As 1957 drew to a close, so did Universal’s stories around monsters, giant creatures, and supernatural events in the science fiction realm.
It wasn’t that the production company was short on ideas, and Monolith Monsters is a testament to this, pushing the envelope away from the known and into the unknown. When a meteorite crashes and its material then grows to epic proportions once exposed to water and turns anyone that crosses its path to ash.
Grant Williams who had already starred in the successful The Incredible Shrinking Man would star as the everyman turned hero, Dave Miller. Dave happens to be the head of San Antonio’s geological office, so he’s a man with smarts and just might have the answer to saving humanity from these monumental blocks of stone.
Joining Millar is his girlfriend and teacher Cathy played by American singer Lola Albright who supported Frank Sinatra and Debbie Reynolds in The Tender Trap and was only a few years away from acting opposite Elvis Presley in Kid Galahad. For Monolith Monsters though the lead characters Dave and Cathy would use their combined knowledge along with college professor Arthur Flanders (Trevor Bardette) to find a solution to stop the threat expanding into their town.
A particular highlight is the cameo performance from William Schallert as a benign meteorologist, happily carrying out his day without the slightest notion of the impending danger that is facing humankind. Also keen viewers will note a young Troy Donahue in one of his earlier roles playing a dynamite expert.
Whilst noted for its production design and special effects plus some noteworthy performances Monolith Monsters suffers with execution. It presents a unique story but fails to manifest or produce anything out of this grain of salt idea. As such the sands of time have been unkind over the years, left as a forgotten relic from a decade of dwindling success.
– Saul Muerte
Monolith Monsters is currently available as part of a double feature blu-ray with The Deadly Mantis at Umbrella Entertainment.
Daniel de la Vega’s latest feature, On the 3rd Day finds its place on Shudder’s Exclusive and Original platform. While it does serve up some fairly predictable choices, there is certainly some appeal in the manner that de la Vega chooses to weave his tale.
The centrepoint of catharsis stems from the moment when Cecilia and her son Martin are involved in a car accident. Cecilia was in the throes of escaping her abusive husband when the catalyst occurred. The story picks ups three days later with Cecilia trying to piece the puzzle along with now trying to find her son; absent since the car crash.
Who was responsible?
Who is this mysterious elderly religious man, hellbent on his own quest and the other party in the collison. Is this coincidence or divine reckoning that has brought these two together only to counter against one another towards the film’s climactic reveal?
The further Ceclia digs into her lost days, the more of the past she uncovers with brutal truths exposed.
The air of intrigue that hangs in the air of Cecilia’s character is the main draw card here and Mariana Anghileri’s portrayal of our protagonist is a big draw card as she delicately dapples with strength and vulnerability. It is this balance of emotional range that allows the audience to play along with the poetry of the piece and despite its obvious movements, is captivating all the same.
On the 3rd Day treads a foreseeable trail but in this case it’s not the destination that is its selling point but the journey it takes us on. Celia’s plight and dedication to find out the truth of the mystery carries our own intrigue with careful deliberation to hook us in and deliver a satisfying tale.
Last week I joined up with fellow Surgeon Myles Davies to watch Ti West’s latest turn behind the camera with his seventies inspired horror slasher flick, X.
A couple of days later, my colleague fired up the following tweet to cast his judgement before the world.
But what prompted this response from our slasher surgeon guru?
What compelled him to go Cujo frothing crazy?
Was he merely spouting foreign tongue, possessed by Satan’s work?
Or was there a method to the madness and perhaps people should sit up and take note of his prophecy?
Well, let’s throw the beast onto the mortician’s slab and dissect the film to get to the heart of it.
It’s been about six years since West sat in the directors chair for a feature length movie, and his subject of choice is a love song to the late sixties and early seventies with the infusion of sex and slasher horror.
There are obvious nods to the porno scene that had infiltrated the movie Plex with films such as Debbie Does Dallas, opening to dorr for adventurous and risky filmmakers to make their mark with cheap, low budget, guerrilla style approach to the medium.
Similarly the slasher scene was starting to raise its head, notably through The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, directed by Tobe Hooper and from which West draws the bulk of his inspiration from.
West is clearly a man who knows his field though with suitable nods to Hitchcock’s Psycho, Kubrick’s The Shining, and even early 80s horror flick Alligator.
X follows a group of young filmmakers intent on making an adult movie that could launch them to stardom; whether it was through escapism, to be famous, or for the money. Leading the stakes with that certain X factor is Maxine Minx (Mia Goth), a stripper and pornographic film actress. Joining her on their filming expedition is her boyfriend and producer Wayne (Martin Henderson), fellow actors Bobby Lynne (Brittany Snow), and Jackson Hole (Kid Cudi), Director RJ (Owen Capbell), and his girlfriend Lorraine (Jenny Ortega).
