Press Release: MidWest WeirdFest Announces First Programming Wave for 2019

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Eau Claire, Wisconsin, January 16, 2019 – MidWest WeirdFest announces its first programming wave for 2019 today. The third annual festival – a cinematic celebration of all things fantastic, frightening, offbeat, and just plain weird – takes place March 8-10, 2019 at the Micon Downtown Cinema in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. 

“This year’s fest line-up is set to delight fans of cutting edge horror, sci-fi, underground, and documentary cinema”, says festival founder and programming director Dean Bertram. “We’ve put together a heady and eclectic mix of speculative genre offerings, underground strangeness, and paranormal revelations: From a psychedelic Manson Family reimagining and a post-apocalyptic dance-off epic, through tales about a reanimated electrokinetic teenager, haunted stoners, and inept buddy superheroes, to a bonkers lake monster adventure and the most in-depth Bigfoot documentary ever produced. And that’s just from MidWest WeirdFest’s first programming wave of 2019!” 

Discounted festival passes are now on sale at: www.midwestweirdfest.com. Individual tickets to each film will go on sale closer to the festival; both on the fest’s website, and directly from the Micon Downtown Cinema in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. 

Full program details and filmmaker guests will be revealed in February. 

The first seven feature films announced follow: 

FP 2: BEATS OF RAGE (director: Jason Trost)

Despite hanging up his boots following the events of the cult classic “THE FP”,  JTRO must return to the blood sport of Beat-Beat Revelation one last time.  JTRO and KCDC – his mystical hype man – will quest deep into The Wastes, a land decimated by the Beat Wars, to compete in the ancient Beat-Beat tournament, called “Beats of Rage”, face AK-47, and, hopefully, save the world.  Imagine a MAD MAX style future, where battles to the death are fought via the video game Dance Dance Revolution, and you might have an inkling of the crazy and hilarious post-apocalyptic world of THE FP.

THE INVISIBLE MOTHER (directors: Matthew Diebler and Jacob Gillman)

When lesbian stoner Marcy returns to her grandparents’ home to help care for her mentally declining grandmother, she discovers they are being terrorized by a malevolent force from a Victorian post-mortem photograph. THE INVISBLE MOTHER is a giallo-styled, terrifying descent into supernatural terror.

LAKE MICHIGAN MONSTER (director: Ryland Tews)

The eccentric Captain Seafield hires a crew of specialists to help him plot revenge against the creature that killed his father. After several failed attempts, Seafield is forced to take matters into his own drunken hands. What began as a simple case of man verses beast, soon turns into a rabbit hole of mysterious unknowns and Lovecraftian hijinks. LAKE MICHIGAN MONSTER — banned in four lakes! 

THE LAST OF THE MANSON GIRLS (director: Lonnie Martin)

Convinced there’s more to the Manson murders than meets the public eye, counterculture journalist Paul Krassner embarks on an LSD tinged investigation of the last of Manson’s disciples: Brenda McCann, Sandra Good, and Lynette “Squeaky” Fromme. What he finds could change how the world sees the 60s… if he lives long enough to tell the story. A riveting, speculative, and psychedelic journey into one of the darkest byways of 1960s Americana.

ON THE TRAIL OF BIGFOOT (director: Seth Breedlove)

From Small Town Monsters, and MidWest WeirdFest alumni filmmaker Seth Breedlove (THE MOTHAN OF POINT PLEASANT, THE BRAY ROAD BEAST), comes this enthralling documentary examining the history of the Bigfoot phenomenon. ON THE TRAIL OF BIGFOOT was filmed coast to coast during 2018 and features witnesses and investigators of the elusive creature.  Prepare to go deeper into the Bigfoot subject than you’ve ever gone before.

REBORN (director: Julian Richards)

A stillborn baby girl is brought back to life by a morgue attendant using electrokinetic power. On her sixteenth birthday she escapes her captor and sets out to find her birth mother leaving a trail of destruction behind her. Don’t miss this stunning modern twist on 70s and 80s horror classics like CARRIE, FIRESTARTER, and THE FURY. Stars genre legends Barbara Crampton (RE-ANIMATOR, BEYOND THE GATES) and Michael Parle (STREETS OF FIRE, THE PHILADELPHIA EXPERIMENT).

