Friday, August 28, 2015

meet is murder.

A quick review of a little movie I caught up with last week...excuse the lack of 'mooth shite' and 'laugh now' references because frankly I rather enjoyed it.

Will wonders never cease?

Meet Me There (2014).
Dir: Lex Lybrand.
Cast: Lisa Friedrich, Micheal Foulk, Jill Thompson and Dustin Runnels.

When Ada's (Friedrich, looking for all the world like a perfect splicing between Gaylen Ross and Sarah Polley which, trust me, is a good thing) deep seated sexual anxieties begin to impact on her relationship with her loving boyfriend, Calvin (Foulk, sans Hobbes), the cutesy couple decide to attend counselling sessions where it becomes worryingly clear that Ada has almost totally forgotten anything related to her childhood.

Concerned that she may have suffered some kind of filthy fiddling as a child her counsellor suggests that the best way of overcoming the intimacy- based issues is trying to re-connect with her past.

Which is much better than the "kill the whores to save yourself" advice that my counsellor gave me.

And much less messy.

Being a thoroughly nice bloke, Calvin offers to take Ada on a cross state road trip to her home town of Sheol (think the West Midlands with a shallower gene pool and cheaper trousers) in the hope that it may trigger some memory that will help Ada overcome her fears and enable Calvin to finally come over her.

Sorry that was uncalled for.

Anyway after a creepy run in with a boss-eyed petrol station attendant things go from bad to Lynch upon arrival in the town, firstly Calvin is threatened with a shooting for attempting to buy bottled water and when they finally get to the location of Ada's childhood home all that they find is a tree.

True enough, it's a very nice tree but not the place you can imagine anyone raising a family.

Unless they were Ewoks obviously.

"You did WHAT in your cup?"

Making the best of a bad situation they decide to visit Ada's slightly sinister Aunt Lindsay (a fantastic turn from comics scribe Thompson) in the hope of spending the night - reckoning it'd be safer than spending it in the car - but fail to reckon with her overwhelming love of God and her overblown loathing of tattoos.

This obviously leads to an oh so slightly uncomfortable evening made worse after bedtime when the couple are kept awake by Lindsay and her hubbie shouting abuse at each other.

A wee bit like when I go home to visit.

Waking bright and early the next morn the couple decide to take advantage of the sunshine and take a leisurely walk around the town, partly to see if they can actually find Ada's old home but mainly to see if there are any normal people around.

Or at least ones that aren't related to each other.

Or have the right number of toes.

Yup, it's definitely like my home town.

It's not too long (it's a short movie) before they come across (not in that way but judging by Calvin's frustrated demeanour it wont be long before he can help himself) the local church and it's even more local Preacher, Edward Woodward (A genuinely unsettling performance from ex-wrestler Runnels) who, after inviting them inside for a chat and a chocolate Hob Nob calmly suggests that they should both kill themselves.

Which is a wee bit unexpected.

Mulder and Scully....the hairy years.

Between this, the trigger-happy locals and Aunt Lindsay's warts The pair decide that it'd probably be for the best if they just grab their stuff and head home now (which seeing as they're from Texas gives you some idea of how fucked up the place is) unbeknown to them tho' Ada's mad uncle has torched their car leaving them no choice but to attempt to fight their way back  home.

It seems that the locals take the story that people only visit Sheol when they're ready to die very seriously indeed.

Similar in style to Jay Dahl's fantastic There Are Monsters, director Lex Lybrand alongside writers Brandon Stroud and Destiny D Talley - on who’s personal experiences the film is based, spookily and allegedly) is that rare beast that takes a much used horror cliché - this time the stranger-baiting small town - yet delivers something unique and unexpected despite - or because of - this oft-used formula.

In a rare and somewhat bold move, the majority of the films running time is taken up with exploring the characters of Ada and Calvin and their relationship with each other  before suddenly dropping us - and them - into the terrifyingly real threat that the townsfolk pose.
And what of our lovelorn leads?

Well Lybrand seems less concerned with the acting skills of Friedrich and Foulk and more about keeping their reactions real and it's credit to the pair that the approach works so well.

The entire film hinges on the believability of their relationship and both pull this off with aplomb.

I've not been this worried about a characters fate since Andrew Sensenig's sensitive performance as a grieving dad in the sublime We Are Still Here and thinking about it you can see this movie as a kinda punky, art school little brother to that.