Their choice of location happens to be a farmhouse in Texas (of course) and much like its inspiration, there’s more than meets the eye from its occupants, but not necessarily how you would expect… an elderly couple. Pearl (also Goth) is unwilling to let go of her sexuality just because of her age; and Howard (Stephen Ure) who will stop at nothing to satisfy her needs, but time may not be on his side.
There is a fine line between pleasure and pain, and all it takes is one simple flip to turn our intrepid pioneers in filmmaking to be pushed into a world where they may not return from. Once the characters and setting take hold, West then lets loose with a slasher frenzy of delight, painting his celluloid brush with the artistic style and grace that the genre lends its name from, dabbing from a palette of iconic horror visuals to stimulate the audience with.
X is more than a homage to films of yester-year though as West immediately lures us in with the style from the era, both visually and auditorily, scintillating the senses. As he subjects us to the charm of the movie, West then pulls us in further with rich characterisation, who on face value appear to be stereotypes of the decade, but beneath the surface are more than their appearance depicts. In fact, West’s masterstroke is in forcing the viewer to look beneath the surface of these characters, delving deep into their personalities and forcing their true selves to the fore. The biggest component that Wast dapples with is the social stigma that age has on society, and how sex can diminish when time plays its part on us all. Does age damage the psyche? When we are left with our souls, and our body begins to fail us, what makes us worthy then when we aren’t able to let go of our sensuality?
So what is the conclusion? Is this as Myles states, a potential contender for horror film of the year?
Ti West serves up a beautifully shot movie that sparks nostalgia and awakening to the slasher genre. The performances, especially from Mia Goth in her dual role are an absolute delight. And the slow burn tension that flicks with humour and horror is perfectly balanced throughout the film. Plus the use of age and fear of ageism in the wake of losing one’s sexuality as the central theme is a bold but rewarding one.
West has always proved to be a quiet achiever from the mumblegore movement, but deserves more praise for his efforts.
X has just elevated his profile further and with the promise of turning the movie into a trilogy and a prequel called Pearl due later in the year, West could very well have made the best horror film of the year. Stay tuned 2022.
It’s been with much anticipation that I’ve been waiting for a return trip to Cabrini-Green and one that doesn’t sour the original feature directed by Bernard Rose based on the Novella by Clive Barker was released back in 1992. Where Freddy Krueger haunted my dreams and ignited my love of horror, Candyman pushed me deeper into the genre and I’ve been… (ahem) hooked on it ever since.
Just check out our thoughts on the original movie below:
From the creative mindset of Jordan Peele (Get Out, Us), Win Rosenfeld (The Twilight Zone), and Director Nia DaCosta (Crossing The Line) we are presented with a ‘spiritual’ sequel. It’s clear from the get-go that this film won’t exactly walk the same route as its predecessor with the inverted shots of skyscrapers shot from beneath, looking up to a foggy skyline, in juxtaposition to Bernard Rose’s helicopter shots over an expansive cityscape. While this latest offering trips over a little in bringing our central characters into the mythology surrounding Daniel Robataille, which may disappoint devotees, but those that are familiar with Peele’s work (myself included among them) will soon succumb to this interpretation. In effect, the key component that really makes the 2021 version a must-see movie, is that it takes the Barker/Rose vision one step further and gives ownership to the titular character to Black America and its history. Where the story behind Robitaille, Helen Lyle, and Cabrini-Green is the stuff of legend, it is one of many that has embedded itself in America’s racial divide. With each passing generation, the scars have been etched over the years and with every Daniel Robataille, there’s a Sherman Fields. The physical and mental weight has taken its toll and is ripe for the Candyman to return and leave a path of bloody retribution.
Where DaCosta casts the narrative this time around we follow struggling artist Anthony McCoy (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II – Us, Aquaman), a name that may be familiar to some. In order to reawaken his artistic expression, McCoy discovers the true story behind Candyman and in doing so, rekindles the horrors that lurk just beneath the surface. Just as it seeps out of the woodwork of Cabrini-Green and out of the mirror, Candyman breathes new life and old fears into the neighbourhood whilst affecting the souls of those closest to his awakening.
All the cast deserve high praise, standing alongside Abdul-Mateen II is Teyonah Parris as his partner, Brianna; Nathan Stewart-Jarrett as her brother, Troy; Colman Domingo (Fear the Walking Dead) as the keeper of the legend, William Burke; and Vanessa Williams reprising her role of Anne-Marie.
