Sunday 31 March 2013

Kiss of the Damned (2012)

Being as the vampire sub-genre is my favourite, as soon as I saw the trailer for Kiss of the Damned I was excited! It looked like it had all the potential to be something special...

The film follows Djuna (Joséphine de La Baume), a lone vampire who lives in a secluded house owned by friend Xenia (Anna Mouglalis). The only other person who frequents the premises is the loyal housekeeper, a human of course, that keeps a watchful eye over things during the day.

While out returning some DVDs to the local rental store, Djuna spots a handsome stranger, Paolo (Milo Ventimiglia), but tries to avoid him. He follows her outside and they get talking. After going for a drink they end up back at Djuna's house, but she soon resists Paolo's advances for fear of what she might do to him.

Undeterred by this, Paolo continues to pursue the undead beauty. Eventually, she gives in to her animalistic passion.

Djuna reveals that she is a vampire and warns Paolo of the dangers, but again, this doesn't put him off and soon enough they are in the throws of sexual heat. One thing leads to another and she sinks her teeth into Paolo. What seemed to be just passion was actually love. Now a newborn vampire, Paolo is taught the tricks of the trade.

Their happy life together is soon interrupted by Djuna's sister Mimi (Roxane Mesquida). A bit of a rebel and a flare for breaking the rules, Mimi is making a go of playing it straight instead of feeding off and killing humans. So she's staying at the house till her own place is ready. This is where the trouble starts though. Mimi's actions cause a stir in the vampire community and a riff between siblings.

On the surface, Mimi looks and acts like a spoilt brat. But she's far from it. In fact, she's a master manipulator using her own sexual prowess for a hidden agenda. Now it's not just Djuna and Paolo's relationship that's in danger, but Xenia's reputation as a highly respected member of the vampire community. Will the passionate couple have their fairytale ending before Mimi ruins everything? Only time will tell...

The first thing that's instantly noticeable about this movie is the throw back feel to it. It pays homage to classic 60s/70s vampire/horror flicks. From the cinematography to the spellbinding score, everything just works in harmony to give us a modern vampire film with an old school feel that we've been missing out on for a very long time.

I'm sure your all thinking "what about the vampires, are they real vampires?!" Well, they don't sparkle, that's for sure! The vamps in this movie are portrayed as carnal beasts with sophistication and a twist of "eurotrash." Of course, this was helped by the great cast who played their roles with ease. Specially the two leading ladies, Joséphine de La Baume and Roxane Mesquida. Milo Ventimiglia, whom I've not seen in much since Heroes, was also solid.

Along with the spellbinding score, came a pretty damn cool soundtrack too. Again, every piece of music suited the scene perfectly. It made it seem like the characters had their own theme music at certain points. The costumes where worn with elegance and finesse, looking somewhat retro but still high fashion. Some of the cinematography and visuals are stunning, giving us a glimpse of what it would be and feel like to be a vampire. The SFX are simply effective with a nice touch of blood and gore when appropriate. The sex scenes are rather erotic, but manage to stay classy!

I'd go as far to say that this is one of the best 21st Century vampire flicks to date. I find it hard to believe that this is only the first feature, written and directed, by Xan Cassavetes. If this is the quality we can expect from her then bring it on, I look forward to more!

Kiss of the Damned is sexy, seductive, fierce and a true vampire film for true vampire fans. The movie is simply cool as fuck!

Kiss of the Damned is 5 stars

Check out the trailer below...


Friday 29 March 2013

House of Bad (2012)

After a passionate night of sex, Sirah (Sadie Katz) is hauling ass away from Tommy (Clint Jung). In her hands is a suitcase full of drugs. She headed to meet her two sisters, Teig (Heather L. Tyler) and Lily (Cheryl Sands), who are waiting at the getaway vehicle.

The siblings drive to an old deserted house that they grew up in, which also has a bad history and worse memories! As the girls hide out there, the scars of their past start to haunt them.

The longer they stay in the house the worse it becomes. Staying out of the reach and hiding from the drug dealer wasn't bad enough, but now they have to contend with more than just old memories.

With flash backs throughout the movie, we get to see what happened when the sisters were just children. The flash back scenes are more like extended subliminal images which work to great effect as they give us a slight glimpse into what happened without going into too much detail.

