The Evil Dead (1981)

This review is part of the 31 films of Halloween review series

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The Evil Dead is a bit of a strange film. While it is a straight horror film (unlike its two sequels) it certainly doesn’t take itself too seriously, and enjoys being quite controversial.

The Evil Dead sees five friends heading off to a cabin in the middle of nowhere (will people never learn?) to enjoy a break from college.

The first few minutes of the film are filled with tension with the action cutting from the kids car, to a truck to something mysteriously racing through the woods and the pace rarely slows down from here.

After narrowly avoiding an accident with the truck and coming a cropper on a bridge the guys finally make it to the cabin which, while a bit dirty is pretty homely and they settle in comfortably. That’s when things start to go a bit weird.

One of the girls is drawing a clock when she sudden seems to become possessed and starts randomly drawing a face of some sort; during dinner the cellar hatch starts banging and on investigation Scott and Ash find a book with some disturbing images in it, a knife and a tape recorder which, of course, they decide to play.

There’s a bit of exposition on the tape with a professor explaining about the Book Of the Dead, demon possession and how they are released. Low and behold, the voice on the tape reads out some incantations and something is the wood wakes up.

One of the girls, Cheryl, hears a noise and heads outside to investigate and, in quite a disturbing scene, she’s attacked by trees and brutally raped by them. At this point I should note that I’m watching the “uncut” version of the film. In the UK when it was first released the film was heavily censored and wasn’t widely available on VHS until 1990. The film was actually banned in Germany until 2016.

Cheryl manages to break free and runs through the forest pursed by an unseen force that flies through the trees, knocking them to the ground as whatever it is rushes towards Cheryl who is struggling to get into the cabin.

This part of the film is incredibly well shot: the menace you feel from not being able to see what is chasing Cheryl, and the knowledge that it must be huge and powerful because of the way it knocks over the trees is quite frightening.

Cheryl understandably wants to leave and Ash begrudgingly agrees to take her into town but they’re unable to escape as the bridge has been destroyed.

Returning to the cabin, Ash continues to listen to the tape and Shelly and Linda are trying to be psychics by guessing cards, from across the room Cheryl starts calling out the correct cards and turns to reveal she’s been possessed by the spirit of a “deadite” and they’re rather pissed off that they’ve been disturbed.

From this point on the film enters pretty standard horror film territory, albeit in a far more over-the-top and gory manner than most of its contemporary films and I think its this OTT-ness that has made the film the cult classic it is today.

The effects are quite poor (you can see an actress is wearing a mask at one point) and the possessed voices are laughable but that all adds to the charm of this film.

A couple of things I do like about this film is the fact that we don’t see the big bad enemy in the woods, that’s left to our own imaginations, and the second thing is that this film doesn’t fall into the “final girl” trope that seemingly pervaded horror films of the time.

Watch this is you want to view something that doesn’t take itself to seriously but can still provide plenty of scares.

What We Do In The Shadows

This review is part of the 31 films of Halloween review series

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What We Do In The Shadows is a mockumentary that follows the lives of four housemates living in suburban Wellington, New Zealand. So far, so normal, right? Well, all is not as it seems as the housemates are in fact all vampires.

The film opens with us being introduced to Viago, played by Taika Waititi, who is 379 years old and has trouble rising out of his coffin of an evening. He the takes us through the house and introduces us to 183 year old Deacon, 862 year old Vladislav (who used to be a bit naughty had was nicknamed Vladislav the Poker due to his love of poking people to death with sticks) and Petyr who, at 8000 years old, is the oldest member of the household.

The housemates have problems that we can all relate to – Deacon hasn’t done the washing up for 5 years, Petyr won’t help out with any of the chores and Vladislav’s idea of dusting to to drag a dead body down the hall.

Their harmony is disrupted when Deacon’s familiar Jackie brings her ex-boyfriend Nick around for dinner, the vampires chase Nick around the house but he manages to escape, only to be captured and turned by Petyr.

We fast forward a couple of months and Nick appears to be enjoying his life as a vampire, particularly being able to fly around which annoys the others as they’re worried the neighbours will see. The one downside to becoming a vampire is when Nick is out with his mate Stu (a human) and steals a chip off of his plate. After eating it we’re treated to a scene of Nick violently puking up blood for a good two or three minutes which is as funny as it is gross.

Nick’s other problem is that he can’t keep his mouth shut and goes around telling anyone that will listen that he’s a vampire which they tolerate as they like Nick’s friend Stu so much – he’s introduced them to cell phones and the internet which allows them all to watch a sunrise again.

Nick’s big mouth gets them into trouble with a local Vampire killer and when the police show up Viago has to hypnotize them so they don’t notice anything suspicious – which works but they do point out that there are no smoke detectors in the house!

