Cabin Fever 3: Patient Zero

The DVD Shelf

Cabin Fever 3 Patient Zero DVD 001Disease and flesh-eating parasites are genuinely terrifyingy things which is what this film preys on. Body horror operates at the visceral level taking advantage of our ability to empathize with the pain and suffering of the characters by giving us an echo of the pain in our own bodies. Zombie films seem to fill much of the horror genre’s discussion of these topics while the more serious films tend to be more action thrillers. Eli Roth changed that in the first film by blending the contagion storyline with a slasher movie set-up of a gang of annoying college students in the woods for a party. Then the sequel took it back to high school but was not as successful.

Patient Zero is the name used by epidemiologists for the first person in a population infected with a pathogen or so the movies have told us. Patient Zero for this flesh eating disease is Porter (Sean Astin) and he’s held captive in a “secure” medical facility on a remote island.  He is not a heap of diseased flesh begging to die which means he is immune and potentially can help researchers find a cure. The facility is being run by Dr Edwards (Currie Graham) with a fairly large staff and two assistants Bridgette (Lydia Hearst) and Camila (Solly Duran). Porter is sick of being abused and still traumatised by what he has been through and it is clear Edwards is never going to let him go.

There is a second plot that involves a small stag party taking a boat to remote island for dope, booze and stargazing or whatever. Only in horror films do characters go away from civilization for a stag party. Let’s get the soap opera details of this plot out of the way. Marcus (Mitch Ryan) is getting married to Katia (Claudette Lali), a wealthy young woman. His best friend and business partner Dobbs (Ryan Donowho) is there, as is his embarrassing younger brother Josh (Brando Eaton) who has brought his girlfriend Penny(). Marcus had short passionate relationship with Penny before she was with Josh and of course this is going to come up later.

The film cuts between the two plots before revealing how they are connected. The plot of the stag party follows the plot of the first film with one of the friends getting infected and slowly getting sicker. This is where the film does a good job of doing gross-out body horror with impressive make-up and special effects but the soapy drama around it seems just too trivial. The mad science plot seemed more promising until Edwards goes full Dr Mengele crazy. I had no idea that the fourth Cabin Fever film is due to be released later this year and I wonder how much this film is just setting up that film.

Patient Zero has some powerful scenes but a weak storyline with a bit too much wandering through dark tunnels. I only recently found it was a prequel but there is nothing that necessarily suggests this in the film. Sean Astin really does a good job playing Porter but he’s really on his own in a story that doesn’t give us anything new. It is an improvement on the other sequel but doesn’t really match the original film and It takes a bit longer for the flesh to really start falling off on this one. It does have some interesting twists and some really outrageous scenes so may of interest to fans of the first film.

Rating 6.0/10

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Posted by on April 15, 2014 in Entertainment, Film


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Hatchet III

The DVD Shelf

hatchet 3 dvd 001I really enjoy horror films made by those who are fans of the genre so make the type of horror films that they enjoy. This is the third of director/writer Adam Green’s Hatchet series which his tribute to slasher horrors of the 80s such the Friday 13th series. These films don’t have symbolism or character: they just have victims and an excuse to get them into the kill box and I have great time watching and seeing all the new ways the special effects guys can kill them off.

Danielle Harris is back as Marybeth a young woman who was looking for her father and brother in the first film and looking vengeance for their deaths in the second film.  This one starts with her killing the deformed undead maniac Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder) even though he was already dead she actually kills him twice in very gory manners and thinks she’s finished him for good but that is unlikely since this the start of the film and this film is not told in flashback.

Marybeth drags herself to police station where the gore plastered all over her and the shotgun causes a full-scale panic. Sheriff Fowler (Zach Galligan) wants to know what happened and sends a patrol car to check it out while he interviews Marybeth who basically summarizes the events of the first two films. I like a film that can laugh at itself and when Fowler describes her story as ridiculous and contrived he’s talking about those films. Of course he doesn’t believe her story and locks her in cell.

Fowler gets a call from the deputy on the scene and is told about the grotesque collections of body parts everywhere. Fowler tells the deputy to call in cops, paramedics and fire crew to assist finding all the bits and it isn’t difficult to figure how that is going to turn out.  The emergency crews start appearing and one is a paramedics called Andrew (Parry Shen) who is played by the same actor that played two brothers that died in the earlier films. When someone comments on a body looking like him he remarks on the casual racism but it’s actually a reference to the brothers.

