Tuesday, March 31, 2015

stars in their eyes.

Starry Eyes (2014).
Dir: Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer.
Cast: Alex Essoe, Amanda Fuller, Noah Segan, Fabianne Therese, Shane Coffey, Natalie Castillo, Pat Healy, Nick Simmons, Maria Olsen, Marc Senter and Louis Dezseran.

Skinny kneed wannabe actress Sarah (Essoe, a taller, skinnier, more highly strung version of Unwell fave Sally Hawkins) dreams of movie fame and fortune whilst spending her days waitressing (in what looks like a pair of painted on leggings) at a frighteningly depressing potato-themed restaurant named Big Taters.

Her scarily spud-headed boss Carl (the always great Healy from The Innkeepers) is slowly losing patience as more and more of her work-time is taken up with phoning and attending auditions as opposed to making potato-type puns and jutting her breasts out whilst her friend Erin (John Dies At The End's Therese) appears to be channeling Dynasty era Joan Collins, constantly trying to with her general bitchiness as she tries to undermine Sarah's confidence at every opportunity and attempting to steal any role she goes up for.

Saying that, she is really cute so I guess we can let her away with it.

You'd Fabianne her Therese. Probably.

The rest of her friends aren't much better seeing as they consist of a group of wannabe artsy types banding together thru' a shared love of interesting haircuts and tramps trousers.

Saying that tho' they're all  so painfully hip it's a wonder the can find any tramp trousers that fit.

In fact, the only decent folk amongst them is Sarah's doll-like roommate Tracy (Fuller, imagine an American version of Billie Piper - in a good way that is) and struggling writer/director cum Erin's fucktoy Danny (Days of Our Lives Conner Lockhart himself, Segan).

But he lives in a van so he doesn't really count.

You see whilst our American cousins may think this is really cool, in the UK we just call people like that Pikeys.

Before setting fire to their shoes obviously.

"Spuds in mah mooth!"

Good fortune (and the plot kicking in good and proper) appears to smile on our heroine one day when she's call up to  audition for a brand new horror epic entitled The Silver Scream, a new project being made by the world renowned  production company Astraeus Pictures.

A company that, due to it's name has either spooky mythological overtones pertaining to the Greek god of dusk and change (and father of the four wind deities) or was set up by a fan of Iron Maiden star Bruce Dickinson's much missed budget airline.

Tho' there's nothing stopping them being a fan of both I guess. 

With this information boosting her confidence Sarah excitedly attends the aforementioned audition only to have her (to my mind anyway) perfectly acceptable reading met with a wall of total apathy and boredom by the creepy casting director (genre favourite Olsen coming across like a scarier real life version of The Incredibles Edna Mode crossed with a shark) and her vaguely camp assistant (smooth chinned Senter).

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

 Sent home with a sigh, Sarah does what anyone would in that situation (if you're a mentalist obviously) would do and strops off to a nearby bathroom before proceeding to pull her hair out whilst screaming.

Which apart from being vaguely reminiscent of my nans stroke (in a totally non sexy way obviously....oh go on then it was a wee bit sexy) is enough to move the casting director to give her another chance.

Sarah that is not my nan, who's a bit too old to audition for a horror movie.

And probably a bit too dead as well.

Returning to the audition room Sarah begins to tear at her hair whilst pulling an 'I'm having a massive poo" face before passing out in a heap.

Not unlike a big bag of potatoes.

Cinematic symmetry eh?

She awakes to find she's been offered a callback to a second audition.

But this one will be slightly different in the fact that she wont need any of her clothes.

She needn't worry about feeling uncomfortable tho' because there'll be a huge fuck off strobe light in the room to help Sarah open up her potential to 'transform' whilst the casting director take pics.

Hmmm....sounds legit.

A pre-stroke, non dead gran yesterday.

Surprisingly Sarah is OK with this and is soon swaying provocatively to the click of the camera before finally entering a trance-like state of euphoria not seen since pill-popping posters 808state, A Guy Called Gerald, Ceephax Acid Crew and Mantra (possibly) last shared a make-shift stage in a deserted warehouse just outside Coventry.

Which to those readers who are too young to remember 'acid house' would be very euphoric indeed.

And probably result if the police driving a van into the speakers and arresting everyone.

But I digress.

Higher than your dads voice and feeling full of confidence Sarah quits her job at Big Taters and begins to prepare herself for soon to come stardom by acting mildly annoying around her friends and taking the piss out of them when they trip over.

Which would be OK if the fall in question didn't result in the groups most inoffensive member Ashley (Castillo) landing head first on a poolside and breaking her nose.

Called back to meet the films leathery necked producer, Peter Pervington (Dezseran), Sarah is shocked to find the saucy old goat attempting to pop his hand in her pants whilst explaining the plot and realizes, too late that she's expected to have some of 'the sex' with him to secure the role.