It is the myth that really shines through here though and the artistic expression from a bold and creative team to take it in a direction that is not only a powerful commentary on the state of our times, but an important one. It’s not perfect, but it’s as near as and earmarks a new chapter in the Candyman legend; one that may herald more stories to come. Heaven knows the dark chapter of American history has a lot to explore and a perfect avenue for Candyman to continue to spread fear and devastation, if you dare to say his name and expose the truth.
Straight off the bat, I have to proclaim that I am not a massive fan of the found footage genre. There have been some exceptions, primarily Spanish horror flick, [REC], and as much as it pains me, I’ve come to appreciate The Blair Witch Project over the years for how it’s simple storytelling and tapping into the wake of the internet boom.
Similarly, Host capitalises on the current social climate and the restrictions that COVID 19 has had on the Arts. Unlike the film Unfriendedwhich tried to harness the ever-changing social media landscape to project fear onto the screens, but ultimately falling short of expectations, Director Rob Savage, crafts a clever and creative script using the minimal amount of tools to his advantage, shooting everything through Zoom links and relying heavy on his cast to create the lighting, stunts, and visual effects needed to pull off the story and make it seem believable.
The narrative takes place with a group of friends meeting together via Zoom to initiate a seance, conducted by a medium, Seylan. It all seems innocent with some of the group not entirely taking it seriously, but as events play out, it soon takes a sinister turn with the group unwittingly calling in a demonic entity into their fold. Can they ward off this evil presence, or will it slowly and violently take them out?
Don’t be turned off by the remarkably short running time, Host packs in a lot into the story with great performances and strong characters. Not all of them are likeable, but that’s the point. You have to have a few that you wish to get their comeuppance and those that you genuinely hope to survive their ordeal. Savage has proved himself a compelling storyteller as a result, while taking a simple enough premise and weaving a delightfully dark tale with minimal tools at hand. It goes to show that you don’t need a lot to create a little bit of magic and by tapping into the social mainstream, breathe life into the found footage genre once more.
When Gunnar Hansen of Texas Chain Saw Massacre fame wrote and pitched a who’s who of horror films pitted in a hellish place forming a macabre version of The Expendables, it would be a genre fans’ wet dream. The very idea of Jason aka Kane Hodder sharing the same screen as Tony Todd (Candyman), and Bill Moseley (The Devil’s Rejects) along with the queens of horror, Dee Wallace and Barbara Crampton (Re-Animator) would leave them salivating at the prospect at what could be an Uber-scare factory. What we do get is a lot of piss and wind in a lacklustre affair that never measures up to its promise.
Before I start lambasting this film though, I do want to focus on the positives. The very premise of staging a prison break containing some of the most vicious criminals known to mankind housed in a state of the art vicinity, which placates to the criminals whims in virtual space whilst using real victims from the homeless and deprived smacks of genius. It projects a utopian world that humanity could easily travel down if there were no morals or guiding principles attached.
Kane Hodder delivers to a tee and never falters from his iconic presence in front of the camera as the lead antagonist Sieg as he steers those fallen from grace further down into the pit of the jail system – level nine, a place where the five evils preside in a nod to Dante’s Inferno.
Equally Dee Wallace proves once again that she can offer intelligence, vulnerability, and apathy in her character, Dr. Eileen Fletcher and is always a welcome presence on screen.
And full props to Director Harrison Smith who saw fit to carry out Hansen’s vision in his honour, gifting him also with an on-screen presence in holographic form as the father to one of the prison inmates, Leatherlace, which was a nice touch.
And lets not forget those delectable sultry tones from Adrienne Barbeau as the narrator of the movie…
Sorry. Where was I?
Ah yes, all these elements are enough to keep you engaged, at least for a while. Even the strange dark arts that are heavily present throughout adds a decent hook to an intriguing narrative, but those who delve into Death House may find it a struggle as the further down the rabbit hole we go, the more far-fetched and ridiculous the concept goes.
And that’s where it starts to lose me. It doesn’t help that our two lead protagonists, Agents Novak and Boon who are so two-dimensional that not even their strange deep and meaningful conversation about how they became Agents whilst casually sharing a unisex shower cubicle can generate even a twinkle of interest… well, maybe. Which is a shame, because you want to be vested in their journey, but you really don’t care.
This is clearly an attempt to ignite the passion that fans of horror through the 80’s and early 90’s by grouping some favourites of the genre together. Whilst the premise did provide a decent hook, the journey leaves you floundering and left adrift without much care to its conclusion. A lost opportunity.
