Wednesday 26 November 2014

Mayhem Horror Film Festival 2014 (Part 2): Day 3

DAY 3: Saturday 1st November

The first full day of Mayhem started at 12pm and went on well past 12am. The black coffee, with a few shots of Jack, was flowing.

Saturday was kicked off with Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead.

I had already seen this, but it was still great watching it a second time. The Swedish comedy horror is directed and written by the same team that made the first film, Stig Frode Henriksen, Vegar Hoel, Tommy Wirkola.

This sequel carries straight on from the Dead Snow and follows Martin (Vegar Hoel), who has already accidentally killed his girlfriend with an axe, chain-sawing his own arm off, and watched in horror as his closest friends were devoured by a zombified Nazi battalion. What could possibly be worse? Everything else to come! Herzog is now on the rampage to finish what he started and all out warfare ensues.

This movie is an absolute blast from start to finish with some great SFX and, although quite different from its predecessor, is even better. This is a must watch for Dead Snow fans.

Dead Snow 2 gets 4 Stars

Check out the trailer...

Next up was the psychological horror Starry Eyes, written and directed by Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer and starring Alex Essoe who gave the best female performance in a film at the festival.

What would you be willing to do and how far would you go to gain fame and fortune? This movie delves into the dark side of Hollywood and follows Sarah's (Essoe) attempts at stardom and her journey to getting what she wants.

Her own life isn't just affected, but also her friends, who are also tyring to break into the film industry.

This is really up there as regards being one of the best films this year.

Starry Eyes gets 5 Stars

Check out the trailer...

Housebound is a horror comedy from New Zealand, written and directed by Gerard Johnstone. The film marks his feature length directional debut.

Kylie (Morgana O'Reilly) is forced to return to the house she grew up in when the court places her on home detention. Her punishment is made all the more unbearable by the fact she has to live there with her mother Miriam (Rima Te Wiata) who's convinced that the house is haunted. Kylie becomes privy to unsettling whispers & strange bumps in the night, and begins to wonder if the house is in fact possessed by a hostile spirit.

Much like the first film of the day, this is a blast from start to finish with some great humour, thrills and plot twists.

Housebound gets 4 Stars

Here's the trailer...

Next up was a selection of short films from various directors from around the globe. Here's the line-up...

CALL GIRL. Director: Jill Sixx Gevargizian
In one man's attempt to exploit his date night via video-chat, he ends up sharing something far more disturbing.

METAMORPHOSIS. Director: Robert Nevitt
An unwitting participant in a medical trial discovers that some drugs have rather strange side effects.

BASKIN. Director: Can Evrenol
Four cops, go to hell.

6 SHOOTER. Director: David Wayman
6 friends discover a mysterious old bottle, but they soon learn it contains more than just alcohol.

BOX ROOM. Director: Michael Lathrop
Jerry is a strange and solitary boy who lives alone with his young neglectful mother in a run down apartment. Behind the bedroom wall he discovers a seductive alien creature.

MR DENTONN. Director: Ivan Villamel
On a cold winter night, Laura reads her brother David the story of a strange creature that attacks children. Suddenly, a shiver runs up Laura's body from feeling a strange presence in the house.

THE MUCK. Director: Tony Wash
Laverne comes home after a strenuous workout and decides to take a relaxing bath. She strips down, settles into the tub, and closes her eyes. Serenity at last - or so she thought.

I AM MONSTER. Director: Shannon Lark
Vivienne's extraordinary fetishism has taken her to a new level. She gets her kicks by violating the dead in a hospital morgue. Tonight, however, Vivienne meets Jason, a fresh body who has some ideas of his own.

ONE PLEASE. Director: Jesse Burks
Mommy and Daddy love you...very much.

COLERA. Director: Aritz Moreno
Cholera: Path. Acute, infectious disease, often epidemic and very serious.

THE MARIONETTE. Director: Jack Lindley
A chilling fairytale about the world's greatest dancer whom came from gruesome beginnings.

