Thursday 28 February 2013

Cool as Hell (2013)

Well, where do I start with this one? Beside it being completely bat shit crazy, I should have hated this movie, but I have to admit that it kept me insanely interested with a permanent smile on my face!

The story follows Rich (James Balsamo), a happy go lucky comic book store employee that doesn't have that much luck with the ladies. He lives with best friend Benny (Dan E. Danger). Their basic role in life? Get high, get laid!

Life is pretty simple till Rich bumps into a demon called Az (Billy Walsh). Az is a low ranking demon, but seems loads of fun as he helps Rich and Benny with there girl worries. In fact Az is a bit of a party animal.

In the meantime, Rich meets Ashley (Lauren Adamkiewicz), a fellow comic book nerd. The only thing wrong, she has a complete asshole for a boyfriend, Sal (Frank Mullen), who just happens to be a loan shark type gangster.

In between having fun with Benny and Az, Rich has fallen for Ashley. But there's now another complication. When Az came through from Hell, he left a portal open. So of course, there's also zombies and a soul eating beast on the loose that Rich has to deal with!

So the simple life Rich once knew is no more. He now has to avoid the crazy boyfriend, save the girl and even save the world. All that just to get laid? Yeah, why not?! Sounds like an awesome night out.

OK, so let's get the reasons why I should have hated this out of the way...

Most of the acting was either poor and/or over the top. The script seemed to have a mind of it's own and wondered of somewhere, away from the direction it should have been heading in. It had a lot of random scenes thrown in that really didn't add anything to the plot. And with it being a very low budget indie, the effects and scenes where beyond B movie cheap.

Now, as I said at the start, "it kept me insanely interested with a permanent smile on my face." Why? Even though it went off on a bit of a tangent, what I was seeing in front of me somehow kept me watching. This was mainly due to some of the characters involved. I also have to give great credit to James Balsamo for certain parts of his writing. There was moments of perfect comedy timing. Certain characters stood out that were written so well that I didn't have care about the plot to enjoy the movie. These were Az and Sal, played by Billy Walsh and Frank Mullen, that provided me with the most entertainment. Out of the whole the thing, acting wise, Lauren Adamkiewicz gave the most believable performance.

It also has some cameo performances from the likes of genre legend Tom Savini (Dawn of the Dead [1978], From Dusk Till Dawn [1996]), rocker Andrew W.K. (Jackass OST) and Laurence R. Harvey (The Human Centipede II [2011]) among others.

Let's not forget that Balsamo not only played the lead, but also did special makeup effects, wrote, directed, edited and produced this film. This is the first of Balsamo's films that I've seen, although he has previously released Hack Job (2011) and I Spill Your Guts (2012) and has the up coming Mystery Meat (2013) in pre-production. What I would like to see from him is something more serious. I believe he has the necessary skills to write something cleverly witty that could also contain a deeper substance as regards the frights, and not just the comedy side of things.

I'm going to have to go down the middle with this one, it's not the worse film I've seen and it's certainly not the best by any stretch of the imagination. I want to say it's awful, but I just can't as, yes, it was cheap and cheerful, but it was also fun, it did entertain me (even though I had no idea what was going on at one point), I loved a couple of the characters and the soundtrack was pretty cool. And that's why...

Cool as Hell gets 5/10

Check out the trailer below...

Monday 25 February 2013

Cell Count (2012)

Russell Carpenter's (Robert McKeehen) wife, Sadie (Haley Talbot), has a life threatening disease. While in hospital, Dr. Victor Brandt (Christopher Toyne) offers a possible solution. He runs an experimental treatment facility where a miracle cure for all diseases is under development and research and is open to volunteer test subjects.

After putting themselves forward for the experimental treatment, Russell wakes up to find that the facility looks more like a prison. He is reunited with his wife Sadie who now looks healthy and well.

Also in the facility are fellow patients Billy (John Breen), William (Eric Martin Reid), Mary (Adrienne Vogel), Mason (Sean McGrath) and two criminals, 'Tiny Tim' (Judd Eustice) and Abraham (Ted Rooney), who are looked away in a separate wing.

Besides the two that are locked away, they have access to other parts of the building and contact with their family via a video call system. Each day they are given instructions by a Stewardess (Laura Duyn) and visited by Dr. Brandt and Nurse Oberhauser (Suzanne Owens-Duval).

But as time goes on, it appears the good Doctor might not be all he seems to be and neither does the cure. As patients fall ill, all under the watchfull eye of the facility's staff, the whole situation turns into a fight for survival.

Dealing with their diseases is no longer the worse thing anyone is worrying about as they make an attempt to escape, with the Dr. Brandt in toe. This is where Blair (Daniel Baldwin), one of the patient's friends, comes to the rescue. Once outside the building, the realise what they just went through might have just been the easy part!

