365horror

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Summer of Fear

by on Apr.24, 2010, under Daily Review

A lesser seen early Wes Craven number shows all the creative style and essence which is signature to Craven’s movies. On a first look, this is a situation drama, made for TV. Solid filming with great strong characters and a story which works well for the mainstream and a low budget. This is the very beginning of Craven’s rational mainstream encounter, embracing a new audience in an attempt to win over the studios, gain higher budgets and calm his brutal reputation as the master of horror after his initial ‘Last House’ and Hills Have Eyes’. Following these two films is no easy challenge and it’s easy to see why this film would be dismissed as it could be seen as selling out.

Rachel (Linda Blair) is a young privileged teenager, whose nose is put out of place by her beautiful cousin, Julie (Lee Purcell), coming to stay. She soon suspects her cousin is in cahoots with the devil, dabbling with the occult.

Is his the moment of Craven’s enlightening of a bigger audience? Again, we have all the signs of the masterpiece he is aiming for, although restrained here with budget and rating. Linda Blair is the master stroke here; with real screen presence she ignites the screen with charisma and charm and a brilliant natural ability. The role Blair takes is the usual Craven focus, being girl next door type seen over and over in his films. Scream, Elm Street, Blessing. Even his other films show strong female leads, Friend, Hills, Last House etc, but here, Blair leads the way for the role of Sidney and Nancy in later films.

Apart from this strong historic documentation, what else does Summer of Fear have to offer? Blair is outstanding with hair which is mesmerising, but acting ability which really has been wasted since. She’s so natural and that’s the films winning point. The plot is interesting and the pace works well with the subject. Purcell is great in the role of the cousin and when she does turn into super witch, she’s amazing, but the rest of the cast are an obvious TV collective which Craven inspires into a better than average performance. There are some beautiful scenes, and camera shots which express Craven’s ability and show an eagerness to capture an emotion and create a film far more ambitious that production allows.

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Deadly Friend

by on Apr.21, 2010, under Daily Review

Another odd event this. Deadly Friend is of a time and place and if you are willing to go back there, its quite a good place to be. Films are not really made like this any more.  For the most part, it’s a situation teen drama, with some comedy and quirkiness, but there are some dark undercurrents, reinforced with some very good performances.

New kid on the block, Paul (Matthew Laborteaux), is a compute and bionic wiz. He has a pet robot and teaches brain surgery at college. Not bad for a young lad who should have still been at school. After a brief romance with the cute chick from next door, she’s attacked by her crazy abusive father and ends up brain-dead. Paul steps in, to turn Samantha (Kristy Swanson) into an android with deadly results.

I think Wes Craven was looking at moving into a more mainstream market after his early success in the horror genre, he probably struggled to find funding in a time when ‘Horror’ was not really the popular. As always, Craven looks for a new direction to experiment with cross genre fields with a young cast, once again, Swanson takes the favourable lead female, girl next door role which Craven champions. Swanson is a great choice from the John Hughes stable; she later took the lead as the original Buffy in the movie (prior to Sarah Michelle Gellar). Its great to see Craven working as always with a cast of semi unknowns and getting great results. Swanson and Laborteaux carry the film with brilliant performances, supported with some great veteran actors: Richard Marcus and Anne Ramsey. The film is a success for what it is, as I say, it’s from a time and place which needs to be respected. The film also carries with it some great dream sequences (or should I say, Nightmare sequences as many are terrifying) and many scenes which look dreamy, obviously something working subliminal for later creative input.

When the gore comes, it’s pretty damn impressive too. The famous basketball scene is the highlight, which stands up against Scanners in its execution.

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Deadly Blessing

by on Apr.19, 2010, under Daily Review

An interesting film this, which showcases Wes Craven’s talents. He’d already had success with Hills Have Eyes and Last House but this is something different taking his style in a new direction, one which has been present with him throughout his 40 year career.

The story involves some shenanigans with a religious community, Amish types by the name Hittites who are convinced of a demon in the camp taking the form of a female. The son of the order is murdered, suspicion falls on his wife who invites two friends from the outside world to visit and console her in her time of grief. Bodies start stacking up with murder by a black gloved hand. The plot also, based loosely on ‘A Raisin in the Sun’ by Lorraine Hansberry.

