Now in their second year coming, The Ghastly Awards, which honor excellence in horror comics, have just announced the 2012 list of nominees. The Ghastly Awards work in a fashion similar to the Eisners in that industry professionals nominate their peers based on their tremendous work efforts throughout the year. There is a really solid list of nominees that you can check out after the break. Also this year, there is a fan’s choice award! Voting will open in January. READ MORE
I can’t believe 2012 is almost over. Partly because the year flew by, but mostly because not many films that came out truly left an impression. As horror fans, I think we’re in the same sort of position we were in at the tail-end of all the torture crap; we need a new movement. A new direction. A new something. Anything. We’ve gone through a few trends in the past few years (found footage, ghosts, and vampires to name a few), but nobody is doing anything interesting with them at the moment.
The reason I’m doing all this complaining as a preface for my Best Of list is because this is the first year since I’ve been writing for the site that I haven’t been able to come up with a Top Ten. Either I pulled a Rip Van Winkle and slept through the year or 2012 was a huge bummer. Below are my five favorite horror films of the year, along with a really fun honorable mention that just barely didn’t make it onto the list. READ MORE
2012 has been a snoozer of a year for horror for the most part. I can’t think of another year that I’ve been with the site when I’ve been more indifferent, bored, disappointed, and otherwise unamused by most of what I watched. Not like it should come as a huge shock to anyone that went to the theatre this year, but most of what I’ve included on my Worst Of list are studio films that feel like they were distributed and made by people who just don’t care. Marketing and brand loyalty made some of these movies money, not the actual quality of what was on screen – talk about depressing.
This year, one film stands above all others as the worst thing I had the displeasure of sitting through, regardless of genre, and everything else on my list might as well be second place; they’re all equally shallow and uninspired. As always, here’s to looking forward to next year, which will no doubt have a surprise or two, along with Stoker, Antiviral (hopefully), and You’re Next. READ MORE
2012 was another great year for comics and we saw the trend of strong storytelling continue. I picked my top 5 books for the year (not all horror), my favorite graphic novel, and some honorable mentions that stood out in my mind. 2012 was a real solid year for indie publishers, as my Best of 2012 List shows. READ MORE
Celebrate the end of the world with a beat by Nine Inch Nails and a supercut of 38 end of the world movies! It was nice knowing you all and we hope that we’ll see you in the next life, whatever that is. Long live horror!
Wanna know what movies are includes? Well, here you go!
2012, Armageddon, Deep Impact, The Rapture, The Day After Tomorrow, The Road, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Independence Day, Children of Men, The Matrix, Blindness, Day of the Dead, 28 Weeks Later, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, 4:44 Last Day on Earth, The Day After, Last Night, Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Kaboom, A Boy & His Dog, Delicatessen, I Am Legend, Planet of the Apes, Resident Evil, Night of the Living Dead, Miracle Mile, Save The Green Planet, Vanishing on 7th Street, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Knowing, Zombieland, Dead or Alive: Hanzaisha, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, Sunshine, The Quiet Earth, WALL·E, On the Beach and Melancholia. READ MORE
The big day is just a week away, and I know a lot of you have yet to complete your holiday shopping. Lucky for you, we’ve sifted through all the comics, trades, toys, and collectables so you don’t have to. The BD Comic Book Crew (as we are henceforth to be known) has put together a naughty list of (mostly new) gift ideas for the comic lovers in your life. It ranges from Christmas tree ornaments to compendiums to charitable donations. Without further adieu, The 2012 Comics Gift Guide. READ MORE
If you’re like me, there’s something creepy about winter. It’s that sense of being isolated. Especially, you know, if you go on one of those ski trips or hiking up in the mountains. The isolation aspect of the season has been used several times throughout the years to varying degrees in films. Most recently, Adam Green directed Frozen, a tension-filled flick that had moviegoers fainting and the ski industry fuming over the idea of being stuck alone in the mountains of a ski resort. Flash-forward to today, where writer/director Andrew Hyatt’s feature-length debut The Frozen is set to hit VOD and DVD on December 18th. While it doesn’t involve being stranded on a ski lift, the film attempts to tap into that same sense of isolation.
