Archive for November, 2014

Abertoir 2014 Review: The Canal (2014)

Posted in Ghostface Girls, Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 21, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

In a sub-genre that’s been mostly dominated with jump scares and found footage, a truly spine-chilling ghost story has been hard to come by these past few years. Ivan Kavanagh’s The Canal is a breath of fresh air, returning to the old school style of haunting films where less is more. The Irish independent production that deals with themes of family breakdown, paranoid horror and dark secrets manages to get it right. It’s the scariest film that screened during this year’s Abertoir line-up and a standout amongst the films that incorporated a serious tone.

The_Canal_2014_Irish_horror_movie_poster

 

**Note** This poster does not do the film justice, its too generic and doesn’t capture the essence of what The Canal is.

 

The Canal centralizes on married film archivist and father David (Rupert Evans). After living peacefully in his nice house with his young family for the past five years, David’s world is turned upside down when his colleague Claire (Antonia Campbell-Hughes) presents him with some unsettling film reel that reveals a murder took place in his house around 1902. To add to his woes, David is suspicious of his wife Alice’s (Hannah Hoekstra) behaviour. Whatever she’s hiding is the catalyst that sets off a series of horrendous events that alters David’s life forever. In this psychological drama, David must protect his adorable young son Billy (Callum Heath) and come to terms with his own personal demons. Is there a malevolent spirit lurking in David’s house? Or is it something even darker?

large_Canal_web_1

It’s difficult not to reveal too much regarding the film’s plot as each surprise that unfolds on screen provides a jaw-dropping experience. The Canal is a slow burner, which works well as it takes its time to develop David as a strong and layered character and his relationships with those around him, his son, colleague, wife and the babysitter. As an audience we garner plenty of empathy for him and care about him as the protagonist so that when ominous and enigmatic events take place we’re on board with him for the entire time.

canal2

Rupert Evans’s performance is striking. He portrays David with both likeability and vulnerability making his story especially compelling.  The relationship between him and his five year old son Billy comes across as naturalistic, enabling us to invest in them. Callum Heath is one of the sweetest child actors in any horror film, his delivery is believable and he’s perfectly cast as the innocent child unaware of the chaos surrounding him, allowing some truly heart-breaking moments.

canal1

A highlight performance comes from Steve Oram (Sightseers) in the small role of police detective McNamara. Oram attended a funny and insightful Q&A at the festival explaining that the back to basics style of horror attracted him to being part of the film. His character is deadpan and highly suspicious acting as a foil for David.

canal3

Steve Oram chats with Abertoir Festival Director Gaz Bailey about his involvement in The Canal.

Steve Oram chats with Abertoir Festival Director Gaz Bailey about his involvement in The Canal.

What works in The Canal’s favour is its genuinely creepy, the tension is constantly high and the frightening moments come in unexpectedly. As stated it doesn’t rely on loud noises and jump scares to generate fear in its audience, it remains suspenseful by gradually revealing the twists and turns to a satisfying effect. In some respects its reminiscent of the classic ghost story The Innocents (1961)  in the sense that it easily gets under the skin or an Irish version of  Sinsiter (2012) (as me and Caitlyn discussed in our Ghostface Girls Video, see below) but done slightly better. It’s atmospheric, beautifully shot, with intense lighting that echoes the giallo sub-genre. The old film reels used to signify David’s discovery of the previous horrors that occurred at his home look authentic adding to the macabre tone of the film.

Kavanagh has created a disturbing, memorable and traditional ghost story with plenty of twists to keep up interest. If you’re going to watch one haunting film this year make it The Canal, it is guaranteed to linger in the mind for a long time and make you sleep with the light on!

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews

Abertoir 2014 Review: Tusk (2014)

Posted in Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 20, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

**WARNING: MAY CONTAIN MINOR SPOILERS**

This may be a controversial statement  but despite Housebound and What We Do in the Shadows completely winning over the audience at this year’s Abertoir Festival, and deservingly so, the marmite offering within this year’s line-up that divided the audience was the film that unexpectedly caught my attention.

Tusk_(2014_film)_poster

Since the unveiling of the trailer at the San-Diego comic con a few months ago, Tusk immediately piqued my interest. It struck me as a harmless comedy with a wacky concept and to a degree it is, however the second only UK screening at Abertoir generated a mix of shock, laughter and general unease.

