Archive for the Horror Festivals Category

Agatha (2015, short) Review

Posted in Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , , , on January 23, 2017 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

In the late 1800’s a young orphan known as Sophie (Louise Ogle) earns her keep by delivering slabs of meat to an ambiguous creature that resides at the top of the stairs in an old, eerie mansion. As Sophie climbs the stairs night after night her curiosity grows as to what inhabits that room. Is she prepared to discover the sinister presence that lurks in the shadows? Who is Agatha and what does she want…?

agatha

Written and Directed by Timothy Vandenberg, Agatha is a prelude to what will eventually become a feature film, expanding on the mysterious narrative even further. Agatha is genuinely creepy in it’s tone and Vandenberg wholly utilizes the gothic location achieving a constant sense of tension and dread. With a concept such as this it would be so easy to throw in jump scares in order to unsettle and surprise the audience however the direction it takes is much more unnerving, notably with the use of rising music as Sophie enters the room.

agatha-2

Shrouded in darkness with the prime focus on young Sophie’s reactions and the close ups of the unappealing food she is made to deliver, Agatha makes for a short but stomach churning viewing. Having the protagonist as a seven year old child makes the piece more heart-rendering as she is all alone and vulnerable in a frightening situation. Old photographs are extremely creepy and the photo on display with the baby’s face scratched out proves effective, allowing the audience to wonder what is wrong with Agatha.

There is plenty of scope to take the story further and heaps of unanswered questions and backstories to explore, particularly the mother character (Penny Kohut) and her motivations.

Agatha is a spine-chilling period piece with quality production values and gallons of potential for a much longer run time. Bring on the creep-fest!

In Autumn 2016, Agatha premiered at Screamfest LA in the Shorts Block. 

Watch the Trailer for Agatha Here:

https://youtu.be/kRNuI0ZqxxY

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews

Hayley’s Top 10 Horror Movies of 2016!

Posted in Anniversary Pieces, Ghostface Girls, Horror Festivals, Love Horror with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 28, 2016 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

With only a few days of 2016 remaining, it’s that time again to reflect on the genre movies that left a lasting impression this year. Horror-wise, 2016 was off to a slow start but once festival season hit as always a number of gore-tastic gems from all over the world proved that there is still innovative and captivating horror out there.

13590268_10154984563043572_7542943425830074968_n

This has been a pretty difficult list to rank as the latter end of the year saw several sinisterly superb genre movies, all eerily excellent in their own ways, making them tough to choose between. Viewing the year as a whole, horror movies have sure been eclectic offering up something to satisfy everyone’s bloodthirst!

**Please Note that this list is a reflection of my own personal opinion and taste. If you agree or disagree with my picks, feel free to comment below, tweet me @hayleyr1989 or head over to my facebook page. Let me know your fang-tastic favourites of 2016.**

10. Cat Sick Blues (2015)

  • Directed By: Dave Jackson
  • Country: Australia
  • Australia Release Date: 21st September 2016
  • Seen at Celluloid Screams: 21st October 2016

catsickblues

Cat Sick Blues is the feature length version of the short film of the same name. Ted (Matthew C. Vauaghan) suffers a breakdown when he loses his beloved pet cat which sends him on a horrific killing spree in the search for nine lives in order to resurrect his precious feline friend. At the same time traumatized Claire (Shian Denovan) has also lost her internet sensation cat under disturbing circumstances. Their paths cross and events take an even more twisted turn. It’s like Pet Semetary goes warped and is not for the faint hearted. Cat Sick Blues pushes the boundaries in both violence and sexual violence, placing the audience in an uncomfortable position where it’s unsure whether to laugh or be horrified. The tone is strangely unbalanced but is what makes the film compelling. Unapologetically unpleasant, Cat Sick Blues has clawed it’s way onto this list for being an unforgettable viewing experience this year.

Check out our Ghostface Girls Video from Celluloid Screams 2016 discussing Cat Sick Blues: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tC1HPsxpUz8

9. Creepy (2016)

  • Directed By: Kiyoshi Kurosawa
  • Country: Japan
  • UK Release Date: 25th November 2016
  • Seen at the Abertoir Horror Festival: 17th November 2016

creepy

Creepy is a slow burning, atmospheric chiller from Pulse director Kiyoshi Kurosawa. A former police detective, Takakura (Hidetoshi Nishijima) is summoned by an ex-colleague to examine a case surrounding a missing family six years earlier. At the same time, him and his wife, Yasuko (Yuko Takeuchi) move to a new neighbourhood and get more than they bargained for when they come across their strange, enigmatic neighbour Nishino (Teruyuki Kagawa). What is he hiding? Have the couple unwittingly found themselves in grave danger? Filled with mystery and an incredibly intense tone throughout, Creepy is a movie that kept audiences on the edge of their seats in 2016. It doesn’t rely on blood and guts but it has nail-biting tension that keeps the audience engrossed from beginning to end. With a two hour run time, Creepy focuses on strong character development while keeping us guessing where the narrative will head next. Teruyki Kagawa gives a terrific performance as the potentially crazy neighbour sharing an antagonistic chemistry with Hidetoshi Nishijima’s Takakura. Creepy is a polished thriller, layered in intrigue and a must-see of 2016.