Back the station Fowler leaves Deputy Winslow (Robert Diago DoQui) in charge as he heads out to the scene narrowly avoiding having to deal with his ex-wife Amanda (Caroline Williams) who has heard all about the murders over police radio frequency and has connected them to Victor Crowley. She is a reporter whose obsession with the Crowley legend has made her a laughing-stock. Now Amanda has a chance prove she is right. Winslow is soon bullied into letting Amanda talk to Marybeth and telling her that she knows how to kill Crowley permanently.

At the swamp they have Crowley’s body ready for examination by a paramedic in an ambulance boat and the scene is reminiscent of so many slasher films where they have a killer’s body about to undergo an autopsy but he comes back to life. The film doesn’t bother giving us much detail of the symphony of blood and pain Crowley plays with these background characters but we get the picture. Fortunately the deputy gets a call in to alert Fowler and Winslow before he gets cut off.

The report from the swamp convinces Marybeth that Crowley is still active but doesn’t persuade her to go back even if Amanda insists that she’s essential. Winslow just cuffs her and puts her in back of his patrol car. Amanda needs to make a stop at the house of Abbot McMullen (Sid Haig) a crazy old racist who keeps insulting Winslow. It is an amusing scene but I just wanted to get back to action in the swamp which is fortunately where Amada and Winslow are going with Marybeth as their prisoner.

Sheriff Fowler gets to the swamp with his deputies and the place is covered in fresh remains of the first team. A SWAT team has also arrived led by Tyler Hawes  (Derek Mearswho is a patronising arrogant tool and he puts himself in charge. Among the deputies is Schneiderman (Cody Blue Snider) a young deputy who is crapping himself because he totally believes in Victor Crowley and he’s brought a bag full of big guns. He is freaking out at the slaughter around him but the sight of testicles hanging from a tree puts him over the edge and he wants to walk off the job even when total prick Hawes has him against a tree. They get distracted by discovering Andrew who seems to be the only survivor and like Scheiderman he is appalled by the suicidal recklessness of Hawes. Now all the significant characters are in the swamp the films goes the same way as the others with all living flesh just meat for the grinder as Crowley chops, tears and rips his way through the cast until the he is ended for this film by the plot device.

I really enjoyed this film just as did the others. They are self-consciously contrived and ridiculous just like the Sherriff said with an incredible body count brought about by killer and a variety of weapons. The make-up and special effects used are the old style physical effects so the blood looks real and injuries look painful but the whole thing is pushed to cartoonish extremes reminiscent of Evil Dead or Brain Dead.  Though the cast play it straight there is a strong streak of dark humour through film. This film is strongly recommended to those who enjoy old-school slasher films and strong keep away for anyone who likes more grounded cerebral horror.

Rating 7.5/10

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Posted by on April 14, 2014 in Entertainment, Film


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The Quiet Ones

At The Movies

the quiet onesThis is from the legendary Hammer studio and it is a quiet low key film that takes it time establishing its creepy mood. This is just a soft way of saying that this film dragged quite a bit especially in the middle. The story is not very original or interesting but the cast do it fairly well and there are some scares leading up to the fairly so-so ending. Apparently based on true events like that matters but  may  be the justification for the slow pace.

Cambridge University Professor Coupland (Jared Harris) is working on his theory that supernatural phenomena are produced by some sort of energy from the human mind and to test his theory he is going to try to cure Jane Harper (Olivia Cooke), a young woman so haunted by poltergeist activity that she seriously contemplates suicide. All of her life she has been passed from one foster home to next when each family become aware of the strange supernatural forces that follow her.

Coupland has two very loyal students assisting him Kristina Dalton (Erin Richards) and Harry Abrams (Rory Fleck-Byrne) who are cultishly devoted to him. Coupland has also hired Brian McNiel (Sam Claflin) a young cameraman to document The Experiment.  Brian is an outsider so is the natural sympathetic protagonist for the audience while is everyone else is so confident the Professor’s bizarre theories.

When the noise of the loud rock music (Slade – Cum on Feel The Noize and is about the only significant detail that nails the period to the 70s) used to stop Jane from sleeping disturbs the neighbours Coupland finds himself hauled before the University authorities and deprived of funds or premises. Coupland moves The Experiment to a large remote house in the country to keep going without interference. Of course Harry and Kristina agree to keep going but Brian agrees to carry on at this stage out of curiosity and his feelings for Jane.  It seems unlikely that if this was official sanctioned research it would be getting held in town with neighbours that could be disturbed even in the 70s

There is a slow escalation of strange events involving the well-used horror technique of long quiet moments followed by jump scares and Brian manages to catch some of it on film. Brian gets increasingly concerned for Jane’s safety when he sees the lengths to which Coupland will go to force a psychic response from Jane. The techniques they are using amount to torture and the only thing stopping Brian going to the authorities is Jane’s willing participation because she is desperate for a cure.

