reviews / retro / rankings

REVIEW: Hail to the Deadites (2020) – Fantasia International Film Festival and FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition

dir. Steve Villeneuve. The story of how Sam Raimi – barely out of his teens – made Evil Dead (1981) a grindhouse classic is the stuff of legend. With Evil Dead 2 (1987) and Army of Darkness (1992) also garnering respective cult followings a documentary about the fandom surrounding such a revered franchise had theContinue reading “REVIEW: Hail to the Deadites (2020) – Fantasia International Film Festival and FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition”

REVIEW: AV The Hunt (2020) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition

dir. Emre Akay. In our hellish political landscape it is often remarked upon how Hulu’s adaption of The Handmaid’s Tale (2017-) is less dystopia, more current affairs. Perhaps not surprising, as Atwood herself confirmed that her novel was based on historical real-life events such as the Salem witch trials. So too here director Akay takesContinue reading “REVIEW: AV The Hunt (2020) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition”

REVIEW: Dark Stories (2019) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition

dir. François Descraques & Guillaume Lubrano. Taken hostage by a homicidal doll, Christine (Kristanna Loken) tries to bide her time by telling scary stories. As a set up for a horror anthology it’s a cracker, the framing device as freaky as the five tales within, whilst directors Descraques and Lubrano ensure a good spread ofContinue reading “REVIEW: Dark Stories (2019) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition”

REVIEW: Two Heads Creek (2019) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition

dir. Jesse O’Brien. Opening in a British council estate, the signs of ugly nationalism are immediately evident. From St George flags to flyers exhorting “Immigrants Go Home” it’s an amped up tableaux emblematic of the toxicity that continues to blight our national discourse. In the middle of this maelstrom of hate is Norman (Jordan Waller),Continue reading “REVIEW: Two Heads Creek (2019) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition”

REVIEW: The Swerve (2018) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition

dir. Dean Kapsalis. Holly (Azura Skye) is alone. Not physically you understand, since she shares a home with her selfish husband and their mono-syllabic children, but in all the ways that matter. Seen only in terms of social capital by those around her (a wife to share a bed; a mother to make the meals)Continue reading “REVIEW: The Swerve (2018) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition”

REVIEW: Blinders (2020) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition

dir. Tyler Savage. There’s a scene around the half-way mark of Blinders where a murder is committed. It’s a typical street, a killer’s inside the house, and when he strikes his victim screams. Cut to outside, and a passerby walks her dog, distracted by her phone. This idea of distraction – particularly by technology andContinue reading “REVIEW: Blinders (2020) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition”

REVIEW: Aquaslash (2019) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition

dir. Renaud Gauthier. Aquaslash is a film built around a singular image: a water slide with blades built in that shred the riders like some fancy kitchen gadget dicing root vegetables. So focused is director Renaud Gauthier on this – admittedly – compelling concept that the rest of the film only functions as a preludeContinue reading “REVIEW: Aquaslash (2019) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition”

REVIEW: A Ghost Waits (2020) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition

dir. Adam Stovall. Romantic love is, perhaps, one of the hardest thing to capture on screen, too often reduced to airbrushed swoon, comedic fumbling or saccharine cheese. But real connection – the meeting of two hearts and minds – is rare. So when it happens, it’s magic. Writer / director Adam Stovall has captured justContinue reading “REVIEW: A Ghost Waits (2020) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition”

REVIEW: Skull – The Mask (2020) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition

dir. Armando Fonesca & Kapel Furman. When a mask belonging pre-Colombian civilisation is unearthed, it quickly falls into the hands of a shadowy cabal who appear to have designs on harnessing its power. The mask however has other ideas and, after being roused to life by black magic, attaches itself to the nearest unfortunate toContinue reading “REVIEW: Skull – The Mask (2020) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition”

REVIEW: Dark Place (2019) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition

dir. Kodie Bedford, Liam Phillips, Robert Braslin, Perun Bonser & Bjorn Stewart. Anthology films tend to hit and miss, but this collection – focusing on the post-colonial experiences of Aboriginal Australians – is all killer, no filler. Unified under a single thematic banner the stories branch off into numerous sub-genres, from revenger to supernatural andContinue reading “REVIEW: Dark Place (2019) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition”

