Archive for Excision

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?!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 2012: Day Three Coverage

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 1, 2012 by Hayley's Horror Reviews

Day Three proved to be the most spook-tastic day at Celluloid Screams with strong contenders in both genre features and shorts. Unfortunately Celluloid were unable to screen the UK premiere of Memory of the Dead due to a technical difficulty which could not have been rectified at the time. I missed Entity also due to taking a break, but I really hope I can view it soon as I’ve heard very good things. Sunday had so much to offer in terms of films and guests and was full of surprises!

Leyenda (2011) (UK Premiere) (Short)

This short from Spain plays out as a warped post-modern fairytale, reminiscent of the style and tone of the Brothers Grimm. A ten-year-old girl named Claudia reads her fairytale about a “big bad wolf” type creature much to her mother’s dismay on a car journey. When the family make a stop at the gas station, a mysterious woman appears and creates carnage and bloodshed. Leyenda is dark and brutal and holds no barriers, its a terrifying watch and requires a strong stomach, however the violence is done very well and leaves the heart racing.

Before Dawn (2012) + Q&A with Director/Actor Dominic Brunt and Producer/Actress Joanne Mitchell

With their marriage on the rocks Alex (Played by Dominic Brunt) and Meg (Played by Joanne Mitchell) retreat to the Yorkshire countryside in an attempt to fix their troubled relationship, but little do they know a zombie epidemic has spread across the area. As they attempt to fix their problems in a tense atmosphere, Meg soon falls victim to the virus after being attacked and bitten by a zombie, now Alex must do all he can and figure out what lengths he will go to in order to save his wife, will they be able to salvage what they have before its too late? Before Dawn incorporates stunning cinematography of the Yorkshire landscapes, and a sense of gritty British drama as it hybrids a social realist style with edge-of-the-seat, gory horror. The film is most definitely a refreshing take on the Zombie sub-genre. Joanne Mitchell proves that there are more avenues available to go down as a writer when it comes to the zombie concept rather than churning out a repetitive formula that’s been done over and over again. Along with Dominic Brunt’s direction, they really pull it off and the result is a relate-able story with identifiable characters.

Its every day life with a horror metaphor as a backdrop, Meg is very career driven while Alex is out of a job, the social and economical frustrations that affect many relationships in today’s society is therefore played out. Brunt and Mitchell ensure that the audience gains a sense of understanding and empathy with Alex and Meg and are compelled into their story. The whole scenario feels very naturalistic due to Dominic and Joanne’s existing chemistry and a lot of authenticity is brought into their performances. Nicky Evans is brilliant in a small role, his character Stephen’s scenes with Alex are great to watch with the right balance of humor and intensity. Apart from the performances, the FX used were outstanding and are some of the most detailed zombie make-up effects that have been featured in a recent horror film, Meg is barely recognizable when she turns. The FX team have achieved special effects of an impressive standard. Before Dawn is a must see and holds a wider appeal even beyond only genre fans. If you enjoy Horror, British realism or even Emmerdale and Shameless then this is the film for you!

Resolution (2012) (UK Premiere) + Q&A with Directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead

An unexpected and unconventional entry into the Horror circuit, Resolution is psychologically creepy while at the same time has an endearing commentary on what it truly means to be friends and what we do for those we care about. After seeing directors Aaron and Justin’s dynamic during their introduction and Q&A it is clear where the heart of this story really comes from, not only that but they are hilariously funny guys and stole the show at this year’s festival! Their collaboration has resulted in a genuinely interesting, heart-warming and sinister film. Resolution begins when Michael (played by peter Cilella) is sent a video of his best friend Chris (played by Vinny Curran) passed out in an abandoned cabin high on drugs, he then makes the decision to intervene. Chris is apathetic about the situation and has accepted that he is nothing more than a junkie, Michael handcuffs him to a pipe and forces him to go cold turkey in an attempt to help his friend sort his life out. The tension between the two friends is played out well with very sincere performances from the lead actors. Michael soon realizes that Chris never sent the video and from then on the two find themselves caught up in a series of odd events as they try to investigate who or what is manipulating them. Resolution is cleverly written, it takes genre fans out of expected cliches and does something different, the idea of the unknown and the mystery surrounding the events that unfold for Michael and Chris gives out an unsettling feeling for the viewer but keeps the audience gripped throughout. With likeable characters and a strong narrative Resolution shines as a genre piece, however there are so many layers to it than first imagined.

Him Indoors (2012) (Short)

An agoraphobic serial killer on the brink of eviction falls into disastrous consequences when his nosy neighbor/potential date unexpectedly visits! This is one of the funniest, comedy/horror shorts that’s emerged recently. The humor is laugh out loud funny and the dynamic between Reece Shearamith and The Woman’s Pollyanna McIntosh is just brilliant. Gregory Brewster is a modern day, bumbling version of Norman Bates, notions from Hitchcock’s Psycho are loosely referenced as well as Rear Window in terms of how no one really knows what goes on behind closed doors. It has a bit of a kitchen sink feel to it as well however it exaggerates an every day occurrence and uses it to its advantage. Him Indoors is without a doubt a highlight!

Excision (2012)

Take Tod Solondz and mix in some Lucky McGee with a hint of Ginger Snaps and the result is Excision! Visually, Excision is intriguing and mesmerizing to look at with its disturbing fantasy sequences. Its a twisted coming-of-age tale with some truly squeamish moments, Excision depicts the dark side of suburbia and how appearances can be deceiving. Pauline (played by Annalynne McCord) is a severely cynical and socially awkward teenager with a morbid and eventually dangerous obsession for surgery, she lives with her controlling mother (Played by Traci Lords), reserved father (Played by Roger Bart) and her long-suffering sister Grace (played by Ariel Winter) who has cystic fibrosis. Her family fail to understand her and the film portrays a breakdown in family communication as Pauline struggles to make sense of the world around her.  She goes as far as convincing herself that she can perform a surgical procedure to “cure” Grace resulting in horrific and devastating consequences. There are some wonderful cameos from the likes of John Waters and Malcolm McDowell which adds to its promising cult feel. Its a fairly satisfying film that pays off well, leaving the audience unsettled. Annalynne McCord is mostly known for her part in TV’s 90210, an American teenage-based drama, therefore the fact she plunged into this unconventional role as a repulsive and disturbed teenager is an interesting move. She proves herself as an exceptional young actress, and makes the character difficult to achieve empathy with for the majority of the film. Even if the main character is unlikeable, her psychological state keeps the audience drawn in and questions whether she will redeem herself by the film’s end. Excision is beautifully shot and edited and was the perfect way to close Celluloid Screams 2012.

And now for the fun…Short Film and Feature Winners + Closing Ceremony…I also encountered some INBREDS!

Final Thoughts (and a summary of my festival highlights):

Hayley Alice Roberts