Sunday, 15 July 2018

It Lives


d./w./p. Richard Mundy; cast: Andrew Kinsler, Peter McCrohon

This terrific psychological horror/sci-fi feature about an isolated man interacting with a creepy AI brings to mind the more unsettling parts of 2001. In 2024, Roy is a lone technician managing a nuclear bunker in readiness for the arrival of selected individuals when needed. His only companion is Arthur, a computer that passes the Turing Test in its text screen conversations (avoiding a cheesy voice was an excellent decision). When the balloon goes up and no-one arrives before the doors lock, Roy finds himself trapped with an apparently sentient Arthur and some unexplained events. Paranoia understandably sets in: is he losing his mind, or not alone, or being manipulated by an electronic monster? Perhaps the whole ‘bunker’ scenario is fake and he’s just some psychological lab rat. Kinsler delivers a blistering, award-worthy solo performance, accentuated by great sets/locations (I recognised the Gosport Submarine Museum!) and Nick Barker’s cracking photography. Shot over three and a half years, this premiered at the BIFF in May 2016 under its original title Twenty Twenty-Four. The new title has major relevance and anyway, there are already two British horror films called The Bunker…

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

Football horror 2: Sphere of Fear

d./w./p. John Mitchell; cast: Chris Ball Hero, Ann Maddern, Ben Carroll, Kung Fu Tony, Hugh Pincott, Spooky Lee Norton, Jonathan Lea, Warren Baker, Chris Woodward, Louis Thomsen

There’s a real Attack of the Killer Tomatoes vibe to the straight-faced silliness of this amateur comedy about a demonic football… which sadly squanders whatever na├»ve charm it can muster by running a soul-sapping 135 minutes. Some Satanists curse a football which keeps landing in their garden and it then goes on a killing spree. Loser Dylan sets out to destroy the ball after being visited by the ghost of his brother, one of the first victims. He is helped by a goth chick (the only decent actor) and hindered by a camo-clad hunter (two planks of wood). Day/night continuity is just something that happens to other films apparently, but the ball’s animation – throwing/rolling it from offscreen plus judicious editing – works surprisingly well, and a few moments are genuinely funny (“Now stop wanking and avenge my death.”). Shot around Plymouth over six years for £300, this screened at a festival in New York in June 2014.

Monday, 9 July 2018

Football Horror 1: Kick

d./w. Marcus Warren; p. Nick Hocart; cast: Daniel Bayle, Rik Young, Richard Strange, Pete Lee Wilson, Kellie Shirley, Steve Lorrigan

Two friends find themselves locked in a building overnight with a deadly killer. This film’s unique take on that well-worn premise is that the building is a Premier League football stadium, where Dan and Steve took part in an unauthorised fan match orchestrated by a corrupt security guard. When they’re not out by ten, they find doors locked, corridors unlit and a couple of dead bodies that leave them in no doubt they’re in danger. Remarkably, this accurate take on the British passion for soccer was written and directed by an American. Young is particularly good as Dan, a dirty player on the pitch who can’t be relied on off it. Commendably taut at just 76 minutes, this doesn’t overstay its welcome, nor does it feel the need to explain everything. Filmed in 2012 at the homes of Doncaster and Leyton Orient, with some exteriors at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium, Kick premiered at a film festival in Florida one week before its German release. It remains inexplicably unavailable in the UK.

Thursday, 5 July 2018

The Demonic Tapes 2: The Doll


d./w. Richard Mansfield; p. Richard Mansfield, Daniel Mansfield; cast: Jennie Fox, Darren Munn, Daniel Mansfield

Mansfield Dark rides the current ‘creepy doll’ wave with this unnerving James-ian ghost story which, if anything, suffers slightly from under-using its off-the-shelf creepy doll. Single mum Rose, enjoying a week of solitude while the kids are with their dad, discovers a Walkman and some cassettes in her cellar which prove to be recordings of a psychologist interviewing a possessed child. There are two spirits at work, ‘Socks’ and ‘Mr Sheets’, although the story is unclear about their relationship. Fox is terrific in the lead role, her long hair and wide eyes evoking memories of 1970s horror victims, not least Shelley Duval in The Shining. Mansfield Dark regular Munn is the handsome young vicar who helps her; we’re left to wonder whether the sexual tension between the two has contributed to the supernatural situation. As usual, Richard Mansfield wrings fear from simple effects: a door opening, a duvet lifting, an indistinct figure in a white sheet. Originally released in February 2018 as The Demonic Doll, this shares a basic premise and location with Mansfield Dark's most successful movie so was retitled as an ersatz sequel in June.