Movie review: The Moosehead Over The Mantel

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On paper The Moosehead Over The Mantel is another horror anthology movie, but there’s more than meets the Elks eye on this occasion.

According to the producers, the film is loosely inspired by notorious figures such as; ‘ H.H. Holmes, The Bender Family, Lizzie Borden, Carl Panzram and The Fox Sisters, as well as the Spiritualism movement of the late 19th and early 20th centuries and the rise of psychiatric pharmacology in the 1970s and ‘80s.’

These insights are plain to see as we are taken on a journey through various time periods, ranging from the 1880’s to the 1980’s with differing tales of morbidity, murder, and depravity.

The first thing that strikes you though is the unique choice of camera angles to tell these stories, using various taxidermy animals on the walls (including the titular Moosehead) and the occasional character POV’s of the victims.

The second thing that hits you is that all of the different stories take place in the same room over the different time periods and you can’t help but marvel at the set design that allows you to feel transported through the years in the same location.

The last thing that makes this movie stronger is its theatrical nature of the acting style on screen, and it comes as no surprise upon further research that the most of the six directors have a background in producing and performing live theatre.

Chief among the performances is Jessi Gotta’s, who set up the production company Inappropriate Films, and not only is the writer, producer, and director of the 1945 segment, but is also the lead actress in the 1980’s segment.
In both her roles, she produces a natural performance and down-to-earth, realistic performances in those she directs that make her a name duly worth noting for the future.
That’s not to deter from the other moments in the film, which each deal with macabre scenes that hint at incest, lust, and brutal savagery.

 

The Diagnosis:
It’s worthy film that enables to weave in six different tales prove disturbing and compelling.
The strong theatrical direction helps cement the reality of the horror on display whilst using distinctive cinematography to lift this movie above the standard genre anthologies.

– Saul Muerte

 

Catch the screening of The Moosehead Over The Mantel at the MidWest WierdFest.

You can already purchase discounted day or full festival passes to the 2018 festival here, through the festival’s ticketing partner site FilmFreeway.  (Tickets to individual films will be available closer to the festival, directly via the website of the Micon Budget Downtown Cinema). Go on. Get weird!

Movie review: Mom and Dad

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Most parents will identify with the struggles that they encounter when raising children, and that strange balance of absolute despair and unwavering love that they have for their own kids.

It’s this balance that writer, director, Brian Taylor scrutinizes and tinkers with, asking the question, what happens when that need to protect and care for your offspring has a switch that is flipped and the desire to kill takes over.

It’s a controversial topic that Taylor lifts the lid upon and not only singles out one family, but makes this a global issue. It’s one that needs to be addressed with no real answer offered up by the director, which is interesting position that he chooses to go with.

Whilst choosing to tell the tale as a global epidemic with parents heading out to murder their children, we’re hit with troubling images head-on when a mother deliberately abandons her child in a car upon the railway tracks, as a speeding train plows into it.
A shocking image that as a parent myself, I found deeply uncomfortable to view, and sets the tone throughout the film, and pushes me to areas that I found hard to take as a result. For that end the movie certainly does its job in presenting some horrific scenes, notably when one mother attempts to kill her newborn in a birthing suite.

The global epidemic plays out like something from Dawn of the Dead, with news bulletins, chat shows, and reports playing out on screens in stages as the story unfolds.
One particularly glorious scene involves a ‘zombie-like’ rampage as hordes of parents scale the school gates and chase their own throughout the grounds, with some disturbing scenes unfolding before you.

Part of this film’s appeal comes with the killer casting of the storylines Mom and Dad, with Nicolas Cage suitably restrained and playing to his age, whilst still giving his ‘ham and cheese’ moment which had become his schtick over the years.

It’s the refreshing presence of Selma Blair though that steals a lot of the scenes, showcasing her delicate, caring mother, to a murderous, gleeful, maniacal figure, who is hell-bent on destroying her kin. Blair’s delivery is wonderfully subtle and as a viewer she plays with your desire for her to show that loving spirit her character displayed in the earlier scenes, and cruelly pulls away from that every time. It leaves you wanting to see more of her on screen again.

It’s worth noting that the children, Zackary Arthur and Anne Winters pull off some strong performances that keep you rooting for them to survive their ordeal, but the final scenes are almost completely stolen away by a Lance Henriksen’s cameo.

 

The Diagnosis:

Some of the director’s style allows the movie to come across as quite sparse in places, but Taylor clearly has a knack for allowing the actor’s room to breathe on screen, whilst delivering a hefty punch.