Read my full review on LoveHorror.co.uk: http://lovehorror.co.uk/horror-reviews/creepy-2016-review/

8. Train to Busan (2016)

  • Directed By Sang-ho Yeon
  • Country: South Korea
  • UK Release Date: 28th October 2016

traintobusan

If you thought the zombie sub-genre was tired by 2016 then this highly talked about South Korean flick without a doubt turned it around. Train to Busan is a character driven, action packed zom com that allows for plenty of humour as well as depth and emotion. It centres on a young girl Soo-an (Soo-an Kim) and her workaholic single father Seok Woo (Yoo Gong) who board the fast train to take them to their destination. They however become derailed when a zombie outbreak occurs, now it’s time for the passengers to band together in a fight for survival. Train to Busan shares a typical plot line with every single film of this kind out there but what makes it so entertaining and so moving is the character depiction. The group of unlikely survivors work well. Soo-an and Seok come across a bickering married couple who are expecting a child, Sung Gyeong (Yu-mi Jung) and her husband Sang Hwa (Dong-seok Ma). With a child and expectant mother involved the stakes are raised allowing for stomach churning moments however the female characters prove strong and resourceful despite their circumstances. It’s young Soo-an who steals the show with a heartbreaking performance. It gears up towards an unforgettable finale with gallons of emotional impact. Train to Busan proves why the zombie flick when placed in the right hands can still be an excellent staple of horror.

7. Night Of Something Strange

  • Directed By Jonathan Straiton
  • Country: USA/Canada
  • UK Release Date: 22nd November 2016
  • Frightfest Screening: 26th August 2016

noss1

Paying homage to all that 1980’s gory goodness Jonathan Straiton’s Night of Something Strange is a gross-out horror comedy that plays on the trope of why having sex in a horror movie is a really, really deadly idea! A group of unwitting teens become the victims of a sexually transmitted virus that runs rife transforming it’s victims into the living dead! It’s a love letter to 80s flicks and B-Movies such as Night of the Creeps (1986) and Evil Dead 2 (1987), it also features a typical slasher premise in the form of killer Cornelius (Wayne W. Johnson). Night Of Something Strange is a wild gore-fuelled ride from beginning to end. Expect all kinds of bodily fluids thrown at the screen, as this is a movie that certainly doesn’t hold back on the carnage. It’s a  movie made for gore enthusiasts and appreciators of 1980’s horror, Jonathan Straiton understands his target audiences and delivers exactly what they want. Night of Something Strange is the stand out comedy/horror of 2016.

For my full Frightfest Review on LoveHorror.co.uk, visit:

 http://lovehorror.co.uk/horror-reviews/night-something-strange-2016-review/

For my interview with director Jonathan Straiton visit:

http://lovehorror.co.uk/interview/interview-jonathan-straiton-director-co-writer-night-something-strange/

6. Dearest Sister (Nong Hak) (2016)

  • Directed By Mattie Do
  • Country: Laos
  • Seen at Celluloid Screams: 23rd October 2016
  • Seen at Abertoir Horror Festival: 17th November 2016

dearest-sister-2

Dearest Sister is one of the films I have covered heavily this year and is not one to be missed. Dearest Sister is Mattie Do’s second feature horror film and the second to be produced in Laos as a whole. In an authentic and cultured genre film, Dearest Sister tells the story of a young Lao woman’s place within her family as she cares for her visually impaired cousin Ana (Vilouna Phetmany). It transpires that her cousin’s impairment triggers a unique ability to communicate with the dead in which Nok (Amphaiphun Phommapunya- Chanthaly (2013)) uses for her own gain. Fantastically acted, emotionally driven and beautifully shot, Dearest Sister is a different, one-of-a-kind piece of genre cinema.

