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Monthly Archives: March 2013

Review: Trance

Cinema Review

tranceAt least my second trip to the cinema didn’t involve a carefully planned trek across the city since this film is showing at the local multiplex. This violent gory crime thriller from Danny Boyle is smart and full of misdirection and it had my attention throughout. I’ve a feeling I’ll get more out of a second viewing since it is a film that has a reveal in the last act that changes what you know but this is set-up earlier in the film. I’m a sucker for crime thrillers with convoluted plots and this film certainly delivers.

This film starts out as a heist film with a light-hearted cheerful voice-over from Simon (James McAvoy) a junior auctioneer at a large auction house who gives us a bit of background on the subject of art heists from auction houses that has resulted in increased security measures by the auction houses and staff being drilled on the procedures to protect the art while keeping themselves safe. Then Simon mentions that the thieves have also upped their game in response to these measures.

This leads straight into the heist itself. Goya’s Floating Witches is up for sale when the thieves strike with smoke bombs in the auction room while other members of the gang take care of the security. Simon grabs the painting and takes it to the safe and the security procedures all go to plan but one of the thieves Franck (Vincent Cassel) is waiting by the safe. He orders Simon to hand over the painting but for some reason Simon grabs a taser from Franck and zaps him in the back of the neck. This only pisses off Franck who smacks Simon over the head with the taser then he grabs the painting and runs.

Simon ends up in hospital getting emergency surgery to treat the injury to his head. Meanwhile Franck discovers that all he has stolen is an empty picture frame and the painting is missing. As soon as he gets out of hospital Simon gets grabbed by Franck’s gang who beat and torture him to find out what he did with the painting but it’s useless because he has amnesia and genuinely can’t remember. Franck even gets confirmation from the doctor at the hospital who can’t do anything medically to help restore Simon’s memory but suggests hypnotherapy might work.

Going with the doctor’s suggestion Franck gets Simon to pick a hypnotherapist and he chooses Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson). Simon is told to get her to help without revealing what they are really after so he tells her that he is after his lost car keys. Elizabeth knows that Simon is not telling her the truth and quickly finds out his real name. She succeeds in helping him to find the car keys but not the painting so Franck wants Simon to try again.

This time Elizabeth knows what is really going on and she wants in on it. She insists that Simon is subconsciously blocking his memories because he thinks Franck and his gang will kill him once they have the painting. Elizabeth has to make Simon feel safe before she can unlock his memory of where he left the painting.

From this point the film starts twisting around quite a bit and characters and motives shift around as it turns out that the painting is the not the only thing that has been stolen but so have Simon’s memories. When the film does come to its final twist it has being set-up with enough hints so it certainly doesn’t come out of the blue and while surprising it does make sense.

This is an interesting crime thriller that reminds me of Danny Boyle’s earlier more intimate films like Shallow Grave. Rosario Dawson and Vincent Cassel deliver great performances and James McAvoy is certainly convincing as the lovable rogue and though the changes in his character are bit less convincing he does give it a go. This film looks great and it has a decent soundtrack but then Boyle is film-maker who knows how to make good use of music. It is pretty brutal at times there are a couple of memorable gory scenes. There’s also sex and nudity from all three leads though not all at the same time.

Rating 7.5/10

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Posted by on March 29, 2013 in Entertainment

 

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Review: The Corridor

Bluray Review

The Corridor Bluray 001This was a cheap bluray I can’t remember buying but the outline on the back sounded intriguing. Unfortunately it turned out to be lot less interesting in execution and it was a bit of a chore getting through the film only to be rewarded with an ending that just sort of fizzled out. 

Five friends go to a remote cabin in the middle of nowhere to hold a wake for the mother of one of the men. It is some years since Pauline (Mary-Colin Chisholm) died but her son Tyler (Stephen Chambers) has been in a psychiatric hospital since he had a psychotic breakdown on the day he saw Pauline die and attacked his friends with a knife. The cabin was owned by Pauline and so now is owned by Tyler. The other men are Chris (David Patrick Flemming) who is a teacher and straight guy who is always listening to the other guys telling him their problems, Everett (James Gilbert) who is a struggling musician who has to have sex with his boss to get a spot at her club, Bobcat (Matthew Amyotte) is rough and loud and lastly is Jim (Glen Matthews) who doesn’t have much personality but is apparently smart.

