Tuesday 22 November 2011

Raymond Did It (2010)

Directed by Travis Legge

Written by Travis Legge

Stars: Lindsay Felton, Kyle Hoskins, Elissa Dowling, Jessica Palette, Steven Lee Edwards, Ty Yeager and Jake Skiba

Release: 22 November 2011, US (DVD)

A childhood accident sets the scene for bloody mayhem in Travis Legges independent slasher pic Raymond Did It. In the tradition of old favourites such as Prom Night (and clearly influenced in terms of style by Halloween) Raymond Did It tells the story of mentally delayed 'Raymond' (Kyle Hoskins), a kid mercilessly picked on by the neighbourhood kids, who all happen to be good friends with Raymond's younger brother Bryce. A freak fall caused by group ringleader, and all round bad girl, 'Paige' (Elissa Dowling) leads to a grossly false accusation leaving poor, innocent Raymond in a mental hospital.

Six years later, the young group have grown up (well some of them have) with nice girl 'Tammy' (Lindsay Felton) now on the outside, trying to avoid the painful memories which have haunted her since Bryce's death. As for the others? Well there is not so much conscience involved here. Party girl 'Jayme' ( Jessica Palette) and her jock boyfriend 'Tim' (Steven Lee Edwards) are only interested in having a good time; whether it be drinking, dancing or sex. Laid back and lazy 'Edgar' (Jake Skiba) just seems to want a quiet and easy life, while Paige has just grown into a nastier, colder version of her younger self.

A shock announcement that Raymond has escaped and injured two orderlies in the process, sets the young groups teeth truly on edge as it dawns on them pretty quickly that they could well be in danger, considering the far reaching consequences of their lie. Its not long before one of the group is dispatched, in a cruelly creative manner, and those remaining prepare to fight, lie, kill, or all of the above, to survive. From there on out we get gory deaths and witty one liners aplenty making for a sure fire great time in the slasher flick department.

There is some fantastic acting in Raymond Did It. First and foremost it has to be said that Lindsay Felton is incredible as the guilt ridden Tammy. She portrays an authentic mix of haunted yet tough and her place as second runner up in VH1's 'Scream Queens' is well justified although watching her in this movie...I just wonder if she was robbed? Although I found her character Jayme a little confusing at times (ditzy followed by emotional and compassionate followed by sex crazed) I really enjoyed Jessica Palette in this movie and thought her acting was likewise impressive. She also gets one of the best scenes in the film...but that's towards the end.... so I cant say what it is! Kyle Hoskins was quietly effective as poor Raymond and I enjoyed all of his scenes whether it be killing or just talking in his slow and resigned manner. Elissa Dowling also makes her mark as the vindictive and heartless Paige - she is far more of a bad guy than Raymond is and the only death she causes in this film was an accident!!

Raymond did it is also very well shot, with lots of nice Halloween style touches. This includes sparsely populated streets, bringing back old memories of wondering where Michael Myers could possibly be lurking 'out there'. This time however its Raymond who could be literally anywhere...waiting to strike. There are also many decent POV shots of Raymond lurking behind trees and outside houses (or inside!). A really great job by Travis and crew.

I highly recommend picking up a copy of this well made, well acted and very fun indie slasher. The official DVD is out now on R Squared Films so what are you waiting for?

Monday 21 November 2011

Presidents Day (2010)


(Screener Copy)

Directed by: Chris LaMartina

Written by: Jimmy George, Chris LaMartina

Stars: Bennie Mack McCoy IV, Lizzie Denning, Nicolette Le Faye, Ryan Thomas, George Stover, Shawn C.Phillips, Ruby Larocca, Paul Fahrenkopf, Andrea Hearn, Katie Hearn, Lee Armstrong, Laura J. Scott, Chris Magorian, Mary Jane Oelke, Jesse Layne, Ron LaMartina, Carley Cooper

Presidents day, brought to us by Midnight Crew Studios, is a funny and bloody homage to the holiday themed slasher films of the 80s. This nifty little flick was Directed by Chris LaMartina and written by both Chris and Jimmy George, the guys behind the intriguing and original Book of Lore. Concerning a whack job wearing an Abraham Lincoln mask who brutally takes out high school students involved in the campus election, you get 80 minutes of pure entertainment. Blood, jumps and laughs aplenty.

Featuring a great cast of quirky characters ranging from sweet new girl Joanne (Lizzie Denning) to uber bitch from hell Chelsea (Nicolette Le Fay) to creepy janitor (Lee Armstong) Presidents Day succeeds from the offset by making us care about a lot of the would be victims. 

Now there is nothing worse than a film claiming to be an ode to the slasher greats turning out to feature a few bland stabbings and weak acting. Sorry, but it’s true. That really isn’t an issue here though as Presidents Day gives audiences death scenes galore! Not content with simply axing his chosen victims to death, old Abe employs many different methods for his murdering ways. Some of the more off the wall kills includes a gruesome kill via hair straighteners and a head squish by mop bucket.  Oh...... and some twins get pinned. How about that!

The identity of the killer in the film is a very well kept secret. Every time I thought I had it right I was proven wrong and when I finally decided ‘haha I really have got it now’ I was still wrong! The final reveal however did satisfy me in the fact I had picked up one of the important clues earlier on (and subsequently discarded it again, so very well done to Chris and Jimmy’s script!) 

It also has to be said that there is an excellent mixture of horror and comedy in Presidents Day.  I laughed out loud at several scenes and this is down to some great one liners and performances. Nicolette Le Faye regularly steals the show as the election crazed snot ‘Chelsea Blythe’ and all of her scenes are highly amusing. There is also a brilliant feel good moment towards the end when a characters deceptions are broadcast to the whole school. At the same time as this was occurring I was on the edge of my seat knowing that the horror was still not over and that it was about to recommence for the finale. But back to that feel good moment; I was actually grinning from ear to ear – maybe I’m too sensitive??