Balking at the idea of letting someone who looks like your dad put it in her (she doesn't know what she's missing, just ask your girlfriend) Sarah runs (well totters, her heels are quite high) home where she tells all to Tracy who, as friends do tells everyone else.

"It's a film about love, action, romance and maybe a wee bit of mooth shite-in..."

Feeling slightly humiliated by this turn of events Sarah has no choice but to beg for her old job and hope that Erin will soon find someone else to take the piss out of.

But seeing as none of her other pals are forced to wear leggings printed up like french fries on a daily basis I doubt this'll happen.

Everything comes to a head (quite literally) one night when, after a heart to heart with Danny, Sarah decides to bite the bullet (so to speak) and returns to the producers house where she apologies for running off before and offers to make amends by taking his flaccid member in her perfectly rouged mouth.

Which is nice if a little disconcerting when a group of black cloaked masked men appear from behind the curtains.

With her dignity gone and her friends alienated by her increasingly erratic behavior, Sarah first loses her job before losing herself in increasingly fevered visions of her as a glamorous movie idol with the producer at her side.

Suffice to say she's not a well girl.

But that's not the worst of it as just as she thinks things can't get any worse, she's woken one morning by horrendously painful stomach cramps and blood oozing from every orifice as the pungent smell of ripe onions emanates from her underwear.

Physically and mentally collapsing Sarah's life becomes a living nightmare as she realizes what she must sacrifice to see her dreams of stardom come to fruition....

...Talking of sexual favours for fame...

Inspired (consciously or not) in part by the Freddie Francis portmanteau Torture Garden and with hints of Rosemary's Baby thrown in, Kevin Kölsch and Dennis Widmyer's reversal on the well worn Faustian pact tale may not be the horror classic it's been hailed as and it's true that the films overt policy of showing and telling (the producers is wearing a pentagram and talking about having to sell things! What could he mean?) almost scuppers the genuinely uncomfortable atmosphere generated in the films first half when the mundane reality of Sarah's life intersects with the mysterious auditions but on the whole Starry Eyes is good solid entertainment.

Which is always nice to see.

They just need to realize that somethings are better left imagined.

Case in point is the build up to meeting the producer. The aforementioned performance by Maria Olsen is just the right side of creepy as to remain perfectly straight yet increasingly uncomfortable as she hints at what fame will cost Sarah, the visions of what a Satanic casting couch could involve racing thru' your head as Sarah becomes deeper and deeper involved in Astraeus Pictures plot.

What vileness could be in store for the poor girl?

Well, disappointingly the casting couch is just that, she actually has to blow an old bloke and after all that build up it's a wee bit of a let down.

For us obviously, no doubt he loved it.

"He did WHAT in his cup?"

I might sound harsh but it's only because the rest of the movie is so damn enjoyable.

Newcomer Alex Essoe is fantastic as Sarah, flicking effortlessly between put upon victim and psycho-bitch badness without a hint of panto villainy whilst remaining vulnerable on both counts, giving the film a real world heart that plays nicely against the uncomfortable schemes unfolding around her.

As ever Pat Healy is as watchable as ever as are the rest of the cast who give a genuine likability to what could have been a group of annoying cyphers, Noah Segan especially shines as Danny giving a real warmth to what is a tiny, yet important role.

Best of all tho' is Fabianne Therese who nails the bitchtastically evil Erin to perfection.

Hopefully Kölsch and Widmyer have got enough incriminating evidence to keep this cast together for their next project.

Or at the very least leak any pics featuring Therese drunkenly dancing in the bear suit.

Therese...Bear suit not shown.

With a touch of William Lustig as well as nods to classic John Carpenter in both Jonathan Snipes' pulse pounding synth score and Adam Bricker's lush Cinematography coupled with some great production design from Melisa Jusufi (who also worked on one of my favourite movies, Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore), Starry Eyes is an old school shocker - in the best sense of the word - and well worth 90 minutes of your time.

I for one am looking forward to the directing duo's next movie.


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

aaahh!!! real monsters

Remember five years back when the then unknown bedroom director Gareth Edwards made his lo-fi debut with the fantastic Monsters?

A film so simple yet so affecting in it's telling of a tale of two lost souls journeying thru' a Central America overrun by lumbering Lovecraftian creatures who'd accidentally arrived on Earth via a crashed satellite.

Basically it was one of the best (and most realistic) on-screen love stories for years.

And it just happened to have huge monsters in it.

Jump forward four years and Edwards' career has gone from strength to strength, not only did him manage the impossible by making an actually halfway decent western version of Godzilla but he's also been given the keys to the X-Wing-centric Star Wars spinoff Rogue One.

Jealous much?

Well all this cinematic success and audience popularity means that he's had to leave his original big screen baby in the hands of another for it's long awaited sequel.

Unfortunately the hands chosen weren't all soft and lovely like Fairy Liquid fingers but sinister and sausage-like.

With dirty nails.

And made from wood.