REVIEW: They’re Outside (2020) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition

dir. Sam Casserly & Airell Anthony Hayles. YouTube psychologist Max Spencer (Tom Wheatley) specialises in “fixing” broken people. Though derided by professionals in his field, this does little to dissuade his self-confidence as he promotes his invasive brand of pop miracle cures in search of an ever greater number of clicks. The most recent vulnerableContinue reading “REVIEW: They’re Outside (2020) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition”

REVIEW: The Horror Crowd (2020) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition

dir. Ruben Pla. In many ways The Horror Crowd is the perfect festival film: not because it’s flawless or breaks new ground but because it so accurately captures the camaraderie of the horror community it’s guaranteed to invoke a glow of affection in any genre fan, particularly at a time when many will be seeingContinue reading “REVIEW: The Horror Crowd (2020) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition”

REVIEW: The Honeymoon Phase (2019) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition

dir. Phillip G. Carroll Jr. Deep in the woods there’s an experiment going on. Tom (Jim Shubin) and Eve (Chloe Carroll), isolated in a high-tech cabin filled with surveillance equipment, are participating in a scientific investigation of what makes couples feel that giddy elation of when they first fell in love. For 30 days theyContinue reading “REVIEW: The Honeymoon Phase (2019) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition”

REVIEW: The Columnist (2019) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition

dir. Ivo van Aart. Anyone who spends any amount of time on social media is familiar with trolling. The perceived anonymity the internet brings, the sense of removal between one’s words and their consequences and the frequent, casual hatred of other people are all too familiar, and despite real-world suicides, ongoing. The appalling insight intoContinue reading “REVIEW: The Columnist (2019) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition”

REVIEW: Triggered (2020) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition

dir. Alastair Orr. A group of nine ex-high-schoolers reunite for a camping trip in the woods: but after waking up strapped to suicide vests – with varying amounts of time on their countdown clocks – they realise they can either work together to find out why… or steal more time from another player by killingContinue reading “REVIEW: Triggered (2020) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition”

REVIEW: I Am Lisa (2020) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition

dir. Patrick Rea. In small town America, Lisa (Kristen Vaganos) returns home to run the family bookstore after her grandma passes away. However when she resists the sexual advances of local bully – and Sheriff’s daughter – Jessica (Carmen Anello), she is tortured, raped and dumped in the woods to be eaten by wolves. AsContinue reading “REVIEW: I Am Lisa (2020) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition”

REVIEW: There’s No Such Thing As Vampires (2020) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition

dir. Logan Thomas. In a darkened cinema, Joshua (Josh Plasse) crashes into a late night screening of Nosferatu (1922). Half-naked, splashed in blood and pursued by some barely seen presence, he hysterically claws his way onto stage to warn the baying crowds, but they only laugh and jeer at him. If this moment recalls bothContinue reading “REVIEW: There’s No Such Thing As Vampires (2020) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition”

REVIEW: Sky Sharks (2020) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition

dir. Marc Fehse. There’s a moment in Sky Sharks where a character is reading Time magazine, the cover featuring Donald Trump’s face and the publication title changed to read “Mine”. Moments later the plane on which she’s travelling is attacked by undead flying Nazis who pilot airborne super-sharks in a daring mid-air assault. It’s notContinue reading “REVIEW: Sky Sharks (2020) – FrightFest 2020 Digital Edition”

REVIEW: Blood Quantum (2019)

dir. Jeff Barnaby. Zombie films have always been tooled up for social commentary, particularly post-colonialism. The word “zombi” in fact first entered Western lexicon via Victorian anthropologists such as William B. Seabrook and Lafcadio Hearn, who uncovered this folkloric myth through their work in Haitian communities who practised Voodoo (a syncretic religion of witchcraft andContinue reading “REVIEW: Blood Quantum (2019)”

RETRO: “Nobody trusts anybody now, and we’re all very tired”: Isolation, alienation and The Thing (1982)

When John Carpenter’s The Thing infiltrated cinemas in 1982, it did so quietly. Despite being located during an incredible run from the director that began with Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) and arguably wouldn’t end until In The Mouth of Madness (1994), it was a down-beat critical and commercial flop. And though it’s since beenContinue reading “RETRO: “Nobody trusts anybody now, and we’re all very tired”: Isolation, alienation and The Thing (1982)”

