January 28, 2012

Filthy Review - Trust

Trust (2010)

Review by Jude Felton

Director David Schwimmer’s previous feature film outing behind the camera was Run, Fatboy, Run and that film and Trust could not be any further apart from each, in tone or execution. If Run, Fatboy played into the Schwimmer we all know from Friends, yet it is one and the very same, with its heavy reliance on comedy, Trust seems to be the director showing his serious side, and a very serious side at that.

Just about all of us rely on the internet for reason or another, whether it be to pay bills, bullshit with friends, surf for information or in some cases to meet people. It’s there and it has come to dominate so many aspects of life. So, when for her 14th birthday Annie (Liana Liberato) receives a new computer from her parents, played by Clive Owen and Catherine Keener, she couldn’t be more happy.

As it turns out Annie has herself an online boyfriend, of course she does, and they are in constant chat with each other. He gives her advice and reassurance and basically tells her everything she wants to hear. Bit by bit though as he reveals more about himself it becomes apparent that he isn’t quite as he initially seemed. Still, this does not stop Annie wanting to meet her new boyfriend in person.

Trust is a brutally unflinching movie that shows more than one side to the potential horrors that lurk on the internet. On one side we get to see the suffering, and consequences, that Annie endures and on the other side her parents helplessness, anger and frustration at what transpires.

Trust could quite easily have been either a preachy movie warning parents of the evils of going online or it could have gone down the weepy woe-is-me route of storytelling. Fortunately Schwimmer allows neither of these to happen, and only in the very latter stages does it get a little melodramatic. Aside from that the story is told, and acted out, very convincingly, with Schwimmer keeping his hands firmly on the reins.

The two real stars of the movie are Liberato, who gives a convincing performance as Annie, and Owen as the vengeance-fuelled father. Both of them form the backbone to this chilling tale.
I honestly thought this was a quite terrific movie. There was the odd question I asked myself whilst watching it, such as why the hell did the parents give Annie, who is14, a cellphone without having an itemized bill sent through to them each month? But it is the main story itself that sells the movie and that is where it succeeds.

The film itself does bare some comparisons with the movie Megan is Missing, and although that film is far more brutal in its execution, I wouldn’t recommend watching the two back-to-back. As a parent you probably wouldn’t let your children within two miles of an internet connection.

Overall, Schwimmer has delivered a very good movie that I recommend you check out given the chance. It is a bleak, in fact I don’t recall many, if any, moments of levity throughout its running time, and chilling cautionary tale that you’ll be thinking about long after it finishes.

Trust is available now on Blu-ray and DVD through Millennium Entertainment.

Filthy Review - Salvage

Salvage (2009)

Review by Jude Felton

As much as I would like to see every film that is released, there are many that slip by due to time restraints or other reasons. One such movie was Salvage, a movie that premiered in 2009 and received its US DVD release the following year, and it is only now that I have had a chance to pop it in the player.

This English movie is set in Liverpool, and was filmed on the old set of the now defunct UK soap opera Brookside, and takes place one Christmas Eve. You wouldn’t know that it was Christmas Eve though as it rarely snows all that much in England, especially not at Christmas, and the houses seem very sparsely decorated. Regardless, young Jodie is being taken by her father to stay with her mother for the holidays, something that isn’t going down to well with Jodie. Upon arriving things go from bad to worse as she finds her mother, Beth, in a less than compromising position.

With this the attention of the story focuses from daughter to mother. Whilst the focus is on Beth, the cul-de-sac on which she lives is suddenly invaded by a heavy(ish) military presence, who in turn demand that they all stay in their houses. The reason for their presence? Could it be a terroristic threat? Or, as the title implies, something to do with a large container that has washed up on a local beach? You work it out. What follows though is a tense and often gory horror flick that manages to keep you guessing.

Taking its cues from several places, probably most notably Night of the Living Dead, Salvage has most of its action take place in the confines of just one or two of the houses. Only occasionally does the movie venture outside. Keeping it indoors though only helps to add to the paranoia and fear of the residents, which them not knowing what is going on.

The movie does move at a fair old pace, only really lagging about halfway through for some, what I thought, slightly unnecessary banter between two of the leads. This served only to give a little more backstory and to add that human factor to proceedings, but all I cared about was what the hell has got the military so pissed off and what is going around causing all the bloodshed.

