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The Borderlands

DVD Pile

Botderlands DVD 001I saw this film going cheap in the local Sainsburys and remember  film critic Mark Kermode mentioning that he was genuinely creeped out by some scenes in it so I had to give it a go. It’s a British found footage film with a low budget and small cast but it manages get beyond these limitations to deliver an effectively atmospheric horror. It is a bit slow to get going and there is nothing you could really call action but it kept me watching and I was amused and surprised by the ending

A group of investigators from the Vatican are called in to a small English village church to investigate the strange occurrences that the local priest Father Crellick (Luke Neal) is claiming is a sign of a miracle. The investigators are Father Deacon (Gordon Kennedy), a gruff cynical world-beaten man, Gray (Robin Hill) who is a sound and camera technician and not an active church member and finally the officious little politician Father Mark (Aidan McArdle).

Gray sets up cameras all around the church and their living quarters and all three have to wear head-mounted cameras at all times except for sleep and toilet. This is apparently a precaution that resulted from an earlier case that ended tragically and there are references to this incident throughout the film but the main result is that Mark is in charge but before ‘The Incident’ Deacon led investigations.

The miracle being investigated is the video of the motion of a couple of things on the altar during a christening. Right away Deacon and Mark assumes it’s fake and they are just investigating how Crellick did it and they have the priest move out while they investigate. In fact only Gray is open to the events being real and he seems surprised at how close-minded Deacon and Mark are.  Deacon’s scepticism seems to be more from cynicism while Mark doesn’t believe in the supernatural at all, he believes in the church and his place in it.

When they investigate they get the same movements on the altar and there are sounds of things moving in the walls and the creepy sound of children crying. It doesn’t sound very exciting and mostly it isn’t but they do pretty good job building up tension. No matter what happens Mark always insists there’s nothing to it and has a naturalistic explanation ready no matter how desperate and unlikely it is.

Deacon comes to believe there is something evil going on and calls in help from Father Calvino (Patrick Godfrey) which puts Mark’s nose out of joint since Deacon went over his head to call him.  Calvino is an expert on church history and he talks about this church was built over a site of ancient pagan worship and whatever spirit they worshipped is still there.

They go the church and Calvino starts a banishment ritual and that’s when the things go crazy with lights blowing out and some force seems to be tossing them around.  When the lights come on again Calvino seems to have disappeared and Mark has gone down the old steps to the basement and this when the film starts becoming a bit like a Lovecraft story where Deacon and Gray chase after Mark and they get deeper and into strangeness and uncover disturbing ancient secrets.

The film is pretty interesting for a found footage film and it has an excellent cast whose performances helped with conveying the building sense of dread which is also helped with some great use of sound. Although I found the film interesting I have feeling others may think it is a bit slow and if you are not familiar with the works of HP Lovecraft the ending may seem strange. I found the first half was quite slow myself but the characters interested me enough to carry me into the second half.

Rating  6.5/10

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Posted by on June 1, 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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Review: Grave Encounters 2

DVD Review

Grave Encounters 2 DVD 001This sequel to Grave Encounters was something that had me intrigued because I quite liked the original film. I was glad to see them keep up the game of playing about with the found footage film format and give us a sequel that expands on the original but still manages to deliver its own share of creepy moments

This film starts with clips of internet reviewers and their different opinions of the first film which claimed to be the recordings of the last ever show of one of those ghost hunter shows that plague cable television called Grave Encounters. There’s a fair amount of negative review included in this section especially from the last reviewer, a film student called Alex Wright (Richard Harmon).

This last guy is our main character and he has very strong opinions about the state of modern horror and he takes a big swipe at the found footage genre, especially Paranormal Activity. Since all the characters in this film are film students they all have cameras and they record everything. This includes Alex’s room-mate Trevor (Dylan Playfair) and another student Jared (Howie Lai) who has a large high quality camera. Most of the students are enjoying themselves at a Halloween party but Alex is stuck in his room obsessing over his YouTube channel where had posted his review that we saw earlier. Trevor comes in to tell Alex that the woman he likes and who likes him Jennifer (Leanne Lapp) is at the party and asking about him.