Ladies and gentlemen I give you.....

Monsters: Dark Continent (2014).
Dir: Tom Green.
Cast: Johnny Harris, Sam Keeley, Joe Dempsie, Sofia Boutella, Kyle Soller, Nicholas Pinnock, Parker Sawyers and some monsters but only occasionally and then just out of shot in the background.

Serious film, serious poster, serious font, serious lack of imagination.

Beginning in a depressingly dull Detroit - lots of shots of skinny teens playing basketball, sitting on street corners and skulking about calling each other 'Nigga' and 'muthafucka', you get the idea - ten years on from the monsters first appearance, the overly earnest Michael (Keeley, all cow eyed and wobbly lipped and looking like a drug addicted Ernie from Sesame Street) has decided to join the army because, and I quote:

"it’s better than dealing crack."

This, my friends is as subtle as the movie gets.

It seems that the films titular creatures have decided that they'd be much more socially relevant if they moved to the Middle East for a bit in the vain hope that the Americans will turn up and upset everyone whilst trying to 'help' the locals with a problem that frankly doesn't concern them.

Yeah like that would happen in real life.

Anyway after a rap-scored drugs, sex and drink montage our hero, alongside his 'homies' (no me neither), Frankie (the ex-partner of Makepiece, Dempsie from Game of Thrones) and new dad Shaun (Sawyers) are shipped off to the sweltering deserts of Iraqistan and into the arms of the tough yet deeply sensitive Sgt. Noah Frater (Fortitude's mad dad Harris).

You can he's sensitive by the way that in-between his job as a sniper he phones his wife so he can hear his daughter breathing as a single tear drips down his cheek.

How can one movie have so many feels?

War might be hell but at least there's a chance of a bullet to the head to end it quickly...this goes on for hours.
After a fantastically ham-fisted (and embarrassingly cloying) scene where the team bond in a dust-filled backstreet whilst coming to see that, gulp, these dirty foreigners are people too our heroic boys in khaki are sent off on a dangerous mission to rescue some people from a slight and quickly glossed over danger somewhere in an insurgent held bit of desert.
Cue long shots of the boys - still calling each other 'Nigga' and 'muthafucka' - driving about in dust clouds as stringy plasticine space horses run passed them in an amusing manner.

Luckily something exciting happens (finally) when one of their vehicles hits a roadside bomb, quickly dispensing with half of the cast.

Unfortunately seeing as:

A. They're all dressed the same.


B. They all act the same.

We have no idea who's dead and who's alive.

But to be honest by this point I really didn't care, I just wanted some monsters to turn up and do something.


But Ashton, I hear you cry, perhaps man is the real monster here.

And if I'd sat down to watch The Hurt Locker or American Sniper I might agree.

Only might mind you as I'm in one of those moods.

"Look at the dog!"

There's no time to argue tho' as those pesky insurgent types have the squad pinned down with heavy gunfire leaving our hard-hatted heroes no choice but to leg it to the nearest building in the hope that help will arrive before they've all been shot.

Or in the case of the team medic died of dehydration due to crying at the death of a comrade.

You see war isn't a game, it's hard and tough.

Eventually only Michael (due to his top billing) and Frater (due to having the same style of beard as the locals) are left standing.

Well I say standing but actually mean tied to a chair by the filthy foreign types.

You can tell these are bad men because they wear western style fashions (by that I mean shirts and trousers not that they're dressed like Roy Rogers, tho' that might have brightened the movie up a wee bit) and carry guns.

But more importantly they seem to have this totally crazy idea that the Americans, who've turned up out of the goodness of their hearts to risk their lives blowing up schools, farms and hospitals in an attempt to destroy the monsters are somehow making things worse.

I think that there may be a bit of political commentary there but not too sure.

I mean are they comparing the soldiers to monsters?

Or the insurgents to monsters?

Or are the monsters really monsters?

It's all too clever for me.

Talking of monsters one actually does turn up at this point (we don't see it tho' only hear it as it attempts to have sex with the building the duo are being held in) which not only gives Michael and Frater a chance to escape on a couple of motorbikes but another opportunity for the viewer to enjoy even more shots of vehicles driving passed shit that the Americans have destroyed in an attempt to keep the monsters at bay.

Including, quite subtly a school bus.

I think that must have been an important metaphor for something seeing as it has the effect of making our heroes gaze meaningfully into the middle distance for a few minutes as some big blurry shapes wander passed in the background.

"Laugh now!"

Will Michael and Frater complete their mission before the films subtle emotional content totally overwhelms them?

Will the movie ever get interesting?

And will there be any females characters of note turning up at any point that have either dialogue or clothes?

I mean Sofia Boutella is top billed on IMDB but she's not turned up yet and I seem to have been watching this for about 6 hours so far.

Perhaps the director mad her grown a beard and I just haven't recognised her.

Who knows?

Is Boutella too juicy for you?