Tyler is nervous around them and they are still a bit unsure that he’s ready to be out of the hospital. He wants to take care of scattering Pauline’s ashes by himself so he drives up to a lookout tower and scatters the ashes in the snow nearby. He has a moment of weepy memories of Pauline then suddenly something strange happens. It’s like he’s enclosed in a transparent box of energy that seems to have some sort of mental effects on him and also causes a nose bleed. When he steps out of the box it seems to disappear. Tyler is bit freaked out by this because he’s not sure that what happened was real.

Tyler heads back the cabin and everyone starts drinking except him because he’s on beta blockers which don’t work if consumed with alcohol (I think but I’m not a pharmacist so don’t rely on this for information, I’m just repeating what was said in the film). This doesn’t stop Everett being a prick and sneaking vodka into his drink. Behaving like a prick is not confined to Everett since Bobcat has brought a large box of VHS tapes of American Football games and insists on watching them all night. Everett plays his guitar but when Chris to join in on a second guitar the injury to his hand from Tyler stabbing him is causing too much pain. This film feels so slow.

After everyone has gone to sleep Tyler sneaks out and goes for a walk. He finds a spot where the strange box appears again. We don’t learn any more about the box and after a few minutes Tyler leaves the box.

Next morning Tyler tries to talk to Chris into coming out to see the box but without telling him about it since he’s still not sure the things is real and not a hallucination. But he can hardly get heard since everyone else is busy with subject of Everett’s left eyebrow which someone shaved off, probably Bobcat as payback for putting booze in Tyler’s drink. Everett is very pissed off at them and whines on about it

Eventually Chris and Tyler drive out on a snowmobile to the spot where the box appeared. He tries to find it but nothing happens. The other three guys arrive too since Chris was worried about being alone with Tyler and asked them to follow. After they start doubting Tyler’s sanity the box appears but this time it’s the size of a large room. We start to learn that it gives them a buzz of energy but when Garrett drives a snowmobile across the barrier it dies right away and their phones don’t work. Tyler’s four pals are very excited and Garrett in particular thinks there’s a chance to make money but Tyler is not sure since this seems to be what drove his mother crazy.

I wish I was excited about this film but it really has a slow pace. The four pals explore the energy thing which gets bigger the more they go into it until becomes a shimmering corridor and it has strange effects on their senses and sanity but Tyler stays sane because he’s taking his beta blockers. The ending has things turn violent before more special effects bring the whole thing to a disappointing conclusion.

I really didn’t enjoy watching this film. The characters were not very interesting and got even less interesting as the film went on. They try to recreate their youth and it ends in bitterness as they realise they have grown up and grown apart then the corridor turns them into dazed dopey violent arseholes and I just expected more than yet another film where something mysterious ends in senseless violence. The CGI corridor effects were bland but at least the make-up gore effects were okay.

Rating 4.0/10

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Posted by on March 26, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Stitches

DVD Review

Stitches DVD 001I had heard that stand-up comedian Ross Noble was appearing in a horror film as a killer clown and I knew it was a film I would have to see. This low budget Irish film really won’t get any points for originality but I think it made up for that with a twisted sense of humour and some imaginative kills. If you are in the mood for another story of a vengeful dead person coming back to kill a bunch of high school kids at least the actors in this film look a lot more like real high school students. I know it’s a low budget and the acting isn’t brilliant but I liked it and think Ross Noble was pretty creepy as the dead killer clown.