What we have here is an intelligent indie film with originallity that will make your skin crawl. It asks us the question of just how far and what we would be willing to do to save ourselves from death and whether we should put all our faith into modern medicine. Just because "the doctor says so" doesn't necessarily mean it's the best thing to do! And that is certainly proved in this case.

The movie starts with a slow pace, but builds up and gathers steam the further it unravels. This is all helped along by the solid acting. The standout performance for me was from Haley Talbot and the creep factor is heightened by Judd Eustice as Timothy 'Tiny Tim' Jacobs, who is a disturbingly great character. It was also good to see Daniel Baldwin, who I haven't seen in anything since John Carpenter's Vampires and barely noticed in an episode of the TV series Grimm!

The direction from Todd E. Freeman is engaging and flows smoothly. Along with some pretty damn cool make up effects for a low budget horror, this really was a pleasure to watch. And with it ending in such a crazy fashion, which leaves it wide open for the sequel, I'm looking forward to Cell Count 2: Blood Count, which is now in development.

Cell Count gets 7/10

Check out the trailer below...

Saturday 16 February 2013

Would You Rather (2012)

Iris (Brittany Snow) lives with her ailing brother Raleigh (Logan Miller), who has leukaemia. Struggling to make ends meet as they have no over family, Iris is in desperate need for cash to pay for Raleigh's treatment.

In a meeting with Dr. Barden (Lawrence Gilliard Jr.) it seems that her luck might change. She's introduced to Shepard Lambrick (Jeffrey Combs) who invites her to enter a "competition." The details he gives are sketchy to say the least, but up for grabs is a lot of money which could not just help out the siblings, but maybe even change their life's.

Iris jumps in the car provided by Lambrick. On the way to the location of the competition, Iris drifts in and out sleep, dreaming about past events with her brother.

Arriving at the grand location, Iris is greeted by the butler, Bevans (Jonny Coyne) and meets her eight fellow contestants.

While each person taking part in the competition come from different backgrounds, they all have the common need for the life changing amount of money available to the winner. As they sit down to eat, their hosts, Lambrick and his son Julian (Robin Taylor) explain the rules. As you can imagine, it's a game of "would you rather," albeit, as it turns out, "EXTREME would you rather."

Lambrick gives one final choice to the group of contestants to take part or walk away before the game begins. They all stay, but when they realise just what's really involved, some of them have second thoughts if they should be there taking part.

Now stuck in a deadly and sadistic game, will Iris' need to help her brother overcome all the obstacles in her way or will she fall short of the mark? Only the strong will survive in this version of would you rather!

The first and only thing that bugged me about this movie was Shepard Lambrick, or rather the actor who played him. I was racking my brain where I'd seen him before. It wasn't till writing this that I realised it is of course, Jeffrey Combs, Mr Re-Animator (1985) himself!

Anyway, I digress, back to the actual film. It starts off pretty slow, following the story of Iris and her brother, but once the game is in full swing, this is where the fun begins. The characters involved in the game aren't given much of a back story, but this is a good thing, as what is revealed makes you think for yourself, creating your own theories.

Although Brittany Snow's performance seems mediocre at first, she really comes into her own towards the end of the film. Combs is sophisticatedly sadistic throughout, supported by the subtlety barbaric Jonny Coyne. The rest of the cast provide solid support.

The ideas of the each round in the game are brilliant and become more extreme and imaginative the further it goes on. It really does put you in film, thinking to yourself "what would I do this situation." The further I got into the movie the more I enjoyed it and with a fantastic twist ending, it has made the film one of my favourites of year so far.

If you want a fun ride with a seriously sick twist to it, then this is a movie worth watching!

Would You Rather gets 8/10

Check out the trailer below...

Wednesday 13 February 2013

Antiviral (2012)

In a world obsessed with celebrities, with social media at our finger tips, the paparazzi snapping shots of the rich and famous and to the extreme of stalking, just how far do you think people would go to be close to their favourite celebrity?

Antiviral takes that next step as it's set in a time where the average Joe off the street can feel at one with their idols. The Lucas Clinic provides their clients with the ultimate step in fandon. Along with other clinics, they provide viruses directly collected from your favourite star and inject it into you, for a price!

Syd March (Caleb Landry Jones) is a leading technician at The Lucas Clinic and one of the perks of his job, although security is tight, is being able to inject himself, with whatever or whoever he fancies.

He "likes to keep things interesting" as well as extracting and processing the virus (when he gets home) in order to pirate and sell it on to outside parties. One of these parties are a local butcher (of sorts), owned by Arvid (Joe Pingue), that grow stem cells of the celebrity using the virus itself.

