Thursday 28 September 2017

The Blair Witch Legacy (2017)

(Online screener)

Written and directed by Jason Hawkins

Stars: Samantha Marie Cook, Cody Epling and Jason Reynolds 

Described as a feature length fan film set in the Blair Witch Universe, The Blair Witch Legacy really celebrates just what a phenomenon The Blair Witch Project was back in 1999, both in its marketing strategy and eventual release. Its a complete love letter to those days, weeks, months everyone was talking about that 'film with the shaky cam' and speculating whether it was it real etc. 

I'm very much a fan of The Blair Witch Project. I saw it at age 15 and remember deciding immediately with my friend that it was disappointing and not scary....until I walked home in the dark and then sat alone in my house for the next few hours. That's when it really hit me how scary the film actually was and I suddenly felt a bit afraid to be alone. I think a film that messes with you like that can only be described as a triumph for a horror story. I also really enjoyed the sequel and while I can appreciate why it annoyed some people who possibly wanted some kind of resolution to the events of the previous film or maybe have some more focus on the legendary witch, I still felt it had a great creepy atmosphere and an unsettling climax. While I did not completely love 2016's Blair Witch  there were some great moments in it, a couple of decent shocks and the climax was both eerie and horribly claustrophobic.

It was really exciting to hear that Jason Hawkins had made a feature length fan film related to the world of the Blair Witch. Jason's previous films which I have seen and reviewed so far have been great. 15: Inside the Mind of a Serial killer  a dark and disturbing descent into madness and The Devil Knows His Own, a twisted and scary ghost story.

I am pleased to feed back that The Blair Witch Legacy delivers a solid film which as mentioned plays out as a brilliant homage to where it all began back in 1999 and then puts a new spin on it.

Cody Epling and Jason Reynolds as 'Cody and Jason'

Samantha, Cody and Jason are off to Burkitsville, Maryland to shoot a documentary about the making of the original film. Samantha is a driven young women who intends to make something that will propel her career - and in one of many clever homages to the BWP, she notes how she wants to make a serious/non-cheesy film (just as Heather Donahue did nearly 20 years ago).  As the trio navigate the town attempting to secure interviews with the locals it is clear that the woods might not be the only thing to worry about here.  A weird mystery is unfolding concerning the children of Burkitsvsille and these eager filmmakers have found themselves right in the middle of it, as well as incurring the wrath of a several of the townsfolk.  Maybe even more so than Heather, Samantha is intensly determined to make her movie and shows some disturbing traits in this respect. The action does eventually move to the woods for a manhunt after a child the filmmakers spoke to earlier has vanished. Things then get very nightmarish for the group and to say much more specifically on the plot would be far too spoiler heavy. What I will say is that there are a few genuine scares in the climax and things also end in a totally unexpected way with some reveals which chilled my spine.  The movie leaves you with questions just as the BWP did but they are questions which really make you think. There is also scope for expansion on this story and the world of the Blair Witch in general which I really hope happens.

Samantha Marie Cook as 'Samantha' 

The main actors all did great jobs, Samantha Marie Cook really impressed me with the range that she showed across the film and both Cody Epling and Jason Reynolds really got their teeth stuck into their roles when events turn scary. I could really feel their frustration and panic. I also really enjoyed the scene where the group chat to a group of modern day wiccans. I am told it was improvised and it just plays out really well. The lady playing the 'first' witch  Diannah (Hannah Marie) is really excellent - she has some incredible facial expressions and her dry delivery of her lines supplements this really well.  She also looks cool AF. 

Hannah Marie as 'Diannah' 

Treating the BWP as the fictional film that it was but investigating the very scary possibility that this was 'all a lie' and that the footage/disappearances were real makes for a great way to create new story. I am really pleased Jason went out and made this unofficial entry into what has always been a very creepy little world.  I am both happy Jason trusted me to check the film out and that I enjoyed it as much as I did. I hope the guys behind the original film enjoy it too!

Please check the Official Facebook where you can find out about upcoming screenings of which some may occur here in the UK!

Saturday 16 September 2017

The Garlock Incident (2012)

Written and Directed by: Evan J. Cholfin

Starring Ana Lily Amirpour, Sean Muramatsu, Adam Chambers, Casey Ruggieri, Christina Joy Howard, Larissa Wise, Sean Durrie, Alycen Malone 

Released on VOD 15 September 2017 (Amazon, Googleplay, Itunes) 

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Kicked off several years ago with an interactive campaign, The Garlock Incident is a found footage movie made back in 2012 and one I have been keen to catch for a while. The campaign itself served as an introduction to the film and allowed eager viewers to become embroiled in the mystery that the movie starts to unlock as it moves along.

Telling the story of eight young people travelling to Las Vegas to shoot a movie and stopping off at an old ghost town on route, this film plays on genuine fears and exposes what some people may be capable of in the most extreme of situations. 

I wont give away any of the shocks and surprises that occur as the group begin to fall apart after they find themselves stranded in the ghost town of Garlock, however I will say that there was a lot that I did not see coming. I have a watched a lot of found footage movies, some great and some very disappointing - sometimes its what you don't see which is scary and sometimes you just want to see a bit more. The Garlock Incident strikes a decent balance in this area. Not all questions are answered but you see and hear enough to really make you question your trust in others. 

As the movie progresses, the usual panic sets in and arguments ensue as the group try to ascertain the best course of action but of course this only ends up igniting an already tense situation. Alliances are both formed and broken as things get more desperate and this is all depicted very well on screen. 

The actors all do a fine job and there was much to be impressed with here. Leads Ana Lily Amirpour and Sean Muramatsu are especially good as Lily and Sean. Lily is the director of the planned movie and Sean an actor and both shine in roles which required some emotionally challenging scenes. Towards the end both actors do a terrific job of keeping the tension mounting and from watching this film I really hope to see more of their work. One role which was really gripping and one which I discussed with the lovely director/writer Evan was Adam Chambers as fellow fictional actor 'Adam'. Adam really shines in this film and displays such a range of emotions which was fascinating to watch. Adam is really impacted by the events of the film and the situation the group has found themselves in and this presents the opportunity for the actor to really let fly. I sympathised with Adam, felt horrified at him at other points and truly felt his fear at other times. I really do hope to see Adam Chambers in more roles because he did an incredible job here. 

The setting worked very well. As someone who has visited a ghost town on route to Las Vegas I can safely say that if I found myself stranded in one I would say the very least. It can be really eerie out there in the desert and therefore this worked really well for the film. 

The Garlock Incident is by no means perfect but what is? Its probably not going to appeal to those that are not keen on found footage style films, particularly if the build up to the end usually frustrates you. However what I would say is that this films offers something different, has great acting and as previously mentioned really makes you think about those around you and how they may react to a frightening situation. There is also another shock in store which will really make you think back through the entire film. I loved and appreciated this the most.

You can rent or buy the movie right NOW on various VOD outlets such as Amazon, Googleplay and ITunes. I highly recommend this film and really look forward to more from Evan and Ana Lily! Also check out the official social media for the film below where you can view the trailer and find out more about the initial interactive campaign. A pleasure to watch and review.