The last part of the film is where conflicts heighten as secrets get revealed and the supernatural freakery gets to dangerous levels. It wasn’t as predictable as thought it was going to be but the ending scene itself was right out of the box of dusty old horror clichés. Coupland portrays himself as a heroic sceptic taking on the supernatural by trying to explain it away with scientific sounding jargon and lots of apparatus but there were lots of clues that his outlook is like a dogmatic religious position especially the scene at the start with the rejection of the non-believer who has moral objections to The Experiment. Brian is the real sceptic in the film investigating the Professor’s history and making it clear that the evidence he has filmed is not really evidence as even he suspects fakery.

This film was just not very notable. It did hold my attention while watching but apart from the jumps it didn’t really do very much to disturb or unsettle me and my attention did wander in the middle and I noticed the three wee bastards two rows in front mucking about on their smartphones. There was a 70s setting that was barely used apart from costumes, music and a lack of modern technology. Jared Harris is good as usual in the mad scientist role giving the character a vulnerability and humanity. Olivia Cooke is also good in the part of Jane Harper. This is a film that is okay to pass the time if it happens to be on TV or streaming on the internet but it’s just nothing special.

Rating 6.0/10

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Posted by on April 13, 2014 in Entertainment, Film


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Captain America: The Winter Soldier

At The Movies

Captain America WSI love what Marvel are doing with their films and even though I never got into Cap in the comics I always liked the character when he appeared in crossovers. Captain America always seemed a more political character than the others which means his adventures perfectly transfer into the political thriller genre with espionage which is just what Marvel chose to do here

The film opens with Steve Rogers (Chris Evans), Captain America, leading a squad of SHIELD agents on a mission to rescue a bunch of SHIELD techs from a SHIELD facility in the Indian Ocean that has been hijacked by pirates.  Fellow Avenger Black Widow, Natasha Romanov (Scarlett Johansson) is also along on the mission but she has her own orders that Steve knows nothing about and he’s not very happy about getting kept in the dark, especially as it endangers his own rescue mission. Seeing Cap in action in these scenes with his shield is just thrilling and the action is really well choreographed.

Back at the SHIELD Triskelion headquarters Steve wants a serious word with SHIELD director Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) about what is going on. Fury takes Steve down to the basement to show him what they have been working on: three new helicarriers bristling with weapons due to be permanently stationed in the skies linked to spy satellites and able to attack anyone on Earth deemed a threat, called Project Insight. Steve is not happy about any of it and especially Fury’s feeble excuse that they have to take world as it is not as the want it to be. It is the all too familiar conflict between freedom and security and as the name suggests SHIELD is all about security and Cap’s not sure he wants anything to do with it.

There a nice scene where Steve goes to a museum a sees an exhibition all about him and there is hint that the second half of the first film had a lengthy period of time compressed in those scenes since it mentions his adventures with the Howling Commandos and his best friend Bucky Barnes (Sebastian Stan) which we only got in a montage in that film.  I hope we get to see some of that history in more detail in a future film or TV series. Cap also visits the very old Peggy Carter for a bit of closure

There are a couple of new characters his film needs to introduce and the first is Alexander Pierce (Robert Redford) Chairman of the World Security Council, who are those shadowy outlines we saw giving Fury orders in The Avengers. Pierce is an old friend of Fury’s and he actually persuaded Pierce to take the job. Fury wants them to halt the launch of Project Insight while he investigates the data Black Widow retrieved and Pierce agrees.

Sam Wilson (Anthony Mackie) gets introduced when he befriends Steve when they are out jogging and Steve laps Sam several times with the words “on the left” .  Sam is an Afghan War vet who now runs a support group for vets to help them cope with the psychological stresses of joining the real world again. It is no secret that he is also the superhero called Falcon who fights bad guys using a pair of mechanical wings and jets that seem to use repulsor technology like Tony Stark’s.

Nick Fury comes under attack by a very well organised group led by a mysterious assassin called The Winter Soldier and it is clear that not everyone in SHIELD can be trusted so it is up to Steve and Natasha to find out who is behind it. SHIELD has many enemies and it seems when they cut off one two more grow its place. Winter Soldier is someone Natasha has come across before and she knows he is deadly, skilled and relentless.