Intense, unsettling and strangely compelling, Meet Me There is everything you could want from a low budget movie and shows that you don't need to splash out the cash to dole out the scares.

A little gem.

Shit, I better find something awful to watch soon before folk start to think I've gone soft in my old age.....

Sunday, August 9, 2015

stage shite.

Another day, another found footage shocker.

But will it deliver the goods or just leave us hanging?

The Gallows (2015).
Dir: Chris Lofing and Travis Cluff.
Cast: Reese Mishler, Pfeifer Brown, Ryan Shoos, John Tanksly and Cassidy Gifford.

"Don't say his name!"

There's nothing like throwing the viewer in at the deep end so we begin way back in 1993, slap bang in the middle (well possibly nearer the climax but who really cares?) of a hellish high school production of The Gallows, a kinda sub-Scarlet Letter/Crucible rip-off only with half the charm and an abundance of substandard Shakespearean dialogue delivered in that cringing mockney tone that Americans seem to think is a true representation of an 'English' accent.

In the stalls the proud parents of fright-wigged freak teen Charlie Grimille are busy recording the play for posterity as they admire their son's plumb-mouthed performance.

If I'd have known by this point that this grainy home movie footage was a good as the film got I would have given up now.

It's not all arsed-up accents and wonky wigs tho' because as the play lurches toward its climax which features Charlie's character being hung from the aforementioned gallows, tragedy - or good taste - strikes when the door beneath him opens accidentally hanging him in front of the entire school.

Which if I'm honest is really raising the bar for whoever takes the drama class the year after.

I mean how the fuck would you follow that?

A musical version of Salo?

That typesetting is off.

Jump forward to the present day, where the school (for some reason known only to the parent council and woefully incompetent script writers) have decided the time is right to restage the play - with the same costumes, prop gallows and everything.

Surely that'd be like Columbine deciding to stage a version of Gus Van Sant's Elephant using the shooters actual guns as props?

There's no time to dwell on such matters tho' as we're quickly (come on the running time is only 81 minutes) introduced to the frighteningly horse faced Ryan (Ryan Gosling via a drunken police photofit Shoos), an arrogant arsehole who's main interest seems to be baying at his own jokes in the manner of an idiot manchild who's just discovered the power of speech.

Waving his camera around like an easily amused monkey playing with their own shit, Ryan is busying himself filming his best friend Reese's (Youthful Daze's Randy Milhouse, Mishler) woeful attempts at acting whilst looking good in tights.

It appears that he's playing the same character Charlie played last time around but luckily for him the brain-power it seems to take to enable him to walk and talk at the same time leaves him precious little to worry about the whole hanging thing with.

To be honest he seems more concerned with having to share an onstage kiss with the doll-like - albeit one with a massive head - lead actress Pfeifer (Brown, a kinda more homely, pint-sized Danielle Harris).

This is because he loves her don't you know.

I just look at this picture and it makes me too angry to even consider writing a vaguely amusing caption. Sorry.

After several minutes (that'll I'll never, ever get back you bastards) of watching Ryan following Reese around - in between taking the piss out of all the geeky students and interviewing a group of woman who witnessed Charlie's death in a vague hope of keeping our interest - our fowl-faced friend finds a door with a broken lock, which gives him the idea of sabotaging the sets and saving Reese the agony of looking like a complete tit onstage.

Ryan's button-nosed girlfriend Cassidy (Gifford, daughter of Barry and Kathie Lee, possibly) agrees the this would probably be a good idea and the pals agree to meet up that night to put the plan into operation.

And before you ask the school obviously has no alarms.


Before that tho' we have to have a scene where Reese's manly as fuck dad Rick (Tanksly, last seen leaving your mums bed early yesterday morning) shouting at his son in an almost predatory manner whilst telling him not to do the play.

This may become important later.

After this fantastic scene of parental concern cum character building the toothsome trio quickly head over to the school and are soon channelling their rebellious nature by violently kicking over a few plant pots and smashing some bottles before settling down to unscrewing the stairs leading to the gallows.

Right on.

The fun is bought to a sudden end tho' when Pfeifer pops up out of the shadows after claiming to have seen Reese's car in the car park.

No idea how tho'....perhaps she carries a ladder around with her.