Read my full review fresh from Celluloid Screams including a link to the Ghostface Girls interview with Mattie Do and the film’s producer Annick Mahnert: https://mshayleyr1989.wordpress.com/2016/10/29/celluloid-screams-2016-dearest-sister-review/

Check out my piece on Dearest Sister from my Abertoir Horror Festival Coverage: http://lovehorror.co.uk/horror-features/abertoir-horror-festival-2016-part-three/

5. Trash Fire (2016)

  • Directed By: Richard Bates Jr.
  • Country: USA
  • Seen at Celluloid Screams: 23rd October 2016

trashfireposter

Richard Bates Jr. (Excision, Suburban Gothic) served up his best film to date with the deliciously venomous Trash Fire. Centring on a young couple who share mutual resentment towards each other, the time has come to either make or break their relationship when they receive life changing news. In one last ditch effort at redemption, Owen (Adrian Grenier) must face his long lost family at the request of girlfriend Isabel (Angela Trimbur). With a witty, razor sharp script and detestable dialogue, Trash Fire is an unrelenting horror comedy about family and making amends. The core cast display compelling performances from the two leads to the ghastly grandmother played by Fionnula Flanagan and the timid, secretive, disfigured sister played by Annalynne McCord. Trash Fire has it all, it’s engaging from start to finish with brilliant performances and a gut wrenching finale you won’t see coming. If you liked Excision and Suburban Gothic then you’ll absolutely love Trash Fire.

For my full review fresh from Celluloid Screams visit: https://mshayleyr1989.wordpress.com/2016/11/01/celluloid-screams-2016-trash-fire-review/

Ghostface Girls talk Trash Fire here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h3mPNiBfN14

….

4. The Unseen (2016)

  • Directed By: Geoff Redknap
  • Country: Canada
  • Seen at Abertoir Horror Festival: 19th November 2016

theunseen

As recently discussed in my Abertoir Horror Festival coverage, The Unseen was one of those unexpected gems where you enter a film with very little expectation and come out pleasantly surprised. This Canadian horror is very much a character driven piece with themes surrounding the importance of family and reconnecting before it’s too late. The Unseen featured some of the greatest visual effects in the genre this year as it literally depicts a man physically fading away. The Unseen centres on a father trying to make amends with his teenage daughter after abandoning her under mysterious circumstances several years previously. Aden Young and Julia Sarah Stone provide powerhouse performances, conveying authentic characters that the audience can get on board with. The Unseen isn’t outright horror and holds a more wide-scale appeal, it incorporates a fantastical subtext for it’s subject matter but at the heart of it it portrays an issue that many can identify with. Not one to be missed, The Unseen is a film that captures how we deal with extraordinary circumstances.

For my Abertoir Coverage and lengthier review of the Unseen, check out Love Horror: http://lovehorror.co.uk/horror-features/abertoir-horror-festival-2016-part-five/ 

3. We Go On (2016)

  • Directed By: Jesse Holland and Andy Mitton
  • Country: USA
  • Seen at Celluloid Screams: 23rd October 2016

we-go-on-nelson

We Go On is hands down the most unsettling movie of 2016. It’s a film that challenges our innermost universal fear of death. The premise surrounds a troubled and extremely phobic man named Miles (Clark Freeman) who is willing to pay $30,000 if the existence of an afterlife can be proved much to the concern of his over protective mother Charlotte (Annette O’Toole). Again, We Go On proved to be very much character focused, with Miles being written complexly; he is too afraid to live in the moment without any guarantee of a certain outcome, that there’s something beyond his own mortality. It takes on a difficult subject matter and plays it out beautifully. We Go On is haunting and unnerving and featured one of the most creepy moments in a horror movie that got under the skin this year. We Go One resonates really well and leaves a lasting impression long after viewing. The performances are believable in this incredible, effective and chilling piece of modern supernatural horror.

For my full Celluloid Screams Review, visit:

https://mshayleyr1989.wordpress.com/2016/10/29/celluloid-screams-2016-we-go-on-review/

2. The Devil’s Candy (2015)

  • Directed By: Sean Byrne
  • Country: USA
  • Seen at Celluloid Screams: 22nd October 2016

the-devils-candy-poster

Sean Byrne (The Loved Ones) returned with a surprising second feature film that is far removed from his début, grizzly  Australian offering. The Devil’s Candy takes on a familiar premise centring on a family moving to a new house that isn’t what it seems. What sets The Devil’s Candy apart from similar movies is the strong characterization and excellent performances from it’s core cast. From the beginning the audience flawlessly become invested in the characters. There’s metalhead/artist dad Jesse (Ethan Embry), his hard working wife Astrid (Shiri Appleby) and chip off the old block daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco). The family dynamics are irresistible to watch and as the plot unfolds we learn what lengths they will go in order to protect each other. The Devil’s Candy showcases characters that are fans of dark material but come across as the most down to earth people imaginable, smiting against the stigma that anyone who gravitates away from the norm has endured. The film incorporates some stunning yet satanic art work and a rocking heavy metal soundtrack plus gallons of nail-biting tension. The Devil’s Candy is one of the most solid films this year that has mass appeal.

