June 13, 2008

Scream For Me (2000)

Scream For Me is the first movie in the 3 Dead Girls trilogy from the sordid mind of director Christopher Alan Broadstone, and is possibly the most accessible. I say possibly, as this contains murder and male rape, but the structure and style lend it to a more conventional style of filmmaking. Even so, this isn't your average run of the mill horror flick, no, this is head and shoulders above average. It's a sick and twisted journey into madness.

The plot of this short (22 mins) movie revolves around a murderer, who just after killing his victim, gets visited by another killer, who quite frankly is way out there on the crazy scale.

Scream For Me is easily the most violent of the 3 Dead Girls movies, as well as being the nastiest in tone. It is a visual tour de force that never lets up from the opening scene until its climax. As a debut short movie it is incredibly assured, the camerawork isn't flashy but does serve to keep the action firmly in your face without being gratuitious.

As in the latter movies actor Tony Simmons once again plays the lead role and, once again puts in a performance a million miles away from those in My Skin! and Human No More. Nonetheless he is no less impressive, putting in a performance that is scary in its intensity. Believe me you would not want to meet this character.

As mentioned Scream For Me is probably the most accessible of the three shorts, the narrative style is far more traditional without even remotely touching on the mainstream style of filmmaking, so it would make sense to catch this one before the other two. It actually makes no difference what order you catch them in as they aren't linked through plot, just the theme of murder and death.

This is a fantastic movie which I wholeheartedly recommend to fans of alternative cinema. It is raw and visceral viewing that won't let up until it reaches the bitter end.

Rating 3.5 stars (out of 4)

Review by Jude Felton

The Happening (2008)

I really don't like to use expletives in my reviews, preferring to save them for other occasions, however M Night Shyalaman is really starting to fucking piss me off. This is a director who's output has steadily declined in quality since his debut flick The Sixth Sense. Unbreakable was damned good, Signs wasn't bad, The Village was piss poor and I gave The Lady in the Water a swerve. So, maybe against my better judgement, although I am all for giving him the benefit of the doubt, I decided to catch The Happening. By all accounts the previews looked sharp, and I think Mark Wahlberg is a quality actor. Add into this the fact John Leguizamo also stars in it, I thought we might have a winner. We don't.

The story starts in New York, Central Park to be precise, where people suddenly become all befuddled, lose their speech, followed by their co-ordination, and soon thereafter decide to kill themselves. This spreads to the surrounding streets before moving onto other cities such as Philadelphia.

Caught in the midst of this strange outbreak is Elliot Moore (Mark Wahlberg) and Julian (John Leguizamo), two teachers and friends, who, along with Elliot's wife and Julian's daughter, decide to get the Hell out of Philly, and make their way to the country in the hopes of being safe.

Now, I will start off with the positives, because there are a few hidden away in here. Some of the deaths are quite nasty, and on the odd occasion a little shocking. Nothing too graphic really, although some are a little grisly, but there are quite effective for the most part. Also, the movie as a whole does look good, Shyalaman does seem to have his visuals down to a tee. That's about it though for the good stuff.

Where do I begin on the negatives though? The acting was fairly attrocious throughout, the cast being given a horrendously disjointed script that will no doubt have many viewers laughing at the stupidity of it. Characters quite often repeat what the previous person has just said, and all of them state the bloody obvious time and time again. Script aside though, the delivery and acting was just plain poor.

There are far too many scenes that provoked unintentional laughs. I really don't think that was what Shyalaman was looking for when he made this.

The main problem with The Happening though is that the story felt incredibly under developed. It's as if there was a good initial idea, but no-one had any clue how to further develop it. As such everything seemed a little underwhelming. Whether or not the events are explained is irrelevant to me, I can take it or leave it, but please give us something to work with.

I really can't recommend this movie. I would have liked to, had it not been such a disappointing effort. There is plenty of potential here, none of it is allowed to blossum though in this movie that really isn't happening in the slightest. Will I watch M Night Shyalaman's next movie? Possibly, but he really needs to open the possibility of bringing in someone to help write his damned movies, because it obviously isn't working when he pens them himself these days.

