Archive for July, 2013

“I made a video for you”- A Review of To Jennifer (2013)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 28, 2013 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

**WARNING: CONTAINS SOME SPOILERS**

Last year I had the pleasure of reviewing James Cullen Bressack’s brutal home invasion flick Hate Crime (2012). Certainly a film that remains in the mind for a long time after the first viewing, it demonstrated Bressack’s talent for creating  honest, realistic films that really get under the skin with his D-I-Y approach to filmmaking. He is living proof that low-budget, found footage films can be done well. I was thrilled to be given the opportunity to view a screener of his latest feature To Jennifer, which incorporates a similar filmic style to Hate Crime but is far from it in terms of content and narrative.

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The premise of To Jennifer has the makings of a dark, psychological thriller. Joey (Chuck Pappas) suspects his long-term girlfriend Jennifer (Jessica Cameron) is cheating on him. With this knowledge he enlists the help of his cousin Steve (James Cullen Bressack) to create a video for her so he can inform her he knows of her infidelity. The aim of the video is to document Joey’s emotions as he builds up to confront her. To Jennifer slides itself into the road movie category as the cousins have a long journey ahead of them to endure before they reach destination Jennifer!

Bressack and Pappas shot the film using the iphone 5 while giving insights from Joey and Steven’s perspectives of what occurs over the course of the film, allowing us to see both sides of the story. I can vouch that the camera quality on the iphone is sharp and far superior to using a video camera through experimenting between the two during my own experience creating a Making Of documentary.  The sound on an iphone is also less distorted and clearer than your average recording camera.

An example of the power of modern technology, Bressack demonstrates that filmmaking is possible through the means of using a mobile phone and takes this resourceful approach throughout, making the film feel more naturalistic. If you weren’t aware that To Jennifer was a fictional movie, it would be as if you’d stumbled on a random film made by two friends, making the viewer feel like a voyeur, which is exactly what Hate Crime conveyed, a sense of intrusion on these people’s lives. That said, the power of reality television is used as a backdrop. While Joey is making a personal film for Jennifer’s eyes only, Steve constantly challenges the line between fiction and realism as he attempts to orchestrate conflict and manipulate the variables in their environment in order to make something an audience would find worthwhile. Its all about what will make a “good viewing” so to speak. For the characters it may be unintentional, but as the tension rises they start to make a completely twisted movie and for one of them, get more than they bargained for. Before taking a turn for the psychological thriller territory, the viewer is unsuspecting as with a slow build-up, the film throws you off-balance, leading you to think you’re just watching a “buddy, road movie”.

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As stated, Bressack and Pappas give off natural performances, making the viewer believe in their characters and sense the tensions and conflicts they’re going through (possibly a comment on the lack of control filmmakers endure via the Hollywood System? Questioning “Who’s film is this really?”). Its certainly more convincing than ‘actual documentary’ Catfish (2010) , in which it displayed reminiscences of and is the film Catfish sort of set out to be. For the majority of the film they are joined by Steve’s buddy Martin (Jody Barton) who acts as the main comic relief much to Joey’s annoyance. He comes across as reluctant toward Joey’s intentions with the video and encourages him to forget Jennifer and enjoy himself. He seems locked in his own world and doesn’t see how his actions impact others and makes some pretty insane decisions which riles Joey further. After taking on the role of thug One in Hate Crime, it was nice to see Jody Barton in a lighter role, showing his versatility as an actor in a film by the same director. Chuck Pappas plays Joey as likeable to begin with then slowly builds him up as a ticking time bomb waiting to explode with rage as the reality sinks in about his girlfriend’s unfaithful behavior. Will his friends be able to save him from having a complete mental breakdown? Bressack’s character Steve has his heart in the right place but acts obnoxiously at times as he’s torn between his best friend and cousin. Bressack shows he’s a good actor as well as a talented and unique director. Between the three characters, they share an engaging dynamic that keeps the viewer with an edge of suspicion throughout.