Summer of ‘84 is one of those movies that tries to tap into the whole 80s nostalgia thing. Think Stranger Things, The Burbs, and Stephen King all wrapped into a neat All-American thriller where four boys believe that one of their neighbours is a notorious serial killer.
The trouble is it strives so hard to emanate the decade and all its glory, (wicked soundtrack included) that it struggles to form a unique identity of its own. That is until the final 20 WTF!!! Minutes of the movie that shakes up your preconceptions and messes with your heard.
By this stage, you would have lost some of the audience, waiting for something to seperate Summer of ‘84 from the pack, and the other half of the audience barely hanging on.
This is a shame because the trailer teased and tantalised an epic feature, but if you can stick it out to the end, the pay off is definitely worth it.
The premise follows Davey Armstrong, the son of a journalist, who suspects neighbour Mackey a well-respected police officer to be the Cape May Slayer, who has murdered of 13 teenage boys in the county area.
At first his friends, Woody, Curtis, and Eats, all find Davey’s story too far-fetched. That is until Davey claims to have seen the latest missing kid at Mackey’s House. Cue espionage style tactics from the kids as they try every spy trick in the book to uncover the truth from tracking his every move, going through his trash and finally breaking and entering.
Is Mackey the murderer, (I mean, there is something a little off about his mannerisms, expertly played by Mad Men’s Rich Sommer) or is it the wild imaginations of a young mind?
The kids are all likeable enough to keep you wondering and caring when they fall into precarious situations, with plenty of decent back story to most of them.
There’s even room for a love interest in old friend and crush, Nikki, who also seems a little unhinged and leaves you wondering if this is a result of her parents separating or is there something darker going on underneath her sweet demeanour.
Directors Simard, Whissell, and Whissell certainly tick all the boxes and it’s only when we are feeling secure that they decide to whip the carpet of safety from under our feet and throw a massive curveball into the midst.
From a political point of view, when Reagan was in power, it’s as if the creatives wanted to make a sweeping statement that American life would never be the same again and that ‘home life’ as we knew it would be totally broken apart and everything that we could rely upon would leave us questioning our faith in everything that our society is built upon.
There is no sanctuary. Not anymore.
Summer of 84 nearly falls prey to standard thriller territory until it sucker punches you in the gut for the climax of the movie, leaving you feeling unnerved and a huge talking point.
Okay. There are some people who will watch this movie and instinctively think that it’s a pile of artistic wank within the first few minutes, but for those who stick it out through the admittedly slow pace will find themselves lured into a fantastical journey, that leaves you entranced by the sheer bloody beauty that is depicted on screen.
Italian director Panos Cosmatos’ sophomore outing is an attack on the senses that is delivered in a trance-like state, enamoring you by its beauty of rich colours and kaleidoscopic fluidity. This false-sense of sedateness is doubled further with the deep dialogue between kindred couple Red Miller (Nic Cage) and Mandy Bloom (Andrea Riseborough) which lends itself to the hippy-life that they lead in the remote northern wilderness.
Enter cult leader Jeremiah Sand awesomely portrayed by Linus Roache, oscillating between delusional insanity and vulnerability sublimely. From a chance encounter with Mandy, Jeremiah like the audience is intoxicated and feels compelled to delve further into her mystery, so he brings his entourage of devotees and sadistic fucks to rip apart this idyllic sanctuary and claim Mandy for his own. The problem is that perfection doesn’t exist and when Mandy doesn’t meet his expectations, Jeremiah wants to tear it up and destroy everything. By severing open the guts of peace and bliss, Jeremiah unwittingly sours the land of milk and honey and from that moment on, the turmoil and angst that has been contained, pours forth in a devastating form that has no means of slowing down until the balance is restored once more.
The depredation is the trigger for Red to resort to his base instincts and exact pure bloody hell and revenge on Mandy’s tormentors. This dark and twisted journey that Red undertakes is filled with pure anarchy and hatred that it feels only an actor like Cage can portray. The beauty of his performance though isn’t from his stereotypical over-the-top exuberance but in the stifled and restrained approach that he plays his role, which is a testament to both Cage’s acting prowess and Cosmatos’ direction. By ever so slowly dialing up the heat, Red reaches the pique of frenzy at the right moment in the film to make it both believable and a delight to see.
The diagnosis: Beware of your strive for beauty and perfection. Slice it open and you get a reign of anarchy and destruction.
Cage taps into the life of a man who has his whole world savagely ripped wide open and ventures out on a path for vengeance and fury, delivering one of his finest performances to date.