Other enjoyable performances of note include both leads as ‘Barry’ and ‘Joanne’ respectively. Bennie Mack McCoy  IV and Lizzie Denning both come across as very natural actors, leading the film perfectly.  I also found the entire faculty amusing in their own right, particularly the stern but really kind of sweet ‘Vice Principal Mackay.

The most outstanding merit of Presidents Day for me is how Chris LaMartina, Jimmy George and co effortlessly prove that horror can still be fun. Not all audiences want to see yet another personality void victim tied to a chair having their ears, eyes and nose slowly removed (although to be fair this flick DOES include some of these being removed!). It’s also extremely well/professionally shot and you have to remember that this film was made on an absolute micro budget. Chris also serves up some great direction, particularly the scene depicting an ill fated trip down to the school basement. 

I really hope that the distributors of this flick get a release date pinned down asap. It baffles me that they would sit on such a well made, well presented and stupidly fun horror movie for so long - especially considering the fan base it has gathered. Whatever happens, I sincerely wish Chris and Midnight Crew Studios the best of luck for Presidents Day eventual release and also that of their upcoming beer and blood soaked horror pic Witch’s Brew (Review coming shortly). Check out both flicks HERE:

http://www.facebook.com/witchsbrewmovie  .... or Abe will get you!!!

Skew (2010)


(Screener Copy)

Directed by Sevé Schelenz

Written by Sevé Schelenz

Stars Rob Scattergood, Amber Lewis, Richard Olak

Release: Currently streaming on Netflix

First time director Sevé Schlelenz was good enough to send me a screener copy of his found footage fright fest Skew. The trailer for the movie is really awesome (check it out!) so I was very happy to have the chance to see it for myself and review it. A mind bending 80 minutes of psychological horror and inexplicable events, Skew will certainly have you talking after its final moments.

As quoted in the package sent to me, Skew is a movie five years in the making, a product imagined long before the likes of Paranormal Activity and the string of similar movies that released in its wake. Telling the story of close friends Rich, Eva and Simon, audiences are taken on a journey that starts off more light hearted (although with a layer of tension between two characters) and builds up to a climax of paranoia and fear. It seems our cameraman Simon wants to document the entire trip, which is on route to a friends wedding. He won't allow himself to be filmed but is only too happy to annoy his friends with his self made show. Eva, the only girl in the group, is adverse to this from the start and it is this coupled with a personal issue she has with Simon which begins the fragmentation on the group. Matters only serve to get worse when Simon begins to notice faces of people they encounter along the way are showing up horribly distorted. It's not long after this that those captured on film die in mysterious circumstances, causing Simons enthusiasm with his camera to spiral into an unhealthy obsession. So what is actually happening here and why does Simon very much appear to be a trigger for it? No matter what his friends do or do not believe its soon clear they are growing more and more unnerved by Simon and his camera.

I will admit this film got to me. I'm still thinking it over and over in my head and I don't see that as a negative thing at all. See, Skew is not a film that is happy to give you easy answers. I will admit with shamed face that I completely missed an all important point in the movies final scene. I think this is because I was trying too hard to see something and therefore didn't appreciate what was right in front of me. It wasn't until I looked elsewhere for answers that I realised what I was missing...my first reaction was 'holy shit!' and subsequently made me question everything I had just seen (and now still am!). I told Sevé that I need to re-watch Skew to pick up clues I may have missed and I have to say I can't wait to do so. Hopefully you won't be quite so silly as me not to notice the chilling truth reflected in the movies final scene, but I would bet that many viewers will benefit from going back on themselves to spot those all important puzzle pieces.

In terms of scares Skew excels in a few places. There is a scene in a field that truly unnerved me, followed by an all mighty jump scare. There is also a scene in a police station that literally made me swear in surprise. Probably what frightened me the most in this movie though was the ever escalating change in Simons character and possibly feeling as weary of him as his friends did!

The acting in the film was great. I was really impressed by Amber Lewis as Eva. She was very natural in her role as the fed up but ultimately kind girlfriend to Rich and friend to Simon and when her role required a bit more grit she really stepped up to the plate. I enjoyed Richard Olaks role as Rich. As best friend to Simon he did a great job of acting tied between his buddy and girlfriend and the scenes where he finally cracks were most impressive. Although he doesn't really appear on screen, as mentioned before the character of Simon disturbed me so a great job to Rob Scattergood for having such presence without actually showing his face!The writing is also top notch here as the dialogue between the three friends, particularly when tacking personal issues between the three is always believeable.

I guess my main criticism was the lack of solid answers related to the events of the movie. I don't always need everything spoon fed to me so it's actually not a bad thing that I am still processing the outcome of the movie, but I do feel some people may struggle with the ambiguity of the film.

To surmise, skew is a taut, chilling and thought-provoking found footage horror film. I highly recommend watching this one and if you're lucky enough to be in the USA you can stream it right now on Netflix. Otherwise keep a look out for an official DVD release hopefully in the near future. Also keep your eyes peeled for an interview here soon with Skews writer/director Mr Sevé Schelenz!

Sunday 20 November 2011

Worm (short) (2010)

(Screener Copy)

Directed by Richard Powell

Written by Richard Powell

Stars Robert Nolan, Kimberley Curran, Dustin Foxman, Kyle Martellacci, Christina McLain, Samantha Nemeth

Hearing a lot of great stuff about Richard Powells short film Worm you can imagine how pleased I was to be able to check it out and review it. I have been enjoying a number of short horror films recently and have been really impressed at the skill involved in making an entertaining horror film within the confines of 20-30 minutes.

Worm being no exception, gets it right from the get go by immediately grabbing the viewers attention. As soon as I heard the first hateful thought brewing inside the main characters mind I was hooked and was excited to see it through to the end.