Stitches (Ross Noble) is having sex his girlfriend when he remembers he’s been booked to entertain the kids at a birthday party. His pathetic efforts at the usual party tricks like juggling, magic and making balloon animals are greeted with ridicule by the kids. One kid Vinny sneaks behind him and ties his shoelaces together then when Tommy, the birthday boy, tosses a ball at Stitches he is startled and falls backward over his big clown shoes. He lands face down on the open dishwasher where we saw Tommy’s mother put a large kitchen knife earlier. The kids go to see what happened and slowly Stitches pulls himself up to reveal the knife has gone into his left eye and out the back of his head. This is when most of the kids run off screaming leaving Tommy alone with Stitches who pulls out the knife and releases a fountain of blood that completely covers Tommy. He goes to attack Tommy with the knife but slips in the blood and falls backwards throwing the knife up in the air which comes down right back into his eye, killing him in a way that has as much slapstick as it has horror.

The night after the funeral for Stitches Tommy is up in his tree house looking at the clown’s grave and he sees a very creepy procession of clowns. He heads down and follows into a strange clown temple with a statue of a clown and shelves full of the eggs of dead clowns and sees a strange ritual performed for Stitches’ egg which is painted with likeness of his make-up and is apparently is something all clowns must do. Tommy gets spotted by the clown leading the ritual who gives him some nightmare fuel by telling him that the spirit of a clown killed before his performance is finished can never rest and jokes are never funny the second time around.

Tommy goes to bed and wakes up six years later as Tommy Knight who I last saw in the Dr Who spin-off series The Sara Jane Chronicles with the late Elizabeth Sladen. He gets dressed for school and goes down to breakfast. Tom complains about his mother not being around for his birthday which also means the anniversary of the death of Stitches which Tom still has nightmares about. His mother suggests he invites a friend round.

At school he asks Vinny (Shane Murray Corcoran) if he can come over on his birthday to keep him company and Vinny realises this a perfect situation for a party since Tom’s mother will be away. His other mates Richie (Eoghan McQuinn) and Bulger (Thommas Kane Byrnes) just hear the word party and before the end of the day Tom is talked into it. One reason he agrees is he has a crush on another classmate Kate (Gemma-Leah Devereux). Tom makes invitations and gives them out next day and Vinny sticks up a notice about the party on as an event on Facebook. This mean everyone in the school hears about it including the unpleasant bully Sarah (Roisin Barron) and her idiot boyfriend Paul (Hugh Mulhern). Of course lots of other people are coming too but important for this film all the kids at the party when Stitches died are going to be there.

Tom is clearly getting worried about Stitches and he has a disturbing daydream in class where the teacher is wearing clown make-up and he rips off Vinny’s genitals and holds them up to the class before kissing them! Naturally Tom doesn’t tell anyone about this but he’s on some pills that I think are supposed to treat his nightmares.

The party is very successful and is in full swing when there’s an unwelcome guest in a clown suit. Fortunately it is just Paul who came dressed as a clown with Sarah to freak out Tom. This works better than he hoped because Tom accidentally ate a lot of dope in a cookie Richie made. Of course the real Stitches is on his way intent on avenging his death.

I quite liked this film and I think it’s because I liked its sense of humour. Ross Noble is pretty good as the cynical kid-hating Stitches and he manages to be funny and creepy. The story is very clichéd and the inexperience of the young cast is obvious but it was never too intolerable. The kills really seem to have gotten a lot of the budget and as a result are pretty good, making use of the clown theme in different gruesome ways. If you want a fun silly slasher film then I think you might enjoy this film.

Rating 6.5/10

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Posted by on March 24, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: The Bay

DVD Review

The Bay DVD 001Found footage is getting so common as a technique that it is getting ridiculous to refer to films using it like there is a single genre since there is so much variation in style, quality and subject matter. Veteran producer/director Barry Levinson has used the technique to create an environmental horror film in a documentary style. Various clips and footage are assembled to create a story that has been done many times before but this way of shooting it attempts to make it feel more authentic and while it does a good job it does also have some of the problems of found footage films, Thankfully shaky cam is not one of them.

A young woman Marsha Rosenblatt (Lauren Cohn) is telling the story to a camera and she has edited the footage together to warn the world about something that the authorities have covered up but she’s got footage from a website that leaks secrets held in government computers. It is obviously referring to Wikileaks and the fact that she does not say that name gives away the fictional nature of this story though maybe the site she named is real. The footage that she assembles comes from many sources each telling small part of events but Marsha has assembled them to illustrate the story as she tells it. There’s some real news footage of various strange animal deaths which this film is going to explain.

