Sunday, 23 September 2018
Curious second feature from the director of Children of the Lake. Ball (Hazell to viewers of a certain age) plays stage magician Merlin who may be the real thing. For the first hour this is a local politics drama about plans for a new estate involving a corrupt councillor, a dodgy builder and a juvenile delinquent trying to save his gran’s house – all of whom want Merlin’s magical help. The titular enchantress is Merlin’s stepson’s girlfriend Vivianne (Llewlleyn: Mina Harker in Penny Dreadful) who returns from India, announcing that her boyfriend Davie died in a bus crash. In the final act this takes a turn into Monkey’s Paw territory with Viviane persuading Merlin to bring back Davie, plus assorted deaths and two characters turned into gerbils! Technically fine with a decent cast of TV actors, the film’s main problem is that it just takes too long to become interesting. Shot in 2010 as The Death of Merlin, this premiered in Houston in April 2013.
Sunday, 16 September 2018
d./w./p. Ian Lewis; cast: Abigail McKern, Eleanor Howell, Ben Cartwright, Charlotte Ammerlaan, Anita Elias, Kevin Analuwa, Yvonne Riley
Intriguing and original ghost story bolstered by some strong acting which more than makes up for a few cut-price visual effects. Joanne and Nick are small-time crooks running a fake psychic/burglary racket who need to hide somewhere when a victim’s son rumbles them. Abandoning their car, they find an isolated house beside a lake. This is home to young, confident Naiad and Queenie, who is convinced that Joanne is her long-lost daughter. The complex story involves a portal to another realm, with Joanne an intrinsic part of the tale and Nick the sceptical mortal caught up in it all. Two ghostly children pop up occasionally. The gradual build-up of spookiness is well-handled in Lewis’ script and direction, with all three leads taking the material seriously. Rumpole offspring McKern is particularly good as the enigmatic Queenie. Lewis’ only other feature was the equally obscure Enchantress. Originally released on the now defunct Indiereign website in June 2008, this has been unavailable for some years and deserves another chance.
Sunday, 9 September 2018
d./w. Tony Newton, Sam Mason Bell; p. Tony Newton, Sam Mason Bell; cast: Martin W Payne, Cindy Valentine, Simon Berry, Chris Mills, Rebecca Rolph, Sam Mason-Bell
A very, very, very strange film, Toxic Schlock promises zombies but they only appear (pretty much out of nowhere) in the last 20 minutes. Three eco-terrorists hole up in an isolated beach-front guest-house owned by an unconvincing transvestite and a squeaky-voiced child-woman (with a Scooby-Doo gimp chained up downstairs). The Seaside Strangler – a naked, clown-faced serial killer – is at large. Too much time is spent on long, talkie scenes that play like comedy sketches without actually being funny. Every so often a new character enters and announces their identity like a bad stage thriller. Eventually the zombies appear and the child-woman turns, without explanation, into a cross between Harley Quinn and The Bride, leading to a largely wordless, stylish, chambara-influenced last five minutes – vastly different to (and better than) anything that has gone before. Distributed by Troma, with Uncle Lloyd and former Michael J Murphy associate Phil Lyndon providing radio announcer voices. Filmed in Clacton and Southsea in 2017.
- Available to watch on TromaNow
Friday, 31 August 2018
d./w. Scott Jeffrey; p. Scott Jeffrey, Rebecca J Matthews; cast: Becca Hirani, Thomas Mailand, Tiffany-Ellen Robinson, Mika Hockman, Cassandra French, Patsy Prince, Lucy Chappell
Passable slasher from Proportion Productions with an original, if unconvincing, plot held up by a brace of strong performances. Aesha (Hirani, aka producer Matthews, formerly Becky Fletcher) is sent by her mum to stay in an isolated B&B run by cheery Dan. He goes out for the night, leaving Aesha in charge of an unseen poorly daughter. Later, a nun comes knocking at the door but Aesha is sensibly reluctant to let a stranger into a house that’s not hers. The nun’s identity is screamingly obvious from the start (well, not the very start – there’s a 12-minute splash panel prologue) and since she evidently has access to the house, it’s unclear why she spends so long asking to be let in. Nevertheless, these scenes of Aesha talking through the front door are the tense, uncomfortable heart of the film. The distinctly wobbly story (and some frustrating continuity errors) are ameliorated by good photography and sound and Lee Olivier-Hall’s tense score. Originally announced as Knock Knock, it was filmed in March 2018 as The Watcher.
