Friday, 30 June 2017

11 British horror features at Frightfest 2017

As usual, this year's Frighfest (24th-28th August) has a good selection of British films in the line-up:

Redwood (d.Tom Paton)
After some bad news back at home, musician Josh and his girlfriend Beth head out to a secluded national park in search of some clarity on the situation they’ll face when they return. But the couple get more than they bargained for when they ignore the advice of Park Rangers and venture off the trail, coming face to face with The Redwood’s legendary wildlife. REDWOOD brings a fresh spin to a well-worn mythology to create an edge of your seat horror movie that will shred your nerves and have you thinking twice about going camping again.

Freehold (d.Dominic Bridges)
The feature debut from acclaimed commercials director Dom Bridges and written by Rae Brunton (the OUPOST franchise) is a dark urban morality tale with an underlying streak of jet black comedy. Hussein, a wide-boy estate agent, doesn't realise he's sharing his apartment with a forgotten stranger, a master of concealment... until his malicious campaign of deranged sweet revenge starts to really hit home. A roof above our heads is a basic human need so why are we all fighting each other over it? A genre riff on home invasion chillers and a searing comment on the cut-throat housing market.

Attack of the Adult Babies (d.Dominic Brunt)
From Dominic Brunt, director of BEFORE DAWN and BAIT, a satirical and sexy shocker unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. A home invasion forces two teenagers to break into a remote country manor and steal Top Secret documents. Little do they know the stately pile is also the venue where a group of high-powered middle-aged men go to take refuge from the stresses of daily life by dressing in nappies and indulging their every perverse nursery whim. Or that this grotesque assembly intends to refuel the world’s economy by very sinister, sick and monstrous means.  Time for a change…

Double Date (d.Benjamin Barfoot)
Meet innocent Jim, terrified of girls and on a reluctant quest to prove his manhood the night before he turns 30. He and his cocky friend Alex think they’ve hit the jackpot when they meet the beautiful sisters Kitty and Lulu, who seem up for anything on a wild party-fuelled night. They also have an incredible car. But little do they know that the feisty femmes fatales have their own shocking agenda in mind and have every intention of making Jim lose much more than just his virginity… Getting laid has never been so bloody difficult.

Fanged Up (d.Christian James)
Orange is the new Dracula. Daniel O’Reilly, aka controversial comedy character Dapper Laughs, makes his feature film debut in a vampire comedy destined to make everyone Carry On Screaming. He plays a wrongfully arrested lovable rogue thrown into a high-security prison for the weekend when his blood group is revealed to be very rare. But once incarcerated in this horror penitentiary, there’s no way out as the warden is a top-level bloodsucker, the guards are his pet zombies and the inmates are their unwilling victims. Get ready for hi-jinks in clink, slammer shivers, big house laughs and jail house shocks.

Mountain Fever (d. Hendrik Faller)
Inspired by the action cinema of James Cameron and the minimalism of Nicolas Winding Refn, a fatal flu virus devastates Europe in an ice-cold thriller examining human behaviour in a time of crisis. City boy Jack takes refuge in the Alps but he’s ill-equipped to survive the harsh winter. Things only get worse when renegade Kara breaks into his house and commandeers his dwindling food supplies. His inept plan to get rid of her disintegrates when outsiders also invade, turning his captor into his only ally.  As a siege ensues Jack must choose a side if he hopes to survive.

Boots on the Ground (d.Louis Melville)
Afghanistan October 2014. Five British soldiers, trying to stay alive on the last night of the Afghan War, face not only the Taliban, but also supernatural powers more terrifying than anything they've encountered before. As the night unfolds and their mission is finally explained to them, they find themselves engulfed in a labyrinthine nightmare and time-shift forces seemingly from another realm and century. One of the most innovative and challenging British movies of the year, shot with 360 degree style immersion techniques using head-cams, director Louis Melville’s twisting and turning squaddie shocker is a genre ground breaker. [I ran the first ever images from this film exactly one year ago - MJS]

Where the Skin Lies (d.Michael Boucherie)
Six friends, bound together by a traumatic experience, travel up to the Scottish Lowlands for a relaxing reunion weekend. Soon a number of mysterious and horrifying events start to expose the cracks in their relationships. One by one they discover, through their tattoos, that trust runs but skin-deep and as day turns into night, not everyone will survive the ‘Game of Death’ they are forced to play.

