“I like this shit!”
So says outback serial mass murderer Mick Taylor as played by the phenomenal John Jarratt in season two of Stan’s Wolf Creek … please note that Stan is a TV channel, not some random bloke … While the statement is directed by Mick to a hapless witness to Mick’s midnight madness, it could well be said by any lover of the Wolf Creek killerverse, someone like me.
For those unfamiliar with Wolf Creek or Greg McLean … When he is firing on all cylinders his horror movies (Wolf Creek, Rogue, and The Belko Experiment) are a mixture of relentless thrills and shockingly grim violence. He likes it grim, does our Greg. Suffice to say, it’s not for everyone.
The first Wolf Creek movie (2005) was the very definition of all the above while, for me, the second movie (2013) seemed like more of the same leading to less impact overall. What I felt the the movie needed was not simply more Mick Taylor but more about him.
Season One of Wolf Creek the TV Series (2016) delivered exactly what I’d been hankering for diving deep into Mick’s past and bringing it crashing into the present. I frikkin’ loved the first season. So what of season two? Would it repeat the pattern of the cinematic sequel?
While there is no great attempt to dive deeper into Mick Taylor’s past in season two, this doesn’t make the second season any less exciting than the first. While season one was the story of one victim seeking out the killer of her parents and sibling, season two pits Mick against a mixed bunch of international tourists on a bus tour of the outback. Unlike many horror movies that fill a bus with teenagers this tour bus has all ages included, offering us a cross section of society that seems as diverse as the world I live in.
Season two is firmly focused in the present moment as the lives of the tourists spirals into utter madness. While it might seem that without more back-story this season could only be more of the same brutality two story choices determine otherwise. Firstly, the tourists on the bus are well crafted as people, not cardboard cut-outs, and as we focus solely on their story we get to care about them. Secondly, we know from the start what they come to understand. They are stranded in Mick’s world and that is definitively a world of pain.
Season two avoids the mundane kill by numbers roll call of slasher movies because the writers mold the unfolding events to the reality of Mick Taylor’s universe. He’s in no hurry, there’s no cavalry coming, and he’s enjoying himself. Knowing Mick as we do this makes season two nail-biting from the opening scene to the last (after credits) sequence right at the end of the final episode.
For me the acting across the board is top-notch with all the characters coming across as fully fleshed out people facing a truly monstrous human or human monster, whichever you prefer.
On a related note, as a devotee of all things Wolf Creek, I demand a third season instead of a movie. Season two offers seductive glimpses of a deeper rationale at play for Mick and I would love the wider canvas that a third season could offer to make this happen. Whether a third season ends Mick’s story or merely set up the forth and final season is fine with me but the story can’t end here.
The TV series of Wolf Creek Season 2 could conceivably be watched before Season One as they focus on two totally different stories. For those wishing to dip their toes in a smaller pool of blood, start with the movies.
Two word review: Bloody Tourists!
DeeOmenites will know the name of Brock Russell as he played Philip in the awesome 2016 shocker Tonight She Comes. Brock wears many hats and in this interview, he talks about his involvement in the upcoming horror short LOOM.
If you love horror and can part with a couple of bucks for a good cause do the right thing and support this Indie horror movie right here:
“Mind the doors!”
Deathline is further proof that the Seventies is arguably the coolest decade British horror movies ever had. Plot paragraph …
James Manfred, OBE, has gone missing! Crikey! He was last seen in Russell Square tube station by a couple of students including a Yank called Alex Campbell (David Ladd). Very suspicious if you ask me, not the disappearance, just the students being there. Could his disappearance have anything to do with some old underground legends of a long ago disaster that was hushed up at the time? I wonder …
Deathline wears its British Seventies horror tropes proudly on its sleeves being a bit cheap, a bit dirty, a bit shocking, a bit depressing, and a bit camp. All in all it’s a diamond that’s a bit rough around the edges.
Leading the way is the wonderful Donald Pleasence (everything he did was awesome) as Inspector Calhoun of Scotland Yard, ably assisted by his long sufferent subordinate Detective Sergeant Rogers, played by the equally wonderful Norman Rossington (A Hard Days Night).