My Celluloid Screams Review: https://mshayleyr1989.wordpress.com/2016/11/03/celluloid-screams-2016-the-devils-candy-review/

Honourable Mentions: The Autopsy of Jane Doe (2016), The Neon Demon (2016), Monolith (2016), Let Her Out (2016), 10 Cloverfield Lane (2016). 

  1. Raw (2016)
  • Directed By: Julia Ducournau 
  • Country: France/ Belgium
  • Seen at Celluloid Screams: 23rd October 2016
  • Seen at Abertoir Horror Festival: 18th November 2016
  • To be released: March 2017

raw-poster

It was the movie that generated copious amounts of controversy but we will forget all that because Raw is a truly awesome film and deserves to be talked about. It’s Ginger Snaps meets French art house horror in a coming of age tale about taking your first bite! Naive, vegetarian Justine (Garance Marillier) begins her first semester at veterinary school but is soon seduced by the hardcore rebellious lifestyle of her peers including older sister Alexia (Ella Rumpf). When she is pressured into consuming fresh meat for the first time her darker side begins to materialize to a jaw-dropping effect. Raw is tastefully shot, allowing for enough gore but leaving much to the imagination. Garance Marillier brings in the performance of the year making Justine a character that is equally likeable and detestable. It knowingly get’s under the skin while being surprisingly comedic in it’s own darkly twisted way. It embraces female sexuality in an empowering light which is refreshing to see from a genre piece. Raw is a gore-geously artistic film that contains a compelling narrative. It’s a shame the film has been plagued with unnecessary hype which clouds the fact that it is completely fantastic in what it does. I’ve been lucky to see Raw twice this year and I can’t wait for it’s official release in March so I can taste another pound of flesh!

Read my full review here: https://mshayleyr1989.wordpress.com/2016/11/02/celluloid-screams-2016-raw-review/ 

Abertoir Horror Festival Raw Coverage: http://lovehorror.co.uk/horror-features/abertoir-horror-festival-2016-part-four/

Thank you for reading. Comment below if you agree or disagree with my picks. Keep it subjective.

What a year it’s been for the genre, let’s look forward to what shocks and scares await us in 2017!

Thank you to all of you who support Hayley’s Horror Reviews and share the horror love along with me. Have a bloody, gory, fantastic happy new year!

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews

The Top Short Films of Celluloid Screams 2016!

Posted in Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 13, 2016 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

cell2016

At horror festivals, fans and film enthusiasts alike are treated to a selection of short horror films created by talented filmmakers that are currently taking the underground, indie circuit by storm. The feature films normally take centre stage however in his year’s Celluloid Screams line up the short films proved to be just as striking, some even thought provoking and others were downright weird! (but more on that later). So, here goes, these are the top shockingly good short films of Celluloid Screams 2016. As always these are my own views and not a reflection on the overall panel vote.

10. Death Metal (2016)

  • Directed by Chris McInroy
  • USA, 5 Minutes

death-metal

Perfectly placed before The Devil’s Candy, Death Metal is a loud and proud, gore-fuelled spectacle. With similar vibes to last year’s Deathgasm about a satanic guitar that unleashes hell on earth, Death Metal is a rocking black comedy that promises “riffs that shred”, literally! It’s a laugh out loud, thrill ride that’s perfect for the horror festival crowd. Watch this one LOUD!

9. Gwilliam (2015)

  • Directed by Brian Lonano
  • USA, 6 Minutes

gwilliam

Where to even start with this one? Gwilliam is one of those moments in life where you watch something you completely cannot erase. Bordering between the disgusting, the bizarre and the comedic, Gwilliam is certainly a unique piece of genre cinema! Crow Hands director Brian Lonano takes the crazy up to max level as an ex-con (played by William Tokarsky) is released from prison looking for a night of fun with a hooker. The build up of Gwilliam is done exceptionally well as it’s unclear where the narrative is heading and boy, isn’t it a surprise! Expect the unexpected, once watched, you will never forget your Gwilliam…this short film means what it says!

8. Do You See What I See (2016)

  • Directed by Justin McConnell and Serena Whitney
  • USA, 14 Minutes

doyswis

Sloan (Caleigh Le Grand) is reluctant about attending her overbearing sister Jessica’s (Jorja Cadence) annual Christmas party. With all the garish Christmas iconography imaginable, Sloan goes through the motions, that’s until an uninvited guest gatecrashes with very little festive cheer causing madness and mayhem for the warring sisters. Do You See What I See has the makings of a classic slasherific Christmas flick. The performances are believable especially the increasing tension between Sloan and Jessica. The short showcases strong, kick-ass women who take matters into their own hands once the stakes are raised. From a filmic perspective Do You See What I See takes influence from iconic slasher films e.g. Peeping Tom, Halloween and The Burning to create a sinister effect, seeing things through the killer’s eyes with several POV shots. Intense and well executed, Do You See What I See guarantees you’ll be dreaming of a Black Christmas!