A real shame.

Rating 1 star (out of 4)

Review by Jude Felton

The Machine Girl (2008)

I'll be honest with you, however this movie turned out, I would have given it at least one star for the cover artwork alone. Yes, I'm a twisted pervert, but at least I admit it! As it turns out though there is no chance of giving this joyous and warped exercise in reckless abandon a bad review. It has is faults, yet these are far outweighed by all the juicy goodness contained in it.

Ami is a loving sister, and thinks the world of her brother. The two of them have been looking after each other since the death of their parents a few years before. Unfortunately he, along with his friend, has become the victim of the local group of bullies which is run by the son of the local Yakuza boss. Unable to make the payments demanded of him the gang mercilessly kill the two friends, leaving Ami heartbroken and fueled with the sort of vengeance you can only imagine.

After a little research she hightails it to the residence of the Yakuza boss and his son in order to get some payback. However, this doesn't go quite according to plan and, although she does kick a little ass, she ends up losing an arm.

United in their grief Ami befriends the mother of the other victim, and through the wonders of modern mechanics ends up with a replacement arm, which as you might be able to guess from the cover art is a high powered machine gun. The two of them then set forth to finish of the job Ami tried to start beforehand.

The Machine Girl truly is a wonderous movie to behold; wall to wall bloodshed and gore, a nasty sense of humour and a hot, hot lead actress. It is almost cartoon-like in its approach, this isn't the violence of movies such as Hostel or any other number of the so-called torture porn sub-genre. You will be howling with laughter, as opposed to wincing in pain, as the bodies get sliced and diced, and deep fried.

There is the odd moment where there is a little dodgy CGI, but for the most part this movie relies on practical effects, with gallons of blood which seems to cover absolutely everything. My only other concern about this movie was some of the acting. For the most part it was pretty good, with most of the characters being played completely over-the-top, but there was, on occasion, some seemingly strained dialogue. Who really gives a shit though? This movie is all about the action, and boy does it deliver in that department. I could go on about how much fun this flick is, instead though I will just recommend that you go and watch it right now.

Still reading this? Go, I said, and watch this movie. It is quite possibly the most fun you can have without getting arrested!

Rating 3.5 stars (out of 4)

Review by Jude Felton

June 11, 2008

Deranged (1974)

The Plainfield Ghoul, Ed Gein, has inspired many movies over the years, most notably Tobe Hooper's The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho, however this 1974 movie from writer and director Alan Ormsby probably comes closest to capturing the real story and events that occured in Wisconsin in the mid part of the twentieth century. Whereas other movies took elements, such as furniture made from human bones or Gein's relationship with his mother, and incorporated them into the story Ormsby has tried to paint a picture of this infamous killer as the facts were laid down. The movie even has a warning at the beginning claiming the events portrayed are true and only the names of people and places have been changed. Mind you, once we reach the end of the movie there is also the disclaimer that any similarity to real events is purely coincidental. Of course, this isn't a biography of Ed Gein, it's a movie about a character names Ezra Cobb, however, aside from the omission of certain facts and other cinematic license there is no denying the similarities between this movie and real events.

In Deranged itself we, the viewer, are introduced to loyal son Ezra Cobb, by way of a Reporter who incidentally pops up throughout to fill us in on certain facts. Ezra is tending to his sick mother out on their remote farm, she is bedridden due to a paralyzing illness and is not in good shape. Before she has time to finally shuffle of this mortal coil though she does find time to instill an intense distrust of women into Ezra. This is just the start of Ezra's downward spiral into the insanity that will follow, as when she does die he withdraws from the world, visiting only a family friend. Most of his time being spent keeping his mother's room just as it was whilst she was alive, and writing letters to her. That is until he is pursuaded, by his mother, or should I say the voices in his head, to dig her up and bring her home. This is just the catalyst of the events to come as Ezra takes to more graverobbing and eventually murder.