Richard Powell tells us the story of Geoffrey Dodd (Robert Nolan) a high school teacher who is clearly dissatisfied with his lot. Sweet talking but very ill meaning, audiences are allowed the disturbing privilege of hearing what Geoffrey really thinks about those around him. Is he actually going insane? Is he just a bad man deep down? I wasn't 100% sure but that only serves to make Worm more intriguing. The short escalates with Geoffrey's thoughts becoming ever more deranged and crazed. Everyone in Geoffrey's class and the rest of the faculty are subject to musings of death, injury and disturbingly in one case; lust.

The ending certainly leaves you thinking. Just what might happen the next day at school? Those expecting a gory finale might be disappointed but truthfully Worm really didn't need one. This is  horror of the thought provoking and psychological kind - and it's done exceptionally well.

A brilliantly shot and very well acted (Robert Nolan is spot on as the down beaten and potentially dangerous Geoffrey Dodd) 20 minute film, Worm deserves your attention. Check it out if you get the chance and keep your eyes out for another short from Richard; FAMILIAR which is already getting a great buzz!

Saturday 19 November 2011

The Killing of Jacob Marr (2010)


Directed by Brad Rego

Written by Brad Rego

Stars: Morgan White, Brandon Beilis, Alyssa Mann, Elizabeth Drake, Samantha Cooper, Chris Keating, Oleg Ossayenko

 Picking up a copy of Brad Regos The Killing of Jacob Marr proved to be one of my more satisfying indie horror buys in the past year. A slow burning slasher flick with an all new and original villain, I found the movie to be both interesting and highly enjoyable/re-watchable.

Filmed in the Catskills Mountains in the midst of winter the film follows a rather standard slasher approach in having a group of friends travel to a cabin for some R and R. What helps to differentiate this from others of its type is the strong, fleshed out characters. Ted, Dan, Doug, Claire and Ellie are real people in a real and terrifying predicament. Nobody is portrayed as a stock character such as slut or geek and the dialogue is always authentic and believable.

So, of course being a horror film, all is not well in the area the friends are staying and unbeknownst to them a deranged killer, driven mad by an unknown force, lurks. Once one of the characters is taken, presumed dead, the tension truly mounts up among the group and as well as having to survive the relentless 'Jacob Marr' they also have to do battle with one another . I guess in a realistic situation it's all about the choices you make and whether those choices will land others in danger and that question is really brought to the fore in this film.

As I said before the characters in Jacob Marr really sold the film for me. 'Ted' played by Morgan White was so naturally portrayed that I hope there are lots more roles coming up in the future for the actor. A tense and powerful altercation between the characters of 'Dan' (Brandon Beilis) and 'Claire' (Alyssa Mann) really caught my attention - it's not often you get such a realistic representation of an opposing viewpoint in a slasher movie. Special mention also has to go to Elizabeth Drake who plays the slightly snobby group outsider 'Ellie'. Ellie's scenes where she is trying to find her husband is extremely well acted and made me immediately warm to the character - she needed to know what happened to him and I believed her. Jacob himself (Oleg Ossayenko) is a scary and relentless killer and I certainly wouldn't want to happen upon him! Adding to this is some great gore work. The kills are really well done and look great on screen - the jaw rip scene is very very effective.

The Killing of Jacob Marr is a real treat for indie horror fans who might be looking for something of a higher standard. Check out the film on the official Facebook and see if you can still grab yourself a limited edition copy of the DVD!

Tuesday 15 November 2011

Camp Kill (2009)

Directed by Nate Hanley

Written by Nate Hanley

Stars: Rachel Grubb, Scarlet Salem, Landyn Banx, Breanna Fuss, Sarah Ann, Eric Binfent, Derek Dirlam, Will Duff, Matt Franta

 Writer/director Nate Hanley really delivers the old school slasher goods with his debut movie Camp Kill. Self released through the official site back in 2009, Camp Kill is a 'back to the roots', summer camp slasher flick which runs at a whopping great 160 minutes. That may (or not) put some interested parties off...but please don't let it. The films running time actually works wonders...there is such a large cast of characters, all in their own little groups or pairings that the movie just feels like it needs the time it has to breathe. You get great character introduction for the majority of the films length, but don't fret there is still a number of gruesome killings throughout this time until we get to the grand finale where there is many a-dropping of many flys!

The opening scene sets the bar for the film, with a young girl at her cabin at the titular camp, flashlight at the ready to investigate any 'strange noises'. Following this shortly is a fantastic scene introducing the killer by way of clenched gloved hands (an effective and menacing yellow), signalling the fact that the girl is trapped in the cabin with no means of escape.

The film features some great kills including death by fish hook and binoculars pinned to face! Most of these are all just really creatively done and flawlessly executed. It is also of note that all of this is done practically with no CGI whatsoever. I know this is something that director Nate Hanley strived for when making the film so hats off to him for achieving it. Add to this a great score, particularly during the scenes when the killer appears/strikes.

A lot of the characters are great fun in Camp Kill. Scarlet Salem is great as the spoiled, nature shy 'Jocelyn' who is permanently attached to her mobile phone - much to the chagrin of her best friend 'Sue' (Rachel Grubb). Derek Dirlam is hilarious as ultra goofy guy 'Joe' while Breanna Fuss' short role as the sweet, nature keen 'Kelly' is endearing. Special mention has to go to Eric Binfent and Sarah Ann as 'Lover Boy' and 'Lover Girl' - these two are highly amusing throughout and for a slasher movie their fates may just surprise you.

All I can really say to be critical of this film is there are some sound issues which are fairly typical of an independently produced film. When you consider what was made with an almost non existent budget (particularly the awesome kills) it's such a small issue.