Eat Locals (d.Jason Flemyng)
Acclaimed actor Jason Flemying (DEEP RISING, HANNA, SOLOMON KANE, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS), makes his directorial debut with a bloodsucker chiller featuring the cream of British talent. In a quiet countryside farmhouse, Britain's vampires gather together for their once-every-fifty-years meeting. Others will be joining them too; Sebastian Crockett, an unwitting Essex boy who thinks he's on a promise with sexy cougar Vanessa; and a detachment of Special Forces vampire killers who have bitten off more than they can chew. This is certainly going to be a night to remember... and for some of them it will be their last.

Canaries (d.Peter Stray)
CANARIES pits a group of friends at a New Year's Eve bash in the Valleys, hosted by Steve Denis, London's 53rd-most-listened-to DJ, a returning local boy made good against an invasion task force of creepy time travelling aliens. In this darkly funny Welsh based Sci-fi horror comedy, the new year’s resolution on everyone's lips is to stay alive.

Accountable (d. Matthew Heaven)
Driven by a fantastic performance from headliner Oliver Towner, ACCOUNTABLE proves what can be achieved on a micro-budget with imagination, a great twisty script and a commitment to quality production values. Warren Matthews is an angry and directionless young man struggling to contain his formidable temper. But before long circumstances cause him to reluctantly enlist the services of a local psychiatrist to help him confront damaging past events fuelling his future angst. A score must be settled according to his fractured psyche, someone must be held accountable. Keep your eyes on director Matthew Heaven, he’s one to watch.

Monday, 26 June 2017

50 great British horror films since 2010

Every so often I see someone on Twitter bemoaning the lack of recent British horror films. If only they made more films like this one movie I like; or Why don’t the Brits make horror films anymore; or It’s been too long since there was a good British horror film. I have created this post so that in the future I can provide a service to these poor, benighted souls by pointing them to a list of titles.

Here we have 50 - 50! – British horror films released on DVD in the UK and/or USA since 2010, every one of which I would personally recommend. The ten marked with an asterisk are particularly superb. Not everyone will agree with me on all of these, but there’s enough here for anyone bemoaning the lack of recent good British horror films to find plenty they will enjoy. Some are scary, some are funny, some are dramatic, but all are worth your time and money.

Awaiting, The Awakening, Axed
Before Dawn, Berberian Sound Studio*, Black Death, Blackwood, Blood + Roses, Blooded, Book of the Dead, Bordello Death Tales, Burke and Hare, Byzantium*
Cage, The Captive (US: Armistice), The Chamber, Community, Cryptic
The Dead*, The Devil’s Music
Elfie Hopkins (US: Elfie Hopkins: Cannibal Hunter), Exam*, Exhibit A
F (US: The Expelled), The Falling*, The Fallow Field
Gangsters Guns and Zombies, The Girl with All the Gifts*
The Harsh Light of Day, Heartless, The Holding
Inbred
Little Deaths, Little Devil (US: Demon Baby)
The Other Side of the Door
Plan Z, P.O.V., Prevenge
Red Kingdom Rising, Resurrecting ‘The Street Walker’*
Sawney: Flesh of Man (US: Lord of Darkness), The Seasoning House*, Stalled*, Strigoi
Tony, Tower Block
Under the Shadow*, Unhappy Birthday (aka Amen Island)
Wasteland, White Settlers (US: The Bloodlands)

And there's plenty more where those came from! Please note that this list does not include:


I’ll update this list as more films pass my way, adding new ones and taking off others so there’s always 50.