Deranged, despite or even because of, its low budget origins does truly manage to capture the decent into madness of the character Ezra Cobb, who was played quite wonderfully by Roberts Blossom. There are times though during the movie where certain elements seem a little over the top, not in the actions of the characters a such but more with the delivery and certain areas of the script. On the whole though the atmosphere throughout is decidedly macabre. The effects throughout are basic but effective, some of make-up being applied by a youthful Tom Savini no less in one of his first features. However, it is not the effects, or even necessarily the crimes, that raise Deranged up amongst the more superior serial killer movies; no, that would be down to Blossom's performance along with the wonderfully bleak and wintery locations that were used during the filming. Everything seems so isolated in Deranged, not least Ezra Cobb himself, and that is due to in part to some solid direction at the hands of the Ormsby and Jeff Gillen, who shared directing duties here. Deranged isn't a movie that gives you gory or flashy set-pieces, in fact some might find it a little dated, it is however a measured character study into the mind of one twisted character.

Rating 3 (out of 4)

Review by Jude Felton

June 9, 2008

August Underground’s Penance (2007)

After watching Mordum, which was the previous entry in the August Underground series, I in all honesty wasn’t wholly impressed. It was shocking, violent and thoroughly disturbing; my problem though was that for the most part it was a fairly incoherent mess. Constant bickering between the lead characters, at the expense of any real script, and poor camera-work made this a movie that in all likelihood I won’t watch again. So it was with a little trepidation that I approached Penance; what more could they do to this series? Surely pseudo snuff is pseudo snuff, nothing more nothing less, so will I just get more of the same? Well, the answer there is a resounding yes, but there is so much more in this movie, the similarities to Mordum are there for sure, however this is a far superior effect in just about every department.

The movie itself has a minimal plot that follows the exploits of murderers Fred and Christie in scenes that alternate between their “work” and play. We see them messing about and generally having a whale of a time, whether it is out for a walk harassing the homeless or letting off some steam on a firing range. Then without warning, as if you need one, the action will switch to one of the many heinous acts that they perform; no subject is taboo here. It will shock you, fuck, it may even offend you. This is a movie that just when you think they can’t go any further they do.

The movie progresses way the whole time we see the steady decline of the murderer’s mental stability; their inevitable road to self destruction. At one point Fred says “Today is the day that our sins will be over” to the camera, and that perfectly sums up the entire movie. It’s a bleak piece of work that has no real respite, and quite frankly I wouldn’t want any from a movie such as this.

Technically this is leaps and bounds ahead of Mordum, from the camerawork, which although still shaky in places (but that is part of the nature of home videos), is now far more watchable for want of a better word. Bear in mind that the two leads handle all the photography this is no mean feat. All the action is caught on screen leaving nothing, or very little, to the imagination.

The acting and scripting is also far more accomplished; both leads put in truly disturbing performances, whilst also conveying the depth of their relationship to each other. There is far less arguing and much more everyday banter between them which only lent to the realism of the action on screen. Credit must also be given to the numerous victims on display here. They may not have much to say in the way of speaking parts, but the expressions of torment on their faces spoke a thousand words, and the situations in which they find themselves can’t have been the easiest to perform.

August Underground’s Penance is truly an accomplished exercise in pure horror, the real horror of having someone come into your house late at night and putting you through Hell. It is unrelenting in its physical and psychological violence throughout its running time, so that by the end you may just find yourself taking a deep breath and telling yourself “Thank fuck that is over”! That is the highest compliment I can pay this movie. It is sick, depraved and even on the odd occasion humorous. But overall it is a very real horror movie that I recommend to anyone with a strong stomach. Do not watch it if you are easily offended as it will offend you.

