Friday, 26 May 2017

Estranged (2015)

There's no place like home. Apparently.

Estranged

From director Adam Levins (Population Zero) comes 2015 Brit horror, Estranged. When January has an accident while travelling in Europe - where she has been for six years - she is returned home, memory-less to her family to recuperate. Travelling with new boyfriend Callum, her family takes the two in, but with some apprehension. Something is afoot.

From the very moment January (Amy Manson - Once Upon a Time) pulls up outside the family estate there is clearly something wrong. But we, the viewer, are not let in on the secret. The family, led by patriarch Albert (James Cosmo - Game of Thrones) don't seem happy to see her. They're cold. Something is odd. And January believes that may have been why she left all those years ago. Perhaps the family are not loving, after all.


Happy families.

It's very clever in its story telling. This is slow burn horror at its best. There are no jump scares here. No cats leaping from cupboards. Just a sense of terror rising. And towards the end of the movie it goes dark.

Pitch. Black.

By far the standout performances come from Cosmo and Manson. The direction is solid. And after the movie breaks into the second half, the tension breaks, and the movie is terrifying.

It's new, and different to see a horror like this. And it's well worth seeing.





Friday, 19 May 2017

House (1986)

File this one under guilty pleasures:

House

Ex-vet Roger Cobb is a horror novelist. Has been since he left service. But his son was abducted from his family home never to be seen again, his marriage broken down, and his mother has taken her own life.

Roger is returning home to write his memoirs in solitude. But the house isn't empty.

One of the first horror movies that made a real impression on me was House. Unknown to me at the time, the horror comedy genre would become a mainstay love of mine, and Steve Miner's gem will be forever a favorite.

Right from the start of the movie, William Katt, cast excellently as Roger Cobb cuts comedy and serious perfectly. He's the believable every man. The believable hero. And he's thrust into some serious horror within the house.

Cobb comes to the house his mother committed suicide in to write a memoir. He meets neighbors, Harold (George Wendt), and Tanya, (Mary Stavin). Cursed by nightmares of his missing son, and Ben (Richard Moll), a fallen comrade in Vietnam, Cobb is attacked by forces in the house. His wife transforms into a goblin, his garden tools attack him, and he sees visions of his mother. Oh, and there's a really big monster in the closet.

Then he finds a gateway to...somewhere...in the bathroom.


It's a really big...raccoon??

Before the (fantastic) twist culminating in the climax of the film, the house itself is the villain of the piece. The attack by gardening equipment is well done. The special effect is good. The monster in the closet is exceptional. The FX, the character reactions from both Katt and Wendt, the humor injected. It's largely flawless.

The scene where Cobb's ex-wife turns into a goblin is by far the worst effect in the movie. It's just rubber suit territory.

Then, the climax.

Ben - Cobb's fallen comrade in 'nam, is a zombie. Yes. That's a twist no one saw coming. Back in the day (well, night, actually) Ben  was injured, and Cobb refused to take his life, leaving him to be tortured in a POW camp "for years". So Ben possessed the house (?) and took his son.

And it's beautiful.


Richard Moll

The effects laden Moll returns as Ben for a final showdown with Cobb who has his son returned to him.

The action in the climax is outstanding, Moll's makeup is great, and you just didn't see it coming.

The selling point for me, I think, is that the horror is light, the comedy well present, and it's fun. Fun isn't something many horrors (even horror comedies) do well. Horror is usually serious, I get that, however, horror comedy tends to bend towards silly, rather than funny and clever, and thus not a fun time.

If you haven't seen this, you should. It holds up pretty well today. And there's sequels. *cough* Of varying quality.






Friday, 12 May 2017

The Zombie King (2013)

And award for most misleading marketing goes to...

The Zombie King

From IMDB: Samuel Peters once an ordinary man, dabbles within the laws of voodoo to bring his wife back from the grave, he soon encounters the God of malevolence 'Kalfu', where he makes a pact with him to destroy the underworld and bring chaos to earth; in return he will become 'The Zombie King' and walk the earth for eternity with his departed wife. 

Samuel Peters (Edward Furlong - Terminator 2) and Kalfu (Corey Haim - The Lost Boys), pictured in glory on the DVD cover above have, perhaps, 5 minutes screen time between them in this British horror comedy.

Barely mentioned at all are the real stars.


George McCluskey / David McClelland / Michael Gamarano

The Zombie King has the premise above, but is actually the tale of a Postman, a Milkman, and a Traffic Warden trying to survive the zombie apocalypse, and their relationships with the people they meet along the way. 


Seb Castang / Jennifer Chippindale / David McClelland

Hell, three of the players wrote it. George McCluskey, Rebecca-Clare Evans, and Jennifer Chippendale are the credited writers.

