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Review: Dead Souls

DVD Review

The cheap photoshop cover design should have been a warning

The cheap Photoshop cover design should have been a clue

Like many of many of blind buys this was going cheap in the DVD section of the supermarket. Sometimes I‘ll discover a hidden gem or a total turd. This is one of the other types, an unremarkable film that goes through the paces of an unoriginal forgettable story. It’s clear it has a low budget and I think was made for one those US cable TV channels called Chiller 

A few days after his 18th birthday Johnny Petrie (Jesse James) finds a letter addressed to him from a lawyer Andrew Judson (Jaiden Kaine) that his controlling mother Mary (Geraldine Hughes) hid from him. Mary does not let Johnny have a mobile phone, watch television and will not let him even go to college (yet she still lets him attend a public school which seems inconsistent). Making Mary into a religious nut mostly seems to be a way to explain why an 18-year-old would not have a phone.

It turns out that Johnny has inherited a house and its estate in Maine from his family and Judson wants to meet John to sign some papers so that he can get on with selling it. The film actually opened with a minister killing his family and nailing them all to wooden crosses in the barn. A young boy managed to hide his baby brother from his father before being killed so it’s no real mystery to us that Johnny is the baby. When he asks his mother she starts freaking out and collapses. She gets admitted to hospital and kept in for observation.

While Mary is in hospital Johnny goes to talk to Judson in Maine. I can’t remember the name of the town but it was something like Wetwipe. As he gets of the train he’s greeted by three teenage bullies led by Mack (Noah Fleiss) who seem to know all about him and when he would be arriving. They are too young to remember the murders so their attitude seems to stem from the needs of the plot especially since none of the other locals express concern about him being back. Is this hint of a deeper plot? No it really isn’t.

Johnny and Judson go out to the house and Judson shows him around but he seems to be in a rush to get Johnny to agree to sell the property and leave. He does tell Johnny that the house was his father’s and that he was the only survivor of a terrible accident that killed his family. Johnny wants to take some time to look the place over on his own and see if he can learn something about them.

As soon as Judson leaves Johnny feels nervous since this probably the first time he’s been so alone. He starts hearing sounds of someone moving around upstairs and just when I was expecting some ghosts to start doing stuff it turns out that Johnny has a squatter, a runaway called Emma (Magda Apanowicz) who never does tell Johnny what she’s running away from. Emma becomes a love interest eventually but now her role is someone for Johnny to talk to.

There’s a few more false starts involving Mack and his buddies followed by a visit from a local madman Sheriff Depford (Bill Moseley) who knows what’s going on and how to stop it, but of course he gets dragged off by the police who also kindly explain to Johnny that his name was originally Bryan and that his family were murdered by his father.

Finally we get to see the spirits of his family as they creep around for the benefit of the audience but of course go unseen by Johnny or Emma. The film then goes into the third act and as the mystery is unravelled I felt a strong sense of “hunh?” I know that these sort of stories need some mystical bollox explanation but this was just an incoherent jumble of made-up things that somehow justified what happened. It just wasn’t developed enough and I felt disappointed. A lot of characters get killed at the end too but it seemed very rushed. Overall I think I don’t have strong opinion about this film.

Rating 5.0/10

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Posted by on July 23, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Mama

DVD Review

Mama DVD 001This is another creepy horror from director Guillermo del Toro that has children as main characters. He really has a way with stories that use the perspective of children to access the deepest most primitive fears of the darkness and the unknown.

Two little girls Lilly and Victoria are kidnapped by their father Jeffrey (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) who takes them to a remote cabin in the woods. Since he has killed their mother there’s a strong hint he’s going to kill them and himself but then Mama appears and kills him.

Five years later and Jeffrey’s brother Lucas (also Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) has not given up hunting for his Jeffrey and his daughters even though he has spent all his money hiring two men to searching the whole county. Then one day they find Jeffrey’s car abandoned in the woods after it went off the road and they soon come across the cabin. Inside are the two little girls who have gone totally feral and behave like frightened wild animals

The girls are in the clinic of psychologist Dr Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash) who is workings on getting the girls socialized again. This is going better with older girl Victoria (Megan Charpentier) but there has only been limited success with Lilly (Isabelle Nélisse) who was only a baby when their father died. He believes the girls created Mama out of their imagination.

Lucas wants custody of the two girls but their mother’s aunt Jean (Jane Moffat) has also applied for custody on the grounds that she can offer them a stable home while Lucas is a struggling artist and his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain) is a bass guitarist with a rock band and tours around a lot. Before the girls were found Annabel was happy with her rock ’n’ roll lifestyle and not really ready to settle down and have kids but she knows how much Lucas wants them. The court will go along with Dr Dreyfuss’s recommendation and he prefers Lucas and Annabel but only on the condition that they move into a large house owned by his institute so he can continue with his work with the girls.