Salvage is a decent looking flick throughout and the cast are all fairly solid too. I did find that the military fell flat into the clichéd side of things, but what are you going to do? There’s plenty of claret here too to keep the bloodhounds happy. Above all though it is director Lawrence Gough’s ability to keep the tension running throughout that made the movie work so well for me. The running time is only 75 minutes start to the end of the credits, so we nip through the action at a fair clip.

Although Salvage does wear its influences in plain sight it still manages to be a very good little horror flick. It’ll keep you guessing, and even if it doesn’t there is still plenty to enjoy here. Salvage is well worth you giving it a blast.

Salvage is available now through Revolver Entertainment. You can also check out the film's Official Site.

Coming Soon - True Nature

True Nature is the debut feature film from writer/director Patrick Steele, and I will have a review here on the Lair very soon. The film is presently in the process of seeking out distribution and is hitting some of the European Film Markets. Personally I am liking what I see from the trailer in what is described as a part drama, part supernatural thriller about a wealthy family whose daughter goes missing, only to reappear a year later.

The Pascal family has it all - wealth, power, privilege - but their picture perfect lives change forever when their college-athlete daughter Marianne disappears one night while running. She mysteriously returns a year later with no memory of what happened to her. Despite being haunted by strange visions and nightmares that encroach upon her waking hours, Marianne struggles to resume a normal life. But other forces are at work and the world the Pascals have built starts to unravel the closer Marianne gets to discovering that somewhere between life and death, lies the truth.

A gripping combination of family drama and supernatural thriller, TRUE NATURE harkens back to the edgy fare of Polanski, Kubrick, and American films of the 1970s. This chilling tale of the American Dream gone awry examines the destructive power of guilt and the desire for redemption in a modern-day family that has been blessed with every advantage, but pays a heavy price for its comfort.

January 26, 2012

Filthy Review - Familiar

Familiar (2011)

Review by Jude Felton

Last year I had the pleasure of watching and reviewing director Richard Powell’s short film Worm. The movie introduced us to Geoffrey Dodd (Robert Nolan), who was a seething mass of hatred, and he chilled me to the bone. To the rest of the world he was a pleasant school teacher, but underneath the surface lurked a much darker and scarier character. Now, in Fatal Pictures and Powell’s follow-up movie Familiar, we get to meet Geoffrey’s equally unhinged brother, John.

John Dodd, played once again by Nolan, is your everyday family man. He has his doting wife and, soon to be heading off to college, daughter. His life is routine, an endless routine, every day blurs into the next and this is taking its toll on John. Of course on the surface nothing is out of the ordinary and he plays the role of loving husband and father as best he can. This is a Dodd though, and nothing is ever as it seems with the Dodd’s.

Many parallels can be drawn between both Worm and Familiar, in fact I think it would be safe to say that the two films are very much companion pieces to each other. You don’t need to have seen one to enjoy the other as they do work perfectly as stand-alone pictures. Put the two together though and you get an incredibly dark picture painted for you.

Familiar plays out the meat of its story through John’s bile-filled narration, which flows throughout the movie. Sometimes in movies narration serves purely as filler in order to move the story along, here though it is integral to the story and movie itself. We can to know the real John, his real feelings and what his plans are. That is one of Familiar’s many strengths, the coupling of Robert Nolan’s on screen performance with his narration make for chilling viewing. If I praised Nolan for his performance in Worm I was probably doing him a disservice, as here in Familiar he takes it to another level. The man can convey so much purely from his facial expressions, so that once you add the dialogue his performance becomes all that more terrifying. He really does deliver a true masterclass in horror.

Now, a performance alone does not a good movie make. Fatal Pictures though seem to have amassed a crew that no their stuff, and how to execute it. Writer/Director Powell has delivered a wonderfully paced horror movie that presses all the right buttons. He has managed to combine the cerebral and visceral both to incredible effect. The movie starts off by slowly getting under your skin before battering you with some really uncomfortable, and effective, special effects scenes. Add on to this the fact that it looks incredible with both the cinematography and editing being excellent.

In 23 minutes Familiar manages to pack in a far more effective horror film than most films manage in three times the running time. It asks questions of the viewer, hell, it asks questions that most viewers are too scared to ask. It puts you squarely in John’s shoes and demands you come up with the answers.