The story goes that Mike (Seth David Mitchel) and Emma (Brit Morgan) have hit a rough patch in their relationship. As a solution, the duo head off to the mountains for a winter camping trip. Unfortunately, after setting up camp and while cruising around the mountain, Mike hits…something…which leads to them crashing and becoming stranded. To make matters worse, the couple soon find themselves being tracked by a mysterious hunter (Noah Segan). Not long after, Mike goes missing, leaving Emma alone in the wilderness. READ MORE
Reviewed by Michael Erb
Dust Up is hard to describe without making it sound overloaded and uneven. It is overloaded and uneven, but it’s also a fun and extremely different film from writer/director Ward Roberts. It’s a exploitation neo-western with a streak of offbeat and dark humor. It plays like a live action Saturday morning cartoon that Hunter S. Thompson and John Carpenter produced. The main characters are a modernized Lone Ranger and Tonto dealing with identity issues. All these elements come together well and for the most part work at creating a fresh experience.
After stylish opening credits, the story jumps right into the boringly serene life of our protagonist. Former soldier turned handyman Jack (Aaron Gaffey) and his hipster Native American neighbor Moe (Devin Barry) get involved in a local crack head’s money troubles when Jack takes a liking to the addict’s beleaguered wife and baby momma Ella (Amber Benson). The group runs afoul of the resident loan shark/cannibal cult leader/entrepreneur Buzz (Jeremiah Birkett) when they try to help pay off the debt. What follows is a dark and twisted last stand as Jack, Moe, and Ella fight for their lives against Buzz and his junkie thralls.
The first thing you notice about Dust Up is that it’s got style oozing out like a gaping wound. The story and the characters are bizarre which helps to sell the absurd humor that runs through the film. The score and soundtrack have everything from western riffs to dance-hall electronica. It’s full of odd sounds and genres thrown together to make a thoroughly unique listening experience. The music of Dust Up is easily the most enjoyable part of the movie.
The visuals also carry a great deal of artistic flair. Characters are dressed distinctively and in ways that highlight their important traits. Moe has some traditional Native American clothing personalized with some Michael Cera worthy sweatbands and tube socks. Buzz looks like he wears whatever he found at the last rave he attended. It helps make each character truly distinct and memorable.
The action is well staged and looks quite fine for an indie picture. The choreography and cinematography manage to pull off some cool shots that elevate the obligatory fight scenes. The chase scenes suffer from one too many over the shoulder shots, occasionally making the scene unnecessarily confusing. The gore looks excellent in the instances it’s used and adds a lot of shock value to those moments.
There are a fair number of things that keep Dust Up from being a great movie. Not all the humor hits and some scenes just feel like they were included because of a dare. The best example of this is when Buzz strangles someone while ejaculating on the victim’s face. It really depends on your sense of humor, but that scene plays decidedly serious and it feels so very unnecessary.
The cast is pretty capable at conveying the mix of action, horror, and silliness. The standout performances come from Devin Barry and Jeremiah Birkett. Barry plays Moe with an unflappable smugness and confidence that you can’t help but love. Birkett goes so over the top with Buzz that he starts looking and sounding like a cartoon antagonist.
Dust Up tires to do a lot of things all at once and be a very different kind of movie. It doesn’t succeed at doing everything well, but it does make for an interestingly oddball film.
Visually the movie looks quite good for a DVD. The DSLR cinematography picks up a lot of light and makes some the more audacious aesthetic choices pop with brilliant color. Audio-wise there are a few issues. The audio mix for Dust Up favors the music over the dialogue often enough to become annoying. While the DVD’s 5.1 surround sound makes you appreciate just how eclectic and infectious the soundtrack is, you’ll have to crank the volume every time characters start talking.
This disc comes with a ton of bonus materials. There’s a series of PSA with Amber Benson dealing with a number of topics including drug use, the disabled, and cannibalism. They’re of varying degrees of funny, but never hilarious. There are featurettes on the additional dialogue recording (or ADR) sessions and one of the band Spindrift scoring the film. The cinematographer provided her own personal view on each scene to make up a gag reel. Actor Travis Betz filmed a video diary that serves as a behind the scenes feature as well. There’s even a short extra on the pony that was supposed to be a part of the film’s finale. All these things are varying degrees of insightful and interesting, but it helps that there’s just so many extras. Additionally, the disc comes with trailers and a photo gallery.
Reviewed by Michael Erb
There is so much that’s fundamentally wrong with Creep Van. It could be that the filmmakers never had the budget or had a chokingly tight production schedule. Perhaps those behind it had a little too much confidence in this slapdash script about a killer in a creeper van. In the end it doesn’t really matter because none of those reasons can fully explain just why and how Creep Van is so awful.