Alex has received a video reply to his review from someone called Death Awaits. This has footage of Sean Rogerson the actor playing the main character Lance Preston from Grave Encounters, apparently in a hospital ward with stuff flying at him. This footage interests him enough to start looking in the background of the film and what he finds convinces him that Grave Encounters was not fiction but reality pretending to be fiction. He gets so distracted that he calls a halt to the film he is making for a re-write or more like a re-think. His friends are getting worried about him.

Alex manages to contact Sean Rogerson’s mother and she invites them over to talk to Scott but when he goes there with Trevor and Jared they get tossed out by the Mrs Rogerson’s nurse who explains that the woman is suffering from dementia. Alex thinks he’s reached a dead end when his mysterious contact Death Awaits sends him information about an advert being shot by the producer Jerry Hartfield in Hollywood. He heads off and tricks his way onto the set. He gets thrown off the set but later offers Alex an interview with no cameras. Alex sneaks a camera into the interview anyway and records Hartfield admitting that Grave Encounters was real and that he put it together and made it look like a film as a cover-up including adding dodgy CGI effects to make it look less realistic. It is a pretty amusing sequence and it shows a healthy awareness of the criticisms of the film by incorporating them in this story. I liked the bit where Hartfield introduces the Vicious Brothers are the directors of Grave Encounters but Hatfield says they are just his interns.

When Alex shows his video to his friends they have to admit there is something worth investigating. Alex tell them he wants the investigation to be his film project and he wants to go to Canada to the empty mental hospital where it was filmed and do his own investigation His contact Death Awaits also wants to meet with him there. He convinces his friends to along with him even though some such as Trevor are doubtful. Trevor’s girlfriend Tessa (Stephanie Bennett) is the only person I haven’t mentioned and she’s the fifth member of the team.

Once they get to the hospital they get chased away by an armed security guard so come back later at night and break into the hospital. At this point we get a re-run of the original film as they set up their cameras and try to contact the spirits. This time the spooky stuff starts happening pretty quickly and people start to die or disappear. There a bit more background into the hospital which is actively trying to keep them there.

I thought this film was pretty good and keeps up with the feel of the original film. The CGI was used a bit better, though some effects still looked a bit cheesy. It had some really creepy scenes. The cast were okay though most didn’t get that much development. If you enjoyed the first film you’ll probably like this one too.

Rating 7.0/10

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Posted by on February 16, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: V/H/S

DVD Review

VHS dvd 001I do enjoy anthology films but I am getting a bit bored with found footage but this had some positive views so I was hoping for the best. I was a bit disappointed to find that this film was a bit more style over substance and that style is poorly lit badly filmed shots and confusing action scenes. he characterization is shallow and clichéd and the stories are very hit and miss.

The wraparound film is called Tape 56 and is the weakest of the stories but then that is not uncommon in normal anthology films. It is full of shaky cam and poor lighting which combine to make things very confusing and it’s difficult to even see who is doing what. It also has the poorest excuse for filming anything at all. There are four complete pricks that run about smashing stuff up and assaulting women and exposing their breasts. They do this for pitiful amount money from a porn site and one the pricks tells them about a job that could earn them much more money for just a single night’s work. They break into a large house to steal a single VHS cassette tape. The house is empty except for a room with a wall full of TV sets and video players and the body of an old man sitting in an armchair. As they hunt for the tape the different arseholes come into this room to play a VHS tape and that gives us the other five stories.

Amateur Night – This story also has some really obnoxious main characters, three guys who are going out to get drunk, pick up women for sex and film it with a secret camera hidden in a pair of spectacles. This makes it a bit easier to see what’s happening and the lighting is better. They make their small nerdy friend Clint (Drew Sawyer) wear the glasses and go out drinking until Patrick (Joe Sykes) gets so drunk and rowdy that they get tossed out and go back to motel room with two women they picked up. Lisa (Jas Sams) is pretty normal and has partied with Patrick all night. The other woman Lily (Hannah Fierman) is a very strange woman with wide eyes that never seem to blink and she was the one who picked up Clint. Back in the room the third arsehole Shane (Mike Donlan) makes out with Lisa while Patrick rolls about drunk on the couch. Clint sits on the second bed with Lily and she states right into him telling him she likes him. Without giving away anything else all I can say is that things turn out very badly for the three arseholes. This story is okay and I liked the ending. The guys are really are convincing at playing dicks and it really does have the feel of guys filming their sleazy night out. It has good use of the found footage format to give the story credibility.