ZEROES (director: Charles Smith)

After leaving a Halloween party dressed as ninjas, Kenneth and Ray – two drunken roommates – thwart a robbery and their heroics go viral. No litterer or public urinator is safe until an actual serial killer begins to ravage the city. Our inept crime-fighting duo, with the help of the enigmatic and insanely wealthy Gary, must catch the killer before Kenneth’s crush Kate becomes the next target. Hilarity abounds in this superhero spoof.

For more details visit the festival’s website: www.midwestweirdfest.com

The Unbreakable series

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I remember it clearly, the end credits were rolling, the auditorium lights were fading up when a well-known media personality, that I won’t name, turned around in his seat in front and said to my friends and I;

“What the fuck was that?”

The year was 2000 and I’d just sat through a preview screening of M. Night Shyamalan’s much-anticipated follow-up to his previous blockbuster ‘The Sixth Sense’, ‘Unbreakable’. My friends and my reaction was the complete polar opposite of said famed personality. We saw the film for what it was, an utter genius take on a superhero origin movie.

Unbreakable’ was in fact a bold experiment by Disney, they’d entrusted their new wunderkind writer/director to follow up his previous success with another, and he’d gone and made a superhero movie way before anyone had.

Over the years that followed I re-watched and re-watched its Special Edition DVD. It was my go-to movie any time I was looking for something to watch. I devoured its rich story telling, it’s perverse humour, the subtle technique in reveal and what to not reveal. I loved the raw drama; of a normal couple toppling over a razors edge, two middle-aged men (Bruce Willis and Samuel L Jackson) searching for their place in the universe, a son desperately holding onto that time in your life when your parents are infallible. None of these were, or are, the standard ingredients of a comic book superhero movie. I savoured the Special Features on the DVD, particularly the ‘deleted scenes’, lamenting on their loss to ‘Unbreakable’ considering they were such strong scenes.

I loved the film from back to front…but the critics didn’t. Reading bad review upon bad review I wondered whether the critics had watched the same film.

Over the years I’d heard rumours that ‘Unbreakable ‘was to be the first film, the origin film, of a trilogy, but the more and more M Night spiralled into mediocrity with flop after flop, first came ‘The Lady In The Water’ and ‘Avatar The Last Airbender’, etc. etc., only slightly redeeming himself with ‘The Visit’.

So flash forward to 2018 and there I was ‘giving M Night another go’, I sat in my lounge room watching ‘Split’ because, well…James McAvoy is always bloody amazing and I’d just watched Anya Taylor-Joy in ‘The Witch’, so yeah….

And I was really enjoying it a lot. Though the more and more I watched, more and more something nagged at me – there was something really familiar at play here. The subtle reveals, the perverse humour, its dark fantastical reality.

Was McAvoy’s many characters crazy? Hell yeah, he did have some serious mental defects but the big question, as with David Dunn in ‘Unbreakable’…were his powers real or a figment of a wild imagination?

Would we see a supernatural being called The Beast or would it be some delusion fool with a furry fetish?

But it was as I was watching The Beast talk about the ‘broken’ being pure and the ‘unbroken’ were to be punished that things really started to click. By the time the ‘Unbreakable’ music began to swell as Crumb hid in his escape house and we cut to a non-descript diner with David Dunn I was literally off the sofa screaming at the TV.

“IT’S A MOTHER FUCKING UNBREAKABLE SEQUEL!!!”

And so now I have my finale.

Glass’ is really not a movie I can openly discuss with giving too much away, and frankly I’m still thinking about it several hours after I watched it. However again I sat in a cinema with an audience that I don’t think quite understood its wit. I think I was literally the only one laughing at its dark humour.

The cast were amazing, all returned from the previous two films (except Robin Wright) and why wouldn’t they, this was as much their story as it was the leading pro/antagonists. M Night (returning as his cameo from ‘Unbreakable’) even managed to include the deleted scenes from ‘Unbreakable’ as if they were made solely for that purpose.

This is not a conventional film though; ‘Glass’ is really is an act three of a three-film story. And while both ‘Unbreakable’ and ‘Split’ appear to be origin stories for the three lead characters Mr Glass, The Beast, and The Overseer, this transcends the ‘origin’ tale to make it an ‘origin of species’ story.

Already, like Unbreakable, critics do not like Glass but filmmakers don’t make films for critics.

The Diagnosis:

Glass’ is a fantastic final chapter to M Night Shyamalan’s daring superhero experiment. It’s exciting, it’s funny, it’s bloody entertaining and it’s a very well calculated story from a bold director who maintained the tenacity to play the long game here to create a three part opus for himself and us.