The subject matter can make you feel uncomfortable in places, but this only makes the movie all the more stronger as a result.
Potentially this film may fall under the radar, which would be a shame as it’s a decent entry into the genre.

 

– Saul Muerte

Movie review: Future

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Ever felt like your life was fading into oblivion without a single blip on the radar screen?

What if, one night some one broke into your house and kidnaped you, only to tell you that they are from the future and you only have 4 days left to live?

What’s more, they could offer you the chance of an alternate; one of happiness, on one condition…
By the end of the 4 days you must kill someone.

What would you do?
How would you cope?
How would you spent the last few days of your life?
And when it comes to the crunch, would you be able to take someone’s life?

This is the dilemma that Doug Erickson, Tea Barista faces as he oscillates between ending it all or continuing on the strange journey that now lies before him.

Guiding him along the way is the shambles wreck of a time traveller played by (Phreddy Wischusen) who comes across as a warped version of Clarence from It’s A Wonderful Life, accompanied some mysterious henchmen in white masks.

It was refreshing to see Conor Sweeney (The Editor) on the screen again as Kyle, the local drug dealer, and the presence he brings as a guy who actually cares about Doug and tries to lure him back into the real world.

The Diagnosis:

Whilst the acting can be a bit hit and miss, It’s a tough topic that directors Rob Cousineau, and Chris Rosie present the audience with and they should be commended for approaching it in a bold, new way.
Fans of Indie cinema may be pleasantly surprised with the final result and the journey that Doug undertakes to come to his ultimate decision.

  • Amber Gooerty

Catch the screening of Future at the MidWest WierdFest.

You can already purchase discounted day or full festival passes to the 2018 festival here, through the festival’s ticketing partner site FilmFreeway.  (Tickets to individual films will be available closer to the festival, directly via the website of the Micon Budget Downtown Cinema). Go on. Get weird!

Movie review: The Ritual

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A thick Swedish forest looms ahead; dark and foreboding. Four hikers on a boy’s trip decide to cut through it, veering off the path, to get help for their injured mate. Spoiler: this turns out to be a very bad idea. Like the promotional tagline warned; they should have gone to Vegas.

The Ritual is based on the novel by Adam Nevill. It’s the sort of book that plants deep roots into your head that won’t let go. The sort of book that makes you think; “someone should really make this into a film.”

And someone did.

Director David Bruckner (V/H/S) does a killer job creating a genre film of the ancient-Nordic-folk-horror variety. He excels at creating glimpses of things that may or may not be there, unseen things darting between the branches. You’ll find yourself nervously squinting at a wall of trees along with the protagonist.

At first, the bad omens occur in the form of a gutted deer dangling from a tree, then come creepy carvings and a Wicker-Man style twig effigy. But these are nothing compared to the true evil lurking deeper into the shadows.

As the intensity of their situation increases, the already rocky relationship between the men becomes more and more strained. They panic and lose their grip on reality, while we the audience clap our hands in glee from the sheer horror of it all.

You almost don’t want to know what’s stalking them; there’s a wonderful sense of building dread that gets somewhat tarnished when the cause of their distress is finally revealed. This is where the film loses its footing, and the conclusion won’t knock your socks off either.

The Diagnosis:

Not every genre film has to be ‘clever.’ The Ritual proves that when done well, there’s nothing wrong with a good old-fashioned, straight-up scary story.

 

  • Ellin Williams

Movie review: Hellraiser: Judgement

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Before we even begin to dissect the latest outing from the Hellraiser franchise, we must first look to its writer and director, Gary J Tunnicliffe.
If ever there was a guy completely immersed in the world of Pinhead and his fellow cenobites it’s Tunnicliffe.
Having provided the make up effects for all the Hellraiser films since Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, Tunnicliffe has also written the previous instalment, written and directed the surprisingly decent short, No More Souls: One Last Slice of Sensation. Hell, he’s even played a cenobite in one of the movies.
Now he turns his attention to the director’s chair, which may have horror enthusiasts a little concerned due to the fact that he’s only really dealt with kid friendly films outside of Hellraiser.
But the very fact that he has been so integral to the look and feel of this world, would lead you to believe that he could very well be the man for the job…

However, as much as Judgement is his movie and the look and feel of it is actually quite beautiful and gloriously bloody in places, it never manages to lift itself from the straight-to-video Budget that we find ourselves.

