Tuesday 27 March 2012

Absentia (2011)

The cast -
Katie Parker as Callie
Courtney Bell as Tricia
Dave Levine as Det. Mallory
Justin Gordon as Det. Lonergan
Morgan Peter Brown as Daniel
James Flanagan as Jamie Lambert
Scott Graham as Dr. Elliott
Ian Gregory as Mitch
Doug Jones as Walter Lambert
Connie Ventress as Ruth

Director & Writer - Mike Flanagan

The Plot -
Tricia's husband Daniel has been missing for seven years. Her younger sister Callie comes to live with her as the pressure mounts to finally declare him 'dead in absentia.' As Tricia sifts through the wreckage and tries to move on with her life, Callie finds herself drawn to an ominous tunnel near the house. As she begins to link it to other mysterious disappearances, it becomes clear that Daniel's presumed death might be anything but 'natural.' The ancient force at work in the tunnel might have set its sights on Callie and Tricia, and Daniel might be suffering a fate far worse than death in its grasp.

The Review -
Callie returns to her sister's house, after spending a considerable time away on the road. While she waits for Tricia to get home, Callie notices the ominous looking passage way further down the street. Later Tricia explains that it leads out to a park that is rather nice. The next day Callie decides to go for a jog heading through the tunnel. She finds on the other side that it's a good place to jog round and over looks the city. On the way back down the tunnel she stumbles across, what looks like, a homeless man, who isn't making much sense.
Back at the house, Tricia is having trouble coming to terms with the fact that her missing husband, Daniel, has now been gone for 7 years, which in turn means she can now file for a death certificate via absentia. But for Tricia, this comes with sleep deprivation and seeing things, namely Daniel.

While this is going on, Callie decides to head back to the tunnel and take some food for the weary looking man from her earlier jog. However, he's now gone, so she leaves the food anyway. As she turns to head back to the house someone else is there, a strange man, also setting down a parcel. Shortly after this, strange things start happening in the house with objects appearing from nowhere and scuffling sounds of a large insect can be heard.

After receiving Daniel's death certificated and talking to a therapist, Tricia decides it's time to move on with her life. As she's friendly with the detective who's helped out with the missing person case, she asks him out on a date. Although it's quite obvious that the pair already have carnal knowledge of each other. But as they leave the house to go out on their date, a stumbling, shaky figure approaches them. They're both shocked by what they see. It's Daniel, battered and bruised and looking half dead! He's wearing the same cloths and still has a full wallet, that he originally went missing in. With no explanation as to wear he's been, Daniel is very confused and frightened. Callie decides to look into what's happened further, only to find that the tunnel is not all it seems, with a number of disappearances from that same area dating back decades. Will they find out what really happened to Daniel and will it cost them more than what they bargained for?

This is rather a slow paced film with more dialogue than action. But with the performances of the cast and the interesting story, it more than keeps your attention. What we have here is something for the mind as you never actually see what's lurking down the tunnel. And there's never any need to, as it's well written and directed by Mike Flanagan, the intrigue is enough to satisfy you. It's an original take with a twist on a classic the fairy tale of Three Billy Goats Gruff. This one I would recommend for the less blood and gore oriented and more for those looking for emotional content.

Absentia gets a 6(1/2)/10

Check out the trailer below...

Wednesday 14 March 2012

Pontypool (2008)

As part of disturbingfilms.com's Zombie Week 2012, which runs from March 12 - 17, I'll be reviewing four Zombie movies from the 00's. The four movies I've selected have taken us across the globe, covering four continents, starting in Europe (UK), then from Africa to Australia, finally ending up in North America with the fourth film...