This film has a plot with many twists and turns and secrets getting uncovered so it really would be risking spoilers to talk much more about the plot but this film really has a lot of call-outs that will please fans of the comic books. It is also a story that whose events are going to have a major impact on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Even though the film is mainly about Captain America it was nice to see a lot more attention paid to the SHIELD organisation with real questions being asked about what its role is and what is was intended to be. We see Nick Fury getting involved in the action and we get to see a lot more from Natasha Romanov and even Maria Hill gets a bit more to do

This film is just what I wanted to see with a great story that works as an entertaining political thriller while still having all the action elements expected from a comic book story. This film is really plugged into the Marvel Universe much more than the other solo films and ties the present into past with revelations that have ramifications not just for the future but the past too. I know some people are wondering about where Tony Stark and Bruce Banner were but I never got he impression that they were needed or even in the loop enough to be called in by SHIELD to sort out its internal problem.s Any fans of the Marvel film will probably love this but I’m sure it will appeal to anyone who likes action thrillers too.

Rating 9.0/10

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Posted by on April 6, 2014 in Entertainment, Film


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Banshee Chapter

DVD Pile

banshee chapter 001I knew nothing about this film before I watched it but this turned out to be a creepy sort of found footage film with a story that really drew me in with its mixture of real events and the fictionalised events of the film. I say sort of found footage because while it’s all filmed using handheld cameras there is no-one obviously recording it and the camera operator is never acknowledged. It didn’t really matter because I was too busy getting into the story by the time that became obvious.

The film is supposed to be a record of the researches of Anne Roland (Katia Winter) a young journalist who is investigating the disappearance of her close friend James Hirsch (Michael McMillian), a writer she met when they were students at college together. James recorded his experience of taking a drug developed by researchers from the DMT used in the MK Ultra scandal but after that he seems to have disappeared and not long after that the guy who was filming vanished too. The authorities investigated but they came up with nothing so Anne is determined to find answers

Anne searches James’s house and find a box with a video cassette and letter signed “from your friends in Colorado,” and this is the path she follows in her investigation. She tells her friend/ boss Olivia (Vivian Nesbitt) at work about everything and she puts Anne on to  the signature being the title of a book by a burned out writer called Thomas Blackburn (Ted Levine) who seems to be based-on people like William Burroughs or Hunter S Thomson. The video turns out to be a recording of experiments on human volunteers with the modified DMT that James took.

On James’s computer is the video they made of James taking drug and there is a sound on the video that Anne can’t identify so she goes to see an expert who identifies it as a number station. These radio stations have been around since at least the Second World War and consist of a monotone voice reading out a series of numbers preceded by a musical jingle that sounds like ice cream van chimes. No-one admits to operating these stations so obviously they have become incorporated into conspiracy myths. The expert guy gives her a shortwave radio set and tells her where she needs to go to pick the station. he gets a bit cagier when Anne moves on to the subject of his work as a decoder for NSA

Anne tricks her way into Thomas Blackburn’s house and is introduced to Callie (Jenny Gabrielle), a friend of Thomas who shares his interest experimental pharmacology and is preparing her own recipe of the modified DMT. The freakishness starts not long after that with hints of Lovecraftian goings on and something seems to coming for them, signalled by the chimes of the numbers station. With Thomas Anne has to track down the source of the transmissions.

This was more interesting than the usual fake documentary style films and though it takes it time building up an atmosphere the climax itself is genuinely tense and creepy. The small cast is excellent and I thought the film made good use of the found footage in the film to lend credence to the story. This is also helped by use of the real scandal of the MK Ultra experiments and the ongoing mystery of the numbers stations. I think it’s an interesting film and I also like the soundtrack which is a bonus.

Rating 7.0/10

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Posted by on March 28, 2014 in Entertainment, Film


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For Those in Peril

The DVD Pile

for those in peril 001This is an indie film that somehow got put in the horror section at my local HMV and after watching it I am not sure that decision is correct as it is more of drama with elements of folklore and magic. It takes its title from the old hymn that’s popular especially in fishing communities for obvious reasons. There are parts that have documentary quality with camcorder footage mixed with interviews with villagers the soundtrack that help lend authenticity to the drama. It has style that reminds me of that type TV drama that verges on reality TV with long awkward silences that increase the viewer’s sense of voyeurism.

Aaron (George MacKay) is a young man living in a small village on the coast of Scotland and he’s the sole survivor of a fishing boat accident at sea that took the lives of his older brother Michael (Jordan Young) and five other local men. The grief at the loss is the prevailing feeling in the small village and his presence is like a living ghost, reminding people of those they have lost.  He has no memory of what happened out there which means the need for answers goes unsatisfied and some people blame Aaron for the deaths.

