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Monthly Archives: September 2013

Review: Hellraiser – Hellworld

Hellraiser Reviews

hellworld 001

Look at this crude photoshop job with the head of Pinhead and the green Matrix text you can tell from the cover how much writing effort was put in

I don’t think I’d have bothered with this film if not to complete my reviews of all the Hellraiser films. It is the film that’s furthest from the original film, being little more than a slasher film tarted up in Hellraiser trappings and fused with a thin veneer of cliché computer gamer. The direction is okay, the acting variable but good enough but what really lets it down is the story. I never felt involved in the story because it never felt like a Hellraiser film and the Hellraiser trappings were a constant reminder of that.

The film opens with a teenager digging a hole in a cellar. This is Adam () and although he is central to the story we don’t get much insight into his character apart from flash backs to this scene where he kills himself by pouring petrol over himself and burning himself to death.

At Adam’s funeral we learn from his buddies that Adam killed himself because he was obsessed with a computer game called Hellworld. I have no idea how that is supposed to work but the film will not be exploring this deadly game in any way at all. Hellworld seems to be this film’s introduction the Hellraiser mythos, showing that film is flirting with fourth wall. Adam’s friends are the usual gang of five clichés of the genre: there’s the pretty jock Mike (Henry Cavill in a pre-Superman role), the perky punky Allison (Anna Tolputt), the cheerful asthmatic joker Derrick (Khary Payton), walking cloud of depression Jake (Christopher Jacot) and last of course Chelsea (Katheryn Winnick) the nice girl destined to be the last one standing. None of Adam’s family is present because his mother is in a mental hospital after finding his body while his father has never been around is constantly abroad on business. And that’s it for Adam’s backstory. The friends are all feeling guilty for not intervening to prevent Adam from killing himself but it’s difficult to justify blaming them even if they were all playing the Hellworld game too. Unfortunately the theme of guilt and blame are going to be central to the story. The funeral scene ends with Chelsea opening the coffin and getting grabbed by the corpse before waking up because she was having a nightmare.

Forward two years and Chelsea is studying in her when Mike comes to her door to try to scare her with a Cenobite mask. He’s really there to show her a Hellworld website with a game whose prize is an invitation to party at somewhere called Leviathan House, a reference so obvious it gets lampshaded by Chelsea rolling her eyes. Mike tries to talk Chelsea into going but she really doesn’t and remarks that Derrick and Allison wouldn’t be interested. Cut to Derrick and Allison who are eagerly playing the game at their computer to win themselves invitations. This means that only Chelsea doesn’t want to go but on the day of the party she shows up in her SUV to drive them up there.

They get to the very large Leviathan House and inside the party is in full swing. The place is decorated with Lament boxes and bright neon signs and there are several bars for the partygoers. By an amazing coincidence Jake arrives just behind them to open contempt from Allison and fake friendliness from the others.

The host of the party (Lance Henriksen) bursts out a pair of double doors and greets the five, identifying them as newbies and after seeing their invitations he invites them in for drinks and an introductory tour of the house. Only Jake and Chelsea turn down the offer of drink, Jake because he doesn’t drink and Chelsea because she’s driving. His office is full of Hellraiser paraphernalia and busy hands are soon picking things up and playing with them. Allison quickly regrets spraying herself with perfume from a bottle and Mike finds his fingers stained with ink from the Cenobite design tarot cards he plays with. There’s a sense of significance about these events.

As he takes them down to the basement he tells stories about the house’s past as a convent and then later as a mental hospital with the tragedies involved in both periods. The basement basically looks like a pathology lab with shelves full of specimens of deformed foetuses and body parts and surgical tools lying around. Allison, Mike and Derrick seem impressed but Chelsea needs a bit more than theatrical props to scare her. She gets it when the host grabs her arm and sticks a pin deep into it. Chelsea feels strange she has a sudden vision of Pinhead pulling the pin out. It only lasts for a moment then everything’s back to normal but she’s very wary of the host and tells him to stay away from her.

The host takes them back upstairs to enjoy the party and introduces them to some fairly pointless scheme where everyone has a numbered mask and a mobile phone and if you fancy someone you call their number. It sounds something from a middle class middle aged swingers party and not really something for college students. While on the subject of the party goers the whole thing seems very tame and vanilla and the crowd are a bit plain and boring despite the sex and gratuitous bare breasts. There is no difference between this crowd and that of any other nightclub and they don’t seem like Hellraiser fans. This might be justified by later revelations but it goes unnoticed by the friends.