The cast -
Stephen McHattie as Grant Mazzy
Lisa Houle as Sydney Briar
Georgina Reilly as Laurel-Ann Drummond
Hrant Alianak as Dr. Mendez
Rick Roberts as Ken Loney
Boyd Banks as Jay / Osama
Tony Burgess as Tony / Lawrence
Rachel Burns as Colin / Daud

Director - Bruce McDonald

Writer - Tony Burgess

The Plot -
Pontypool, a small village in Ontario, Canada, where one day, in a radio station, the morning team starts taking reports of extreme, bloody incidents of violence occurring in town. As the story unfolds, the radio staff soon realises the violence that is ripping society apart is due to a virus being spread through the English language. That in turn poses a problem for a yappy radio jock and his staff holed up in the broadcast booth housed in the basement of the town's abandoned church as a slaughter rages beyond its walls.

The Review -
Small town DJ Grant Mazzy is on the way to the radio station for the early morning talk show when out of nowhere a woman bangs on his car window, so he stops to see whats wrong and pulls down the passenger window. He only gets a couple of words from her and as she steps backwards away from the car she disappears into the snowy morning. As he shouts to get a response, all he hears is his own echo. Baffled by what just happened he carries on to work to join producer Sydney and sound tech. Laurel-Ann. As his radio show airs, they get disturbing reports of people attacking one another and speaking incoherently. Through the course of the show the reports get worse. The uncontrollable, crowds are dieing at the hand of the local enforcement. Mazzy and his team soon release that they are trapped in their studio. Laurel-Ann's behaviour becomes confusing as she struggles to make any sense with her sentences.
Arriving on the scene, though a window in a back room is Dr. Mendez, who tries to shed some light on what's going on. As Laurel-Ann's condition becomes worse, she starts trying to smash though the sound proof glass, where Mazzy, Sydney and the Doctor are locked away for their own safety. They come to the discovery that an infection, though the English language is turning people into a zombie like state. Now they have figured out what's causing the carnage on the outside as well as in the studio, do they try to escape or do they search for an answer to revert the situation?

"It's not the end of the world, it's just the end of the day."
Let me start off by saying "hmm." Yes, hmm, this is a bit of a weird one. Is it a Zombie movie or not? It's not a Zombie movie in the traditional sense. What we have hear is a very different take on the "infection of mankind" that leads people to a Zombie like state. The tension is built on purely what we hear during the radio show, which is good. But when it comes down to it, nothing really happens. I have conflicting views on this movie. Was it a work of genius? Or is it just pretentious? There's a message in there somewhere. Or maybe it was just a dig at the English language by a French Canadian! Either way, this is one of those film you're even gonna love or hate. Personally, I still don't know which one it is yet!

For that simple reason I'm gonna have to give Pontypool 5/10

Check out the trailer below...

Monday 12 March 2012

Undead (2003)

As part of disturbingfilms.com's Zombie Week 2012, which runs from March 12 - 17, I'll be reviewing four Zombie movies from the 00's. This is the third film...

The Cast -
Felicity Mason as Rene
Mungo McKay as Marion
Rob Jenkins as Wayne
Lisa Cunningham as Sallyanne
Dirk Hunter as Harrison
Emma Randall as Molly
Noel Sheridan as Chip
Gaynor Wensley as Aggie
Eleanor Stillman as Ruth

Directors & Writers - Michael Spierig & Peter Spierig

The Plot -
Peaceful, rustic Berkeley is a charming fishing community where life is sweet and the people are friendly. All that is about to change. After losing her childhood farm to the bank, local beauty Queen Rene decides to leave town and head for the big city. Suddenly, an avalanche of meteorites races through the sky, bombarding the town and bringing an otherworldly infection. Departing is going to be much more difficult than she had planned. The living dead are awakened and Rene is now caught in a nightmare of zombies hungry for human flesh.

The Review -
As our heroine, Rene, tries to escape her dreary life in her home town, the rest of the residents are being showered with meteorites. As the meteorites hit, the locals are turning into the undead, attacking anything that looks good enough to eat.
Rene jumps into a friend's car and heads off, but on the way out of the town they come across a road accident involving a few other vehicles.
This is where Rene comes across the Zombies. Through the horde of living dead comes an armed man laying waste to some of them. She runs instead of fighting and finds, what seems to be, an empty house, but residing there is local fisherman, Marion, who is the gun toting slayer from earlier on the road.
Not long after they get acquainted, they're joined by a man and his pregnant wife and two police officers, also trying to escape from being eaten.

