Saturday, 31 March 2012

Al Ronald and Julian L-R give you Chinese Burns

Chinese Burns isn't strictly speaking a horror film, it's a movie about a faded horror star. But I'd like to draw the new trailer to your attention because (a) it looks great and (b) it reunites several of the people responsible for the 'Stitchgirl' episode of Bordello Death Tales.

Julian Lamoral-Roberts not only stars but also wrote this story, which is described as, "a dark comedy, an ensemble piece involving an attractive young film student, an over-the-hill B movie actor, his wife, a young sound recordist, a soldier and a mini-cab driver." He plays Oscar Tarporley, an elderly horror movie actor with a rich, cultured accent and a neatly trimmed little grey beard. And though I'm sure he's not trying to impersonate any specific actor, I challenge you to watch this trailer and not think of [name withheld].

Alan Ronald directed the film (after Bordello DT but before Battlefield DT) and the cast also includes such familiar faces as Danny Idollor Jr, Cy Henty and Stitchgirl herself, the always watchable Eleanor James.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Can't wait to see: Spidarlings

Not heard of this one before. A gay comedy horror musical that's in production and set for some sort of release later this year. Written and directed by German-born Salem Kapsaski. Produced by and starring Rahel Kapsaski who was in a 2009 Greek horror feature called Soul Looting, and Sophia Disgrace (Three's a Shroud, Monitor) and the legendary Rusty Goffe (he was an Oompa Loompa! he was a Jawa! he was in The Goodies and Chucklevision!). Original music by Jeff Kristian.

Poverty stricken lovers Eden and Matilda have enough trouble just getting through the days… Their Landlord is trying to terrorize them and strange things seem to be going on at "Juicy Girls", the place where Matilda works… but when Eden buys a pet spider the real troubles start.

Here's the newly released teaser trailer. This is already better than Eldorado!

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Film 89: The Living and the Dead

I've known Simon Rumley since he made Strong Language (here's what I wrote about it in Total Film) although we've never met. He kindly sent me a screener of The Living and the Dead and it's very bit as good as I had heard. That said, it's nowhere near as intense and upsetting as I had heard, but that may be a consequence of watching it at home on a sunny afternoon rather than on the big screen.

Nevertheless, this is a quite magnificent film with so many layers of meaning and interpretation I don't know where to begin. Is it a horror film? Well, it played Frighfest, which is usually a reliable indicator. The horror here is not violence or gore. It's dread, but dread of what we might become, dread of how we may not be able to care for our loved ones. Anchored by three superb performances, this is one of the best films I've watched in the course of writing the book.

Monday, 26 March 2012

Wicker Tree screenings with Robin Hardy Q&A

Robin Hardy will be doing a Q&A at three Scottish screenings of The Wicker Tree this weekend:

Friday 30th March 2012
The Grosvenor Cinema, 20:30

Saturday 31st March 2012
Cameo Picturehouse, 20:30

Sunday 1st April 2012
The Belmont Picturehouse, 14:30

First trailer for The Addicted.

This looks quite groovy. New indie feature from Sean J Vincent of Recoil Films, filmed last September.

In 1987, David is a resident at 'The Manor' Drug Rehab Unit. Whilst there he is being kept addicted to heroin by a Clinical Director Chris Hunter whilst he has an affair with David's wife. Chris eventually poisons David with contaminated heroin leaving him with horrendous facial disfigurement and chronic pain. David soon hangs himself.

25 years later and we follow Chris's daughter Nicole as she tries to break into TV journalism. Her boyfriend (Adam) suggests they spend a night filming with friends in the now derelict Drug Rehab unit. There have been recent reports of paranormal goings-on and they plan to try and film them. It soon becomes clear however that they are very much not alone...

UK horror features lined up for Brussels

The Brussels International Fantasy Film Festival has announced five British films screening this year: The Awakening, Retreat, Panic Button and Robert Heath's Truth or Dare, which I think is a world premiere. The fifth UK title is Eliminate: Archie Cookson which looks great but is a comic thriller rather than horror. Plus loads of other great movies from all over the world.

