Tag Archives: mystery

Review: The Wrong Road

DVD Review

The Wrong Road DVD 001

Strangely it only has a 15 rating on the BBFC website

At least that’s what it says on the DVD box but on IMDb it turns out that it was originally called Munger Road. I won’t be surprised if the new name is an attempt the cash in on the similarity to the Wrong Turn backwoods slasher films but this film really does not share anything in common in with those. It does have a group of stupid college kids getting chased by some unseen killer but the kills, if they happen at all, are off-screen and more time is spent with the police investigating an escaped killer. Overall it felt like the first half of a TV miniseries and this includes a very unsatisfyingly abrupt ending.

A pair of college boys Scott (Hallock Beals) and Corey (Trevor Morgan) take their girlfriends Joe (Brooke Peoples) and Rachael (Lauren Storm) on a late night drive to a quiet railway crossing to show them the truth of the spooky local stories that it is haunted. Joe and Rachael are hoping that it is just a pathetic excuse to go there and make out but the boys are taking it too seriously.

The legend is that if a car is stopped on the tracks and out into neutral the car will be slowly pushed off the track and sometimes a pair of small hand-prints is found on the bumper. Corey has brought talcum powder to spread on the bumper and sure enough when they try for themselves there are hand-prints on the bumper. Rachael and Joe don’t believe it for a second and insist it must be a set-up. Joe demands they drive them back to town but when Corey tries to drive them back home his engine goes dead leaving them stuck miles from town and of course they find out they have no signals on their phones

Back in town Police Chief Kirkhoven (Bruce Davison) is concerned about the escape of a notorious cannibal serial killer who killed several local children before he was caught. He was the local priest and no-one suspected him before his crimes were revealed. Kirkhoven is determined to catch the killer and with Deputy Hendricks (Randall Batinkoff) they investigate the places he lived and worked in case he makes his way back there. He also has to worry about the four college kids whose parents have reported them missing.

The college kids in the car get creeped-out by sounds from outside the car that they can’t identify but sounds like some sort of animal. There’s some banging on the car and they try to stay quiet and wait for whatever it is to go away. Once whatever it is goes away Joe is wanting to walk up the road to get a phone signal but Corey says he will go instead. This the start of the process of isolating the victims so that they can be picked-off one by one and we learn who the main protagonist is going to be and in this film it’s Joe.

The film does manage to create a creepy atmosphere at times during the scenes in the car but there’s a lot of camcorder footage and scenes shot in the dark which gave me eye-strain trying to make out what was happening. The story does not appear to be very original but that is hard to judge since we only get half a story. That is the main problem with this film: it finishes without ending. We don’t learn who has lived or died and don’t see the story resolved, just a promise that it will be finished in the sequel. It is infuriating when it happens in a TV show but  seeing it in a film made my jaw drop at the ‘To be continued’ message. There was of course no warning about this on the DVD box. As a result I’m going to give film a half score.

Rating 3.0/10

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Posted by on August 27, 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: 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: Sinister

October Horror Month

I know most of the films I’ll be reviewing this month are not very recent but this film was just released In UK on October 5 so I traipsed along to local multiplex and had a look.

The film starts with an 8mm film of four members of a family with bags on their heads and nooses around their necks. They are raised into the air and slowly die struggling for their lives. With no introductory music the film cuts straight into the story. True crime writer Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke) moves his family to a new house where can investigate the brutal of a local family. As they move their stuff into their new house they get a visit from the town Sherriff (Fred Dalton Thompson) and his Deputy (James Ransone). The Sherriff has read Oswalt’s book and while he think his big hit Kentucky Blood was excellent he’s less impressed with his follow-up books. The Sherriff doesn’t want the media circus in his town that seems to follow publication of one of Oswalt’s books. He also thinks moving into the house of murder victims is very poor taste.

Oswalt’s wife Tracy (Juliet Rylance) is generally supportive of his work but it disturbs her and she doesn’t want know anything about the subject of his book, she just want his assurance that they haven’t moved in a few doors from a murder scene and like a politician he assures her that they haven’t and doesn’t tell her that they are living in the murder house itself. They have a teenage son Trevor and a young daughter Ashley who are not happy with moving. Oswalt gets his office set-up and it’s like the HQ of a police murder investigation. Once the family have moved everything in there’s a box of stuff that has to go in the attic (typical, just moved in and they already have junk they don’t need). The attic is empty except for a box and a scorpion. Oswalt drops the box he’s carrying onto the scorpion crushing it. He looks inside the mysterious box and finds an 8mm film projector and several cans of film.