It really is a film about communication, or lack of in a world where technology allows us the ability to converse with anyone, anywhere, at any time. Its a study of the power of the internet and how the separation between Facebook and real life is becoming more difficult to decipher. While Hate Crime may have been brutal on a visual level, To Jennifer’s brutality comes on a psychological platform which works more complexly rather than resorting to extreme violence and gore to carry the film forward.  The film is well-shot and doesn’t just opt for the shaky cam tactic, these characters know how to use a camera. The shots aren’t static either, there’s a good balance between both mentioned; mainstream found footage flicks should take note. Tristan Risk ( Beatress in American Mary) makes a voice over cameo as a flight attendant which added to its indie film vibe, through selecting the type of actress associated with underground filmmaking. While slow paced to begin with, To Jennifer keeps you on edge from the start to the nail-biting finale leaving you apprehensive and excited about what could happen next. Well done to James Cullen Bressack for making another twisted and insightful film, his work will continue to be supported by Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Rip Your Heart Out: A UK Review: Supernatural #8.4 “Bitten”

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 22, 2013 by Hayley's Horror Reviews
  • Directed By Thomas J. Wright
  • Written By Robbie Thompson
  • Original Air date 24th October 2012

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This review is dedicated to fellow writer/reviewer and Supernatural fan Jorge Solis (@JSolis82).

Supernatural has made a demonic return to our UK TV screens, broadcasting in double bill formats on Sky channel Living every Wednesday from 10pm. Thus far, Season Eight kicked off with Dean (Jensen Ackles) (minus Castiel (Misha Collins)) escaping from purgatory following a deal with a vampire named Benny (Ty Olsson), whom he resurrects. Once reunited with Sam, who this time has decided to get on with his life instead of hunting for Dean’s whereabouts, they go on a quest to find Kevin (Osric Chau), a prophet who has been chosen to translate a tablet deemed The Word of God. The tablet is said to contain spells that can ultimately unleash every demon imaginable on this earth through opening the Gates of Hell which Crowley (Mark A. Shepperd) has sinisterly discovered. It also has the reverse effect and could potentially close them, which provides us with the Winchester’s main quest for this season. The brother’s relationship is once again strained full of angst and conflict, Sam has had a mysterious relationship with a vet named Amelia during Dean’s absence, which he addresses to Dean and the viewers that it has ended, so far under unknown circumstances. The youngest Winchester now has a taste for a normal life and toys with the idea of giving up hunting for good. But, can Dean survive going solo? This is the aspect I’m mainly looking forward to the writer’s developing as the eighth season unfolds because the dynamic between Sam and Dean is the heart of the show. The season’s plot focusing on closing the gates of hell is sure to be a captivating watch and could prove the Winchester’s most difficult task yet. 

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The long-running horror series is famed for its stand-alone, monster-of-the-week episodes. Following a two-part introduction to the main focus of the season in We need to talk about Kevin (#8.1) and “What’s up, Tiger Mommy?” (#8.2), the subsequent episodes return to this well-known, established formula. Episode Four titled Bitten which is the subject of this review came as a surprisingly experimental and gripping stand-alone addition to the Supernatural-verse. Taking characteristics from the found-footage sub-genre, it almost felt like a horror short from an anthology such as V/H/S rather than an installment of Supernatural. This type of episode has refreshed the show to a degree and demonstrates that straying from the expected structure can work successfully. Bitten is an example of how television these days is becoming more cinematic through expanding on trends within the horror film genre, bringing in recognizable traits and styles for fans. The show has previously attempted a type of found-footage format with Ghostfacers (#3.13) which satirized ghost-hunting style shows e.g. Most Haunted balancing humor and all out creepiness really well. Werewolf mythology has always been a frequently re-visited fixture within the show (as has its close relatives Shape-Shifters) particularly the episodes Heart (#2.17) and All Dogs go to Heaven (#6.8), Bitten crosses over previously seen narrative styles that Supernatural has depicted over the past eight years.

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Rather than focusing the episode on Sam and Dean investigating a horrific incident, normally linked to the occult, Bitten has them in the background, making short appearances throughout. The Winchesters are firmly placed in the eyes of the viewers as they watch a video taken from the perspective of film students Brian (Leigh Parker) and Michael (Brandon Jones) after entering a blood-soaked crime scene. There are themes present which emphasize the rise of technology in the modern world as Brian and Michael mess around with their cameras, searching for a subject to create a movie on. It demonstrates that so many people in today’s society have easy access to the world of film-making with found-footage particularly being a popular trend, suggesting that anyone who can pick up a camera can think they’re a filmmaker.  The same sequence discussed also introduces Kate (Brit Sheridan) who becomes Michael’s girlfriend. Strong character development is then defined between the trio, setting up the later conflict that will be seen within the episode. Considering these young actors have to hold their own in this episode away from Sam and Dean, they do a tremendous job and play well-rounded, engaging characters.