Syd finds himself in a situation that work colleague Derek (Reid Morgan) would normally do. The boss, Dorian (Nicholas Campbell), has asked him to go collect a sample from their ill yet beautiful poster girl Hannah Geist (Sarah Gadon). Too good to miss the opportunity, Syd high tails to a restroom and injects Hannah's blood directly into his own arm, which makes him rather ill. After passing out for a while, Syd wakes up to the news that Hannah Geist has died from the very virus he has coursing through his body.

On the path to saving himself from imminent death, while being seriously affected by the virus, he gets involved with the Geist family physician, Dr. Abendroth (Malcolm McDowell). Syd now finds himself in the dangerous and viscous web of the virus pirating underworld and big business corporations. But will he find a cure in time and unravel the mystery surrounding Hannah's death?

First of all, if you are squeamish about needles then consider yourselves warned!

Son of David Cronenberg (Scanners, The Fly, Videodrome) , Brandon Cronenberg makes his feature film debut, in both the writing and direction department. Cronenberg actually re-edited the film after a showing at the 2012 Cannes Film Festival to make it tighter, trimming nearly six minutes out of the film. The revised film was first shown at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival, where it was a co-winner of the festival's Best Canadian First Feature Film award. It's not hard to see why it got an award.

What we have here is a power look at the lengths we might go to worship celebrities. The movie has a very slow pace, certain horror fans may find it boring, but for me it was very interesting and the pacing helped grasp the whole concept.

Delivering a very believable performance throughout was Caleb Landry Jones. His pale slender frame added to the realness of his illness. Although not having a great deal of screen time, Malcolm McDowell plays his character with underlining seriousness, something I haven't seen from him for a while. So it was good to see Cronenberg use him in such a role. The rest of the supporting cast added extra quality to the film, making the script come alive.

With a story that has real world connotations and the fluid direction, it really kept me involved, wanting to know more and connecting me with each character. This thought provoking movie has an air of dark realism and should keep you thinking about the message it delivers. An all round solid effort from David Cronenberg.

Antivirus gets 7/10

Check out the trailer below...

Tuesday 5 February 2013

The ABCs of Death (2012)

First up, let's start with the facts - The ABCs of Death "was created by 26 directors from around the world. Each director was given a letter of the alphabet and asked to choose a word.

They then created a short tale of death that related to their chosen word. They had complete artistic freedom regarding the content of their segments."

It says "26 directors," but there were two on one letter, as you'll with the following:

A Is for Apocalypse - Nacho Vigalondo
B Is for Bigfoot - Adrián García Bogliano
C is for Cycle - Ernesto Díaz Espinoza
D Is for Dogfight - Marcel Sarmiento
E is for Exterminate - Angela Bettis
F is for Fart - Noboru Iguchi
G is for Gravity - Andrew Traucki
H is for Hyrdo-Electric Diffusion - Thomas Cappelen Malling
I is for Ingrown - Jorge Michel Grau

J is for Jidai-geki (Samuria Movie) - Yudai Yamaguchi
K is for Klutz - Anders Morgenthaler
L is for Libido - Timo Tjahjanto
M Is for Miscarriage - Ti West
N is for Nuptials - Banjong Pisanthanakun
O is for Orgasm - Bruno Forzani & Hélène Cattet
P Is for Pressure - Simon Rumley
R Is for Removed - Srdjan Spasojevic
S is for Speed - Jake West
T Is for Toilet - Lee Hardcastle
U Is for Unearthed - Ben Wheatley
V is for Vagitus (The Cry of a Newborn Baby) - Kaare Andrews
W is for WTF? - Jon Schnepp
X Is for XXL - Xavier Gens
Y Is for Youngbuck - Jason Eisener
Z is for Zetsumetsu (Extinction) - Yoshihiro Nishimura

There really is a fantastic line up here and it reads like the "who's who" of modern horror.

Here's a few of the films by a few of the directors that you should recognise:

Hobo with a Shotgun (2011), Penumbra (2011), Dead Sushi (2012), We Are What We Are (2010) (which is has an English remake in production), Tokyo Gore Police (2008), Shutter (2004), Deadgirl (2008), A Serbian Film (2010) (which is the most disturbing film I've seen to date!), Timecrimes (2007), Doghouse (2009), The Innkeepers (2011), Kill List (2011), You're Next (2011) (which we're still waiting for!), May (2002) (the actress who plays May, Angela Bettis, directs a segment), and Frontier(s) (2007).

With the amount of short stories here, it's probably one of the best anthologies you'll ever see. There was only one segment where I thought to myself "MEH!" And that was G is for Gravity. Speaking of the letter G, there's plenty of GORE (see what I did there?!) throughout to keep the blood thirsty types, like myself, very pleased.