When they move into the house at first it seems the girls are still clinging on to their Mama fantasy but it gets more obvious to Annabel as things go on that Mama is real presence and a very real threat to Lucas, Annabel and the girls.

The film is good at creating a creepy atmosphere with a consistently k muted look full of dark shadows where Mama hides. The Mama CGI gets less scary the more she appears later in the film but it was never too distracting. The children playing Victoria and Lily really are very good with a mixture of innocence and vulnerability and wildness and danger.

Annabel starts the film not wanting to have children so of course the film has her looking after the children on her own and trying to protect them from the jealous clutches of Mama. At first she’s doing it out of her love of Lucas but later she’s willing to fight the angry spirit for the girls. It is a bit of an abrupt turnaround but it’s typical of films to condense emotional arcs like this and Jessica manages to pull it off okay.

This is an effective ghost story with a straightforward plot that relies on creepy atmosphere more than gore.

Rating 7.0/10

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Posted by on June 23, 2013 in Film

 

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Review: Fairytale

DVD Review

Fairytale DVD 001This Italian film is a psychological supernatural mystery that I picked up cheap in the the local supermarket. It is on of those films that are entertaining enough to watch but it really doesn’t have anything that stands out enough to make it memorable

Sophia (Harriet MacMasters-Green) is moving into her new apartment in Italy with her young daughter Helena (Sabrina Jolie Perez) to get on with her life after Sophia’s husband Robert (Jarreth J. Merz) left her to find himself (a younger woman). Sophia is a historian who teaches at a local college and she is teaching her students about how the city they are in was created by the Fascist leader Mussolini when he drained the coastal marshes, eradicated the malaria carrying mosquitoes and created farm land.

Not long after they move in Helena starts losing one of her milk teeth. While driving Helena to her school Sophia tells her the story of the tooth fairy. Sophia is also getting distracted by interference on her car’s GPS and crashes into a truck when she strays into the wrong lane. The car gets smashed and turned around before skidding off the bridge into the water.

Sophia comes round in hospital and her first concern is Helena and she’s told she’s in the next room. Once she’s been checked out by Doctor Fabiano (Giuliano Montaldo) Sophia goes to see Helena who is looking a bit shaken up but seems relatively unhurt. Sophia apologises for crashing the car but Helena seems mainly concerned about losing her loose tooth in the accident. She demands that her mother find it right away.

Later when they go back to their apartment Sophia discovers Helena has another loose tooth and it is loose enough that Sophia can pull it out and she tells Helena that they can put it under her pillow and the tooth fairy will give her money for it. At night Sophia sneaks into Helena’s room to find the tooth but Helena wakes up and tells her the tooth fairy has already taken away the tooth.

Next morning Sophie asks about find any money and Helena says she did but she knows her mother left it because the tooth fairy had already been and given her money for her tooth. She shows the coins she claims she got and they are all strange old coins. This is the start of Helena acting like there really something in the old wardrobe in her room that wants teeth and gets angry with anyone who gets in her way. Sophia thinks that it might be a result of a head injury in the accident but after repeated tests Dr Fabiano assures her there is no sign of any physical problem. Helena has been drawing many pictures of the scary tooth fairy and Dr Fabiano shows them to a psychiatrist colleague. The psychiatrist is the one who alerts Sophia to the disturbing history of the building she is staying in.

It turns out there was a terrible crime committed in the building and it involved the wardrobe in Helena’s room. There’s also a creepy old neighbour Mr Ferri (Paolo Paoloni) who seems to know exactly what’s going on and warns Sophia to move out before it’s too late. Since it’s a horror film of course Sophia ignores the crazy man until it’s too late and she also sees the figure that is scaring her daughter. Sophia has to solve the mystery of the supernatural threat to her daughter while her ex-husband thinks he has grounds for applying for custody of Helena because the mental instability suggested by Sophia believing that a ghost is after their daughter. It builds to the fairly typical resolution of the mystery but this film has a little extra trick up its sleeve with a neat little dark twist in the ending that I liked.