Unbreakable’, ‘Split’ and ‘Glass’… the little superhero films that could and did.

  • Myles Davies

Retrospective: Saw – 15 years on

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Strip away all the torture devices and wash away all the blood-soaked, gore-infested mayhem that the franchise has become synonymous for and some of you maybe questioning what’s left? But with James Wan and Leigh Whannell’s original film that kick-started the whole Jigsaw frenzy the audience were treated to an exercise in constrained drama, flickered with tense, psychological elements that quite rightly projected the writer and director partnership into the Hollywood limelight as a result.

Part of Saw’s brilliance comes from the low-budget constraints that were placed on the making of the movie. Once the creative duo realised that the cheapest way to shoot a movie would be to have two actors in one room, this germ of an idea developed into the final product and the birth of Jigsaw and his twisted vision of justice.

Apparently the Jigsaw character began when Whannell feared that he had a brain tumour and pondered the notion of what he would do or need to do if he were only to have a year or two to live. This was the leaping point into the dark recesses of Jigsaws’ mind.

It’s this tightly shot, well structured movie that allowed Wan to develop his technique for manipulating lights and shadow to trick and deceive the audiences’ eye. He would harness this skill further with his sophomore film Dead Silence before working on his masterpiece, The Conjuring.

It wasn’t that easy getting budget for the movie though. With no luck gaining interest from their homeland in Australia, Wan and Whannell tried to taut their project in Los Angeles, but even then had to shoot a short feature to provide a proof of concept before getting any decent interest.
You have to applaud their bravado to. So intent were they in getting their vision made, they insisted on having both directing and acting duties respectively. In the end it took newly formed production outfit, Twisted Pictures to give them their desires and have been behind every Saw movie since.

So with one half of the acting team already cast in Whannell as the photographer with a complex past, the team needed a decent actor opposite him as Dr. Lawrence Gordon, a Doctor with an equally dubious past. In steps Cary Elwes, normally associated with his comical roles but proved worthwhile in this serious performance, more than holding his own and providing gravitas to the scenario.

The masterstroke comes with the casting of Tobin Bell as Jigsaw aka John Kramer, who simply owns his role and has propelled himself into horror movie history with his performance as the disturbed yet brilliant mind behind the various traps and tortuous devices throughout all the Saw movies.

So with the narrative played out with Adam and Dr. Lawrence wake up in a bathroom, chained to the floor with nothing but a corpse, a revolver, and a tape recorder to guide them on a journey that will test their metal and push them to the very limits of their intellect and perception.

Saw would be released in front of a Sundance audience for its initial premiere where Lionsgate picked up the distribution rights and the rest is history.

Since then, Wan has established a firm career in the director’s chair to the point hat he has been given the chance to give DC movies some decent crowd with Aquaman, and Whannell more recently carved his own success with Upgrade.

So for those who may have been apprehensive about checking out the origins of Jigsaw, before the bloodbath began, I’d recommend going back to the original source as you maybe pleasantly surprised by this outing with a clever, psychological thriller that is an example of how to shoot a low-budget movie with a lot of smarts and a decent narrative to keep the audience hooked.

It still stands strong 15 years on and my bet is that this will still be the case in another 15 years.

Movie review: Son of Frankenstein (1939)

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We’ve barely a decade of horror under their Universal belts, the powerhouse production company was struggling once more to pull in the numbers at the box office. So it’s with some sense of irony that the movies that started it all in Dracula and Frankenstein would be screened as a double feature and reignite the craze all over again. The stunt would be so successful that Universal Pictures would look to producing another instalment of their beloved monster franchise with Son of Frankenstein, in what would be the third of the series.

In Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein, Universal had created two classic features, thanks to the direction of James Whale, where some have argued that the latter outweighed its predecessor. Whatever your views on the matter, it would be a touch act to follow and into the directors shoes steps Rowland V. Lee (The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers) to try and accomplish this task.

The result is one that is worthy of the Frankenstein name, despite it bordering on silliness and camp on occasion. (A sign of the direction that Universal would fall into down the track.)

With grand plans to shoot the film in colour using Technicolor only to be disbanded due to artistic and budgetary reasons, Son of Frankenstein would be presented to the audience in black and white and reunite the horror icons, Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff. In this instance, the latter donning the Monster mask for the last time in a feature film. The two would once again prove to be a winning formula with Lugosi playing the deformed Ygor and practically stealing the show with his performance. In an interesting turn of events, it is Ygor who is the dominant presence and has The Monster at his beckoning call, as he commands the creature to kill those that have proved him ill in the past.