Anyway, this being a found footage gig Ryan blatantly leaves the camera recording as Reese uncomfortably tries explain to Pfeifer why they're sneaking around the school late at night, luckily for him (and us) he's interrupted by a series of loud thumps (as in the noise, not ones to his head unfortunately) and what sounds like a bell ringing.

Perhaps it only rings when the script hits a certain cliché level in order to warn the audience to leave?

The only spirit haunting these poor fuckers is the ghost of Showgirls.

Never having heard a bell in a school before the  kids get a wee bit spooked and decide it'd be best if they just went home and forget about the whole thing but try as they will the broken door is now locked.

If that wasn't creepy enough they soon discover that none of their phones are working in the school  meaning that they've no way of calling for help or saving the audience from even more tedious out of focus "he's behind you" shenanigans.

Frustrated by the obscene amounts of horror tropes on show Cassidy confesses all to Pfeifer (well not all, I mean she doesn't go into detail about the nude romp with Jenny (Mackie Burt) from the cheer leading squad or show the pictures of her pleasuring herself with Ryan's massive chin but we can dream), causing poor Pfeifer to angrily stomp off into the darkness.

I assume it's anger tho' it may have been a case of slight constipation.

Burt: Nude cheerleading.

Gingerly (and you don't often get to use that word in a horror review) exploring the school for a way out the group soon come across a hidden door in a storeroom that leads them to a document filled cupboard where an old TV is playing looped footage of the local news report of Charlie's death.

Just in case we'd forgotten why we are here obviously.

That's not all tho' as the screen is soon filled (well as filled as one of those old 4:3 screens can be) with Charlie's folks footage of the accident (obviously You've Been Framed rejected it due to the focusing issues) as well as an interview with Charlie's girlfriend (then not now obviously), who just happened to be one of the women that was watching the rehearsals earlier that day.

What are the chances?

It turns out that Charlie was the understudy for role and only took over when the original student called in sick due to painful hemorrhoids caused by spending too much time sitting on the cold stage.

At this point Reese makes a noise like a startled mouse and runs off in the direction of the school's 'Gallows' memorial display.

Grabbing the cast photo from the case Reese is shocked to discover that the original actor cast was his dad Rick.

Again, what are the chances?

Pretty high if your script writing skills are this lazy obviously.

"Hello French polishers? You may just have saved my life!"

Trapped in the school with no means of escape our scared students begin to realise that something supernatural may be afoot and Charlie may have returned from beyond the grave to extract an ill-conceived and poorly thought out revenge plan that, upon closer inspection (well any inspection if I'm honest) makes no sense whatsoever.

Will our heroes survive?

Will anything remotely original happen?

Will one of the characters be revealed to be a hitherto unmentioned child of Charlie's?

Will the film end with a clunkily added coda that attempts to set up the villain as a new horror icon only to leave you giggling like a schoolgirl?

And is it wrong to find myself more and more attracted to Pfeifer Brown the sweatier and more shot to fuck she becomes?

Scraping the bottom of the cinematic barrel (probably the same one that Josh put Megan in) comes a film so contrived and with so little respect for it's audiences intelligence that one can only assume that it was greenlit as some kind of bizarre post-modern experiment in using cinema to cause atrophy in brain tissue.

I never usually say this but spoilers/plot holes ahead for anyone brave enough to risk viewing it:

After such a tragic accident, would a school (any school, the one I went to excepted) actually restage a play that resulted in the death of a student and use the same prop?

Would no-one (teachers, parents etc.) not mention the fact that the lead actor was the son of the original lead? I mean his photo is in the schools main lobby....did no-one bother to look?

And does the school not keep pupil records?

You see it turns out that Pfeifer is the daughter of Charlie's ex girlfriend, born a few months after his death....and it was her that lobbied to get the school to restage the play....did no-one think this a wee bit odd?

Everyone appears to know that the stage door is broken, did the schoolboard think "Fuck it, we can't afford a padlock, it's not like anyone ever breaks into schools"?

And that's just the ones I made a note of before I started dribbling and trying to spoon out my eyes.

Good job I didn't tho' as the  joint writing/directing team of Lofing and Cluff do manage to deliver a couple of nicely creepy set pieces, it's just unfortunate that they're quickly smothered by the sea of warmed up shite that surrounds them.

Honestly there's the bare bones of a nice little mocumentary/found footage chiller lurking beneath the mess, it just needs a wee tweak to make it work.