INVOCATION. Director: Robert Morgan
A short horror film about the dangers of stop-motion animation.

THE STOMACH. Director: Ben Steiner
Frank's had enough. A spirit medium whose unique and grotesque method of channelling the dead is putting his own health at risk, he wants out. But others, in this world and the next, have plans of their own.

REVULVA. Director: Jack Delaney
A girl is getting messy playing strip poker with a bunch of lecherous dudes. They ogle her as she begins to strip off, but she turns the tables on them... Violently.

My top 5 out of these are as follows:
1- I am Monster. I was both disgusted and aroused, all at the same time!
2- Box Room. Disturbing and fucked up! That's all I need to say.
3- One Please. A very clever short with a cameo from Michael Berryman.
4- Invocation. Stop-motion horror is simply fantastic. Morgan delivers every time.
5- ReVulva. This needs to be made into a feature! Enough said.

After the shorts it was back to the features and the penultimate film of the evening, The Canal.

The movie follows film archivist David (Rupert Evans), wife Alice (Hannah Hoekstra), their son and their seemingly perfect lives together. Shortly after discovering that his house was the setting for a brutal murder in 1902 he becomes progressively more unsettled and unhinged, as he begins to believe that a spectral presence is in his house. To make matters worse, David's life is soon turned upside down when he catches his wife cheating.

This Irish horror crosses in between the psychological and supernatural realm with stunning effect and keeps you second guessing everything you see on screen.

The acting is engaging and believable from all the cast. The SFX are very effective and creepy as hell, as is the score. All of that, mixed with the superb story telling from writer / director Ivan Kavanagh, creates a perfect horror film that will stay with you for days after watching it.

I'm not ashamed to admit that The Canal had me freaked out a number of times and that doesn't happen very often! This is my number 1 pick for scariest and best movie of the Festival.

The Canal gets 5 Stars
Check out the Q&A with director Ivan Kavanagh and producer Anne Marie Naughton and the trailer below that...

The final film of the day was an 80's classic, StageFright: Aquarius, aka Deliria.

A group of auditioned stage actors rehearse for an upcoming musical production. While locking themselves in the theatre for rehearsal, not knowing that an escaped psychopath sneaked into the theatre with them.

StageFright was a first time watch for me and I thoroughly enjoyed the Italian slasher.

Check out the trailer below...

That's day 3 done. Stay tuned for day 4...

Saturday 8 November 2014

Mayhem Horror Film Festival 2014 (Part 1): Day 1 & 2

This year marked the 10th birthday of Nottingham's (UK) Mayhem Horror Film Festival and the first time for me attending the whole of the four day event. I ordered an early bird weekend pass before any of the films were announced and waited for the end of October to arrive with intrepid anticipation!

Arriving at the Broadway Cinema I was welcomed with a friendly smile and a hello from all the staff and I sat down with some friends that I originally met through my Facebook group UK Horror Fans United. Next to me in the picture below is Jonathan who also has a blog that you can check out here - Jonny's Cult Films.

DAY 1: Thursday 30th October

The festival officially kicked of at 7pm with an introduction (see video below) by three members of Astron-6 (the team behind Father's Day, Manborg and Bio-cop), Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy and Conor Sweeney. On the agenda was an Astron-6 Shorts Showcase which included Bio-Cop, Goreblade, Inferno of the Dead, Lazer Ghost 2, Cool Guys, Breaking Santa.

You can check out some of their short films and other cool stuff on their YouTube Channel HERE.

Here's Inferno of the Dead for you to watch...

The first feature length film of the festival was The Editor, again from the Astron-6 team.

My signed poster!

The Editor is a Giallo inspired romp about a film editor, once the best in the business until an accident caused him to become an amputee, who gets caught up in murder as one by one, his co-workers are killed.

The film is filled with some great nods to Fulci, Cavara, Argento, has a ridiculous amount of gratuitous nudity and hilarious misogyny that is only topped by the chaotic violence. It's also a very beautiful looking film too with a fantastic score that includes music from Claudio Simonetti (Suspiria, Tenebrae, Demons).

