Saturday, 18 January 2014

Devil's Due (2014) Review

Devil's Due hit theatres on the 16th, although I didn't go to see it till last night. The flick is the latest entry into the found footage sub-genre and with Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones still showing at the cinema, it's got mayor competition.

With most found footage films there's someone annoyingly sticking a camcorder in people's faces and in this case it's Zach (Zach Gilford) making a home movie or a "family history" as he embarks into marriage with Samantha (Allison Miller). After the wedding day, which turns out perfect, newly weds Zach and Samantha McCall head to Mexico (I'm sure it was Mexico, I kind of missed the location) for the honeymoon.

Enjoyable times are had site seeing, on the beach, drinking and partying, all of course is captured on Zack's camera. On the last night there the couple grab a taxi back to their hotel but the diver insist that he takes them to somewhere fun out of the city. Although nervous about where they are headed when they get to the destination they soon relax and let the good times roll.

Now back in the States and it's not long before Samantha finds out she's pregnant, much to her shock, but to Zack's delight. And as you'd expect, this is where Samantha starts to act strange and other weird things start to happen. At one point Zack becomes so concerned he takes a look at the footage from the honeymoon to see if he can find anything to help explain what's going on.

As I mention, I missed the location of the honeymoon. This was down to the fact I had very little interest in what was going on! In fact the best character in this film was the taxi driver (Roger Payano) who you only see a couple of times. I'd like to say there was a couple of interesting things that happened on their honeymoon, but what did happen was way too predictable. For example, going to see a palm reader (pictured above) and being told bad news or getting freaked out by a frightful Spanish lady.

OK the acting was solid, but that counts for nothing when character development is missing, which I'll back to. The movie was just too generic for a sub-genre that's been overloaded in recent years. It was like going round to your friends house and they decide to show you their home movies. You know the type of evening, fakes smiles, fake laughs, pretending you're enjoying it but secretly wishing you were drinking or even hadn't gone round in the first place. That's how I felt. This is why character development is so important. I literally didn't care what happened to Zack or Samantha, especially since you could tell she didn't want to get pregnant in the first place.

There was parts of the film that were incoherent. Zack's camera was the main focus, but at one point randomly switched to security cameras in a supermarket, a car park and even completely random kids with their camera phones. Zack's dog seemed to disappear and reappear. The overall direction by Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett lacked zest and inspiration. The actually story was good, but it should have been turned into a better screenplay by Lindsay Devlin.

I know there are a lot of horror that aren't a fan of the shaky cam style of shooting. I don't mind it, in fact if done right found footage can be very effective, but even I though it got a little shaky in certain parts, and these parts were the ones I was most interested in. There was a couple of semi-cool scenes and FX, but it still didn't deliver any that special. Here's the most frighten thing about the movie, NOT one person inside the cinema jumped or screamed! You know when you hear people say "all the best bits are in the trailer" and you think to yourself that's not necessarily true? Well in this case, it's TRUE!


Devil's Due gets 2 Stars

This is where I normally post the trailer, but since it does show all the best bits, check out the Devil Baby viral video instead...

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Raze (2013) Review

The action/horror Raze hit the big screen and VOD this week. It's been on my radar for a very long time so I was excited to finally sit down to watch it last night.

Now, the premise of a group of individuals fighting to the death isn't an original one, but the difference in this film is that all the fighters are women and I honestly can't recall ever seeing that before.

The story is simple. A secret society, ran by Joseph and Elizabeth (Doug Jones, Sherilyn Fenn) kidnaps women and puts them in a one on one fight to the death. To motivate the fighters, this society keeps a watchful eye on the fighter's loved ones, parents, children, husbands etc. If they lose, their loved ones also die! The winner gets to join the secret society. Everything is overseen by head guard Kurtz (Bruce Thomas).

For the pervert guys out there that might think this is going to be some sort of sexy wrestling, think again. If you've ever seen women fight in real life, you should know they're a hell of a lot meaner than men and the women in this film are no exception! The first fight happens inside the first 10 minutes and it's an absolute brutal start to the proceedings. It's not some bitch fight either. The fights are very well choreographed and use the modern techniques of MMA (mixed martial arts).

The protagonist is Sabrina, played by the very skilled Zoe Bell. For those that don't know Bell, she's probably best known for her stunt work as Uma Thurman's stunt double on Tarantino's Kill Bill and staring as herself in Death Proof. The main antagonist is Phoebe (Rebecca Marshall). The other fighters include Jamie (Rachel Nichols), Teresa (Tracie Thoms), Cody (Bailey Anne Borders) and offer up the normal set of characters, the heroine, the weaker frail one, the complete bitch etc etc. This is established with efficiency.