So Camp Kill is a fun, creative 80's slasher throwback with a great cast, great sense of humour and kills to rival the best of the Sleepaway Camp movies. What's not to like? I strongly urge readers to hit Nate up through the official Camp Kill website and grab yourself a copy of the DVD. He is a friendly guy who is more than happy to answer your questions about the movie...plus if you drop him a review of the film he might even be kind enough to publish it on the website!

Sunday 13 November 2011

The Feed (2010)

Directed by Steve Gibson

Written By Matt Edens, Steve Gibson, Joe Nunan

Stars: Seth Dick, Chip Facka, Briana Healy, Jodi Horn, Sam Nelson and Lloyd Kaufman

Release: Special edition DVD available through the movies official website

It's always great to see the found footage film done right, particularly as I am a huge fan of the sub genre. The Feed, I am pleased to say, is one such film - a fast moving, well scripted, well acted creep fest.

Concerning the 'Ghost Chasers' reality show who are celebrating their 4th anniversary on air with a live broadcast at the notorious Brenway Theatre, The Feed depicts what happens when you go ghost hunting in the wrong place!

The Feed presents a formula tried and tested in many found footage horror films. you have your introduction to characters and location, a slow build up for a while, eventually odd incident upon odd incident starting to occur and then a big and busy climax. As I mentioned before its great to see this done well...some films in this sub genre really fall flat with a dull ending or there just isnt enough to keep your interest until the end (some films such as Apollo 18 are guilty of this and still don't award the viewer a satisfactory finale!) That all said, I knew I was onto a winner with this film as soon as the cast of Ghost Chasers introduced footage caught on tape of which the sender was not aware of. You are shown a video clip caught at the Brenway Theatre, depicting what appears to be a ghostly image...however the ghost hunting team actually realise that something far more sinister had been captured and the reveal of this is disturbing, gruesome and down right creepy. From here on out I was eager to learn more about the the theatres violent past and it is these stories which make the eventual appearance of the ghosts that much more effective as you are privy to the histories of them all.

I really the enjoyed the faux cheesy credit opening to the Ghost Chaser show within the movie - a nice touch which introduces you to the characters involved in the unfolding mayhem. There are further nice touches in the movie such as the inclusion of advertisements to add to the reality show angle (one of these featuring an amusing cameo from Tromas Lloyd Kaufman).

I also thought the cast did a great job in The Feed, the documentary part of it was nicely acted with all members effectively conveying that level of cheesiness apparent in the all of the ghost hunter type of shows. When the real horror begins I also thought several cast members, particularly Seth Dick and Briana Healy, made a great transition from acting to the camera, to truly terrified.

All in all The Feed is a solid independent horror film which also serves to give the found footage genre a decent boost. While it largely sticks to a formula we are used to, it also throws in some new additions as previously mentioned to make its own original stamp. This coupled with good performances, some effective scares and some utterly horrifying looking ghosts, The Feed comes highly recommended.

Friday 11 November 2011

Scarlet Rain (2010)

Directed by Matt Walker

Written by Matt Walker

Stars: Sarah Synder, Jonathan Shea , Alex Pepper, Lauren Schwartz and Debbie Schwartz AS ‘Evil’ and ‘Darkness’

Release: currently streaming on Indie Flix

I have been meaning to catch Matt Walkers intriguing looking little indie horror for a while and finally got the chance to do so today. I'm really glad I did because Scarlet Rain really packs in a tight, well performed and inventive film into its short running time.

The first thing that really struck me after its initial atmospheric opening was just how well shot the film is. It looks so professional and not at all low budget in the slightest. I enjoyed the credit sequence which takes you on a journey through the small town where the action will soon unfold.

Scarlet Rain concerns twin college students Dotty (Sarah Synder) and Ted (Jonathan Shea) who fend for themselves following the death of their parents. An announcement of a local double murder doesn't prevent the pair attending a party hosted by Dotty’s popular friend Alison and it is here that Dotty spins a gruesome yarn from the town’s history. It seems a powerful witch was betrayed by the townsfolk and decided to wreck a murderous revenge on them. Turning her victim’s blood to rain, the story goes that anyone touched by the deadly drops is marked for death. Although the witch was eventually killed, she died with twins inside her (Evil and Darkness) and a recent bloody rainstorm in town suggests that the twins may have returned to continue their mother’s horrific revenge.

Friends from the party meet up another night for food and drinks and after leaving (mid rain storm) find themselves caught up in a nightmare of murder and terror once the rain turns a bright and unsettling red. The real horror begins with a confrontation in the woods which unfortunately comes off a little bit hokey - once this is out if the way though the chase is on and the remaining teens are literally running for their lives from an unstoppable force.

Acting wise I really enjoyed Jonathan Sheas performance as Ted and Alex Pepper was great as the scaredy cat but ultimately heroic 'Pete'. I must also mention that the twins themselves are formidable looking and often downright creepy. I would love to see them back in a sequel as they are definitely two cool new horror villains. There are also some really effective murder sequences in Scarlet Rain, in particular the high heel kill and the rooftop stabbing.

Is Scarlet Rain a perfect film? No - it has its flaws here and these are mainly down to a couple of weaker performances. However it is a well made, gruesome and fun horror flick that I would definitely watch again. The people behind the film are working on a DVD release so stayed tuned to their Facebook page for more details...until then you can stream the movie from Indie Flix for a bargain price like I did.

Thursday 10 November 2011

Porkchops (2011)

Directed by EamonHardiman

Written by Eamon Hardiman

Stars: Sam Qualiana,Angela Pritchett, Kaylee Williams, Shawn C. Phillips, Missy Dawn and RobertCobb as ‘Porkchop’

So, as mentioned in my review of Porkchop, Eamon Hardiman has rapidly followed it up with a sequel which I am pleased to say surpasses the original and offers a few new twists and turns.  