Written by (and starring) Adam Brooks, Matthew Kennedy and Conor Sweeney, directed by Brooks and Kennedy, every performance is on point and the comedy timing is perfect and that's something that Astron-6 have seemed to mastered in a short space of time.

The cast includes Paz de la Huerta, Samantha Hill, Laurence R. Harvey, Sheila Campbell, Udo Kier, Tristan Risk, and Dan Bern.

If you thought Father's Day and Manborg are good then this will blow you away as it's Astron-6's best film, so far!

The Editor gets 5 Stars

Here's the question and answer session after the screening...

Just to rub it in a bit for fellow Astron-6 fans, here I am with the boys themselves...

From left to right: Manborg, erm, I mean Matthew Kennedy, Me of course, Conor Sweeney & Adam Brooks
Check out the trailer for The Editor...

The final film of the night was Let Us Prey.

Pollyanna McIntosh, star of The Woman, plays a rookie police officer. On her first night shift in a small town police station she encounters a mystifying stranger. The station soon becomes busy with miscreants locked up in the cells.

The stranger, played by Liam Cunningham who gives a stellar performance, has an adverse affect on everyone in the police station and it soon becomes apparent that this man is not of this world. Is he here to carry out God's judgement? Is he the devil doing the devil's work? Or is his purpose higher than both, but equally unsettling?

This film is full of great performances, violence, mystery and dread. With a well written story by David Cairns and Fiona Watson and great direction by Brian O'Malley, it keeps you interested from start to finish.

Let Us Prey gets 4 Stars

 Here's the trailer for Let Us Prey...

With a fantastic start to the festival, I was looking forward to and raring to start the next day.

DAY 2: Friday 31th October

Halloween, what a perfect way to spend it at a horror film festival! There were a few people that dressed up, including myself and two friends Angi and Martyn. We met up in Hooters, as you do, for drinks before day two of Mayhem began.

Friday kicked off with what could only be described as a mind fuck of a film! The movie in question was James Ward Byrkit's Coherence.

This film is more of a Sci-Fi Thriller, but it still delivered some great moments of tension and fright. The story follows a group of friends that gather for a dinner party on an evening when a comet is passing overhead.

Straight from the word go, things seem to be strange as the group go about their evening. When a power cut hits and two of the group head out to find a house with power the situation really becomes bizarre and unnerving.

The events that follow have all involved questioning their own existence and the world as they know it. Confusion on all parts lead to some questionable behaviour and mind blowing realities.

The cast included Emily Baldoni, Maury Sterling, Nicholas Brendon, Elizabeth Gracen, Alex Manugian, Lauren Maher, Hugo Armstrong and Lorene Scafaria. They all gave natural and very believable performances.

Coherence gets 4 Stars
Check oit the trailer below...

Next on the agenda was 2014's The Town That Dreaded Sundown which is directed by American Horror Story's Alfonso Gomez-Rejon.

Before I go any further I have to point out that this is NOT a remake or even a re-imagining. It is in fact a sequel of sorts and can be held as a stand alone film.

A high school student, Jami (Addison Timlin) witnesses the start of what leads to a number of murders. Decades after a masked serial killer terrorised the small town of Texarkana and a film, the original The Town That Dreaded Sundown from 1976 was made, it seems as though there could be a copy cat on the loose.

As Jami starts to investigate what's going on while more murders are happening, she uncovers some disturbing truths.

Although this is a decent addition to the slasher sub-genre, I personally thought it was the weakest movie of the festival. That said, I still enjoyed it. It reminded me of Scream in certain places when the characters in the film often refereed the original movie. If you want some light horror that's very watchable then you'll enjoy it.

The Town That Dreaded Sundown gets 3 Stars

Watch the tralier here...

