Archive for October, 2015

The Best Feature Films of Celluloid Screams 2015

Posted in Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 31, 2015 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

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Celluloid Screams took place from the 23rd-25th October at the Showroom Cinema in Sheffield, marking the festival’s seventh spooktacular year! Robert Nevitt and his team Polly Allen and Sarah Williamson offered up a selection of interesting films that again show how versatile the genre can be. There were recurring themes in place with slow-burning, psychological thrillers, creepy kids and crazy black comedies. Below I review the films that stood out the most for me this year. Unfortunately due to being ill mid way through the Saturday schedule I’m unable to consider The Witch, These Final Hours and Darling. If you attended the festival or have seen any of the films listed below, please feel free to comment if you agree or disagree with my choices. 

http://celluloidscreams.co.uk/

1. The Invitation (2015)

  • Directed by Karyn Kusama
  • Country: USA

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From Karyn Kusama (Director of Jennifer’s Body) comes this year’s festivals most outstanding film. The Invitation centers on Will (Logan Marshall Green) who along with his current girlfriend Kira (Emayatzy Corinealdi) is invited to his previous home by his ex-wife Eden (Tammy Blanchard). Eden is now married to the smarmy David (Michiel Huisman). The couple host a dinner party for a group of their old college friends and also introduce some new faces. If it wasn’t already a tense/awkward situation, events are about to turn even more uncomfortable. Will is uneasy, following a devastating family tragedy that impacted him and Eden but he soon suspects that his ex-wife and her new husband have a more sinister hidden agenda for this spur of the moment gathering than he first thought.

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With secrets and lies threatening to tumble out over the course of the evening, The Invitation will leave you reeling as it builds up tension throughout. A strange, unexplainable tone manifests, keeping the audience on pins. The performances are incredibly naturalistic from the entire cast making it easy to invest in the characters and be constantly concerned about what will happen next. Several characters are introduced at once, which would usually be problematic in terms of development, however writer Matt Manfredi manages to create interesting personalities for each of them, leaving us with intrigue for each of their intentions. The pace is a slow-burner but its all worth it for the gut wrenching pay off. Without revealing too much as The Invitation is certainly a film to go into blind, it plays around with conventional horror tropes and defies typical expectations. Race, gender and sexuality were represented in a refreshing light,distancing itself from the expected stereotypes of the black woman or gay guy in horror. The Invitation breaks new ground, serving up copious amounts of intrigue to keep its audience captivated right until the shocking end.

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

2. Deathgasm

  • Directed by Jason Lei Howden
  • Country: New Zealand

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Much like last year’s Housebound and What We Do in the Shadows, Deathgasm is a rip-roaring gory comedy from New Zealand. With a combination of Evil Dead style carnage and heavy metal, Deathgasm will have you rocking out while basking in its gruesome special effects. Self-proclaimed metalhead Brodie (Milo Cawthorne) is sent to live with his closed minded Aunt and Uncle after his hellraiser mother gets into trouble with the law. Summoned to live with his chavvy cousin who beats him up at any given opportunity, Brodie seeks solace in the one thing he can trust, heavy metal music. He teams up with hardcore rocker Zakk and a couple of geeky guys to form the band Deathgasm. However things turn horrible wrong when Brodie accidentally evokes an evil demon through some ancient, ominous sheet music. While the music may rock, the town is no longer safe as the inhabitants become possessed and thirsty for blood!

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Screening as the final recent film of the festival, Deathgasm was a much needed breath of fresh fair. It’s tons of fun, accompanied with a witty script. There’s a sweet love story at its core between the lead character and blonde, girl-next-door Medina (Kimberly Crossman), its a traditional look at when opposites attract but the audience will find themselves rooting for the pair as the film unfolds, with both characters proving they’re equally as badass. James Blake is the breakout performance of the film as moody, metalist Zakk, a mentor of sorts for Brodie. Sarcastic and deadpan, Zakk without a doubt has the best one lines within the film. Zakk attempts to be unlike-able but he’s the kind of character that has a softer side underneath that he’s reluctant to show. The cast have great chemistry and share some pretty outrageous moments. Look out for a small role from Cameron Rhodes who starred in last year’s popular New Zealand genre-bending horror Housebound. While the gore is eye-poppingly insane and holds no barriers, there are some crazily fun visual scenes of the effects of heavy metal when you’re passionate about the genre. Deathgasm is an awesome, thrill ride that’s ideal for a festival audience. If Metallica, The Evil Dead and Superbad had a love child, Deathgasm would be the result!

