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Film Review: Killer’s Moon (1982)

Director: Alan Birkinshaw
Starring: Anthony Forrest, Joanne Good, Tom Marshall, Georgina Kean, Jane Hayden, Alison Elliott
Certificate: 18
Running Time: 90 minutes
DVD Release Date: 18 April 2011

Recently re-released, eighties exploitation horror, Killer’s Moon compares itself to both A Clockwork Orange and I Spit on Your Grave, setting the bar high from the offset. However the cover blurb also refers to ‘four drugged-up mad man‘ so it’s difficult to take seriously. Whether it’s the ambitious comparisons, the tasteless sexism, the poor acting or the inconsistent tone, Killer’s Moon has not stood the test of time. Given the relative brilliance of similar era films, Maniac, The Shining, The Omen et al, one has to seriously consider whether this was ever worth watching or if its cult status stems from a combination of laughs and outrage as per Troll 2 and The Room.

When four escaped psychopaths, wired on a cocktail of dream therapy and LSD, collide with a class of stranded teenage girls, the outcome is predictably messy. Initially this video nasty is frustrating as the promised brutality and violence is confused with comedy through off-hand remarks and ludicrous acting. The first indication that a killer is on the loose comes in the form of a three legged dog making itself known to Peter (Forrest) who simply remarks, “that cut’s too clean for a trap.” In the bonus interview with director, Alan Birkinshaw, he admits that this dog proved useful as it had been awarded the Victoria Cross award for bravery as it lost its leg in a shotgun blast whilst intercepting armed robbery. Birkinshaw candidly confesses this gave Killer’s Moon much sought after publicity in national newspapers.

This shock-slasher is little more than four men pursuing, raping and brutalising teenage schoolgirls, whilst believing they’re dreaming. The dream idea is rammed in viewer’s faces again and again as the killer’s repeatedly remark ‘this is only a dream’. This condescending approach does the film no favours. There is a measure of pleasure to be had in Killer’s Moon if it is taken as a wholly inappropriate eighties comedy. Indeed the caricatured clichés are much more likely to find themselves at home in Fawlty Towers (admittedly a seventies comedy) than Cannibal Holocaust. Yet despite nervous laughs at ‘Of course it’s a dream. And stuffed full of jailbait’ and guffaws at ‘You mean this criminal lunatic is walking around believing he is in a dream? In my dreams, I murder freely, pillage, loot and rape’ one can’t help but feel uncomfortable at some of the more sexist comments. Whilst it’s no secret that the slasher genre treats women as little more than sex objects, when one girl consoles another with ‘Look, you were only raped, as long as you don’t tell anyone about it you’ll be alright’ it is apparent that Killer’s Moon has gone a step too far.

It’s a sad reality that Killer’s Moon was never intended as a comedy, this much is evident when listening to interviews with both Birkinshaw and Joanne Good. Perhaps, most telling is that Birkinshaw’s previous film, Confessions of a Sex Maniac was initially entitled The Tit.

If you’re looking for laughs you’ll find them here, but ultimately they’re stifled and unrewarding. For an example of a well executed video nasty look to The Last House on the Left or opt for the recently remade I Spit on Your Grave. If it’s laughs you’re after indulge in Curb Your Enthusiasm or Super Bad. As for bad acting, try The Room, at least it’s a little more tasteful.

4/10

MICHAEL WILSON

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Categories: Film Reviews

Film Review: Paranormal Activity 2 (2010)

Director: Tod Williams
Starring: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, Brian Boland, Sprague Greyden, Molly Ephraim, Tim Clemens
Certificate: 15
Running time: 91 minutes
Cinema release date: October 22 2010

The curse of the difficult and somewhat awkward sequel is evident in the follow up to the critically acclaimed box office success Paranormal Activity. We are, once again, plunged into the distressing realms of demonic activity, amongst the otherwise blissful world of American suburbia. What follows is a rather cumbersome attempt to explain the events of the first film, quashing the rather juicy mystery that made it so wholly enjoyable.