The house soon becomes over run with Zombies so the six of them head down into Marion's bunker, below the house. Realising they're stuck down there without food or water they decide to head back up into the house and make a break for Marion's van so they can get the hell out of there.
Meanwhile, most the town has been over run with more undead. In the van they reach the town limits only to find a huge wall like structure blocking their route. Covered by a down pour, of what looks like acid rain, all is not as it seems. Marion's earlier story of aliens is starting to make sense. Could aliens be involved, could they be responsible for the Zombie invasion, or are they all going mad? Will Rene step up to be the leader and hero the town folk need or will she and the rest of people left, fall prey to the strange happenings?

This Australian film has a B-movie feel to it and is full of "popcorn cheese" that will give you a little giggle from time to time. There's lots of blood splatter and body parts getting chopped off. The gun action is over the top and some of the acting is too. Felicity Mason permanently looks confused, shocked and surprised all at once. Mungo McKay plays the strong silent type well. Dirk Hunter plays the annoying as hell cop, who you just want to shoot in the face! But I guess that's all part of the charm. It gets all a bit too silly with the introduction of aliens though. It kind of makes sense but then I think it's just one of those movies where it doesn't really matter. The movie is full of bloody fun and is worth checking out if you like that.

Undead gets 5/10

Check out the trailer below...

Wednesday 7 March 2012

The Dead (2010)

As part of disturbingfilms.com's Zombie Week 2012, which runs from March 12 - 17, I'll be reviewing four Zombie movies from the 00's. This is the second film...

The Cast -
Rob Freeman as Lt. Brian Murphy
Prince David Oseia as Sgt. Daniel Dembele
David Dontoh as The Chief

Directors & Writers - Howard J. Ford & Jon Ford

The Plot -
When the last evacuation flight out of war-torn Africa crashes off the coast, American Air Force Engineer Lieutenant Brian Murphy emerges as the sole survivor in a land where the dead are returning to life and attacking the living. On the run in a hostile and inhospitable parched landscape, where sudden death lurks around every sun-burnished corner, Murphy has to use his wits and ingenuity if he is to get home alive to his family. When Murphys path clashes with that of Sergeant Daniel Dembele, whose village has been torn apart by the reanimated dead, they join forces. The two desperate men from two very different cultures fight side by side to survive across the incredible scenery of Africa as the world succumbs to the deadliest of viruses.

The Review -
Set in the desert wasteland of Africa, we see a lone figure, dressed in black, making his way through the sandy but rugged terrain. It doesn't take long before he has company. Shuffling slowly towards the armed man, broken leg in toe, is a Zombie, which is passed by, by the unknown gunman. Just over the next dune though, he has to take action when another Zombie appears.
Cut to the next scene, on board a small plane, filled with military personnel and civilians alike. One man has been bitten and going into shock. The plane is running out of fuel and eventually crashes just of the cost. The only survivor, American Air Force Engineer Lieutenant Brian Murphy, is now stranded in hostile territory having to fight for his survival in order to get to his wife and child.
Meanwhile, in a near by location, Sergeant Daniel Dembele returns to his village to find it empty of the living and occupied by the walking dead, as it was evacuated the night before. His mother, fatally injured, barely breathing, tells Daniel that his son was taken to safety.

Brian and Daniel's paths soon cross. Brian wants to head to an airfield to see if he can find a plane that can fly and Daniel wants to head north to find his son. They decide to help each other towards each destination.
Upon discovering the abandoned airstrip, Brian stays the course with Daniel to find the camp in the north that Daniel's son was taken too. In between them and their final destination stands a numerous amount of flesh hungry killers. But with a hot desert by day, the cold nights and danger lurking behind every rock and bush, will the two soldiers find sanctuary or pay the ultimate sacrifice at the hands of the infected dead?