This has some really inspiring set sequences, later used in the Elm Street and Scream franchise. Female lead role, here played by Maren Jenson taking on a whole community with people either not taking her serious or ignoring the truth, who takes on the villain single handed which shows up in many forms. Chickens, demons, knife attacks, gun toting, spiders and snakes. It’s a real mixed bag of murder and intrigue. There are dream scenes which are stunningly good. One with a young Sharon Stone, held by hands around the head as she is forced to choke on a spider is dramatic stuff, beautifully filmed. Another scene has a bath sequence, later used in Elm Street, frame for frame.

Notable performances from a great cast include Susan Buckner, Ernest Borgnine and Michael Berryman. Sharon Stone shows some real promise. Maren Jenson is perfect in the lead, a fine talent. This is a great film, cheap on production, big on imagination and ambition. Odd ending though.

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Plague Town

by on Apr.15, 2010, under Daily Review

This film will certainly do wonders for the Irish Country tourism board.

An American family attempt to build bridges in their relationships as they holiday in the beautiful Irish countryside. On a day trip, to a remote part of the area, they miss the last bus home and discover the locals have a dark secret.

This is as spooky and wicked as they come. I’m shocked at how creepy this film is. It’s visually stunning but the tension and eeriness which Director, Dave Gregory has created is outstanding.  A strong feeling of dread looms over the film from the initial scene and grows by the minute. The gore is savage and deeply rooted in the natural and rural. Twigs in the neck, whippings with branches, choking with leaves and vines through eye sockets. Hideous stuff and would you be more shocked if I was to mention the evil doings are performed by children, skipping and smiling in their dark activity. There is also a stunning decapitation of the most casual i’ve ever seen: a glorious effect. The film is beautifully shot, superb cinematography making full use of the landscape and surrounding woods.

This is Wickerman meets Calvaire, meets Children of the Damned, meets Night of the Living Dead. Huge praise and plenty of material to work with and salute as the film stamps its creepy mark on the history of the horror genre. This is a real cult classic, I’m surprised I’ve not heard of this prior. Marvellous cinema.

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Creep

by on Apr.14, 2010, under Daily Review

This is Christopher Smith’s feature début and what an impact he has. The film is simple and basic in form. An easy and precise way to break into the genre. Set in the London underground and surrounding sewerage system of pipes and tunnels, a crazy freak dwells, hunting those working in the tunnels, or in this case, locked in for the night. This is Alien. Hills Have Eyes. Friday 13th. But this is the London underground and it’s never looked so grim.

Its as I say. Simple cat n mouse as always. Simple formula but with a new setting and mainly British actors which offers a new incite with fresh eyes and creativity. The film is tense, spooky, creepy and hideously gory in places which are select and not used as a selling point. It’s the atmosphere that Smith creates so well with brilliant visionary camerawork and enthusiastic actors who have totally bought into the roles.

It’s no wonder Smith has become one of the most exciting directors in the genre today. He’s an inspiration and has grown from strength to strength with his last three films. (Severance and Triangle)

The film is not perfect though. Don’t be surprised to question characters reasons for actions. ‘Why are you climbing into a small manhole? You should be asking at one point I the film. ‘Why don’t you run and get the hell out of there’ at others and most importantly, which I repeated several times ‘hit him again and finish the creep off!’

Franka Potente is brilliant as our protagonist Kate, and well supported by Vas Blackwood, Paul Rattray and Kelly Scott. Sean Harris is amazing as Craig the creep.  

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Jisatsu Sâkuru (Suicide Club)

by on Apr.13, 2010, under Daily Review

50 teenage girls smile and laugh at the side of a subway station, awaiting the train to take them away on their journey, but they aren’t planning on riding the train, but seeking transport to the other side of life itself. And so, holding hands, they simultaneously jump into the oncoming tube. A nasty scene which burns my brain. The joviality of suicide captured here in it’s mast vivid and colourful in harsh reality. Blood soaks everything from drivers windscreen to other travellers. The smiles on the girls faces offer the highest level of disturbance as they outwardly accept their actions. But this is only the beginning so what seems to be a cult or club of a suicide pact by teenagers throughout Japan.

A Police inspector takes the case and finds himself in something much deeper than he imagined as a sports bag is found at the scene of several mass suicides, containing a coiled strip of collecting samples of future victims skin, sliced off prior to suicide. A back drop of teen music by Desert, a track called ‘mail me’ could hold a link to the club, and what of the creepy website of red and white dots suggesting precognitive knowledge of the suicides.

This film plays with your mind, pushing the emotions through shocking visuals but backs up the drama with intrigue with well paced hooks which draw the viewer in, closer to a conclusion which you know you will never truly get. (This being a Japanese film, many of which, famed for a lack of 3 act) But here we at least get some kind of reasoning we are offered the ‘how are you connected to yourself’? An intriguing idea that questions our stamp on time and place with our connection to family and friend and loss and remembrance, but what about ourselves? Will we remembered without family or friends. Therefore, are we connected to our self?

It’s a great film, although could have done with some editing of plot as some branches do seem to take the film in a very different direction. The bowling alley with Japanese rock band and tortured bodies in bags? What was that all about? For the main though, great use of internet, phone and music references.

Cracking acting here too. Ryo Ishibashi (Detective Kuroda), Masatoshi Nagase (Detective Nagase) and Maiko Mori whose character eventually infiltrates what we are repeatable informed is not a suicide club. Totally irresistible viewing leaving plenty of room for debate.

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Triangle

by on Apr.12, 2010, under Daily Review

Christ, my mind feels as though the brain has been dissected into multiple parts then slipped back together complete, rubik cube style. This is a very clever film and one I did not think would result so rounded and perfect in its execution. These kinds of films usually leave loose ends which make little sense. Here we have a satisfying conclusion to a film that manipulates reality to the brink of breaking.

The plot revolves around a group of friends heading out on a luxury yacht for a day of sea and sun off the coast of Miami. When the weather turns the boat is crushed and they are lucky to survive; clinging to wreckage and life jackets until an ocean liner comes to their rescue. But the cruise ship is not all that it seems as the friends find out that strange things can happen as sea, especially near the Bermuda Triangle.

So we have the intriguing plot, but these things seldom offer any kind of satisfaction. Triangle is a well produced bag of tricks. The plot is perfect, the acting is excellent with stunningly good direction. Chris Smith excels with this film, following up his less ambitious previous films, Creep and Severance (both excellent), here, seriously upping the stakes. The film is not only clever, but looks very nice (Not surprisingly, with Rob Humphreys on board as DP (Somersault)) throughout which each frame perfectly directed, especially some of the later scenes of the film which are glorious. Many scenes are reminiscenet of Kubrick’s Shinning, but I’d say this is more a tip of the hat to help create an experience of mind trick reality.  Smith has certainly comfortable with this genre and here he’s at the top of his game.

The cast are of high calibre. Melissa George has come a long way since her Soap past. I’m sure working with David Lynch did her no harm, here she is stunning. Liam Helmsworth, Michael Doorman and Rachael Carpani are also superb.

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Stuck

by on Apr.11, 2010, under Daily Review

The IMDB list this film as a comedy. Christ, they got that wrong. This film delves deep into the mind of the viewer though a situation which could happen to any of us and questions actions against reactions and the pickle that live can get us into. Here, that pickle is one huge mess of a nightmare on all sides and it’s dealt with by perfect craftsmen and incredible ability in front of and behind the camera.

Thomas Bardo(Stephen Rea) is down on his luck, fate has turned its head resulting in a business man homeless and sleeping in the park. Brandi Boski (Mena Suvari) is a care home nurse, great at her job and in line for promotion. After a night celebrating, her world is about to crumble. Bardo takes his chance on a red light, walking across what looked like a clear road. Boski is busy texting whilst driving. The incident occurs. Bardo crashes straight through he windscreen, blood poring all over the car. Boski panics and has to decide how to clear this mess and keep her life on track.