They split up at the party so of course this is when they start dying off. Aliison sees a room with a large “Keep Out” sign on the door so she enters because she’s naughty. She finds a torture chair and sits on it and suddenly it locks her in place and a nasty looking pair of rotating saw blades lock in place in front of her face. The host appears and engages the motor for the blades which slowly come towards Allison’s throat and slices it open. Pinhead appears and tells her Adam was right

This is followed by a scene where Jake meets the host who gives him a puzzle box made by Adam. When Jake examines it nails spring out and pierce his fingers. This is a bit strange because it seems this scene should have come earlier.

Derrick is dancing with a woman when he loses in inhaler and it falls down a grate into the basement. He wheezes down stairs and recovers his inhaler in the pathology lab. He takes a puff and lies down to recover. Pinhead appears and chops off his head.

Mike got together with a woman who gives him a blowjob. Afterwards she takes him down to the basement with promises of more sex but when they get to pathology lab she locks him in and leaves. Mike tries to pretend he’s not freaked out by the props and by the headless corpse dressed in Derek’s clothes but they unsettle him then he sees Derrick’s head in a jar and freaks. A Cenobite enters the room an operates a winch that drives a huge hook into Mike’s back and drags him around until he dies and then Pinhead appears and tells us that it just beginning.

This just leaves Jake and Chelsea among the friends and the film changes pace. Jake goes to bar to try to get a drink but everyone ignores like he’s not there. He follows a woman into an upper gallery area and they make love but she turns out to be a ghost of a nun. Chelsea was following someone who looks like Adam and ended up locked in a room. She tries to call the police but when they arrive the host convinces them that one of his guests is drunk and playing joke. Chelsea tries calling them and telling them to look up at the window she is watching them from but they can’t see her and eventually leave.

I’ve talked about this long enough and this film’s last act has a fairly uninteresting series of chases and fake outs around the house by Chelsea and Jake as they figure out what’s going on. Jake realises that whole thing was set-up to get them there and what they are experiencing has stopped being real some time ago. Chelsea has discovered that their host is actually Adam’s father and he blames them for Adam’s death. The whole thing was a very elaborate murder plot but the host wanted to make them suffer using the Hellword he blames for the death of his son. He drugged them with some kind of magic drug that can somehow fully create a convincing reality with help of subliminal suggestions. All five have been buried in coffins since their visit to the basement and everything since was created by suggestions delivered through the phones left in the coffins. It just seems too elaborate and would only ever work because it is written that way in the script. Anyway Chelsea and Jake are both rescued by the police who got phone call from this place, probably from Adam’s ghost since the house is empty and the host has fled.

All the earlier appearances of Pinhead and the Cenobites in the film were just from the imagination of the victims, explaining their out of character behaviour but as the host sits in hotel examining the puzzle box he brought with him it turns out to the genuine article and it opens. Pinhead and the Cenobites arrive and introduce the host to hell with an impressive blade on a chain and one of those CGI effects of a body falling to bits after a cartoonish delay. It is far too little and far too late.

I think the problem with this film is that it was thrown together with a low-budget and a script that was barely more than an outline. It was made back-to-back with Deader but instead of incorporating the Romanian location into the script this tried to pretend it was somewhere in America.Overall is it is just a run-of-the-mill slasher film and Pinhead and the Cenobites are reduced to a mere cameo

Rating 5.0/10

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Posted by on September 28, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Insidious Chapter 2

Cinema Review

1237173_549494398437751_1175073725_nThis sequel does what a good sequel does by giving those who enjoyed the original film more of what they liked, tying up plot threads left dangling at the end of the first film and giving more background on the characters and events. All of the original cast reprise their roles and the film has been created by the same writers and director. This means this really feels like a continuation of the same story. The only downside is that those who come into this film fresh without seeing the first film may feel they are missing part of the story and the events of this film are major spoilers of what happens in the first film.

The film opens with a scene from the past with a younger Elise Rainer (Lindsay Seim) who was the psychic medium who helped Lorraine Lambert (Jocelin Donahue) to rid her son Josh (Garrett Ryan) of an evil spirit possessing his body. This was mentioned in the first film but they didn’t mention that Elise was brought in by another psychic called Carl (Hank Harris) who is friend of Lorraine’s. Elise discovers that Josh’s problem is that he can send his consciousness out of his body when he’s sleeping and his empty body is vulnerable to possession. To remove this ability Elise hypnotises Josh and makes him forget how to leave his body and forget even being hypnotised. This explains Josh not remembering Elise in the first film. The actors playing the younger versions in the flashbacks are really good and the voice of younger Elise is exactly like Lyn Shaye’s which means either they did a very good job of dubbing or the actress is an amazing impersonator.