REVIEW: Butt Boy (2019)

dir. Tyler Cornack. The setup for Butt Boy reads like a bad joke: following his first prostrate exam, IT engineer Chip Gutchel (writer/director Cornack) becomes obsessed with inserting objects into his anus, progressing from soap to animals and ultimately small children. Overcome with remorse at how his voracious kink is hurting others, he tries toContinue reading “REVIEW: Butt Boy (2019)”

REVIEW: We Summon The Darkness (2019)

dir. Marc Meyers. In the late 80s, somewhere in rural Indiana, three young women cut across country en-route to a metal concert. Decked out in leathers, “Lord Lucifer” patches and inverted-crucifixes they’re every inch the Conservative-Evangelical nightmare, whilst headlines warn of a satanic cult that have claimed yet more victims. So when the friends meetContinue reading “REVIEW: We Summon The Darkness (2019)”

Shocktober 2018

Every October horror hounds the world over undertake the #31DaysOfHalloween challenge – also known as #Shocktober or even #Hooptober (in honour of genre godfather, the late Tobe Hooper). Now, full disclosure: I’m a dad of three, with a busy day job and freelancing commitments on top, so – like a college kid who promises “I’llContinue reading “Shocktober 2018”

Why I love The Guest

On 12th August 2015, seven days before my father died, I was sitting in my parent’s kitchen watching The Guest on Netflix. This might sound like a weird, even immoral choice: when your dad is literally on his deathbed, who boots up their laptop to catch the latest genre flick? But the reality was thatContinue reading “Why I love The Guest”

“I feel the conflict within you” Initial reactions to Solo: A Star Wars Story

*WARNING – that’s no moon: it’s a spoiler!* It’s gone 1am, and I should really be in bed. But you see, I’ve just got out of a screening of Solo: A Star Wars Story and – well – I had to put my feelings down into words. Not because I loved it (I didn’t). AndContinue reading “”I feel the conflict within you” Initial reactions to Solo: A Star Wars Story”

The (Final) Problem with Sherlock Season 4

Caution, mystery lovers. Spoilers lie within I used to really love BBC’s Sherlock. When it first aired back in 2010, Benedict Cumberbatch’s high functioning sociopath was a welcome slap to the face: here was Holmes for the Millennium – acerbic, misanthropic, brilliant. And with Martin Freeman as PTSD suffering army vet Watson, this was aContinue reading “The (Final) Problem with Sherlock Season 4”

My 2016: A Review of the Year in Film – Part 1

For many 2016 will be remembered as a bad year, with massive political upsets and a slew of high profile celebrity deaths (continuing, unbelievably, right to the last few days). In contrast, my personal cinematic journey through 2016 has been something rather celebratory: I got to meet film heroes of mine Michael Biehn, Mark Kermode andContinue reading “My 2016: A Review of the Year in Film – Part 1”

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas: the best presents for the geek in your life

No doubt about it: 2016 has been a shocker, and frankly we could all do with some Christmas cheer to end this year on a high. I know, I know: it’s still November (just). But with less that four weeks to go it’s time to sweep those Bah Humbugs to one side, pull on your favourite festive jumper, and get downContinue reading “It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas: the best presents for the geek in your life”

Blood baths and faith films: why The Passion and Saw have more in common than you think

2004 was a funny year for film, kick-starting (or at the very least re-vitalising) two cinematic trends that continue to this day. Firstly, it was the year of Mel Gibson’s self-financed film The Passion of the Christ. A gory retelling of the final hours of Jesus’ life, it demonstrated that there was life in the Biblical epicContinue reading “Blood baths and faith films: why The Passion and Saw have more in common than you think”

Why Ridley Scott doesn’t understand what made Alien great

Ridley Scott is a undoubtedly a master film maker. With such classics as Blade Runner, Gladiator and Thelma and Louise on his résumé, it’s impossible to argue otherwise. However whilst he is perhaps best known for re-inventing sci-fi with Alien (1979), I would argue he does not fully understand what makes that film great. Coming just twoContinue reading “Why Ridley Scott doesn’t understand what made Alien great”

Top 10 moments in The Walking Dead

Zombies have always been a thinking man’s monster. Whether it’s the social commentary of Romero’s Dead movies, or more recent offerings like  The Girl With All The Gifts, these shuffling ghouls are after your brain, in more ways than one. Riding high on the current wave of zombie culture is AMC’s The Walking Dead. Based on the comic books by RobertContinue reading “Top 10 moments in The Walking Dead”