Featuring Sam Qualiana as Simon, a young teen who is forced to move town due to financial difficulties and finds himself living right on the land of the infamous pig mask wearing serial killer Porkchop. Ooops. Befriending a free spirited young girl named Meg(Angela Pritchett) Simon realises he will have to keep his wits about him in this town – and that’s just due to the local bullies! Meg is only too happy to help fill Simon in on the bloody history of the town and appears to thrive on the stories of the legendary pig mask killer – not something other kids in school particularly love her for! Desperate to survive the horrors of school life, Simon devises a plan with Meg to win over the popular kids by way of a late night house party...Porkchop aint invited – but he is definitely attending!

One thing I really appreciated about Porkchops was it being set in the present day with the teen murders of the original a real tale of the past. Now I loves me an 80s slasher flick but rebooting the series in this way really freshened things up and that sold me immediately.  The film also has some great comedic moments – the childish idiot in me loved the scene with the girl wearing matching clothes to Simon. There is also a really amusing cameo by indie horror dude Shawn C. Phillips which made me laugh out loud.

Opening with a cruel and twisted double kill scene only goes to sign post what’s coming for the rest of the movie. If this puts you off, get out now, but if you like your horror deranged and offbeat then you will dig it. Kills from there on out just keep coming, there are a number of off screen murders but if you like your slasher flick with a high body count then Porkchopswill not disappoint you.  Quite a few of these scenes are truly creative, new and hilarious also!

As for the cast, I loved Missy Dawns ‘Hannah’ in this movie.She’s like a Sleepaway Camp uberbitch and her lines are almost nothing but profanity and put downs. Safe to say this isn’t the attitude for a movie about a crazed mad man and this eventually leads to a great chase scene with Porky, not to mention the movies most spectacular death scene. You have to see this one to believe it! Sam and Angela are great as Simon and Meg, there is a real chemistry there which is fun to see unfold.It was also nice to Kaylee Williams play a mean girl for once as she was all sweet and innocent in the last two movies I saw her in and the role of ‘Heather’?Not so much!

Also, as mentioned above there are some twists in this movie.One is halfway through the film and one right at the end. Both of these ensure a much darker tone than that of Porkchop,particularly the end one. It’s great to see Porkchop himself have far more presence in the sequel and as mentioned before there is a really great chase scene toward the end. Sure there are a few flaws such as some dodgy sound and I didn't really get the singing – plus there’s an insane looking scene on the back of the DVD which didn’t feature in the movie....but none of these harms things much at all.

So Porkchops is a fun, fast, silly and sometimes dark slasher movie which I highly recommend going into ready to have a good laugh with. I understand you can grab a copy left from the initial Kickstarter/Indiegogo fundraisers sogo here:  http://www.facebook.com/PORKCHOPSMOVIEto find out more!

Wednesday 9 November 2011

Vindication (2006)

Directed by Bart Mastronardi

Written by Bart Mastronardi

Stars: Keith Fraser, Miguel Lopez, Raine Brown, Zoe Daelman Chlanda, Jerry Murdock and Alan Rower Kelly as ‘Urbane’

Release date:  April 1 2010, US (DVD)

Embarrassingly enough it took me an awfully long time to pick up a copy of Vindication. Slapped wrists aside, I'm so glad I eventually did. Haunting and provocative are just two of many words I could use to describe this impressive psychological horror film.  

Vindication tells the tale of young Nicholas Bertram, a man struggling to deal with his sexuality and the abuse he has endured from his father throughout his life. It seems that Nicholas has took the brunt of the blame for his mother’s death through giving birth to Nicholas and his relationship with his father has become nothing short of fragile. The fact that Nicholas is also trying to come to terms with being gay has only further fuelled his father’s anger and resentment towards him and this is rapidly driving him towards a very dark place indeed.

Following a powerfully acted break down, Nicholas attempts suicide but is subsequently saved by a concerned friend. It is here on out that Nicholas journey becomes far darker and harrowing than he could have possibly imagined. I would hate to give away too much about the remainder of the film as its best to see this film as fresh as possible.... but I will say that from this point on guilt has well and truly taken over Nicholas’ life and that’s not a good thing. The scenes from here on out veer from out and out creepy (Alan Rowe Kelly’s formidable cameo) to hack and slash inspired murder sequences and finally a bleak and tragic climax.

Vindication is the kind of indie horror movie where some of the usual pitfalls are nicely avoided. The cinematography is perfect, the sound/dialogue is clear and the score is hauntingly relevant.  It’s extremely impressive what Bart and his crew have created and just goes to show what can come out of hard work yet little financing.

Acting wise, it has to be shouted from the roof tops that Keith Fraser was AMAZING in Vindication. I haven’t even come close to experiencing the kind of upbringing that the character Nicholas has had, so for an actor to make you feel his pain so overwhelmingly is one hell of a talent. I think I was close to tears several times watching this movie and that was in the first half hour! Absolutely astounding work- seriously.   Other appearances such as Zoe Daelman Chlanda in a small role is very effective and extremely important to the bulk of the narrative, aforementioned Alan Rowe Kelly terrifies as ‘urbane’ and Jerry Murdock makes it oh so easy  for you to hate his character as the angry, abusive father of Nicholas; ‘William’.

I have spoken to writer and director Bart Mastronardi a few times on Facebook and he was nice enough to send me a signed DVD of the movie after I told him how much I loved it! I also believe he has just premiered his short entry into the upcoming film Tales of Poe (The Tell Tale Heart) and has also recently worked with the Happy Cloud Pictures team on their new film Razor Days.  So you have those and hopefully much more to be looking forward to from this talented film maker – in the mean time look Vindication up on Facebook and do yourself a big favour and grab a copy.  