Second Honeymoon – A married couple are travelling across the country together and the wife Stephanie (Sophia Takal) is filming the highlights of their trip across the United States. From their chat they seem like a normal couple and apart from the husband Sam (Joe Swanberg) trying to get Stephanie to pose topless for the video in their motel room there isn’t a lot of tension between them. Someone knocks on the door and Sam opens and speaks to whoever it is bit we don’t see them. Sam seems confused when he comes away from the door. Apparently a young woman wanted them to give her a lift the next morning when they are leaving and this incident seems upset them so much that Stephanie wants to call the police which seems to be an over-reaction. I don’t even know why Stephanie is still filming right up until they go to bed and Sam turns out the light. The camera comes back on but Stephanie and Sam are still sleeping in their beds and it is operated by an intruder to pulls back Stephanie’s covers to perve over her arse with a knife. The intruder then goes steals money from Sam’s wallet before going into the toilet and rinsing Sam’s toothbrush in the toilet bowl. We catch of a figure wearing one of those creepy translucent masks. Next day Sam and Stephanie carry on with no knowledge of the intruder and when Sam discovers the missing money he blames it on Stephanie despite her claiming innocence. This segment has very abrupt and unexpected ending but it was a bit flat and seemed just like some things that happened. The scene with intruder was a bit unsettling. The shaky cam found footage wasn’t too bad here

Tuesday 17th – Four young people drive up to a remote lake to hang out. This is the idea of Wendy (Norma C. Quinones) who said she used to come here before. The camera is being mainly carried by Joey (Drew Moerlein) and the others are Spider (Jason Yachanin) and Samantha (Jason Yachanin). This is filmed in daylight and it’s normally clear what’s going on. The video keeps getting flashes of interference showing murdered bodies lying in different places but they see nothing there at the time. Joey starts getting creeped out by Wendy who tells them a story of a group of people who got killed at the lake then implies it was a joke to scare them. But there really is something out there and it wants to kill them. This segment was okay in parts and there was a bit of a twist to old story of the serial killer hunting college kids in the woods and the flash of male nudity didn’t hurt.

The Sick Thing That Happened to Emily When She was Younger – This segment was probably the strongest because it kept it relatively simple – a webcam conversation between a young woman Emily (Helen Rogers) and her boyfriend James (Daniel Kaufman) who is a medical student studying at a college across the country. Emily has recently moved to a new apartment and has been hearing strange noises at night which make her think the place is haunted. She contacts James in the middle of the night and he sees some child-sized figure appear to run across the corner of the screen but the next day he‘s ready to explain it away as some sort of reflection. James is very worried that Emily is getting obsessive about things like the ghost and also a lump she can feel under the skin of her arm. Emily has a history of such behaviour and James’s fears seem to be confirmed which she starts digging into the flesh of her arm with a knife. This was the best of the segment with some the best characterization and the ending was silly. It has the most natural excuse for the video being made and there isn’t too much shaky cam

10/31/1998 – this segment is another one where I really can’t remember the character names. Four college age guys are going to Halloween party and they are in costume. The video camera in this case is carried by the guy in a bear suit and there another guy in a soldier costume, one dressed as a pirate and I can’t even remember what the fourth guy was wearing. They are looking for the address of the party and there is a mix-up so it is probable that they have gone to the wrong address. No-one answers the door so they look for another way in. They can’t see anyone inside but all the lights are on. Inside they hear some really creepy sounds coming from upstairs and they are startled by creepy things happening so they reckon it’s a haunted house set up and carry on upstairs. It’s not hard to guess that this is not a cheesy Halloween party but very real. This segment was filmed with a lot of shaky cam and that is not good but the story was okay with decent special effects and another very abrupt ending.