Familiar is a hell of a movie. It’s scary, violent and bloody, but not always in the way you might expect it to be. In a long line of exceptional short movies that I have seen I would not hesitate to put this near the very top.

For more about Familiar and Fatal Pictures check out their Official Site and the movie's Facebook page. 

January 25, 2012

Donnie Yen and Jackie Chan slashing onto screens in Blade of Kings

Here's some news that just came my way, and that's for the upcoming release of Blade of Kings, aka The Twins Effect 2, from Well Go USA. Starring Donnie Yen, Jackie Chan and Bing Bing Fan Star, it's set to hit Blu-ray + DVD combo pack and DVD on March 6th. Well Go USA having been releasing some really good titles of late, so I hopefull this will follow suit. The movie was originally released in 2004, and although I have yet to see this I did see The Twins Effect, and thought it was great fun. Full release details below.

Donnie Yen, Jackie Chan and Bing Bing Fan Star in an Epic Tale Combining Romance, Fantasy, Comedy and Cutting Edge Hong Kong Style Martial Arts on Blu-ray™ + DVD Combo Pack and DVD March 6th   

Bonus Materials Include a Making-Of Featurette and a Music Video

PLANO, TEXAS.  (January 25, 2011) – Donnie Yen (IP Man), Jackie Chan (Shaolin, 1911) and Bing Bing Fan (Shaolin, My Way) star in the epic action adventure Blade of Kings, debuting on Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack and DVD March 6th from Well Go USA Entertainment.  The all-star cast also includes Charlene Choi (Triple Tap, The Jade and the Pearl), Gillian Chung (Vampire Effect), and Hong Kong Film Award nominee for Best Newcomer Jaycee Chan (1911) in the tale of a humble boy born to rule an empire who must first undertake his journey to claim his throne in the mythical land of Huadu.  Nominated for four Hong Kong Film Awards, including Best Visual Effects, the film was directed by Patrick Leung and Cory Yuen.  Bonus features include the behind-the-scenes featurette “The Making of Blade of Kings” and a music video.   Blade of Kings will be available in a Blu-ray + DVD Combo Pack for $29.98 SRP and on standard DVD for $24.98 SRP.

In the mythical land of Huadu, Charcoal Head, a humble boy born to rule an empire must undertake his journey to claim his throne.

Bonus Features Include:
- “The Making of Blade of Kings” Featurette
 Music Video
-  English-language Dub

Blade of Kings has a runtime of approximately 105 minutes and is unrated. 

January 23, 2012

October Baby - Poster, Trailer and Release Info

Here's an interesting looking movie. October Baby is about a 19 year old college freshman that discovers she is the adopted survivor of an attempted abortion. Set for a theatrical release from Samuel Goldwyn Films on March 23 2012 it stars John Schneider and Jasmine Guy and is directed by Jon and Andrew Erwin.

As the curtain rises, Hannah hesitantly steps onto the stage for her theatrical debut in college. Yet before she can utter her first lines, Hannah—unscripted—collapses in front of the stunned audience.

After countless medical tests, all signs point to one underlying factor: Hannah’s difficult birth. This revelation is nothing compared to what she then learns from her parents: she was actually adopted … after a failed abortion attempt.

Bewildered, angered, and confused, Hannah turns for support to Jason, her oldest friend. Encouraged by his adventurous spirit, Hannah joins his group of friends on a Spring Break road trip, embarking on a journey to discover her hidden past … and find hope for her unknown future.

In the midst of her incredible journey, Hannah finds that life can be so much more than what you have planned.

Filthy Review - House Call

House Call (2011)

Review by Jude Felton

It’s always a happy day for me when I get to check out a new short movie. So often these potential gems fly under the radar of many genre fans, which is a real shame as there are so many excellent examples out there. The latest to hit my screen is House Call from Chicago based director Erik L. Wilson. Truth be known I was aware of its existence, and it was on my list of shorts to try and check out. So, I was a happy chap when I did get the chance to watch it.

The story, if a little familiar in theme, is delightfully dark and original in its execution and plays out at a fair clip (House Call is around 14 minutes excluding credits). Janice is eager to move forward with her life and her new boyfriend, Steve. Unfortunately there is the small obstacle of her present partner, an obstacle she plans to remove and will go to any length to achieve.
The main meat and gravy of the movie takes place exactly one year later when strange things start to happen in and around Janice’ house.