It is interesting to watch an Italian horror film that has been dubbed into English not long after watching Berberian Sound Studio but this lot less gory than the exploitation film that was being made in that film. Instead it relies more on a fairly standard ghost story format with a creepy atmosphere and a small amount of CGI. It isn’t particularly scary but I was drawn in to the story while watching it even if I probably won’t remember it very much

Rating 6.0/10

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Posted by on January 24, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: The Awakening

This is not really a horror film. That is not to say that it does not have it share of tension and scares but just that this film deals more with grief than with horror. Florence Cathcart (Rebecca Hall) is an author who is interested with investigating paranormal claims and is especially obsessed with busting fake mediums scamming members of the public. The film starts with her busting one group and having them all arrested because pulling these sorts of scams used to be illegal in Britain. This is in 1921 and it is only 3 years after the end of the First World War where Britain nearly lost an entire generation of young people to a war conducted by rich people sitting in map rooms. There is a lot of grief and desperation for these ghouls to feed on but the victim of the con is not happy about the bust. The fake mediums were selling the woman hope but Florence has nothing but cold hard reality to offer.

Florence is a bit of an evangelist of science and rationality but she hates her victories against the supernatural because Florence lost her fiancé in the war and each time she finds a logical explanation or con trick to explain away any mysteries she comes across it confirms her belief and fear that death is really the end and that this is all there is.

She gets a visit from John Mallory (Dominic West) a history teacher at a boy’s boarding school. He wants to use her skills to bust the ghost stories at the school which have led to one boy at the school dying because of his fear of the ghost. She has been recommended to the school’s headmaster by the school’s matron who is a big fan of Florence’s books. Mallory himself is not a fan. He shows Florence the school photographs and each year the same ghostly figure can be seen at the end of the group of a boy the same age as the boys at the school. This intrigues her and she agrees to investigate the school.

At the school she gets introduced to the groundskeeper Edward Judd (Joseph Mawle) who drives Florence and Mallory from the station. Florence detects a frosty attitude between the men and it turns out that while Mallory fought in the war and was injured and lost all his friends Judd avoided being conscripted. At the school we see another teacher McNair (Shaun Dooley) who is supervising the boys while they run across the school’s grounds and he coughs and downs tonic. The matron Maud Hill (Imelda Staunton) is waiting for them at the entrance and she almost seems star-struck to meet Florence. Mallory takes Florence inside to introduce her to the headmaster Reverend Purslow (John Shrapnel) who greets her then leaves her in the care of Mallory.

Florence gets he equipment set up and start investigating the ghostly mystery that scared a boy to death. She does succeed in uncovering schoolboy pranks and doe manage to solve the mystery of the boy’s death but she has a sense that she is missing something and investigates further. Any more about the story would be a spoiler but I was not very satisfied with the way the film turned out in the last the third when the film springs a little twist on us. I may change my mind about this but I thought it was just not up to the standard set by the first two-thirds of the film. I’ll probably see it again because I think this film does need more than one viewing just to see if questions I have about the story are actually answered. If you like low moody ghost stories that are light in blood you may enjoy this.There is some sex and nudity both male and female so that’s either a warning or a bit of fan service.

Rating 7/10

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Film Review: Ghosts Don’t Exist

Ghost’s Don’t Exist


 Brett Wilson (Phillip Roebuck), a TV ghost hunter, is persuaded by his father to do one last programme before retiring to wallow in grief after the tragic loss of his pregnant wife some months before. A man called Travis Garner (Joe Hansard) calls him and begs for help in investigating the ghost of Wilson‘s wife Nicole. What finally convinces him to investigate further are some intimate details of his wife that Garner reveals to Wilson.

Wilson sets off with his cameraman Ritchie (Frederick Cowie) and his assistant Jen (Devon Marie Burt). When they arrive at the house they meet another investigator David Sherman (Josh Davidson) that Garner has also called. Sherman is a professional sceptic who has made a career out of debunking paranormal investigators. He is an arrogant prick and a drunk and nobody likes him.

In Garner’s house Garner tries to tell them about the ghost of Nicole but he is confused and fails to convince them. They go to leave and Garner pulls out a gun. Wilson is still going to leave when Garner gives him message from Nicole then puts the gun into his own mouth and blows his brains out.

The message is secret code that Wilson and Nicole had agreed on it and convinces Wilson to stay and investigate. More than that he shoots the tyres of their cars to stop the others leaving too. They set up their equipment and start to investigate while Sherman snarks at their gullibility, rolling his eyes as they bring out EMF meters and start hearing voices in static interference from the computer speakers.

They all start hearing voices and seeing fleeting glimpses of other people. It becomes obvious that there really is something dangerous in the house, a slow silent killer.

This film is better than I thought it was going to be. I have seen films with sceptics included just so they could prove the arrogant prick is wrong and for most of the film it certainly looks like this was going down that road but they don’t. 

I can’t say it is an exciting film to watch but it is interesting enough. The budget is low so there’s a small cast and almost no special effects.

Rating  6/10

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1285219/

http://ghostsdontexist.blogspot.com/

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2011 in Entertainment, Film

 

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