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Brian displays jealousy towards his best friend’s new found relationship and hints that he is also in love with Kate. When Michael is bitten by the lycanthrope, he becomes stronger and even more appealing in Kate’s eyes which causes Brian to fixate on wanting to be just like him even more. The episode takes a dark turn as expected, heightening the blurry lines between human and monster in the werewolf mythos and how the individual doesn’t have the choice, bringing in a heart-breaking effect similarly to Sam’s decision to murder his werewolf lover in Heart.

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Milo Green’s What’s The Matter has a strong presence throughout adding to the devastation as it echoes back to the happier times when the trio first met. It was refreshing to see the perspective of the victims and how they view Sam and Dean.  As they eavesdrop on their investigation they refer to them as just a couple of  unconvincing FBI agents with nods to The X Files (which comes at no surprise as director Thomas J. Wright worked on the show). They misinterpret the brother’s relationship as romantic, echoing back to the earlier seasons, adding humor within a dark, twisted storyline without going over the top with meta referencing i.e. Wincest.

Bitten is a beautiful, thought-provoking episode with an engrossing storyline. Its left open-ended, therefore I’m hoping it will at least be followed up or referred to later on. Bitten experiments with Supernatural’s format, yet returns to what the earlier seasons conveyed. I can definitely place this episode as one of my favorites and it goes to show why Supernatural is still one of the most popular genre shows on television today.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Spidarlings- A New Horror Musical! The Official Trailer.

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on July 20, 2013 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Spidarlings (2013) is an upcoming Horror, Musical that appears to take elements from various other genres resulting in a colorful, outrageous and quirky extravaganza. Channeling the style of 70’s and 80’s exploitation such as the films of John Waters, Spidarlings echoes back to a nostalgic vibe and has the makings of achieving a cult status.

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The film focuses on a lesbian couple Matilda and Eden, who are victims of the Welfare System, their applications for housing benefit and job seekers allowance have been rejected. As they struggle to get by, they are constantly terrorized by their landlord who is gunning to evict them, Matilda finds work at a night club named Juicy Girls where she must deal with advances from unsavory middle-aged men, one who is particularly unhinged and develops a deadly obsession. As tension mounts, the showgirls start to get brutally murdered, however Eden has just invested in a pet tarantula that is soon to change their lives forever! With an ambitious plot, and a tongue-in-cheek look at the state of the UK, Spidarlings is set to be a blood-soaked, gore fest full of carnage, a rocking soundtrack  (composed by Jeff Kristian) and much, much more!

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Spidarlings is directed by Salem Kapsaski and will be his debut feature, however he has had much experience within the horror industry through creating short films and plays. In 2009 he gained the opportunity of working as a production assistant on Dario Argento’s Giallo. Through studying Directing at the New York Film School, Kapsaski has plenty of experience behind him which will hopefully be demonstrated within his new film. Its certainly going to be interesting seeing how he has merged different sub-genres and styles together. With a project so ambitious, it can potentially lose itself so hopefully they will compliment each other and flow well alongside the narrative.

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The film is a critique of the British Welfare system and pokes fun at it in numerous ways, making it extremely relevant to our time and providing some light relief amongst the depressing recession we as a country are facing. The punk-themed costumes used indicate an 80’s influence, making the connection between the impact of the Conservative governments on the lives of the working class from back then and this decade, suggesting a pattern of history repeating itself, through the lack of job opportunities. Even though its ultimately a British film, it features actors from all over the globe including Lloyd Kaufman, Rusty Goffe, Sophia Disgrace, Lynn Ruth Miller and Bloody F Mess to name a few.

So with that little teaser I now present the official trailer courtesy of Rahel Kapsaski, which provides a detailed look of what to expect. It certainly is a visual treat. Full of campiness, themes of anarchy and exploitation, enter the strange world of Spidarlings.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Midight Movies: Genre Films of the Week

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 10, 2013 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

As well as keeping up to date with the latest releases and the independent market for Horror, I also enjoy watching older movies from back in the day which have loose ties to the genre. In this article, I’m going to re-cap on some of the lesser-known movies that I’ve enjoyed watching this week as a recommendation for my readers if you ever fancy a black comedy or a made-for-TV psychological thriller! Each film discussed features the theme of powerful yet psychotic women which says a lot about the feminist in me! Therefore I will dedicate this review to some of the most underrated female villains and their opponents within these closely-linked genres. I hope you enjoy my nostalgia-fest. If you’ve seen the movies feel free to comment and if you haven’t be sure to check them out sometime. Mild spoilers are included.