The acting is great and you really believe that these guys are vampires and housemates. There are plenty of really great special effects (a bat fight!) and these don’t feel forced or intrusive in any way, and they’re all really well done.

While there isn’t much of a plot, the film moves along at a fast paced and you’re kept entertained throughout. In fact I was a little upset it was over and it could certainly run longer that it’s 1 hour and 26 minutes.

Watch this film if you’d like a bit of comedy along with your gore.

Scream

This review is part of the 31 Films For Halloween Series

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It’s hard to explain the impact that Scream had on cinema (audiences and in general) when it came out 22 years ago. Slasher movies had long been out of mainstream favour, and those from the 1970s and 1980s were either thought of as “cult classics” or laughed at for how cheaply they were made. Scream was able to re-invigorate the genre and bring it to a whole new generation with its self-referential jokes, shock tactics, inventive murders and a twist ending.

Scream is set in the all-American town of Woodsborough and opens with Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore) receiving a phone call. Initially we think that it’s a wrong number but the call soon turns sinister and we understand all is not as it seems.

The opening 10-or-so minutes were revolutionary at the time – I don’t want to ruin it for you so there’s spoilers below (don’t read them if you want to get the full experience of the scenes).

Click To Show Spoiler

All of the marketing – the trailer and the film poster – prominently displayed Drew Barrymore so everyone assumed that she would be a major character in the film. The fact that Barrymore was killed off within the first 10 minutes of the film was a massive shocker for audiences – I mean they killed Drew-Frickin-Barrymore!

Usually in a film of this genre, Barrymore would have been the final girl, the sole survivor, after all that’s what you expect from a big-name star, right? Big stars were never killed off but screen writer Kevin Williamson and director Wes Craven (of A Nightmare On Elm Street fame)  turned that expectation on its head by gruesomely butchering Barrymore’s character in what has now become one of the most iconic murder scenes in film history (in my humble opinion at least).

After the opening sequence we’re then introduced to  Sydney Prescott (Neve Campbell) – whose mother was murdered a year earlier – and her group of school friends. They’re the usual bunch of American school kids: there’s a jock, a joker, a nerd – you get the picture.

Sydney is at home alone (her Dad is handily out of town – imagine that!) and receives a phone call. You can recognise the voice as that of the person who spoke to Casey, the call gets increasingly abusive and culminates with the caller emerging from Sydney’s closet and chasing her around the house. She’s saved by her boyfriend Billy (Skeet Ulrich) but when a cell phone falls out of his pocket Sydney begins to suspect that Billy may have been the caller and escapes from the house.

The killer continues to target Sydney and her friends with the film culminating in a series of attacks at a house party and the killer finally being revealed.

The cast is well rounded and as well as Sydney and her friends we have hard-nosed reporter Gail Weathers (played with great energy by Courtney Cox in a role as far-removed from her “Friends” character Monica Gellar as you can imagine) and local deputy Dewey (David Arquette).

The story zips along at a good pace and is only slightly bogged down by the secondary storyline of Cotton Weary (Liev Schreiber) being in jail for murdering Sydney’s mother and the twist ending was a real surprise when I first saw the movie – and I don’t usually get caught out by things like that.

Scream is well worth a look if you’ve not seen it before, and certainly worth revisiting if you’ve not seen it for a while.

Watch this film if you’re in the mood for a slasher film that doesn’t take itself too seriously and will reawaken your interest in the genre.

 

Addams Family Values

This review is part of the 31 Films For Halloween Series

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Addams Family Values was released 2 years after The Addams Family but is set around 9 months after the first film (if Morticia knitting a three-legged baby grow at the end of the first film is an indication of timings).

Baby Pubert joins the Addams clan and it’s no denying he’s the son of Gomez as the young boy has both Gomez hair and moustache. His arrival unsettles Wednesday and Pugsley who are worried that the new arrival will lead to one of them being replaced. Comedy ensues when they decide to “play” with the child and come up with a series of more gruesome games which somehow Pubert is able to escape.

Gomez is worried about the strain on Morticia having to look after 3 unruly children and so the hunt for a nanny begins and we’re introduced to Debbie Jellinsky (played by the always hilarious Joan Cusack), a perky young woman who couldn’t be more opposite to Morticia and the rest of the family. She quickly makes an impression and is taken on as the new nanny, but the question is does she have an ulterior motive?

It’s soon revealed that Debbie is actually “The Black Widow”, a serial killer who goes around marrying eligible, rich bachelors murdering them on their wedding night – and it looks like she’s got her eyes set on Uncle Fester.

While there is a storyline in that Debbie is trying to get her claws into Fester, the main jokes come as a series of one-off gags played mainly by the children and while it is nice to see Christina Ricci (Wednesday) have more material to get her teeth into the jokes can feel a little forced and disjointed. Debbie realises that she’s not going to be able progress with her plans with Wednesday and Pugsley around so she arranges for them to be sent off to a summer camp run with naieve joy de vivre by the Grangers (a fabulously camp Peter MacNicol and Christine Baranski).

Of course, the summer camp is everything that Wednesday and Pugsley detest in the world – it’s full of polite, peppy kids that enjoy playing in the outdoors and it’s a world away from what the young Addams are used to. The introduction of the Summer Camp is just shoe-horned in plot device. Despite the quality of the cast in these scenes I feel that a lot more could have been accomplished in the short time they were on screen.

And sticking with wasted opportunities, the humour just seems to fall flat in this film. Debbie has one meagre attempt at office Fester and then decides he can’t be killed and takes him away from his family instead. I would have loved to have seen some more murder attempts that were really off the wall but the writers decided to stick to lack-luster one liners that just don’t seem to have the spark or the originality of the first film.

It’s a real shame as the basic plot had a lot of promise, it just seems to get bogged down in comedy for the sake of comedy and is missing the dark self-referential humour that made the first film so different and much funnier that this one. Even over-the-top performances by Ricci, Cusack and Raul Julia can’t rescue this film from being just “okay” rather than good or great.

The only time that I laughed was when Wednesday had been tortured by Disney songs and attempted to smile – it was perhaps one of the creepiest things I’ve seen and was worthy of an Oscar nomination!

If you’re going to watch one Addams Family film this Halloween I’d actually recommend you watch The Addams Family as I think it’s a lot better that its sequel.

Watch this if you’re in the mood to see some murderous kids and a wonderfully over-the-top Joan Cusack.

The Addams Family

This review is part of the 31 Films For Halloween Series

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The Collider Halloween Movie Marathon only listed “Addams Family Values” as one to watch but as I haven’t seen The Addams Family since before 2013 (which was when I started keeping track of all of my viewing) I thought I’d squeeze this film on as a little bonus.

Based on a comic and then a 1960s TV series, The Addams Family turns the American ideal on its head with the family attempting to live up (or should that be down?) to the American Dream but getting it comically wrong.

The titular family consists of head of the house Gomez (a marvelously hammy Raul Julia), his vampish wife Morticia (played with obvious glee by Angelica Houston), their children Wednesday (the fantastically deadpan Christina Ricci in one of her first big screen roles), Pugsley (Jimmy Workman in one of his few movies), Uncle Fester (played by Christopher Lloyd with his usual madcap energy) and faithful manservant Lurch (Carel Struycken who I can say is as creepy looking in real life having been fortunate enough to meet him).

The story centres around the sudden reappearance of Uncle Fester who had been missing for years. Unbeknownst to the family, Fester and his “Doctor” (fake Fester’s mother) are scam artists trying to get their hands on the family fortune.

The family starts to suspect all is not right with Fester when he can’t remember certain important facts and events, however certain actions seem to allude to his true roots.

The Doctor (in a wonderfully over the top faux-German accent) persuades Gomez that he is perceiving a problem that doesn’t exist and they re-welcome Fester back into the fold.

As the movie progresses, the fake Fester begins to have feelings for this strange family – and we start to wonder if perhaps they’re closer than he realises.

The movie is a masterpiece in set design, lighting and sound design (both with the sounds in the movie and the music). The effects still stand the test of time even though the film is almost 30(!) years old, and the jokes are still fresh and relevant even today.

There’s plenty of humour for all ages so adults definitely won’t feel left out – and it’ll probably go over younger children’s heads so you don’t have to worry too much about having to awkwardly explain something!

One of the highlights for me was the school play scene – I think I’ve seen so much fake blood since The Shining or It Chapter 2!

While this may seem like a simple black comedy, at it’s heart is a movie about love, acceptance and what it means to be family. It’s actually quite a heartwarming tale under the fake blood and witchy allegories.

Oh, and it wouldn’t be a film from the 1990s if it didn’t have a title song by a well known artist – in this case MC Hammer…. Enjoy!

Halloween (2018)

This review is part of the 31 Films For Halloween Series (Note: this review was originally published on the 27th October 2018)

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If you’ve seen Halloween II, Halloween 3: Season Of The Witch, Halloween 4: The Return Of Michael Myers, Halloween 5: The Revenge Of Michael Myers, Halloween: The Curse Of Michael Myers, Halloween H20: Twenty Years Later and Halloween Resurrection then….. you have completely wasted your time. According to Halloween (2018) none of the events in these films happened and any reveals in the films have been retconned. Heck, the opening title sequence is a pumpkin rotting backwards which pretty much shouts “We’re turning back the clock folks!”

So, with that in mind Halloween (2018) is a direct sequel to Halloween (1978), Michael Myers is no longer Laurie Strode’s brother (dealt with quite eloquently by Laurie’s Granddaughter who brushes the suggestion off as an invention that helps sell a story) and Michael has spent the last 40 years in prison after being caught at the end of the first film.

The story starts with some internet journalists visiting Myers in his mental institution to get material for a podcast they are putting together. One of the bright sparks has the idea to wave Michael’s mask at him in order to illicit a response and is most upset when he doesn’t get one – well, the guy hasn’t spoken a word for 40 years, I don’t think waving a William Shatner mask at him will make much difference.

Now, it wouldn’t be a horror film without a few coincidences would it? It just so happens that Myer’s psychiatrist studied under Dr Loomis (he even sounds a bit like him which is a nice, if slightly freaky homage), the podcasters visit the day before Halloween (I know, right?!) and Myers is due to be moved to a more secure facility that very night (wow!). Of course, the prison transfer doesn’t go to plan (do they ever?) and Myers is able to escape to wreak slasher terror yet again on the town of Haddenfield.

So, where does Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) fit in to all this now the brother/sister connection has been removed? She’s been spending the past 40 years preparing to get her own back on Michael – to the extent that she trained her 8-year-old daughter to shoot (but this is set in America so that might be normal, I don’t know) and caused the kid a fair amount of psychological harm which resulted in her being taken into care at the age of 12.

Laurie lives on a compound just outside Haddenfield and seems to have removed herself from life – although she begrudgingly talks to the podcasters after they offer to pay her $3000. She has a fractured relationship with her  adult daughter (played by Judy Greer) and her dick of a husband (those two really don’t go together at all – sack the casting director!) but seems to have a reasonable relationship with her granddaughter Allyson (Andi Matichak). When Laurie gets wind of Michael’s escape she goes to look for her family to keep them from Michael’s clutches.

Why is Michael fixated on Laurie? It’s sort of explored in the film – I always thought it was some form of twisted admiration as she was the only one that really fought back but maybe I’m reading too much into it.

There’s Michael’s usual slasher routine – make sure you keep an eye on the background at all times just in case you miss him – it’s almost like he has a little checklist he needs to follow: Blue overalls? Check! Freaky mask? Check! Big ass knife? Check! Still, it’s a Halloween film so what are you expecting?

There are some nice references to the original film – some scenes are almost near-perfect recreations of those from 1978, there’s also an interesting interaction (in more ways that one) between Dr. Sartain and Officer Hawkins. It’s also great that they didn’t mess with the music – the original theme was a freaky as hell and it would have been terrible if they had tried to modernise it but thankfully John Carpenter’s piercing piano is still there.

I’m not going to going in to any more detail as I don’t want to spoil the scares for you, but it certainly follows the horror movie rules. One character to watch out for though is Julian (played by newcomer Jibrail Nantambu) who will move on to great things I’m sure.

Is the film better for being a direct sequel to Halloween (1978)? Not really as it doesn’t make a huge amount of difference but it does allow them to fix the messes that were Halloween H20 and Resurrection.

While you don’t have to have seen Halloween (1978) before seeing Halloween (2018) I would recommend it so that you can understand some of the insider references and nods to the prequel. Overall it’s a good film and perfect for viewing at this time of year – just don’t get a hot drink in case you jump and spill it in your lap!

If you’ve haven’t seen the first film the following Screen Junkies “Honest Trailer” will explain all (spoilers, obvs)

31 Films For Halloween

The guys over at Collider have put together a list of films to watch over the 31 days of October – and of course they’re all halloween themed!

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Not one to turn down an excuse to watch a film I’ve decided to play along and you can read my reviews of the films as I watch them. I’ll be updating this article as I post them so make sure you check back soon!

  1. Hocus Pocus
  2. Halloween (2018)
  3. Addams Family Values (plus bonus a Addams Family review as I hadn’t watched it for ages)
  4. Scream
  5. Goosebumps
  6. What We Do In The Shadows
  7. The Evil Dead
  8. The Evil Dead 2
  9. Army Of Darkness
  10. Beetlejuice
  11. A Nightmare Before Christmas
  12. Halloween III
  13. Psycho (1960)
  14. Casper
  15. The Witches of Eastwick
  16. Practical Magic
  17. The Witches
  18. The Craft
  19. ParaNorman
  20. Bram Stoker’s Dracula
  21. The Monster Squad
  22.  Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark (2014)
  23. The Rocky Horror Picture Show
  24. E. T
  25. It (Chapter 1 was suggested but I’m going to watch the original 1990 T.V mini-series)
  26. Frakenweenie
  27. Sleepy Hollow
  28. Halloweentown
  29. Young Frankenstein
  30. Trick r treat
  31. Halloween (1978)

Pet Sematary (2019)

I don’t know what it is about Stephen King’s books that seems to make them so difficult to translate to the big screen – the recent success of IT aside (which I thought was a really poor film in comparison to the T.V Mini-series), there hasn’t been a truly successful Stephen King adaptation and unfortunately the 2019 version of Pet Sematary continues that tradition.

I’m a big fan of Stephen King, and the Pet Sematary novel is a masterpiece of suspenseful and terrifying writing and the 1989 film version does a pretty good job of capturing the spirit of King’s novel – the sight of a creepy Gage wielding a scalpel is rather scary.

Gage in Pet Sematary (1989)

Gage in Pet Sematary (1989) (source)

So, how does the 2019 version hold up?

Not very well I’m afraid.

The film starts off trying to be a bit clever by alluding to the horrors that await (a poor script and bad editing being two of them) as we come across an idyllic looking house only to see a bloody hand print on a car window, a smear of blood on the porch and some footprints leading into the house, there’s then a clumsy cut to a car full of a cute all-American family traveling to a new life in the town of Ludlow, Maine.

The film massively failed my watch test – I checked it 32 minutes in to the film which is a really, really bad sign that I am not interested at all. The plot is slow to develop, the scares a non-existent (save a few loud truck noises that I think have been included just to make sure you are awake) and the acting is pretty poor – so much so that I really couldn’t get invested in any of the characters except the cat – and if you can get acted off the screen by an animal then you really do have a problem.

Father of the family, Louis Creed, is a Doctor who is tired of working a graveyard shift in a city E.R room so has uprooted his family to a sleepy town. As a city E.R doctor I would imagine that Louis has seen his fair share of horrific trauma and death which is why him being so distraught over the death of a teenager named Victor Pascow seems to be very out of character – does he behave that way over every patient he loses? If so I don’t know how he manages to retain his sanity. Later in the film, Rachel needs to be aware of the kid’s name so the writer’s shoehorn a scene in to explain how she knows it in such a clumsy way it makes no sense for Louis’ character.

Mother of the family, Rachel, is a barely functioning basket case who is haunted by the death of her sister. How do we know this? She explains it to us in a conversation she has with her husband. Now, bear in mind these two are married and have a child aged 9 (and a toddler as well) so wouldn’t you have thought they’d have discussed this at some point before this? Well, not according to the writers! Yes, it’s important to know Rachael’s backstory but to have her talk about how her sister died to her husband of at least 9 years is so very, very lazy.

I was hoping that the film would be rescued by the appearance of John Lithgow’s character of “Jud” but even he couldn’t pull this film out of the grave it had dug itself and was really just phoning his performance in, there was no depth to it at all even when he had some emotional points to talk about. I don’t think that’s Lithgow’s fault at all, he’s an excellent actor, I just don’t think the directors knew what they were doing half the time.

The storyline revolves around the titular “Pet Sematary” which is on the family property and the creepy Indian Burial ground beyond (and we all know that they’re a great place to hang out, don’t we). When the family cat is hit by a car, it’s buried in the Indian burial ground and comes back – but it’s not quite the same lovable cat that the family knows. Then, when a further tragedy strikes and one of the children die, Louis is drawn back to the burial ground even though he knows the consequences and nothing good can come of his actions.

I think the directors, set designer and lighting guy must have sat down and read “Filmmaking for Dummies” (yes, that is a real book) because if you want a horror cliche – you’ve got it! Fog in a forest? Check! Lightning and thunder? Check! Weird animal noises? Check! Random noises in the attic? Check! Doors opening and closing when you’re the only one in the house? Check! I could go on but I’m sure you get the picture.

The first hour and a bit is a pretty pedestrian affair: the directors and editor missed lots of opportunities to add in extra scares and jumps which would have livened things up considerably but if you can get through that then the final 30 minutes turns into quite a passable film.

I had avoided details of a plot change as I didn’t want it to ruin my enjoyment of the film (as limited as that turned out to be) and I won’t write about it here as I do think it takes something away from what is probably the best scene in the film if you know about it, but what I will say is that it allows for an interesting twist that I didn’t see coming and made for an intriguing end to the film.

Click the following section to read my thoughts on the changes – spoiler alert obviously!

Spoiler
So in the book and the 1989 film, Gage (who’s around 3/4 years old) dies and is brought back by the sematary. This was always a bit problematic for me as unless he totally sneaks up on you and hits you with a surprise attack or you’re asleep surely fighting off a toddler would be pretty easy – especially for a grown man.

This version changes the dead child from Gage to Ellie who, at 9 years old (and possessed by the power of the woods), is a bit more of a formidable foe and the fight between her and her father in the “Sematary” is brutal and quite difficult to watch but it’s far more believable to be afraid of a 9 year-old than a toddler. Also, as I wasn’t aware of the change (I’d kept away from the trailer and all reviews) it made the scene when Gage runs out into the road more impactful as I wasn’t expecting Ellie to be the one to get hit.

This switch was a welcome change and one that makes sense and partially rescued what was shaping up to be a completely dire film.

Watch this film if you haven’t seen the original (or you’ll probably be disappointed) or if you’re in the mood for a movie starring a sassy cat.

Assassination Nation

Assassination Nation is one of those films that probably won’t do a massive amount of business at the box office but will slowly become a cult classic like the films that have inspired it. I was lucky enough to see a preview screening so here’s what I think of the film.

This film is a weird mash of Meal Girls meets Heathers meets The Purge with a bit of I Spit On Your Grave thrown in for good measure.

Set in the town of Salem (irony? I think not) the story follows 4 high-school friends: Lily (Odessa Young), Bex (Hari Nef), Em (Abra) and Sarah (Suki Waterhouse) who are living the carefree existence that Teenagers on their way to college enjoy, concerned with only the best Instagram filter or how many Tumblr followers they have. That all changes though and their dark secrets begin to haunt them.

At the start of the film there’s a list of trigger warnings including violence, rape (attempted), blood (sooo much blood), homophobia… I won’t go into them all but needless to say the list is fairly comprehensive and while the triggers listed at the start of the film do appear, it seems they’re acknowledged more as to satirise the way everyone prefaces every Tumblr post with “Trigger Warning” more than to indicate their real threat – after all, would you be watching this film if you were worried about the trigger list? I don’t think so.

Anyway, on to the plot.

Within the first 15 minutes, the tranquil life of Salem is turned upside down when it turns out that the Mayor (who ran on a family values ticket) is a cross-dressing sex pot who likes to photograph himself in ladies panties with his willy out. How do we know this? Someone hacked into his phone account and posted all of his saucy snaps online which are then quickly shared across the town thanks to the power of social media. The Mayor then decides that, instead of resigning like a normal person, he’ll blow his head off in front of a town meeting and from that point on all hell breaks loose.

During the next 45 minutes or so there’s lots of Sexting (sexy Whatsapping? SWapping? Maybe not) between Lily and someone in her contact list only known as “Daddy”, Bex is sexting someone on the football team and Sarah meets up with random blokes and takes photos – in fact the only normal person is Em (although her mother is not normal). There are also parties where kids get off their faces on drink and drugs  and share it all to their Instas and Snapchats – so far, so youth of today.

Except the images between Lily and Daddy are leaked and after the death of the Mayor the town can’t deal with this. A literal witch hunt starts, mob mentality rules and the whole town decides to implode.

I can’t really say too much about the storyline as I’ll end up giving things away which I think you need to discover for yourself – the audience learns certain things as the sexts and images are released and it’s a nice twist that you don’t already have the inside scoop from the sleep-over-pillow-talk of the main characters that usually happens in a film like this.

What I will say though is that the last 45 minutes of this film is truly fucked up – I mean, you think you’ve seen a teen revenge film (à la Heathers)? You ain’t see nothing! That being said, it’s not as gory as the trailer would lead you to believe but that’s probably a good thing as this could have been a truly horrific film.

It certainly shines a light on the perils of putting too much information out there – and the fact that just because you’ve sent a saucy selfie to one person doesn’t mean that other people won’t have access to it in the future (think Jennifer Lawrence’s nude photo hack). With this film being an 18 though it’s missing the audience it should be aiming at – 15 year olds and under, but then the film wouldn’t have such and impact if it were watered down to suit this audience bracket.

This film definitely isn’t for everyone, it’s very dark and there’s little humour to be found – Mean Girls was essentially a satirical comedy and Heathers had a dark undercurrent of satirical humour. Assassination Nation is more of a “Hold a warped mirror up to society” kind of film and while it may seem unbelievable, considering some of the rallies that we’ve seen in the States recently, I personally don’t think it’s too far of a stretch for something like this to happen.

The film is well made, there’s a couple of nice directorial “gimmicks” that make you feel uncomfortable and yet draw you in and the editing is well paced, the soundtrack also matched well with the tone of the film but could have heightened the drama a little more. Overall it’s well put together considering its limited budget and while the box office is bound to be low given the controversial subject it’s going to be a sure fire classic on streaming services.

Watch this film if you’re looking for an alternative dystopian future that’s closer to home than you might think – just leave your phone alone so you don’t send incriminating tweets while watching it!

The Fog (1980)

I’m a big fan of John Carpenter’s films – there’s just something about the way that he presents the characters, sets the scenes and provides the music that just draws you in and makes you really invested in what’s happening on the screen.

With Halloween happening just a week ago there’s been a fair few horror films on the television and when I saw that they were showing the 1980 version of The Fog I immediately set the recorder! For those of you who haven’t seen the film here’s a brief synopsis and my review.

The story centres around Antonio Bay, a small seaside town that’s reliant on fishing for its main income. The film opens with a rather drunk sounding sailor recounting the story of the crew of The Elizabeth Dane, a ship that ran aground 100 years previously thanks to a bank of fog and a misplaced camp fire. How this guy is allowed to be in charge of a bunch of kids sitting on a beach at midnight I don’t know but anyway I’m looking at it with post Jimmy Savile lenses and not every weird looking old man hanging around kids is a pervert I guess. Anyway, as his story draws to a close he reveals that the events of the story took place on (duh, duh duuuuuuuh) that very day just as the church clock strikes midnight – what a coincidence!

Side Note: why do events have to happen on an even number of years after like 100? If I were going to come back and haunt a town I’d do it like 37 years later just to confuse the hell out of everyone.

As the title credits roll we’re introduced to the local radio station which only ever seems to play some weird jazz style music. I can understand that Carpenter wouldn’t have wanted to date the movie by the music used in the radio broadcasts (and they used jazz as it was cheaper than rock apparently) but seriously? If my local radio station played that crap I’d either set fire to it or move out of town. Anyway, we then cut to the local church were the town priest is busy getting drunk (I think I see a pattern forming here) when a bit of the wall falls off exposing a hidden journal. We then cut to various locations around the town where weird things start to happen: phones ring, lights turn themselves on, cars start to honk and furniture starts to move around. No one seems to be too bothered by these strange goings on – I guess because they’re all obviously off their face on booze and it’s a normal occurrence for them.

We then cut to Elizabeth (played by Jamie Lee Curtis) who’s hitchhiking and gets picked up by Nick (Tom Atkins) – and guess what? He’s drinking a can of beer! Does this town not have any drinking water? As they’re driving towards town the windows of the truck blow out and yet again they don’t seem to be fussed too much by it. Must be thanks to the Budweiser!

The radio host (still playing weird jazz) Stevie (Adrienne Barbeau) is informed by the local weather service that a fog bank is rolling in so she breaks into her broadcast to notify the Sea Grass, a ship that’s out to sea and full of (you guessed it) drunk sailors.

This part of the film is filmed really well: the fog rolls in and surrounds the sailors and you really feel as though you’re there with them – you can only see what they’re seeing and that’s very limited. The crew of the Sea Grass see a ship and then there are a few shadowy figures but you can’t really make much out which adds to the atmosphere and while this is a horror film I do like the fact that there’s not a huge amount of gore – a lot is left to your own imagination which I find worse than seeing it on screen.

The Fog slowly rolls into town bringing the shadowy figures with it and they end up at Nick’s house – who happens to have taken Elizabeth home with him – banging on the door but just as he’s about to open it he’s distracted by a clock breaking at 1am and the figures and fog disappear.

That’s not the end of it though, as the shadowy figure soon return wanting vengeance. I’m not going to tell you why but it’s not your usual “evil ghost” motivation at work that’s for sure!

The film is cleverly shot and there is quite a lot of suspense thanks to Carpenter’s chilling soundtrack and the fact that the ghosts are shrouded by the fog so the majority of the scary stuff is actually coming from your own imagination.

Apparently several scene were added after test screenings decided that the film wasn’t scary enough. Apparently originally Carpenter was looking for a PG rating but I’m not sure how that would work for a horror film. This film also brought Jamie Lee Curtis and screen legend mother Janet Leigh together for their first acting job together (the only other was Halloween H20 18 years later).

If you’re into gore and obvious horror (as in the Saw movies) then you’ll probably find this rather mundane but if you’re more into psychological horror or a looking for a gentle way to get into horror films then this film is perfect for you. I’d also recommend you watch this version first before watching the 2005 remake which, while it’s good, does twist the original story a bit.

Watch this film if you’re looking for something to view at the witching hour but don’t want to wet your pants.

Overlord (2018)

I went to a preview screening of “Overlord” last night. If you’ve been to the cinema recently they’ve been advertising it heavily in the “Upcoming Features” promo and this always concerns me – if you have to push a film that hard it’s normally not that good so does my theory hold true for Overlord? Yes and no!

Overlord is set the day before D-Day and we start with a group of paratroopers flying to France to take out a radio jamming tower. There’s the usual banter between the soldiers which serves to introduce the characters which is where one problem in the film lies. The American army had an official policy of segregation until 1948 so it’s unlikely that a black solider would be serving with a white unit, and even unlikelier that the commanding sergeant would be an African-American as well.

There are a few other liberties taken with the D-Day timeline – I don’t think the paratroopers would have seen the full D-Day invasion force at the time they were flying (around midnight) – sure it would have started to pull together but they wouldn’t leave the whole fleet to hang around for 6 hours – plus the fleet is seen when the sun is setting indicating it’s sitting there at least 10 hours before the invasion!). Also, for a mission like this they probably would have been sent down in gliders rather than parachuting but that would ruin the start if the film and we need to remember this is a film  after all and not a historically accurate documentary!

The opening 10 minutes of the are great – this isn’t a spoiler by the way as you can see this in the trailer – we follow Ed Boyce (Jovan Adepo) as he is pushed out of his disintegrating plane, flailing around trying to open his parachute. It’s really well shot and you feel like you’re with the poor guy hurtling down to earth amongst flak and debris.

After this, for the first 35 minutes or so you’re in what appears to be a typical war film, the Americans are trying to regroup to get to their target and the Germans are out in the woods trying to hunt them down. The remainder of the unit – Corporal Ford and Privates Boyce, wise-guy Tibbet and photographer Chase – come across Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier), a French woman who’s not in the resistance but hates the Germans so is happy to help keep the Americans safe.

Boyce is sent out to search for any remaining stragglers and ends up in a German truck full of dead bodies heading towards a bunker under the radio tower they need to bring down. Boyce manages to escape detection which might seem a bit unlikely but I’ve played Call Of Duty: World War II so I know that German guards can’t hear or see anything. As Boyce is trying to find a way out he comes across some grizzly sights such as a disembodied head that’s still able to speak and some weird looking amniotic sacks and then finds fellow US soldier Rosenfeld (Dominic Applewhite) and together they escape the facility.

The second half of the film moves away from your being all Call Of Duty and moves in to Call Of Duty: Nazi Zombies territory. This is where my other issues with the film lie: the action is fast paced enough as you’re kept entertained (I didn’t look at my watch until just before the end of the film which is always a good sign that I’m enjoying myself) but it’s so dark you miss a lot of the action – okay, I know it’s set in an underground bunker/crypt thing but I’m pretty sure they would have had a generator for some lights – even the French village has a couple of outside lights on for goodness sake!

The special effects are decent enough but nothing special, and nothing we haven’t seen somewhere else and, to be honest, it’s not that scary. I’m not sure why it’s been released as an 18 given the content – I’ve seen gorier and scarier 15s. The characters are also very stereotypical of this type of film – commander that goes out of control, evil Gestapo officer (played perfectly by Pilou Asbæk who almost has sleaze oozing out of every pore), the put-upon reluctant hero in Boyce and motormouth Tibbet. If there was a checklist of what to include in a War film, this movie has checked every box and as a result the characters are one-dimensional and even though the script tries to add depth with backstories this is rather forced.

The last action scene of the film though is epic – I’m not going to spoil it for you but it looks as though it’s all been shot in one take (seems to be all the rage these days) but I can’t see how they would accomplish this as the scale of the stage required would have been huge. It’s probably worth seeing the film just to check out the opening parachute scene and final action sequence.

Overall the film was good, not great but good. If you’re looking for something that is a bit different from the Superhero and musical stuff that’s been everywhere for so long then I’d recommend checking this out and while it’s not a true “make you jump” horror there is some gore so it may not be suitable for all audiences.

And, as special bonus for you if you like the idea of Nazi Zombies then check out Outpost This was released 10 years before Overlord which owes a heck of a lot to its predecessor.

There’s also a sequel Outpost: Black Sun (2012)

Oh, and Outpost: Rise of the Spetsnaz (2013)

And if you like a bit of comedy with your horror (and don’t mind reading subtitles or understand Norwegian) then I can highly recommend Dead Snow

What’s your favourite zombie film? Let me know in the comments!

Penny Dreadful: City Of Angels

It took me a while to get into Penny Dreadful when it first aired in the UK. What I thought was going to be a slow and plodding historical horror took a few unexpected twists and turns and after a couple of episodes had me hooked. My one main complaint of the series was that it seemed to end too soon, a couple more episodes would have tied it all up quite nicely whereas I felt a sense of unfinished business the way they left it.

Anyway, my gripes aside it looks like they are making a sequel and this will move from late Victorian London to 1930’s cosmopolitan Los Angeles.

I’m looking forward to it but I can’t help thinking the producers have missed a trick and that setting the series in Chicago at the World Fair in the 1890’s would have been the way to go. It would have allowed crossover from characters we already know and we could have checked out H.H Holmes and his Murder Castle!

More info on DenOfGeek