Ignoring, (if at all possible) that Doug Bradley once again has been left in the darkest recesses of the Leviathan’s domain, never to be Pinhead again.
Instead, we’re left with Paul T. Taylor to take on the notorious role, and although he does an ample enough job, it just never feels right, and you’re left hungry for more as a result.

We are treated to a mere 15 seconds or so of Heather Langenkamp playing the landlady of one of the victims, but her presence is soon forgotten as we forced back into the somewhat rickety plot line.

Speaking of which, here is my main grief about this picture.
We’re treated to a fairly decent beginning, introduced to a character called The Auditor, (played by Tunnicliffe) as he goes around reaping the world of demented souls through a fairly grotesque and torturous process, much to the delight of fans no doubt.
The Auditor soon becomes secondary as we follow two brother detectives and a third female detective as they try and uncover who this serial killer is.
The more we deviate away from the sexual, violent, and depraved world of The Auditor, the cheaper and less authentic the film becomes.

Ever since we were introduced to Craig Sheffer’s Detective Joseph Thorne in Hellraiser: Inferno, it feels like filmmakers are compelled to include some downtrodden and beaten detective into the fold, as they try to uncover clues into the hidden world.
This feels to me like it’s completely missing the point of Clive Barker’s original creation.
Detailing people’s obsession with searching for the ultimate in satisfaction and pleasure; pushing themselves beyond the state of ecstasy into a world of no return.
It is this compulsive, addictive personality that is sadly lacking in these later films, and because of this, Pinhead feels more like a voyeur in his own land, and unable to enact the sheer desolation that sent chills to the bone from the original movie.

The Diagnosis:

It’s a brave attempt to lure people back into the world we came to love, but Tunnicliffe’s vision starts with a good pulse, but whimpers out and dies as he drowns in the history of previous outings.
As a result, we’re forever shackled to the walls without ever feeling like we’ve had our souls torn apart.
Instead, like Pinhead throughout this movie, we’re left wallowing and yearning for the days of yore.

 

Saul Muerte

Movie review: Day of the Dead: Bloodline

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I’m not sure what it is about the Day of the Dead storyline that jars so much.

On paper, it boasts an interesting premise of science vs state. Always at conflict in the real world and makes sense that they would come under close scrutiny when faced with a post apocalyptic world full of zombies.

Arguably though, it is the weakest movie from George A Romero’s original trilogy, and yet, it has now mastered two remakes, one released back in 2008 and one Day of the Dead: Bloodline tries to make its own mark on the subject, leaving many to ask, ‘what’s the point?’

The bones of the original film are still present, with an underground bunker containing some civilians reside under the rule of military personnel.

The changes are significant though. The first is a strangely confusing beginning marking the initial outbreak in a typical American street before taking us to a scientific laboratory to essentially show us the outbreak again, but from the viewpoint of lead character Zoe Parker (Sophie Skelton) a medical student who witnesses her friends and peers all wiped out as carnage ensues within the facility.

Before all this occurs though we are introduced to Max (Johnathon Schaech, a creepy patient who has a serious crush on Zoe, and in case you missed the heavy hint, also happens to have a mysterious blood type. Like that’s not gonna come back later.
Just as Max forces him myself in Zoe, the living dead make their entrance, forcing Zoe to go from one ordeal to another.

Both of her worlds will collide again though, as we pick up our story again as we time jump to a few years down the track, where Zoe lives in the afore-mentioned bunker, and formed a relationship with Baca, the younger brother to the Lieutenant running the military outfit, Miguel.
Cue conflict both internally and externally.

It is on a medicinal run back to the laboratory when their troubles really begin as Max who has somehow partially survived, becoming both walking zombie and human, (essentially this version’s Bub) and perhaps the answer to their salvation.

Of course it won’t go swimmingly for the survivors, but by this point everything feels so bland and blah, blah, blah, that we have gone beyond the point of caring.

Schaech gives a decent performance as the ‘villain’ of the piece, but the one small thread that we can hang onto is that Skelton actually gives a solid performance as Zoe, and this keeps you intrigued enough to push you towards the films conclusion, but just barely.

The Diagnosis:
It’s a fairly stable effort, but neither diminishes or improves upon the original film. Characters are two-dimensional and the plot line is weak, leaving you ultimately back to your original thought… what’s the point.

 

  • Saul Muerte

Movie review: Fake Blood

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Here’s the interesting thing about horror as a genre.

If you are a fan of romantic comedies and suddenly find yourself in the middle of a real life meet-cute, you’re likely gonna continue to be a fan of romantic comedies.