It has it's fair share of disturbing stuff too, which surprised me. L is for Libido was probably the most sick and twisted piece, but it was also very original.

As you can imagine, M Is for Miscarriage wasn't very pleasant, although it was very simple and effective.

Y Is for Youngbuck is also worth mentioning with the previous two.

The most fun segments for me were the animated ones, K is for Klutz and T Is for Toilet. Both stories revolve around a toilet and couldn't possibly be made any better with live action and SFX!

It also offers the completely weird and wonderful. Some of it is so far out there that only fans within the genre will appreciate and get it. This includes F is for Fart, H is for Hyrdo-Electric Diffusion, W is for WTF? and Z is for Zetsumetsu.

But what segments stood out the most me? L is for Libido is definitely worth mentioning again, along with R Is for Removed, U Is for Unearthed and X Is for XXL. But there was one other that was really special...

For me, D Is for Dogfight stood head and shoulders above the rest. The cinematography, choreography, score and even the sounds, or lack off, made for a visually stunning and original short with a brilliant twist.

Overall, the performaces from all the actors where engaging, the SFX ranged from cheap and cheerful to extravagant, there is a hint of predictability with some of the segments, but this collection of short stories from directors around the globe makes for a very entertaining, clever, fun, bloody, brutal, disturbing and shocking watch. It has some of the most original work I've seen for years. There's certain things featured that I thought I would never see on film, so giving the directors "complete artistic freedom" was a genius idea. This anthology is a must see!

The ABCs of Death gets 9/10

Check out the trailer below...

Monday 4 February 2013

Citadel (2012)

Tommy (Aneurin Barnard) and Joanne (Amy Shiels) are ready to move out of their crummy apartment in a rundown block. Not even the elevator works correctly. Tommy heads down to load a taxi with their belongings, leaving his pregnant wife standing outside the apartment.

On the way back up, as the elevator reaches his floor the door won't open. looking through the window of the elevator door, Tommy sees three hooded youths walking towards Joanne. He keeps tapping the button to open the door, but to no avail.

Without warning, the trio of hoodies attack Joanne! Now frantically pushing the elevator button, it starts to move back down to the ground floor. When he comes to a stop, Tommy has to force the door open himself. Rushing up the stairs in an attempt to save his wife, he finds he's to late as the gang flees the scene leaving Joanne on the floor, bloody and unconscious with a needle sticking out of her stomach.

Joanne is rushed to hospital, where the baby is delivered, healthy and well, but Joanne is left in a coma. Now living in a house, but in the same area, Tommy is left distraught by the event and develops agoraphobia. The young father is seeking help though, through group therapy and the support of a nurse, Marie (Wunmi Mosaku). The months pass, but Joanne's condition only gets worse and she passes away, leaving Tommy to fend for himself and their daughter. At Joanne's funeral, Tommy is warned by the priest (James Cosmo) to leave the area saying "you know they'll come looking for her."

Tommy has already made arrangements to leave the city. After handing in the keys to the house to the local council, he heads for the bus to take his his daughter away from the horrible area. But he doesn't make it on time and misses the bus!

Now he has to make his way back to the house as it's the only place he knows he can stay for the night. Tommy forces his way in, which means that he can't lock themselves in. As the night draws in, the mysterious hooded gang makes an attempt to take the baby. To Tommy's relief, Marie pays them a visit and seeing the state he is in, she takes father and daughter to stay at her place.

Looking for answers, Tommy goes to see the priest. But the answer he receives is more than he can take in. The priest reveals the true identity of the youths that are attacking people and taking small children and introduces a young boy called Danny (Jake Wilson).

The very next day, Marie decides to help Tommy with his agoraphobia. They head out and walk down an underpass. What happens next forces Tommy to face his fear, with the help of the priest and Danny.

Citadel did the rounds at films festivals last year from the US to as far as South Korea and also picked up a number of awards, one of which was the "Audience Award" at SXSW Film Festival. It's not hard to see why.

This Irish production is a very atmospheric and creepy slow burning movie. The cinematography reflects the mood throughout. The dark feeling of the film is helped brilliantly along by a very believable performance by the lead actor, Aneurin Barnard. The film revolves around his character and the traumatic experience, which means he carries the whole thing on his back with not even a hand full of supporting cast members, but he pulls it off without any doubt.

Ciaran Foy directs from his own script and delivers in both areas. The movie is more than a horror, it also deals with loosing loved ones and tackles the very real condition of agoraphobia in a serious and well represented manner. This all helps you connect with the story and the characters within it.

Citadel is an original, unsettling and harrowing film that has real world application. It will give you something to think about afterwards. And quite frankly, it puts some of the big budget stuff to shame!

Citadel gets 8/10

Check out the trailer below...