What we see in these flashes of imagery are bloody and brutal and a harrowing experience for anyone, let alone children.

Lily is the first one to feel, see and be affected by the house. These memories are now starting to manifest themselves both mentally and physically and the sisters begin to turn on one another. The house and what haunts it is slowly taking hold of the three women.

But it's Sirah that seems to be holding it together better than her other siblings. Teig and Lily are the ones that are losing the plot and putting them all in danger. What started out as a simple heist turns into a fight for, not just sanity, but also for their lives. Can they escape their own past as well as the history of the house?

Tyler, Katz, and Sands are completely the main focus of the piece and they carry the film together well. The performance from each actress is actually pretty solid for saying they're all relatively new comers to the feature film side of the industry. For me, Cheryl Sands gave the best performance though. She seemed to flow more naturally in her role.

Jim Towns did an excellent job of directing from his own script that was also contributed to by Scott Frazelle (Creepshow III - "Haunted Dog" segment). The score added a continued amount of unsettlement throughout.

Most of the horror comes by way of the flash back scenes, which, as I mentioned before gives a good amount of detail without being too long or too short. The simple SFX are used to great effect which keeps things nice and creepy. Now I do have to warn you, this movie is rather slow for the most part, as a lot of time is spent in the house. But don't let that put you off. It more than kept my attention due to the story and how the characters developed.

Fresh, sexy and unsettling, this supernatural thriller is a fine example of what the low budget indie scene has to offer. I'm looking forward to seeing what Jim Towns has to offer in the future.

House of Bad gets 6.5/10

Head here to check out the trailer -

Tuesday 19 March 2013

Dark Feed (2013)

OK, let's get this out of the way first...
"From the writers of John Carpenter's The Ward."

Why don't I like that sentence? Well, as much as I rate Amber Heard and the rest of the cast were decent, I felt it fell short of the mark. Not due to Carpenter's direction, but down to the story itself. So instantly, I went into this film with caution.

In the movie we have a film crew, in fact, pretty much the whole production company, that have taken up residence in an abandoned psychiatric hospitals in order to shoot a low budget horror film.

Now, the hospital has, of course, a shadowy past. Like an infection, this past evil that once resided there, oozes through the walls, ceilings and floors.

The screenwriter Chris (Andy Rudick), is introduced to the cast and crew. But he is soon rushed out of the way by the director, Andrei (Jason Beaubien) and producer Harry (Jonathan Thomson). The production manager is sent to "baby sit" Chris and show him around.

The cast and crew are a mixed bunch, some down to earth, some are just plain weird and others, like the two stars, Rachel (Rebecca Whitehurst) and Jack (Michael Reed), act like prima donnas! Everything seems normal at first, but the longer they stay and shoot the movie, the more apparent it becomes that something is wrong.

One by one, whatever it is that possesses the hospital, has a profound effect on all those who work under it's roof. They each have their own individual experience. The more sane people out of them seem to be attacked by the unearthly presence, but the more outrageous characters exhibit increasingly strange behaviour.

Now the more mentally sound members of the work force realise that they need to get out of the building before it effects them to the point of death. But it's not that simple, as the old hospital has different plans for all those involved!

Even though the abandoned psychiatric hospital formula has been tried and tested, it takes something special to pull it off. This movie kept to that formula, but a little to close as it was predictable from start to finish. It had so much potential, but fell flat on it's face. It wasn't the VFX, which are above par, it wasn't even the story, but rather the delivery of a poor script by worse actors. And it's not like the directors (Michael Rasmussen and Shawn Rasmussen) failed in their department. There was some great scenes and I liked a lot of their vision. They provided some pretty decent gore too. Rather it was, what can only be described as, the piss poor cast!

I just didn't feel connected to any of the characters because of the poor acting from a poor script. Which in turn meant that, I didn't really care what happened to the them, so when there should have been a scene of suspense and tension, it was mediocre and lifeless. Even the score seemed to lack the punch it should have had.

So it wasn't original, which it didn't have to be, but it was predictable. I think with the right person penning the script it could have provided some decent scares, even with awful the cast. The Rasmussen brothers should stick to coming up with the story, not writing the script. And even though this was their first attempt at directing, it wasn't bad.