The scene of this disaster is a small town in Maryland on Chesapeake Bay which is celebrating Independence Day with a fair and the town’s traditional crab eating competition. Marsha was there herself as a student reporter covering the festivities for a local TV station and her reports form the main part of the footage of the onset of the disaster. There is also footage from two oceanographers Sam (Christopher Denham) and Jacqueline (Nansi Aluka) who were the first to discover what was going on and die from it but this footage is fed to us throughout the film as the events in the town unfold. There’s also footage of a video from an animal rights campaigner who broke into the local chicken factory farm which Marsha blames for the whole disaster as well as a brand new water desalination plant that provides the drinking water for the town and of course the chicken farm. Marsha also blames the town’s mayor John Stockman (Frank Deal) but he never really gets a chance to justify himself apart from footage of his speech at the opening of the desalination plant.

The outbreak begins as the crab eating contest ends in an impromptu projectile vomiting display and some very distressed people start breaking out in angry red rashes with large blisters. Now we get footage from the local hospital which has rapidly been overwhelmed by a large number of people complaining of rashes. The doctor on duty Dr Jack Abrams films a couple of his patients for evidence then contacts the CDC using Skype. This footage in addition the oceanographers’ video gives the main exposition of what is happening. It doesn’t respond to treatments for bacteria or fungal infection and appears to attack the flesh from inside and out. This gives us many scenes of extreme body horror and even more when they find out what the cause is and I’m only going to say isopods and let you look up Google for yourself with that one.

Footage included is from the local police which shows the chaos that has hit the town as result of the outbreak. There’s also footage of a wealthy young couple Stephanie (Kristen Connolly) and Jim (Brandon Hanson) who are travelling to the town by boat with their baby to join her parents for the Independence Day celebrations and who arrive to find the place nearly empty and bodies lying in the street.

This was an interesting film and it is pretty successful at maintaining the illusion of a being an eco-activist documentary created from found footage. There were things like establishing shots using security camera footage that seemed a bit too artificial to be included in a film trying to maintain the found footage illusion. There was also the way the oceanographers’ video was cut up and inserted into the film that didn’t seem natural. There really wasn’t much character depth in the film though that wasn’t too much of an issue except with mayor who was identified as the main person responsible for the outbreak but we don’t really get know him. This film does deliver in showing ghastly things that make the flesh creep and regretfully cannot be unseen. It is a good example of a found footage film but a fairly typical ecological horror film

Rating 6.5/10

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Posted by on March 23, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Maniac (2012)

Cinema Review

maniacThis is my first visit to the cinema this year after the usual New Year slump in half decent films being released. As is typical with adult rated horror it hasn’t been given a wide general release so I had to travel quite far to a cinema that was actually showing it. I know that this film is a remake but if I have seen the original it is long forgotten so I won’t have any way of judging this against the original which will be probably in this film’s favour. This is a very tense violent thriller and it is almost completely shown from the point of view of the killer. This gives Elijah Wood surprisingly little screen time but there is always a strong sense of him being there and the audience being with him.

The film starts with Frank (Elijah Wood) stalking a victim as she leaves a night club with a friend. We also hear his mumbled thoughts as he follows her and sees her leave her friend and get hassled by a lech before she spots Frank watching her and she runs away while Frank mutters that he knows where she lives and he drives off. Frank gets to her apartment building first and cuts the power to the lights on her floor which allows him the chance to sneak up on her while she opens her door. She turns to see him and is about to scream but he shoves a kitchen knife through her throat, into her mouth and up into her brain. She seems to die right away then Frank cuts off her scalp with unrealistic haste. He takes the scalp back to his home in a shop that sells and restores old shop mannequins and staples the scalp onto the head of one of the mannequins. In his madness this turns the mannequin into the woman he just killed.