With a supporting cast of Hugh Armstrong (Beastmaster), James Cossins (The Lost Continent, Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb), Clive Swift (Frenzy), Ron Pember (The Glitterball), Colin McCormack (tons of Brit TV), James Culliford (Quatermass and the Pit), June Turner (Within these Walls), James Woolgar (tons of Brit TV), and some bloke called Christopher Lee, Deathline is one of those movies where everyone makes old Brits like me go, “Ooh, where have I seen them before?” If you’re not British, or don’t have a hankering for old skool British character actors this might be a bit too niche for you.
Fear not! There is a chance that the lead may still be enough for you. Donald Pleasence has tongue firmly in his cheek with his rambling, witty, police Inspector who occasionally shows the layers of deeper thought going on beneath his apparently bumbling exterior. Christopher Lee only has one scene but it’s a wacky little affair with Donald Pleasence and well worth seeing it is too, if only to see Lee’s manly, bristling mustache in action! This scene was written specifically at Lee’s request as he wanted to both help out the film-maker and appear onscreen with Donald Pleasence, so that’s nice.
Talking of the film-maker, at the helm of this cracker was Gary Sherman who horror fans will love for Deathline and 1981’s Dead and Buried and not love quite so much for 1988’s clunker Poltergeist III. Ah well, win some lose some.
For the early Seventies the gore and violence is front and center and top drawer. We have John Horton to thank for that. John worked on Doctor Who, 2001:A Space Odyssey, a couple of Monty Python movies and a fistful of some of the finest Britcom of the age (The Goodies, Monty Python’s Flying Circus, It Ain’t Half Hot Mum, Are You Being Served, and Ripping Yarns). Also of note is the cinematography by the late Alex Thomson who worked on Excalibur, The Keep, Labyrinth, Alien 3, Demolition Man, and and Cliffhanger.
Despite the slim budget and the creaky plot Deathline is quite unlike anything else out there. While some may scratch their heads and wonder what all the fuss is about, for those of a certain taste or age Deathline stands alongside Pete Walker’s Frightmare and Antony Balch’s Horror Hospital as a must-view example of quirky, distinctly dark comedy from the halcyon days of British horror.
Two word review: Bloody Tourists!
“Just when I thought I was out…they pull me back in.”
Full disclosure: I wasn’t planning on reviewing Alien: Covenant as I didn’t think such a huge horror juggernaut needed more noise. I’m also starting to focus more on the little fish that actually live or die based on word of mouth support rather than massive Wide release titles however, given all the haters taking a shit on the movie, I thought I’d give my two cents worth. Plot paragraph …
The story is set ten years after the events of Prometheus and some unknown number of years before the events in Alien. Aboard the colony ship Covenant a freak accident awakens the sleeping human crew to deal with a potentially disastrous situation. Although on a planned course to a supposedly idyllic planet the crew change course after receiving a tantalizingly bizarre signal from a nearby seemingly habitable planet. When they arrive, well, you can probably guess what they find or what finds them.
Let’s jump right in. I can clearly appreciate that lots of people have voiced lots of reasons to dislike Alien: Covenant but I feel that all of them stem from the fact that the people voicing their rabid disapproval are sitting way too close to the screen and really need to get some perspective.
Point #1 – Alien: Covenant is just a movie. Movies are mass entertainment that on rare occasions inform or educate but most times just blow a couple of hours for those fortunate enough to be able to afford the time and funds to view them. Get over yourselves.
Point #2 – If anyone has earned the right to go wherever he wants to with the stories, it’s Ridley Scott. It’s his baby, not yours. Get over yourselves.
Almost every bad review I read ended up saying somewhere that Alien Covenant wasn’t as ‘whatever’ as one of the other previous movies in the franchise. So? If I wanted to see Alien or Aliens I would have watched those instead.
Point #3 – Just because you don’t like a movie doesn’t make it a crap movie and hanging exclusively with all like-minded individuals in all the social media you want won’t change that. Get over yourselves (I sense a pattern here).
It’s like all the hater movie reviewers are fat spoiled teenagers who can’t believe they have to get off the sofa to get themselves a third tub of ice-cream just as their mother has walked in the room from the kitchen. “Why did Ridley do this to me? Doesn’t he understand how important this is to me? Why didn’t he give me what I wanted?”
My review is short and sweet; Alien Covenant is a bloody violent, exciting, roller-coaster ride and a great way to blow a couple of hours.