Imagine if you will a world where during the planning stages of Jurassic Park, Spielberg decided to throw out his action adventure script and rework the film so that the whole thing was told from the point of view of an employee of the park from his office in America, the dinosaurs would still feature but only on monitor screens in the background as our hero battled valiantly to get thru' to the island by phone to see if everything was OK after the storm.

Or if Aliens had been all about Gorman fretting away inside the armoured personnel carrier as he desperately tried to raise Apone on the radio in between ringing his missis to see if the cat had been fed and checking that the cannons were oiled.

Well imagine no more because that's effectively what Tom Green (not that one) has decided to do with Monsters: Dark Continent, a sequel so unnecessary and so misguided that the only reason that it got made was to create a backlash against Gareth Edwards himself for creating the original.

Yeah, fuck you Edwards, why couldn't you have arsed up Godzilla so you'd have had to come back with your tail between your legs and beg them to let you make this?*

I mean how selfish can one guy be?

It ain't easy being green.

Perhaps then we wouldn't have been subjected to the cinematic equivalent of a loud-mouthed, middle class sociology student drunkenly lecturing us on world affairs like we were all 12 years old.

Whilst at the same time leching over the female bar staff.

Because according to this movie all women are portrayed as either naked crack whores or (naked) moaning mothers.

I'm guessing that Frater's wife was naked on the phone and possibly doing a line of coke which is why she was so angry.

How very forward thinking of them.

It comes as a real surprise then that when Sofia Boutella (as the dusky Bedouin Ara) does finally turn up that she's fully clothed and fairly sympathetic.

She does talk in a funny accent and isn't subtitled tho' so she obviously isn't that important.

Maybe there's a deleted scene where she gets high on camel dung and gives Michael a reach round as the monsters spew forth florescent seeds into the night sky?


Fair enough then.

No fun, no mercy, no point.

File under a bloody big rock and forget about it.

God knows I'm going to try to.

*It's not a real tail by the way but a metaphoric one. Tho' he may have a real one I just don't know.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

let it go.

I think my love for Frozen is getting a wee bit out of hand....

Thursday, March 12, 2015

late night linus.

As you may have spotted there's been a slight delay in reviewing the rest of Frightfest due to the high quality of the films on show meaning it's much harder to take the piss.

So without further ado on with the show...

Barely recovered from the surprisingly super vinyl villainy of The Asylum (or Backmask or whatever it's called this week) Saturday mornings FrightFest fun kicked off with a classic killer clown caper in the form of  Jon Watts’....

Clown (2014).
Dir: Jon Watts (obviously).
Cast: Laura Allen, Andy Powers, Peter Stormare, Elizabeth Whitmere and Christian Distefano.

Loveable real estate agent and cuddly family guy Kent Clark (the instantly likeable Powers) ends up donning a clown costume he's found in a house he's selling after the entertainer he's booked for his son’s birthday party cancels at the last minute.

Yup, sounds legit.

Unfortunately the next morning our doting dad realises that the suit has started to attach itself to his body, even down to the foam red nose.

And if that wasn't strange enough our eponymous hero has started feeling very hungry.

For children.

And not I might add in a Savile way.

Tho' that's probably as bad.

The situation does have a wee bit of a silver lining tho' as Kent manages to track down the costumes previous owner, a man named Karlsson (cult fave Stormare) only to discover that he too had suffered the same terrible effects after wearing it.

You see, it turns out that the clown suit is, in reality the skin and hair of an ancient kiddie eating demon from Northern Europe named the "Cloyne", which is nice.

As a plus point tho' Kent also finds a way to stop the demon and regain his life.

And that's by sacrificing five children to it.

Much fun, gruesome child killings and clown-based hilarity ensues.

"Time to shoot your demon muck over your sisters jubblies!"

Actually living up to it's pre-screening hype, Watts' big screen movie debut is a surprisingly muted and almost camp free affair that brings to mind David Cronenberg's The Fly - as well as the Jim Carrey crapfest The Mask - in and it's painful portrayal of body transmogrification.

At least before the plot zooms off on a darkly comic kid-killing rampage which frankly is just the ticket for a Saturday morning.

A fantastic cast - special kudos to the wonderful Andy Powers - play the whole thing perfectly straight and to great effect with only Peter Stormare edging toward the camp corner, which after the uncomfortable winces at Kent's attempts to remove the costume and a couple of near child chewings manages to give some blessed relief from the movies disturbingly black heart.

Admittedly there's a real danger of it losing its way as the film races toward its bloody climax but luckily Watts and co-writer Christopher Ford manage to pull it back whilst delivering a surprisingly bleak ending.

Dead funny. 

No time to get our breaths back (but luckily time to pee) as the great god of cinema himself Sir Alan of Jones took to the stage to introduce  Arrow Films’ magnificent restoration of Mario Bava’s classic....