Back in his office he watches the first film and it starts showing the family playing in the garden before it gets to the killings that we saw at the start of the film. This film’s existence raises many questions and Oswalt notes them down and pins them to his evidence boards. The family were all found dead except for the youngest daughter who is still missing. The other films show other families being murdered in different places and different times, the earliest being in the 60s. In one film which features a family being drowned in their swimming pool Oswalt spots a sinister demonic figure. He transfers the films onto a digital video after being reminded of the fragility of film. He discovers the sinister figure is in all the films somewhere in the background and there is a strange pagan symbol painted somewhere on the scene.

Next night Oswalt is awakened when he hears a noise from a box in the kitchen and finds Trevor in the box and he starts screaming when Oswalt goes to him. Trevor suffers from both sleepwalking and night terrors and there is a suggestion in Tracy’s tone that his terrors might come from seeing Oswalt’s work on earlier books hence her insistence on the strict rules that no-one goes in Oswalt’s office and he keeps the door locked

Oswalt is awakened by things going bump in the night but the noise turns out to a small snake in the attic. Oswalt stumbles and falls through a weak board right through the ceiling below. A couple of paramedics come patch him up and he’s happy. He also meets the Deputy who wants an autograph. The Deputy is a fan of his work and wants to help him any way he can with his book and he helps Oswalt get back background information on the other murders and make the connection that the youngest child went missing each time. The Deputy is pretty smart and Oswalt lets him into his office to see his boards. When Oswalt brings up ritualistic elements and the symbol The Deputy gives him the number of a Professor Jonas (Vincent D’Onofrio).

Jonas eventually gets back to him and tells him the symbol is of the pagan god Bagul also known as the child eater. Each murdered family had one member of the family missing, the youngest child. Jonas mentions that people used to believe that the spirit of Bagul lived in the images of him and he could cross into the real world through them so the Christian church had most of the images of him destroyed.

Oswalt is a writer who is now living in shadow of his most successful work but he doesn’t have the same pure desire for justice that motivated him to write that book. Now he is after fame and success and has found inspiration can’t just be switched on to order. He finally realises the danger he’s put his family in but can he really run from Bagul?

This quite a nice tense supernatural horror film which does borrow ideas from other films but I liked the way it was all put together. There have been several recent supernatural horror films that fall apart at the ending but I thought that this one had good ending that was well set up before the payoff twist at the end. There was only one downside to me and that was use of scary things the audience sees but the characters don’t. I know it’s an old technique that is used to build up tension but it wasn’t done very well here and I was almost giggling at one of these scenes. I reckon this film is worth a watch

Rating 7.0/10

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Posted by on October 6, 2012 in Entertainment, Film


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Review: Soul Survivors

The DVD cover has that group shot that hint heavily that is one those films that appeared in the wake of Scream starring actors from popular TV series all posed in a tight group looking straight out at the camera.Their prominence in the photograph reflects their fame more than it does their prominence in the film since Melissa Sagemillar, who plays lead character, is squeezed in at the back. This doesn’t really fill me with confidence and while I expected it to be just typical college horror film copying Scream it turned out I was wrong. This more of a supernatural mystery film but it still isn’t very original or scary.

Two young couples are out drinking Cassie (Melissa Sagemiller) and Sean (Casey Affleck) with Matt (Wes Bentley) and Annabel (Eliza Dushku). Matt and Annabel suggest they go to a rave in a remote abandoned church where they dance and Cassie has to fight off the advances of strange masked man. She goes to find Sean and they go outside, not noticing Matt who hides himself behind the car and he listens in on their conversation like a creepy villain. Sean tells Cassie he loves her but there is an awkward moment when she does not say it back. Matt and Cassie used to be in relationship and Sean wonders if Cassie still has feelings for him. That’s when Matt makes his presence known, pretending to be drunk. Sean goes back into the rave to fetch Annabel so they can leave. Once Sean is gone Matt reveals he is not drunk and he wants Cassie to kiss him, just a goodbye kiss, honest, nothing else to it at all. By the time Cassie agrees Sean has returned with Annabel and he sees the kiss. This soapy melodrama is starting to get annoying

They drive off with an awkward mood in the car. Sean doesn’t want to talk but Cassie is protesting her innocence. They don’t notice another car full of people from the rave passing them. In fact a short while later they turn a corner and the other car is across the road in front of them and they smash headfirst into it. Afterwards it turns out Sean has been killed and the others survived but Cassie keeps getting the impression that she can see him and that he’s trying to communicate with her. She also keeps seeing creepy people from the rave chasing after her. As time passes the visions get scarier, she no longer trusts her friends and she turns to a priest Father Jude (Luke Wilson) at the local church for help.