It’s not often that a mainstream movie amongst a line-up of innovative independent films would garner this amount of appreciation, particularly from me, but Tusk is guaranteed to tip the equilibrium and lingers in the mind, long after viewing.

Ashamedly Kevin Smith’s work is not something I’ve sought out over the years; at most I only recall the Jay and Silent Bob cameo in Scream 3 (2000) that drew any awareness of him. Most popularly known for buddy comedies including Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, Smith found fame following his low-budget 1994 success Clerks. The film was picked up by Miramax and won awards at both Cannes and Sundace Film Festivals, leading to a prosperous career for Smith. Tusk is Smith’s second attempt in dabbling in the horror genre, following a mixed bag in the shape of his 2011, action-horror-thriller Red State.

Tusk’s conception formed on Smith’s joint podcast show, SModcast with producing partner Scott Mosier. In their episode ‘The Walrus and the Carpenter’, the two discussed an obscure article surrounding an advertisement on Gumtree (the online community) where a homeowner was offering a free living arrangement if the person lodging would agree to dress as a walrus! A completely out of the box idea, Smith and Mosier were onto something and asked the audience to tweet #WalrusYes if they’d like to see this strange story translated onto the big screen. The campaign was evidently successful and it turned out the initial article had been a prank. Chris Parkinson who had initiated the bonkers practical joke and a long-time fan of Smith then became associate producer.  Tusk is therefore an amalgamation of being semi-autobiographical hybridized with an unexpected inspiring idea.

1702262-inside-kevin-smiths-booming-podcast-business-rotator

Wallace Bryton (Justin Long) and Teddy Craft (Haley Joel Osment) are popular podcast-hosters with their politically incorrect show title, The-Not-See-Party. The two poke fun at famous youtube videos, leading Wallace’s put-upon girlfriend Ally (Genesis Rodriguez) to accuse him of selling out through being mean in order to generate views. Wallace gains the opportunity of interviewing youtube sensation the Kill Bill Kid (based on a real life case) famed for severing his own leg and must take a trip to Canada. With the set-up in place, little does Wallace know that something far more dark and disturbing awaits him when he answers an ambiguous advertisement to meet with a lonely old man with the ‘promise’ of lots of stories to tell. The crazed man Howard Howe (Michael Parks) tells a tale of how he was once rescued by a Walrus who he named Mr. Tusk and how the walrus was the only real creature he ever connected with. What comes next is a series of cruel yet dark humoured events that sees Wallace endure a transformation that he’d never imagined.

Tusk is an absolutely fascinating film. It’s essentially Smith’s signature buddy comedy style crossed with conflict and drama that’s mixed in with disturbing horror and the suspense/thriller narrative. It’s a real genre-bender but somehow it works well. It defies the expectations that the trailer sets, Tusk is actually very uncomfortable viewing. It’s rare that a film manages to keep up both laughs and agitation throughout and balances them on an equal scale.

15839434-standard

Justin Long plays the loveable douche with Wallace. He’s slightly obnoxious, shallow and driven but underneath the bravado there’s a genuine side to him and he certainly garners empathy once horrible and despicable things happen to him. Ultimately he’s the anti-hero we root for.

Kevin_Smith_s_Tusk_could_be_the_scariest_horror_of_2014__Or_the_funniest__Or_both

Michael Parks is a delight as the insane Howard Howe. He plays the character as menacing, unhinged but also comical that makes him even more complex and disturbed and fantastic to watch.

michael parks

No character in the film is flawless and Wallace’s allies Teddy and Ally are far from the loyalist of friends but despite this they will do all they can to ensure Wallace’s safety that adds to the devastating aspect of the film.

Tusk (2014) trailer (Screengrab)

 

 

In a surprise cameo, Johnny Depp, an exceptional character-actor, despite his Hollywood status still displays versatility for playing weird  and quirky roles. His novelty character Guy LaPointe (originally offered to Quentin Tarantino) is a welcome addition, he brings in a sense of hope as he aids Ally and Teddy to Wallace’s whereabouts while adding plenty of  unconventional comic relief.