Wednesday, 29 August 2018
d./w. Christian Edwards; p. Tom Richards; cast: Mark Grinham, Julie Gilmour, Steve Garry, Lauren Pressdee, Victoria Hopkins, Nick Stoppani, Les Richards, Marysia Kay, Christian Edwards, Amelia Tyler, Penny Bond, Jason Impey, Alexander Bakshaev
Shot in June 2008 with a bundle of recognisable names and faces, Edwards’ only film nevertheless managed to remain in complete obscurity for a decade before coming to accidental light. Hopkins is half of an Anglo-Aussie couple whose relationship is in trouble. Her philandering hubby is preyed on by a vampire whore and her human pimp but escapes, though not without taking a bite and suffering the effects. The film’s biggest problem is that it’s never clear which is the main story: the breaking-up couple or the tragic vampire (Gilmour) who has some good dialogue on the loneliness of immortality. Kay is a nurse tending to the guy’s ill father; Impey and Bakshaev have cameos as earlier victims. Music by Preteneratural helmer Gav Chuckie Steel. Shot in black and white and (bizarrely) what appears to be Academy ratio, this was released on YouTube in July 2011 as a seven-episode serial.
Sunday, 26 August 2018
d./w./p. Simon Black; cast: Mark Blackwell, Martin Daniels, Vera Bremerton, Tasha Wilton, Simon Boswell, Johnny No, Sophia Disgrace, Thomas Williamson, Suzy Wong, Katerina Samoilis
Not listed on IMDB, barely even findable on Google, never reviewed anywhere and only released in a limited run of 100 DVDs sold through eBay, this 54-minute sub-feature – the bastard stepchild of Jean Rollin and Cradle of Filth – is arguably the most obscure British vampire film ever released. A Lugosi-esque black magician (Daniels, also credited with the original idea) orders two female acolytes (singer Bremerton and performer Wilton) – who we only know are vampires because we’ve read the sleeve – to seduce, kidnap and abuse a priest (Blackwell). That’s about it as far as plot goes, with director Black (A Girl) more interested in imagery and sound. Artsy and gothic, this manages to be both impressionist and expressionist and would probably function better as a video installation in a gallery or nightclub rather than as a narrative feature. Composer Boswell (Lord of Illusions, Dust Devil) plays a Monseigneur in occasional cutaways, with model/performer Disgrace (Spidarlings) as his cleaning lady. The discordant soundtrack features cuts from Noise Collector, Salapakappa Sound System, Serpentina, Silencide and others.
Saturday, 25 August 2018
d./w./p. Jason Impey, Kieran Johnstone; cast: Jason Impey, Kieran Johnstone, Martin W Payne, Mathis Vogel, Amber Lee, Sammie Lei, Murdo Yule, Max Todd, Katie Johnson , Kaz B
Shared flatpack anthology with each director helping the other in various capacities on both sides of the camera. Kieran’s segments are Underworld: The Dark Web (mockdoc of policeman investigating body parts smuggling), Disorder (newly pregnant policeman’s wife raped and murdered by man in gimp costume), Boxing Day (Yuletide found footage), Nightman (gasmask-wearing killer murders policemen, with Slasher House director MJ Dixon as an additional victim) and two brief vignettes. Jason contributes Two Tales of Terror (brace of faux silent movies, incorporating footage from Sick Bastard), Lust (woman fucks skeleton then gives herself home abortion in the bath), Inner Voice (bulimia) and Gimp. This last, in which Impey plays himself (he says he’s working on Troubled), has an undead gimp take revenge on a sleazy film distributor who has dressed as a Nazi officer to entrap a dominatrix(!). Repeated use of actors and locations (mostly the director’s homes) give this an almost Twilight Zone weirdness. First released on limited VHS in September 2017 (minus Inner Voice) as Necrophiliac and the Killer Gimps, it popped up - retitled and expanded - on DVD the following March.