Two word review: Bloody hell!
Frankenstein Created Bikers is bloody awesome.
Sorry I didn’t do my usual “ease into it” pre-amble but sometimes it’s best to go balls deep from the get-go.
Indeed going balls deep from the get-go is what writer, director James Bickert does. Within five minutes we are up to our eyeballs in bouncing boobs, brash biker bitches, and bloody bigfoot beatings. Things start weird and simply get weirder. Plot paragraph …
Okay, follow me here, there’s some fun-lovin’ teens skinny dipping in a lake. They get attacked by Bigfoot who pretty much rips everyone apart before your eyes, just before a biker gang called The Impalers appear and capture the hairy beast. They drag Bigfoot off to Dr. Marco so he can perform fiendish experiments aided by his sidekick Klaus (what, you were expecting a sidekick called Alphonse?). The Impalers have to help Dr. Marco so he will give them the drug they need to stay, er, alive, dead, or both as they are kinda like zombie bikers! Then there’s female killing machine Val looking to reign hellfire on The Impalers! Then there’s a collection of assorted hired killers! Then there’s semi-naked Cat Girls, the rival biker gang, the dumb cops, and random acts of gloriously senseless violence. Got it? Good.
If you’re making a face reading “balls deep, bouncing boobs, brash biker bitches, and bloody Bigfoot beatings” you should grab your coat and don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out. Frankenstein Created Bikers is not for you.
If you are intrigued by my little bouncing ‘b’ wonder of childish alliteration then you are in for a treat … well, maybe.
Frankenstein Created Bikers is gloriously over the top deviancy that harks back to the good old days of grindhouse, a gentler, more innocent time when – scratch that, wrong cliche – it harks back to the gore of Herschell Gordon Lewis, the hilarity of men in monster suits, and lewd delights of go-go dancers with machine guns!
Director Bickert does not let a single precious frame of celluloid (this was filmed on genuine 35 mm film stock) go to waste. Everywhere you look something dirty, dangerous, or distasteful is going on. I ain’t joking, this movie pushes some limits, but you’ll probably be laughing out loud at the time. Everything is thrown at the screen and occasionally picked up again and thrown once more for good measure.
This does not mean that Frankenstein Created Bikers is an incoherent mess or some kind of amateur hour. Everyone behind the camera clearly knows what they are doing. For his part Bickert has written a genuinely hilarious script filled with so many gems you’ll need to watch it multiple times to catch them all. Like some crazy, nekkid, unwashed, drug-addled Pokeman, you gotta catch ’em all!
The crazy-ass plot ties a number of different stories together well, if somewhat loosely here and there, and leads to a suitably OTT ending where the bad guys come to a good end and, er, so does pretty much everybody else.
In front of the camera Bickert has gathered a choice collection of genre friendly leads. Paul McComiskey plays Dr. Marco (Frankenstein) and who would not want to see Laurence R. Harvey playing “Klaus” his evil assistant?
If you’re looking for bold and beautiful women wreaking carnage in various states of undress there is the alluring Ellie Church, hellcat Tristan Risk, Madeline Brumby, Elizabeth Davidovich, Allison Maier, Diana Prince, and the Russ Meyer dream girl Gia Nova. Oh, let’s not forget the close to naked Cat Girls in tall red boots either!
Frankenstein Created Bikers began life as a Kickstarter project and while this may not add anything to your understanding of the narrative onscreen, it helps to understand where this came from and where it’s going. Frankenstein Created Bikers is made by fans of grindhouse for fans of grindhouse.
Grindhouse fans, like lovers of Jess Franco, Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci, Jean Rollin, Alejandro Jodorowsky and the leviathan that is Euro-horror, have a “just roll with it” attitude when it comes to plot holes, continuity, and the odd bit of bad acting. For us, I count myself among them, we are not expecting Ingmar Bergman and we sure as shit don’t want anything that smells of Big Studio Hollywood. We want free-flowing, go where the mood takes you, madness.
Ultimately this is what Frankenstein Created Bikers delivers. For me Frankenstein Created Bikers is a masterfully chaotic movie that truly is an instant cult classic.
Two word review: Balls deep.
Plot paragraph …
Ruth is heavily pregnant. She is also killing people at the request of her unborn child that speaks to her in her mind.