1. Jawbreaker (1999)

JawbreakerPosterTeen movies were rife back in the late 90’s, particularly 1999. Darren Stein’s Jawbreaker could almost be deemed a satire of the trend of teenage flicks that emerged at the time as well as being heavily compared to Heathers (1988) from the previous decade. I noticed on IMDB that many fans of the two films compare, contrast and debate over which is the better film, in all honesty its a tough call as both have their merits.

Jawbreaker is a cult classic with some deliciously sweet performances from the well known stars of the time. The plot focuses on three stereotypical popular girls who accidentally murder their Prom Queen friend in a kidnapping-gone-wrong. Courtney (played by Rose McGowan- well known for her role as Paige in WB series Charmed) is the ring leader, Marcie (played by Julie Benz AKA. Darla in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel and more recently Amanda Rosewater in Defiance) is her follower, while Julie (played by Rebecca Gayheart, who fantastically acted the psychotic Brenda in Urban Legend) is the smart one who breaks away from the clique following the grizzly murder. The film spoofs the trope of Dawson Casting superbly by deliberately casting actresses in their mid-twenties as seventeen-year-old’s in a homage to Grease (1978) and also provides a cameo for the late Jeff Conaway.

Jawbreaker is a black comedy through and through, in the same vein as the previously mentioned Heathers and Very Bad Things (1998), its outrageous, surreal and but also has a heart to it. The death scene is hilariously done as victim Liz (Charlotte Ayanna) is choked to death by none other than a jawbreaker! The girls reactions at the beginning to what they’ve done conveys the right balance of tragedy and comedy. Julie is the most identifiable character and the film is spent rooting for her as she attempts to thwart Courtney’s cover up, Rebecca Gayheart plays the empathetic role really well and shows off her acting range. Rose McGowan is equally as fantastic as the ruthless, alpha-bitch, under the delusion she can control those around her. The lengths she goes to are sick and twisted, without revealing too much. To add to the drama the girls are caught in the midst of covering their tracks by the meek and geeky character Fern (Judy Greer) who in return for her silence Courtney transforms her into Reagan High’s flavor of the month. The film uses the whole “popularity is superficial” as its main focus point which was a repetitive trend that appeared in the movies from the late 90’s. A fun watch with a cool and fitting soundtrack, look out for the Marilyn Manson cameo! For me, one of the most memorable teen flicks of 1999.

2. Midnight’s Child (1992)

MOV_5b9673e8_bLifetime movies have always been a guilty pleasure from a young age and over the year’s I’ve caught some compelling yet cheesy thrillers that provide enjoyable viewings, I still catch them from time to time, the most recent being Courtney Cox’s directorial debut TalHotBlond (2012). The Lifetime Movie of the Week incorporates similar thematic elements and plots in each film. The films are tailored to a female target audience, however it would simply be sexist to assume that they are in place for only women to enjoy as well as assume because you’re a woman you’ll be attracted to these type of films. Themes that are dealt with through these made-for-tv dramas include stalkers with a sexual motive, rape, incest to name a few. Sometimes the film’s plots such as TalHotBlond are taken from real life incidents. The villains of the piece almost always receive a comeuppance, usually ending in death.

Midnight’s Child (1992) was one of the film’s that clearly capitalized on the popularity of The Hand that Rocks the Cradle (1992) sharing very similar plot lines, although Midnight’s Child does deviate from it toward the end as it brings in an occultist plot, reminiscent of the conclusion of Witchcraft (1988). The antagonist of Midnight’s Child is evidently based on the infamous Peyton Flanders, both blonde, attractive and clearly round-the-twist. These were the types of films that put off married, career women from hiring a nanny for their children as 1. They almost always want to take over the mother role and 2. seduce your husband. It challenges the role of the stay-at-home mother and almost acts as a dark fable for the modern woman who can have a top end career and raise a family, with the message of “have a career, lose your child and husband”. Interestingly, in this film the husband works from home as an artist but still isn’t deemed capable of caring for the daughter and is gullible enough not to suss out what’s going on under his own roof. Therefore, I find it interesting how these type of films challenges ideas of what is masculinity and femininity.