Overall the film was okay but it is not the fantastic film that I’d heard about. It really suffers from the flaws of its style with poor film quality and lighting and action scenes that were often confusing. A lot of the male characters were unlike-able and misogynistic and in most segments their deaths were caused by female characters which might be some sort of statement. While it has some female nudity it also features male nudity but there is very little about this film that could seem erotic. I also have to say I’m puzzled by use of the VHS concept in this film since in every segment the natural format for the video is digital but then searching for a hard-drive or a memory stick is probably not as open to scenes of pointless confusing crawling about in a dark cellar for looking for VHS cassettes. Rating 6.0/10

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Posted by on February 6, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: [REC]³ Genesis

The original [REC] was a breath of fresh air to the zombie and found footage genres and I really like it. I didn’t see the sequel [REC]² but I can piece together that something strange must have been revealed about the zombies. The Genesis subtitle suggests this is a prequel but there is nothing to really suggest that in the film. This film actually abandons the found footage shaky cam technique just after the zombie outbreak begins and instead we get a conventionally shot bloody battle of survivors against their zombie friends and relatives. It is a pretty good zombie film and it has its moments of dark humour but it’s not up to the standard of the first film.

This DVD title screen is the standard wedding video style title screen and for the first twenty minutes that pretty much what the film is.It starts with   a photo-montage of the bride and groom. The groom is Koldo (Diego Martín) and his teenage cousin Adrian (Àlex Monner) is recording on a video camera. They also have a professional cameraman Atun (Borja Glez. Santaolalla) Adrian compares equipment with him. Atun suggests that it would be very useful if Adrian gets the more intimate shots of the family. A third camera is being used by Clara (Leticia Dolera) the bride’s little sister Tita and she records Clara and her family getting ready to leave. Everything goes just like any other wedding video with the relatives and friends all gathered for the ceremony then getting in coaches to the reception at an amazing big country estate where there’s all the usual stuff like eating singing, dancing and cake cutting. Adrian is delighted to catch his uncle Rafa (Ismael Martínez) chatting up Clara’s friend Natalie (Claire Baschet) then disappearing upstairs with her.

Adrian also sees another uncle outside looking drunk and confused and throwing up in the bushes. Earlier this same uncle was asked about a dressing on his hand andhe said it’s a dog bite. Adrian then records a police car and some people in Hazmat suits arriving outside but gets called inside to film the party. While everyone dances Adrian’s uncle with dog bite falls onto the dance floor from the balcony above. His wife goes to help him out but the man suddenly bites a chunk out of her and then stand up a vomits blood onto another guest. Then everyone is screaming and panicking as several more zombiefied guests attack. Everyone starts running and Clara and Koldo get separated. Koldo manages get to the kitchen with a few others including Adrian, Tita, Atun and an uninvited guest who is there to find out what music gets played for royalties. When Koldo realises that Atun is still filming he smashes the camera and the film switches to conventional filming.

From then on the film is a normal zombie film with survivors trying to find other survivors and get to safety. This is given added emotional depth from the fact that two of the survivors are Clara and Koldo and they desperately want to find each other. The zombies that are attacking them were their friends and closest relatives, not anonymous strangers. I called them zombies but this film hints there is actually something demonic about them so they can be stopped by holy things. This must be an addition for the second film. The film has it moments of horror and gore but there are moments of humour too like the children’s entertainer John the Sponge who is definitely not Spongebob Squarepants for copyright reasons and that makes two references to copyright in the film. This is a fairly good zombie film but anyone expecting the tense horror of the original will be disappointed. I know fans of found footage will definitely not like it, especially the way it specifically addresses one of the central problems of found footage and that is why any character in these perilous situations would keep the camera going.

Rating 7.0/10

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Posted by on September 12, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Tape 407

This film was a total blind buy since I hadn’t heard anything about it. It is another found footage film which I didn’t know when I bought it. This means there is no real story as such but this type of film works through the characters and their reaction to the situation. It is fairly watchable and it kept me interested until the end of the film when the film-makers pulled a twist and a big reveal that I didn’t like.

Two sisters are travelling by plane from New York to Los Angeles on New Years Eve. 13-year-old Trisha (Abigail Schrader) is annoying her older sister Jessie (Samantha Lester) by refusing to stop playing with Jessie’s video camera. It’s an easy way to introduce the film’s main characters. There’s the flight attendant Lois (Samantha Sloyan), Jimmy (James Lyons) a photojournalist, air marshal Laura (Melanie Lyons), Charlie (Brendan Patrick Connor) an obnoxious whiny overweight businessman and Tom (Ken Garcia) who is travelling with his wife.