His next victim is a woman called Lucie (Megan Duffy) he meets through an online dating service and rather than stalking her through the city they have date and he takes her back to her apartment and she gives him oral sex. Frank kills her right away regrets it seeming to blame his actions on some other part of his mind and giving us a glimpse of a nice guy trapped in the mind of a maniac who cannot control his impulse to kill women and cut of their scalps. Of course her scalp goes onto a mannequin too and we see him interacting with the mannequins as if the first one is jealous of the latest one. We also start to get hints of Frank having serious mummy issues.

This would purely be dreary tale of gory madness if we didn’t have someone to care about and that comes in the form of a photographer Anna (Nora Arnezeder) who is taking photographs of mannequins instead of models. Anna is fascinated by his mannequins with their different styles. This is when we learn that the shop belonged to his mother who died the year before. Anna has an idea of renting some of his mannequins to use to complement her photographs at her gallery exhibition. This means that Frank get to see Anna see quite a bit and starts to develop hopes of a relationship that does not end in a brutal murder.

This is a very tense film and I think the gimmick of showing everything through the eyes of Frank really works at sticking us in his head with a sense of being helpless to stop the atrocities that happen. This lets us empathise with the feeling of lack of control that Frank expresses after the second murder. There are hints that a lot of Frank’s problems come from his anger at his relationship with his mother and this comes through in flash backs and Frank’s attacks of blinding pain whenever she is brought up. This film is very well shot and the acting is pretty convincing.  It has an interesting electronic soundtrack that I think refers back to the time of the original film. It’s not a film to watch for good feelings or happy endings but if you want a gory tale of madness this is a  good film.

Rating 7.0/10

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Posted by on March 20, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: The Tall Man

DVD Review

The Tall Man DVD 001This is a difficult to film to give any good outline of the plot because it one of those films that appears to be one thing but twists around so much that I really had no idea where it was going to go. This is unusual since I’ve seen so many variations of plot before that it really is rare treat to find one that had me guessing and not just thinking WTF.

Julia Denning (Jessica Biel) is a nurse in the run-down mining town of Cold Stone and the film starts with the police searching for a missing boy and police detective Lieutenant Dodd (Stephen McHattie) questioning a bleeding and shaken Julia while her injuries are treated by a nurse. We get a voiceover introducing us to the town and the curse of the missing children stolen by a character which locals have named the Tall Man, a large hooded figure that has been seen by locals. None of the missing children have been found dead or alive

The film jumps to 36 hours earlier and we see Tracy (Samantha Ferris) and her daughter Jenny (Jodelle Ferland) helping her other daughter Carol (Katherine Ramdeen) to Julia’s house. Carol is doubled over with crippling pain and Tracy begs for Julia’s help. They get Carol into the clinic and as soon as they get her coat off the diagnosis is obvious to everyone: Carol is pregnant and is in labour. Jenny helps Carol to deliver her baby, despite it being breach birth. The baby takes its time to start breathing for itself so Julia has to give it some artificial respiration to get it started. Julia has questions about how Carol got pregnant and hid it for so long and it’s clear after a couple of unanswered questions that Tracy’s useless violent boyfriend Steven is the father. Julia pleads with Tracy to get rid of him but she claims it’s complicated.

The town of Cold Stone is dying slowly and painfully since the mine closed which was the town’s only industry. This has put enormous strain on families and often it is the children who would suffer. On top of all that is fear of the Tall Man. Julia and her husband Dr Robert Denning (Garwin Sanford) had come to Cold Stone and set up practice after years of travelling in the poorest parts of the world and doing charity medical work. He really helped the town out a lot but when he died Jenny could not fill the gap he left but she tries her hardest.

Julia visits Tracy next day and Steven (Teach Grant) is still around, giving Julia grief for interfering in his life. Tracy tells Julia that she sent Carol and her baby to stay with her sister in Seattle and she needs to take her time with getting Steven out. Since baby and mother are gone Julia leaves but stops on the way to talk to Jenny who is the film’s occasional narrator. This is ironic because Jenny cannot talk and communicates with Julia by writing in her sketchbook or showing her pictures she has drawn. Jenny wants to know what Julia thinks of the Tall Man and Jenny dismisses it as a story but Jenny writes that she has seen him.

