Sunday, 21 January 2018

Welcome to Essex

d./w. Ryan J Fleming; p. Philip Scott; cast: Catherine Delaloye, Greg Burridge, Muzzy Tahir, Sarah-Grace Neal, Sophie Jones, Michele Reynolds, Jonathan Walker, Robert Evans


England’s most reviled county, titular location of so many awful crime films, is finally redeemed with this impressive micro-budget zombie epic that has moments of genuine brilliance. After a sudden zombie apocalypse, a handful of survivors set off for the coast, gradually losing members along the way. The boilerplate plot is leavened by fine characterisation, especially Burridge as the squaddie leading the group; both script and actor make him a believable soldier rather than a gung-ho actor playing dress-up. Locations, characters and dialogue are all distinctively local without falling into parody, and local support is evident in terrific scenes featuring dozens of abandoned vehicles and hundreds of zombie extras. With some enjoyably gory deaths, numerous moments of both humour and pathos, and a cameo by Russell Brand (sadly not eaten by the undead). The actual film runs 100 minutes but sit through the 16-minute credits for funny out-takes and great jokes in the text crawl. Mostly shot in 2012/13, four years of pick-ups and post pushed the release back to 2018.

Friday, 19 January 2018

Blaze of Gory

d./p. various; w. David VG Davies; Cast: Juliette Strange, Nathan Head, Jade Wallis, Robert Chapman, Mark Ivan Benfield, Oliver Malam, Asleigh Gloyne, Simon Craig, Jenny Miller, Rami Hilmi, Susan Adriensen, Vikki Spit, Sandra Veronica Stanczyk, Victoria Broom, Emily Booth, Rudi Barrow

Unashamedly sleazy and sadistic anthology of sexual violence executive produced by Davies, based on stories written by Blaize-Alix Szanto when she was just 12/13. ‘Stories’ is stretching it as 10 tales crammed into 110 minutes, mostly based around extended scenes of bloody violence (with some good prosthetic effects), leaves little room for actual narrative. Recurring elements include knife rape, incest, VHS tapes and the Damocles Foundation, an organisation also in Davies’ Monitor. Originally planned as linked stories with a wrap-around tale, there are still vestigial connections between some segments. Shot between January 2013 and September 2015 by ten directors including Szanto herself, who was 20 when this was finally released. Individual segments played festivals as shorts. Strictly for connoisseurs of gore.

Details: 'The Beer Cellar' (Szanto): pub-owning couple hit problems because the wife is having an affair and the husband is screwing the kidnapped girls they keep downstairs. 'If You Were Here' (MJ Dixon): woman who was abused by her father hallucinates that he’s on a VHS tape and then attacking her. 'Sick Little Boy' (Simon P Edwards): schizophrenic young man is confused by feelings for his hot, abused stepmum. 'Young and Na├»ve' (Antoni McVay): young woman kidnapped by psycho stalker imagines her revenge. 'Abort' (Yana Kolesnyk): East European back street abortion leaves mother dead, baby alive; 12 years later it takes revenge. 'Snow' (Davies): fairy tale allegory as paranoid older women hires woodcutter to dismember stepdaughter. 'Masque of the Red Rape' (Robert Noel Gifford): nutter videos himself torturing young woman. 'Monster' (Andy Edwards): murderous young woman incarcerated in mental asylum kills staff and escapes. 'Precious' (Jason Wright): mother calls in team to exorcise possessed daughter. There is also a brief story among the credits directed by Chris Yardley.

Saturday, 30 December 2017

All the new British horror films released in 2017

This was the first year that the number of new British horror films passed 100. In fact there were 107 UK horror features in 2017, meaning an average of two a week. How many have you seen? How many have you heard of? (I've managed to catch 27 of these so far.)

As ever, I define a film as 'released in 2017' if this year saw the first chance for someone to watch the movie - whether in a cinema, on DVD, on demand or just posted on YouTube - without attending a special event. Some of these films played festivals or had other one-off screenings in 2016 or earlier years.)