Leading the cast as the son of Frankenstein is Basil Rathbone (The Adventures of Robin Hood) who cuts a fine figure of a man trying to right his fathers’ wrongs and changing the perceived conception of his family name. It would have been interesting had Peter Lorre had played the role as he had been cast, but had to withdraw due to illness. It’s a shame because I’m a huge fan of Lorre and would loved to see him cast against Lugosi and Karloff, but as I said, Rathbone more than proves his worth.

A worthy nod should also be assigned towards Lionel Atwill (Mark of the Vampire) as Inspector Krogh, a character whose past encounter saw his arm torn off his limb as a child when he came into contact with The Monster. It’s a stoic performance and Atwill shines in an already crowded cast of personalities.

The Diagnosis:

It’s a fitting end to this chapter in the Universal Horror history.
Son of Frankenstein manages to harness all the right ingredients to make it a worthy companion to its predecessors, whilst falling on the right side of drama and terror for its time.

Lugosi and Karloff are in their element and would ride out on a high. Around the corner a new king to the throne would lay in wait in Lon Chaney Jr… but that’s another tale.

  • Saul Muerte

Top 5 Horror movies/shows of 2018

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5. Birdbox

This may have been a late entry, but it made such an impact on the Surgeons team that two members of the Surgeons team instantly placed it in their Top three movies of the year. For this reason, the Sandra Bullock post-apocalyptic thriller by director Susanne Bier finds itself in the Top five list.

Great example how the best horror is shown but not seen. (“See” what i did there?)” – Dr. Yee

When the world starts going mad, a single look could get you killed. Bird Box is engaging from the start. Packed with tense moments and like most good post apocalyptic movies it deals with trust, loyalty and the lengths people will go to for survival and to protect the ones they love. It does often bear similarities to other films in the genre but there are a few fresh ideas here to enjoy.
Overall it was a great experience, loaded with tension and solid performances.” – Dr. Allford

4. Suspiria

Here’s another example of one of our top rated movies dividing the thoughts and opinions of our Surgeons, as you will see from the quotes below, but this re-imagining of the Argento classic from the mind of Luca Guadagnino, starring Tilda Swinton and Dakota Johnson does enough to shimmy its way into the top four spot in our countdown, proving that perhaps style can outweigh substance. (You biatch!! – Editor)

It’s a slow-burn movie that grinds its way to a stumbled conclusion.
The drama is gritty and realistic with some stunning performances and dramatic dance sequences that hook you in, but rather than set you ablaze in a fury of emotion, it peeters out to a mere whimper.
” – Dr. Muerte

Out the gate the new Suspiria makes it clear it reveres the original but will not retread it’s steps, absolving a lot of fears I had going in, the focus on the witches coven politics and each slow and gorgeous turn of the screw that the main characters suffer is hypnotic.” – Dr. Jack

3. The Haunting of Hill House

Marking the only entry for a TV series this year, The Haunting of Hill House by the brilliant mind of Mike Flanagan deserves its place in the Top three for shaking up the medium on the small screen by providing in-depth characters on a journey that challenges the mind and captures the very essence of your classic ghost story. We were already fans of Flanagan’s work and he has once again proved to be a modern storyteller with his finger firmly on the horror pulse. Doctor Sleep can’t come soon enough.

This is a fantastically complex gothic horror story for the Netflix generation.” – Dr. Davies

Very hard to sustain quality horror over even a handful of eps. The fact HoHH did it over 10 is a testimony to its writing.” – Dr. Yee

2. Mandy

It may not be everyones taste, but this crazed, psychedelic, mind-fuck that takes Nicolas Cage to the height of rage and fury, hell-bent on seeking revenge certainly left a mark this year. Mandy is a life-form of its own and its originality coupled with a savage journey thrust this centre stage of our top horror list. Two of our surgeons are still in recovery from the sheer orgasmic attack on their senses from watching this cult-film in the making.

Beware of your strive for beauty and perfection. Slice it open and you get a reign of anarchy and destruction.” – Dr. Muerte

This heavy metal horror was quite simply a work of visual and audio genius.”Dr. Davies

1. A Quiet Place

Hands down, no other film on this list had such a huge impact after watching. Despite its early release in the year, two of the Surgeons laid down the gauntlet of prediction and labelled this as the Movie of the Year. A bold statement, and A Quiet Place had its fair share of challengers, but the strength of the premise along with the simple, heart-breaking narrative kept it firmly in the no.1 spot.