This is not really a horror film at all but the film’s script does deliberately mislead you into thinking it’s going that way. The film is full of scary characters and suspicious behaviour seen through the eyes of a character with an increasingly unreliable point of view but it didn’t really work for me. Perhaps I‘ve seen this type of story too often before on film and TV but I saw what they were trying to do so for me it was more case of seeing how they were trying to do it and I was not surprised by the big reveal towards the end.

Rating 6/10

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Posted by on August 4, 2012 in Entertainment, Film


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Review: Absentia

I really like finding a film that I have never heard of before that manages to creep me out, especially when it does it with such a small budget.

Tricia (Courtney Bell) is a pregnant woman living on her own since her husband Danny (Morgan Peter Brown) went missing seven years before and she is going through the bureaucracy of having him legally declared dead so she can get on with her life. She has invited her younger sister Callie (Katie Parker) to stay with her, possibly because she needs some company at this time, but also because Callie is a recovering drug addict and she needs somewhere to stay. Det. Ryan Mallory (Dave Levine) is the police detective assigned to Danny’s case and he is helping Tricia with filling out the final documentation to have Danny declared legally dead in absentia. Emotionally this is very tough on Tricia and she starts seeing scary images of Danny all over the place and in her nightmares but her psychiatrist assures her that this is a reaction to the highly charged emotions she is going through.

Callie goes jogging every morning and her route takes her through scary graffiti-covered tunnel very close to Tricia’s apartment. When she returns one morning she finds a frail injured man (Doug Jones) lying in the tunnel barely conscious and she assumes he is a homeless junkie. He wakes as she tries to creep past and he seems surprised that Carrie can see him and begs her for help and tries to offer her a handful of shiny baubles and jewels. Carrie assumes he just wants money and promises to bring him out some food. She returns to a few minutes later with food in a Tupperware box but the man is gone so she leaves the box at the mouth of the tunnel.

Next morning after her jog (avoiding the tunnel this time) she finds a bunch of shiny things on the doorstep of the apartment building. She takes them to the tunnel and lays them down at the entrance but is warned to not do that by a strange nervous young man who is there to leave mysteriously animated bag at the entrance. Carrie starts investigating and discovers there have been many disappearances in this area and the threat is much stranger and older than anyone suspects.

This film really did creep me out and it did that with only hints at what is going on. The sound is very important in creating the sense of dread but the direction and acting really does draw me into the story and my imagination did the rest. There is a really emotional portrayal of what it is like to have loved ones disappear and especially how not knowing what really happened to them stops people from being able to move on. I recommend giving this film a look.

Rating 8/10

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Posted by on July 26, 2012 in Entertainment, Film


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Review: Dream House

When I saw the trailer for this film I thought it looked interesting but when I heard the negative reviews I was a little cautious but at least it had a great cast so how could it go too badly wrong?  I can’t go too far into this film without revealing spoilers and even if those spoilers are in the trailer I should really try to avoid revealing too much.

Will Atenton (Daniel Craig) leaves his job as an editor of a magazine to spend more time with his wife Libby (Rachel Weisz) and two young daughters in their new house in the suburbs where he wants to begin work on writing a book. Will becomes aware of strange things happening around the house and he thinks someone is watching the house.  It turns out that the house has a tragic history – the previous owner Peter Ward went mad and killed his family, or so everyone believes. Will uncovers the shocking truth with the help of his neighbour Ann Patterson (Naomi Watts).

Even though I knew the main twist in the story from the trailer I was sure that the film had a few more surprises in store and even though it does they are fairly dull compared to main twist. I though t it did a good job of building up as a fairly typical psychological thriller for most of the film but the climax of the film is just a letdown for me. There was no doubting the quality of the acting from the leads and the supporting cast. The problem for me is that the story just doesn’t maintain the promise of the first half. I don’t if I would have preferred to have experienced the film in total ignorance of the story since I can’t communicate with that version of reality but even if I had I’m sure the ending would still have had the same affect. It isn’t a horrible film but it’s nothing to get excited about either.

Rating 5/10


Posted by on April 24, 2012 in Entertainment, Film


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