House Call starts off at a moderate pace and only proceeds to slowly put its foot on the gas as it progresses. It manages to do this without losing any tension, of which there is plenty, or at the expense of the story itself. Instead the tension intensifies and the atmosphere is just terrific.

Shot with a RED ONE camera, the movie looks very good and the special effects, especially the practical effects, look very good. There was only the odd moment when I was drawn to some computerized-looking effects, but these were exterior shots that didn’t really have any bearing on the main story. The effects that did play into the main story were for the most part very good

House Call to me though didn’t strike me as a movie that needs effects in order to get across its creepy tale. Of course, they help, but it was the story itself that had me in its grip. Helped by solid performances from the small cast and an atmospheric score, House Call is a fine short movie.

Visceral imagery and an eerie atmosphere combine superbly to create an excellent short movie. If you get the opportunity I recommend you check this movie out.

House Call is presently being submitted to film festivals and you can find out more about the film at its Official Facebook Page.

Filthy Review - Paranormal Activity 3

Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)

Review by Jude Felton

I’ll admit that I was late getting on the Paranormal Activity bandwagon, so to speak. I was always aware that this little movie, that was made for next to nothing, played festivals and then got picked up by Paramount. I just never got around to watching it until I picked up a copy on DVD long after the hoopla had died down. When I did watch it though, I loved it. Even after this though I had no idea that it would become the horror behemoth that it has. I have still yet to see any of the Paranormal Activity movies on the big screen, but I do have all three in my collection at home.

There was always the fear that with the sequels that Paramount would just throw a bucketload of cash at the franchise and hope that it would stick, as isn’t that always the case? Well, if they did, and I am in no doubt that the budgets have increased with each movie, it doesn’t really show on screen. Sure, there are effects employed that will have no doubt employed some computer tinkering, but the feel of each movie, to me anyway, has remained true to Oren Peli’s first movie.

One thing that is fairly unique to this series is that each new movie has taken place before the previous movie. With the third movie the events go back to when sisters Katie and Kristie are wee young girls living at home with their mom and her boyfriend Dennis. Rather conveniently their prospective stepfather’s job is filming and editing wedding videos, so he has plenty of access to video cameras. This is all back in 1988, so no camera phones or other digital equipment here thank you very much.

Anyway, as you might expect strange things start to happen around the house, in particular with Kristi. Dennis, eager to get to the bottom of it, starts to set up cameras to film anything untoward that might be happening. Do you really need to know anymore?

What Paranormal Activity does manage to do, especially considering that you know the sisters appear in the previous, or latter if you will, movies, is to maintain that heightened level of tension. This escalates as the movie progresses, and delivers more than one “holy shit” moment. Whether the movie really reveals the origins of the activity, as is proclaimed on the accompanying artwork, is really open to contention. I found it still a little open, but what I did find is that there is plenty of scope to take the franchise in several different directions, if the powers that be choose to. And I am sure they will.

Profitability aside, and there is absolutely no doubt that these movies make money, and a lot of it, Part 3 has remained true to the franchise. It has taken the formula that has worked in two previous movies and hasn’t really deviated from it. It still remains fresh, yet at the same time comfortably familiar.

Now, as you have probably noticed, I really did enjoy this movie, it is very good and very effective in achieving what it sets out to do. That is not say that I didn’t find fault with a couple of aspects. First off is that it is set in 1988 and the footage is recorded in 1988. Why then is it shot in widescreen? To the best of my knowledge this wasn’t readily available on video back then. Was it transferred to a more modern medium for the film? If so no mention was made of this.

Secondly, once again on the video aspect, is that if anyone recalls video they will know that the picture quality varied at the best of times. Here though the picture is pristine throughout. I would have liked to have directors Ariel Schulman and Henry Joost add a little grain to the picture. Now, that sort of thing bugs me when I watch faux-grindhouse flicks, but here I think it would have benefited the overall effect of the movie.

Those are just minor gripes with Paranormal Activity 3 though. The movie itself I thoroughly enjoyed, and the franchise as a result seems to go from strength to strength. If you liked the first two there is no question that you will dig this movie. If you didn’t like the first two I suggest you give this one a shot, it might just win you over.

Paranormal Activity 3 is released on Blu-ray + DVD + Digital Download combo pack on January 24th from Paramount.