I wouldn't recommend this movie, but on the other hand, I wouldn't say give it a miss. I just feel let down by what could have been something great.

Dark Feed gets 4.5/10

Check out the trailer below...

Thursday 14 March 2013

Music in Horror - Scores & Original Soundtracks Part 1

When music in horror is mentioned, most people immediately think of the classic theme tunes we've all come to love, like Halloween and Psycho, just for example. But we'll come to that side of things later.

First of all, I'm going to look at Original Soundtracks. This is where MY taste in music comes in to play. Some of you may know already, but for those who don't, I'm a METAL HEAD!

What sounds better accompanying a gory, bloody death scene than a face-melting, ear-grinding metal song? Let's face it, HORROR and HEAVY METAL go together like Freddy Krueger and his glove of knives or Jason Voorhees and his hockey mask! In fact, I'd dare to say that all those "do gooders" out there in the world that think horror movies and heavy metal music are the Devil's work probably have this image in there head...
"Check this riff, it's fucking tasty!"

"Yes you are fucked! Shit out of luck! Now I'm complete and my cock you will suck! This world will be mine, and you're first in line! You brought me the pick and now you shall both die!"

This seems as good a place to start as any, although not really horror, I'm giving Beelzeboss (The Final Showdown) from Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny (2006) a special mention. Why? Because it features the Devil (played by the extremely talented David Grohl) in a "rock-off" against Jack Black for the soul of Kyle Gass. And to put it in plain English, it's awesome!

Here's the video...

Headed back to 1985 now with Dario Argento's Phenomena (known as Creepers in the US).

This movie soundtrack not only boasts music by Motörhead, but also features work by Goblin, who have been scoring soundtracks for Dario Argento, such as Suspiria (1977) and George A. Romero's Dawn of the Dead (1978).

But my pick from the this film is Iron Maiden - Flash of the Blade.

Check it out...

Skippy forward to 2011, Matt Farnsworth gave us a look at a new breed of slasher with The Orphan Killer (review here). It's probably one of the heaviest soundtracks you'll here and covers metalcore, industrial metal, symphonic black metal/death metal, deathcore, progressive metal and melodic/hardcore.

Affiance, Asking Alexandria, Deception of a Ghost, Anew Revolution, This or the Apocalypse, Most Precious Blood, A Bullet for a Pretty Boy, Dawn of Ashes, Born of Osiris and No Bragging Rights are all featured, but it's First Blood that have 3 tracks on the OST.
So here's one of those tracks...

Now on to a franchise with great soundtracks, Resident Evil.
Over the course of the franchise the more notable artist/bands are:
Slipknot (my favourite band), Marilyn Manson, Coal Chamber, Fear Factory, Static-X, The Cyrstal Method, Rammstein, Lacuna Coil, Killswitch Engage, DevilDriver, Cradle Of Filth, CKY, Deftones, 36 Crazyfists, Rob Zombie, Chimaira and Shadows Fall. My top 2 picks though are as follows...

Slipknot - My Plague (Resident Evil)...

And Killswitch Engage - The End Of Heartache (Resident Evil: Apocalypse)...

Another franchise is Underworld. There's 2 versions of the Underworld: Rise of the Lycans OST which is made up of remixes, so too is Underworld Awakening. For the OST, my top pick out of the 4 movies would have to be Underworld Evolution. Featured on it are: Atreyu, Trivium, Slipknot, Lacuna Coil, Alkaline Trio and Cradle Of Filth. The 2 tracks I'm going to share with you are from Underworld Awakening and Underworld Evolution.

First up is Evanescence - Made of Stone (Renholdër Remix) from Underworld Awakening...

And Atreyu - Her Portrait In Black from Underworld Evolution...

 Yes, that's right, Bride of Chucky (1998)!

The music behind the killer doll is brought to you by White Zombie, Coal Chamber, Judas Priest, Type O Negative, Slayer, Bruce Dickinson, Static-X and Motorhead among others.

My top 2 picks are as follows...
Judas Priest - Blood Stained...

And Slayer- Human Disease...