Please let me know of anything I've missed, or any other corrections.
  • Abduct (d.Ilyas Kaduji)
  • Abduction (d.Mol Smith)
  • AntiHuman aka Post Human: An Event (d.Mark Robins, Luke Gietzen)
  • Apocalypse (d.Tony Jopia)
  • Apocalyptic Horror (d.Mike Tack)
  • Aux (d.John Adams)
  • B&B (d.Joe Ahearne)
  • Bacchanalia aka The Winedancers (d.Gary Meyer)
  • Baobhan Sith aka Bavanshee (d.David Hutchison)
  • Beneath Still Water (d.Philip Kempson)
  • Blaze of Gory (d.Various)
  • Blood Money (d.Luke White)
  • Blood on Satan’s Paw aka Scare Bear (d.Richard Mansfield)
  • Braxton Butcher aka Braxton aka The Butchering (d.Leo McGuigan)
  • Cabin 28 (d.Andrew Jones)
  • Cage (d.Warren Dudley)
  • Cain Hill (d.Gene Fallaize)
  • Carnivore: Werewolf of London aka Carnivore (d.Simon Wells)
  • The Chamber (d.Ben Parker)
  • Clown Panic (d.Warren Speed)
  • Coulrophobia aka All Clowns Must Die (d.Warren Speed)
  • The Creature Below aka The Dark Below (d.Stewart Sparke)
  • Crow (d.Wyndham Price)
  • Cruel Summer (d.Phillip Escott, Craig Newman)
  • Cute Little Buggers (d.Tony Jopia)
  • Darkness Wakes aka Charlotte Wakes (d.Simon Richardson)
  • A Dark Song (d.Liam Gavin)
  • Definition of Fear (d.James Simpson)
  • The Demonic Tapes (d.Richard Mansfield)
  • Distorted (d.Darren Wharton)
  • The Doll Master (d.Steven M Smith)
  • Don’t Hang Up (d.Damien Mace, Alexis Wajsbrot)
  • Don’t Knock Twice (d.Caradog James)
  • Double Date (d.Benjamin Barfoot)
  • Eat Locals aka Eat Local (d.Jason Flemyng)
  • Egomaniac aka An Egomaniac (d.Kate Shenton)
  • Ex from Hell (d.James Wilsher)
  • Fanged Up (d.Christian James)
  • Fight the Eternal Evil (d.Michael Munn)
  • Freehold aka 2Pigeons (d.Dominic Bridges)
  • The Gatehouse (d.Martin Gooch)
  • Ghost Ship aka Curse of the Phoenix (d.Robert Young)
  • Ghosts of Darkness aka Soulreaper aka House of Shadows (d.David Ryan Keith)
  • The Ghoul (d.Gareth Tunley)
  • Granny of the Dead aka OAZ: Nan from Hell aka Old Zombies (d.Craig T James)
  • Grindsploitation 3: Video Nasty (d.various)
  • Hallows Eve (d.Brad Watson)
  • Harvest of the Dead aka The Devil’s Harvest (d.Peter Goddard)
  • The Healer aka The White Room (d.James Erskine)
  • Hellriser (d.Steve Lawson)
  • Hex (d.George Popov)
  • Hitman in Hertford – The Musical (Zombies in Hertford Episode IV) (d. Michael Curtis)
  • The Holly Kane Experiment (d.Tom Sands)
  • Holy Terrors (d.Mark Goodall, Julian Butler) 
  • The House on Elm Lake (d.James Klass)
  • The House on the Witchpit (d.Pat Higgins)
  • The Howling (d.Steven M Smith)
  • I am Cursed (d.Shiraz Khan)
  • Ibiza Undead aka Zombie Spring Breakers (d.Andy Edwards)
  • Inside the Dark Room aka The Photographer 2: Inside the Dark Room (d. Will and Maria Lee Metheringham)
  • Jake Stagg (d.Paul TT Easter)
  • Knights of the Damned (d.Simon Wells)
  • The Left Hand Path (d.Michael Fenton Crenshaw)
  • The Limehouse Golem (d.Juan Carlos Medina)
  • Malady (d.Jack James)
  • The Marker (d.Justin Edgar)
  • Mother Krampus aka 12 Deaths of Christmas (d.James Klass)
  • Necrophiliac and the Killer Gimps (d.Jason Impey, Kieran Johnstone)
  • Necrophiliac: The Lustful Dead (d.Jason Impey, Wade Radford)
  • Night Kaleidoscope aka Land of Sunshine (d. Grant McPhee)
  • Once Upon a Time at Christmas (d.Paul Tanter)
  • Paranormal Farm (d.Carl Medland)
  • Prankz (d. Warren Dudley)
  • Prevenge (d.Alice Lowe)
  • Recovery (d.Heath Hetherington, Marcus Scott)
  • Redwood (d.Tom Paton)
  • Retribution aka Requiem (d.Christine Edwards)
  • The Ritual (d.David Bruckner)
  • The Rizen (d.Matt Mitchell, Taliesyn Mitchell)
  • A Room to Die For aka Rancour (d.Dev Shanmugam)
  • Scareycrows (d.Jamie Spear)
  • The Secret Kiss (d.Richard Mansfield)
  • Seizure (d.Jamie Cymbol, Ryan Simons)
  • The Shadow of Bigfoot (d.Philip Mearns)
  • Shadows of a Stranger (d.Chris Clark, Richard Dutton)
  • Slasher House 2 (d.MJ Dixon)
  • Slumber (d.Jonathan Hopkins)
  • The Small Woman in Grey (d. Andrew Sean Eltham-Byers)
  • The Snare (d.CA Cooper)
  • The Sons of Jihad Part 1 (d.Brown Brothers)
  • Spidarlings (d.Salem Kapsaski)
  • Strangers Within (d.Liam Hooper)
  • Synthetic Void (d.Paul TT Easter)
  • The Toymaker aka Robert and the Toymaker (d.Andrew Jones)
  • Transhuman (d.Nicholas Winter)
  • Trip with the Devil (d.Richard Mansfield)
  • UK18 (d.Andrew Tiernan)
  • Unhinged (d.Dan Allen)
  • Unholy aka The Unholy aka The Haunting of Eastwood Residence (d.Anthony M Winson)
  • The Unseen (d.Gary Sinyor)
  • Vampire Resurrection (d,Mark Morris)
  • Viking Siege aka Attack of the Tree Beasts (d.Jack Burton)
  • Werewolves of the Third Reich (d.Andrew Jones)
  • Whispers (d.Tammi Sutton)
  • Zombies Have Fallen aka Bad Blood (d.Sam Hampson)
  • 47 Metres Down aka In The Deep (d.Johannes Roberts)
  • 60 Seconds to Die (d.various)

Sunday, 24 December 2017

Braxton Butcher

d./w. Leo McGuigan; p. Leo McGuigan, Margaret McGoldrick; cast: Shaun Blaney, Jenna Byrne, Vicky Allen, Diona Doherty, Andrew Stanford, Ciaran McCourt, Joshua Colquhoun, Rachel Morton

This superior slasher starts out pretty generic, distinguished only by its Northern Ireland setting and accents, but perks up considerably in its third act. A bunch of teenagers who act like they’re in an American high school are knife-fodder for Tommy Miller, an off-the-peg psycho in a mask and parka. Ten years ago he slaughtered his schoolmates at a town hall dance, now he’s back. Or is it a copycat? The police procedural aspects are more enjoyable than the teen soap opera, though not helped by both detectives looking confusingly similar. A pair of nerds inject a soupcon of sub-Scream postmodernism into the proceedings which culminate at another town hall dance, attended by about nine extras. It’s a tad too long at 110 minutes but well made despite a largely neophyte cast and teenage director. Yes, it ticks boxes – but with some admirably impressive ticks. Shot in Belfast in 2014 as Braxton, it premiered in Kentucky in October 2015 and was retitled The Butchering for its US release.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Once Upon a Time at Christmas

d. Paul Tanter; w. Christopher Jolley; p. Mem Ferda, Paul Tanter, Simon Phillips; cast: Simon Phillips, Laurel Brady, Jeff Ellenberger, Barry Kennedy, Sayla Vee De Goede, Susannah Mackay, David Lee

Enjoyable festive slasher set in a small town in New York State where a disgruntled psycho in a Santa suit is committing murder on a daily basis, assisted by an insane girl-woman obviously modelled on Suicide Squad’s Harley Quinn. Annoying mall-hanging teenagers are thankfully despatched early as the story concentrates on the Sheriff and Deputy trying to cope with ever-increasing piles of bodies. You’ll work out what’s happening about half through, after which it becomes increasingly unbelievable that the cops haven’t. But that level of unbelievability is part of the fun of a good slasher, along with some cheesy coincidences, and the script (based on a story by Phillips - in the Santa suit - and Tanter, who cameos as a coroner) walks that fine line commendably. Filmed in Canada, this premiered at the British Horror Film Festival in London in October 2017. A sequel (Twice Upon…) was announced almost immediately after release.

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Coulrophobia

d. Warren Speed, Lee Bibby; w./p. Warren Speed; cast: Pete Alexander Bennett, Warren Speed, Daniella D’Ville, Roxy Bordeaux, Leela Thompson, Ana Udroiu, Makenna Guyler, Chris Harrison, Steve Haze

There’s passable gory fun to be had in this oddity from the director of Zombie Women of Satan in which a group of female friends are terrorised in the woods by four ‘circus freak’ siblings. The young women are made up as clowns before being subjected to abuse, humiliation, torture and casual murder. Eventually the family’s equally freaky father turns up, recently released from prison. There are occasional cutaways to their uncle and flashbacks to their mother’s death but that’s pretty much it for the plot of what is best categorised as ‘eccentric torture porn’, the bizarre costumes and characters ameliorating what would otherwise have been tedious brutality. The victims are a roller derby team but, despite some skating shots topping and tailing the main story, that’s completely irrelevant, sadly negating the ‘Circus freaks vs roller girls’ high concept tag-line. British horror regular Bennett steals the show as a crazed jester. Shot June/July 2014, it was temporarily retitled All Clowns Must Die during post-production.

Saturday, 9 December 2017

The Unseen

d./w./p. Gary Sinyor; cast: Jasmine Hyde, Richard Flood, Simon Cotton, Sushil Chudasama

Sinyor, whose previous features have all been comedies, makes a reasonably successful move into serious drama with this ambitious psycho-thriller that is surprisingly complex for a film with only three characters. Gemma and Will are a wealthy young couple; she’s a voice actor, we never find out what he does. When their young son dies in a tragic accident, they seek solace in a holiday cottage owned by slightly too helpful Paul. For most of the film it’s difficult to know where we’re going, with implications of haunting, religious consolation and even a momentary diversion into witchcraft. The film as a whole is too long because it’s too slow, frustratingly draining the expected tension from the triangular dynamic, while the denouement is swift, sudden and less than satisfying. Blurred POV shots when Gemma suffers panic attacks are effective but overused. The three leads are good and each elicits both sympathy for, and concern about, their character at various times. Though beautifully shot (in February 2017), it’s disappointing that more wasn’t made of the Lake District location.