Julia goes to the diner for a coffee and one of the locals Douglas (John Mann) is sitting with Sheriff Chestnut (William B. Davis) talking about what sort of horror the missing children have gone through. Suddenly a bedraggled confused looking woman Mrs Johnson (Colleen Wheeler) appears at the window but doesn’t enter. Her son has gone missing recently and it seems to have unhinged her mind. Julia tries to take her a cup of coffee but she runs off in fear when Julia comes near her.

That night Julia goes home and her babysitter Christine (Eve Harlow) has been taking care of her young son David (Jakob Davies) while Julia was out. Now she’s home they can have dinner and David shows Julia a mathematical trick Christine taught him. After dinner David goes to bed while Julia relaxes with a drink.

Julia falls asleep in her chair but wakes up when she hears a noise. She finds Christine tied up and shoved in a cupboard. She hunts for David in his room and every room then sees a hooded figure in black carrying David away out the door. Julia goes after the figure to rescue her son. That’s when we start to discover the secrets of the Tall Man and that changes everything that we thought we knew was true.

I really enjoyed this film and I liked the way lets you get comfortable with the type of the story you think you are getting before whipping that all away. I can understand with the marketing that some might get the impression that is a horror story but it is really more of a mystery thriller that I had to keep watching to see where the film was going as every one my stupid guesses about where it was going were proven wrong.

Rating 8.0/10

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Posted by on March 13, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Seven Below

DVD Review

Seven Below DVD 001Bargain DVD time and I admit I only picked this one up because it starred Luke Goss, Ving Rhames and Val Kilmer and the story sounded interesting enough if potentially a little cliché but at a couple of quid it would be at least worth a watch. And I was right – it is worth about a single watch, maybe if it turns up on SyFy and there’s nothing else on TV. This ghostly horror story has five people getting trapped in a house in the middle of nowhere on a dark and stormy night with a host they can’t trust in a house with a creepy history.

The film opens with that creepy history and Elizabeth McKnight (Brianna Lee Johnson) returns home to discover her husband William (Silvio Wolf Busch) having sex with his mistress. After he beats his wife he throws out the mistress. That night their young son Sean slaughters the entire household with a knife.

Forward to the present day and the five victims are getting into a minibus that is driving them to some resort that we never get to see for a holiday. There’s two brothers Adam (Matt Barr) who is a medical student and Issac (Luke Goss) who is a guy whose brother is a medical student. Their mother died recently and they are sort of still sad about that. There’s Bill McCormick (Val Kilmer) and his wife Brooklyn (Bonnie Somerville) who are trying to rekindle their marriage which is in trouble because Bill is interested in sleeping with every female except his wife. The fifth person is Dr Lipski (Christian Baha) who is from Europeland and who gives this group a higher than normal amount of medical people. There’s a driver on the bus too but he really doesn’t matter.

On the way the resort the driver stops at a gas station and tells them that this the last stop before their destination. Isaac, Adam and Bill get out to buy some supplies in the shop and Adam chats up the young cashier Courtney (Rebecca Da Costa) who protests she has a boyfriend. This doesn’t stop Bill from also trying to chat up Courtney while his wife is waiting in the bus for him. The film makes a point of the news on the radio mentioning a big storm approaching and the roads are going to be closed later.

They get back on the road and while they are having a dull conversation about reincarnation and past lives Adam fleetingly sees the ghost of the mistress of William McKnight standing in a field in white clothes but no-one else seems to notice her and they keep driving until the same ghost appears in the road in front of them just after a sharp turn. The driver swerves to avoid her and goes off the road smashes into a tree. The driver is killed but everyone else survived though Bill did get a nasty knock on his head. They are lucky that Jack (Ving Rhames) is driving past in his truck and he stops to help them. Dr Lipski thinks they should get Bill to a hospital but Jacks warns them that with a storm approaching a lot of roads are closed and they won’t get very far. Of course mobile phones are useless. Jack offers to take them back to his house where they can wait out the storm and they reluctantly agree.