Prevenge is a wonderfully realized, future classic, dark little British comedy written and directed by its lead actor, Alice Lowe. It is in turns funny and violent, with a touch of shocking thrown in. While some of the murderous set pieces are darkly humorous, the actual killings are painfully realistic stabbings with a bloody huge kitchen knife.
In terms of the plot I think it’s best to know nothing and just go and see it if you feel so inclined. The plot itself is quite slight so the less you know the better. If you like dark comedy and specifically British humour Prevenge is a movie for you.
Alice Lowe wisely chose to keep the focus of the movie tightly on Ruth and the relationship she has with her dark in-utero task-master, who calls for death after death.
Outside of Ruth are a small cast of excellent actors (like Kate Dickie from The VVitch) who nail their small parts perfectly.
While I feel quite odd calling what could be seen as a violent slasher movie “quirky, warm, and chuckle inducing” Prevenge was all of the above for me.
According to Mark Kermode and The Grauniad (deliberate typo, thank you) newspaper “Lowe wrote Prevenge while pregnant, and shot it in a fortnight shortly before giving birth” which makes this a labor (sorry) of love that should be applauded.
I’m not going dive any deeper into the meaning of it all. I will leave it to other websites to go on about the underlying message(s) of the movie, the metaphors, the subtext, misogyny within society, the post-feminist angle, and all that other yadda yadda.
I am a far simpler soul. I thought Prevenge was a fun, small and perfectly formed little ‘orrah comedy that does exactly what it says on the box. While Prevenge does not blast either humor or horror into uncharted territory it is bloody, smart and it works.
Two word review: Funny. Violent.
Plot paragraph …
In the middle of small town somewhere / nowhere USA a bunch of white, well-to-do millennials sit around being bored of it all and obnoxious with it. While enjoying each other one of the couples find a dusty old Eighties-style board game, the titular Game of Death. They read the rules after starting the game and find out that when the chirpy little 8-bit screen shows 24, that is the number of people who must die to win the die. They, of course, do nothing until one of them has their head explode in a gloriously visceral fashion.
This movie appears to be a cut down version of an eight episode series directed by Sebastien Landry and Laurence Morais-Lagace and created by the French digital platform format company BlackPills. If this is true it explains a lot. As a movie Game of Death really feels like a movie chopped down from a longer piece. Much of what is presented doesn’t make sense in terms of tone and emotional pitch.
As a prime example, right at the end, we are presented with a ‘deep’ explanatory monolgue wherein the character tells us, among other things, that the only real way to “win” at life is to die and that “Death is a bonus level.”
Within the context of an eight episode series where we get to see the longer character arcs of the key players, this monologue would make sense but coming as it does in the movie after an hour of erratic madness, I was like, “What? Where did this come from? Suddenly, we’re all serious and introspective?”
Similarly, while most of the deaths are mean and brutal out of nowhere suddenly it goes all Peter Jackson goofy and silly and then we’re back to mean-spirited and brutal. It’s kinda all over the place and I kept feeling I had stepped out of the room and missed the lead-up to whatever I was watching. Consequently, while I have no idea about the TV series this was culled from as a movie Game of Death just about holds together if you don’t ask too many questions.
Having said all that the visual effects and special effects are truly outstanding. If swelling and exploding heads are your jam these are peerless head explosions for sure. Hats off, or heads off, to the team behind the visuals. Another part of the movie that I appreciated was the retro 8-bit video game credit sequence. Tres cool.
Ultimately, when the blood spray settles occasional head explosions don’t make for a great movie for me. However, if all you need is exploding heads and some scant humor, have at it.
Two word review: Visually effective.
Ah, the Seventies. While often overlooked by modern horror fans as being the frumpy older brother of the shiny, exciting Eighties, the Seventies had a look, a vibe, and a dark clarity that was all its own. Many mourn the passing of the Seventies horror ethos. Some like director A.D. Calvo miss it enough to recreate it. Plot paragraph …
Plain, shy, country teen Adele (Erin Wilhelmi), whose only friend is a Walkman cassette player, is forced by her mother to become caregiver to her ailing Aunt Dora as the family need the money. Aunt Dora (Susan Kellermann) suffers from agoraphobic so Adele spends much of her time stuck in her aunt’s spooky looking New England house. A chance meeting with daring, vivacious Beth (Quinn Shephard) changes everything for Adele and so begins a tragic chain of events.