Get whisked away by aliens and fly in a space ship? Your love of sci-fi will probably deepen. (Provided the experience is more ET and less The Thing – ie: orifices remain probe free).

Like westerns? Drop that person on a horse. Love porn? Give him a threesome.

But take a horror fanatic and chase them with a chainsaw wielding clown, or strap them to a slab and cut parts off their body? Probably not gonna be an enthusiast any more.

For only in horror could it be argued that the majority of those who love it, do so in the hope of never touching it. Much like the greyhound who catches the rabbit, it’ll ruin them.

And so, we come to the meta-meta film Fake Blood.

It is a “documentary” made by real life film-makers Rob Grant (no Red Dwarf fans, not that Rob Grant) and Mike Kovac.

In reality they have made two low budget independent horror films – Yesterday (2009) and Mon Ami (2012). You can imdb them.

Despite the no-small-achievement of making 2 feature films, both still have day-to-day lives (one as a jobbing actor, the other as a freelance editor) and off the bat you get a sense that this is a sore point for Rob (the film’s narrator) who is very much hungry for wider recognition.

That’s when they get emailed a fan video where said fans walk through a hardware store re-enacting a scene from Mon Ami.

The scene itself is fairly innocuous, but the fans’ take on it is disturbing. So much so it starts Rob and Mike on a quest to explore violence in films and their responsibility (as film makers) to it.

It begins as an almost fun investigation as they use real people to help them shoot actual guns and fight trained martial artists; all in a quest to discover first hand their “differences” to their movie counterparts.

Then the opportunity presents itself to interview someone who seems to have first hand knowledge in killing people…

The film then unfolds at a decent clip as the two men get drawn into a criminal underworld where people disappear. BADLY. Which gives everything a level of gritty realism very much outside their previous forays into zombie horror and black comedy violence.

As a film – despite their best P.R. attempts to neither “confirm or deny” the events in it – Fake Blood is clearly a mockumentary. Ie: Blair Witch without the witch, found footage where the coverage becomes conventional where it needs to be.

And despite the fact it tries to pass off certain elements of the film as “real” (which almost NEVER works, as real life is never “cinema clean” – especially when you’re presenting your work as a true verite experience. The biggest giveaway tends to be in the performance. Another is HOW things are captured by the camera – but this is all stuff for another review) the really interesting aspect to Fake Blood is its constant jumping out of itself.

It portrays the 2 film-makers interviewing “real” people who have lived through “true” horror, then cuts to re-enactments of those horrific moments, then cuts to the men SHOOTING those re-enactments, and then have them interview the people in the re-enactments!

Both Rob and Mike eventually come into conflict (the heart of all good drama) as Rob’s ambition to make an attention-grabbing film starts to betray its original idea. Something that’s all super meta because despite being dressed as a documentary, the film is clearly a written drama from the outset.

And on top of all THAT, you do want to see how it ends. So from that point of view they have both made a good film that, at the very least, will make you think. And that’s as real as any film-maker could hope for.

 

Prognosis:

As dramas go, it’s a solid fake. As documentaries go, it’s a poor imitation of the real thing.

 

– Antony Yee

 

Catch the screening of Fake Blood at the MidWest WierdFest.

You can already purchase discounted day or full festival passes to the 2018 festival here, through the festival’s ticketing partner site FilmFreeway.  (Tickets to individual films will be available closer to the festival, directly via the website of the Micon Budget Downtown Cinema). Go on. Get weird!

Short Movie review: Jax In Love

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Cruising down the freeway, with music blaring on the car stereo, we are introduced to Jax, as she sings along in a slightly off-key manner and seemingly without a care in the world.

But who is Jax? Why is she drifting through the desert with a devil-may-care attitude?

This beautifully shot short film, which has been making a mark on the festival circuit and setting tongues wagging enters into the viewers world with an aimlessness that echoes the ever-expanding landscape which marks its setting, somehow lures you in and with each passing frame, we discover more and more to Jax’s complex character.

With Academy Award nominee, Colin Campbell at the helm, this film is in safe hands as he crafts together a story which unfolds smoothly and each reveal feels natural as a result.

Writer Rakefet Abergel has a firm grasp on her creation of the titular Jax, and it should come as no surprise that she takes on the lead on-screen too.
Her shift from naivety and innocence, to a strong, dynamic confidence is a believable one, and in many ways the viewer is left feeling sympathetic to her plight, which is a testament to Abergel’s craftmanship.