In two breakout performances, young actresses Harley Quinn Smith (Kevin Smith’s daughter) and Lily-Rose Depp (Johnny Depp’s daughter) play the snarky and unamused convenience store clerks who are one step ahead of everyone else. They have the most memorable one liners within the film, and their importance will soon be signified in the follow-up film, the spin-off Yoga Hosers, with them and Depp’s LaPointe as the main focus.

video-undefined-210848CF00000578-807_636x358

Tusk is often compared to body horror shocker The Human Centipede. While the comparisons are justified in the sense of it’s a film about transforming humans into animals for some sick gratification. Tusk is different beast as its not gratuitous, the surgical scenes are crafted in a way where its left to the imagination. The transformation is literally quite something. The script is a lot smarter and Tusk allows us to care about the characters involved. The set design is stylish with the grand and isolated mansion to the brightly coloured convenience store which contrast each other greatly showcasing that balance of terror and humour.

Tusk gets under the skin in an unexpected fashion with its unusual tone and its slow-burn. It’s a freaky cinematic experience that incorporates hilarity and discomfort. It’s an ambitious film that is pulled off brilliantly. One you watch it, you won’t be able to stop thinking about it.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

See No Evil 2 (2014)

Posted in Women in Horror Recognition Month with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 9, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

**WARNING: MAY CONTAIN SOME SPOILERS**

Earlier this year I discussed which genre films I was eager to see in 2014 and anything with the Soska name on it was most definitely going to appeal. Twisted Twins Jen and Sylvia have brought something groundbreaking to a male-dominated genre with their unique and versatile films, Dead Hooker in a Trunk (a love letter to Grindhouse and proof of what you can accomplish on a low-budget) and of course the beloved American Mary, the darkly stylish, character-focused and empowered 2012 hit. Since then the Twisted Twins have been hot property on the horror scene and fans around the world anticipated their next project. When it was first announced that they would be collaborating with WWE studios on a sequel to a forgettable 2006 slasher, See No Evil the scepticism set in. Working within the confines of a studio would place restrictions on the twins creatively dark minds, however one thing’s for certain, their take on See No Evil would be far superior than the original.

download

Prior to watching Jacob Goodnight’s latest slasher outing, I decided to check out the 2006 instalment for background as admittedly I hadn’t heard of the film until the sequel was announced. See No Evil is arguably one of the laziest slasher films ever created. It came at a time when the horror genre was dominated by extreme, shock cinema most popularly Saw and Hostel. While there’s nothing wrong with taking a stab at the sub-genre much like Adam Green successfully achieved with Hatchet, See No Evil added nothing. Its story is flimsy to non-existent, its poorly acted and Jacob Goodnight (played by WWE Superstar Glenn ‘Kane’ Jacobs) can’t be taken seriously as a villain, especially with the bits of dialogue he gets that comes off as unintentionally hammy. Kane comes across as a really awesome guy but there isn’t much material he could really work with. Clearly all that was expected was for him to emulate a Jason Voorhees type-monster because its proved successful in the past. See No Evil was as if Friday the 13th met Carrie in a really bad way and let’s not forget the cartoonish CGI effects. When going in to the first one, I had been pre-warned that its as generic as they come however I didn’t expect it to get my back up as much as it did. Therefore, it was certainly going to be interesting to see how Jen and Sylvia would improve on what can be described as a tedious and poorly-executed film.

See No Evil (2006)

See No Evil (2006)

The result:  What’s most striking about the sequel is how flawless the cinematography and direction is, the twins demonstrate their love and appreciation for the genre as well as blending in the stylishness of American Mary, especially in the wonderfully constructed opening sequence which is a true treat for fans. Visually the film has a certain edge about it, there’s some excellent performances on show and some chilling, unexpected moments but despite this, I wasn’t entirely sold on the film which partially could be down to high expectations from two of my favourite female filmmakers and dismissing the fact that they didn’t have full creative control as with their previous projects. Or maybe because I wasn’t a fan of the first one this was also unlikely strike a chord.

seenoevil

See No Evil 2 picks up literally where the first one left off. Jacob Goodnight and the bodies of his unfortunate victims are rushed to the morgue following the bloodbath at the Blackwell hotel. Amy (Danielle Harris) is then forced to abandon her birthday plans and deal with the aftermath of Jacob’s massacre. Her friends decide to bring the party to her, their a quirky group who get more than they bargained for when a few drinks turns into a fight for their lives after Jacob mysteriously wake’s up ready to slaughter all over again!

The morgue setting is a great choice, its dark, confined and death is everywhere, Jacob has a string of different weapons at his disposal as the latest bunch of characters attempt to run and hide! In this sense the film really does show a glimmer of promise.

