Thursday, 22 March 2018


d./w. Kate Shenton; p. Kate Shenton, Sidney Malik; cast: Nic Lamont, Adam Rhys-Davies, David Wayman, Simeon Willis, Laurence R Harvey, Dan Palmer, Loren O’Brien

A whip-smart script, a rock-steady lead performance, a solid supporting cast of genre vets and a jet-black streak of righteous cynicism make this a must-see for fans (and makers) of indie horror. Director Catherine wants to follow her documentary debut with a zombie horror romantic comedy but must negotiate a bullshitting producer, inappropriate actors and a sleazy executive who looks like Harvey Weinstein (though this July 2015 production predates his fall from grace). Fantasy sequences see Catherine converse with her zombie lead character while she struggles with demands to write a talking dog into her script. Eventually she snaps; an effective bloody finale slightly undone by an unnecessary splash panel prologue. Unlike Le Fear and its sequel, this accurately depicts how independent film-making really works (or doesn’t). Premiering at Frightfest 2016, Egomaniac was championed by Lawrie Brewster (Lord of Tears) who released it on YouTube as the debut title in his ‘Hex Presents’ series. Before that, it was apparently available on Amazon as Hollywood Patriarchy v My Movie!

Sunday, 18 March 2018

The Watcher Self

d./w./p. Matt Cruse; cast: Karen French, Julian Shaw, Sylvia Seymour, Lucy Charles, Tony Stansfield, Helen Barford

Cruse’s debut feature is the cinematic equivalent of the Sahara Desert: impressive, even magnificent, but also bleak, featureless and thoroughly impenetrable. French gives an astounding performance as Cora, a woman who goes about her daily life even as her mind falls apart. Think of Cronenberg-ian body horror, but in a mental health sense. She goes to her office job, cleans the house, phones her brother, visits her mother and occasionally picks up one-night stands, one of whom becomes a regular lover though she knows nothing about him. Right at the start we get a glimpse of the aftermath of something violent, then spend the next 94 minutes piecing together what might have happened. Which is difficult because clearly some of this is in Cora’s mind (and other things may possibly be shown in non-chronological order). Despite its seemingly pedestrian narrative, there is undeniable tension throughout, helped by French’s taciturn performance and Lewis Clark’s astute sound design. Some people will love this, others will hate it, but almost no-one will fully understand it. Available to view on demand via the website.

Friday, 9 March 2018

Dark Beacon

d. Corrie Greenop; w. Lee Apsey, Corrie Greenop; p. Lee Apsey, Corrie Greenop, Tansi Inayat; cast: April Pearson, Lynne Anne Rodgers, Kendra Mei, Toby Osmond, Jon Campling, Jimmy Allen

Greenop’s second feature has much in common with his debut Wandering Rose (aka Demon Baby): limited cast, stunning locations, a studied avoidance of cliché, and an undeniable air of tension that builds throughout towards an explosive climax. Single mother Beth is raising her mute daughter Maya (a staggeringly mature performance by Mei) in an isolated lighthouse. Her former colleague and lover Amy tracks them down, seeking answers to Beth’s sudden disappearance. There’s a shadowy figure out on the rocks: is it Beth’s not-so-late husband, or his ghost, or some other threat, or something innocent? The script and direction are both subtle without being understated, gradually revealing the character’s relationships and back-stories. Cinematographer Haider Zafar gets full mileage out of the Jersey location, abetted by some gorgeous drone shots. Fan favourite Campling, usually surrounded by vampires or zombies, has a rare chance to demonstrate his naturalistic acting in a fine cameo as a doctor.

Friday, 2 March 2018

Grindhouse Nightmares

d./w./p. Richard Driscoll; cast: Linnea Quigley, Michael Madsen, Steve Munroe, Lorna Bliss, Danny Lopez, Vass Anderson, Robin Askwith, Rebecca Linley, Brigitte Nielsen

It’s that man again, with 74 minutes of non-stop WTF. In 2011, Richard Driscoll had the idea of ripping off the Tarantino/Rodriguez Grindhouse double bill with Grindhouse 2wo and swiftly shot footage for two stories: Manhunt and Stripper with a Shotgun, announcing a February 2012 release date. Six years later, after a spell in prison followed by failed attempts to crowdfund his long-gestating Blade Runner rip-off and his own take on Suicide Squad, Driscoll dug out the footage and released it. Manhunt is a Saw rip-off with Munroe chained to a wall and Anderson as the voice of his captor. Incoherent flashbacks are footage of young Munroe in Driscoll’s incoherent 1985 film The Comic. Stripper…, which stars Britney Spears impersonator Bliss as a stripper in a nun's habit, is built around unused footage from Eldorado including the excised Brigitte Nielsen scene which would have preceded her version of ‘Respect’. Inbetween are fake trailers and commercials including footage from Eldorado, Kannibal and the unreleased, variously titled Evil Calls sequel, plus some cartoons and some puppets. The whole thing is hosted by a wild-eyed Quigley, looking like a 150-year-old meth addict and obviously reading from cue cards (Linnea Quigley’s Grindhouse Nightmares was an unused alternative title). Rik Mayall, Buster Bloodvessel and Bill Moseley are credited for non-speaking stock footage appearances but curiously ‘Steven Craine’ is nowhere to be seen.

The new Richard Driscoll film is here!

...and I finally found a copy of his forgotten war film on VHS on Ebay!

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Industrial Animals

d. Sam Mason Bell; w./p. Sam Mason Bell, Tamsin Howland; cast: Sam Mason Bell, Tamsin Howland, Thomas J Davenport

Distributed by Troma but a long way from Tromaville, this disturbing, transgressive hour-long feature stands thematic comparison with Fluid Boy or The Hell Experiment. Director Ellis and cameraman Owens hire a prostitute for three days, interviewing her and filming Ellis partaking of her services, all for a putative documentary. She says they can do anything with her and go as far as they want, but how far is far enough, or too far? The film explores notions of abuse, power, vulnerability, dominance, submission, (mis)trust and misogyny, with both Bell and Howland going beyond the call of duty as actors. Ten minutes from the end, it takes an unexpected new direction which is at one and the same time more horrific and also more comforting – because it’s weirdly less transgressive. Mostly found footage, seen through Owens’ DSLR, although that is abandoned towards the end without detriment. Some of the less clear dialogue is subtitled, albeit with numerous typos. Entirely made by the three actors except for the score and impressive sound design.

Monday, 12 February 2018

The Holly Kane Experiment

d. Tom Sands; w. Mick Sands; p. Tom Sands, Phil Harris; cast: Kirsty Averton, Nicky Henson, James Rose, Lindsey Campbell, Carl Gower, Simon Hepworth

An unengaging and unsatisfying film with an unclear plot and unsympathetic characters, this mind control conspiracy thriller from the writing/directing team of Sands pere et fils is at least considerably better than the dire Nazi Vengeance. Holly Kane is a hypnotherapist whose research into… something involves a flotation tank and a cocktail of unspecified hallucinogens provided by a friend. Her work is unexpectedly bankrolled by a smooth but creepy old guy who covertly works for the Government and overtly wants to get into her pants (in scenes that are uncomfortably rapey). None of the unlikeable characters have a clear goal; we don’t know what they’re trying to do so don’t care whether they achieve it. The hokey scifi dialogue includes talk of ‘clinical trials’ but the film-makers don’t seem to know what that means. Shot in October 2015 in London and Brighton, with scenes in the Royal Pavilion and on a cross-Channel ferry.