Tension ratcheted to 10 at the start and wound to 11 soon after and never. Lets. Go. Great writing,  great performances and great directing. The fact it was done by Jim from the office is even more remarkable.– Dr. Yee

Top 13 Horror movies/shows of 2018

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It’s been a mammoth year for fans of horror as the once scoffed upon genre rose to the forefront of the box office and begun what some have heralded as a new age in films that scare and delight.

Amongst the jaw-dropping awesome-ness that has been on display, there has also been some absolute bombs and disappointments, which is to be expected when something becomes popular, carbon copies of the movies that stood out start to crop up, but only pale in comparison.

So it’s a tough task, but the Surgeons team gathered our collective heads to form what we considered to be the movies that provided the most impact on our souls and ripped apart our senses. Not all of us agreed with each other, but that’s part of the beauty of film. Each movie will cut to the core of the psyche and effect people in different ways.

So, once we tallied together the results, there were 13 films and shows that we believe deserve significant praise, and here they are:

13. Luz

We’re so thankful to have caught this little gem at the Sydney Underground Film Festival this year. It may have a short running time, but it manages to pack in a bold, experimental, and minimal approach to the occult genre, which places this movie at the start of our countdown.

Singer manages to balance the highs and lows in a harmony of beautifully constructed cinematography and movement.” – Dr. Muerte

12. Pyewacket

Another movie that we caught on the festival circuit, and another movie that centres on the occult, (you’ll notice a certain theme occurring to the movies that resonated this year).

“Pyewacket tackles what could easily be remised for teenage angst, but offers powerful performances from the two leads, Laurie Holden (The Walking Dead, The Americans) and Nicole Muñoz. in a slow-burn drama that s believable and tension-packed to its conclusion.” – Dr. Muerte

11. Apostle

Leading the charge this year when it came to streaming content will probably come as no surprise in Netflix. There was a plethora of movies and shows that had significant impact, but none more so than this charged up, bloody film that rampaged its way to the small screen starring Dan Stevens (Legend) and directed by Gareth Evans.

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.” – Dr. Muerte

10. Revenge

Our Top 10 begins with this French rape revenge horror that marks itself from similar movies for its intelligence, stunning cinematography, and striking performances.

Director Coralie Fargeat manages to harness all these elements together whilst providing a stunning movie that elevates itself above the quagmire of sensationalism by using smart and intense drama at its core.” – Dr. Muerte

9. The Ritual

Continuing the occult theme on Netflix comes this movie about the rocky relationship between friends, which continues to be tested and strained as they backpack across a remote woodland terrain.

“The Ritual proves that when done well, there’s nothing wrong with a good old-fashioned, straight-up scary story.” – Dr Williams

On Paper it seems like a trail well travelled; bunch of friends get lost in the woods and strange and/or horror things happen, but this Netflix original is full of atmosphere, great performances and some truly unsettling imagery that has burned into my brain.” – Dr. Jack

8. Unsane

Those who missed this movie should definitely check it out. From a director who is always willing to test himself technically and narratively in Steven Soderbergh, and hotter than hot British actress actress Claire Foy, who once again pushes the boundaries of her acting prowess in her most exposed role to date.

Psychological horror shot on an iPhone by Steven Soderbergh…I’m in! Fun little thriller that shows you don’t need million dollar equipment to make a quality movie, you just need a solid story – which this has.” – Dr. Davies

7. Halloween

It promised so much for a beloved franchise, one that had seen the bitter end of the barrel with people fearing that Myers would no longer be able to stalk the streets of Haddonfield again.
Thankfully David Gordon Green and his writing collaborator Danny McBride played the perfect balance of nostalgia and fear, coupled with some contemporary themes that placed Halloween back into respectability again.

Congratulations to the Blumhouse team. You’ve produced the best Halloween film in 40 years.” – Dr. Muerte

6. Hereditary

This film came out of the blocks boasting that it was the scariest film of our generation, and critics likening it to The Exorcist  in the way it shook the horror genre. It’s arguable that it manages to meet this proclamation, and divided The Surgeons opinions on this matter, but does enough to hit the half-way point of out Top Horrors list for 2018, so must have had something going for it. Plus it tapped into the whole occult thing that seems so prominent this year in horror movies.