You’re welcome.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Strong opening weekend for 47 Meters Down

Johannes Roberts' shark pic 47 Meters Down, which I make no apologies for constantly plugging, took $11.5 million in its opening weekend according to Box Office Mojo.

It was the third highest opener after Tupac biopic All Eyez on Me and, inevitably, Cars 3 (both of which are aimed at very different audiences) and the fifth highest grosser overall with Wonder Woman and The Mummy still performing predictably strongly.

Entertainment Studios Founder, Chairman and CEO, Byron Allen said: "We are very happy with our first wide release, 47 Meters Down. The movie is perfect for the summer, and an absolute crowd-pleaser as indicated by our outstanding per-screen average."

This is the biggest US opening weekend for a British film since Spectre in November 2015.

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Johannes Roberts - a retrospective

With ten(-ish) features under his belt, Johannes Roberts can lay claim to being one of Britain’s busiest and most successful horror movie directors. This Friday, his shark film 47 Meters Down – starring Claire Holt, Mandy Moore and Matthew Modine – opens on 2,270 screens across the USA (having already taken nearly half a million dollars at the Italian box office). Here’s a round-up of how Jo got from microbudget indies to the (well-deserved) big time. (Dates are first English-language release.)

Sanitarium (2003)
Co-directed with James Eaves (Bane, The Witches Hammer) this microbudget tale of unethical drug trials and weird goings-on in a hospital was shot in 1999. I actually saw this in Manchester in 2000 in its original two-hour cut entitled Diagnosis. The released, retitled version was heavily re-edited, incorporating new footage starring (bizarrely) Uri Geller.

Hellbreeder (2004)
Another joint effort with Jim Eaves, this is a confusing, clown-filled tale of a woman hunting a serial child killer. The cast includes Dominique Pinon (Delicatessen) and West End star Darren Day. It’s a re-edit of an unreleased film called Alice which the IMDB confusingly lists as a separate production.

Darkhunters (2004)
In Jo’s first solo picture, Pinon is a dead teacher being hunted by two demonic private eyes, one of them played by Jeff Fahey. Special effects by Tristan Versluis and Tim Berry. Shot as The Chosen and the Damned. Ernest Riera, now Jo’s regular co-writer, first worked with him on this film, co-directing the Making Of.

Forest of the Damned (2005) – US title: Demonic
Young people travelling in a camper van get attacked by ‘fallen angels’ (naked women with fangs). This is my least favourite Johannes Roberts film, not because it’s any worse than the preceding three but because it’s generic and formulaic. Cameo by Tom Savini as a random nutter. Shot as The Forbidden Forest. Most notable for launching the careers of British horror regulars Eleanor James and Marysia Kay.

When Evil Calls (2006)
I think this is Jo’s least favourite of his creations. It started life as a series of clips on mobile phones, documenting the spread of a Monkey’s Paw-style curse in a school. The cast includes Jennifer Lim, Lois Winstone, Chris Barrie, Marysia Kay and Shaun Hutson (as a zombie). Sir Sean Pertwee filmed a series of linking monologues as a caretaker to string this into a feature, released on DVD in 2008.

F (2010) – US title: The Expelled
There’s a clear dividing line between Jo’s first four (or five) features which are (over-)ambitious, wild DTV B-movies and his later films which are much more controlled, slick and powerful theatrically released features. This dark, school-set hoodie horror has an embittered teacher (David Schofield) and his teenage daughter trapped by faceless, supernaturally athletic, murderous youths (played by parkour athletes). While the media was talking about “demonising young people”, Jo was taking the idea literally. Scary and gripping, this showed his talent and re-invigorated his career.
Roadkill (2011)
This American TV movie for SyFy is the one Johannes Roberts feature I haven’t seen (yet). Some kids get cursed by a gypsy and attacked by a giant bird, apparently.