It’s a visually stunning movie with an amazing cast including a welcome cameo from Bill Duke in the midst of the mind-fuckery that goes on.
Whilst it’s not for everyone, this movie will delight many in its unique style and approach to the celluloid form.
When director Todd Sheets set about fulfilling his dream passion project of filming a practical effects werewolf movie (that was reminiscent of the classic movies of yesteryear such as The Howling or An American Werewolf in London) via an Indiegogo crowd funding, he hardly expected it to gain the massive traction that it finally generated.
The interest and backing from like-minded individuals keen to see a film produced similar to the ones they grew up loving with an old school mentality approach even gained interest from Indiegogo, citing the campaign as a benchmark in crowd sourcing.
The movie is ultimately a B-movie horror, but that term isn’t necessarily something to look down upon, as Bonehill Road is elevated by Sheets’ choice as both writer and director.
The creature effects are impressive and trigger the perfect amount of nostalgia along the way, but it’s the heart of the story that is it’s strongest point and the journey that our two leads, Emily and her daughter Eden are forced to go through in their fight for survival.
They flee from an abusive husband/father only to jump out with the pan and into the fire when they encounter a murderous psychopath who has a number of women tied up in his home. In this one moment, Bonehill Road turns from your typical werewolf flick to a story about female empowerment. A genius stroke from Sheets as it makes the movie not only contemporary and relevant in todays climate, but also cuts to the pointy end of sexual oppression that is so often overlooked in the news and media. The women must bond together in their suffering and rise up against the constant wave of male dominance in order to survive. It’s a shame then that the Gramps character has to make an entrance to help initiate a rescue. It may have been cool to have a gender swap here to and have Granny coming in to aid, and leverage off the classic wolf story, Little Red Riding Hood a touch. Then again, that road has already been travelled to a degree with Neil Jordan’s A Company of Wolves, so who am I to judge?
When the werewolves do come and they do as a pack, as our victims are hold up inside the house, they attack from every where, heightening that feeling of societies judgement and vitriol towards victims of sexual and domestic violence comes crashing through the walls with no direction or safety on the apparent horizon.
Throw in the casting of a name in the horror circuit with Linnea Quigley (Return of the Living Dead) as one of the fellow kidnapped victims and Sheets provides some further leverage in bringing in a wider fan base to Bonehill Road, proving that not only is he one of the most likeable directors in the business but also one of the smartest.
Todd Sheets brings a bout of old school werewolf horror to the B movie scene packed with practical effects, and offers a strong heart that beats with purpose offering a fresh take on a tried and tested genre.
They promised you big, and big we got, but probably not necessarily what the producers were hoping for.
The BIG question lies in two classification rating. Whilst they strive to appease a wider market with an M rating, those hungry for some blood, guts, and full-on gore will be sorely disappointed. The Meg shark never really scares or shocks the audience and on more than one occasion appears happy to just swim around waiting for the humans to plan time-consuming methods to either tag or destroy the beast.
The movie does spend a hell of a long time building up some backstory to the main protagonists so that the audience will hopefully give a damn about their outcome but a lot of the time leans towards a predictable conclusion.
The main criticism is primarily focused on Jonas’ (Jason Statham) plight. The film set up shows Jonas needing to make a critical decision during a deep sea rescue, which ultimately leaves two of his comrades to die. The issue I found is that we aren’t really ever introduced to these two characters or their relationship with Jonas for this blow to have any devastating impact. This ain’t no Maverick / Goose moment.
Instead we rely on Statham’s angst at this supposed ordeal as he grimaces and tries to pull his best pensive expression.
The result leaves Jonas all washed up and resorting to drink.
So, when an experimental science expedition uncovers an unexplored underwater terrain, which inadvertently sets The Meg free, who should be could back into action to rescue those trapped in perilous depths? None other than our friend Jonas.
There’s some weak plots thrown into the midst, with Jonas’ ex being one of the survivors in need of rescue, but there’s enough of a twist to push the love interest in a different direction before falling prey to a predictable path.
To the writers’ credit though, there is enough interest in the characters to keep you interested… just. And the cast is solid enough to ground some of those characters.
Ultimately though, this is a Statham movie, so it’s not going to ground-breaking but it is going to be entertaining.
Naturally some people will want to compare this movie to Jaws, the Titan of shark movies, but as big as you will make the shark, the result will always fall under the giant shadow that Spielberg’s classic still holds. And no blatant rip-off beach sequence is going to elevate anyone’s belief in that stat, although I did love the inflatable water walking balloon and Pippin the dog for comic value.
Not Statham’s finest hour but worth the plunge all the same.