BIFFF 2012 runs from 5th to 7th April.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Film 88: Footsteps

With everyone getting excited about Gareth Evans' third feature, Indonesian martial arts melée The Raid, it's worth remembering that he started out in Cardiff with this grim, bleak tale of a young man whose miserable life drifts into assisting with a snuff film racket. Never released in the UK but it had a US disc through Unearthed Films.

I said in my original review that I didn't think it was a horror film but that was before it was released. I think it was marketed as a horror film and that's enough to tip it over the borderline into the genre and thereby merit inclusion in the book.

One thing I do stand by from my review is that Footsteps was the best British film of the year. It's crminal that this isn't better known, but at least Gareth's Jakarta-set kick-flicks Merantau Warrior and now The Raid are bringing him to critical and popular attention.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Film 87: The Toybox

This one has proved a problem. Every film in the book includes a handful of quotes from reviews (where there are any!) to give an idea of its critical reception. Usually there are some pro and some anti, and the prevailing trend is clear and makes sense. For example, almost all reviews of 28 Days Later say it's great (which it obviously is) while most reviews of Spirit Trap say it's rubbish (which it is).

The Toybox has, since its release, received almost uniformly positive reviews, including from a number of well-respected critics. Which is odd. Because it's awful. Really, really bad. The most dire script imaginable, fully of clunky, wooden dialogue strung out on a plot that makes no sense. No discernable directorial talent. And the absolute worst sub-sub-amdram acting I have yet seen on this project. Seriously, there is better acting in a Jason Impey or Richard Driscoll film.

Yet the positive reviews frequently single out the acting for special praise. I really, really can't explain this one.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Film 86: Alien Rising

An ultra-obscurity from 2007, Nick Moran's zero-budget feature was available from his website for a fiver.

I haven't seen it (who has?) but fortunately, there is a published review to give us some idea just how poor this was. Still, you know, at least he had a go.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Film 85: Lie Still

...or The Haunting of #24 as it was retitled when released in the States (it hasn't been released over here).

A pleasant surprise, Sean Hogan's debut feature turns out to be a genuinely creepy and enigmatic haunted house tale set in a very believable contemporary Britain, which briefly touches on homelessness and 'hoodie horror' while documenting a descent into psychological hell which could be supernatural.

The only disappointment is an epilogue which confirms it all was supernatural, which rather deflates the film's powerfully ambiguous story. Otherwise, this is top-notch stuff and makes me want to see more films by Sean Hogan.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Films 83 and 84: The Innocent and The Lost

It is ironic that Stuart Brennan's eagerly awaited Zombies of the Night was never released - because Brennan viewed it as an experiment, a way to hone and develop his film-making skills - whereas his first effort The Innocent did get a release (through Brain Damage). Neither the image nor the sound is clear enough to make out what is going on and other than the fact that it involves child ghosts, I couldn't even begin to guess at the plot (or the characters' names).

Brennan's second film The Lost is better technically and artistically but wa-a-ay too long, even at the cut-down 55-minute version that I watched. Its sole point of interest is the presence of the late Peter Cushing in the cast list because it uses a recording of him reading a poem.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Film 82: Spirit Trap

Like so many of these films, Spirit Trap was more fun to write about than watch. Just the biggest grab-bag of hoary old haunted house cliches you've ever seen, it's jaw-droppingly awful. Sole point of interest is that it was the last thing Billie Piper did before she made Doctor Who.

Or at least, that was the the sole point of interest until now. Despite the almost complete absence of media coverage (apart from various reviews pointing out how dire it is) I have a couple of relevant, contemporary interviews on file which gave me some previously undocumented background info. Of which the most interesting revelation is that 'first-time director David Smith' was actually a pseudonym for someone who was already very experienced and has gone on to be enormously successful.

