Friday, 15 December 2017

Our Evil (2017)

Forewarning: some of this film is brutal. Brutal.

Our Evil


A man with spiritualist powers is told by his mentor that a demonic entity is returning to destroy his daughter's soul, and that he should take drastic measures to prevent this from happening.


Okay, so this one not only took me by surprise, but it's also kinda hard to review. But first off, let me say it is fantastic. Part drama, part horror, a dash of torture porn, a little thriller... like I said, hard. You couldn't pigeon hole this film at all.

I won't talk at any length over the plot - the synopsis says enough - for not wanting to drop spoilers. The film has twists galore, and each one is kind of sweet, so I won't ruin anything. The debut feature of writer/director Samuel Galli, Brazilian film Our Evil (Original title: Mal Nosso) drips with tension. It's raw brutal aesthetic makes it hard to look away. And sometimes you want to.

What I'll refer to as the villain - Charles - played by Ricardo Casella (debut feature) is cool, calm, and very sinister. He looks so...ordinary. Lead of the piece is Arthur - played in two time periods to aplomb by Ademir Esteves (debut feature) and Fernando Cardoso (debut feature). Casella and Esteves spa on screen like seasoned professionals.

Ricardo Casella (with knife)

The real win is the story telling. The film doesn't hold back on the underlying good vs evil arc within the narrative. It bounces back and forth unpredictably, until the last.

It would also be remiss of me not to mention the horror effects. I think credit should fall to Special Makeup and Effects Artist Rodrigo Arag√£o (Mud Zombies) for producing true Savini effects.

Not only is the film thought provoking, gripping, and gore quenching, it really does show what can be achieved on a low budget with determination, grit, and perseverance. A must watch.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017

For the Love of Shorts: Burn Time (2017)

Could an Australian seagull have saved a New Zealand star from summer’s greatest horror?

Since 1985 New Zealanders and Australians have known they are in the firing line of one of the greatest horrors imaginable - extreme UV levels increasing risk of melanoma skin cancer. 

At the same time, many Kiwi and Aussie lives were already being saved by an unlikely Australian bird -  Sid the Seagull, the star of the classic Slip, Slop, Slap, sun safety advertisement that premiered in 1981. 

Produced by Cancer Council Victoria, Sid’s simple message of Slip, Slop, Slap has been recognised as one of the most successful public health campaigns ever created on either side of the Tasman. Variations of the campaign with added advice are still in use a quarter of a century later, and the core message is as relevant as ever. 

In fact slip, slop, slap is so ingrained in Australasian consciousness that it is not surprising that a team of New Zealand filmmakers are paying homage to Sid’s message over 25 years on. 

However, the form of that homage might surprise you. 

Burn Time is the sixth and final short film in the web series Ao-terror-oa, an anthology of New Zealand themed horror movies, jointly funded by Youtube and New Zealand On Air and created by H2Ow Productions. 

Set in 1985, Burn Time depicts a nightmarish vision of the worst sunburn imaginable, caused by a fictional rogue solar event. 

While the events in the film are fictional, the filmmakers are deadly serious about warning people young and old about the dangers of forgetting or ignoring Sid’s original simple message: 

Slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen, and slap on a hat.

Released worldwide on YouTube on the 1st of December 2017, Burn Time stars New Zealand actress Brittany Clark (Mia Halston of Channel 9’s production Doctor, Doctor, screening in New Zealand via TVNZ) 

Mia is set to return to screens on both sides of the ditch in season 3 of Doctor, Doctor, but first is excited for those with a stomach for horror to see her in Burn Time, where she underwent an extraordinary and terrifying transformation thanks to the incredible SFX makeup team of New Zealand company BodyFX. 

How terrifying? Well let’s just say it could turn you off your morning cup of tea... forever. 

To find out more you’ll have to watch for yourself. 

Those brave enough to reach the end of the six minute short will be reminded of just how important and effective the original slip, slop, slap message still is today. 

For those that don’t have the guts, or somehow see the film and miss the point, the filmmakers have this message: 

In horror films, if you ignore the danger signs and scoff at warnings you will very possibly be the first to die amongst your friends. 

It’s a sad but vitally important lesson that the exact same thing is true when it comes to sun protection and the risks of  sun exposure, namely melanoma and other forms of skin cancer. 

The most recent data shows 1,520 deaths in Australia will likely be attributable to melanoma in 2017 and in New Zealand over 300 people die of Melanoma Skin Cancer each year. 

Our two countries have among the highest rates of both melanoma skin cancer and mortality from melanoma skin cancer in the world. 