The story follows Campbell as he struggles to find work in the Detroit area. Campbell doesn’t have a car and takes the bus everywhere, which takes a toll on his spirit and his work. When he gets a job at a carwash, Campbell starts searching the classified section for a ride. He finds a listing for this clunker of van and calls the owner. The van’s current driver doesn’t immediately return the call because he’s busy killing people. Prospective buyers, strangers at the beach, and even talk hitchhikers all meet their gruesome ends inside this trap laden crap box. While Campbell starts wooing a coworker and adjusting to a car-less life, the killer decides it’s time to show Campbell what this van can do.
The story goes nowhere and is ultimately pointless. Characters have no arc whatsoever and act without any purpose. The killer has no discernible motivation and appears to chase Campbell because he didn’t buy the van. What constitutes the plot bears no semblance of story structure. There’s a beginning and an end, but the stuff that happens in between doesn’t advance the story. The movie seemingly exists for the express purpose of showing naked women and gory kills. There’s nothing wrong with that, but somehow Creep Van turns both of these time honored horror movie traditions into joyless schlock.
The makeup and practical effects come from Almost Human, the same company that did effects for The Crazies remake and a multitude of other films. They really are a great company for makeup and prosthetic effects and in Creep Van, the gore looks pretty good and is the best part of the movie. It’s not the company’s greatest work, but the effects in this movie are the most competent thing about it.
Technically, the production is pretty amateurish. The lighting is atrocious, with night shots having almost no light sources on the actors and the action of the scene. Whatever tension and horror that could have come from the night scenes disappears a slight distance from the area effect of the bulb. You can still keep the dark mystique of the night while suitably lighting a man getting stabbed in the neck with a car antenna, but for some reason the technique eludes these filmmakers. The cinematography is lacking at best and incompetent at worst. Simple things like properly framing a shot seem like untenable goals for the camera team of Creep Van. There are murders that occur onscreen that cannot be seen because of a big shadow or a poorly placed camera.
The cast is composed of some well-meaning but ultimately bad actors. Nobody is really capable of showing any emotion, not even terror. Every attempt at humor falls flat partially because of the casts lifeless delivery. Lead Brian Kolodzie, while handsome and toned, can’t do more than say the lines and shuffle through the scene. There’s a serious problem when Lloyd Kaufman shows more range in his brief cameo than the rest of the cast does for the 85 minute runtime.
Creep Van tries to be a gnarly little slasher but can’t overcome its complete lack of talent. The movie is deeply flawed in nearly every aspect of the production. Like every other rusted out 70′s van still floating around today, this thing’s a lemon.
The visuals are nothing special and the audio is not much better. The disc comes with two sound setup options if you want to optimize the experience.
The DVD comes with an audio commentary track from co-writer/director Scott McKinlay and co-writer/producer Jim Bartoo. There’s a making of video that’s really more of an interview with McKinlay, who appears to be a passionate and driven filmmaker despite his movie. There’s a true making of segment that focuses purely on the scene where the titular van crashes through a home and kills a couple mid coitus. While not the best edited segment, this one actually shares some good insights into how to shoot such a scene. The interviews with the actors are pointless and short. There’s a deleted scene between Campbell and Amy that adds nothing to a movie that had nothing to begin with. The disc also includes the trailer and the investor trailer that was used to net funding.
You want to know what’s more exciting than E3, Tokyo Game Show, PAX, the VGAs, your birthday, and Christmas combined? The FEAR Awards, that’s what. Okay, fine, that might be overdoing it a bit, but this is still pretty exciting. Here’s where you get to vote on the best and worst games of the year, and more than that, here you even get to help nominate your favorite games and choose the categories they’re nominated for. How many awards let you do that? And even if you could name a site that lets you do that, do their awards have a spine-chilling name like the FEAR Awards? No way. You want to know why? Because it’s just too scary.
Here at Bloody Disgusting, we embrace scary. Did you see our logo? Yeah, that’s a skull with a fucking saw in it. If you want to be like us and take fear by the horns so you can ride it off into the sunset like a horseman (or horsewoman) of the apocalypse, you should keep up to date on this year’s goings on after the break. This will be our official FEAR Awards hub, so bookmark it, because I’ll be updating it as it happens.
For a while, the FEAR Awards nominees, categories, and winners were chosen by TJ and I. That’s super dumb. Last year, you chose the winners, and this year, we’re taking that idea even further by having you help us add a few new categories. Obviously, we have the Game of the Year, best indie, best multiplayer, most anticipated, etc. — no, we’re looking for more unusual categories. Check out the current list after the break!