Friday came to an end with a fantastic treat that also carried on the "Texas" theme. I have seen it so many times over the years, but getting to see it on the big screen was simply glorious. I'm talking about Tobe Hooper's 1974 seminal masterpiece The Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

Of course, this movie needs no explanation and should be high on anyone's list as one of the best horror films ever made. Seeing Hooper's vivid and brutal imagery on the big screen made for an extremely intense viewing. The loud screams of Marilyn Burns and the revving of Leatherface's chainsaw through the surround sound system of the theatre made it even more terrifying. With this year being it's 40th anniversary, this classic film still stands tall and proud after all these years and can easily give any new horror movie a run for it's money. I've even pre-ordered the 40th anniversary bluray steelbook.

Here the 40th anniversary trailer...

So that's my review of days 1 and 2 of Mayhem Horror Film Festival. Over the course of the next week I will post day 3, 4 and then a special article on "10 Years of Mayhem" where I interview the organisers of the event, so keep your eyes out for those.

Saturday 1 November 2014

Countdown to Halloween: Top 10 Remakes (2000 to Present)

This year's countdown to Halloween is remakes. A touchy subject for some, but I always ignore the people on the "We hate remakes bandwagon." The rules were as follows: This list only includes films that were released in the year 2000 up till the present time. As always it's been a public vote decided by YOU, the fans. The actual countdown started on my the Maven's Movie Vault of Horror Facebook page, but today on Halloween, as well as the whole list, the number spot is revealed. So let's begin...

Number 10 - THE RING (2002)

This is an English language remake of Hideo Nakata's 1998 original Japanese film "Ringu." Naomi Watts stars as Rachel Keller who is a journalist investigating a videotape that may have killed four teenagers (including her niece).

There is an urban legend about this tape: the viewer will die seven days after watching it. If the legend is correct, Rachel will have to run against time to save her son's and her own life.


We all know the story right? 

After picking up a traumatised young hitchhiker, five friends find themselves stalked and hunted by a deformed chainsaw-wielding killer and his family of equally psychopathic killers. And Jessica Biel provides the eye candy!

I've actually just watched the original on the big screen at Mayhem Horror Film Festival and it still stands up to this day against any of it's modern counterparts and genre flicks.

Number 8 - LET ME IN (2010)

Another English language remake. This time based on the 2008 Swedish film Let the Right One In. The Hammer Film Production was nearly scene for scene, word for word, the same as the original but still made for an interesting watch. The young Chloƫ Grace Moretz played the role of the vampire and gave a great performance.

In Los Alamos, New Mexico, the twelve year-old Owen is a lonely and outcast boy bullied in school by Kenny and two other classmates; at home, Owen dreams of avenging himself against the trio of bullies. He befriends his twelve-year-old next door neighbour, Abby, who only appears during the night in the playground of their building. Meanwhile, Abby's father is a wanted serial-killer who drains the blood of his victims to supply Abby, who is actually an ancient vampire. Abby advises Owen to fight Kenny; however, soon he discovers that she is a vampire, and he feels fear and love for the girl. Meanwhile a police officer is investigating the murder cases, believing that it is a satanic cult.

Number 7 - MY BLOODY VALENTINE [3D] (2009)

With the screenplay written by Todd Farmer (Jason X), this remake is based on Stephen A. Miller's original 1981 story. The film stars Supernatural's Jensen Ackles.

Tom returns to his hometown on the tenth anniversary of the Valentine's night massacre that claimed the lives of 22 people. Instead of a homecoming, however, Tom finds himself suspected of committing the murders, and it seems like his old flame is the only one will believes he's innocent.

Number 6 - MANIAC (2012)

Just when the streets seemed safe, a serial killer with a fetish for scalps is back and on the hunt.

This remake of the 1980 flick of the same name stars Elijah Wood as Frank, who is the withdrawn owner of a mannequin store, but his life changes when young artist Anna appears asking for his help with her new exhibition.

As their friendship develops and Frank's obsession escalates, it becomes clear that she has unleashed a long-repressed compulsion to stalk and kill.

The great performance from Wood is equalled by the fantastic score.