Aaron seems obsessed with the notion that just because they are missing it doesn’t mean they are dead and he believes his brother Michael is still alive out there with the others. He seems to seriously believe the old stories his mother told him when he was a child about the devil living in the sea in the form of a monstrous fish that cursed the village. This story includes a young boy who goes out to see to kill the fish and rescue all his loved ones from its giant belly. The parallel with Aaron is hard to miss.

Aaron was an outsider before the tragedy, not really interested in rough and tumble play with other boys his age but it seemed that he was tolerated because his brother was much more normal, popular and physically capable. With Michael gone there is open contempt for Aaron from the youths of the village who enjoy telling him the most lurid gossip about him.

While his mother Cathy (Kate Dickie) tries to be supportive all the time she can’t understand what he’s going through. Aaron confides in Jane (Nichola Burley), his brother’s fiancé and they start growing close but her father (Michael Smiley) is not happy about it. Jane realises she’s using Aaron to cling on to George and decides to stop seeing him. This leads to a confrontation between Aaron and Jane’s father and Aaron realising he is on his own.

This is good solid film dealing with the way a community deals with loss and we see them focus their grief and anger on Aaron. His method of coping is to turn to the stories of his childhood, the myths with happy endings that offer him hope. He was happy staying in background while his brother got the limelight but now has to cope with being the centre of somewhat hostile attention on top of his own sense of loss. The young actor playing Aaron really has to carry the whole film and I think he did great job and he did so well with the accent that I didn’t even suspect he wasn’t Scottish. The supporting cast are all excellent too. It is not a light film and it has very downbeat feel to it so it’s not really a fun film for an easy watch but I think it still worth a look even if just for the scenery.

Rating 7.0/10

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Posted by on March 25, 2014 in Entertainment, Film


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The Zero Theorem

Cinema Review

zero theoremI am one of those who grew up with Monty Python and have enjoyed many of the films of animator turned director Terry Gilliam from Jabberwocky to Brazil and Time Bandits so i was off to the cinema on the opening weekend of his latest film. I had an enjoyable time all right but it didn’t really have some of the emotional punch of his best films

Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz) is an entity cruncher at a powerful company called Mancorp. This is apparently like number crunching but more complex. Qohen has a strong dislike of commuting to work through the sensory overload of the city streets to the even more chaotic office where he works. He appeals to his supervisor Joby (David Thewlis) to be allowed to work at home but only Management can authorise that. Qohen is obsessed with the notion that one day his phone will ring and the person on the other end will tell him the meaning and purpose of his life and this is why he wants to work from home though he does really hate going outside.

The supervisor invites Qohen to a party where he can meet Management who turns out to be Matt Damon in suits that always match his background but Qohen finds little sympathy from the man. The party is just as chaotic as at the office with everyone bumping into each other as they manipulate phones and tablet computers. A young woman called Bainsley (Mélanie Thierry) tries engaging Qohen in conversation but Qohen just wants go home.

Next day Qohen gets examined by three doctors to see if he is sick and can work from home but that doesn’t seem to go very well so it’s a surprise when Joby tells Qohen that he is getting his wish to work from home on a special project called the Zero Theorem. This is long term project that has apparently been going for years burning out the minds of anyone working on it including Joby. This doesn’t seem to worry Quinn. He gets working on the project but every advance he makes seems to crumble away to nothing and he doesn’t really know what it is he is working on. It turns out that the Zero Theorem is proposition that the universe is meaningless. As he fails to make progress Mancorp send him Bob (Lucas Hedges) a teenage technical wiz to help with any technical issues and Bainsley is sent to help him with psychological emotional problems. The film really does a great job evoking a sense of the world where everyone is hyper connected by technology but Qohen is alone in his converted church. Gilliam likes playing with these ironies and another character later says of Qohen that he’s spent so long looking for the meaning of his life that he has led meaningless empty life

This is a very Gilliam film with a quiet unassuming lead being overwhelmed by a world dominated by trivia and noise. There is no real malevolence or deliberate in the politics of this dystopia, just a sense of decay through apathy, greed, vanity and selfishness. Advertising is intrusive and pervasive and Qohen is constantly being watched by Management. The world is like day-glo daytime version of the urban techno dystopia of Blade Runner but with technology that has a sort of leaky pneumatic feel of Brazil. There is quite a bit of humour especially with Tilda Swinton as a computer psychiatrist called Dr Shrink-ROM that Qohen consults and a pair of violent bungling henchmen who work for Management. It is not going to be a film that will have broad appeal but I enjoyed my visit to Gilliam-land even if the story felt a bit flat at times.

Rating 7.0/10

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Posted by on March 16, 2014 in Entertainment, Film


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