968full-see-no-evil-2-screenshot

While See No Evil 2 is an improvement on the first, some of the same problems remain in the sense of it being generic and a million miles away from what the Soska’s are truly capable of. The characters have very little to offer and are stereotypical to the point that they could be found in any slasher movie. There were suggestions in the trailer that this would probably be some kind of satirical commentary on typical slasher films and that it would potentially push the boundaries due to the Katharine Isabelle dry humping Kane’s body scene. But sadly it is what it is, a conventional slasher made to cash in on the genre, a financial boost for WWE. As its so formulaic, by the time the film challenges what its set up, it comes in too late.

safe_image

With that said, seasoned Scream Queen Danielle Harris is phenomenal as Amy, she’s a character we care for and the twist on her final girl status is interesting. Amy is the only real character is written with any depth with the others as throwaway. Harris of course shows us why she is incredible at the leading female role. Kaj-Erik Eriksen is sympathetic as love interest and co-worker Seth, probably the nicest character in the film, which is again superior to the original as there wasn’t one likeable character in it. Katharine Isabelle plays Tamara vastly different from Mary Mason which proves her talent as an actress. She clearly has a lot of fun with the role as its completely over the top but for me that was to the point of obnoxiousness. Tamara is similar to Gibb, Isabelle’s ‘party girl’ role in 2003’s Freddy Vs. Jason but a bit more kinky and twisted, its a shame that wasn’t expanded on some more.

The whole premise of See No Evil 2 and the original does just feel senseless. Its a forced plot with a generic killer. There’s attempts at ‘humanizing’ Jacob but he’s just too underdeveloped for that. The repressed ‘mummy issues’ as a motive has been done to the death . There’s something about it that feels rushed and not thought through very well. Its a shame the twins didn’t get the opportunity to write it as we could be seeing a much greater film. Seeing them work with another screenwriters script is interesting. Their signature style is there but the content itself doesn’t match up to it.

Twisted-Twins-2

The disappointment is that I really wanted to like this a lot. Jen and Sylvia Soska are incredibly talented people and idols to women within the genre and fans of the genre alike. It just seems that they are worth more than a run-of-the-mill slasher. See No Evil 2 is wholeheartedly better than the original and its clear a great deal of effort was put in this time round but its fair to say Jacob Goodnight should really say Good Night!

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

Ghostface Girls: Celluloid Screams Coverage, Playlist.

Posted in Ghostface Girls with tags , , , , on November 7, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Over on MoviePilot we have posted the full playlist of our Celluloid Screams Horror Festival Coverage. Check out our instant reactions to the frightfully fulfilling films that were on offer in Sheffield on the weekend of the 24th-26th October. We recorded our seventh podcast episode this evening which will be available soon, stay tuned!

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

Celluloid Screams: Starry Eyes (2014)

Posted in Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , , , , on November 6, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Thinking of a Hollywood movie career? Well think again! Starry Eyes takes a bleak and cynical look at the price of fame within a stylish backdrop in Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer’s occult  feature.

starry-eyes-poster

Determined to succeed and become a star, struggling actress Sarah (Alex Essoe) does whatever it takes to become the leading lady in the latest film of famed production company Astraeus Pictures. Working in a thankless waitressing job at a greasy diner and co-habiting with a group of fellow striving actors and filmmakers, Sarah’s frustrations and desire for success leads her down a dark and sinister path to the point of no return.

When Starry Eyes was first announced as part of this year’s festival line-up, it carried enough ambiguity about it through its trailer, generating plenty of intrigue.  A lone woman walks the streets of LA, framed in a way to demonstrate that the city of dreams is bigger than she’ll ever be to a synth-tastic soundtrack that could be straight out of a Dario Argento film (Suspiria being the one Starry Eyes emulates the most). Starry Eyes was therefore one of the most-anticipated films of 2014 with its concept holding a great appeal.

For the most part Starry Eyes is consistent in what it does. It’s dark and places a sense of dread throughout as it portrays the movie industry in an unpleasant light. There’s a disturbing vibe as Sarah becomes more and more distant from those around her and so far removed from reality as she chases the dream. Sarah is quite a complex character as it’s difficult to know whether to root for her, from the beginning it’s insinuated that she looks down on her actor friends, holding a sense of superiority through her quiet confidence and she doesn’t manage redeem herself the deeper we get into her story. This is something unusual for a character-centred piece. While Sarah’s characterisation’s  problematic at the same time it’s a daring move on the filmmakers part to create this cutthroat character who we feel is no more deserving than anyone else within the film.