★ ★ ★ ★ ★

3. He Never Died

  • Directed by: Jason Krawczyk
  • Country: USA/Canada

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Henry Rollins gives an incredible performance in the hilariously dry-humored He Never Died. Very much a character driven  piece, Rollins plays Jack, an immortal cannibal who has found himself stuck in a bit of a rut with no care for the humanity around him. Its not until he gets a blast from his past, that he gets the much needed push he requires in order to turn his rather lengthy life around. When someone important in Jack’s life is threatened by a group of thugs, he sets the wheels in motion to seek revenge, providing him with a purpose from his mundane existence. All Jack has to do is resist the urge to eat people and remain sober! Henry Rollins makes the entire movie, playing Jack as a character to root for. He’s completely deadpan and apathetic but we stay with him the entire time due to Rollins entertaining screen presence.

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The supporting female actresses Jordan Todosey as Andrea and Kate Greenhouse as Cara share a natural and believable chemistry with RollinsHe Never Died uses its horror concept as a metaphor for depression which is so intrinsic in today’s society. Jack’s world is bleak and grotty, apart from visits to his local diner and a few games of bingo every week, he hasn’t got much going for him, demonstrating how easy it is for someone to become stuck in a viscous cycle. It also challenges ideas about our own mortality. Jack has been alive for far too long and hasn’t got much to offer the world anymore. The notion of struggling for a purpose to live when you can’t die is a key theme adding an interesting dimension to the comedy elements. The style of black comedy combined with gory violence the film incorporates is appealing for horror fans with a twisted sense of humor. Despite the brutal on-screen violence the comedy ensures that everything remains very tongue in cheek. Parallel’s can be drawn with 2011’s Some Guy Who Kills People in terms of its similar tone themes however both films are their own beasts. He Never Died is one of 2015’s genre cinema highlights that you won’t want to miss.

★ ★ ★ ★

4. Goodnight Mommy

  • Directed By: Severin Fiala & Veronika Franz
  • Country: Austria

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This Oscar nominated chiller has proved to be one of 2015’s most eagerly anticipated films in horror. Nominated for best foreign language film at the 2016 Oscars, Goodnight Mommy isn’t unfamiliar territory for the seasoned horror fan but that doesn’t make it any less gripping. With classic themes of isolation and paranoia, this offering from Austria is another slow burner that uncovers some brutal revelations surrounding innocence and childhood. Goodnight Mommy tells the tale of twin boys Lukas and Elias (played by Lukas and Elias Schwarz) who are sent to live in the reclusive countryside following their TV presenter mothers (Susanne Wuest) life changing cosmetic surgery. The young boys soon suspect that something else is lurking beneath the bandages that is far from their loving mother.

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Goodnight Mommy is a tense piece that shifts the dynamics to a startling effect. For their début film, the Schwarz twins are very convincing allowing us to empathize with them until the film’s direction veers off expectation. Susanne Wuest is the perfect Mommy Dearest, there’s an interesting conflict at play between her attempts at being the disciplined yet loving mother versus her image conscious celebrity status. Much like The Invitation that was screened before it, Goodnight Mommy takes its time to unravel, allowing us to admire the breathtaking cinematography and be gripped by the tension built by the strained relationship between the two boys and their mother. Its certainly a film to enter into without prior expectation, however the pay off does come in as not so new territory. Its final shot is spine-chilling as we absorb in the events that have played out. Goodnight Mommy is a psychological cat and mouse game, its beautifully shot and heart wrenching however don’t expect anything ground breaking so take it for what it is.

★ ★ ★ ★

5. Emelie

  • Directed By Michael Thelin
  • Country: USA

Emelie poster

Since its first UK showing at Frightfest in August, Emelie has generated a lot of hype and was nominated for several awards. The Michael Thelin directed feature takes the over done concept of the domestic thriller, in this case the psycho babysitter however shifts gears and places it from the point of view of the young children rather than the usual paranoid wife/mother. The Thompson family face a dilemma. Its their anniversary and their regular babysitter Megan has made other arrangements. Megan suggests her friend Anna take over her duties for the night. Anna arrives and all is well, the lively Thompson children take to her and the parents go to dinner happy. It soon transpires that something is not quite right with Anna as she starts upsetting Jacob and Sally by tormenting them with unpleasant cruelty and an obscene video. Young Christopher is too young to understand however this bad babysitter has more sinister plans lined up for him!