This is a road movie, with the backdrop of Africa and classic slow moving Zombies. Don't expect an action packed movie. Although there is plenty of rather good bloody special effects, most encounters are brief and to the point. This movie has more of a drama feel to it, drawing you into the harrowing story rather than distracting you with mindless violence. It very much has the feel of Stake Land (2010), but with Zombies instead of Vampires. The cast give believable performances. It's well scripted and directed and is definitely worth a watch for fans of the Zombie sub-genre.

The Dead gets a lively 7/10

Check out the trailer below...

Monday 5 March 2012

The Burning (1981)

The Cast -
Brian Matthews as Todd
Leah Ayres as Michelle
Brian Backer as Alfred
Larry Joshua as Glazer
Jason Alexander as Dave
Ned Eisenberg as Eddy
Carrick Glenn as Sally
Carolyn Houlihan as Karen
Fisher Stevens as Woodstock
Lou David as Cropsy
Shelley Bruce as Tiger

Director - Tony Maylam

Writers - (original story) Harvey Weinstein, Tony Maylam and Brad Grey. (screenplay) Peter Lawrence and Bob Weinstein

The Plot -
At Camp Blackfoot, five boy campers decide to frighten the caretaker, Cropsy. When the prank goes wrong, he is accidentally severely burned. Years later, after treatment at an institute and recovering from his injuries, even though they have not just scarred him physically but mentally also, he is released, and returns to the camp with a pair of hedge clippers to take revenge on the campers.

"Man, this guy is so burned, he's cooked!"
The Review -
Cropsy, supposedly a cruel, alcoholic, sadistic caretaker, although we never see evidence of this, falls ill to a prank gone wrong, very wrong!
After five pranksters wake him up abruptly with a skull covered in dirt, worms and flames for eyes. Cropsy knocks over the skull, setting fire to his legs and then to a container of fuel. A bad mix, as the fire spreads throughout the cabin, it soon goes up in flames, as does Cropsy. After his recovery, some five years later, he's released, with a not so good consequence, as he takes his anger out on a hapless hooker, with a pair of sharp scissors and a mind for murder.

Meanwhile, at summer camp, the movie turns to the building of the young characters. Adolescent boys canalise the scantily clad girls, pranks are played and threats are made, you know, good old fashion teenage fun! But lurking in the shadows is the disfigured Cropsy, watching and stalking his prey.
A group of the older kids take a canoe trip and go camping. This where the real fun begins, as the burnt murderer starts taking them out, one by one, leaving behind a bloody mess. The guy really knows how wield those hedge cutters.
All this leads to the final scene, a face off between camp councillor Todd, with an axe and a dark secret, and Cropsy, with his cutters and a flame thrower.
Who will come out on top? Will the crispy caretaker exact his revenge or will Todd say the day?

You've got to love the 80's and what it had to offer with these kind of films. It's not the best classic slasher in the world but it holds it own when it comes to the kills scenes. What I liked the most about this movie was it's simple, effective and bloody special effects. Something which a lot of modern horrors are over looking now-a-days with the use of CGI. The humble hedge cutter is such an under used weapon but it serves up some great deaths in this. I can't even count the times I've been trimming the hedge in my garden and had that thought, hacking away at branches, pretending it was someone I didn't like. Or is that just me? Anyway, I digress!

"Don't look; he'll see you. Don't breathe; he'll hear you. Don't move; you're dead!"

What I didn't like about this movie; I thought it went too long between the first two kills. After the hooker is taken out, it's nearly an hour before we see the next victim get it. However, in the raft murder scene, it kind of makes up for it. I also thought that Cropsy was unfairly treated, with the camp fire stories and maniac label. A couple of those kids deserved what they got, specially one of them! If someone set fire to me... But that's an idea for a whole different movie.