I know, I know, star power and all.

Anyway. Played like a semi-sequel to Shaun of the Dead, the gags come fast, likewise the gore, as our intrepid three stumble upon another ragtag group of survivors. Each of them are given a backstory, some funnier than others, until they meet a priest, played with great gusto by Jon Campling who imparts why the apocalypse has happened, and how to stop it.

The actors do well, as many of them have few credits to their names, and although the best gags are written for McClelland, the stand-outs are clearly George McCluskey as squinting hard-nut Postman, Ed, and, drunk priest with a penchant for Voodoo, Jon Campling (who was a Death Eater, Potter fans).


Jon Campling

The film is not without problems, however. It's budget does mean that it is a little rough around the edges. I couldn't help but laugh when in one scene car licence plates are blurred out, for, I assume, legal reasons.

The worst part by far is the jarring transitions between the Feldman/Furlong story, and the rest of the film. The protagonists don't meet with the titled 'stars' of the film until the final reel, and the direction of the two is very different. It was like watching two different intersected movies, and at one point I wondered if either Feldman or Furlong were going to appear on screen with their English counterparts.

But that said the movie is very enjoyable. I was lucky enough to ask Jon Campling about the shoot, who said he "LOVED it. Got to meet T2's JOHNCONNOR!! And play a drunk priest!!"

And it showed. The UK cast are clearly having a blast.

When I spoke with Jennifer Chippendale she said "That was my first experience as a producer, I have learnt so much since doing that film." Well, Jennifer. We say: Good work.

I recommend you check it out if you're looking for excellent comedy horror. Just don't expect to see much of the Hollywood actors.







Friday, 5 May 2017

Rogue One (2016)

A long time ago...


Rogue One

...I watched a movie called Star Wars (later to be known as Star Wars Episode IV A New Hope). And I kinda liked it. Well, really liked it. What am I saying. Shit. I'm a massive Star Wars fan.

So anyway. Star Wars movies have an opening crawl. It looks like this:

This is the line in the first Star Wars crawl that is the plot to Rogue One

So, I was confused.

I have no problem with a SW movie based on the rebels stealing the Death Star plans. I don't. Actually, for the first 'Anthology' movie, I thought it was a pretty good idea. A movie that wasn't directly connected to the core nine, but sort of familiar. Great plan. What was it that The Force Awakens was? Do it the same first, but different, before you do it different.

Genius.

Then I watched it.

The movie starts in flashback to a period that I assume was in conjunction to the end (ish) of Episode 3. Okay. I can deal. Slightly different look. Okay. Good guys. Yep. Bad guys. Yep. Holy shit. They just murdered someone. On screen. That's...unusual. 

So, moving forward, that's sort of my main problem with the film. And I'll sum it up quite clearly:

Inexplicably linked to SW4ANH (if you will) is Rogue One. Rogue One is a depressing war movie where (spoilers) everyone dies for the greater good. And SW4ANH is a children's film. 


Don't get used to the cast. They die.

And while this is the biggest problem I had, I had others.

But let me clear this up. I want a dark Star Wars movie. I want Death Troopers. I mean really. I want adult SW. I want gangster SW. I was stoked for SW: Underworld. I want it. I want it all. And I want it now. But. SW (core nine) are children's films. Do dark, but don't do it there. 

Anyway. The other problems.

The direction and acting, the editing, they're all great. I can't flaw any of it. My problems come from story (and one other thing).

The opening 30 minutes of the movie is convoluted. Simple as that. It's unnecessary. 

Forest Whitaker's Saw Gerrera is a waste. I believe this comes down to the fateful after editing process - see Suicide Squad. But he's odd. The character makes no sense. 

Darth Vader sounds odd. I get it. James Earl Jones is older that last time he voiced him. But he needs to sound the same as he did in SW4.  He's also a super bad-ass force killing machine. Unlike in SW4. You'll notice that a lot of these problems come from SW4ANH being set the next day. 

But then there's the inclusion of Peter Cushing. Ethically, I have no problem with this. Visually, yes. Yes, I have a massive problem.  


Um....Peter Cushing?

It's uncanny valley.

So, no. Rogue One did not fulfill my Star Wars needs until the upcoming Last Jedi. Or, SW8TLJ. 

Come on Disney. Sort it out. 



I can't believe I have to give SW a three.

And I'm not putting a trailer up because half of the trailer wasn't in the film.



Friday, 28 April 2017

Roadside (2013)

Interestingly in line with Phone Booth.

Roadside. Not to be mistaken for Roadhouse.