Emelie

Once Upon a Time actress Sarah Bolger plays Emelie, the imposter in charge of the Thompson children and she does the unhinged routine very well, keeping us on edge. Emelie is a tough one to decipher. Its plot is predictable and it just feels like a better crafted lifetime movie with a recognizable storyline but with actors who can act. Without a doubt its the child actors that stand out the most. Joshua Rush plays Jacob at that transitional age between childhood and becoming a teenager, he is on to Emelie, realizing her behavior isn’t the norm, making him her number one antagonist that could blow apart her main goal. Carly Adams acts visibly distressed as Sally, she faces Emelie’s torment the most, her reactions are believable making it heartbreaking to watch. Thomas Bair is completely naturalistic as little Christopher, as a young child actor he’s just being himself and its clear Thelin allowed some improvisation. Emelie is a film that doesn’t quite take the risks it should and could. Once the stakes are raised it fails to push the boundaries and we’re left with something that we’ve seen time and time again. As previously stated its a well-shot and acted version of a typical lifetime movie concluding with an obvious outcome. It gradually builds, keeping up the intrigue but then becomes disappointing when it doesn’t offer up anything remarkable. Maybe an unexplored, wasted opportunity, Emelie is certainly an interesting film that’s worth checking out if you like The Hand that Rocks the Cradle and films with similar unhinged female tropes.

★ ★ ★

6. The Corpse of Anna Fritz 

  • Directed by Hector Hernandez Vicens
  • Country: Spain

anna fritz poster

El cadáver de Anna Fritz promised controversy and certainly piqued our curiosity when we were told that there had been walk-outs at the London Film Festival. Going straight for the jugular, if the subject matter makes you queasy, its probably one to avoid however it was nowhere near as offensive as made out to be. Beloved actress Anna Fritz (Alba Ribas) is unexpectedly found dead. As her corpse is wheeled to the morgue snippets are played from the news giving an insight into celebrity culture, of how she was admired and criticized on the red carpet as well as her personal romantic life, it then marks her the news of her shocking and tragic early demise. With the recent deaths of several prolific celebrities its no surprise that a horror film dealing with the subject matter has been made.

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Its a tale of revenge and misogyny when a morgue worker allows his two friends to have an all access pass to Anna’s dead body. These unexplainable vile characters take things one step too far but events take a twisted turn where the three men become embroiled in a cat and mouse game that they never would have imagined. The Corpse of Anna Fritz has some disturbing ideas but the problem is the characters are too underdeveloped, we aren’t given any insight into what triggers these men to be so vile. Their young, attractive and are heading to a party yet decide to partake in a freakishly obscene act. In that case, it seems to be a window into our obsession with celebrity and all that encompasses. As a famous starlet Fritz is untouchable but now she’s dead she’s fair game, is violated and can’t do anything about it, or so they think! With some decent ideas, Anna Fritz just becomes a standard, suspenseful morgue chase. With that said the ending is certainly quite satisfying. The Corpse of Anna Fritz is a well executed idea but lacks character development and becomes a bit too obvious. Much like Emelie, its a shame it didn’t have more to offer.

★ ★ ★

Coming Soon: The Top Short Films of Celluloid Screams. 

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

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I wanna go, to the late night, double feature picture show! Rocky Horror at 40!

Posted in Anniversary Pieces, Love Horror with tags , , , , on October 29, 2015 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Take a jump to the left and then a step to the right and sink your teeth into my latest piece on The Rocky Horror Picture Show’s 40th Anniversary over on Love Horror. This film is extremely special/important to me so it was an honour to be asked to review its brand, spanking new blu-ray edition.

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http://lovehorror.co.uk/latest/the-rocky-horror-picture-show-1975-40th-anniversary-blu-ray-review/

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews

Halloween Month: Top 5 Wes Craven Films to watch this Spooky Season!

Posted in Halloween Month with tags , , , , , on October 1, 2015 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

The loss of one of genre cinema’s greatest directors is still very raw amongst fans. So, if you’re planning on a movie marathon this Halloween season then what better way to celebrate than pay homage to the beloved Wes Craven, the ultimate master of our nightmares! Here are my personal (and of course subjective) top picks of Craven films  to enjoy this October. So sit back, relax with some sugary treats and don’t forget to Scream!

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**CONTAINS SPOILERS**

5. Red Eye (2005)

Red Eye is Craven’s strongest genre film from the noughties and one of his more underrated in his overall career. Its Final Destination meets Scream in a calculating thriller about a hotel manager Lisa (Rachel McAdams) who is terrorized on a routine flight by a sinister stranger (Cillian Murphy) linked to a menacing and dangerous plot to assassinate a politician. With the threat of her father being killed dangling in front of her, Lisa is trapped yet surrounded by people. She is threatened and unable to say a word, otherwise she risks everything. Red Eye is well executed, slowly introducing the main characters, keeping Murphy’s Jackson Rippner charming and charismatic before revealing his nasty intentions. Its edge of your seat stuff, as the conspiracy unfolds. The primary setting of the plane ramps up the tension signifying the notion of no escape. Lisa has to be careful of every move she makes. She is reminiscent of Sidney Prescott with her resourcefulness and mannerisms; allegedly the role was considered for Neve Campbell at one stage and it does feel as if it was written for her, Rachel McAdams however delivers a powerhouse performance. Its a cat and mouse game with intense direction from Craven. Catch Red Eye on Netflix.