Back in the present the police interview Renai Lambert (Rose Byrne) about the events of the first film. Josh (Patrick Wilson) and Renai have moved into Lorraine’s house temporarily with their kids Foster (Andrew Astor), Dalton (Ty Simpkins) and their baby daughter. They are all a bit shaken from their experiences but Josh seems to have been affected much more than he lets on to his wife or mother. When creepy things start happen again he resists admitting that they are having trouble with spirits again.

Lorraine (Barbara Hershey) is much less resistant to idea that the old trouble has started again since she’s been through this twice before and she enlists the help of Specs (Leigh Whannell) and Tucker (Angus Sampson), Elise’s assistants (and comic relief) to investigate the spirit that has mainly been responsible for all their troubles. They bring in Carl (Steve Coulter) to help them and this Scooby Gang go off exploring creepy old hospitals and abandoned houses to find out the spirit’s story.

Anyone who has seen these modern ghost stories knows all the tricks that are going to be used in this film and they are done pretty effectively which is only to be expected since it the same creative team who have made a number of these stories. The first film was a pretty good remake of Poltergeist while this film takes influence from films like the Amityville Horror. It isn’t as creepy as the first film and relies a lot on jump scares. It is a okay sequel that manages to continue the story but I wonder how many more of these they can churn out.

Rating 6.5/10

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Posted by on September 19, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

Review: Sawney – Flesh of Man

Bluray Review

Sawney Bluray 001I had heard about this project for a while but I had no idea when it would actually get released until I saw it on Amazon’s advanced release listings. I had first heard the about the story of Sawney Bean* back when I was in school and the grisly tale of the cannibal family and their gruesome fate fascinated me and seemed perfect material for a film version, which is what the film’s director Ricky Wood Jr thought too. The story was apparently inspiration for Wes Craven’s film The Hills Have Eyes and I’ve seen Sawney Bean’s name mentioned in a few films but no-one had really attempted to make film directly adapted from the story and this version does take many liberties.

The main liberty it takes is updating the setting to the present due to budget limitations. It also seems to have been moved from the Ayrshire coast to the stunning Hebridean island of Skye. Sawney Bean (David Hayman) in this story is a taxi driver who uses his black cab to capture his victims in the cities of Scotland and takes them to his remote farmhouse and down into a disused mine running beneath the house where he and his family have fun playing with their food before they are butchered. Other family members hanging around the tunnels include a man with diminished growth and head full of lizard teeth and two boys Jake (Will Sutton) and Judd (Jean-Paul Jesstiece) who wear hooded tops to cover their deformed faces. There’s also something called Mother that even Sawney Bean is frightened of so is kept locked away and fed on the offal from their kills.

There’s a focus on one victim Rebecca (Shian Denovan) who gets into Sawney Bean’s taxi after having a row with her boyfriend at a nightclub. She is terrified, tortured and raped by Sawney Bean. This mistreament is also dealt out to an unfortunate traffic warden who tries to move Sawney Bean away from where he is parked in his taxi.

The film’s main protagonist is newspaper reporter Hamish McDonald (Samuel Feeney) who is English despite his very Scottish name. He wrote a very grisly and insensitive report of the discovery of the remains of some of Sawney Bean’s victims, including the head of his ex-girlfriend’s sister Charlotte (Eilidh Nairn) and this is the main reason the girlfriend Wendy (Elizabeth Brown) is an ex. He is an arrogant annoying drunk but he’s the only one seriously investigating the deaths. You would think the police would be on top of it but their incompetence is another story written by Hamish. The cop in charge of investigating the case Bill Munro (Gavin Mitchell) is more interested in stopping Hamish embarrassing the police.

This is certainly not a film for the squeamish but the squeamish are hardly likely to watch a film based on a mythical cannibal killer. David Hayman gives a great over-the-top performance as the bible-spouting psychopath and he has a really twisted sense of humour. The acting from the rest of cast is variable but never too bad to take me out of the film. The location shooting in Skye is just amazing and it gives the film a remote desolate feel.