Harry Potter and the Cash Cow

~Ex-Spoiler Patronus!~ What persuaded J.K. Rowling to re-open the Harry Potter universe? The skeptic in me would say the money. Everything was tied off neatly with Deathly Hallows and the whole saga adapted into a super successful 8-film franchise. And then lo: this year mini-book Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them gets it’s big screen release, the firstContinue reading “Harry Potter and the Cash Cow”

“Something attacked the city”: 9/11 and Cloverfield

Wes Craven famously said that horror films don’t create fear: they release it. Whilst this isn’t a view I wholly agree with, I do believe there is some truth to catharsis theory. To understand any culture, and what fears they are wrestling with, I reckon you look at their horror films and in particular their monsters. It’s no coincidence, forContinue reading ““Something attacked the city”: 9/11 and Cloverfield”

“The more you deny, the stronger I get”: Facing your fears with The Babadook

Spoilers ahoy! I’m not a big fan of supernatural horror movies. Although horror can be a great genre to explore ideas, I’m wary of anything which empowers fear in my life. Fear is, frankly, something I think we all need less of. And so for this reason I had avoided The Babadook until, that is, last week. A friendContinue reading ““The more you deny, the stronger I get”: Facing your fears with The Babadook”

“Revenge is in the creator’s hands”: the moral universe and The Revenant

  Spoilers this way lie Revenge, they say, is a dish best served cold. And this perhaps is none more true than in The Revenant, the new film from Alejandro González Iñárritu. Set in the icy wilderness of 1800s frontier America, the story follows Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio) and his struggle to survive after being mauled byContinue reading ““Revenge is in the creator’s hands”: the moral universe and The Revenant”

“You’re going the wrong way!” Thankfulness in Planes, Trains and Automobiles

A few years ago a friend of ours invited us to our first Thanksgiving meal, and I immediately fell in love with it. I mean, any culture which takes sweet potato, adds marshmallows and maple syrup, and then has the chutzpah to serve this up as part of the main course is on an epic flavourContinue reading ““You’re going the wrong way!” Thankfulness in Planes, Trains and Automobiles”

“I gotta help Charles finish his movie” – The healing power of cinema in Super 8

To some people there’s nothing more yawnsome than films about films: they find them smug, solipsistic and self-congratulatory. But the reality is that cinema evokes a very romantic response from a large number of people, and I for one love films which celebrate the art form whilst simultaneously telling a ripping yarn. There are a number of filmsContinue reading ““I gotta help Charles finish his movie” – The healing power of cinema in Super 8″

“The dream is collapsing” – Why Inside Out is Inception for kids

*SPOILER ALERT* Pixar are not shy of challenging their audiences. For a studio that makes family features, it’s notable that their films deal with bereavement (Up), fear of being replaced (Toy Story), fear of death (Toy Story 3), mid-life crises (The Incredibles), and the mass murder of a mother and her children (opening scene of Finding Nemo,Continue reading ““The dream is collapsing” – Why Inside Out is Inception for kids”

“If it bleeds, it leads” – Secular vampirism in Nightcrawler

*SPOILER WARNING* In recent years there’s been a big resurgence in classic horror mythologies. Take zombies, for instance, successfully resurrected from B-movie schlockery by The Walking Dead and Rec et al. Or the supernatural “Boo!” movies, like Insidious, Sinister or Paranormal (In)Activity. And then, of course, there are vampires. From tweenage Mormon-abstinence franchise Twilight, through to Dracula UntoldContinue reading ““If it bleeds, it leads” – Secular vampirism in Nightcrawler”

“Farewell and adieu to you, fair Spanish ladies. Farewell and adieu, you ladies of Spain”

Another film that was important to me growing up was Steven Spielberg’s “Jaws” (1975). It’s largely felt to be the first blockbuster ever made and – although 40 years old this summer – has yet to lose its power. Although the film is known for its constant suspense, shock surprises and the fear-of-swimming it gave so many people,Continue reading ““Farewell and adieu to you, fair Spanish ladies. Farewell and adieu, you ladies of Spain””

“Have you ever been mistaken for a man?” “No – have you?”

As I mentioned in my previous post, one of the key films from my adolescence was “Aliens” (1986). Playing out like a visceral nightmare on crack, that film remains a classic of action/horror/sci-fi cinema, and it fairly quickly made me a fan of the whole Alien universe. Back in the day this meant the Alien Trilogy (Continue reading ““Have you ever been mistaken for a man?” “No – have you?””

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