Starry_Eyes_Still__1.2.3

 

Sarah idolizes the starlets of the past and her goal is to be in their position whatever the cost. We observe her unethical auditions that become more and more nightmarish as they go on. The flashing lights effect that’s used creates a feeling of disorientation and the performances The Casting Director (Maria Olsen), The Assistant (Mark Senter) and the Producer (Louis Dezeran) get under the skin with their exceptionally creepy presences. The fact they are also nameless characters ramps up the creep factor as they could be any filmmaking company anywhere in Hollywood and questions that other than Sarah, how many other girls is this happening to; placing emphasis on the ficklness of the industry.

starryeyes

The point where Starry Eyes falls flat is it goes from being this mysterious and startling chiller to what can only be described as a generic slasher. It loses its way completely creating uninterest and disappointment.  We see what’s coming as it doesn’t attempt to move away from predictability. As Caitlyn stated in her review of the film, it shifts directions on too many occasions that it becomes a chore to watch which is ultimately a shame. The finale therefore manages to leave the audience cold.

starryeyes2

Starry Eyes is a mesmerizing, interesting and ambitious film that takes the dark side of fame to a whole other disturbing level. It certainly stands out in its own way. 80’s pop group Bros once asked, “When will I be famous?” well the answer is when you’re prepared to sacrifice your sanity for a slice of the Hollywood machine.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

Celluloid Screams 2014: Housebound Review.

Posted in Ghostface Girls, Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 3, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

From writer and director Richard Johnstone comes the spine-tingling horror/comedy Housebound. This frightening feature from New Zealand has just the right balance of shocks and scares and laugh out loud dark humour that it’s proved to be one of the most entertaining horror films of 2014. If movies such as An American Werewolf in London and Inbred appeal to your terrifying tastes then Housebound is the film that wholeheartedly compliments them in tone just with a supernatural twist. It features gripping storytelling; layered and well developed characters and an abundance of suspense to keep the audience compelled. Housebound is a film that’s not purely exclusive to just genre fans as it displays enough commercial appeal to widen out to a broader audience. Who doesn’t love a bit of ghosts and blood?!

Housebound

Twenty-something tearaway Kylie Bucknell (Morgana O’Reilly) is placed under house arrest following an illegal botched job gone wrong. Returning under the guidance of her domineering mother Miriam (Rima Te Wiata) and timid Step-Father Graeme (Ross Harper), Kylie is not pleased in the slightest about the re-location to her former family home. Kylie displays an aversion toward the house she grew up in but dismisses her mother’s claims of some sort of paranormal activity going on. It’s not until Kylie experiences some strange occurrences herself that she begins to realize her mother’s claims may not be as crazy as she first imagined.

housebound4

Housebound’s strongest point is the dynamic between Kylie and Miriam. A strained relationship between the pair is portrayed that comes across as incredibly naturalistic, which is down to the chemistry between the two actresses. The supernatural element is in place as a mask that represents the anxieties of mother and daughter reconnecting after a turbulent relationship and years of distance. Immediately it’s believable that these two have experienced a long and difficult history when we first meet them, a credit to Johnstone’s well-crafted and in-depth script.

housebound2

Kylie is an interesting leading horror female. She’s obnoxious yet endearing which makes us root for her as she displays a strong sense of determination in solving the problems she’s faced with and isn’t afraid to break the rules a little bit. It’s a bit risky having such a sarcastic, moody character as the lead however Johnstone’s writing and Morgana O’Reilly’s performance manages to keep us engaged with her and keep firmly on her side when she’s faced with danger. In comparison to Excision (2012), a film that contains a highly unlikeable main character with no redeeming features, Housebound gets it right in terms of depicting Kylie as a frustrated young woman who acts out against those who are trying to help her but underneath she has several likeable qualities, making her an ambitious woman of horror in terms of her construction.

housebound3

Housebound is a modern-day paranoid horror that cleverly keeps us guessing until the very end with its brilliant blend of supernatural scares and charming comedy. Is the house inhabited by a spooky presence or is it all a reflection of Kylie’s overactive imagination or is she acting out of boredom due to being on house lock-up, or possibly something else entirely?  There are other interesting elements at work such as the temperamental television and computer, cutting them off from technology and acting as a metaphor for this family to sit down, communicate and address their problems.

