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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: 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: Some Guy Who Kills People

DVD Review

Some Guy Who Kills People DVD 001I picked us this film based purely on the cover since I’d never heard of it and I happy to say that this turns out to be one of those quiet little gems with a great story and really great performances from the cast, especially Kevin Corrigan and Barry Bostwick. It is a difficult film to describe the plot because it is a crime mystery story and is best enjoyed as the story unfolds. I am also going to mention the soundtrack that hooked me in before the film started with the great song I’m Coming Home by Murder by Death over the menu

Ken Boyd (Kevin Corrigan) has just been released from a psychiatric hospital and his only close friend Irv (Leo Fitzpatrick) has gotten him a job working in an ice cream parlour. He’s still troubled by memories of his abuse by a team of bullies at high school that led him to attempt suicide and get admitted to the hospital. Now these asshole high school students are asshole adults and someone is killing them off brutally. The local Sheriff Walt Fuller (Barry Bostwick) is on the case but with only Deputy Ernie Dobkins (Eric Price) he has a hard time putting the case together.

Ken lives with his mother Ruth (Karen Black) who is angry that Ken refuses to open up to anyone and is still keeping his feelings locked up inside. He has a sketch book that he has filled with drawings full of violence and anger and won’t let his mother or anyone else look at it.

His boss Al Fooger (Lou Beatty Jr.) takes advantage of Ken’s poor job prospects to make him do all kinds of shitty jobs like wearing an ice cream costume to work at birthday parties or hand out fliers. At a birthday party for one of the bullies he meets Stephanie (Lucy Davis) an English woman working as a travel agent.

When he’s handing out fliers an idiot knocks them out of his hand but a friendly young girl helps him pick them up. This girl is Amy (Ariel Gade) who later that same day discovers that Ken is her father. After making her mother feel guilty about lying about her father all her life Amy turns up at the parlour and drops her bombshell on Ken. When Ken goes home he discovers Amy is there and Ruth is angry for never being told Amy exists and is very worried that Ken isn’t capable of being a father to Amy. Amy does drag Ken into wanting to be a father, especially when he sees that like him she is getting bulled by jocks at school and he starts giving her some coaching. Amy helps Ken out by pushing him into a relationship with Stephanie and coaching him on dating a woman.

The only problem for Ken is he goes on mysterious nocturnal trips that seem to coincide with the deaths of his high school bullies. Sheriff Walt is in a relationship with Ruth and spends most nights in their house so he feels close to Ken but as his investigation into the murders goes on the evidence starts pointing to Ken being the killer.

This is film really is a very pleasant surprise and though it does have a series of brutal murders at the centre of it the film really spends more time showing the growing relationships between the characters. There is humour in the film but it is from the characters’ dialogue and so feels natural. Barry Bostwick is really great as Sheriff Walt whose laid back manner hides a sharp mind. Ariel Grade is also fantastic as the intelligent strong-willed Amy. It isn’t the most original film but I really did enjoy it and recommend it to anyone who enjoys quirky crime mysteries.

Rating 7.5/10

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Posted by on January 27, 2013 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Seconds Apart

This was one of the features in the 2011 After Dark Horrorfest and I’ve just got round to watching it now. I tend to buy DVDs on a whim and often end up getting distracted and forgetting about them.

Seth (Gary Entin) and Jonah (Edmund Entin) Trimble are twin brothers born less than a minute apart. At a teenage party a group jocks blow their brains out in an oddly persistent game of Russsian Roulette, while Seth and Jonah hang out in background filming it. Detective Lampkin (Orlando Jones) senses something is really off about the scene especially the absence of any witnesses to the boys killing themselves in a house full of people partying. Seth and Jonah watch their video of the deaths eager to illicit an emotional reaction in themselves, some sign of feeling of empathy with their victims. They somehow caused the deaths as part of what they call The Project using their unspecified mental abilities. When they get ready for bed they perform their ablutions in perfect synchronicity, which really enhances their creepiness, especially when they go to sleep facing each other in the same bed.

Lampkin goes the Catholic school that the dead boys attended and tells the headmaster he wants to interview the pupils to see if any of them have any idea what happened at the party. He raises the possiblity that the deaths were not suicide and that they were made look that way to cover up murders. He interviews a girl, Katie who is very nervous and withdrawn. She says she’s glad the jocks are dead. Lampkin guesses at relationship gone bad with one of the dead boys which Katie confirms. She then mentions someone making a film and we get a flashback to Katie having sex with one of the boys in a lockerroom while Seth and Jonah stand beside them and record it on video. She seems unsure of what is happening and we get the impression that the scene is another part of the twins’ Project. I don’t know how much of that she told Lampkin but it seems to be this that put him onto Seth and Jonah’s trail.

Jonah meets new girl Eve (Samantha Droke) who insists on Jonah’s help to find her class. Lampkin interviews Seth about the deaths, deliberately keeping the twins apart to trap and split them and trap them in a lie. While he’s away Eve and Jonah chat together in the canteen. Lampkin tricks Seth into confirming the existence of the video. The boys appear in the headmaster Father Zinselmeyer’s (Marc Macaulay) office. Using their mental powers they force him to tell who spoke to Lampkin and after Zinselmeyer tells them about Katie Seth leaves the priest to kill himself.

Lampkin really has his work cut out for him trying to prove that the spate of suicides are actually psychic murders, an idea no-one takes seriously but he is aided by the split between the brothers caused by Jonah’s growing relationship with Eve

I enjoyed this film. It’s not brilliant or even particularly original but the story did keep me watching to see how it is resolved. The film does not make it clear what mental powers the boys possess but it does gradually reveal that they are very powerful telepaths and telekinetics. Although there is some gore it is minimal and necessary for the story and it good to see the use of old style effects. The Catholic high school setting seemed a lot more authenmtic to me than many other high schools in other films.

Rating 6/10

 
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Posted by on August 19, 2011 in Entertainment, Film

 

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