4. The Hills Have Eyes (1977)

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This bleak homage to Tobe Hooper’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) was Craven’s second feature film. Following his controversial début The Last House on the Left (1972), Craven continued with a similar gritty tone as a family become stranded in the desolate Nevada desert only to be brutalized by a group of cannibals. The Hills Have Eyes is exploitation at its finest and an example of Craven’s earlier and more seedier work before his more polished offerings years later. Adding to the grubbiness was the fact that Craven rented the camera to shoot the movie from a well-known pornographer. He had a lot of dark ideas when creating The Hills Have Eyes, including toying with the idea of killing off a baby but instead settled with the dog death which is harrowing enough for any animal lover! The film kick started a career in Horror for Dee Wallace (most famous for playing Elliot’s mother in ET) before going on to roles in 80’s flicks Cujo (1983) and The Howling (1981). Michael Berryman’s hillbilly villain named Pluto is one of the most iconic monsters and is instantly recognizable as a significant horror character. On the whole the film is extremely disturbing and doesn’t hold back on the malice, the burning scene being one of its most harrowing. The Hills Have Eyes legacy lives on through inspiring a number of inbred themed films, the Wrong Turn franchise being the most well-known. It received the remake treatment in 2006 which was actually pretty well-executed. One of the most interesting and violent films of Craven’s earlier career, The Hills Have Eyes is worth watching this Halloween if you’re looking for something macabre and brutal.

3. Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors (1987)

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The only film in this countdown that Craven didn’t actually direct but he did contribute towards the screenplay. Every horror fan knows that Dream Warriors is the most well-regarded Elm Street Sequel as it went back to the origins of both Freddy and Nancy’s story arcs. It was one of the first horror films I recall really getting into at a young age. Set in a hospital, our heroine Nancy Thompson (Heather Langenkampis now a psychiatrist helping teenage survivors of Freddy Kruger fight back using their dreams against him. The teens include Kristen Parker (played by Patricia Arquette this time round) who became a significant part of the franchise in her own right. Chocked full of mesmerizing imagery (gory puppetry scene) and containing many memorable death scenes (“Prime Time, Bitch!” being an exceptional highlight). Dream Warriors was a major improvement on the second instalment Freddy’s Revenge (1985), guaranteeing Kruger as a relevant horror villain for years to come. The original idea Craven had intended for the film was what eventually became 1994’s New Nightmare which was completely ahead of its time and a prelude to Scream (1996). If you’re going to watch an Elm Street sequel this Halloween, make sure its this one!

2. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984)

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The movie that guaranteed that we’d never sleep again. A Nightmare on Elm Street completely speaks for itself and was the film that put Craven on the map to success. This imaginative and terrifying concept has frightened generations for years to come. It’s the movie that Johnny Depp owes his entire career to and also made an icon out of Robert Englund. If you want a classic movie this year, Nightmare on Elm Street is the one to go for. Also, there’s a chance to see it on the big screen at Celluloid Screams Horror Festival’s All-Nighter, in honour of the master of nightmares!

1.Scream 2 (1997)

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Scream 2  is one of the strongest slasher sequels out there if not the best. Slicing its way onto cinema screens a year after Craven’s 1996 post-modern masterpiece, Scream 2 delivered more chills, more blood and more scares as it continued the Sidney Prescott story to university. Our beloved characters were brought back including Courtney Cox’s feisty news reporter (now author!) Gale Weathers and movie buff Randy Meeks (Jamie Kennedy). Scream 2 took risks (killing off Sarah Michelle Gellar in her second film written by Kevin Williamson) and some unsuspecting turns as it taught us no one is safe! It also provides a witty commentary on sequels, the status of race in horror as well as reverted to the classic tale of revenge paying homage to Friday the 13th (1980). Scream 2 upped the ante making it the most compelling sequel out of the franchise. For me, its incredibly nostalgic. If you’re ready to Scream this Halloween, this is the sequel for you! After Craven’s distaste for his nightmarish creation Elm Street being transformed into a franchise, he truly proved here that this is how a follow-up to a successful film should really be done!

Read my Ghostface Girls Debate Article on which is the best Scream sequelhttp://moviepilot.com/posts/2015/01/27/ghostface-girls-debate-which-is-the-best-scream-sequel-2629914?lt_source=external,manual

Which Wes Craven films do you plan on watching this Halloween season, what would be your top picks? Feel free to comment below! Or Tweet @HayleyR1989

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.