After some turbulence the plane crashes in some remote area of desert scrub. The characters I named above are the survivors along with another man Marshall who doesn’t survive for long. They were all in the rear section of the plane and the front is somewhere else. Trisha has broken her arm and its bleeding. Everyone else has cuts especially to the head. Charlie whines and complains but people rapidly lose patience with him. Jessie is filming everything with her camera which is also the group’s main source of light. Laura uses a belt as a tourniquet to stop Trisha bleeding. Tom runs off to try to find his wife who was in the front section during the crash despite Lois saying they should stay together. Lois also says that rescue will be on its way to them soon. The other guy Marshall runs off to help Tom.

When rescue keeps failing to appear they get more concerned. They hear the sounds of something moving around in the dark. Then they hear humans screaming in the distance. A few minutes later Tom staggers back to them clearly shocked. He tells them that everyone from the front section is dead and so is the guy who followed him. Lois goes into the plane and fetches snack food for them though water would have probably better. Jimmy also goes to fetch his camera so they now have two cameras and lights. When Lois goes to get more food for Charlie she gets attacked and killed by some creature we don’t get to see yet. Everyone runs away and when they stop and agree to head for road Tom says he saw.

They come to an abandoned building while being chased by the unseen creatures which run around outside try to to get in. Laura and Tom got the best look at them and they agree that the creature has teeth and a tail!? Perhaps they mean big teeth and a big tail which is partly confirmed when we see a creature trying to get in the door. There are gunshots outside and car stops in the distance. The armed guys in the car are only interested in how many survivors there are, then they drive off without helping them. Suddenly they notice a large box in military green and inside they find torches.

For some reason they leave the building and are attacked so they all run again. They all get to a road which takes them to a ghost town where they take shelter in one of the buildings. The characters get picked off one at a time but these scene sorts of blend in together and I can’t even really most of the deaths.

This film had an interesting story but like most found footage films it gets bogged down by the technique and it rarely addresses the implausibility of keeping the camera rolling while running for your life. The actors are okay and the directing style seems to be to allow the actors to improvise most of their scenes without much scripted dialogue. This works sometimes but other times it got repetitive. The best scenes were when they were out in the open running from the creatures. The ending is where we get to see what has been hunting them and if you haven’t guessed what it is by this time you will be hit with very big WTF. This is a bit bland and not very interesting. It has its moments but the annoying bits and the boring bits are more common.

Rating 4.5/10

 
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Posted by on July 11, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Chronicle

Before I saw this DVD I had heard a lot of praise for this film but for one reason or another I didn’t get to see at the cinema but as soon as the DVD/Bluray has come out I got the chance to check it out and I found it is as good as the reviewers said it was. The unknown cast was very convincing and it had an interesting story and I really enjoyed it

Three high school boys find a hole created by some large crystal buried in the ground. The boys touch it and it reacts causing a cave-in that the boys manage to escape. Later they find out that they have telekinetic powers, the ability to manipulate objects with their minds. The boys are Steve (Michael B. Jordan) and Matt (Alex Russell), two popular boys at school and Andrew (Dane DeHaan) who is a quiet unpopular boy but he is Matt’s cousin who looks out for him a bit. Andrew is taping everything on his video camera which he started doing to record all the crap that happens to him such as being abused by his drunken father or bullied by people in his school. He easily shifts to recording the three of them testing out their new powers instead.

They realise that with practice they are getting better at using their powers and have fun trying out new things and playing tricks on people. They are all getting stronger but it seems that Andrew is getting stronger faster and has developed quite good fine control of his power. This might be because it means more to him because he is now powerful and now has companions and, while Matt and Steve still have their social lives, Andrew spends all his spare time practising using his powers. Andrew even starts to gain a bit of social status when he gives a small demonstration of his powers disguised as a conjuring act at a school talent show.

Things start coming apart when Andrew lashes out with his power and he nearly kills someone. Steve and Matt are horrified and it becomes clear that there is real danger to their powers, especially when possessed by someone who has spent years as a seething ball of anger and resentment, powerless to change his miserable home life. Things come to climax when even with his power things at home only get worse.

This is a really good film. It is a found-footage type film but there is very little of the nausea-inducing shaky cam and I thought it was quite well done. I know some people have mentioned it is like superhero origin story and there are definite elements of that but the characters do feel more real, thanks to the direction and performances, especially Dane DeHaan as Andrew.

Rating 8/10

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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