Rating 6.5/10

* The story of Sawney Bean is that he and his wife produced a large clan of cannibal killers who lived in a cave in a remote part of the Ayrshire coast where they survived on killing travellers and eating them and they were supposed to be responsible for the deaths of about 1000 people. The local people pleaded with the authorities and the king (either James VI or James I depending on what version you read) led 300 men to capture the Bean clan and they were taken to Glasgow for execution. The story is almost certainly untrue with no contemporary sources at all and first appeared in the little sensationalist chapbooks in the 18th century but this hasn’t stopped people looking for the cave.

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Posted by on September 15, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: You’re Next

Cinema Review

Youre Next 001I had heard positive reviews for this film but managed to avoid reading any details so I had only a vague notion of what it was about. The film seems to have being doing the rounds of the film festivals for ages before it finally got into cinemas and I don’t know how long a violent horror film will last since it’s a lot less mainstream than The Conjuring. I knew that it featured home invasion which is not my favourite thriller genre but this film delivered a bit more than a middle class morality tale and I actually enjoyed it, helped in part by the streak of dark humour in the story.

We get a kind of prologue where a man and his much younger lover are brutally murdered and the words ”You’re Next” are written in blood on a window. This sets up the threat from psychopathic killers wearing animal masks and reminded me of The Strangers.

Crispian Davison (AJ Bowen) is driving to his parents’ large summer vacation house with his Australian girlfriend Erin (Sharni Vinson) for a family reunion to celebrate his parents’ wedding anniversary. Crispian is a college professor and Erin was one of his students. His parents Paul (Rob Moran) and Aubrey (Barbara Crampton) are very wealthy and have already arrived at the house. They passed their neighbour’s house and it’s the one where the murders happened but everything looks fine from the outside so they carried on. Paul is puzzled to discover the front door is open. Aubrey is unsettled but Paul has a look inside and nothing seems to be disturbed.

Aubrey starts taking the dust sheets off the furniture while Paul is unloading the car. She hears the sound of someone moving around upstairs and freaks out, telling Paul they have to leave immediately this would have been a good idea but we’re in a horror film so Paul gets Aubrey to wait outside while he checks upstairs. He was sceptical but when he gets upstairs also hears the sounds of someone but doesn’t find anyone and his search is interrupted by the arrival of Crispian and Erin. The rest of the family are arriving the following day.

When Drake (Joe Swanberg) and his wife Aimee (Amy Seimetz) arrive it’s obvious there is long running bitterness between Crispian and his older brother which stretches the patience of their father. Drake is arrogant and dismissive towards Crispian while Crispian is defensive and aggressive towards Drake. They slip so easily into their antagonistic roles like they are teenage boys again and its quit amusing these overgrown children bickering. The others arrive in a group: Kelly (Margaret Laney) is with her boyfriend Tariq (Ti West) and the youngest brother Felix (Nicholas Tucci) has brought his unpleasant punky girlfriend Zee (Wendy Glenn). You can tell this is going to an interesting weekend.

That evening they all sit around the table and we get some very typical awkward interactions. Drake asks Tariq what he does and Tariq says he’s documentary director and when everyone is suddenly interested in Tariq Drake drags himself into centre stage with boorish ignorant career advice for Tariq as if has a clue what he’s talking about. After that he starts with sotto voce comments about the relationship between Crispian and Erin just to piss Crispian off and it works.

The dysfunctional dinner party is interrupted by a crossbow bolt smashing through the window right into someone’s head. Everyone panics and Drake gets a crossbow bolt in his shoulder. I’m not going to give any more details than that but safe to say that we are in a “house under siege” situation and this where Erin steps up from the background as someone who knows how to turn the terrible odds in her favour in some very brutal and creative ways. While the Davison family are coming up with all sorts of ideas guaranteed to get someone killed Erin is tries to stop them doing stupid things such as running out the front door to get to their cars. This is preceded by a very childish argument between Drake and Crispian about who is the fastest runner and of course the stupid plan does result in another death.

This film is more than a home invasion film and the story takes a sharp turn about halfway through but the character of Erin is consistently badass and she really steals centre stage in this film thanks to some cool direction and a great performance from Sharni Vinson. I think the other actors get some unfair stick for their performances but I didn’t see much wrong and the bickering between and Drake and Crispian was very well done. I enjoyed this film which took the home invasion story and give it a twist. It has an interesting soundtrack which deliberately references the music from 80s horror films and reminded me of the music in the films of Lucio Fulci at times.

Rating 7.0/10

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Posted by on September 2, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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