Don’t be like the first victim in a horror film, heed the following SunSmart advice this and every summer: 

Check your local sun protection times each day for your location – at in New Zealand or on the free SunSmart app in Australia. For the best level of protection when you’re outside during these times, use a combination of: 

- Slip on clothing that covers as much skin as possible; 
- Slop on SPF30 (or higher) broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen. Re-apply every two          hours outdoors – or immediately after sweating and swimming. 
- Slap on a broad-brimmed hat that shades your face, neck and ears 
- Seek shade  
- Slide on sunglasses. 

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Friday, 8 December 2017

The Good Neighbor (2016)

You haven't seen this. You need to.

The Good Neighbor


A pair of mischievous high school kids create the illusion of a haunting on an unsuspecting elderly neighbor while keeping his every reaction under surveillance. A series of coincidences leads to tragedy.


Trigger Warning
Review contains words like powerhouse, and masterpiece.

This is a masterpiece of tension, mis-direction, character building, and OMG moments.

There, I said it.

The premise of The Good Neighbor is simple: How does someone behave when they think they're being haunted? After that, it's hard to say much about the actual plot of the film without running so deep into spoiler territory, it would wreck the magnificent, heart-wrenching finale of this amazing piece of work.

The film centers on three characters - the "mischievous high school kids" and the neighbor - Caan - a reclusive, ill-tempered, and violent, possible sociopath. Perhaps psychopath.

So let's focus on the acting for a moment. The two young leads are portrayed by Logan Miller (Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse) and Keir Gilchrist (It Follows). Both are decent actors, and both create their characters well, by which I mean they give their deeply flawed personas life. They are initially perceived as inherently good people, with an ill conceived idea. Then as more is revealed the realization that all is not as it seems comes to the front. Some of this is, of course down to a craftly written script (Mark Bianculli and Jeff Richard) and the excellent direction of Kasra Farahani (best known as Art Director on movies such as Star Trek Into Darkness and Thor). But I want to take a moment to mention James Caan.

James Caan (left)

Caan lays down a powerhouse performance in what should be a b-grade low budget thriller. As I said, he gets great support from the rest of the cast, but Caan has without doubt been in a slump, or under a shadow for years now. When we think of great Caan performances what comes to mind? Sicilian Vampire? Preggoland? Or The Godfather Part II? Rollerball? They came out over 40 years ago. They're older than me. His performance here secures that he still has it.

And that is why you have to see this.

James Caan is still one of the finest actors working today.

Anyway, the film grinds tension throughout. It plays with the expectation of the viewer and twists throughout. Part thriller, part horror in places, even with some found footage vibe going on, this is a taut movie, with a massive pay off at the end. Utterly amazing.

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Friday, 1 December 2017

Deadbolt (1992)



When medical student Marty places an ad for a roommate, her ad is answered by handsome, clean-cut Alec. At first Alec seems to be a wonderful roommate; supportive, considerate and a real friend. However, Alec's affection turns to obsession as he plots to manipulate and control all aspects of Marty's life, imprison her in her own apartment and make her his.


Man, this is one bonkers movie. Alec, the villain of the piece is played by Adam Baldwin - no not a Baldwin brother - but rather of Firefly fame. His plays sinister well. Very well, in fact. Protagonist Marty comes in the form of Justine Bateman of Family Ties. She's a strong heroine, portrays a strong woman who is manipulated by serial a manipulator/killer. It works surprisingly well - even if made for TV may limit the budget a little.

Starting with the death of an unknown woman by suicide, the film has an uneasy feel to it. It hides what it doesn't want you to see well. Who was this woman? Why did she kill herself? It turns out later that was Alec's previous "room mate". The Chekhov's gun is botulism. Seriously. Botulism plays a hand in the movie's climax.

It's actually a taut and tense watch. And a rather surprising one.

Justine Bateman

Directed by Douglas Jackson - who went on to direct no less than 59 movies - does a solid job. It's not remarkable, but it conveys "thriller" well enough.

Towards the end of the movie Alec does become something close to a super villain, snapping people necks with a pincer hold, and shrugging off killer viruses like the common cold, but it does help ramp the tension.

It's worth the 90 minutes of your life, just because of the botulism.

Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Monday, 20 November 2017

Update: Suicide Squad (2016)

We've already reviewed the theatrical release of Suicide Squad, here, where it garnered little more than complains about tonal imbalances and choppy story telling, gaining only a three star rating.

So, does the extended cut help?

Actually, yes, greatly. The extended cut is certainly the one to watch. Adding less than 15 minutes runtime to the movie means that unlike Batman v Superman's extended edition it doesn't suffer with bloat.

In fact, most of the problems addressed are the tonal changes. There are actually transitions between things now. It makes the film flow better. And the character effected most? No, not the Joker, but Harley. Her back story is fleshed out properly. I can't say that the film is perfect with the additions, but believe me, they are required viewing.