Number 5 - HALLOWEEN (2007)

Rob Zombie's brutal take on Halloween has caused more arguments (especially on Facebook) within the horror community than any other remake!

You all know the story right?!!! Michael Myers, Laurie Strode, Dr. Samuel Loomis etc etc. I won't insult you.

Number 4 - THE CRAZIES (2010)  

This is a remake of George A. Romero 1973 original.

As a toxin begins to turn the residents of Ogden Marsh, Iowa into violent psychopaths, sheriff David Dutton tries to make sense of the situation while he, his wife, and two other unaffected townspeople band together in a fight for survival.

Number 3 - THE HILLS HAVE EYES (2006)

Haute tension (High Tension aka Switchblade Romance) director Alexandre Aja remade Wes Craven's 1977 classic.

A suburban American family is being stalked by a group of psychotic people who live in the desert, far away from civilisation.

Number 2 - DAWN OF THE DEAD (2004)

George A. Romero's 1978 uber classic get the overhaul from Zack Snyder. I'm actually surprised this isn't number 1!

A nurse, a policeman, a young married couple, a salesman, and other survivors of a worldwide plague that is producing aggressive, flesh-eating zombies, take refuge in a mega Midwestern shopping mall.

Number 1 - EVIL DEAD (2013)

Five friends head to a remote cabin, where the discovery of a Book of the Dead leads them to unwittingly summon up demons living in the nearby woods. The evil presence possesses them until only one is left to fight for survival.

Produced by original director and leading man, Sam Raimi and Bruce Campbell, the Fede Alvarez directed remake takes first place. It's pays homage to the classic original and boasts some of the best practical FX in horror film history!

What are your thoughts? Agree or not, let me know.

Thank you again to the voters that took part on Facebook. I couldn't and wouldn't do these top 10s without you.

Sunday 19 October 2014

See No Evil 2 (2014) DVD Review

When the announcement came in over the Internet that See No Evil 2 would be going into production there  were two reasons why I was very interested in seeing how this project progressed and seeing the finished product. You all should know by now that I'm a huge fan and supporter of The Twisted Twins, Jen and Sylvia Soska, so naturally when they got the directing gig I was excited. When Danielle Harris and Katharine Isabelle were added to cast that excitement become somewhat of a school boy joy (that only men can understand!). Of course, Glenn Jacobs ("Kane" WWE Superstar) reprised his role as the killing machine Jacob Goodnight.

I pre-ordered the DVD as it's only available on that format for the UK/European market. The Bluray available is region A. Anyway, expecting it on it's release date, Monday 20th October (tomorrow), it arrived this afternoon (along with Slipknot's latest album which is released tomorrow also)! I love Amazon! You'll find links below as to where you can get your hands on them. Needless to say, I whacked it straight in the player to watch it.

The open credits are cool and are made even more so with a quick cameo from the twins so keep your eye out for that. The set up, Jacob Goodnight and his victims are being transported to the local morgue so the sequel follows directly on from the first film. While they're in transit we're introduced to the staff at the morgue. Our leading lady Danielle Harris plays the role of Amy who's about to finish work. Seth (Kaj-Erik Eriksen) and wheelchair bound Holden (Michael Eklund) are on the graveyard shift. But with all the dead bodies that are about to arrive, Amy decides to stay and help out despite the fact that it's her birthday and she has her friends to meet.

Enter Amy's best friend Tamara played by the amazing Katharine Isabelle (who pretty much steals the show for nearly half the movie), Amy's brother Will (Greyston Holt), Kayla (Chelan Simmons) and Carter (Lee Majdoub). They bring the birthday party to Amy as she's gotta work late, and this is where the fun begins. This fun is provided by Tamara who's a little drunk and a lot hot!

Katharine Isabelle? Over my dead body? Yes please!