For example, up the age of the students slightly and have them discover the whole gallows tale online, deciding to do their film studies final project around it they travel across State to interview folk involved and finally discover the prop still exists....rebuilding it to stage a 'true-drama' re-enactment for the projects climax.

Plus by moving the location - and altering the timeline to make the incident happen a few decades earlier as opposed to a few years eliminates the majority of the plot holes.

Pfeifer could be the grandchild not child, which also gives a creepy "You look a wee bit like Charlie" vibe to the whole thing that would leave you guessing is it possession or revenge?

You're welcome.


The thing that makes me the saddest tho' is that regardless of how badly written and generally cack handed the whole thing is is the fact that the relatively inexperienced cast are all fantastic, bravely doing their best with material that by rights shouldn't even been given a second thought let alone typed up and made.

Ryan Shoos is perfectly punchable without ever drifting into parody as the bullying jock whilst Reese Mishler performs the difficult act of balancing put upon pal with a kind of shy pathos that really makes you believe in his character, I just wanted to give him a hug and reassure him that everything was alright around the halfway point.

Mainly due to him having to be in such an awful movie but still.

Pfeifer Brown is fabulous too, going from crying cutey to spooky psycho on the spin of a coin and fair play to Cassidy Gifford who draws the short straw (and even shorter shorts) by managing to make a character whose main traits seem to be stating the obvious and screaming actually watchable.

They - and us - deserve better.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


It's been caled the scariest movie since It Follows.

But in all honesty could it be any worse?

Unfriended (2014).
Dir: Levan Gabriadze.
Cast: Shelley Hennig, Renee Olstead, Will Peltz, Jacob Wysocki, Courtney Halverson, Moses Jacob Storm and Heather Sossaman.

What's fat and white and red all over? Ken in a blender.

It's been a year since the death of Laura Barns (Sossaman, Sossaman, does whatever a Sossaman can obviously), a mousy high schooler who committed suicide after a video of her pissed off her tits and covered in her own shite was posted on YouTube by a group of her classmates.

Which just goes to show how lucky kids today are seeing as when I was that age you'd have had to sit for hours and make a sketch of the carnage if you wanted evidence of any of your friends in such a state.

Or just take a photo obviously.

Anyway let's not dwell on such a tragedy and instead catch up with her amusingly monikered mate Blaire Lily (former Miss Louisiana Teen USA Hennig) who is currently teasing her boyfriend Mitch (Storm, cousin of Johnny and Sue). by flashing her bra at him on her 'webcam' and promising to let him stick it in her after the prom.

And who says kids today aren't romantic?

Luckily for those of us here for the scares - as opposed to grainy shots of a teen erection, they're quickly joined online by their three pals; Jess (vegetarian jazz singer and owner of some killer cheekbones Olstead), the chubby geek Ken  (Wysocki), and slick haired badboy Adam (Peltz, best known for his fantastic performance as the 'Nervous Young Man' in an early episode of Medium) for an evening of excited chat, friendly abuse and whatever else it is that kids today get up to online.

Oh yeah, they've also been joined by a spooky user named "billie227" who soon claims to be the dead Laura.


"Aaaargh! I'm covered in bees!"

Whilst attempting to get rid of this bizarre interloper, Blaire notices that the late (as in dead, not bad at timekeeping) Laura's Facebook account has started sending bizarre messages to the friends, which makes them begin to suspect that someone might be playing a prank on them.

Rather than the more realistic notion of it being Laura's vengeful ghost obviously.

But who could the vile prankster be? I hear you cry.

The friends unilaterally nominate the wide mouthed bad girl - and ex German tank commander - Val Rommel (Halverson), so invite her to join them.

But no sooner has she proclaimed her innocence when Jess' Facebook page (ask your kids) is suddenly updated with a load of dodgy photos of a mightily pissed up Val, drunkenly smoking 'the drugs' and showing her frankly magnificently milky thighs.

To be honest I've not seen a pair this arousing since Megan went missing.

Which, before you email in any death threats is OK because in reality she's in her mid twenties.

Unlike Megan who I assume is still locked in that barrel.

Where's your lad tonight?

Being girls the pair start shouting at each other whilst ineffectually slapping their keyboards before pouting down the webcam lens as they desperately try to delete the incriminating photos.

As is the way with ghost stalkers with a thing for technology tho' they just keep re-appearing but this time alongside insulting messages regarding the pairs feminine hygiene and their love of cheap brandy. 