Storage 24 (2012)
Noel Clarke wrote and starred in this enjoyable monster movie about a group of people trapped in a self-storage facility with an alien beastie that has escaped from a crashed military transport plane. Unpretentious sci-fi/horror fun.

The Other Side of the Door (2016)
Set and shot in India, this Monkey's Paw-influenced ghost story has a grieving American mother travel to a temple where she can be temporarily reunited with her drowned son. She is under strict instructions to talk to him through the door but not open it. Of course, she does and something evil comes through. Terrifically spooky, this was produced by Alexandre Aja (Switchblade Romance, Hills Have Eyes remake) and distributed by 20th Century Fox. It was released on 330 screens in the UK and 550 in the States.
47 Meters Down (2017)
And so we come to this brilliantly scary and gripping shark movie in which Ms Moore and Ms Holt are sisters on an unlicensed cage dive and Mr Modine is the skipper who hasn’t checked his chains recently. At one stage this was going to be released straight to DVD as In the Deep, but at the last moment that release was pulled and distributor Entertainment Studios decided this should be seen on the big screen, which it absolutely should.
Future projects
Johannes is currently directing the sequel to 2008 hit The Strangers. He is also developing Hearts, an adaptation of the main story in Stephen King’s collection Hearts in Atlantis, and The Plague in which an unstoppable disease sweeps the planet. Meanwhile Paul Hyett is attached to a Roberts/Riera script called The Pool (‘Cujo in a swimming pool’, apparently!).

I’ve known Jo Roberts for quite some time now. It’s been a pleasure to follow his career and it was an honour to publish the first review of 47 Meters Down last year. I hope it’s a huge success and that Jo continues to provide us with some of the very best British horror films around.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Almost here at last - Spidarlings

I first ran a teaser for Spidarlings way back in March 2012, since when it has been not only on my British Horror masterlist (in the Coming Soon section) but also on my unofficial Looking Forward To list.

Salem Kapsaski's long-awaited punk horror comedy musical finally gets a VOD release next month - courtesy of my dear old mate Lloyd Kaufman. A handful of British films have been distributed by Troma in the past, including Alien Blood, Dark Nature and The Evolved Part 1. But Spidarlings looks easily the most Tromatic and is a perfect fit for Uncle Lloyd's venerable corporation.

Here's the press release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
  
New York, N.Y., June 3, 2017 - Greetings from Tromaville!

Troma Entertainment, the longest running truly independent film company in American history, is proud to announce the acquisition of Salem Kapsaski's punk rock musical Spidarlings, World Premiere on Troma Now July 1st, it was announced today by Lloyd Kaufman, President of Troma Entertainment and creator of The Toxic Avenger.

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.

While creating Spidarlings, Director Salem Kapsaski drew inspiration from his own real life experiences with financial struggles, a ruthless landlord, and relentless threats to his family from an unstable individual. These real life experiences mixed with influences from John Waters, I Love Lucy, Lloyd Kaufman, Peanuts cartoons and an amazing musical score by Jeff Kristian are what makes Spidarlings a totally original, remarkable independent film.

Spidarlings will premiere on Troma Now, Troma Entertainment's exclusive content streaming service, July 1st!

Spidarlings stars Sophia Disgrace (whose numerous BHR credits include David VG Davies' Monitor and Animal Soup plus Three's a Shroud (also for DVGD), The Shadow of Death, Paul TT Easter's Thumb N It and the as yet unreleased Rock Band vs Vampires); model/actress/painter Rahel Kapsaski  (sister of director Salem); Lee Mark Jones aka Gypsy Lee Pistolero (Theatre of Fear, Bella in the Wych Elm and currently-in-post Werewolves of the Third Reich); former Jawa Rusty Goffe (more recently in assorted Harry Potters) and Uncle Lloyd himself.

You can find out more on Facebook. Meanwhile, here's the trailer, complete with glorious Troma ident: