Movie review: One Cut of the Dead

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Look up One Cut of the Dead and you’ll start to see glowing reports and described as a low-fi, B-movie zombie fest that has been praised as the best zombie comedy since Shaun of the Dead.
The opening shot is a one-take 37 minutes of balls-to-the-wall insanity. It’s a sight to behold that keeps you not only on the edge of the seat, but from a filmmaker’s perspective, gripped with amazement at just how much they manage to pack in and deliver a stunning piece of cinematography that hangs on some precise choreography to pull off. A huge hats off to director Shinichiro Ueda who not only has the audacity to execute such a stunt but also does it so effectively. What’s more is that isn’t the only trick up his sleeve throughout the film.

As the story unfolds, we witness a film cast and its crew shooting a zombie film in an abandoned warehouse, only to have real zombies attack them and in a way that is believable as they struggle to endure their ordeal by bumbling and fumbling there way around the one location. The actors are equally believable as they go from you’re average cast and crew to hardcore survivors of a post-apocalyptic zombie outbreak.

There are some moments that don’t sit right in your mind as it unfolds, particularly some quirky moments from the actor director who keeps popping up and taking advantage of the dire situation and forcing the undead onto his actors in order to get his vision captured with every ounce of reality involved.

There are also some incredibly awkward silences and the usual found footage trope of the cameraman who still manages to capture everything without being attacked by any zombies.

All these things have a purpose though as Ueda has his own vision in mind and plays another trick after the one-shot take has been played out. For that though it contains some spoilers. If you are keen to know more, scroll down below the image as I dissect a little further.  Continue reading

Series review: The Haunting of Hill House S1

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“I am home”, writes Steven Crain.

Hill House may well have been home for the Crain family, but it also holds the key to a life defining memory. Flashing back and forth between past and present, this haunted house yarn is about the psychological effects of events that lead to them abruptly fleeing a haunted house in the dead of night many years earlier.

The Haunting of Hill House” is a genre busting ghost story with more levels than the house at its core. Using the Shirley Jackson novel (previously seen as “The Haunting” – both as the 1963 Robert Wise film and the 1999 Jan De Bont film) as its source material, master of horror Mike Flanagan has meticulously crafted a 10 part horror series for Netflix that is as much a traditional gothic horror as it is a story about how a family handles the traumatic stress of a horrific experience none of us could ever imagine. So essentially this is for anyone who wondered what was next for the Lutz family after “The Amityville Horror” or the Freelings post “Poltergeist”.

This is about the PTSD of horror and while they all have their ghosts to reconcile, these ones are literal.

Now this all may seem extremely heavy stuff, but there is still a good old fashioned ‘scare-ya-silly’ ghost story here and believe me it’s a frightening one too. The frights are drip fed when you least expect it and there’s creepiness resplendent too if you just keep your eyes open from behind that cushion.

But what makes this stand out as quite possibly the best horror of 2018 is the well developed characters, the incredible writing, and the heart (or boob) thumping performances. All of the actors throw their all into the work too and it’s evident in such stand out episodes as; “The Bent necked woman” that has one of the craziest WTF moments in horror history and “Two Storms” which is almost theatre. The almost hour long episode of “Two Storms” plays out over five cuts, as the characters all bounce off each other in long, incredibly choreographed 15-23 min takes.

Mike Flanagan has steadily crafted a brilliant career in horror films since his stellar debut film “Absentia”. Over the years he’s reinvigorated a franchise, with the prequel “Ouija: Origin of Evil”, directed a couple of Netflix exclusive films “Hush”, and the brilliant Stephen King adaptation “Gerald’s Game”, and is soon to direct another King adaptation “Doctor Sleep” (“The Shining” sequel). So it’s really no surprise his latest entry is his best…so far. There’s a familiar look to his work, a colour palette of greys and oranges, and a troop of regular actors that include the always amazing Carla Gugino, the outstanding Elizabeth Reaser, and Flanagan’s wife, Kate Siegel, who has her best role yet. Talking of actors, who knew ET’s Henry Thomas and Timothy Hutton looked so alike, here they play the role of Hugh Crain at various stages in his life and my god the similarity is uncanny.

 

The Diagnosis:

Look, while this is very loosely based on the Shirley Jackson novel, it’s not a direct adaptation in the slightest, but it still has the locked red door, the spiral staircase, and spooky housekeeper Mrs Dudley. This is a fantastically complex gothic horror story for the Netflix generation.

  • Myles Davies

 

Movie review: Apostle

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Since Gareth Evans made his impact on the cinematic landscape with his hard-hitting action-packed Indonesian martial arts movie The Raid and its sequel, fans of his directing style have been eager to see where he would turn to next.
And here it is with Apostle, an equally gritty film that cuts to the heart of religion, faith, and megalomania.

Starting Dan Stevens ego has been carving a name for himself in Hollywood circles of late with his quirky turn in TV series, Legion and Beauty and the Beast, but it seems that he has never shied away from his horror roots, dating back to Adam Wingard’s The Guest. It’s almost as if he is able to tap into that inner carnage and turmoil that humanity faces and bring it to the surface in the most powerful ways.
Apostle is no exception to this as Stevens delves deep into the psyche of Thomas Richardson, a former missionary who has turned his back on his faith, only to be tested once more when he learns that his sister has been taken for ransom on a remote welsh island.

The film is set in the early 1900s, and because of its setting is able to harness the feel of old school British folk horror which is on something of a resurgence of late.
There are elements in Apostle that is strikingly familiar to The Wicker Man in that a devout religious man ascends on a pagan island to retrieve a missing girl, in this case his sister, but that’s where the similarities cease as Apostle delves into the dark and twisted underbelly of when faith is taking to the extreme and abused at every level.
In one scene, Thomas literally has to swim through the guts and bile of the depraved to seek a reprieve from his pursuers.

There’s so much imagery and metaphor going on here, you’d be forgiven for feeling over whelmed with it, but Stevens performance is enough to ground the drama in reality.
He’s also joined by some terrific performers along the way too. There’s Michael Sheen (Underworld: Rise of the Lycans) as the islands profit, Malcolm, who is simply marvellous in his role, eating up the scenery with his charisma on screen; and then there’s Lucy Boynton (The Blackcoats Daughter) as the prophets’ daughter and potential love interest Andrea, along with Mark Lewis Jones and Bill Milner also adding great strength to the cast.
Richardson’s quest is always balanced on a knife edge too as Evans proves once more to be capable of wringing out every last drop of tension and pain from his characters.

The Diagnosis:

Director Gareth Evans is a master in creating heart-wrenching angst and turmoil into his narrative and with Dan Stevens has the perfect muse, as a lost and troubled man on a quest that takes him into a dark and twisted labyrinth of angst and suffering to reach a place of peace and tranquility.

Apostle is available to watch now on Netflix.

  • Saul Muerte

Movie review: Death Note

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Before I dissect this movie, I should stipulate that I came into this cold. I had no preconception of the Japanese manga series that it was based upon. On occasion, I delve into the source material to immerse in the world and its creation, but in this instance I went in fresher than a pillow with a mint on it.

Directed by Adam Wingard (Blair Witch, You’re Next) sans his usual writing partner Simon Barrett (Temple) attempts to weave the story of smarter than smart high school student Light Turner who discovers the gifted/cursed book Death Note in a Western setting of Seattle, US.

The book in question holds a unique spell whereby if a person’s name is written into it whilst visualizing their face, certain death will bestow upon them. With the original owner, a demon named Ryuk acting as an Iago of sorts chirping into Light’s ear and willing him to enact a godly vengeance on those who’ve wronged him.

Light initially sees the book as force of good, as he takes on a vigilante style quest to put all the criminals who have somehow escaped justice, behind bars.
Inevitably, fate will play the upper hand and steer Light towards a conclusion where they may be no turning back.
As far as the story goes, it peppers along with a fairly decent pace, but it has a strange pop-esque vibe to it that tears away at the narrative with little regard for sense or structure. This surprised me as I’m a big fan of Wingard’s other work, so I wonder if it was more of a case that the Death Note story was simply to big to harness everything into one movie. Yes, Wingard does leave the door open for more ventures down the track, but since watching the movie I was compelled to look back at the source and can see that it was rich in content and therefore always going to be tricky to pull off and get it right.

Most of the movie has a fluffiness to it, including the leads, Light, (played by Nat Wolff), and Mia, (played by Margaret Qualley who proved far more interesting a performer in The Leftovers). My interest was drawn more towards Shea Whigham (Light’s Dad) who always seems to deliver and Lakeith Stanfield (Get Out) in another stand out, quirky performance as a specially trained detective with a sweet tooth, L.

 

The Diagnosis:

The film is definitely watchable and enjoyable enough, but fans of the original may be sorely disappointed.

Death Note strikes a flat chord that is strangely disjointed and out of sync.

 

– Saul Muerte

Movie review: The House With A Clock In Its Walls

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Here’s the interesting thing with horror – it is easy to do, but hard to get right.

It’s a stance taken in various guises on this website alone, but for a quick reference as evidence, I would point you to the myriad of online horror flicks that look like they are a film school graduation project. And then write down how many of them are any good…

But I digress. If horror films are hard to do right, then you can imagine the extra layer of challenging you get when you have to make them PG as well!

On the surface it may seem an oxymoron, but there are plenty of great examples of TV shows & films that straddle the enviable line of embracing (and paying respect to) 2 tastes without offending one or the other.

In this case, adult content that is equally entertaining for children and vice versa.

In terms of kid’s comedy with serious dramatic elements, the UK series Press Gang instantly springs to mind. In terms of horror for a pre-teen audience, you also have Goosebumps (and the soon to be released sequel) plus there is the 2009 film The Hole.

Although now that I type this out loud, I didn’t think Goosebumps was any good. And The Hole was quite good…but for the life of me I can’t remember a thing about it. So maybe these aren’t great examples of PG horror.

But what about The House With A Clock In It’s Walls?

Set in the 50’s, it follows 10-year-old Lewis who is recently orphaned (which is very Up – OH UP! That’s a great example of an adult AND kid friendly film!) Anyway, he is taking a bus to live with his uncle Jonathan, who he has never met before, but seeing as he’s being played by Jack Black, he’s probably a lot of fun.

And Uncle Jack’s next-door neighbour is Florence Zimmerman, who is being played by Cate Blanchett, so you just know she’ll be awesome. Which for the most part she is. Especially at the beginning, as the banter between her and Black drives the movie and is the biggest highlight of the film (from an adult point of view).

Soon young Lewis – who is played by Owen Vaccaro, who has passable chops as the film’s protagonist (but is mostly whiny and annoying) – wakes up in the middle of the night in Uncle Jack’s house (which is old style and creepy) to the sound of a mysterious clock *tick-tocking* in the walls.

Jack Black roams the halls trying to locate it, as it seems to move from night to night, and when he thinks he’s found it, he tries to get at it. With a fire axe. Which is a little terrifying for a 10-year-old to witness…but he soon puts that all behind him when he finds out Uncle Jack is an everyday Warlock, and neighbour Cate is an exceptional Witch.

And from there the supernatural spooky (and PG) hijinks ensue.

Does it do well?


The Diagnosis:

No. Not really. THWACIIW is pretty safe fair, where the scares are pretty bland, and the ideas are just fine. Not even a super magnetic acting force like Blanchett can punt it over the bar, but in terms of colour & bounce it may appeal to kids. But for that you’ll have to go to the Junior Surgeons of Horror Website for the children’s review of The House With A Clock In It’s Walls.

PS: There’s no such website.

PPS: Yet.

 

  • Antony Yee

Movie review: Temple

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Back in 2011, writer Simon Barrett along with his collaborative partner, director Adam Wingard, carved a remarkable entry into the mumblegore scene at the pique of its movement with You’re Next.

It’s a partnership that served them well and has established a following of fans hanging out for their next venture, (myself included), which at this stage looks likely to be the remake of I Saw The Devil.

So imagine my delight when surfing through Netflix when I cam across this little-known movie Temple, written by Barrett. The fact that it had fallen by the wayside should speak volumes about the movie, but I’ve never let that deter me from a movie experience and with Barrett’s name attached, I was eager to go on that journey.

In many ways, Temple tries to tap into some J-Horror territory shrouded in mystery, horror, and dark spirits that made the Ring a household movie franchise in the genre.

Before the story unfolds we are introduced to a bandaged, wounded man who is in hospital and on aided with a life support system. He is wheeled in from of a professor and an interpreter as they try to pry some information on the whereabouts of a missing woman.

The man begins to recount his tale of backpacking trio of Kate, her boyfriend James, and her friend Chris in a thwarted love triangle, as they seek out a mysterious Japanese temple.

Most of the screenplay centres on the threesome as some background ekes out into the narrative and lures the viewer in enough to know that all is not well as jealousy and sexual tension rises. The closer they get to the temple, the more unhinged they become. The trek takes them into the heart of the wooded area by a boy from the village, with warnings of not to stay out after dark, (which of course they do when Chris is injured). By this stage, there are elements of Blair Witch coming in, another project that Barrett had worked on for the remake and may have been buried in his subconscious at the time of writing this screenplay.

Night does indeed fall and all hell breaks loose including a fox-human hybrid guardian and some creatures that live beneath the temple’s foundations.

The film’s conclusion leaves you wondering what exactly happened, whom do we believe, and if indeed any of it was real.

 

The Diagnosis:

The venture is across rugged terrain that is all too familiar but unstable, and leaves you wondering whether the journey was worth it. If you’re feeling inclined to explore some of Barrett’s work, then take the trek, but be warned, it may not meet your expectations.

  • Saul Muerte

Movie review: Les Affames aka Ravenous

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With zombie films such as Train to Busan or The Girl With All The Gifts along with TV shows such as The Walking Dead or iZombie offering new slabs or takes on the genre, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Z train must surely be running out of steam sometime soon, but they just keep on trucking. Sure you might get your Day of the Dead: Bloodline movies to contend with but amongst the trite and bloodied guts of the genre, some shine and offer a glimpse of hope, proving that there still maybe signs of life yet to come.
The latest in the mix is French/Canadian horror film (now available on Netflix) that is witty, charming, harrowing and unnerving. And what’s more, you actually give a shit about the characters.

We gradually meet the characters one by one as they scramble and fight for survival in a rural town in Quebec during an apparent zombie outbreak.

There’s Bonin and Vézina, the jokers of the pack, quipping as they coolly dispatch a zombie horde; Céline, a hardcore woman who would give Michonne a run for her money in the badass department; the elderly couple, Therese and Pauline; Tania, the heart of the movie who has been bitten but swears that it was by a dog; Zoé, a little girl; the wise Réal, and young crack shot Ti-Cul. All of who cross paths on their post-apocalyptic journey. One of the gems of this movie is that as we warm to each character, the rug of comfort will be pulled out from under our feet and not necessarily when or with whom you expect it to be from.

Director Robin Aubert leans towards a minimalistic approach to his work, which allows the actors the freedom to stretch their talents and delve deep into their characters. This coupled with some amazing cinematography that allows the beautiful scenery to be captured with stunning shots that breathes life onto the screen. This works in stark contrast against the claustrophobic tension-filled scenes when the zombies choose to attack, which they almost do with animalistic ability, hunting their prey and luring them from safety before ripping them apart or going on a feeding frenzy.

The zombies are also to be commended, as they don’t fit your usual traits. They appear to have smarts and a sense of community attached to them, often being territorial in places. They come with their wails or screams ale Invasion of the Body Snatchers when they see potential victims, but also come with an ethereal oddity when stacking furniture to impressive sights with these structures reaching to the heavens as they all gather round and stare at their creations. This is never explained and compliments the mystery and oddity to the virus that has swept mankind.

 

The Diagnosis:

A zombie film with heart as well as brains that is played out with dramatic integrity and draws you in deep enough to care for the characters before swiftly delivering a killer blow.

– Saul Muerte

Movie review: The Amityville Murders

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Back in November 1974, Amityville was shocked to hear the news of 23-year-old Ronald DeFeo Jr., who murdered his parents and four younger siblings by shooting them in their sleep.

There have been some curiosities surrounding these murders as all victims were killed in the space of 15 minutes with a shotgun around 3am, but no one heard any gunshots and it would appear that none of the family members had responded to any noise at all, having all been found lying in similar positions on their stomach. There was no evidence of drugging either.

The swiftness that DeFeo Jr was able to kill his family led some to suppose that a second shooter was there on that fatefull night. It doesn’t help that DeFeo Jr’s account of that evening has changed so many times, ranging from a Mafia hit to hearing voices that drove him to murder. The latter stuck in the news and lent to the bizarre case. It also fuelled the next chapter of 112 Ocean Avenue where the murders took place when the Lutz moved in the following year, only to leave after 28 days has passed citing strange happenings and paranormal phenomena. It was this incident coupled with Jay Anson’s novel, The Amityville Horror and the subsequent feature released in 1979 that projected this story across the globe and cemented the name Amityville into the horror genre and spawned 21 movies in its name.

The latest venture, The Amityville Murders attempts to go back to the original source and the murders that were commited by DeFeo Jr.

Director Daniel Farrands, who is no stranger to the macabre with numerous documentaries based on real-life and fictional murders on his resume, tries to take his interests in shocking crimes in his first drama feature, but too often it feels like he is dragging the story along by filling in the narrative with some over-saturated and stylised dialogue. It feels a little forced and unnatural, which jars the viewing, throwing you out of the picture. The acting is left wanting and feels a little like made-for-tv movies back in the 70s or 80s before directors knew how to handle the medium with any art or integrity.

It’s only as the drama intensifies and DeFeo Jr becomes more unhinged that this choice of direction starts to slip into place and become unnerving, which is exactly as you hope to feel. Actor John Robinson, who was thrust into the limelight as an actor when he was cast in Gus Van Sant’s Elephant, (a movie based on the Columbine shootings), starts off a little one-note in his performance, but as he taps into DeFeo Jr’s alleged depersonalisation disorder becomes more believable and haunting to watch. In fact, his performance at this stage keeps the viewer watching as everyone is pale and painful in comparison.

Farrands clearly knows his source material well, but he is let down by trying to weave in a dramatic storyline to the facts and feels weak as a result. Let’s hope he learns from his work on The Amityville Murders as his next two films are following a similar path looking at Sharon Tate and Nicole Brown Simpson.

 

The Diagnosis:

Yet another instalment to the Amityville universe… and yet it fails to provide the same impact as the first time these tragic events shocked the world. Once sensationalised and then desensitised with its numerous retellings that its hard to capture that same feeling again and unfortunately director Daniel Farrands fails to administer a blip on the heart monitor. No doubt, more attempts will follow, but I’m not sure if willing to go back there again.

– Saul Muerte

Movie review: Terrifier

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Back in 2013 Art the Clown was first introduced to our screens in all his shocking glory as part of Damien Leone’s horror anthology, All Hallows’ Eve.

Thanks to Dread Central, Terrifier was given a limited theatrical release, but this unfortunately didn’t include Australian shores.
Instead, Terrifier came across my bloody and broken radar through the horror vine thanks to some tuned in people after my own heart.
It harkens back to the days of video stores when you come across a gem of a movie, enticed by the vhs cover, in this case gloriously shoving the fucked up clown front and center. It’s his movie after all and boy does he own it.
In some ways it feels like Leone decided to let go of the leash and let his twisted creation run amok without a moments hesitation. The end result is sheer bloody mayhem that would turn those with a weak disposition into a quivering wreak and no doubt reaching or should I say retching into their vom bag.

All this should send the hardcore horror fans into a state of ecstasy at the mere thought of a horror film that isn’t afraid to go dark and push the boundaries of taste in the gore department. No doubt most of you are already aware of this movie.

For those yet to be imitated, Terrifier starts off with a television journalist interviewing one of Art’s victim, scarred beyond recognition but has lived to tell the tale.
We also learn of Art’s disappearance from the morgue, setting up the notion that he is on the loose.

With a shock moment unleashed, the story picks up proper with two female characters, Tara and Dawn who are stranded in the city after their car has a flat tyre.
The warped journey as only just begun though as they encounter Art at a dodgy kebab shop, who takes a shine to Tara before marking his territory.
Feeling rightfully unnerved, the girls seek out rescue from Tara’s sister Vicky, who they entice out to be their saviour.
But will she make it to them in time, or will Art unleash his next canvas using their mutilated bodies?

The Diagnosis:

Terrifier is balls to the wall gross out fun that isn’t for the faint of heart. Sure, there are some shaky moments throughout but this makes the movie all the more gritty. For those eager to delve into a world of gore and brutality, Art the Clown is your perfect remedy.

  • Saul Muerte

Movie review: Cargo

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Cargo is a zombie film – supposedly filled with gore, scary bits, and tension. Which it is. However, unlike your stereotypical low budget Z movie, Cargo has some real, raw emotions presented by all the characters; accompanied by some absolutely stunning shots of rural Australia. Some scenes in this film are beautiful – human beautiful and scenic beautiful.

It starts with a family of 3, Andy (Martin Freeman), Kay (Susie Porter) and their baby daughter Rosie (played by something like 4 separate babies, because child labour laws exist for a reason).

We find our threesome slowly flowing down a waterway on a riverboat, which (it is soon implied) is not theirs (ie: they’ve knicked it). They then discover another young family camping on shore, with the father being played by Andy Rodoreda; the actor who portrayed Martin Freeman’s character in the original Tropfest short that THIS film is based on.
Which must have been a weird experience for him, but if he wanted to hold onto his part, he should have been more famous. Its called show business and not show charity for a reason…

Anyway – from Andy & Kay’s dialogue and various other tell-tale signs – like Rodoreda threatening Freeman off with a gun (probably because he stole his role…) we get the impression an apocalypse of the Z kind has happened, and humanity is hanging by a thread with survivors quickly running out of options.
That’s when “the incident” happens (which you just KNEW it would) that changes everything between Andy and Kay (and their daughter). And soon incredibly tough decisions of the “what would you sacrifice” kind have to be made. What would you do? And perhaps more importantly…what wouldn’t you do…?
It is this theme that fuels the movie, and it takes a powerful performance to pull it off. With Freeman they get it.

Set against the backdrop of Australia’s unique beauty, it is clear that a lot of thought has gone into the cinematography. From a native plant in the corner of the screen, to the sun accentuating the features of the actors; every frame is truly a painting.

The Diagnosis:

Cargo is a well thought out, beautiful, tension filled zombie film that will do something very few horror flicks can, because whilst the best ones make you scared or tense, very few can also make you cry. Cargo will do all three.

  • Charlie Owen.