Never get between a creep and his van. Spastic anti-hero Campbell Jackman finds himself the target of a maniacal killer behind the wheel of a sleazy, beat-up death van.
For the most part, the Spike VGAs don’t accomplish much outside of being a big commercial for several upcoming video games. There’s a lot of awkward celebrity hosts and annoying back-patting, but it’s also one of the year’s juiciest sources for major video game reveals. Last year’s event introduced us to Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, Metal Gear Rising: Revengeance, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, among others, and the year before that brought us Mass Effect 3, Prototype 2, Skyrim, and Batman: Arkham City. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow 2 has already been confirmed to be at the event, alongside BioShock: Infinite and The Last of Us, but I’m sure there’s plenty more we aren’t aware of yet. So I have to ask: what horror game would you most like to see unveiled at the show this Friday? Let your voice be heard after the jump!
Reviewed by Patrick Cooper
Slaughter Tales is a self-aware love letter to the bygone SOV era that’s been making sort of a comeback this year thanks to distributors like Intervision. It doesn’t aspire to be anything more than a low-grade gorefest and on that front it’s a success. That doesn’t mean it’s all that great a film though. Maybe that’s the point? I dunno. All I know is that I found myself reaching for the fast forward button more than once. Despite admiring the enthusiasm of the teenage filmmaker, there’s not much else to get out of watching Slaughter Tales.
The anthology film was written and directed by 15-year-old Johnny Dickie (who also stars) and made on a budget of $65. The film starts with Johnny snatching a VHS tape from a thrift store. Before he throws it in the VCR, he psyches himself up in the mirror by saying stuff like “Oh man, this is going to suck!” I hear ya, man. Then an apparition (played by Johnny) appears and warns him not to watch the tape. Bad shit will happen if he does. Johnny shrugs it off like the stalwart cinephile he is and presses play.
What follows is five shorts, all starring Johnny and featuring homemade special effects made from dollar bin goodies and lotsa fake blood. None of them really stick out in my mind. One of them has some fun stop-motion that made me smile, but they’re all just really shitty. In between shorts the film cuts back to Johnny, kicking back on his futon, commenting on how much this movie sucks. What I got from this frame story is that Johnny wanted to make a shitty movie, but make it look as 80′s SOV as possible.
Mission accomplished, Johnny. Slaughter Tales looks like it really was salvaged from a thrift bargain bin where it’d been collecting dust for a decade. Besides its look, it’s paced and edited like crap, much like the “best” SOV films with those too-long pauses in between cuts. These are some the aspects of “so bad it’s good” films that people get a kick out of, but they’re done in such an intentionally tongue-in-cheek manner in Slaughter Tales that it’s difficult to get any organic enjoyment out of the film.
I appreciate Johnny’s rabid enthusiasm and, let’s face it, how many of us can say we had a film released on home video when we were 15. The problem is that in deliberately making a shitty 80′s SOV throwback, he forgot to make an entertaining, watchable movie. After watching Johnny puke for the fifth time, I wanted to throw in the towel. Or maybe that was the point? I give up.
Slaughter Tales looks like the 80′s SOV films it’s paying homage to. It flips between aspect ratios at times, which is kinda distracting.
MAKING OF AN AMERICAN NIGHTMARE (2:38): This brief behind the scenes feature takes a look at the making of one short, starring Johnny’s mom. You gotta love that his mom supports her son’s bloody interests and was willing to get killed in his movie.
THE EFFECTS OF SLAUGHTER TALES (11:00): This looks at Johnny’s homemade effects. There are lots of dollar store items used to full effect. I can’t help but admire this kid’s ingenuity.
COMMENTARY: Dan and Tim from VHShitfest join Johnny Dickie for the feature-length commentary. They talk about how much Johnny curses, how his original idea led to a full-length film, and his myriad of influences.
Six individuals are caught up in a supernatural perfect storm, as an evil lays claim to one of them while threatening to tear apart the soul of a small Pennsylvania town.
After a teen steals a VHS tape titled “Slaughter Tales” from a yard sale, he seals his fate by ignoring a ghostly apparition in his bath tub and watching the stolen tape. As the movie progresses, simple nightmares turn reality as evil is released from the tape.
Pulled in one direction by her intense passion for Edward Cullen, and in another by her profound connection to Jacob Black, Bella Swan has endured a tumultuous year of temptation, loss, and strife to reach the ultimate turning point. Now that Bella has made her decision, a startling chain of unprecedented events is about to unfold with potentially devastating and unfathomable consequences.