In the same way that my Sequence Break review started with a gatekeeper question, my Sweet Sweet Lonely Girl review comes with a similar declaration. If you love retro-Seventies horror you have come to the right place however this is closer to Don’t Look Now and Burnt Offerings, than Dawn of the Dead or Halloween.
Sweet Sweet Lonely Girl is about a relationship that spirals into a dark place rather than a steady parade of gore or shocks. This is a retro Seventies horror that likes to take its time. What it takes its time showing us is how Adele’s growing relationship with Beth, while awakening a welcome sense of liberation within her, is also setting her on a crash course with Aunt Dora’s fragile structured world.
Erin Wilhelmi and Quinn Shephard are perefectly cast as the polar opposites Adele and Beth. The contrast between them is clearly marked from the get-go with drab looking Adele being the innocent from the country compared to Beth’s more worldly, attractive city girl.
Without dropping any major spoilers I loved the way that this story slowly evolves into a supernatural tale, beginning with nothing at all. Adele just goes to look after her aunt and slowly, slowly, things start to change.
Sweet Sweet Lonely Girl succeeds in mounting up tension with a gradually increasing sense of the paranormal crowding into the frame of Adele’s humdrum life. What is beautifully played out is how we, the audience, are always one step ahead of hapless Adele until the darkness closes in around her.
Sweet Sweet Lonely Girl is obviously a labor of retro-love and felt to me very much like a gore-free cousin of the wonderful We Are Still Here. It has the Seventies vibe down perfectly.
My only concern with Sweet Sweet Lonely Girl was the ending. Although the general sweep of the final act all made sense to me the movie cut out rather fast with some intriguing images that asked more questions than they answered. While not an unforgivable case of style over content I felt that the journey doesn’t quite add up the destination we are left with. Maybe I just need to watch it a few more times?
Ultimately I would watch Sweet Sweet Lonely Girl again because it has such a wonderfully Seventies vibe to it. It felt like some of my favorite movies blended and revisited and the slow burn works like a dream. I just need help with the ending. Hahahaha.
Two word review: Groovy. Beguiling.
Plot paragraph …
Oz is a video arcade repair technician who lives a quiet, secluded life being with the one thing he cares about, old arcade games. Oz’s sanity and world are thrown into chaos when a strange game, a mysterious stranger, and a beautiful woman all intrude into his reclusive life.
Before we go any further answer the following; do you like David Cronenberg body horror movies, specifically Videodrome? If the answer is yes, welcome home! If the answer is either “No”, “who?” or “Huh?” you are in for an interesting time. MUHAHAHAHAAAAA!
Sequence Break is an unequivocal, unapologetic love letter to Cronenberg’s greatest (in my opinion) body horror movie. While Videodrome is clearly a tough act to follow and a potentially suicidal movie for a young director to try and springboard from, Graham Skipper, director of Sequence Break, does everything right.
To be clear Sequence Break is NOT a rip-off or reboot of Videodrome. Sequence Break is its own story but does borrow elements from Videodrome, not in a way that annoys but in a way that excites.
I’m avoiding any mention of the plot so you can enjoy it all spoiler-free but I would like to say that I loved where the story went and how everything is resolved. Suitably smart without being ambiguous.
There is much to love here, starting with the superb acting on display. Chase Williamson and Fabianne Therese, as Oz and Tess respectively, have great chemistry. Horror fans may recall both Chase and Fabianne from John Dies at the End and the connection is quite fitting. Sequence Break is equally as surreal in parts as their previous movie together.
Oz and Tess’s budding relationship is at the core of Sequence Break and as Oz’s reality starts to fragment it is their love for each other that plays a greater and greater role in proceedings.
Considering the budget, or lack thereoff, major kudos to all concerned for making this movie look legit in all the right places. To begin there was no Rick Baker on hand to deliver any expensive show-stopper effects but the talented effects crew of Chris Baer, Alexi Bustamante, Masayoshi Kimura, Josh Russell, Sierra Russell, and Jason Richard Miller do stellar work when called upon.
Similarly the music of Van Hughes is very often so evocative of Howard Shore that I felt I was slipping in and out of Videodrome just as Oz slips in and out of reality.