Blood and Black Lace (AKA Sei donne per l'assassino, Six Women for the Murderer. 1964)
Dir: Mario Bava.
Cast: Cameron Mitchell, Eva Bartok, Thomas Reiner and Ariana Gorini.

If you haven't already seen this then I suggest you hang your head in shame, then go straight out, buy it, watch it then come back when you've finished.

I'll still be here.

I mean who doesn't love the maestro's groovy fashion-based slasher centring  as it does around a group of chain-smoking models being pick off one by one by a fright-masked, leather-gloved killer?

Absolutely fucking gorgeous to look at and packed to the gills with the biggest collection of preening beauties, dippy designers and antsy addicts alongside quite possibly the greatest quiff ever seen on a police detective and all set to one of the coolest soundtracks ever written.

Cinematic perfection.

Coffee, cakes and a quick cigarette next as we prepared to head back into the Black Hills of Maryland with Russ Gomm’s documentary that goes behind the scenes of The Blair Witch Project.

The Woods Movie (2014).
Dir: Russ Gomm.
Cast: Eduardo Sánchez, Dan Myrick, Gregg Hale and some other folk.

With access to over 3 million years worth of footage recorded at the time, Gomm lovingly documents Blair Witch’s origins, planning and production, tracing the story from its very beginnings via audition tapes, do it yourself set decoration and spooking its lead actors in the woods to taking over the world at Sundance with asides and comments from  directors Sánchez and Myrick alongside producer Hale in what can only be described as not only the final word on a cinematic phenomena but also on the world of micro-budget, lo-fi film-making in general.

Those expecting a critique of the movie and it's subsequent changing of the horror landscape will probably be disappointed by Gomm's love letter a film which so obviously shaped his career and tastes but to be honest The Woods Movie is much better for it and remains a reminds us why we all took the movie to our hearts.

Recommended to anyone and everyone who's ever been tempted or attempted to make a movie.

From putting the willies up students in a forest to putting them up kids in cupboards next with Hans Herbot’s adaptation of Mo Hayder’s darkly disturbing crime novel...

The Treatment (AKA De Behandeling. 2014).
Dir: Hans Herbot.
Cast:  Geert Van Rampelberg, Ina Geerts and Johan van Assche.

The Treatment tells the tragic tale of Detective - on the verge of a nervous breakdown - Nick Cafmeyer, a man whose career and life have been haunted by the abduction of his younger brother by a pervy paedophile when they were kids.

A paedophile who, due to a technicality got away scott free and now spends his time harassing poor Nick with notes pertaining to tell the true fate of his sibling and by standing in his garden waving at him in a creepy manner.

Seriously you can smell the warm milk off the man thru' the screen.  

The whole sorry situation comes to a head tho' when reports come in of a family being held hostage and brutalized whilst their child is abducted in circumstances that mirror his own trauma.

Determined to catch those involved whilst laying his own demons to rest Nick is forced to relive his own nightmares and fears as he attempts to solve the case.

The Cannon and Ball starring Boys in Blue it isn't.

What it is tho' is one of the most powerful and disturbing crime thrillers in recent memory.

The subject matter is sensitively handled by Herbot, tho' he's a director not afraid to shy away from the grim and grimy horror inflicted on the films young victims and by proxy the lead character - a kind of Dutch Lieutenant subtly portrayed by Geert Van Rampelberg, The Treatment is a bleakly stylish thriller that handles it's themes of child trafficking and abuse in a surprisingly - and welcome - mature manner.

The films biggest shock tho' comes when the director explains how this (British) based novel couldn't get funded in the UK due to it's subject manner which just goes to show what a sorry state the UK film industry is in.

Hopefully a DVD release will be imminent for this must see shocker.

Just don't expect to get laid afterwards.

Time for a cigarette (or six) and a quick bleaching of the eyeballs next before the final(?) chapter in the frankly magnificent [REC] series.

And I'll admit upfront that I do indeed love [REC] 3 (yes it's my favourite one, deal with it) as well as going all wobbly kneed at the sight of the yumsome Manuela Velasco, so it was a forgone conclusion that I'd love this.

Demon-possessed monkeys and all.

[REC] 4: Apocalypse (2013).
Dir: Jaume Balagueró.
Cast: Manuela Velasco, Paco Manzanedo, Hector Colome, Ismael Fritschi and Mariano Venancio.

Following on directly after the climax of [REC] 2 (the third part actually comes first then runs parallel with the original [REC] continuity pedants) with ace TV reporter turned demon fighter Ángela Vidal (Velasco, meow. Twice) being rescued from the infected apartment block by a couple of hunky special forces types before waking up - clad only in a paper tea towel - on a government commandeered merchant navy ship in the middle of the ocean.

With only the most ineffectual group of sailors this side of Captain Pugwash,   Clara's mother-in-law (from [REC] 3), some trigger happy soldiers, assorted boffins and the Spanish Nick Frost (La isla de los nominados' Fritschi) for company our beloved heroine must face down a rapidly growing army of demons and a hold full of killer monkeys before the ships self destruct is triggered.