Those who like to have the brain stimulated by smart and disturbing terror can expect a movie to resonate and tingle the senses.” – Dr. Muerte

Though I had plenty of issues with the movie as a whole, when the midway “twist” came to a head, it shocked the most audible reaction out of me that I’ve had in a long, long time.” – Dr Jack

Top 5 Horror movies and shows of 2018

Movie review: Cam

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Flying somewhat under the radar this year is a psychological horror that shines a light on the little-explored world of Camgirls.

Cam’s greatest strength is it’s level of authenticity to the world and environment that it is set with writer Isa Mazzei drawing from her own experiences working in the industry.

Director Daniel Goldhaber a high school friend, who had his own fair share of experience having shot and directed some of Mazzei’s pornographic films has a firm eye that also cements the believability further.
So, not only does it feel grounded, the subject matter tackled in Cam of social media identity theft in a confronting and soul-baring industry is both topical and original, lifting this movie onto a higher pedigree.

Cam is a bit of a slow-burn that takes its time to eek out the drama as it unfolds, which requires a fair bit of patience, but the reward is there for those who stick it out for the conclusion.
This is aided further by the strength in Madeleine Brewer (Orange is the New Black) who braved the role of Alice as she plummets into despair and ruin with no help from anyone she turns to and a generally dismissive response when she tells of her plight to the officials. It makes her journey all the more harrowing and amplified the horror of her situation.

The Diagnosis:

Cam deserves your attention and casts a light on the dangers of cyber security in a world normally considered taboo.
It’s a bold and original movie in the horror genre.

  • Saul Muerte

Movie review: Anna and the Apocalypse

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All I saw were the words Christmas zombie horror musical and I said to myself, “I’m in!”
It may sound like a strange combination, but to this deranged and perhaps delusional genre fan, it screamed potential cult flick and a must see, but would it live up to the buzz or flatline?

Based on the BAFTA award winning short film, Zombie musical by Ryan McHenry (which is actually kind of awesome too and I’ll post a youtube clip of it at the foot of the review for those that are interested) and adapted to feature length by director John McPhail, who does his best to draw out the apocalyptic harmonies with drama, and twinges of gore.

Anna and the Apocalypse’s greatest strength is not just the upbeat music among the bloodlust, but the beating heart of its central characters. There is plenty of time spent building on their backgrounds that by the time things inevitably go wrong you actually give a damn about their survival.

Central to the characters is the titular Anna played by Ella Hunt, who dreams of getting far away from the dead Scottish town of Little Haven, only to awaken to a zombie outbreak and must fight tooth and nail to not only survive but reach those she had tried so desperately to leave behind – her friends and family.

In support is a cracker of a cast in the best friend who keeps hanging onto the hopes of winning Anna’s heart, John (Malcolm Cumming) who incidentally has some of the best lines in the movie; the star-crossed lovers, Chris (Christopher Leveaux) and Lisa (Marli Siu); Anna’s ex and complete tool, Nick (Ben Wiggins); and Anna’s father, Tony (Mark Benton).

Stand out performances though come from Paul Kaye (most notable of late in HBO’s Game of Thrones as Thoros of Myr) as the slightly unhinged headmaster, and looks like he hasn’t this much fun on-screen since his Dennis Pennis days; also relative unknown Sarah Swire, who plays a lesbian outcast editor of the school newspaper. She nails this role with her cross of stifled, uncomfortable social behaviour, combined with grit and “bad-ass” zombie killing action.

If I were to hurl any criticism at this film though, it’s that Anna doesn’t bring enough of that grit herself to the fight, and despite being described by her friends as “always finding a way out of things”, she rarely does and often relies on those friends to get her out of a jam. That’s not to say that Hunt doesn’t execute her role well, because she does. Just some more time and care spent on the writing, could have lifted her character to greater heights.
The other sticking point for me is that the comedy whilst worth the odd-chuckle, never reaches Shaun of the Dead style humour. If the wit had been that little bit sharper, we could have well had a movie that would have easily verged on classic status.

The Diagnosis:

The thought of a musical may have some of you running for the hills, but Anna and the Apocalypse is a well-crafted film that embraces its characters before ripping out their bleeding hearts to the sounds of pop-infused drama and soul that make this a thoroughly enjoyable movie.