The Diagnosis:

A well crafted story that hinges on Jax’s character.
Thankfully both writer and director have the make up to produce a complex figure that is definitely not who she seems.
The journey is an enduring one but with a destination is well worth the wait.

Jax In Love is still doing the festival circuits at the time of writing.

Do yourself a favour. If it’s in your neighbourhood, check out one of the following festivals and catch Jax In Love and many more:

Oregon Scream Week – February 16-17
Hollywood Reel Independent Film Festival – February 21 – March 2
Pasadena Film Festival – March 7 – 14
Indie Horror Film Festival – March 16 – 18

  • Saul Muerte

 

 

Movie review: Victor Crowley

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Michael Myers, Jason Voorhees, and Freddy Kreuger.

All names that have made their mark in the horror movie industry and beyond, such was the impact that these characters had in arguably the golden era of the genre.

Since then, filmmakers have struggled to emulate the success and somehow fallen short. The Scream franchise took the genre and gave it a new twist, but this only led to filmmakers trying to repeat this success too and as such we got the torrid I Know What You Did Last Summer as a result.

Now, when you throw the name Victor Crowley into the ring, few people will know you you are referring to, and yet due to director Adam Green’s passion we have now seen 4 feature films based around this grotesque creature, hell-bent on vengeance and bloody mayhem on the Bayou.

It’s attracted staple actors of the horror genre such as Robert Englund, Tony Todd, Danielle Harris, and notably Kane Hodder, who took on the role of Victor for the Hatchet film series.

It is however, the latest instalment that has seen the character’s name take centre stage, thrusting him into the limelight once more and in effect serving as something of a re-boot to the series.

So, why is it then, that the franchise has slipped under the radar?

Well, with closer scrutiny of Victor Crowley, you could understand why, because on face value, it appears to be an example of painful characters, and poor performances. However, as the story unfolds, and the deeper into the swamp we submerge ourselves into, the more the dialogue starts to build in strength and the wit rises to the surface with abundance.

Sure, the characters are incredibly two dimensional, but that only allows their demise when it comes to be sweet. Oh, so sweet.

Speaking of demise, the deaths in Victor Crowley are brutal and savage with enough blood and guts, and gory detail that you’ll laugh, squirm and delight with each gut wrenching kill.

The Diagnosis:

Never judge a book by its cover. It may take a while to warm to but let yourself be taken over by this feature and you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

It’s balls-to-the-wall fun and churns along with a bloody glorious rampage.
Watch it and make Victor Crowley the horror household name that it deserves to be.

 

  • Saul Muerte

Movie review: 3 Dead Trick or Treaters

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The first thing that grips you about Torin Langen’s anthology of Halloween themed horror is that it’s very much his universe.

A sickening, twisted world where the very heart is nothing but a dark and throbbing beast, dripping with stuff of nightmares.

Essentially 3 Dead Trick or Treaters serves up four short stories, each with their own tortured journeys for Langen to share, interwoven by a paperboy lured by curiosity to the films bleak conclusion.

This labour of love project is such a glorious treasure to behold, absent of dialogue which makes the horrific scenes all the more painful to endure.

But like the fore-mentioned paperboy, the viewer feels compelled to know more and this Langen has you ensnared.

From the first chapter (Fondue) and its teen lovers pact that is pushing the boundaries of their companionship to try out something new, something that may push them to the limits of no return; To the Witchery themed chapter (Malleus Maleficarum) that similarly pits a couple who delve into a world of barbarity, but will they both be able to take that journey together or will one of them crack?
(Stash) then takes the voyeur into the next chapter where a homeless trio is forced to the brink of despair in order to survive.
By this stage the theme of rejection starts to ring strong and true, building to the films climax but not before the final chapter (Delivery) plays a master hand of misdirection and and a slight injection of humour.

The Diagnosis:
This is Torin Langen’s playground.
A world filled with lost souls and the tortured, empty vessels of humanity, all searching for some sense of belonging.
They will push themselves in order to find ‘that fix’ whilst battling rejection and depravity.
In doing so, Langen has firmly established himself as an artist that we should watch with keen interest.

– Saul Muerte

 

Catch the screening of 3 Dead Trick or Treaters at the MidWest WierdFest.

You can already purchase discounted day or full festival passes to the 2018 festival here, through the festival’s ticketing partner site FilmFreeway.  (Tickets to individual films will be available closer to the festival, directly via the website of the Micon Budget Downtown Cinema). Go on. Get weird!