Fast, furious and incredibly silly, [REC] 4 might not break any new ground or be as genuinely terrifying as the first movie but fell for it hook, line and sinker and I'm not ashamed to admit it.

The most fun to be had with the possessed since Army of Darkness, hate it and be a crushing horror snob forever.

And on to the final film of the Fest of Fright, Jay Dahl’s mysterious reworking of his short of the same name....

There Are Monsters (2014).
Dir: Jay Dahl.
Cast: Matthew Amyotte, Jason Daley, Kristin Langille and Michael Ray (not Jay) Fox.

Whilst travelling across country gathering testimonials from successful former graduates of their college, four film student pals begin to notice that people around them are acting strangely.

Firstly in subtle ways, clothes on inside out and badly applied lipstick become more and more noticable to the foursome as do the fact that more and more people are standing perfectly still in the distance with their backs turned toward our travelling band.

And then there are those whose smiles are just way too large...

From it's genuinely jumpy pre-credits sequence to it's pulse pounding finale, Dahl's film definitely split the crowd into those who happily leaped headfirst into the directors headfuck nightmare and those too terminally staid to see past it's faux-found footage feel and extremely choppy editing style.

Like JT Petty's cult classic the sublime Soft for Digging, There are Monsters is the type of movie perfect for audience interpretation.

I mean of course it's a monster movie in the classic Invasion of The Body Snatchers vein but it also works as a story about delusional misidentification (or Capgras syndrome) writ large, or about how those with ASD (autism spectrum disorder) are viewed by/or view the world.

It's totally up to you.

One criticism aimed at the film has been its sometimes disorienting camera work with it's off focus scenes and covered lens conversations, which if taken as a result of the footage belonging to the students can be seen as a genuine concern.

I mean they're film students, surely they know how to frame a shot?

But if you assume that the footage is actually from the point of view of the movie-goer, making them an actual character in the film then it makes perfect sense.

The camera literally transforms into our eyes and ears, reacting as we would under stress, hiding our eyes, turning away, trying to block out the unpleasantness unfolding around us.

We are the camera and the camera is us, ironically in a film about change and deception and the importance of individuality it's us, the audience who transform first.

We become the film we are watching.

And in this disposable culture it's ironic that we become a digital medium rather than good old celluloid.

There Are Monsters is one of the few horror films that stayed with me for days after and, if you let it, will do the same to you.

And I for one can't thank Jay Dahl enough.

Long live the new flesh.

Monday, March 2, 2015

cum as you ar(s)e.

Things that really don't need a porn parody part one.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

steps, dogs and sprocket holes.

Greetings dear readers, please excuse my fragile state, miniscule reviews and bad spellings as it's early Sunday morning here and I'm nursing a bruised kneecap and the slightly uncomfortable feeling that a Frenchman is living in my mouth.

Which must mean that I've just returned from a Jim Beam and Irn Bru fuelled  Glasgow FrightFest, a weekend (kinda) of killer clowns, Aussie undead, dodgy 70's wigs, foxy Spanish ladies in grubby vests and an almost (accidental) buggering off a fat sweating man as I attempted to leave the toilets.

So, where shall we begin?

Why with the pre-fest film of course!

Eliza Graves (AKA Stonehearst Asylum)
Dir: Brad Anderson.
Cast:  Jim Sturgess, 'Sir' Ben Kingsley, Dame Michael Caine, David Thewlis, Sophie Kennedy Clarke and Kate Beckinsale.

The fairly new Glasgow tradition of a Thursday night movie for those who've arrived from 'down south' a day early and are too scared to go drinking in town continued this year with the latest offering from director Brad (Session 9 - no idea if he directed the other 8) Anderson, Stonehearst Asylum.

Based on the darkly comic short story The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether by professional Tom Savini alike Edgar Allan Poe, Anderson transports the original tale from France to England (albeit one with thunderous ravines and snow topped mountains in Yorkshire), adds a wee bit of feminism to the proceedings and gives a name to it's narrator whilst still managing to give relevance to the original plot, which when stretched to a 2 hour plus running time is quite an achievement.

Fresh-faced newly qualified Doctor Edward Newgate (Sturgess) has travelled to the scarily remote Stonehearst Asylum, a creepy gothic monstrosity specially built to home some of the UK's finest acting talent, to learn more of the medicine of the mind and the art of eyebrow acting from the slightly over the top Dr Silas (Of the) Lamb (Kingsley doing what he does best - take from that what you will), whose patients are all members of either European royalty or just filthy rich.

Either way they're all embarrassments to their respective families.

I know the feeling.

Amongst them is the beguilingly bewitching Eliza Graves (Beckinsale, obviously Eva Green was busy/too expensive), the wife of a rich count who suffers from seizures every time she has her breasts squeezed.