Jack’s house turns out to be the same house the McKnights died in but Jack doesn’t mention that until later. He goes out of  his way to act creepy and suspicious and even though he clearly told them they could make a call from his house when they get there he tells them he hasn’t got a phone. This makes Bill very paranoid and when he starts hearing creepy ghost noises no-one pays any attention to him because of the bump on his head. Adam insists on borrowing Jack’s truck to drive back to the gas station and phone for help for Bill.

On the way to gas station Adam finds Courtney stuck at the side of the road looking for help because she’s ran out of gas. There’s a lot of tedious flirtatious chat and eventually Courtney accepts his offer of a lift back to the gas station. They don’t get very far because just like Jack said the road is closed so they drive back to Jack’s house.

Now the creepy stuff really kicks in and everybody starts seeing the ghosts of the McKnights. Bill is found dead with signs that someone strangled him to death. Then when they decide to go get help the find out the engine of Jack’s truck has been trashed. Accusations start flying but when they suspect Jack he just laughs at them.

There really wasn’t too much that was very original about this film and when it did start wandering off in its own direction in the final part of the film it wasn’t very scary or exciting. Twice the script uses the old dumb horror film trope of gathering everyone together then splitting them up to look for someone who is missing and then somebody gets killed. The film feels drawn out and it has a lot of scenes shot in bad light so it’s difficult to see what’s happening. There’s also not very much gore in sight with most deaths off camera in order to preserve the ending twist. It’s okay for a single viewing as I said above but not very satisfying.

PS Can anyone who has seen the film tell me what the title means since I can’t recall the film explaining it?

Rating 5.0/10

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Posted by on March 11, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Antiviral

DVD Review

Antiviral DVD 001This is another film with strong medical theme and I think I’ll need to break this pattern soon or turn it into a season. Brandon Cronenberg’s directorial début was always going to be under a lot more scrutiny than other new directors because he is the son of David Cronenberg so naturally his work is going to be compared to his father’s and I think there is a some sign of that being justified. It’s a science fiction tale that takes our culture’s obsession with celebrity to a preposterous level with biotechnology not too far away from what presently exists.

Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones) is a salesman with the Lucas Clinic, a firm which specialises in selling celebrity diseases to obsessive fans. He is very good at his job, seeming to understand his clients’ obsessions and exploiting their desires to sell them what they want and we see him doing his work on a young man Edward Porris (Douglas Smith) selling him a herpes virus on his face as if he caught from being kissed by Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon). He also smuggles these diseases out to sell to his contacts in the black market. This is tricky due to a sophisticated protection tagging system that Lucas use to protect their property that stops them spreading beyond their clients. Syd has to smuggle the diseases out in his own body and use a stolen scanning machine to break the protection. Deliberately infecting himself takes its toll on Syd’s health and he seems to regularly have a thermometer in his mouth to check the progress of the infections.

Syd’s black market contact Arvid (Joe Pingue) is a butcher who specialises in selling meat grown from cells harvested from celebrities. This does seem like cannibalism but since the meat is grown in vats it just gets by legally. Celebrities in this future don’t seem to famous for any reason other than they are talked about and obsessed over and they are talked about and obsessed over because they are famous, which is something that could be said of many of today’s celebrities of reality television. This very point is made by Syd’s boss Dorian (Nicholas Campbell) in a TV interview where he makes the point that celebrity is an illusion, a type of group delusion.

The Lucas Clinic’s main resource is the exclusive contracts they have with the celebrities to harvest diseases from them. Their most popular celebrity is Hannah Geist and when she returns from holiday with a disease she’s picked up Syd is sent to collect some of her blood. He realises how valuable this is and injects himself with a small amount of the blood. The disease in the blood hits Syd very hard and it’s two days before he can get to work. The big news he missed while he was sick is that Hannah Geist died. Syd realises he’s infected with a fatal disease but he can’t let anyone else know or they will be literally after his blood. This includes Arvid’s creepy friend Levine (James Cade) who is keen to exploit the opportunity provided by Hannah Geist’s death for the rival company Vole & Tesser.