Tuesday 8 November 2011

Porkchop (2010)

Directed by Eamon Hardiman

Written by Eamon Hardiman and Zack Bassham

Stars: Ruby Larocca,Charles Sullivan, Brandon Raker, Erin Russ, Ford Austin, Brian Gunnoe,
Sierra Ferrell,Chris Woodall and Rob Cobb as ‘Porkchop’

Release date: December 6 2011, US (DVD)

Whenever I hear upcoming movie quotes such as ‘done in the style of Sleepaway Camp’ etc etc I’m usually already sold. That’s why I absolutely had to get on board with writer/director Eamon Hardimans Kickstarter project for his 2010, self released film Porkchop. For some reason I had let the initial fundraiser completely slip beneath my radar and I was late to the party with the second fundraiser which allowed you to contribute to making the first run of DVDs (of which you got your own copy). Better late than never though, I got a donation in and sometime there after a shiny copy of Porkchop, complete with imaginative 80s style artwork winged its way to my mailbox in the UK.

So the usual slasher premise: a group of party hearty teenagers in the 1980s load up a camper van and head off to an abandoned summer camp for a good time. Obviously they are in the wrong abandoned summer camp anddon’t realise that a psychopath wearing a great big pig mask is just waiting to taking them out one by one. A first plus point then would be that the film has a very authentic 80s look. Clothing, locations, vehicles, food stores – everything has that 80s look and its clearthere was a lot of attention to detail here.

Some of the kills are also nice and original – lawn darts clearly make for an innovative weapon of which Angela Baker clearly missed a trick. One kill, original as it is, is also fairly harrowing for this type of movie. It gives a whole new meaning to ‘fuck me with a chainsaw’ and you could be forgiven for thinking that the victim here would probably be offed in far sillier way in relation to the type of painfully ditzy character she portrays.Still, it certainly makes you cringe in horror, so well done!

As for the characters I really loved Erin Russ’ ‘Rachel’ – she's the cool, sarcastic best friend to Ruby Laroccas do-gooder ‘Deborah’ and her scenes are all great fun. She is also a complete and utter nympho and yeh just watch the movie...she really will screw anything that moves! Ruby herself is as natural as ever and does the good girl routine with ease while both Chris Woodall and Brandon Raker are hilarious in their respective roles as ‘Richie’ and ‘Ian’.

My main criticism ofPorkchop is that as cool as the killer looks, pig mask and all, he doesn’t seem to have as much presence as I would have expected. For a lot of the movies 93 minutes running time it’s much more about the rest of the cast ‘doing their thing’ with Porkchop suddenly appearing out of nowhere, attacking and vanishing again. A bit more chase with some of the characters or an extended final battle with Deborah at the end might have just made the villain a bit more rounded out (no pun intended!). Aside from that there are just the usual flaws found in a low budget movie such as some noise drowning out dialogue and some less effective performances – still you forgave all of that in the 80s so.....

Eamon followed up on Porkchop (almost immediately!) with the outrageous and intentionally offensive Zombie Babies which you could also get a DVD of, for donating to the making of the movie. It seems like Eamon probably never sleeps because he then went right to work on Porkchops a sequel to this flick, which I cannot wait to see. Byall accounts the follow up is a darker and more elaborate affair.

A fun and campy homage to 80s slasher movies, Porkchop will see an official DVD release on December 6 distributed by Alternative/POP Cinema and you can read more about the flick and its sequel Porkchops here:

Monday 7 November 2011

By Her Hand She Draws You Down (Short)

(Screener Copy)

Adapted for the screen and directed by Anthony G. Sumner

Stars: Zoë Daelman Chlanda and Jerry Murdock

Anthony G. Sumner’s short film adaption of Douglas Smiths By Her Hand She Draws You Down makes up part of the upcoming horror anthologyGallery of Fear, a film written and directed by Anthony and the always amazing Alan Rowe Kelly. This is also exciting news for horror fanssince Anthony is really proving himself to be a master of the horror short. I for one hope there are even more to come, I really do.

The 25 minute movie, set in a bleak and rather vapid costal town,sees a young lady named Cath working the boardwalk by offering to paint any passerby who happens along. It is made apparent that something is not at all right with this set up as a man named Joe is tracking Cath at every turn appearing to act as both her protector but also as a shield between her and some of the people she wishes to paint. The film thus invokes an incredible feeling of atmospheric mystery and when you suddenly become privy to how Cath is forced to live herlife in order to survive it makes for a truly haunting viewing.

Anything else would be spilling right into spoiler territory (althought those who have read Douglas Smiths short story will know)but I will go on to say that the special effects demonstrating Caths ‘inner issues’; are top notch and the tragic and inevitable ending most definitely leaves its mark. Acting wise, Zoë Daelman Chlanda (I’ll Bury You Tomorrow, Blood Shed, Vindication) excels as the damaged yet dangerous Cath, while Jerry Murdock (I’llBury You Tomorrow, Blood Shed , Vindication, Lewis) plays her concerned, yet wary partner, with an impressive mixture of sadness, resignation and fear.

By Her Hand is a powerful and emotive film in which only further highlights Anthony’s skilled vision of the more effective and engaging short. This reviewer is eagerly anticipating the release of both Gallery of Fear and Psycho Street – the latter of which will feature another amazing short of Anthony’s: Lewis .

Evil Things (2009)

Directed by Dominic Perez

Written by Dominic Perez

Stars:  Laurel Casillo, Morgan Hooper, Ryan Maslen, Elyssa Mersdorf, Torrey Weiss and Gail Cadden

Release date: 9 August 2011, US (DVD) 10 October 2011, UK (DVD)

Have you ever anticipated a movie for so long that you think you almost know 100% what to expect when it finally gets a release? That’s not intended in a critical way toward Evil Things, in fact quite the opposite. I was personally intrigued from the get go by this film and its slew of reviews it has managed to ratchet up over the past couple of years. I am also not ashamed to admit that I have been completely unnerved by its trailer every single time I have seen it.  Luckily for viewers the Inception Media group took this low budget little film, written and directed by newcomer Dominic Perez, and gave it an official DVD release in the US this month with a UK release hot on its heels.