I gather from the movie that this was an everyday occurrence in the olden days alongside consumption and rickets.

Intrigued by Lamb's methods (which seem to include getting the patients pissed whilst enunciating loudly) Newgate decides to dig a little deeper into the asylum's treatments only to come across a large group of caged British stage and TV stalwarts, led by Michael Caine no less imprisoned in the basement and claiming to be the true asylum staff.

An enjoyable old school tribute to the glory days of RKO, Anderson's movie seems less concerned with the mystery of who the real mentalists are (which to be honest is pretty obvious from the moment David Thewlis turns up in all his panto glory) than with giving the cast an excuse to enjoy playing such over the top characters.

And the film is much better for it.

An enjoyably entertaining old fashioned romp especially suited to us over 40's who grew up on BBC 2's black and white double bills of the 70's.

The crowds try to figure out where the guests have gone (clue: the fat fucker who had me pinned against the toilet door has probably eaten them).

On to Friday and the fest (of fright) good and proper beginning with the mind over mentalism mocumentary...

The Atticus Institute.
Dir: Chris (I know Ryan Reynolds) Sparling.
Cast:  William Mapother, Rya Kihlstedt, John Rubinstein, Julian Acosta and the lady who used to be in the Gold Blend ads with Anthony Head.

Back in the deepest, darkest 1970's (ask your nan), top brain boffin Dr. Henry (brother of Herbert, or was it Fred?) West (The Burrowers Mapother) creates  The Atticus Institute in order to study various paranormal type things including but not confined to, ESP, ELO, NYPD Blue and psychokinesis.

Which is nice work if you can get it.

Unfortunately no amount of spoon bending, card guessing and hideous tie wearing can prepare Dr. West and his team for what unfolds when butch barnetted Judith Winstead (Home Alone 3's Kihlstedt) arrives at the institute.

Outperforming every test subject ever recorded it soon becomes apparent that  her amazing plate-pushing abilities owe more to demonic possession than Peter Powers and it's not long (the film is a short 83 minutes) before the U.S. government (boo hiss) intervene in a woeful attempt to weaponize the demon inside her.

A great idea slightly hampered by the traditions of the 'found footage' genre (highly trained military cameramen filming reaction shots rather than one of a kind demonic possessions?), you want the movie to follow thru' with the frankly fantastic theme of government sanctioned demonic assassins (which if I'm honest would make a great mocumentary itself), unfortunately Sparling backs out, seemingly more interested in telling us (in the most earnest way imaginable) that state sanctioned torture is bad (really? cheers for that) before heading toward a well worn climax.

The demon is sneakier than the military?

No way.

Enjoyable but immediately forgettable save the top notch performances from   Kihlstedt and an understated Mapother, The Atticus Institute shows that there's still mileage to be had out of the whole 'possession' genre but leaves you frustrated that thits unique concept wasn't taken further, I mean imagine a movie tying in the Kennedy assassination, 9/11 et al. to government controlled Hell-born psychic assassins.


Suit yerself then.

A quick wee and a crafty ciggie before...

The Hoarder.
Dir: Matt Winn.
Cast:  Mischa Barton, Emily Atack and Robert Knepper.

Big faced New Yorker Ella (Barton) discovers that her fiance keeps a secret storage locker over the wrong side of town and convinced that he's having an affair or worse, that has a collection of comics hidden away there recruits her best buddy Molly (the even bigger faced Atack) to break in and have a nosey around.

Much death, running, violent stapling and ginger haired horror ensues.

A surprisingly early kill and threat reveal coupled with a fantastically twitchy performance from Prison Break's Knepper and a really nice twist isn't enough to lift The Hoarder above its stalk and slash origins which is a shame as the aforementioned plus points coupled with a great setting promises so much more than it delivers, which is a shame because it could have been a killer.

As opposed to just sneaking up behind you and pulling your pants up your arse in an annoying way that is.

Tho' the promise of seeing Mischa Barton hideously tortured for fun does give it a certain edge it needs to not be a total waste.

From big faced ladies to wide arsed Aussies next with....

Wyrmwood: Road Of The Dead.
Dir: Kiah Roache-Turner.
Cast: Jay Gallagher and his sexy beard, Bianca Bradey, Leon Burchill and his big hair plus some other folk.

When a meteor shower causes an infection that turns folk into zombies it's left to the butchly bearded mechanic Barry (little known Gallagher brother Jay) to travel to the hip and happening town of Bulla Bulla to rescue his harsh of face yet curvy of hips artist sister Brooke (Bradey abley supported by the sweatiest cleavage I have ever seen on film) who is currently trapped in a garage after being attacked by her model and assistant during a photoshoot.