This is a pretty impressive début film for Brandon Cronenberg with a science fiction set-up being used as a very cynical commentary on celebrity culture. Every minute detail of celebrities is exploited with 24 hour rolling celebrity news discussing every medical condition in graphic detail which is pretty much the way news is going. Caleb Landry Jones gives a really good performance as the not exactly heroic Syd. Malcolm McDowell makes an appearance in the film as a doctor and it’s a small role but he gets to wax rhapsodical about the spiritual nature of the pleasure he gets when he strokes his celebrity skin grafts. There is a feel in the film that really does remind me of the early films of David Cronenberg  nd this is also down similar unsettling score.

Rating 7.0/10.

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Posted by on March 8, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: American Mary

DVD Review

American Mary DVD 001This is the second medical themed gory thriller I’ve seen this year but this is very different from Excision which had most of its gore occurring in a fantasy world while the gore in this film is mostly very real. It gets into the world of illegal body modification and is written and directed by Jen and Sylvia Soska who certainly seem to be insiders in this world. I think it has been mis-marketed as a horror film since it is more a ofdramatic thriller

Mary Mason (Katharine Isabelle) is a medical student who is struggling to earn the money to put herself through medical school. She really wants to be a surgeon but she can barely afford to pay her mobile phone bill and her professor Dr Grant (David Lovgren) is ready to kick out of his class if she doesn’t turn up on time. She sees an advert for strippers at a club in the city and goes along with her résumé which amuses the owner Billy Barker (Antonio Cupo). He asks to see her real qualifications for this job and she strips to her underwear. Billy asks her to give him a neck message when his security man Lance (Twan Holliday) interrupts them with an emergency and Billy offers Mary five thousand dollars if she helps him. We never find out how it happened but they have man in one room missing an eye and covered in blood from various cuts. He’s in pain and bleeding to death and it’s up to Mary to save him.

One of the strippers at the club Beatress Johnson (Tristan Risk) starts pestering Mary for help which demonstrates how stupid the résumé idea was since Beatress would never have found her without it. Beatress has had some very radical modification surgery to make her look like the cartoon character Betty Boop and this may include surgical modification of her voice-box too because she sounds like her too. Beatress offers Mary lots of money to help a friend of hers called Ruby Realgirl (Paula Lindberg) with some radical reconstruction of her body to match her ideal of femininity and Mary agrees.

Now Mary’s financial problems are over she tries to carry on with her studies but learn that her respected teachers are a bunch of lowlifes with no real respect for other people. This leads to an incident that I shall not spoil but Mary quits medical school and investigates the practice of body modification surgery for herself. This involves the use of an unwilling victim to practice her techniques on. She enlists the help of Billy who gives her a place above his club while Lance helps her out with any difficult clients. She pays Billy and still helps out with any unfortunate medical emergencies.

Mary gets herself a reputation as a skilled surgeon in the body modification community and this includes a visit from a pair of twins (the Soska Sisters themselves in a directors’ cameo) for surgery which will give a real boost to her business. Mary also learns that she has a reputation among Billy’s employees for being a dangerous person to get on the wrong wide of. Even Billy seems to think she’s dangerous but he’s fallen for her anyway. This reputation leads Mary to have doubts about her sanity and Lance gives her some reassurance that the people she hurt or caused to be hurt were not innocent victims and don’t deserve her guilt over their fate which is not completely true and Mary knows it.

I enjoyed this film and didn’t find it too gory or exploitative even if the subject seemed to be perfect for the torture porn treatment. Instead of gore this story gives us character drama. I‘m not sure about the ending which, even if it was foreshadowed, felt like it was forced in just to give the story an ending. I think this film is trying to give us a picture of the body modification community and Mary is the access point for the viewer, starting out as repelled then becoming an involved advocate. The dangers are clearly linked to the illegal nature of the surgery rather than to any medical problems. The film does go a bit too far in portraying surgeons operating legally as total bastards, which is a bit harsh but I can understand where that is coming from. With all that in mind I still think it’s worth watching

Rating 6.5/10

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Posted by on March 3, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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