Now for the last one and probably my top choice, taking into consideration that most of the soundtrack was created for the movie by Korn's Jonathan Davis. It is of course Queen of the Damned (2002). Now, I liked the movie, but wasn't blown away by it and I actually think that the soundtrack is better than the film itself!

The OST has a strong mix of new songs (at the time) and Nu-Metal hits. It features Wayne Static of Static-X, David Draiman of Disturbed, Chester Bennington of Linkin Park, Marilyn Manson, Jay Gordon of Orgy and Jonathan Davis performing the actual songs used directly in the film. They are are also featured on the DVD as music videos. The tracks are System, Slept So Long, Redeemer, Forsaken and Not Meant For Me.

Here's the full track listing:
1. Not Meant for Me - Wayne Static of Static-X**
2. Forsaken - David Draiman of Disturbed**
3. System - Chester Bennington of Linkin Park**
4. Change (In the House of Flies) - Deftones
5. Redeemer - Marilyn Manson**
6. Dead Cell - Papa Roach
7. Penetrate - Godhead
8. Slept So Long - Jay Gordon of Orgy**
9. Down with the Sickness - Disturbed
10.Cold - Static-X
11.Headstrong - Earshot
12.Body Crumbles - Dry Cell
13.Excess - Tricky
14.Before I'm Dead - Kidneythieves
15.Not Meant for Me - Jonathan Davis***
16.Forsaken - Jonathan Davis***
17.System - Jonathan Davis***
18.Redeemer - Jonathan Davis***

(**) Written by Jonathan Davis.
(***) Only featured on reissue.

Here's my top 2 picks.

First up is the video as seen in the film, sung by Jonathan Davis...

And to finish up, is a fan made video of (my second favourite band), Deftones - Change (In the House of Flies)...

Well, I hope you enjoyed the read and tunes! Look out for Part 2 soon...

Sources - Wiki, Amazon, YouTube, allmusic, IMDB. And of course a special thanks to the fans of Maven's Movie Vault of Horror on facebook.

Thursday 7 March 2013

Mama (2013)

Before watching Mama, I didn't realise that it was based on the 2008 short film of the same name, also written and directed by the same Andrés Muschietti. You can check it out at the bottom of the page after the review.

Jeffrey (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) and his company are in financial ruin, causing him to go on a shooting rampage, the details of which we here over the radio from an open car, while Jeffrey rushes around his house to gather his two girls together, Victoria and Lilly.

Now speeding down a snowy road, the young siblings are sat in the back of the car, distraught . Victoria cries out for her father to slow down, only to get a harsh reply of "SHUT UP!" which in turn causes Jeffrey to lose control of the car, spinning them all of the road.

They all come round in the crashed car, now stuck in the middle of a forest. Jeffrey drags his children through the woods where they find an abandoned house. After getting the fire going to keep warm, Victoria realises they are not alone. Before the father commits an unimaginable act, he is snatched away by the unseen force. Victoria and Lilly are left alone to face what lies in the darkness.

Five years later and the girls are still missing, but Jeffrey's brother Lucas (also played by Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) is spending every penny he makes on the continued search for his nieces. And finally it pays off. The sisters are found in the very same house in the woods, although they now seem to be completely feral!

After a battle in court against their aunt, Jean Podolski (Jane Moffat), over the custody of Victoria (Megan Charpentier) and Lilly (Isabelle Nélisse), Lucas wins with the help of Dr. Dreyfuss (Daniel Kash). The deal is they get to live rent free in a home provided by the institute, that looked after and rehabilitated the two girls, so the Doctor can continue his work.

This is where it becomes apparent to Lucas and his girlfriend Annabel (Jessica Chastain) that Victoria and Lilly have something to hide and "Mama," who Victoria and Lilly refers to, makes it's presence felt. After Lucas is hospitalised in an accident, a reluctant Annabel is left to look after the siblings on her own. But the more time she spends with them, the closer they become. And this is when the trouble really starts.

In the meantime, along with digging a little deeper into the past, Dr. Dreyfuss continues his therapy with Victoria, only to find the unexplainable. Now "Mama" is showing what it's capable of, putting everyone in danger!