Leaving the city with his wife Annie and daughter Megan (not that one) tragedy soon strikes leaving Barry no alternative but to kill then both with a nailgun which, whilst sad for Baz is great for us because it means he's free to team up with a variety of amusingly one dimensional Aussie stereotypes such as Benny the Aboriginal comic relief (an amazing performance from ex- Mrs Tony Parsons Burchill) and fright-tashed garage owner Frank for a series of ever more convoluted and crazed escapades as they attempt to rescue an ever sweatier Brooke from the clutches of an evil scientist and his panto-esque Mad Max style private army.

The most hyped film of the festival, director Roache-Turner (which sounds as if it he should be listed under worlds bizarrest job title) promised a heady mix of Mad Max machine madness, zombie mayhem, typically Australian haircuts and gross-out comedy with an ample helping of KC and the Sunshine Band thrown in for good measure in this over the top tribute to everything from Peter Jackson to John Carpenter via that earlier Aussie zombie classic Undead, and whilst not always successful (the road movie elements work infinitely better than the mad scientist subplot) it chucks enough at the screen to have the majority of it's jokes stick.

With it's loveable leads and an imagination that would shame a very imaginative man, Wyrmwood has midnight movie written all over it (not literally tho' as that would mean that it'd be impossible to see the film) and certainly delivered on its promise, if not on the hype surrounding it.

Plus it's the first movie I've ever seen where the poster art cost more than the movie.


With the bar raised it was time to change gear (literally and metaphorically) as we went from the scary undead to a sexy redhead with...

Dir: April Mullen.
Cast: Katharine Isabelle, Christopher Lloyd, Michael Ironside and Tim Doiron.

Finding herself in a diner with no idea how she got there, puppy-eyed amnesiac Gwen's (Friend of the Unwell Isabelle) day goes from bad to worse as she accidentally shoots a waitress forcing her to go on the run and outwit her many pursuers as she attempts to piece together he shattered memories.

Memories that include dead fiances, severed fingers, evil crime bosses, copious amounts of cheeseburgers and a kick-arse alter ego by the name of Flamingo.

Like an out of control Buick on a lost highway to Hell 88 veers crazily from crime caper to edge of the seat thriller via slapstick comedy and general weirdness (director Mullen's weapon selling cutie I'm looking at you) as it races to it's continuity crushing climax thanks in part to it's incredible cast and top notch writing from the fantastic Doiron, who almost steals the movie as the camps as pants and trigger happy Ty.

As for Katherine Isabelle, well she could make stripping wallpaper watchable and given the amount of goodness she's given to work with here, from the lost lamb that is Gwen to her wise-cracking, gun toting alter-ego Flamingo it's a no-brainer that she's brilliant.

And totally yumsome obviously.

I think it's safe to say I quite enjoyed it.

After more fags, urine and smoozing it was time for the final film of Friday, a multi-titled terror from the 'director' of such quality fayre as the Texas Chainsaw remake, The Friday 13th reboot and that Conan travesty with Drogo from Game of Thrones, the hacks hack himself, Marcus Nispel.


Backmask (The Asylum, Exeter).
Dir: Marcus Nispel.
Cast: That bloke from Avatar and some interchangeable teens.

With the local church run addiction treatment centre being cleared out after a massive fire ex-choir boy cum priest favourite Patrick and his pals decide to not only have a party in the grounds but a seance too, resulting in his emo little brother Rory becoming possessed by the spirit of a scabby goth girl who was once locked in a box by a priest for being mental.

Hilarity ensues as the rag tag group of friends try to exorcise the spirit using only an online exorcism guide and a variety of kitchen implements found around the building whilst trying to hide the body of the local clergyman that they accidentaly ran over whilst trying to escape.
Based on Nispel’s frankly appalling track record, this sounded as much fun as being fisted by your dad at the Christmas table during the Queens Speech.


And viewing the films opening set up you'd be forgiven for dropping your trousers and greasing up.

So it comes as a surprise that around the 20 minute mark the movies tone veers wildly into a blackly comic vein and suddenly becomes a really enjoyable romp, thanks mainly to Kirsten Elms’ blackly humorous script turning it from a turgid reshash of every horror cliche ever into Evil Dead for kids.

Even the usually leaden Nispel seems in on the joke, presenting us with a succession of wilder and funnier kills and genuinely likeable characters and a cast to die for.

I mean even to token stoner (a pitch perfect Nick Nordella) is genuinely funny, spending as he does nearly the entire film clad only in a pair of tight pants with 'I love big cocks' marker penned on his back.

Pity then that the ending makes no sense at all as the evil spirit goes from hurt party to mad mentalist to one of the main characters for no reason other than the fact that the writer had run out of paper and needed an ending.

But frankly it doesn't matter seeing as the proceeding 90 minutes are bordering on genius.

Now this is what The Evil Dead remake should have been like.

File under 'groovily guilty pleasure'.

The crowd might look happy now but wait till the mooth shite-in starts.

Next up we have tree-based terrors, clothes-based killings, red nose ravaging, some mighty moothed monsters and a wee bit of kiddie fiddling.

Feel free to join me.