The setting gives off plenty of creepy vibes with the old, creaky, isolated house that provides an uneasy feeling. Jump scares are carried out effectively and take us by surprise in comparison to the predictability of a lot of Hollywood haunting films. Supporting characters such as Miriam bring light relief to the tense moments. Glen-Paul Waru also adds to the light-heartedness as the loyal friend Amos, a quirky ‘paranormal expert’ who is incredibly well-meaning in aiding Kylie and Miriam. Cameron Rhodes is the bumbling psychologist who Kylie treats as more of a hindrance than a help, which again supplies the film with more intense antagonism as Kylie struggles to trust anyone.

housebound_1200

 

Housebound is a must-see, it’s a genre-bending balance of scares and laughs that contains twists and turns and plenty of mystery making it an especially worthwhile watch. Housebound will be screening at the Abertoir Horror Festival on Thursday 13th November at 1pm. Passes are £58 to see a selection of diverse films like Housebound plus talks, a theatre performance, a train ride and an 80’s disco. Abertoir 2014 will be discussed in more depth in the upcoming seventh episode of the Ghostface Girls podcast.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

Celluloid Screams 2014: Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla Review.

Posted in Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , , , , on November 2, 2014 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla may not be your conventional title for a horror film but with that said its one of the most unique and daring genre films that has come out in recent years that has the power to stay with you long after viewing it.

csv

This character-centred piece tells the tragic story of a lonely, ice-cream van driver named Warren (Glenn Maynard). Following daily abuse from a local thug and an the accidental death of his pet cat (a rather traumatic scene for any cat lover!), routine-structured Warren’s only comfort is in a cheesy, Australian soap opera titled Round the Block and its main actress Katie George (Kyrie Capri) which borders on obsessive. Warren records endless VHS tapes of the show and religiously collects magazine clippings of the charismatic actress.

chocstrawvan

 

Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla quickly gets under the skin, as a viewer it’s a voyeuristic experience in terms of observing Warren’s mundane daily life and getting an insight into his personal fantasies. These sequences are well-crafted, depicting Warren as a cool and collected individual, an illusion of how Warren would like to see himself, a Clint Eastwood type figure from his Western/Dirty Harry days. Glenn Maynard delivers an electrifying performance as the fragile, socially-awkward protagonist, he plays fantasy Warren as almost unrecognisable, demonstrating his range as an actor and his power to single-handedly carry the film, keeping us invested in him until the bitter end. He is a difficult character not to root for, as an audience we garner empathy for him as he struggles through a series of unpleasant situations and we hope that the poor guy catches a break. The majority of horrible things happen to him in broad daylight, emphasizing how exposed the character is and again taking away the conventionality of the horror genre that sets everything at night. Several intimate moments occur throughout the film as Warren directly addresses the audience with a series of video diaries, adding to the voyeurism the film displays.

images (1) images download (3)

The supporting cast also deliver fantastic performances that compliment Maynard as Warren,  Kyrie Capri is the sweet, down-t0-earth soap actress but shows diversity in her performance. Aston Elliot is disturbing and confrontational as the antagonistic thug Rocko, a classic bully type.

Stuart Simpson’s direction keeps the audience on edge throughout, unsure of what path the film will take next which keeps it amazingly gripping.Warren is a man on the edge and we wait to see what will finally tip him over.  In our Ghostface Girls Podcast, we discussed how on the surface the film appeared reminiscent of the 2011 festival favourite, Some Guy Who Kills People; besides sharing a similar visual aesthetic and an undermined protagonist, Chocolate, Strawberry, Vanilla is a whole different tub of ice cream! In fact, Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla is considerably more bleak, particularly due to the fact we are watching an upsetting situation unfold on screen of a vulnerable man’s descent into psychopathic tendencies. Addison Heath’s script is powerful and moving but incredibly dark. Heath’s ability to create such a dynamic character that carries the film and never loses focus must be applauded.

csv2

Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla blurs the lines between fantasy and reality with clever techniques that it manages to deceive the audience at times into knowing what’s real and what is located  in Warren’s imagination. The concept of things never really being what they seem is a credit to Simpson’s directing and Heath’s writing.

One of the stand-out film’s of this year’s festival, Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla holds such an emotional impact that its one unforgettable movie. Without having seen any other of Stuart Simpson’s work, this film is a hell of an introduction.

For a whole different kind of flavour of horror, buy Chocolate Strawberry Vanilla on Blu-Ray and DVD from November 10th.

Hayley Alice Roberts.

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.