seventeen years later. Single mum Jeannie (Pascale Hutton) moves into the house with her nine year old son Adrian (Sunny Sujic). Adrian apparently hasn’t said a word since the death of his father. Jeannie enlists the help of Angela (Jodelle Ferland from TIDELAND, CABIN IN THE WOODS and SILENT HILL) to look after him.
Meanwhile, very odd things are happening. The kitchen decides to impersonate POLTERGEIST but with crockery instead of furniture, while outside, the rotting corpse of a dog comes to life and tears the chin off the gardener. Meanwhile, Angela also has trouble in the form of teen roughnecks-cum-future-boy band Luther, Rodney and the other one. They’ve stashed drugs in the house’s cellar. Their lesbian associate Pandy (Chanelle Peloso) has designs on Angela and she's despatched to pop into the cellar and get them back.


Events build to a climax and then that twist, which will probably surprise you, even if it might not be entirely satisfactory. And that’s the problem with UNSPOKEN as a whole - there are some good bits here, and lots of promise, but it doesn’t reallly hang together. The opening is great, there are some excellent moments of over-the-top melodrama, enough lurid and crazy elements to make a great Lucio Fulci flick, and more crashes, bangs and musical stingers than we’ve had the pleasure to jump to in a long while.



On the minus side, while the first half an hour is pretty good, the film starts to drag after that, and there’s a desperate need for more outrageous horror stuff to be happening here to keep up the momentum. The finale feels rushed when much more could have been made of the cat-and-mouse games around the house. It’s a shame because there are far too few decent haunted house pictures around these days, despite the plethora of same box art low rent rubbish filling the shop shelves, and even fewer that actually give you some decent bang for your buck. THE UNSPOKEN isn’t rubbish, it does give you a few decent scenes, and I thought the twist was great fun. If you fancy a modern low budget haunted house picture this is certainly one of the better ones. Arrow’s disc contains no extras. 

UNSPOKEN is out on Digital Download from 22nd August 2016 and on DVD & Blu-ray from 5th September 2016