Rating 3.5 stars (out of 4)

Review by Jude Felton

Slaughter Night (aka SL8N8) (2006)

Over the years there have been some truly cracking horror flicks come out of Europe, some have given us a few good laughs, some were gory, some scary and on more than one occasion some have been truly bizarre. Not until watching Slaughter Night though have any of them been so damned predictably unoriginal. This flick may have been painted up to look great, and it does, but strewth it is a riddled mass of cliches and by the numbers plot. That's not to say that it didn't have it moments, unfortunately though the good was outweighed by the bad.

In Slaughter Night we follow Kristel and her friends as they visit an old mine that her father was based at while he was writing a book about a child murderer from the 1800's. We get a short intro to the killer in a quite effective opening scene, what we don't know until later on was the killer's fate. It seems that apparently convicted murderers were put to use in mines detecting gas leaks, and blowing themselves to pieces if they were succesful in finding one. Or, if they survive they were set free. Dodgy odds, but not so bad if you survive I suppose.

Anyhoo, Kristel and her chums decide to take a tour of the mine and its tunnels, remembering to pack the neccessary Tarots cards and Ouija board that is required for this sort of thing. One thing leads to another, the friends get trapped in the mine, spirits are let loose, demonic possesion ensues and bodies turn up in all manner of gory glory. Demons meets My Bloody Valentine anyone? Maybe, although both those movies are far better than this.

On the plus side this movie does look very good, there is some nice camerawork (except when the director feels the need to use Shake-O-Vision during the action scenes; ie quite frequently), it is fairly atmospheric in places, the cast on the whole are quite decent and there is plenty of quality blood and gore.

However, these plus points do not make up for the lazy script and convenient way in which things happen; anyone would think using a Ouija board was like making a phone-call it is that easy. Nothing surprised me in Slaughter Night whatsoever, in fact it came across to me as another generic glossy modern day US slasher, albeit in Dutch. Also, what's with the title? Slaughter Night is just fine, we don't need numbers thrown in. Se7en did it just fine, let's leave it alone ok. Granted there are points in the movie that could be classed as relating to the use of letters and numbers together in that manner, but to me it just weakens the movie. As although it does seem that I am ripping it a new ass, it was fun to watch for the most part. I like dumb just as much as I like a smart movie, and this was dumb.

Slaughter Night breaks no new ground and is thoroughly unoriginal and highly predictable. If you can live with this though you may have some fun with it as it is very well made and nice to look at; but then again that makes it sound like it came off an assembly line...

Rating 2 Stars (out of 4)

Review by Jude Felton

June 8, 2008

Human No More (2004)

After viewing Christopher Alan Broadstone's earlier short movie My Skin! I had high expectations from Human No More, even though I had no idea what to expect.

Once again actor Tony Simmons takes the lead role, well the only role really, as Detective Nemo in this hallucinogenic short movie. And once again he is fantastic. The entire movie takes place in a dark and gloomy basement style room where Detective Nemo is listening to a tape of a murderer, the murderer that I assume killed his wife and child. The tape doesn't end on a happy note. After this Nemo sets up a camera and the proceeds to explain his disillusionment with society and life in general; his heart isn't in it any more.

Now, this may not seem like rivetting stuff but believe me it is thoroughly engrossing. Full of religious imagery, a demonic soundscape and dizzying camerawork, Human No More is a visceral viewing experience. Whilst not quite as good as My Skin! it still shows that Broadstone has a natural talent behind the camera. The movie, although fairly straightforward in content, asks the viewer to interpret the story in their own mind, which for me made the visuals even more disturbing.

Although not a particularly gruesome flick there is one scene that allows a fair amount of claret to be spilled, yet it is not done for shock value, but only to enhance and further the plot.

As I mentioned before Tony Simmons is fantastic once again in the lead role, and just goes to show how versatile an actor he is.

Human No More is a very good short movie and, although I prefer My Skin!, is still head and shoulders above many full length movies in terms of the acting, visuals and overall quality. I hope we get to see a feature length from Broadstone in the not too distant future.

Rating 3 stars (out of 4)

Review by Jude Felton

The complete trilogy entitle 3 Dead Girls can be purchased here http://www.blackcabproductions.com/STORE.html