Besides the fact that both Isabelle and Harris are two of my favourite modern day Scream Queens and yes they're both fucking hot as hell, Isabelle has been great in her previous films, namely Ginger Snaps and American Mary (written and directed by Jen and Sylvia), so I always look forward to seeing her perform. Now Harris, for me, has been up and down with her performances throughout her career. My theory is that she responds to strong directors and delivers better performances through those certain directors. I thought her best work came by way of both Rob Zombie's Halloween films.

Being a big fan of the twins' work and being that I felt Isabelle gave her best with the fantastic execution of Mary Mason in American Mary, I was looking forward to how Harris responded to Jen and Sylvia's guidance. I'd like to say I was surprised, but deep down I knew that Danielle Harris would delivery. Yes, she definitely benefited from working with the Soskas and they brought the best out of her with Harris giving her best acting to date. She provided a very solid foundation for the movie being the lead.

Back to the fun and the birthday party in the morgue. Actually, that sounds like a cool idea for my birthday next year, but I digress. Things get a little heated between Amy and her Brother, Tamara is getting frisky with Goodnight's dead body as well as her boyfriend's. One thing leads to another, while Tamara and Carter go at it on a table next to the killer's body, Mr Goodnight comes back to life and the slashing, stabbing, murdering violence begins!

The most tense scene of the film, hero and villain come face to face
My main concern or negative point I picked up on was that the first third of the film was a little week and this was down to the writing by Nathan Brookes and Bobby Lee Darby. It was a little predictable. I couldn't help but think that this would've been a near perfect slasher flick if Jen and Sylvia Soska wrote the script too, but as the movie progressed it got better. In fact, the last third did make up for the beginning and finished very strong with a couple of surprises.

The acting was solid throughout by the supporting cast and the standout performance came from Danielle Harris followed closely by Katharine Isabelle. Glenn Jacobs gave a good performance as Goodnight and out did himself from the previous film. He's also developed a serious disliking of doors which I found amusing. We do get a few flashbacks from this film's predecessor just to remind us of what Jacob went through. 

The SFX are a good mix of practical FX which are complemented by only a small use of CGI. The score is cool and gives good support to the more tense scenes. But the best thing about this movie is the direction. Jen and Sylvia bring to life what should now be a serious contender in villain category. I feel that if another sequel is made, Jacob Goodnight will concrete his position as a horror killer icon. Again, it's the Soska's vision and work ethic that bring the best out of every performance, scene and even the script which makes See No Evil 2 is great and enjoyable watch which far surpasses the first film.

The special features on the DVD include:

This gives us a nice little insight into the lives and work ethic of the twins and the positive affect they have on those they work with. Plus there's some really cool photos of Jen and Sylvia from their younger days.

An in depth look at some of the kill scenes and SFX.

Interview with Glenn "Kane" Jacobs and his experience as the killer.


See No Evil 2 gets 4 Stars

The film is already available on VOD. Check out the trailer Below and the links to order a copy...

Amazon UK (Region 2) DVD
Amazon UK (Region A Bluray, US import)
Amazon US [Blu-ray]

Sunday 5 October 2014

The Tour (Short Film, 2014) Review

This short horror film has been doing the rounds at this year's festivals. Written, directed, edited and produced by both Alex Mathieson and Damon Rickard, The Tour stars Scream Queens Jessica Cameron and Heather Dorff as a couple of tourists who are checking out the sites around England.

The setting for the film is Darkmoor Manor, a creepy house with a history steeped in haunted legend. The house is closed to the public, but Morgan (Cameron) and Cassie (Dorff) get friendly with the tour guide, Tom (Tom Gordon), who gets them into the house later that night.

This is where the fun and games begin, but just when you think it's going to get predictable, a nice twist hits. The twist doesn't strike till after the girls realise that Tom and the house aren't what they thought they would be.

We're treated to a ear shattering scream from Jessica Cameron and some simple yet effective FX and story telling. This is the first outing into film making for Mathieson and Rickard and they should be proud of what they have made here. The creepy feel and atmosphere make for a very enjoyable watch.

The Tour gets 3 Stars

You can follow The Tour on Twitter @TheTourMovie
You can also "like" the Facebook page here