So probably a smart move taking his name off this crap, then.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Film 81: The Descent

Neil Marshall's second film is, for my money, the best movie in this book. So good is it in fact that the section on The Descent pretty much wrote itself. Which is good because I spent several hours knocking out a couple of thousand words on the film, then lost nearly all of it due to some unspecified computer error and had to rewrite while the basic structure was fresh in my memory.

There are a lot of nice touches in the film that don't necessarily register the first time around, like a brief shot of Sarah's never-mentioned medication that she doesn't take with her to the cave. Above all it's the ambiguity that really hits the spot. Are the crawlers real? Is Sarah hallucinating? If so, when does that start? What's real and what's not? Absolutely superb stuff.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Chemical Burn re-release Bane in USA next month

James Eaves' impressive and disturbing sci-fi horror Bane was previously released in the States in 2009 by an outfit called Celebrity Video Distribution. Chemical Burn Entertainment now have the rights and a new disc is scheduled for release on 10 April. It's available for pre-order on Amazon.

Chemical Burn have a number of other UK titles on their books many of which, unlike Bane, remain unreleased domestically. Here's a page on their site which also lists Kevin McDonagh's Tied in Blood (no release date) and Idol of Evil (released last April), Philip Gardiner's Lady of the Dark: Genesis of the Serpent Vampire (scheduled for 8 May), Kemal Yildirim's Tales of the Dead (which was released in September 2010) and Colin Bickley's 2004 obscurity The Porcelain Man (no release date).

Film 80: The Cottage

After an enforced break due to holidays and computer problems, the book is back on track...

Paul Andrew Williams' horror-comedy stiffed at the box office and has a reputation as a bit of a failure. But watching it for the first time I laughed myself silly. Furthermore, most contemporary reviews were broadly positive (even if some critics were confused by this as a follow-up to the very different London to Brighton) so I can't understand why this one isn't better regarded.

Andy Serkis and Reece Shearsmith have the brotherly chemistry spot-on and Jennifer Ellison is great as their gobby, Scouse kidnap victim. Doug Bradley's cameo seems somewhat arbitrary, the very final shot doesn't have the impact it should and the backstory of the hideously disfigured Farmer isn't clear, but these are minor quibbles. Wish I'd seen this one at the cinema.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

The Reeds - UK disc coming in June

High Fliers have lined up Nick Cohen's The Reeds for a UK release on 25 June. The film, which stars Scarlett Alice Johnson (Panic Button), Geoff Bell (Storage 24, Botched) and Emma Catherwood (Spirit Trap) was released in the States back in March 2010.

Monday, 5 March 2012

Mother's Day Evil - what's that?

Here's the synopsis for Mother's Day Evil, set for US release by DVD Deluxe (through Tempe Distribution) on 19th June:

Lauren and her young daughter, Emily, travel from the USA to visit the English countryside. Shortly after their arrival at a dilapidated cottage, a creepy old woman conducts a seance and things rapidly begin to go wrong. Lauren wakes up in bed in an old and unfamiliar room, watched over by Len, the kindly rescuer who took her in. Stuck at his mercy, Lauren tries to remain calm and slowly learns more about her rescuer. He hears voices from “Mother” who tells him what to do. Ever fearful of his unpredictable, violent mood swings, she tries to placate him in order to be reunited with Emily and escape. When Len’s history is finally unraveled, it is far more terrifying than she could ever have known. He carries the darkest of secrets and he needs Lauren to absolve him. But first, she has to deal with the terrifying evil that is... “Mother.”

Wondering why you've not heard of Mother's Day Evil before? That's because it's a retitling of Steven Nesbit's film Curio which was released in the UK last September. The soundtrack is by Blur's Graham Coxon who is lined up to act in Nesbit's next movie Mawken, although that seems to still be in development.

New interviews with Michael Riley and Mike Busson

Over on my main site I have added two brand new interviews. Producer Michael Riley talks about the Paul Hyett-directed horror movie The Seasoning House. And actor Mike Busson talks about his role in zomcom Stag Night of the Dead as well as his other work on that film and his extraordinary naked performance in mockumentary Hardcore.