7. Dawn of the Deaf (2016)

  • Directed by Rob Savage
  • Canada, 12 Minutes

dawn-of-the-deaf-rob-savage-02

In this hard hitting short focused on a minority group, Dawn of the Deaf raises the bar with the traditional apocalyptic horror narrative. With similar techniques to Mike Flannagan’s Hush, the audience is placed in the point of view of the hard of hearing characters and the world around them. A sonic pulse infects the hearing, now it’s up to the deaf community to band together in a fight for survival. Dawn of the Deaf is a layered offering and uses the survival concept in more ways than one, it centres on abuse, sexuality and coping with disability prior to any fantastical horror element. The film portrays the vulnerability of the deaf extraordinarily however the tables do turn depicting the strength within the community. As spoke about during my Ghostface Girls Facebook live video, there is a stunning moment where sign language is used and the camera pans around the characters, some of the subtitled dialogue is missed out proving to be incredibly effective. Dawn of the Deaf is a poignant and moving short.

6. The Disappearance of  Willie Bingham (2015)

  • Directed by Matthew Richards
  • Australia, 12 Minutes

bingham

The Disappearance of Willie Bingham contained the most controversial and disturbing subject matter out of all the short films on this list. A new kind of torturous, radical punishment has been put in place for the worst kinds of criminals, and Willie Bingham is the first to undergo this method. This film conveys the internal thoughts of the majority of society who feel strongly about the lack of justice projected at murderers, rapists and pedophiles and this is a somewhat cathartic experience. The vulnerable and afraid side of the criminal is portrayed as the family are permitted to exact their brutal revenge as slowly as possible. Kevin Dee in the title role is exceptional as his character is paraded around by authoritative officials and made an example of. It’s a powerful piece of film that raises difficult questions in relation to the justice system and the treatment of despicable criminals. The Disappearance of Willie Bingham  deserves to be seen and talked about.

5. Ink, Cocks & Rock ‘N’ Roll (2017)

  • Directed by Matt Harlock
  • UK, 15 Minutes

icrnr

Ink, Cocks & Rock ‘N’ Roll is an innovative, cleverly executed, documentary style short that presents the work of controversial comic book artist Steve Martin (no, not the bloke from Father of the Bride!) and his perverted alter ego Krent Able. It’s psychologically chilling as the film challenges the concept of spilt personality and questions whether there’s a thin line between Steve and the monstrous side to him. Is Krent just a fictional character stemmed from his imagination or something much worse? Fourth wall breaking and filled with edgy art work in it’s believable set up, Ink, Cocks & Rock and Roll is one to look out for in 2017.

4. Mindless (2016)

  • Directed by Katie Bonham
  • UK, 8 Minutes

mindless

Mindless is a thought-provoking psychological horror directed by the talented Katie Bonham. Taking away the horror subtext, the subject of Mindless is very real as it focuses on the care of the vulnerable within British society. Peter (Nicholas Vince- Hellraiser & Hellbound: Hellraiser II) is a senile man, living alone; each day his house is torn apart much to the horror of his patient care worker Judy (Kate Danbury). Peter has no recollection of how his home got into the state it has and becomes frustrated with Judy, blaming her. Determined to get Peter into a care home for his own safety and well-being, Judy is about to get more than she bargained for, is Peter’s declining memory the real issue or is there a more sinister presence at play? Mindless brings an important subject matter to light, it’s a topic that can be very difficult to talk about however Bonham does a tremendous job portraying it on screen. It’s bleak from the outset in it’s tone and cinematography creating a psychologically unnerving atmosphere. Nicholas Vince gives an exceptional performance as Peter, playing him with a sense of vulnerability and confusion that allows the audience to garner empathy for him. Kate Danbury also brings in a strong performance as the frustrated care worker doing her best to help him. Mindless is a film that will resonate with audiences as it draws on issues that many can identify with. Katie Bonham has created a powerful film on a low budget that demonstrates a film can leave a long lasting impression without traditional scare tactics or elaborate special effects. It’s no surprise that Mindless continues to win awards all around the world.

3. Imitations (2016)

  • Directed by Milos Mitrovic and Fabian Velasco
  • Canada, 10 Mintues

imitations_2_copy__large

Who doesn’t love a bit of Canadian Film Collective Astron-6? They are certainly one of a kind with their off the wall brand of humour. Imitations is another of their unforgettable and bizarre offerings, centring on a lonely YouTuber named Arnold (Milos Mitrovic) who gets plastic surgery to look like his idol “21 Year Old Baby” singing sensation Austin Kelsey (Conor Sweeney). Arnold begins to experience strange side effects following his operation, forcing him to take drastic measures when he attends his eagerly awaited karaoke night. Everything about this short is laugh out loud hilarious and strange. The entire cast look like they’re having a blast, Milos Mitrovic and Conor Sweeney are both fantastic as well as Divorced Dad, Matthew Kennedy. Imitations is an entertaining short that must be seen to be believed. If you loved Father’s Day and loved The Editor, then you’ll love Imitations.

2. Kookie  (2016)

  • Directed by Justin Harding
  • Canada, 13 Minutes

kookie

Bree, a disobedient nine year old is taught a valuable lesson from a sinister visitor after breaking the rules set by her mother involving a creepy cookie jar. Kookie is a slow burning, genuinely comedic short that will certainly be appreciated by fans of creepy clowns. The child actress is superb as young Bree, playing the troublemaker role with menace. Harding ensures that the audience are kept on edge as he builds on the tension with the unnerving clown iconography. A thrilling and funny short, that will ensure that children should behave!

  1. Overtime (2016)
  • Directed By Craig D. Foster
  • Australia, 9 Minutes

overtime

For a huge fan of An American Werewolf in London, it’s no surprise that Overtime, a werewolf themed, dark comedy takes the top spot. Comedic tension is at play as poor Ralph (Aaron Glenane) urgently attempts to get home from work but a series of obstacles get in his way. Overtime is a real delight to watch as poor Ralph attempts to make his exit before it’s too late. The joke is on those around him from his boss to romantic interest who risk unleashing the beast by stalling him. The special effects are incredible and are a spectacle to watch as Ralph’s body morphs into something inhuman. Aaron Gleane gives a brilliant performance as the tormented werewolf. Overtime is a lot of fun and a brilliant homage to one of horror’s most iconic monsters.

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

Celluloid Screams 2016: The Devil’s Candy Review

Posted in Horror Festivals, Women in Horror Recognition Month with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 3, 2016 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Sean Byrne (The Loved Ones) brings his second feature film to the big screen with a blood soaked, satanic offering, The Devil’s Candy. The movie centers on an unconventional family who move into a new home, unaware of the deadly secret it harbors and the impact it’s about to have on their lives. The Hellmen’s consist of self-employed artist and metalhead Dad Jesse (Ethan Embry), his patient, understanding wife Astrid (Shiri Appleby) and his chip off the old block young daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco). Immediately the family encompass a likable quality that keeps the audience involved in their story from the outset. Jesse is a Metallica loving, doting father, his relationship with Zooey is lovely to watch with his protectiveness towards her played as heart-warming. Once peril arises for the family in the form of the tormented former owner, Byrne’s direction effortlessly endears the audience to them but makes the villain (Pruitt Taylor Vince) interesting and complex enough to garner a slight empathy for him initially.

the-devils-candy-poster

 

In comparison to The Loved Ones, The Devil’s Candy has a completely different tone. Whereas The Loved Ones is an extremely nasty and gritty watch, The Devil’s Candy is a more polished effort that doesn’t take the same uncomfortable turns as Byrne’s debut offering although it does come with its intense moments. In terms of the production quality, The Devil’s Candy demonstrates how Byrne has developed as a filmmaker. He uses striking visuals particularly the disturbing art work Jesse unveils that foreshadows dark events as they happen and what’s to come.

the-devils-candy-artwork

The plot is the kind we have seen before, with the creepy house setting and a terrorized family however it’s the core characters that make The Devil’s Candy a compelling film. Byrne writes them as multi-layered and relate-able. There is a strong sense that Jesse and Astrid are polar opposites in some respects, him the artist and her the career woman. She isn’t as fond of his taste in metal music as the daughter is however there’s an implied sense of her once having a rebellious nature in order for the attraction and relationship to work between them. As the troubled teenager Zooey is portrayed as having a strong supportive parental network behind her which is refreshing to see. In their own rights, each of them are strong characters and go out on a limb for each other. This isn’t a movie where it’s just the male character depicted as the heroic type.

devils-candy-villain

There’s a distinct theme throughout of the relationship between horror and heavy metal that usually comes with a negative stigma attached relating to its association with violence. There’s such a positive portrayal in this film of characters who enjoy and consume dark material but on the outside they are the most grounded and genuine, every day people which was satisfying to see from two genres that normally receive a bad rep.

the-devils-candy-ethan-embry

Byrne delivers something fresh which is a world away from The Loved Ones, cementing is versatility and growth as a filmmaker. Ethan Embry, Shiri Appleby and Kiara Glasco are outstanding in their performances, bringing depth, emotion and shared chemistry to their characters. Glasco is a young actress to look out for and delivered the standout performance from a young performer in a genre film this year so far. Also, be sure to look out for a cameo from Leland Orser (Faults, The Guest).

The Devil’s Candy is absolutely awesome, a movie that ends with Metallica’s “For Whom the Bell Tolls” at the end credits certainly rocks!!

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

 

Celluloid Screams 2016: Pet Review

Posted in Horror Festivals, Women in Horror Recognition Month with tags , , , , , , , , on November 3, 2016 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

On the surface Pet appears to be a conventional cat and mouse thriller but this is actually not the case. Directed by Carles Torrens (Apartment 143, ABC’s of Death 2.5) with a screenplay by Jeremy Slater ( The Lazarus Effect), Pet is a genre defying film, placing a refreshing spin on an overdone concept. Starring Dominic Monaghan and Ksenia Solo in two powerhouse performances, Pet takes the term “deadly obsession” to a whole new, twisted level.

pet-poster

Like many of the films that screened at 2016’s Celluloid Screams Horror Film Festival, it’s advisable to go into Pet knowing very little about the plot in order to get the full jaw dropping experience.

pet

Monaghan plays Seth, a loner living a mundane existence working at the dog pound. Out of the blue, he comes across his high school crush, Holly on the bus home one day. Seth rapidly becomes interested in her to an unhealthy degree and starts hanging around a bit too often for Holly’s liking. When Holly brutally knocks him back events take a turn for the sinister as Seth captures his romantic interest and locks her in a cage located in the basement of his work place in order to teach her a lesson; but has Seth literally bitten off more than he can chew? and what are the mysterious secrets that Holly is harboring?

pet-cage

As stated at the beginning of this review Pet isn’t what it seems. If you’re looking for a typical captive/torture flick, this is not that film. Pet is an intensifying slow burn that once it turns the tables they just keep on turning. Monaghan and Solo display intense chemistry in their roles, providing engaging performances to an edge of the seat effect. Both characters are equally as complex with layers of hidden depth. Modern horror is seeing an increase is strong, celebrated female characters and Pet certainly explores that and twists classic horror tropes. Holly proves to be an empowered character as the film progresses while her appearance reflects the typical pretty, blonde victim that features prominently in the slasher film.

pet-1

Pet is everything a horror film should be; incorporating intense, emotional moments to the downright horrific. It’s psychological horror at it’s best and it’s no surprise that’s one of 2016’s most talked about films on the festival circuit due to it’s innovative take on a tired horror cliche. Nail-biting until the bitter end, Pet dares to be different and is utterly unforgettable.

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

Celluloid Screams 2016: Raw Review

Posted in Horror Festivals, Women in Horror Recognition Month with tags , , , , , , , , , , on November 2, 2016 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Julia Ducournau’s critically acclaimed Raw (Original Title: Grave) is currently the most talked about horror movie of the year. Taking place in a veterinary school, Raw is the story of strict vegetarian Justine (Garance Marillier), a naive young girl starting out in university, away from the rigid views of her parents. Following an initiation in which she is pressured into consuming raw meat, Justine goes down a dangerous path when her cravings begin to grow.

raw-poster

Firstly, what needs to be addressed when discussing Raw is the hysteria surrounding it. Much like 2015’s The Witch, it is the film that is described as the most eagerly anticipated, one that all movie goers must see. The hype has been driven further by claims that the film caused fainting during it’s screening at the Toronto International Film Festival due to being “too intense” and that audience members required medical attention. Yes, these kind of reports will draw in curious cinema goers but when it comes down to it, the “hype” could become detrimental to the overall viewing of the film. Bottom line, don’t expect some nasty, shocking gore film. Without a doubt, Raw is an excellent piece of cinema and it is one of the best genre movies of 2016, but is it pass-out inducing? No!

raw-2

There is of course gore, there are squeamish moments however they are shot and edited in such a skilful way that much is left to the imagination alone rather than the film including lingering, gross out scenes that will provoke nauseating reactions from the audience. Raw is an artistic film in terms of how it’s composed visually with a strong narrative flowing throughout. It has something for all kinds of cinema fans from those who enjoy art house, to straight up horror fans.

gingersnaps_

Comparisons have been drawn between the 2000 monster, coming-of-age movie Ginger Snaps starring Katherine Isabelle and Emily Perkins. Raw does in fact share similar themes. It’s a tale of two sisters, it’s a metaphor for growing up, experiencing change and the influence of a new and different environment. While the narratives of both films share a likeness, Raw is it’s own beast and a strong example of how versatile the genre can be in terms of taking a familiar concept and being innovative with it, which is what Ducournau has achieved.

raw-3

Amidst all the shock and panic centring the film, the most surprising factor of Raw is how darkly funny it is. Certain moments are unexpectedly dark and take the audience by surprise that it’s difficult not to be amused by the fantastical nature of it all. The gore effects themselves are realistic enough to cause a sense of discomfort, namely when Justine experiences physical reactions after eating meat.

raw-sisters

Another of Raw’s strongest point is it’s portrayal of female characters. It proves how far the genre has come in terms of three dimensional female leads. Women are no longer helpless damsels in distress being chased after by a mad man only to end up hacked to pieces. Raw proves how the gender tables can turn. The film explores female sexuality and female characters taking control of their own decisions which is refreshing to see. It celebrates the female body and doesn’t shy away in terms of what it shows but is also tastefully shot. Both Garance Marillier and Ella Rumpf (Alexia- Justine’s older, more experienced sister) are outstanding in their performances.

raw

Hands down, Raw is one of the horror films to watch in 2016 and is certainly one of the most incredibly brilliant films to emerge on the festival circuit this year. It completely deserves it’s mainstream release courtesy of Universal Pictures in Spring 2017 as it will introduce more casual horror viewers to something different from the usual Hollywood fare. It’s best to go in knowing very little and enjoying everything it has to offer. The one piece of advice to approach Raw with is ignore all the silly hype and just see for yourselves what a fantastic film it really is.

As a Horror Fan and a Vegetarian Raw is a genre film that will be most welcome in my collection when it’s eventually released.

Raw is screening at the Abertoir Horror Festival on Friday, 18th November at 10pm at the Aberystwyth Arts Cente.

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.

Celluloid Screams 2016: Trash Fire Review

Posted in Horror Festivals with tags , , , , , , , on November 1, 2016 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Richard Bates Jr. (Excision, Suburban Gothic) is renowned for his quirky style and skill for creating detestable yet compelling characters, this directorial trait is still strongly prominent in his third feature film and the third to be screened at Celluloid Screams, Trash Fire.

trashfireposter

 

Owen (Adrian Grenier) and Isabel (Angela Trimbur) are a couple embroiled in a turbulent relationship, displaying mutual resentment and repulsion for one another. Close to breaking point, the couple unexpectedly face a life changing event that binds them together. After a horrific fire that burnt down his childhood home and resulted in the death of his parents, Owen is estranged from his remaining living relatives; his kooky religious freak Grandmother (Fionnula Flanagan) and badly scarred sister Pearl (Annalynne McCord). With Isabel’s encouragement, the couple set off to make amends but little do they know the kind of weirdness that lies ahead for them. The real test of their relationship is set to begin.  But will the experience destroy the couple or bring them closer together?

trashfire

Trash Fire is Bates Jr.’s strongest film to date, it’s side-splittingly entertaining from beginning to end accompanied by a razor sharp script that doesn’t let up on it’s sarcastic humour. The pacing works well, we are gradually introduced to the protagonists Owen and Isabel, learning about their toxic relationship and how they reached that point. The second part of the film takes the characters out of the environment we were initially introduced to them in and places them in the strict religious confines of the grandmother’s home, shifting the tone and feel of the film in a different direction.

trashfire2

What’s great about Trash Fire is it veers off into unexpected territory and by the end it’s a completely different film to the one that first begun. It remains a mean spirited dark comedy in tone however as it progresses there is a certain empathy attached to the main characters. Owen, as a character is layered with issues and comes across as obnoxious and deliberately unpleasant however once his back story is revealed it provides an inclination of why his character is so unapologetically mean. For a film laced with a brutal sense of humour the character development is spot on, keeping the audience entirely compelled.

trashfire3

There’s some hilarious moments of comedic tension shared between Grenier and Matthew Gray Gubler who plays his straight laced brother in law Caleb. Gubler is one of the film’s most welcome highlights. All the performances are brilliantly acted portraying over the top characters. Angela Trimbur play Isabel as a woman at her wits end, it’s incredible how her character managed to survive a three year relationship with Owen. Fionnula Flanagan is quick witted and unapologetically horrid as the ghastly Grandmother. Annalynne McCord is ambiguous and empathetic as Pearl with a side of uncomfortable weirdness, it’s refreshing to see her in a different kind of role and this one is certainly memorable.

Similarly to Bates Jr’s previous films, Trash Fire still incorporates bizarre visual sequences used for a metaphorical purpose but not to the same extent as his other offerings. With the focus primarily on the core characters and dynamics, it doesn’t need to include as many stylish visual sequences like Excision. On some level it has an 80’s B-Movie style thriller feel to it.

One of the genre’s best dark horror comedies of the year, Trash Fire is surprising, unpredictable and ensures that what you see is what you get and more!

Hayley Alice Roberts

Hayley’s Horror Reviews.