Review by James A. Janisse
Outpost: Black Sun is a horror movie released earlier this year about Nazi zombies. Actually, I think zombie Nazis is more accurate, since they were Nazis before they were raised from the dead, not zombies who decided to join the National Socialist party. In any case, the film is a sequel to 2008′s Outpost, a fact I did not know before I sat down to watch it, so bear with me since I’ve never seen the original and thus might be missing some background information. In any case, Outpost: Black Sun doesn’t deliver on the good times zombie Nazis would suggest, ending up a muddled affair that plays like a boring first-person shooter.
After a set-up that shows us mad Nazi scientist Klausener (David Gant) and his re-animated soldiers kicking some ass, we meet Lena (Catherine Steadman), a young Jewish Nazi hunter trying to track down aging officers to exact revenge for her ascendants. This quickly leads her to an undisclosed location in Eastern Europe, where she joins engineer Wallace (Richard Coyle) to uncover why, exactly, there are so many NATO troops in the area. Their search eventually teams them up with a squad of soldiers who are venturing deep into the woods to turn off an electrical device that’s powering an army of reanimated Nazis.
This set-up is kind of preposterous, but there have been plenty of great movies built upon outlandish premises. What makes those movies work, though – and I’m thinking of silly affairs like Rocky Horror or Repo! The Genetic Opera – is that they don’t take themselves seriously. They embrace the campiness inherent to their story and just roll with it, winking at the audience to let them know they’re in on the joke. Director Steve Barker, who also co-wrote the film with Rae Brunton, inexplicably shoots Black Sun completely straight-faced, as though these zombie Nazis were a somber threat his audience should be made aware of.
I wouldn’t bash the decision to make this a serious film if it had been done cohesively. After all, the Nazis were an actual real-life terror, one of the most evil groups of people humankind has ever seen, and it’s not inconceivable that their return – undead or not – could be played as commentary on fascism in the modern world, or something like that. But instead, we get a hunchbacked zombie woman whose shrill laughter never stops, a dude hooked up to electrical cables that can spew out force lightning at random, and a script with so many “F”-words that it could have been written by a middle-aged boy. It’s really hard to take a movie seriously when lines like “This is for all the marbles” get uttered without a modicum of self-awareness.
And that still isn’t the worst bit of dialogue in the film. The aforementioned lightning guy is incomprehensible, dejectedly reciting lines that sound like they’re coming from an angsty first-year philosophy student. “The world is vibration particles, nothing more,” he says to Lena, as if that actually meant something. The confusing dialogue and story-line is made worse by perpetual dark lighting and camera movements designed to give the viewer motion sickness. Its honestly hard to imagine them making this movie worse than it already is.
Filmmakers who work in cheesy B-horror take note: If your movie’s material sounds ridiculous at the offset, play it up and don’t take yourself too seriously. If you do, you might end up with Outpost: Black Sun, a joyless movie that isn’t even graphic enough to satisfy gore-hounds.
Video: A lot of Outpost: Black Sun is very dark, a sad fact since it looks pretty damn good when you can see what’s going on. The video is crisp and the colors are appropriately bleak, but whether the characters are indoors or outdoors, they’re moving around in perpetual darkness, making it sometimes hard to see what’s going on.
Audio: One of the few great things about Outpost: Black Sun is its sound design, which gets great 5.1 treatment on the Bluray. The Nazi growls come through excellently, and the occasions where sound gets muffled for dramatic effect are perfect.
Extras / Special Features:
Making-of (5 minutes): 5 minutes of interviews and on-set footage. Barker talks about his decision to make a sequel to Outpost and how he had $200 grand extra to make it. Steadman and Coyle talk about their roles and the movie’s plot, and even they seem like they’re not entirely sure how this script got written. For the record, they both did a great job with the material they were given to work with.
Trailer (2 minutes): The trailer gives a good condensed version of the plot, chronologically introducing Lena, Wallace, and the soldiers. It’s actually more clear than the movie in telling the story, and it does a really good job of making the movie look exciting.
I’ll admit that in my miserable life, I haven’t been to many haunted house attractions. Okay, I haven’t been to any. I guess that’s what happens when you grow up in a small Canadian town. It’s an unfortunate thing, but at the moment, I’m not about to lose sleep over it. Director Joe Raffa tries to bring home the experience (and then some) of a haunted house in 6 Degrees Of Hell, but you’ll have a time trying to get to it.