The premise is ultra simple. In fact the movie as a whole is ultra simple – but it’s what makes it so effective.  Five close friends are driving off to a secluded country house in the Catskills Mountains for a birthday celebration while one of the group, Leo, captures their every movement on camera. Heard all this before? Yes probably, but this particular entry in the often criticised found footage genre (not sure why this is as they tend to scare me more than any other genre!) really manages to invoke the creep factor. There is just something truly frightening about the idea of a group of very innocent, fun loving people just being selected by a maniac who is planning their demise.

After several unsettling encounters with a van on route to their destination, the five friends are already on edge. Who is this guy? Why is he baiting them at every turn only to disappear again?  Well there is no answer to this and that only helps to elevate the feeling of fear that this film manages to scare out of the viewer. It’s a bit slow going for the remainder of the film as the friends begin to enjoy themselves and aside from a panicked trip in the woods where they find themselves lost, there isn’t much more of the scary stuff until the final ten minutes. But what a killer those last ten minutes are. A shocking discovery sends the group into a very genuinely attack of panic and I feel it is this particular scene which really makes the flesh creep. The final moments are a full on home invasion where, despite not being shown anything in the blood department, it’s safe to say that whoever was following these kids earlier on had a far more sinister plan up their sleeves and this is his (or her?) time to stake their claim.

My main criticism of what is a very scary ending (including an very effective slammed door) is that the fates of two of the more central characters are left completely ambiguous – the first two victims you see enough to know they have been taken and/or killed but in a very rushed scene we are suddenly left with the one remaining victim. That said this final scene involving Cassy, our lead character, is absolutely bone chilling. I wouldn’t want to give away how it plays out but I will say that by this point the game has completely changed as far as who is filming the unfolding horror is concerned and it leaves a terrifying final fright for poor Cassy as she attempts to make her escape.  The final end reveal is also highly effective and answers some questions which you may have such as the sudden inclusion of a musical score toward the end. I would also add that the film didn’t need all the repeat footage throughout the end credits - it made me believe there may have been something new to discover to elaborate on what I had already seen but sadly not.

All in all if you have no appreciation for this type of horror movie then you would probably do well to avoid Evil Things – I highly doubt it will change your views on the found footage flick. Otherwise I hope you would find it as effective and unsettling as I did and can see the obvious potential in Dominic’s writing and directing. Also aiding the film immensely are believable performances from all five central characters, particularly Laurel Casillo as Cassy. She shows some fantastic comedic acting chops in one scene and her fear and panic at the end of the movie is nothing short of genuine.

 I highly recommend Evil Things, it’s certainly worth your time, it’s a shame it may end up criminally ignored due to it being pushed aside for movies such as Paranormal Activity and sequels, but hopefully this won’t be the case. The movies official website can be found here: http://www.evilthingsmovie.com/Evil_Things_Movie/Home.html - check it out; it has all kinds of cool stuff which tie in with the aftermath of the events of the movie.

Red White & Blue (2010)

Directed by Simon Rumley

Written by Simon Rumley

Stars: Amanda Fuller, Marc Senter, John Michael Davis and Noah Taylor

Release date: May 17 2011, US (DVD) October 10 2011, UK (DVD)

Setting the bar high foruncompromising cinema, Simon Rumleys RedWhite & Blue resurrects the true meaning of horror and delivers it with a swift, brutal blow. Far from just another horror movie however, you have an often emotional drama, intriguing mystery thanks to its non linear narrative style, all capped with a building senseof dread which ultimately propels towards a shocking finale.

Upcoming British director Simon Rumley not only looks set to be a new master in the horror/thriller genre buthas also presented Red White & Blue beautifully - effectively depicting the sometimes mundane, blue collarcommunity of rural Texas and the seedier side of its nightlife. While the film starts quietly and unassumingly the atmosphere created by Rumley always evokes the feeling that nothing is quite what it seems and it’s very easy to become transfixed by the slowly unfolding action.

The story involves Texan localErica (Amanda Fuller) who leads a sad, lonely life completely of her own choosing. Erica’s nightly activities involve visiting the most run down of bars and subsequently sleeping with all manner of different men as though she were brushing her teeth or changing her clothes. To describe Amanda Fullers realistically portrayed character as casual would be a gross understatement. She is also cool and cold along with it, never intimate with the same man twice and maintaining a steely resolve never to form any emotional attachment. It would be safe then to assume then that Erica has a past- which is where rock band member Franki (Marc Senter) comes in; a young man who just wants to get famous and live life free and loose.Thinking nothing of his wild one night stand with Erica months before, he unfortunately has no idea just how badly his former tryst is going to come backto haunt him and those he cares about most.

In present time, Erica findsherself subject of the unwanted attentions of post traumatic Iraq war veteranNate. Nate may just be the first man Erica can remember coming across who isn’tinterested in a one night stand (despite her best efforts to bed him) ratherNate wishes to ‘get to know her’ and potentially be her friend. When Franki makes a shocking discovery about Erica that turns his life upside down it leads him very quickly down a dark path of despair and his subsequent actions cause the lives of those around him to be caught in a deadly crossfire partly of his own making.
Never a film that relies ongratuitous violence just to fill theatres, instead the blood and gore seen here is often difficult to watch, yet handled with a focus on realism. Any viewers expecting to see characters dispatched creatively left right and centre by a variety of gardening tools will be disappointed. If, however, you enjoy a substantial build up, decent character development and are prepared for a disturbing final act which grips and refuses to let go then this film might just be for you.