Val, incensed at being accused of liking such an old mans drink eventually calls 911 to report the abuse before randomly blaming Ken - who is fat and therefore must be evil - then signing out.

As the mysterious Laura e-mails more and more evidence of the friends cruelty to not just the group but to the tribute page set up to remember the dead girl - including a message from Val telling Laura to kill herself, it becomes obvious to all concerned that they must be dealing with a hacker who knew the victim and wants revenge.

Either that or someone is really desperate to get that 250 quid offered on You've Been Framed.

These are the kind of messages I get sent her every single week....just to let you know if anything happens to me you're marked.

With what looks like the entire online community suddenly berating Val for her nastiness, she suddenly appears back in chat and on her webcam but not as is the usual case with foxy teen girls, naked and covered in baby oil.


I really wouldn't know.

Instead a totally terrified - yet still fairly foxy - Val is silently standing in her bathroom clutching a bottle of bleach whilst staring at the camera.

Which is a different kind of erotic than I'm used to whilst chatting online but what the hell I'll give it a shot.

Suddenly - and in a haze of pixels her computer is knocked to the ground and lands with the camera aimed at Val's by now shaky legs causing the ever concerned Blaire to speculate that Val is having a seizure.

Albiet one not caused by a demonic computer possession.

With the police on the scene but unaware of the still broadcasting webcam (and in a genuinely tense scene) the friends desperately try to discover what has actually happened to their friend by looking up the police codes online and are shocked to find that she's committed suicide.

And with that the camera disconnects.

Introducing the Ronko Wankaway....perfect for stopping your kids fall foul to the pleasures of the palm.

On this bombshell billie227 begins sending incriminating photos and messages to the rest of the group as cuddly Ken valiantly attempts to search for the computer virus which he thinks is responsible for letting the mysterious mentalist access their computers but unbeknown to our portly pal billie227's webcam has activated and much to everyone's horror it's situated in Ken's room.

Quickly (well for a fat bloke) finding the source of the camera, Ken's video feed abruptly disconnects, resuming seconds later to show Ken sticking his hand in a blender before removing the blades (with his other, less chewed hand obviously) and slitting his throat.

Or is it one of his many chins?

We'll never know as his cam suddenly disconnects.

A revenge obsessed DLT reveals his big blue baby bumming suit to an unwary Lorraine Kelly on GMTV yesterday.

With the four remaining friends too frightened to do anything other than sit and stare, Laura reveals her plan.

Mitch, Laura, Blaire and Adam are to play a game of the truth based party game Never Have I Ever but this time with added death alongside the dark and dirty secrets to spice things up.

Seems like a normal night out to me.

As the friends learn more and more regarding their true selves the begin to realise that they have each played a part, no matter how big or small in Laura's death and that the bonkers billie227 what's nothing less than total revenge....

Or at the very least some amusing screengrabs of them deepthroating cucumbers and the like for bribery purposes.

So who will survive the online 'orrors and how will they explain all this to their gran?

From first time full feature director Levan Gabriadze (bless you) comes a surprisingly taunt little thriller that rises above it's MTV backed blandness and delivers everything that the similarly youth based It Follows promised plus a little bit more besides.

Coming across as a more teen-friendly stable mate of Zachary Donohue's techno-chiller The Den with a smidgen of Smiley thrown in for good measure, Unfriended embraces it's new technology theme and real time running to its advantage, using such well know online tropes as buffering websites and pixel glitches to creepy effect, ably assisted by some tight and to the bone editing courtesy of Parker Laramie and Andrew Wesmanan (plus Almost Human's Josh Ethier) and a genuine conviction from its small band of actors not seen in a teen terror movie since Nancy Thompson, Tina Grey, Glen Lantz and bad boy Rod Lane last had a sleepover on Elm Street.

Now there's a mooth made for shite-in.

Ignore the shiny advertising and don't fear the teen-scream appeal because Unfriended is probably one of the most important horror movies in recent memory, perfectly capturing the fears and follies of modern technology whilst delivering some good old fashioned scares at the same time, it's The Last Broadcast for broadband botherers and one of the most satisfying chillers of recent memory.

After the ever abysmal It Follows and the arse-killing tedium of The Babadook it's great to see that someone can still supply the scares and Unfriended alongside Ted Geoghegan's terrific We Are Still Here (and a few others....see if you can spot them) go a long way to reaffirming my love for the genre.