The film roles like a stage production. It’s feel and style could be contained in a single space as most of the drama happens at Boski’s house as Bardo is left to die in the garage, tied and wrapped in plastic. The script (John Strysik) is accurate and realistic which allows the actors to grow characters which are believable, even in a situation which you might feel, would normally act in a different manner. Until you are in this situation, how do you know how you would react?  Stephen Rea is outstanding here, probably his most powerful performance since ‘The Crying Game’. Mena Suvari (American Beauty) is exceptional, and in my opinion, one of the greatest living actresses of our time; here she does not disappoint in a role which she certainly gets her teeth into.

Credit to Stuart Gordon for creating such a fine dramatic, claustrophobic movie. The casting is perfect for the script and the pace and feel of the film all make for enjoyable, yet disturbing, brutal viewing.

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The Reeds

by on Apr.10, 2010, under Daily Review

Curious movie this one, and one defiantly not to be taken on face value. Director Nick Cohen has created a beautiful looking film with storyline which can leave your mind tangled and disturbed, questioning reality of time, motive and ethics. Somewhat Lynchian in its un-telling approach to cohesive storyline, it will leave you questioning character actions and frame time for some time after your viewing. It’s certainly left me wanting to view again to try to uncover further hidden meaning, something missed on the first event.
The plot, as far as can be explained rationally, follows a group of friends on a weekend boating trip in the Fens; a part of the UK which is mainly marsh land with plenty of reeds for things to hide in. The trip is plagued by some temperament of characters, aggravated by some creepy teens hanging out in the reeds causing bother. So this all sounds straightforward; Unruly youths cause trouble with holidaying city folk. Ala Deliverance, Chainsaw, Eden lake etc. But here we have something different. Once out in the reeds, strange things begin to happen. Time is not as it seems and actions happen out of kilter and this humble film of ‘happy-slappy’ turns into an ambitious ghost story with some memorable spooky scenes.

The main cast here as regular TV actors from the British screens. Some are much better than others but over all, I was surprised at the overall collective ability. Some I’ve disliked in the past, but certainly won me over here. Notable, Will Mellor, Karl Ashman, Emma Catherwood and Scarlett Alice Johnson. Great performances from Geoff Bell and Anna Brewster. Hats off to Dennis Madden as DP for making the film look glorious and atmospheric which truly is the films strength. The plot does go astray at times but as long as it looks great, I’m willing to see it through and think about connotations and relevance later.

Another important point to mention here is the films moral conundrum which leaves the viewer questioning whose in the right or wrong here. A recluse tormented by youths acts outside of the law. Is this favourable? Are we sympathetic towards the tormentors, now victims? Plenty of room for debate here and defiantly not a straightforward run of the mill film.

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The Graves

by on Apr.09, 2010, under Daily Review

Bill Moseley and Tony Todd were enough to get my attention here, never mind the talents of Clare Grant and Jillian Murray as the Graves sisters. Brian Pulido has pulled together quite a cast, but it seems he didn’t have a plan once he’d got them. A basic plot of cat n mouse set in the Arizona desert sees the two sister hunted by the crazy religious hicks.

Has it all been done before, and have we anything original here? Hills have Eyes, Texas Chainsaw. What’s the real point here? OK, so there is a supernatural element thrown in for good measure, but for me, this didn’t really work. The religious emphasis is what carries this film, although it takes a good hour to really get to the point at which stage Tony Todd steals the show, with the help of a swarm of flies and a gas which turns people into crazy things, demonically possessed.  

Moseley is brilliant, but it doesn’t seem like he’s getting any kind of direction. He’s read the script, wind him up and let him go, and he’s excellent. I can’t say as much to Grant and Murray who fall at the first hurdle. I’m not blaming the girls as they show real presence, but without the encouragement, we have a stage school performance from the pair. Actions and reactions from the Graves are crazy at times but mostly unrealistic. This is a problem with plot, and direction more than their ability which is misguided.

Misguided is a word which not only sums up the direction towards the actors, but also the plot as a whole. It’s all over the place. It could have been quite an interesting piece if kept a little simpler, more along the lines of Wickerman meets Chainsaw with Christianity. But, take Todd and Moseley out of this film and you have even less. Never mind.

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