This is one time that I had to go back and actually re-read the premise for the film, as well as go back and re-watch the beginning of the film to see just what the hell is going on. “Uncle Jack’s Hotel of Horror” is an attraction in Northeast Pennsylvania, run by a guy named Uncle Jack, who’s constantly dealing with an asshole cop who thinks that he runs the town. Unfortunately, two of Jack’s friends, Chris and Kellen, unwittingly release an evil energy by transporting a collection of haunted objects owned by a local psychic to be used as props in the attraction. June is a local teen who also possesses the gift of being a psychic. It’s one that she doesn’t like to use, but when she does it seems to draw paranormal energy to her. Her gift also attracts the attention of a local TV ghost hunter, who confrontation with the evil energy years ago resulted in his sister’s death.
Oh, and as for Corey Feldman? He has little or nothing to do with the main plot. He just shows up as a paranormal investigator who listens to the entire story after the fact from another cop who was there to witness the whole thing.
Obviously, if the film involves possession of folks, you’d be in for fun times most of the time. Luckily, that’s the case here. The evil energy released from the props ends up doing a number on the hired actors at the hotel, turning them into real monsters, who in turn begin to kill unwitting guests, and everyone else thinks that it’s all part of the act! The film lets itself go and cranks out some truly creepy characters at this point, which if you’ve stuck around for the first hour, you’ll be glad that you did.
Yeah, that ‘sticking around for the first hour’ part? I’m not joking. 6 Degrees Of Hell‘s biggest problems lie in the fact that the film takes on way too much for an indie film. Instead of keeping things simple, we get a whack of stuff that’s just a chore to sit through. From the beginning of the film, we’re introduced to multiple plotlines that jump back and forth between the past and present time where Feldman’s busy smoking that eCig. For the next hour, this only serves to confuse and leaves a lot for the viewer to decipher in that time. Making things worse is the serious lack of character development during this time (an hour, remember?) that combined with some awkwardly acting by some of the younger cast, has you questioning why you should care about these characters at all. It’s all partially salvaged once we do get into the Hotel of Horror, but by then it’s just been a chore to get there.
Oh, and note to director Joe Raffa: having your asshole cop character making homophobic remarks doesn’t do well to really get the point across that he’s an asshole. It just makes the character offensive and your film look bad for having to resort to doing that in the first place.
Since this is a screener disc, the audio/video and extras aren’t final. Extras on the screener include a Making Of, footage from the film’s world premiere at The Sherman Theatre in Stroudsburg, PA, a blooper reel and an interview involving Corey Feldman, a walkthrough of the Hotel of Horror, a promo for the NEPA Ghost Detectives, a commercial for the Hotel of Horror, a photo gallery and a collection of teasers and trailers for 6 Degrees Of Hell and other Breaking Glass films.
It’s a shame that the Hotel of Horror ends up being the only noteworthy aspect of 6 Degrees Of Hell, since everything else leading up to the moment once we do get into the attraction is so poor. It’s a payoff that needed to happen, and when it did happen, you’re thankful that it did. But when you look back at the rest of the film, you end up wishing that the care and effort put forth in the climax had been carried over into the events leading up to it. Or, you just end up seeing a film that despite an excellent climax, is still lacking and not worth much of your time.
I’m leaning towards the latter.
On December 16th, 2011, eight people on their way to Las Vegas stopped in the ghost town of Garlock, California. This footage documents what happened.
The year is 1945, the closing stages of WW2, and a German scientist by the name of Klausener is working on a frightening new technology that has the power to create an immortal Nazi army. Flash forward to present day, and a NATO task force is hurriedly deployed to Eastern Europe, where a sinister enemy appears to be mercilessly killing everything in its path. But this is no ordinary foe. Only Helena, a gutsy investigator on the trail of the notorious war-criminal Klausener, accepts the reality of that they are facing a battalion of Nazi Storm-Troopers, a veritable zombie army on the march. With the help of Wallace, a man who’s been chasing Nazi secrets for years, the two of them team up with a Special Forces Unit to venture deep behind enemy lines. Their mission to fight their way back to the source of this evil army and prevent the seemingly inevitable rise of the 4th Reich.
It’s hard to believe that it’s been just over ten years since The Blair Witch Project hit theatres and sparked the whole “found footage” thing. It isn’t hard to believe that it didn’t take long for Hollywood to ruin things with a rushed sequel, but that’s another story. Nowadays, we have Paranormal Activity and its sequels picking up the slack left by Blair Witch, as well as the ever-present independent horror scene, which has had its fair share of copycat films as well as a few that try to switch things up. James Weatherall’s The Legend Of The 5ive is one such film that combines the found footage style of Blair Witch and melds it with the reality TV/documentary style of something like Ghosthunters or, in Weatherall’s case, his native UK’s Most Haunted.