Its the summer holidays and Kate (Marcy Walker) makes the decision to hire an Au Pair for her eight-year-old daughter Christina (Elizabeth Moss of Mad Men fame). A drawn-out-lengthy scene at the beginning shows an anonymous woman in a nunnery murdering another woman then stealing her identity. Anna Bergman (Played by Olivia d’Abo, well known for her role of Karen Arnold in The Wonder Years) moves into the household as a live-in-nanny. Hiding behind a Swedish accent, she begins to bond with Christina very well much to Kate’s eventual annoyance. Also an artist, Anna shares her hand-drawn “story book” with the young girl, and enthralls her into a story about a Princess and a Prince, she supplies her with gifts and takes her to the theme park Kate had planned for her birthday. Later its revealed that Anna is not quite who she says she is and is and nothing will stand in her way with Christina and a strange, satanic plot.

Midnight’s Child is a pretty hammy movie at times but the cheesy, over-the-top acting makes it what it is. It does include some pretty creepy imagery that depicts Anna’s relationship with Satan and her involvement of Christina and the husband which gives it an unsettling edge.  A predictable but compelling thriller that keeps you gripped as the plot unravels.

3. Hush Little Baby (1993)

hush_little_baby_mother_of_pearl_diane_ladd_jorge_montesi_001_jpg_ridcThis is a film I’d been on the look out for, for a long time. I recall seeing it on television at a young age and had vague memories of it. A few years ago I had a conversation with somebody who described The Hand that rocks the Cradle, it sounded so familiar therefore, I bought it on VHS. After viewing it I had a niggling that it wasn’t the correct film and the only similarities it shared was  a blonde, psychotic antagonist who took over the family home, and their demises at the end. So I took to IMDB and was taken to the page of this made-for-TV from 1993. With Cradle, the name Peyton didn’t sound familiar, so once I’d seen the main character’s name was Edie it was definitely what I had recollected.

After purchasing the only DVD copy I could find off Amazon from a seller called Andy’s Shop of Horrors (I’d definitely buy from again) I sat down to watch the movie. The plot focuses on Susan (Wendel Meldrum), a married mother of two who was adopted at a young age. Susan shares a close bond with her adoptive parents and is settled in her life with her husband Martin (Geriant Wyn Davies), she’s also doing a degree in Art History. The film shares similarities with Midnight’s Child with the theme of art bonding people together as well as an intrusion in the home and mother/daughter relationships. Susan receives a phone call from a private investigator who has located her birth mother Edie Sanders (Diane Ladd) and decides to make contact. She invites Edie back to her home to meet her family. What’s supposed to be a two week visit turns into months of hell as Edie becomes extremely jealous of everyone in Susan’s life and manipulates her way through the family. Edie is a disturbed woman who will stop at nothing until all her daughter has is her. Even though this could again be considered a hammy, psychological thriller at times, it has very believable performances. Diane Ladd is excellent as the maniac and volatile Edie who is nice on the surface with an evil interior, she also has some comic, under-the-breath one liners that makes her character even more unhinged but also lightens the tone at points.

On a deep level the film is disturbing, and questions whether blood is thicker than water as Susan is plagued by nightmares of almost being scolded in the bath as a child and attempts to make sense of these horrific dreams. Edie nastily murders Susan’s mother through an insulin overdose, unbeknown to the rest of the family, causing her father to leave town for a while. She then clashes with the live-in-nanny Meg (Ingrid Veninger), who meets a sticky demise at her hands and then begins to start on Susan’s step-s0n Dylan (Illya Woloshyn). Edie’s erratic behavior makes compelling viewing, giving the audience hope that Susan will soon uncover the devastating truth about her mother. The characters are incredibly believable, leaving the viewer empathizing with them. By today’s standards, the violence is pretty tame, yet works effectively.

The film is low budget however feels on the whole quite realistic. The plot is rather predictable but is still engaging. The ending feels rushed and cheaply done, considering the build-up’s consistently good, I was left expecting a bit more. In the UK it seems difficult to locate and I’m unsure if it will ever air as a late night movie but its definitely worth a watch if you enjoy psychological thrillers such as Fatal Attraction (1987) or Single White Female (1992) but on a lower budget level. Its directed by Jorge Montesi, who brought the cult favorite Mother, May I Sleep with Danger? (1996).

Please let me know if you’d like to see me do some more old-school reviews. I always appreciate the feedback.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Some Thoughts on Curse of Chucky (2013)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on July 9, 2013 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Its a doll, what’s the worst that can happen?- [Taken From Trailer].