Performances in the film are notable across the board, particularly in the case of the three leads. Mark Senter plays the fun loving, albeit deeply caring young man with conviction,particularly his scenes involving his cancer stricken mother. The characters downwards spiral later on in the film is some of the most impressive stuff this young actor has ever done and he has already proved his acting chops in the film adaption of Jack Ketchum’s The Lost.A more understated performance by Amanda Fuller doesn’t experience as much time to breathe as the others but she certainly plays cool, detached and ultimately damaged brilliantly. Noah Taylor as the sociopathic Nate is nothing short of terrifying.
Once Nate is quite literally out for blood you can wave goodbye to the caring character witnessed earlier. The second that rage has taken over we see all of Nate’s pent up angerand aggression unleashed and drive him to commit some truly despicable acts of madness and revenge.

Ultimately Red White & Blue is a film that takes its audience on an incredibly powerful and emotionally draining journey, right through to its bleak denouement.There are no easy answers, there are no happy endings and nothing is tied up neatly with a pretty pink bow. Red White & Blue is a grim, relentless, sucker punch of a film and an absolute must see.

Friday 4 November 2011

Lewis (Short)

(Screener Copy)

Directed by Anthony G. Sumner

Written by Marv Blauvelt, Anthony G. Sumner, Trevor Wright

Stars: Deneen Melody, Jerry Murdock, Susan Adriensen

I was honoured to be allowed the opportunity to review Anthony G. Sumners new horror short Lewis (Soon to be released as part of the anthology movie Psycho Street) after being extremely impressed with his recent release Slices of Life – a witty, gory and fun anthology movie in its own right.

Set in the 1970s, Lewis features indie horror starlet Deneen Melody as Amanda, a young mother haunted by flashbacks to a childhood cloaked in mystery and terror. To make matters worse, Amanda has just caught her husband in a very compromising position and after some advice from a Priest (Jerry Murdock) on unlocking the secrets of her past, takes her young daughter Aubrey on a trip to the country.

Aubrey’s insistence that she has a new (seemingly imaginary) friend named Lewis who has come along for the ride, coupled with the very odd folk residing in the town of Kronanburg the scene is set for all kinds of strange and gory occurrences and it soon becomes clear, that Amanda’s childhood was bloodier and more disturbing than she could ever have imagined.

A strong, intriguing build up really elevates this short as it completely reels you in and all you can hope for is a fitting payoff, which I appreciate is sometimes difficult to achieve in a short film. There are no issues with that here though as the final minutes of Lewis provide one great big bloody, occult infested climax. Strong performances also really help the film particularly Deneen Melody who plays Amanda with just the right mixture of strong willed yet also hurt/confused. May I also say she looked absolutely stunning in this role and her 70’s style of dress and make up was just perfection? Also of note was Susan Adriensen as a rather ‘different’ kind of nun.

Lewis truly captures the spirit of the satanic horror movies of the 70’s with style and finesse (all in 35 minutes) and it will be a pleasure to see it again as part of Psycho Street on its release.

About Psycho Street:
Welcome to the small town of Kronanburg. On the surface, this quaint, little town appears to be the perfect place to settle down, relax and raise a family…but the core of this seemingly “perfect” town is dark and vile…and the residents of this town live in a world of deranged insanity. In Kronanburg, terror lies behind every door and death is only a heart-beat away.
Join Kronanburg’s happy home-maker, Leyla Barker (Tiffany Shepis) as she leads you through three tales of murder and madness that can only come from the dark nightmares of life in this town…but beware, Leyla might just have a dark secret of her own!

Thursday 3 November 2011

The Creepy Doll (2011)

Directed by PJ Woodside

Written by PJ Woodside

Stars: Kristine Renee Farley, Jessica Cook and Justin Veazey

USA DVD release – 27 June 2011

Big Biting Pig Productions continue their impressive input into the independent horror genre with this chilling tale of jealousy, obsession and bloody revenge.

Western Kentucky based Big Biting Pig Productions have pleased this indie horror hound since I bought three of their previous movies from them in one fell swoop. These were of a variety of horror movie sub genres, from slasher to monster flick to Zombie movie.  Now having watched all of their movies aside from the unavailable 3rd Floor, I can say there is one thing unequivocally consistent in every movie I have seen from these guys and that’s the writing. Smart, intelligent or clever don’t quite do the team (comprising of actor/writer/producer/directors Steve Hudgins and PJ Woodside) any justice. But they are all those things – there are always surprises along the way from a BBP movie and you are guaranteed a mystery filled (usually non linear) thrill ride throughout the entire running time. You may say ‘even in a Zombie movie?’....well yes, even more so than ever in a Zombie movie!

Switching up roles from previous output, Hell Is Full ( the new best zombie movie you need to check out )director Steve Hudgins takes a step back from writing and directing while PJ Woodside takes the reign for new movie The Creepy Doll. A slow burning shocker with a genuinely unsettling lead performance from Kristine Renee Farley, The Creepy Doll gently teases, until its shock filled denouement. Kate and Jason are newlyweds, returning to Jason’s hometown, with the intent of raising their unborn child. It’s only after Kate’s childhood doll collection is shipped over that things begin to get...well...creepy.  One doll in particular, in case you haven’t realised, the titular one, is the creepiest of them all and it very much appears to have a disturbing hold over Kate. This isn’t Chucky territory though, so anyone expecting the creepy doll to attack characters in a murderous rage may be disappointed. Instead you have to use your imagination as to how real Kate’s perceptions may or may not be. Being a horror film you will probably expect the blood to eventually flow. And boy does it. Not, mind you, in a gratuitous way, but in a scary, realistic and emotionally charged way, making you stand to attention. This can be largely put down to the great writing and the actor’s interpretation of the script. There are great performances all round here, particularly from the aforementioned Kristine Renee Farley, Jessica Cook as the scheming ex and Cindy Maples as Jason’s bewildered mother.

To find out more about the movie and to purchase this and other BBP DVDs please check out their cool website here: http://www.bigbitingpigproductions.com/. All releases are well worth your time and money and I intend to cover the others VERY soon.