The story has documentary filmmaker and skeptic Julia Marsh (Lennah Seelig) teaming up with Greg Connell (Greg Tanner) and his team of ghosthunters called ‘Paranormal Investigations Inc.’ for their live Halloween special. Julia was roped into this event by her friend Joe Weaverly (Emma Kendrick), who is also a member of Greg’s team. This particular special focuses on a remote English farm. Their objective is to uncover the truth behind the legend of the ‘Screaming Spectres of Emerson farm’, known locally as ‘The 5ive’. Apparently, 300 years ago, five strangers were found sliced up on the farmland and their bodies arranged in a pentagram. It’s said that the strangers’ ghosts are sometimes seen on the farmland, screaming and running from whoever/whatever killed them. Needless to say, after setting up shop and conducting a short séance to get things moving, the crew end up over their heads.
I suppose one thing that The Legend Of The 5ive has going for it is the look of the film. Being in the countryside late at night, away from civilization and any way to reach anyone is definite scare material. Even with floodlights keeping their immediate surroundings lit, the darkness beyond still holds that fear of the unknown, which also ups the potential for creepy stuff. Another aspect of the film that’s nice is the camerawork. There’s not the frantic shakycam stuff that has plagued a lot of these types of films, but it’s still realistic enough that, for example, when folks are running, it’s not like everything was filmed with a steadycam. Add to that some interesting shots from cameras monitoring specific points on the property and good editing, you’d think that it was the start of something good. Unfortunately, that’s not the case.
Have you ever watched a film that was a chore to sit trough, regardless of the running time? The Legend Of The 5ive is one of those films. It’s been a while since I’ve been privy to seeing a film that dragged on for what seemed like forever with nothing happening, but that’s what this film is about. Even after 30 minutes into the film, there was barely anything to hold my interest. And when things finally did start to happen (like the spirit of one of the five being on one of the investigators’ backs after being summoned), it was either the acting or the script that killed whatever tension there was, and had me itching to fast forward. Seriously, when confronted by a potential spirit, what do they do to try and communicate with it? Why, try to piss it off! Because that always works in diplomacy, right?
Speaking of the acting, it fell into either being overdramatic to the point of practically being hammy, or to being in amateur hour territory. No matter the situation, Lennah Seelig would always sound like she was acting, taking dramatic pauses or speaking in such a way that came off as anything but natural. Greg Tanner is much the same way, in one instance being as subdued as possible while supposedly trying to act excited about seeing something (in the pitch black woods) making a “peeping motion”. Fortunately, he wasn’t like this throughout the film. Instead, the script took over and made his character into an idiot. Damien Hale’s hysterics had me wanting to backhand the next person with an emo haircut. Unfortunately, he didn’t die in the most horrible way possible.
Also, what does it say when something bad happens to one of the characters, your first reaction is to laugh? Yeah…
As a whole, the film feels less like Blair Witch Project and more like a low budget version of Ghosthunters minus any real tension or excitement. The film took forever to get going, and once it did, there was hardly anything to keep my interest. None of the acting feels genuine, and none of the scares are noteworthy. You’re better off seeing the film that was the source of The Legend Of The 5ive‘s inspiration — The Blair Witch Project — and leave The Legend Of The 5ive in the dark.
Reviewed by James A. Janisse
Airborne, an Image Entertainment production, premiered earlier this year at the British International Film Festival. It’s been getting billed as a horror film, but it’s more of a thriller or mystery, at least until the second half. The main drawing point seems to be Mark Hamill, though his role is confined to a subplot that never gets off the ground (zing!). The A-story follows a small group of passengers on a red eye flight in the middle of a huge Atlantic storm. Some passengers begin to disappear, others notice and freak out, and the whole thing escalates into a hijacking with a supernatural twist.
Airborne grabs you pretty quickly with its sleek and sexy style, and although you might think back to Final Destination as director Dominic Burns briefly checks-in with all the passengers before they board, it’s easy to just go along with it and enjoy the ride. The movie will seem familiar because it’s cliche, going so far as to include a menacing trumpet flair after a character announces a murder, but most of the time that doesn’t work against it. The characters, for instance, aren’t anything more than simple stereotypes – pompous old rich guy, wise-cracking military buddies, a young horny couple – but put those stereotypes on a small plane and make them panic and it’s still a lot of fun to watch.