My overall thoughts? This can definitely be called a classic and every slasher fan should see this movie, at least once in their lives. As I said before, it's not the best slasher out there but it is better than average.

The Burning gets a warm 6/10

Check out the trailer below...

Friday 2 March 2012

Devil's Playground (2010)

As part of disturbingfilms.com's Zombie Week 2012, which runs from March 12 - 17, I'll be reviewing four Zombie movies from the 00's. First up is the British film Devil's Playground...

The Cast -
Danny Dyer as Joe
Craig Fairbrass as Cole
MyAnna Buring as Angela
Jaime Murray as Lavinia
Shane Taylor as Geoffrey
Bart Ruspoli as Matt Mills
Craig Conway as Steve
Lisa McAllister as Kate
Colin Salmon as Peter White
Sean Pertwee as Rob

Director - Mark McQueen

Writer - Bart Ruspoli

The Plot -
N-gen Industries, a leading pharmaceutical company, develops a new "legal performance enhancer" called RAK-295, that has bad side effects on all but one of their 30,000 test patients. In order to control the media uproar, Cole, the head of security is sent to find the immune patient Angela and bring her in for examination. But the hardened mercenary, Cole, comes up against more than just the infected in a bid for survival.

The Review -
London, in the not too distant future, while Peter White, the CEO of N-gen Industries, gives a cover speech to the press, all is not as peachy as it sounds.
Our hero, Cole, is charged with finding and bringing in Angela, to help find a cure for the ever increasing threat of the outbreak which is beginning to spread throughout the city. Cole is already battling the demons of his violent past, suffering flash backs to an act of cold blooded murder. And to make matters worse, he gets bitten, giving him little time to do his job, before the inevitable happens. Being the man he is, this only spurs him on to take on the army of bloodthirsty creatures.

Meanwhile, getting out of prison is Joe, an ex cop, with a tainted past of his own and wanting to get in contact with Angela also. It's not long before the spread of infection takes a turn for the worse, effecting more and more people, which is realised when the news broadcasts get interrupted by the deadly and very agile Zombies. Cole, tracks Angela and friend, Kate, to a workshop where Joe happens to be, along with friend Steve and two passers by, Lavinia and her American colleague.

The plan is to get to a helicopter across the other side of London where Angela's Police officer step-brother awaits. Between their location and the helicopter, it's a game of fight and flight, not just against the Zombies but against each other within the group. The question is, will they all make it in time to see Angela's immunity to the virus save the day?
With the solid British cast and a presentable story, even though it's not original, this is a pretty good attempted at a Zombie movie for the first time film director Mark McQueen. Craig Fairbrass (Cliffhanger, Rise of the Footsoldier, Dead Cert) steals the show even though it's Danny Dyer's (The Football Factory, Severance, Doghouse) name in the top spot of the credits. OK, that's not hard, it is Dyer, but this wasn't his worse or best role. MyAnna Buring (Doomsday, The Descent: Part 2, Kill List), played a fluid leading lady. The supporting cast filled in the gaps. Sean Pertwee (Dog Soldiers, Equilibrium, Doomsday) plays a bit of a cameo. Not to get carried away, there's no Oscar winning performances here, just decent enough acting to keep your attention.

Besides the look of the Zombies and the fact they eat people, they really don't have anything else in common with other Zombies, from other movies. They're very fast and agile. In fact, they could be mistaken for professional free runners! Some may find this off putting, while others may find them more frightening.

"The blood and gore?" I hear you ask! Well, there's plenty of skull beating action with various objects, but the humble hammer seems to be the favourite here. The blood flows freely, from both bites and strikes, and the special effects look real enough without being over the top.

Overall, I did enjoy this movie. OK, I'll be honest and admit I wasn't expecting much though. It's no 28 Days Later but it is a better than average Zombie film worth giving a go.

Devil's Playground gets 6/10

Check out the trailer below...