The trailer for the sixth installment of the popular Child’s Play franchise hit the web today, showcasing Curse of Chucky (2013). Instead of re-booting the entire franchise, another sequel seems to be the better approach as the series is  without a doubt in dire need of redeeming  itself following the disaster that was Seed of Chucky (2004). The return of the murderous red-headed menace, possessed by the soul of a notorious serial killer  is being  brought back to us by original creator Don Mancini who’s written and directed the piece. This suggests the project is a labor of love for him, considering Chucky has been around for the past twenty-five-years.  Brad Dourif is also on board reprising his iconic voice-acting role as the demonic doll. Not only that his real-life actress daughter Fiona Dourif is taking him on as protagonist Nica, giving the project an even more personal touch and heightening the strong theme of family that the plot conveys.

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Drawing from the trailer, it appears Mancini is attempting to bring back the old school style of horror that was present in the earlier films of suspense and added humor. The story has returned to that of a more conventional narrative with a family being terrorized by the pint-size piece of evil rather than the over-the-top silliness that came with Bride of Chucky (1998) (which remains a personal guilty pleasure!) and the God-awful previously mentioned Seed of Chucky. The plot focuses on the conflict of two sisters following the death of their mother. When Nica’s young niece receives a mysterious package in the post its not long before dolly dearest commits a series of brutal murders which leads back to a score he failed to settle twenty-years earlier, and this time he is determined to see it through. This now means the timeline for the film relates back to 1993 following the events of Child’s Play 3 which saw Chucky terrorize a grown-up Andy for the third time in army camp.

My expectations for this film will hopefully be some cheesy references and self-awareness and plenty of brutal gore to compliment the tone of modern horror.

Granted, its not an original idea but Curse of Chucky is sure to please fans of the franchise as well as reminding us of what we love about the Horror and Slasher genres. Curse of Chucky may be a throwback to the late 80’s/early 90’s but there’s no denying that as a horror fan, its nice to see a familiar face returning to the screen. The film will be premiering at this year’s Film4 Fright Fest in August, following a DVD and Blu-Ray release on September 24th.

Bring on the bloodbath, Chucky’s Back!!

More on Ascension, the Premiere and Behind the Screams!

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 3, 2013 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Following on from my review of the film, I am now going to document the premiere that took place on Sunday, the 30th of June at the Electric Cinema in Birmingham. I am also going to discuss the reception Ascension received at the event as well as the screening of my own Making of Documentary titled Behind The Screams. Firstly I would just like to say how impressed I was with the venue, I’d have to describe the Electric as the comfiest cinema I’ve ever been in. At the back of the room, leather sofas were reserved for the main cast and crew which made it feel like you were in your own living room. The standard seats further down provided plenty of leg room. The entire room seemed refurbished and modernized. Despite it being a small room, it created a more intimate atmosphere as cast, crew and their families sat down to enjoy the days events.

Electric Cinema

Photo by Dave Jeffrey

Director James Hart, Writer Dave Jeffrey and Producer/Editor Richard O’Connor began the premiere by introducing themselves and their roles, then informed the audience of the day’s line-up. We were treated to a screening of Venomous Little Man’s entry into the 666 Shortcuts to Hell competition for the Horror Channel, Six Feet Under. This sick and twisted short was the perfect way to set the audience up for the main feature as it demonstrated the type of material Venomous Little Man produce. It also showcased Mark Rathbone’s acting talent and strong on-screen presence, which is also seen later on in Ascension.  Following another brief introduction from James, Dave and Richard where they thanked all who had been involved in the project, it was now time to view what we were all there for Ascension.

Cast Q&A

Having been fortunate enough to view the film prior to the premiere, I was interested in hearing first time viewers reactions to it, particularly the cast. After the credits rolled, the film received a massive round of applause and all involved seemed impressed by the outcome. Dave and James got the cast up on stage to answer a few questions, the one I particularly remember was if they enjoyed using the prop guns during the shoot! They all emphasized how cold it was on location and how they battled the weather conditions. Exciting news about the company’s future productions were then announced. A raffle was later included and prizes were a signed copy of the poster and a copy of Alt-Zombie.