An airplane is a great location for a film like this and unlike Wes Craven’s 2005 film Red Eye, Airborne never abandons the setting for safer ground. The whole thing feels claustrophobic and eerie, especially as the passengers slowly start to piece together that things aren’t right. One, a frequent flier, realizes that the plane is turning when it should be flying straight; another sees a spot of blood on the floor. There’s a sort of Twilight Zone feel to it all, and although it later adapts more slasher elements, picking off the passengers one-by-one, the movie always escalates nicely, raising the tension and excitement in tandem with the body count.
There are some things that feel pretty amateur. Most of the dialogue is just plain bad. Strangers open up to one another and share life stories, the hijackers comprehensively explain their motive and plan, and worst of all is when Julian Glover delivers a monologue over the plane speakers. When the film takes its disappointing supernatural turn, even that gets talked to death, the spirit onboard explained in full detail to the characters and audience. Combined with cheap-looking flashbacks that shade in murder scenes better left blank, it’s obvious that writer Paul Chronnell needs to learn more about “show, don’t tell”.
In case you’re wondering about Mark Hamill, the man does a good job with his role, though he’s nearly unrecognizable in both appearance and sound. That is, until he yells. As soon as he starts yelling you can hear Luke Skywalker all the way down. His character’s storyline, an air traffic controller on his last shift before retirement, is mostly just padding, sometimes getting put on hold long enough to be forgotten. It’s a bit of a shame, but like I said, he works with what he’s given and it’s definitely the stand-out performance of the film. Much better than fellow Star Wars cast member Julian Glover, whose awful lines are croaked out with an elderly rasp that comes off as cheesy.
Airborne has a promising take-off but never develops any substance. When it’s not being cliche, it’s not making sense, and it relies so much on its flashy style that it sometimes substitutes special effects for plot points. With a little more time in the writing phase, Airborne might have been a successful airplane thriller, but as it stands, it’s mostly a let-down.
Review by James A. Janisse
The Cottage is a film that preys upon our fears of home invasion, of letting someone into our lives and having that person violate us and our family. David Arquette plays Robert, a quiet romance novelist who moves into the guest house (cottage? I guess) behind the Carpenter family’s house. At first it seems like he’ll be a good match for them – despite their apparent wealth, they claim that they need the extra cash, and Arquette makes a first impression as a quiet and polite, if a little awkward, guy. But this living arrangement quickly turns into a nightmare for the family, especially the pair of teenage daughters, as Robert’s creep signals grow louder and clearer.
This movie is a pretty straightforward suspense film with some culty elements and sacrificial rites mixed in for good measure. It does a good job building the menacing threat that Arquette’s character becomes. Robert’s not exactly consistent and some of his actions seem abrupt, but Arquette works with what he’s given – this man is not an amateur, and his professionalism shows. The family, played by lesser-known actors, keep up with him onscreen, with Kristen Dalton and Victor Browne as the worried parents and real-life sisters Morissa and Alana O’Mara as the angsty teenage girls Danielle and Rose.
Despite the story’s lack of tangents or frills, it still seems cobbled together sometimes. It turns out that Robert is running a harem of petite teenage girls who he’s apparently brainwashed into killing their families and pledging their love to him. There’s not any further explanation given to this side of the story, and it doesn’t necessarily need a whole backstory explained to the audience in precise terms, but the way this plot line is introduced is jarring and inconsistent with how it evolves later on.
Other scenes are apparently pointless at first, like when we see Rose’s social situation at school or Danielle’s romance with her father’s music student. It turns out that these elements are only in place to provide a higher body count later on, during the film’s climax that finally brings Robert’s madness into full light. The scene’s sacrificial wedding unravels into the film’s final moments, when people just start running and driving around the woods without any direction, finally culminating in an ending that lacks resolution or satisfaction.
For quite a while, The Cottage seems like it will be a fulfilling movie. It’s shot well, the cast is talented, and there is some legitimate terror in the fact that Arquette, a guy who exudes a certain sort of slimy sexuality, is within a stone’s throw of these teenage girls and their swimming pool. The fact that it fails in the end is probably because it’s screenwriter Nick Antosca’s first feature film. Or maybe it’s because the film remains relatively timid despite its skeezy antagonist. Had it gone for all-out depravity, it might have ended up being notorious or at least memorable but as it stands, The Cottage is a cheesy stereotypical thriller that squanders the effective set-up it begins with.