Yes, there are moments when it is clear that what we are seeing is what the filmmakers could afford rather than what they may have wished they could have shown us, but those moments do not derail the movie at all. Like all good indie movies, it plays to its strengths and gives us a thoughtful, character-rich, fast paced ride.
Graham Skipper wisely keeps the story tightly focused on Oz and Tess and only goes “out there” visually when he is confident that he can deliver. Like much of Cronenberg’s oeuvre Sequence Break goes into the strange bizarrely sexual realms where flesh and electronics meet and then, thrillingly, dares to take a tentative step beyond where we have been before.
In some ways I’d been waiting 33 years for someone to dare to step past the explicit mystery of Videodrome’s “new flesh” and show us a potential landscape beyond. Kudos to Graham Skipper for taking a leap into the unknown.
Ultimately Sequence Break is an intelligent, exciting, and surreal movie. Is it for everyone? No, maybe not. If you are not partial to surreal hard sci-fi body horror you amy want to look elsewhere. however I loved it, most of the audience at the festival loved it, and I cannot wait to see what the filmmakers do next.
Two word review: Thrilling. Surreal.
A Dark Song is from Britain (okay, Britain and Ireland, whatever) and I’m from Britain. What’s not to like? Plot paragraph …
A woman damaged by loss and an occultist damaged by his past join together to perform a dark magical ritual. The ritual demands that they lock themselves in a remote house, shunning all communication with the outside world, and not leave for the weeks or months that it may take. As odd things start to occur the woman wonders if it is true magic or simply self-inflicted madness that she is witnessing.
Let’s start with the good stuff. The acting in A Dark Song is Grade A. For the first two reels I was totally hooked into the story of the clearly damaged Sophia Howard played by Catherine Walker and how she has to deal with unpleasant occultist areshole Joseph Solomon played by Steve Oram. They are truly amazing together. They play cinematic chalk and cheese to perfection. I was constantly worried for her and constantly worried about him.
The practical reality of the magical ritual is given serious air time and as a result it comes across as real. I’ve no practical magic barometer to gauge how ‘real’ the ritual is that they undertake but it looks like, if anything is going to work, it’s gonna be this stuff right here. The magic is shown not as an act of slight of hand with a few carefully chosen words of mumbo jumbo thrown in. Far from it. The magic presented in A Dark Song takes real time months of hard physical, mental, and dare I say it spiritual labor to see any kind of result. It looks like bloody hard work.
The use of sound in A Dark Song is exemplary. Much of the spooky thrills the movie offers simply come from sounds. Hats off to Cristina Aragon and the Sound Department for scaring the crap out of me with bumps and creaks.
Okay, good stuff over. Here’s where I had a big problem with A Dark Song; the ending. Please note that to avoid dropping any heavy spoilers on you I’ll talk in vague terms.
Expectation leads to disappointment (and often that’s our own fault for believing the hype, sure I got that) but I didn’t come to A Dark Song expecting anything. The expectation I gathered came from the slow burn of the movie itself. From scene one almost the entire movie has wonderfully dark building sense of dread and anticipation but when the finale hits, I was like, “What? Really? You’re going there? You’re showing me this?”
I saw A Dark Song with half a dozen friends and we all had different opinions about what the finale meant when the dust settled. I don’t mind ambiguity in an ending but I do mind one that feels out of place. There is a sense of inevitability about the dark place we are heading in the movie and I don’t feel we got there. We kinda, almost, maybe did.
The grand finale we get at best literally looks like unrelated scenes from a different movie and at worst feels like a cop out “Well you figure it out” ending. In other words director Liam Gavin‘s ending feels too clever for its own good and I ain’t buying it.
I can see why “I review everything and I don’t really like horror” regular movie critics might fall over themselves for A Dark Song because it could be seen as a horror movie for people who don’t like horror movies. It looks like an old dark house chiller but plays like a psychological drama. It also looks a horror movie about faith but elements of so many faiths are thrown together that in the end it doesn’t speak to anyone, and comes off feeling safe in its ambiguity.
There is plenty of room at the wonderfully diverse horror table for everyone but for die-hard horror fans I can see a large chunk of the audience perhaps enjoying elements of the well-crafted journey but not appreciating the presentation of the destination.
Two word review: Partly excellent.