When you see this - "Presented by Guillermo del Toro," you should automatically expect quality. OK, so I wasn't a massive fan of Don't Be Afraid of the Dark (2010), but my blame for that lies with the director. The Orphanage and Julia's Eyes (review here) however, were great. That said, Mama surpasses all of these.

From the get go where thrown straight into the tension and are presented with a very unsettling scenario. Even the opening credits have a creep factor. The movie throughout is has that touch of style and flair that we have become accustomed to from Spanish horror, but in the English language. It transfers over perfectly.

This of course has to be credited to a beautifully crafted screenplay by Andrés and Barbara Muschietti and Neil Cross and also Andrés Muschietti's direction, which bought the best out of a very solid cast. Megan Charpentier and Isabelle Nélisse, the real stars of the piece, gave a glimpse of quality at such young ages that will surely flourish in years to come. I personally find kids in horror creepy as hell, but only when they play their role right, which the two children did.

This for me was very nearly a perfect film. It is a little predictable, but then, what film isn't these days? The only real weak point was the SFX. Some of the CGI looked a bit cartoony, while other times it was really effective. They didn't seem to find the right balance.

The movie is eerie and creepy pretty much from start to finish. It does provide some scares and I wouldn't call them cheap either. In certain scenes, you should be able to see what's coming, but because it's delivered so well, it will still make you feel on edge or even make you jump. This is all help by an equally unsettling and perfectly timed score along with some disturbing sound FX. The ending should have you twisted up too. You think it's going in one direction, then it heads in the opposite, only to find it's original path, but not quite. That should make sense if you've seen it! It might even have you shedding a tear. Mama is a must watch for any horror fan.

Mama gets 9.5/10

Check out the trailer and the short film below...

Tuesday 5 March 2013

Laughter (2012)

Super low budget indie film, Laughter, is director Adam Dunning's second feature.

The story follows a group of students that make plans to get together one last time before they go there separate ways after summer vacation.

Joey (Rocky Petroziello), is suffering after the death of his mother. As if being bullied at school wasn't bad enough, he's also got an abusive father to deal with that blames him for his mother's death. So the party seems like a perfect escape. Before the festivities begin, the boys have a plan to scare the crap out of the girls.

As night falls, the group of teenagers are sat around an open fire, drinking beer and having fun. The only thing missing? A good ghost story to set up the prank.

You've guess it, the scary story ends with someone dressed as a clown jumping out of the darkness and scaring everyone. Although, it doesn't quite go as planned, in fact, it goes horribly wrong, resulting in death! Of course, the big bad jock has to take charge now as panic sets in with all involved. Do they go to the police or cover it up by burying the body and agree to take an oath of silence? With their young futures ahead of them and possibly facing jail, they agree to do the latter, even though the deceased is a friend.

OK, this isn't anything original by any means, but it does have a message of trust, betrayal and friendship. So, much in the same vain as I know What You Did Last Summer, we all know what happens next. A few months later, one by one, the people involved in the ill fated night start to go missing and end up dead. And in true slasher fashion, the killer stalks the kids with vengeful fury.

With it being such a low budget production, there's always going to be question about the quality. Which means the acting is never going to that great and more times than most, the acting is just awful. But in this case, it wasn't terrible and the main cast provided enough quality to keep my attention. The effects are cheap and cheerful, but they were also believable. The score provided an air of eeriness that you would expect from any decent slasher flick.

Adam Dunning is another one of those indie guys that write, direct and produce projects themselves. In this movie he also works editing, cinematography and make up. And I believe that his hard work has paid off. For a second time effort (his first being The Infected [2011]), he's definitely headed in the right direction. With the right financial backing in the production area, Dunning would be more than capable in delivering a stronger script and more refined direction.

I'm not going to give this movie a mark out 10. I'm simply going to say this...
We, as horror fans, should be supporting projects like what we have here. To give the little known indie guys a help in their endeavours as writer / directors. Let's face it, most of Hollywood's efforts are either remakes or sequels now-a-days. Which leaves room for the people like Adam Dunning to put their foot in the door. But it also takes the fans spread the word. So give this movie a go. It's not going to blow you away, but it is fun, gory and has a genuinely creepy clown. You never know, it just might surprise you!

For more info, head to the official facebook page here.