Following a short break, I was then asked to go on stage to say a few brief words about how I became involved in Ascension and introduce my first film the behind-the-scenes documentary Ascension: Behind The Screams. This was a particularly nerve-wracking experience as I had fought sound issues and several problems during the editing process, however the outcome was better than expected. The film contains the actor interviews available on this blog and my youtube channel as well as the filming of key scenes. I did focus a lot on the gory, zombie eating scene to demonstrate the FX side of things and the direction. There’s a lot of humor within the Making Of, the audience were surprised to see how muddy the location was and the sound did help to highlight the fierce wind that was present throughout the shoot.  Everybody also enjoyed the cameo from the softest guard dog ever on the second location, a lovely wolfhound. As a filmmaker, its natural to be critical of your own work so I am going to potentially revise certain scenes and cut parts for length reasons, some of the transitions seemed a bit rough even though they had been rectified during the editing process. However, on the whole I received some really nice comments from the guests which has filled me with confidence for the future. To see my film up on the big screen did bring a lot of emotions and on the whole I am proud how its turned out. Through being on the set I learned a lot from the crew which I will take on board when I hopefully make my own feature film.  I think the main objective with a Making Of Documentary is to capture the reality of how the film was made and provide a naturalistic feel for the viewers to get a sense of what it was like. Overall I feel I achieved that.

To conclude, I feel very privileged to have been part of Ascension as I have been able to do something I greatly enjoy and have made many new friends.I would particularly like to thank Derek Melling, Dave Jeffrey and James Hart for giving me the opportunity and Ross Hunt for all his help and support in creating the Making Of. I would definitely like to work with these guys again and wish them all the best with the future.

http://www.venomouslittleman.co.uk/

Hayley Alice Roberts.

After Apocalypse: A Review of Ascension (2013)

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 2, 2013 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

**WARNING: MAY CONTAIN SOME SPOILERS**

“The human race has to adapt, Ascend”- Joe

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Ascension (2013) is a British short horror film and the directorial debut of James Hart. The screenplay has been adapted from a short story written by Dave Jeffrey from the anthology Alt-Zombie. Filmed in Redditch, during the cold winter of 2013, Ascension tells the tale of a post-apocalyptic world where survivors are few and far between and puts forward strong ideas of community and a breakdown in modern society, echoing back to the Second World War, with everything on ration and people sticking together through hardship. The film opens with a series of news reel’s depicting the gradual stages of the apocalypse and the decline of humanity. With, fast-paced, slick cuts, these moments set the scene for what’s to come. It also must be noted that the opening is accompanied by a chilling score (composed by Liz Comley) that creates a melancholic tone, greatly adding to the film’s atmosphere.

We are then introduced to Ascension’s protagonists Joe (Derek Melling) and Annie (Jacky Fellows), two survivors who are determined to find others to bring back a sense of community spirit  (“The Blakewell Spirit”). In a time of crisis the characters still manage to maintain a sense of humor, which is seen throughout the film and is an example of the witty writing in Jeffrey’s script. Our protagonists are joined by Tom (Laurence Saunders) before setting off into the wilderness in the hope of finding others. The characters share a believable dynamic and its clear there is a strong bond and trust between them. On their search they come across brother and sister Alex (Debbie Nicholls), Carl (Sam Knight) and their leader Eddie (Mark Rathbone) who appears as the main antagonist. In a Western-style stand off the characters attempt to convince each other they can be trusted which keeps the audience on the edge-of-their-seats and allows for some intense and confrontational moments as well as ambiguity, nothing is clear cut in regards to who are the good guys and who are the bad? Without revealing anymore, the film concludes with a shocking and heart-wrenching twist that is sure to leave the audience satisfied.

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Ascension sets itself apart from other texts within the Zombie sub-genre in several ways. Its a very character-driven piece and develops each individual well, providing a lot of empathy for them. The actors are all brilliantly cast and put a lot of heart into the material. It gets the audience on a psychological level, questioning how we ourselves would react if in the same situation and allows an understanding of the motives involved. Another interesting aspect is the film isn’t overly gory and doesn’t feature many zombies which differentiates it in a major way, proving that horror can work well as a backdrop with high drama as the main focus. Isolation is a key theme and its represented well through the location. It could be said that Ascension is the coldest zombie film out there due to the weather conditions the cast and crew worked in! There is some stunning cinematography, particularly the aerial shots near the beginning. For a thirty minute film, Ascension manages to convey a lot but still leaves you wanting more which demonstrates that its done its job. To conclude, Ascension is an emotionally-charged, good humored horror story, with well written characters, strong actors, breathtaking cinematography and good direction. Venomous Little Man Productions should be proud of their efforts and hopefully have more wonderful work to come.

Hayley Alice Roberts.