The film, opening with an extension of thanks to the ‘families of the deceased’, is set three months before the untimely and horrific demise of Micah (Sloat). It follows the lives of Katie’s sister Kristi (Grayden) and her family, starting with her return home with newly born son Hunter. Staying true to the original format, it is presented as ‘found footage’, with the added element of CCTV. ‘Found footage’ horror has spiked in popularity since the success of The Blair Witch Project and in more recent years REC. Typical to the genre, the footage is presented in such a way that it adds to the air of atmosphere by insinuating it is genuine. Paranormal Activity 2 documents a series of unpleasant bumps in the night, the family’s knee-jerk reactions and an excruciatingly large amount of atmosphere-building silence accompanied by endearing filler-footage.

Comparisons between the first and second film are easily drawn, despite the increase of budget from a meagre $15,000 to a cool $3,000,000. The effective cloning detracts from the impact that made the first film so palm-squelchingly effective. Horror films, especially those of the psychological persuasion, can be measured by the physical effect they have on the viewer. Whilst the first film guarantees sleepless nights, the near-identical nature detracts from the successor’s impact and lessens the insomnia-inducing value.

Despite the unnecessary and cheapening nature of the sequel it has its moments. One scene in particular commands the entire auditorium to leap out of their seats in the hysterics that made the first film such a credible horror. Williams possesses the ability to wind the atmosphere to breaking point in the lead up to a popcorn spilling moment, as well as spring surprises on the audience without any warning to grip buckets that bit tighter. Likewise, as the camera switches to night-vision, audience palpitations increase.

Paranormal Activity 2 contains the same thrills, chills and popcorn spills of its predecessor but the overbearing similarities to the first and its clumsy attempt to tie it up with a nice little blood-soaked bow are completely unnecessary and drain the unique experience of the first. Avoid or forget this and remember only the terror that the first film inflicted upon us.

4/10

RAVEN BROOKES

Categories: Film Reviews

Film Review: Breath of Hate (2010)

Director: Sean Cain
Writer: Wes Laurie
Starring: Ezra Buzzington, Jason Mewes, Lauren Walsh, Jack Forcinito, Monique Parent, Ricardo Gray
Certificate: 18
Cinema release date: TBC (Shown on 2nd October 2010 at GZ International Film Festival 2010)

Sean Cain and Wes Laurie have created a wholly original film that will psychologically challenge, arouse and bruise you. This isn’t simply a film where old ideas are rehashed and rebranded, but rather a redefining of what it is to be a horror film in 2010. With standout performances from Ezra Buzzington, Jack Forcinito and Ricardo Gray it is transparent that a lot of blood has been sweated into this one and in Gray’s case perhaps something a little more distinctive.

Breath of Hate centres on Love (Walsh), an escort who has vowed to bow out of the business after one more job. Unfortunately for her this will not be easy as her pimp, Sonny (Forcinito), has arranged for her to pay service to three escaped mental patients, along with her co-workers Hailey (Daniels) and Jenna (Zibolis). Juxtaposed alongside this is Jed (Mewes) who is romantically entangled with Love. Sonny, a man as subtle as he is charming, reminds Jed that it’s him who chooses who gets to get their Charlies off on her face.

Breath of Hate strikes the perfect balance between unnerving, rancorous horror and dark comedy. Hate (Buzzington), the leader of the trio of mental patients, is a cruel, unrelentingly violent figure who manages to come across as both attractive for his intelligence and philosophical musings, and truly inexorable for his inexcusable limb devouring narcissism.  Like a modern day Boris Karloff, Ezra Buzzington is going from strength to strength. Here he puts on yet another fantastic performance as the villain of the piece and this time he doesn’t need to anally rape anybody with a colossus monster cock (Someone’s Knocking at the Door anyone?) to make an impression.

For those who like their characters bizarre and unstable, look no further than Cleb (Gray). Two of the biggest laugh-out-loud moments in Breath of Hate occur courtesy of him. Firstly, when he systematically fingers and sweet-talks a watermelon, and secondly when he appears in what was almost the first dinosaur rape fetish scene. Another peculiar moment is Sean Cain’s homage to Quentin Tarantino’s foot fetish as Hailey sucks on the toes of Selma (Parent) as part of a dominatrix sequence. Whilst it will please hardcore Tarantino and foot enthusiasts, it pans out a little too long for those not into the scene, rendering some viewers uncomfortable and others stimulated (this is quite the feat).  Breath of Hate manages to infuse a very twisted humour throughout but doesn’t detract from the wider nefarious picture that oversees Breath of Hate.

Despite the non-linear filming, Breath of Hate gets the balance between the obscure, borderline Lynchian, and ridiculous, spot on for the most part. Whilst it may perplex the audience on the first viewing, it only enriches the experience, in much the same vein that the psychedelic sequences did in Someone’s Knocking at the Door.

What could have fallen flat on its face for trying to incorporate too many interweaving plotlines is actually an incredibly well thought through artistic horror film and worthy follow up to Cain’s Silent Night, Zombie Night. The audience engage and empathise with Jed in his desperate struggle to save Love from an untimely nightmarish demise. Likewise the audience feel both sympathy and trepidation as Hate realises that Love, whom he sought for so long, is not as he imagined. Breath of Hate lures you in and reassuringly wraps its arms around you as it suffocates you with a chloroform laced towel.

7/10

MICHAEL WILSON

Categories: Film Reviews

Film Review: The Violent Kind (2010)

Directors: The Butcher Brothers
Writers: Mitchell Altieri, Phil Flores, Adam Weis
Starring: Taylor Cole, Tiffany Shepis, Bret Roberts, Joe Egender, Cory Knauf, Joseph McKelheer
Certificate: 18
Running time: 90 minutes
Cinema Release Date: TBC (Shown on 2nd October 2010 at GZ International Film Festival)

The Violent Kind clambers on top of you, viciously penetrates and upon climax smacks you in the face. This sentiment depicts both the introductory scene and the experience one endures whilst watching The Violent Kind. Whilst there is much to be admired by this brave David Lynch inspired effort, it isn’t as immediately enjoyable as The Butcher Brothers’ previous offering, The Hamiltons.

After a strong cocktail of sex and violence we are introduced to members of the notorious Nor Cal biker gang. The Violent Kind lives up to its namesake instantly as gang members Cody (Knauf), his cousin Q (Roberts) and the sleazy Elroy (Tagas) lay into an unfortunate after a failed drug deal. This showcase of pure hatred is an encouraging start and is reminiscent of the unfiltered brand of malevolence that shocked audiences during David Cronenberg’s similarly titled A History of Violence. Unfortunately The Violent Kind tapers off into the realms of insignificance for thirty minutes as the Nor Cal posse make their way over to a cabin deep within Redwood Forest to celebrate Cody’s Mother’s birthday. Hardcore horror fanatics expecting raw, intestine flailing aggression must endure simplistic character development more akin to high school horrors than the grindhouse spirit that The Violent Kind seeks. Cody awkwardly sees his ex girlfriend, Michelle (Shepis), with her new bloke before being hit on by her younger sister Megan (Prousalis). Thankfully A Violent Kind turns things up a notch after the party ends when Michelle returns looking a little worse for wear. It’s not long until she is locked in a bedroom and tied to the bed for trying to devour various members of the Nor Cal gang. This zombie-like state doesn’t deter Elroy from trying to seduce her, who loses a chunk of flesh for his troubles. Shepis plays the part of the possessed incredibly well resembling a cross between the less restrained zombies of Romero’s 1985 classic Day of the Dead and Nell from The Last Exorcism.

It’s easy to see why this film has been given the very modern ‘WTF’ genre label as the film seems to chop and change regularly, plunging from one plotline to the next. It’s this almost non-linear style that pays homage to and imitates David Lynch. Unfortunately The Butcher Brothers don’t manage to pull it off to its full potential. At times one can’t help but feel that they’ve tried a little too hard giving the film a flimsy fabricated feel.

Despite its shortcomings, The Violent Kind comes into its own when the 1950s pompadour sporting rockabillies turn up and hold Cody and the gang hostage. The band of misfits, lead by the charismatic Vernon (Egender), consists of the thuggish Jazz (McKeelher), oddball Murderball (Child) and eye-candy Trixie (Firgens) and Pussywagon (Matthews). The rockabillies make their objective known from the get-go – to take the ever deteriorating Michelle. Whilst their intentions are never fully explained there are various theories that can be quite obviously deduced when watching The Violent Kind. As they taunt and bully the Nor Cal gang, paying particular attention to Cody, there is a sadistic, fun-filled charm to the psychotic knife wielding lunacy that is not too far removed from the inhumane pleasure one can derive from witnessing other psychotic families, such as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s Sawyer family and the more recent Firefly family of The Devil’s Rejects fame. The upbeat carefree nature in which they enforce suffering upon others is reminiscent of the droogs in A Clockwork Orange. The off-the-wall rockabillies all have their own unique eccentricities that add to the bizarreness of The Violent Kind, particular highlights include Jazz who cracks his forehead against the wall until blood erupts like a Vesuvian outpouring and Murderball who constantly sports a pair of studio style headphones that play white noise at full volume. One cannot help but feel that if The Butcher Brothers had concentrated exclusively on the exploration of the rockabillies, rather than attempting to create a kooky, offbeat artistic horror, that the film would have been a resounding success.

As the film ends one cannot help but wonder if this was all a philosophical commentary about humankind. Whilst this may be the case, it is more important to take away a feeling of enjoyment from the self indulgent sadism and playful tongue-in-cheek jibes courtesy of Egender’s excellent portrayal of Vernon and his circus of rockabillies. The Violent Kind will frustrate and entertain in almost equal measures, if you can withstand the first forty five minutes then it’s worth persisting with the last for some good old fashioned kicks, the violent kind.

5/10

MICHAEL WILSON

Categories: Film Reviews

Film Review: New Terminal Hotel (2010)

October 20, 2010 3 comments

Director: B C Furtney
Starring: Tiffany Shepis, Stephen Geoffreys, Ezra Buzzington, Corey Haim, James Grabowski
Certificate: 18
Running Time: 93 minutes
Cinema Release Date: TBC (Shown on 2nd October 2010 at GZ International Film Festival)

B C Furtney’s New Terminal Hotel is a horror film that refuses to pander to the generic horror format that too often relies on gratuitous nudity and over the top special effects for its own sake. That isn’t to say that there isn’t sexual gratification or depraved violence, but rather that New Terminal Hotel is first and foremost an exploration of characters. Unlike Blood Night: The Legend of Mary Hatchet, where the sole concern of the audience is how the next victim will be diced up in a bloody cesspit of flesh, the audience find themselves drawn to the characters of New Terminal Hotel and their tragic stories.

New Terminal Hotel opens in the thick of the action with the perfectly cast Stephen Geoffreys, as Don Malek, torturing his boss Stanley Glissberg (Colliano). His motives are not apparent until much later on in the film, but sufficed to say it’s an intriguing predicament as the Head of Starlight Studios finds himself paralysed and naked in Malek’s ice filled bathtub. New Terminal Hotel focuses on Malek’s struggles as a once successful screenwriter. His literary agent, Ava Collins (Shepis), is his only real associate as he plays the role of the isolated writer falling to pieces.  Ava is self absorbed and only sticks with Malek in the hope that he’ll hand her a fresh script. As the film progresses it becomes clear that Ava isn’t as stable an acquaintance as Malek needs as she contemplates a way to rid herself of rival literary agent Carter Ball (Grabowski).

New Terminal Hotel was made on a budget of just $100,000. Thankfully it hasn’t tried to produce special effects that are unrealistic given the financial constraints, yet it doesn’t skimp on the gore as is apparent as the film climaxes and rather amusingly, early on, when Malek decides to remove one of Glissberg’s kidneys using a “how to” style guide. New Terminal Hotel is set almost exclusively within the confines of the downtrodden backstreet LA hotel. This minimalist approach really adds to the claustrophobic feel of the film, much more so than Devil – a film that should have capitalised on the suffocating nature of the premise! New Terminal Hotel houses other recluses, in addition to Malek, such as his oddball neighbour Spitz (Buzzington), a paraplegic ex-marine with a penchant for hard liquor, prostitutes and sadism. Ezra Buzzington is a brilliant name for Furtney to have brought on board for New Terminal Hotel, and in typical Buzzington style he plays Spitz with all the aggression and unadulterated hatred of a Westboro Baptist champion outside an abortion clinic. As Malek’s association with Spitz develops he finds himself in a rather uncomfortable predicament having witnessed one of Spitz’s more colourful video tapes with a young girl. Malek must decide whether to intervene in typical Malek style or look the other way which just isn’t in his nature. New Terminal Hotel really highlights the “turn a blind eye” culture that is intrinsic to rough neighbourhoods where nobody wants to intrude in anybody else’s business for fear that they may get lynched or found carved up in a black bin bag.

Corey Haim makes a cameo appearance as a fallen British rockstar. This cameo was intended to create light relief in an otherwise dark film. Unfortunately this scene is extremely painful to watch, due almost exclusively to his terrible British accent. So many directors stumble when they cast Americans or Canadians as British characters when it would be so much easier to bring a native Brit into the mix. Perhaps one day directors will learn that this rarely yields positive results.

It would have been so easy for New Terminal Hotel to have become just another tale of a burnt out writer cascading off the rails and falling into the downward spiral of obscurity, yet B C Furtney would not allow for this. New Terminal Hotel is a film with many layers that really gets inside the mind of the viewer and will leave them pondering for weeks to come. Whilst it’s not going to be hailed a classic in the mainstream’s eye this delivers a breath of fresh life to the increasingly formulaic horror genre. Horror films aren’t meant to be pleasant and wrapped up into neat little idealistic packages and B C Furtney knows this. New Terminal Hotel drills into your mind like a rusty cocaine binge dipped in sulphuric acid – it’s not pleasant but you won’t ever forget it.

7/10

MICHAEL WILSON

Categories: Film Reviews

Film Review: Resident Evil: Afterlife (2010)

September 27, 2010 2 comments

Director: Paul W S Anderson
Starring: Milla Jovovich, Ali Larter, Wentworth Miller, Kim Coates
Certificate: 15
Running time: 97 minutes
Cinema release date: 10 September 2010

The previous Resident Evil films have been an embarrassment to a wonderful videogame series yet have still managed to capture some shard of the Resident Evil spirit. With the release of Resident Evil: Afterlife – the fourth instalment in a withered series – I didn’t expect much, the only draw indicating a glimmer of promise was the acquisition of Wentworth Miller of Prison Break fame.

Unfortunately Resident Evil: Afterlife was more abysmal than I had initially anticipated. After reaching the halfway point Alice (Jovovich) had done little more than fly around in a small hovercraft searching for survivors who hadn’t suffered at the hands of the deadly zombie inducing T-virus. Her flying scenes were broken up with unconvincing video diary entries documenting the occasion. It’s remarkable that Alice has had everything thrown at her in this and other Resident Evil films yet always manages to have time to apply her makeup and look her very best – whilst this fits in with the video game spirit it is not compatible with the zombie film ethos where women and men are dripping with blood, sweat and an assortment of other fluids.

Admittedly Resident Evil is much more an action film than it is a horror, but unfortunately it fails in this department too. Even the 3D effects cannot save Resident Evil’s spiral into obscurity – to realistically detract from the poor film, the effects would have to rival Avatar. Add to the lack of convincing storyline, originality and plausibility, a bunch of actors, who for the most part, cannot act and you quickly start to understand what Resident Evil: Afterlife is offering.

Quite simply put: do not waste your time with Resident Evil: Afterlife under any circumstances. The Resident Evil film series should have died with the first. Serious zombie fans should look to the master of the zombie genre George A Romero or the more overlooked Lucio Fulci for flesh eating fulfilment.

1/10

M WILSON

Categories: Film Reviews

Film Review: Devil (2010)

Director: John Erick Dowdle (Dowdle brothers)
Starring: Chris Messina, Logan Marshall-Green, Bojana Novakovic
Certificate: 15
Running time: 80 minutes
Cinema release date: 17 September 2010

After setting the bench high with films such as The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, M Night Shyamalan has regrettably directed a string of subpar films in recent years. As a result, any film associated with him is treated with caution and a healthy dose of scepticism. On this occasion Shyamalan has provided the basic story and premise with Brian Nelson taking over screenplay duties whilst the Dowdle brothers are responsible for directing.

Devil is the first film in Shyamalan’s The Night Chronicles trilogy – a series of films exploring the supernatural within modern society. Devil clocks in at just eighty minutes long and is predominantly set in an elevator. The premise is a simple one – five strangers are stuck in an elevator, every so often the lights go out, a clunk and scrambling is heard and when the lights return one of the strangers has died a rather colourful death. As its namesake would suggest the implication is that one of the strangers is the Devil. This sets up a cluedo style who-done-it mystery from the start which should theoretically keep the audience guessing as the film progresses. As has become synonymous with Shyamalan films there are a few plot twists but they are more subtle than the completely film altering twists we have seen in previous offerings like The Sixth Sense.

Catholic security guard Ramirez (Vargas) serves as the narrator recollecting an old Devil story that his grandmother told him to ensure he behaved. Ramirez is convinced that his grandmother’s story is coming to life within the building as a suicide is committed early on – creating an opportunity for the Devil to enter the building. Ramirez will not contemplate any of the other theories that are offered, his fellow security guard Lustig (Craven), in hilarious fashion, apologetically tells Detective Bowden (Messina) that Ramirez is just being hysterical as he’s religious.

The premise of Devil is a reasonable one and it really did have the potential to be up there with some of the best horror films out this year. However there are quite a few flaws that detract from the overall enjoyment. Firstly Ramirez’ narrating becomes boring extremely fast. The audience has no option but to go along with his version of events with no scope for alternative theories – despite a few poor attempts to temporarily mislead viewers. Ultimately Ramirez tells the viewer exactly what will happen minutes before it happens, essentially spoon feeding us the story. Whilst this device was recently used in the video game Alan Wake to evoke a genuine sense of trepidation it works to Devil’s detriment as the audience feel patronised.

Notwithstanding the elevator setting, half an hour of the film focuses on the events occurring beyond the elevator. Whilst it’s understandable that the Dowdle brothers wanted the viewers to visualise the rescue mission occurring outside it really detracts from the claustrophobic environment that should have been captured. In fact the only time when claustrophobia is touched on is at the start of the film when one of the stranded, security guard Ben (Woodbine), confesses that he is claustrophobic.

Despite being entertaining, in part due to Messina’s excellent performance as Detective Bowden, it’s difficult not to go away from Devil feeling a little short changed. Devil provided the perfect premise for divulging the fears of trapped strangers and exploring the social dynamics between the stranded. It had the potential to uncover the very core of isolation and dread, yet here we are barely even scratching at the surface with generic characters that are more concerned with deducing who the killer is than revealing any real sense of identity. Unfortunately, the lack of deep exploration means that the audience are left trying to guess who the killer is but caring little about who will meet their demise next. The characters aren’t given enough life for you to empathise or quite frankly give two shits about them. One cannot help but feel that everything wraps up too nicely, there are no questions at the end, there’s a religious undertone throughout and the moral message seems to be – hey, don’t worry if there’s a Devil, there’s a God too so as long as you’re a good person you’ll be ok. This is a horror film for the non-horror fan – everything seems far too fluffy and ideal for horror. Let’s hope that the second film is a little more  morbid and there are at least a few loose ends left.

5/10

M WILSON

Categories: Film Reviews