  • Saul Muerte

Movie review: What Keeps You Alive

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Colin Minihan is fast becoming one of my favourite contemporary directors. Whilst Grave Encounters didn’t ignite my passion for horror, it did prove to be a solid albeit generic movie and I’ve yet to see Extraterrestrial, his sophomore feature collaboration with fellow Vicious Brothers director Stuart Ortiz.

Last year however, Minihan released, It Stains The Sands Red with a simple, but fresh take on the zombie apocalypse genre.

After a run in the theatre circuits, his fourth feature, What Keeps You Alive has been released on Home Entertainment through Shout Factory and Minihan’s restrained and brutal storytelling once again provides a gripping, hard-hitting narrative that keeps you hooked to its conclusion.

Minihan teams up with Brittany Allen, who also triggered a powerhouse performance for ISTSR as Molly, and proves that this was no one-trick accomplishment as she acts her heart out once more in WKYA.

Allen plays one half of a female married couple, Jules, who celebrates her one-year anniversary in a remote cabin with her partner, Jackie (Hannah Emily Anderson). What should be a romantic getaway soon turns sinister however when Jackie soon displays a dark past that she has been harbouring all this time.

Whilst Allen superbly plays the broken and resilient Jules, Anderson taps into the psychotic and twisted Jackie with absolute glee and appears to relish in the macabre moments. Between them, the leads are a joy to watch on-screen, in their ying-yang relationship, which sees the power oscillate where the tension escalates to the bitter end.

Minihan also exploits the natural terrain to the full advantage, showcasing the isolation and insecurity that Jules faces during her ordeal.

The Diagnosis:

Whilst some of the beats are lacking and you question some of the choices the characters make, Minihan offers a fun and riveting ride that delves into the fractured heart of relationships. How much do you really know about your partner and are you willing to risk your life to uncover what lurks in the darkness?
It also boasts a killer soundtrack including this haunting track:

– Saul Muerte

Movie review: Patient Zero

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It felt for a while that this film would be in a permanent state of flux and never be released. Generally this never bodes well for its production values and overall receptiveness.

While it doesn’t necessarily blow your mind, Patient Zero does stand taller than your average straight-to-video release.

A lot of this has to do with its lead Matt Smith, a still underrated actor who is perpetually trying to shake his EleventhDoctor (Doctor Who) persona that lifted him to the spotlight. As it so happens, this film was supposed to pave his way into distancing himself from his iconic role and enter the film industry. Thankfully Smith landed another role that he has made his own as Prince Philip in The Crown in the interim.

All this is background fodder to Smith’s career path, but the fact that Patient Zero faltered in its cinema release shouldn’t deter people away from watching it, as it is a fairly stable narrative with enough of its own identity in an already clouded zombie horror genre.

Smith plays Morgan, a guy who was caught in his car with his wife when the outbreak occurs and lynched upon by the infected. Both he and his wife were bitten, but somehow, Morgan didn’t turn and is now able to communicate with the infected as a result.

Now holed up in a base that contains survivors and is run by the military in a Day of the Dead style scenario, Morgan utilises his gift to interrogate the infected with the curious aid of classic vinyls. (Apparently music has an intense effect on the psyche of the infected and as such Morgan uses this as a form of torture device in order to get information.) The aim is to find and locate patient zero and to snuff out the virus in order to save humanity.

Smith is an affable leading man and holds his own both physically and mentally on screen, with plenty of decent dialogue to chew on, allowing him the freedom to move and play with his role, including a love triangle between his wife, (still alive, but quarantined) and virologist Dr. Rose, portrayed by Game of Thrones’ Natalie Dormer.

Comedy support is brought in the form of fellow GOT actor John Bradley and the steely, play-it-by-the-book Colonel Knox (Clive Standen) channeling Rhodes with every ounce of determination to shut down the testing facility, brings the early inner conflict to the team.

It’s the arrival of Stanley Tucci however when things get really interesting. Tucci is The Professor, an infected zombie brought in for questioning but appears to be immune to all the known tricks. He hams it up to the nth degree, but delightfully keeps it under the right side of believability and feeds off Smiths lines effortlessly.

His arrival spells a significant turning point in the movie and propels the drama on to a suitable conclusion that mildly satisfies.

The Diagnosis:

It’s an apocalyptic zombie survival movie that offers enough of a difference to make it worth a watch, but doesn’t deliver enough bite to keep you salivating, slipping all to easily into safe and predictable territory.

  • Saul Muerte