Dan and Mindy drive through the desolate wilderness to meet with friends when they are held up by a gunman in the darkness. You're standing in the middle of the road. An unseen gunman has you in his sights. What do you do?

Largely, that is the entire premise. So, with so much to be held up by the cast, does it?

The couple, played by Ace Marrero (Triangles) and Katie Stegeman (Contracted) do so with some flair. Dan is clearly cheating on pregnant wife Mindy, and so the favor falls very much with her, and, given the predicament they are in, she could, save herself at any point. Although, interestingly, some small sympathy is garnered by Dan.

The gunman, voiced by Brad Douglas (Interestingly nothing of note) is chilling.

Director and Writer Eric England made some interesting choices. One that tips the movie over from being good, to being interestingly good. But more on that in a moment.

A well held up thriller, but - if you've seen Phone Booth - with this set up the end can make or break the movie.


Ace Marrero / Katie Stegeman

So. The end.

This appears to be a sticking point with some reviewers. You see, the film just ends. There is no resolution. Some have said it is merely sequel baiting.

Nah.

Eric England is clever.

Within the credits of the movie, a coy animated sequence plays - think the intro to Catch Me If You Can. And within the sequence is the end of the movie. Do they live? You find out. Who is the gunman? You find out.

In conversation with Dead Celluloid, England states, "I think most people either missed the whole movie or didn't want to sit through the final animation."

We say: Their loss.

For whatever reason England included this - especially the flack he's received by reviewers belittling the ending - it's like Marvel Credit Scene to the max. And especially rewarding.





Friday, 21 April 2017

Fled (1996)

KABOOM! 'splotions! Chasing! Shooting! THE 90'S!


Fled

A-Typical 90's action flick, Fled, starts with hacker, Dodge (!) and, um, criminal, Piper (!), breaking free from a road gang, and fleeing the law. What follows is 98 minutes of action. Cars explode on impact. Guns wielded at funny - yet extremely effective - angles. All meetings happening in strip clubs. Floppy disks. Yes. Floppy disks.

For it being about escaped convicts however, it couldn't be more of a buddy-cop movie.

Stephen Baldwin and Laurence Fishburne star as the two escaped convicts. Baldwin trying to carve an action man niche for himself, and Fishburne sitting comfortably in his. Baldwin has a mixed career, going well until the mid-nineties (starring in Bio-Dome in the same year, ouch), and then slowly drifting towards straight to DVD obscurity. Sadly, I mostly know him for the latter, so could have given this a miss, which would have been a shame. Fishburne is always likable, and his performance here reminds me of his role in 92's Deep Cover opposite Jeff Goldblum. As leads they're both capable and carry the film well.

The supporting cast is large, but not overly memorable, with the exception of always great Will Patton, and the sudden appearance of RuPaul, bizarrely.


Lawrence Fishburne / RuPaul


The film is as you would expect it to be. It has a little Lethal Weapon. A lot of generic 90's action. There are certain aspects drawn from earlier Die Hard II, which leads to comparison.

None of this is a bad thing. 

It is what it is. 90's action. Well enough made, and enough explosions to sate any Michael Bay fan.

If you've not seen it and want a fun action flick, go see it now. It's as good as any other of the period.










Friday, 14 April 2017

Bunnyman (2011)

The IMDB synopsis for this movie is: A couple of dimwitted teens get chased by a killer dressed in a bunny suit. 

I shit you not.


He's behind you!

This is a strange, strange, movie. The synopsis is surprisingly accurate, however, before we get to the couple there were six.

Six lonely travelers in a car doing twenty.

With no dialogue to speak of, which is not a bad thing because of the quality of the acting, six friends (whose names are so unimportant we aren't given them, nor do we know where they're going) get driven from the road by a large, lumbering truck - that they could have sped away from should the driver have known how to drive. They are then picked off by a man in a bunny suit.

BUNNYMAN.


Scary.

Trying its hardest to be the Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and failing miserably, Bunnyman is simply a man in a bunny suit offing 'teens' with a chainsaw in the forest. A couple of the gore effects were okay, and I put that down to them being practical rather than CGI.

The acting is terrible, the direction as base as it can get, the screenplay non-existent, and the killer was in a bunny suit.

Says it all really.

Starring Cheryl Texiera (Girl Meets World) and Matthew Albrecht (The Eves) as the two final 'teens' and Carl Lindbergh (Director of Bunnyman) as Bunnyman, the movie hardly has a reason to be good. It tries, which is something, but comes off as a group of friends mucking about at the weekend with a camera.

It also spawned two sequels, which I now have to watch.

I can't recommend the movie, however, I feel a one star rating is a dupe. Only for hardcore bad horror fans, this one.