There's not a great deal of back story to each character or how they even got there, but this doesn't impact anything we see on screen. The little info that is provided is more than enough to get you into the film and pick a character to route for. You'd think this is a little predictable, but you find yourself picking a winner for each fight for different reasons and not just blindly wantong Sabrina to win all the time. Then there's Phoebe, as much as she's the annoying "I hope she dies straight away" character at the beginning, I found myself strangely liking her even though she's sick and twisted.

Each female is locked away in her own cell and has a TV monitor so she can watch the fights. Friendships and rivalries are formed despite the conditions and of course there can only be one winner. But who and how might not be what you expected.

With any film like this there is always going to be a certain amount of predictability. That said it did have me looking one way and punching me the other a couple of times and there is certain scenes that will kick you in the face and still have you second guessing yourself. It constantly kept my attention and kept me thinking about what's going to happen next. When it was predictable I still enjoyed what was happening because it was what I wanted to see.

The sheer brutality of the fight scenes will have you wincing with disturbance. The violence is immense and bloody as hell. There's no fancy high flying super kicks like you see in so many martial arts films, but rather it gets down and dirty with efficient technique and the final finishing blows are just plain nasty.

Besides the action, the acting is solid from all the cast as they all deliver believable performances. Josh C. Waller direction keeps you glued to the screen even when the action dies down. If anyone says this film was boring in anyway or any scene then they're lying!

It really is a fresh, clever and an interesting take on a tried and tested story. The ending is open interpretation so this leaves you thinking about it well after it's finished. There really wasn't anything I didn't like about this film and I'd go as far to say that it completely exceeded by expectations and blew my mind. I highly recommend Raze and already have a feeling this will be one of 2014's best films. I really do think it's that amazing!


Raze gets 5 Stars

 Check out the trailer below...

Tuesday, 7 January 2014

Quite A Conundrum (2012) Review

Quite A Conundrum is directed, written and produced by Thomas L. Phillips. His independent film is not just a comedy horror. It also plays out like a physiological thriller.

In the opening scene we see Mimi (Sasha Ramos) being mounted by "the one eyed pirate" Marc (John Lucas). She's 25, he's 52 and works for Mimi's father. After 2 pumps and a squirt, Mimi explodes with insult and abuse due to the lack of satisfaction and dumps the poor old dude. Needless to say Marc exits with a huff and puff, but not before leaving Mimi with the smell of "rusty pennies."

Anyway, back to the normal day ahead and Mimi is joined by Tabitha (Erin Cline) as she works out hitting a punch bag. Meanwhile, Tabitha dances around to the workout music.

With Mimi's dad away on business there's only one thing to do and that's party! Tabitha's boyfriend Sean (Chris Greene), his friend Dutch (Joe Coffey), Mimi teenage sister Kylene (Emily Rogers) and her boyfriend Harris (Anthony Rutowicz) are all going to be there for the fun with Mimi.

The early part of the film is taken up with the girls getting ready for the party. It's not till Sean and Dutch turn up when the party gets going. Harris arrives shortly after, dropped off my his god fearing mother, Thelma (Catherine Trail), who has to have a chat with Kylene before she heads off to Jesus Bingo.

The fun is now in full swing, the alcohol is flowing, the tunes are playing and everyone is poolside in the backyard. They're suddenly interrupted by Marc. Yes he's back, and naked! Still rather distraught about getting dumped by Mimi not 12 hours ago, he pulls a gun and makes Mimi confess to her friends what she called him that very morning. Instead of shooting Mimi or anyone else, he turns the gun on himself and blows his brains out in the pool!

Here ends the fun and frolics which is replaced by panic and confusion. They now have to deal with the dead naked fat guy in the pool. Do they call the police? Will Mimi's secret affair be discovered by her dad? Or will someone else be a problem for them and cause even more mayhem then they expected? What was a fun night soon turns into the worse party ever.

The first thing I want to point out is that it was refreshing to see adult characters in this type of horror instead of the same old collage kids and snotty teenagers. OK, so there is 2 teenage characters, but that's still not bad.

The movie is filled with humour throughout. But it's not your silly "laugh out loud" type stuff. It's very witty and quite dark in places. In fact, the script is very cleverly written by Phillips and probably the strongest thing about the film. It also has some of the best lines in a horror, EVER! There were parts that reminded me of something out of a Tarantino flick with the way the conversations flowed and then I would sense a touch of Jay & Silent Bob in there!

Of course, this had to be delivered by the actors well for such a script to work, and it was at that. For a relatively inexperience cast they conveyed a lot of natural talent. All the cast bought something different and the chemistry between them all was great, but 2 really stood out for me. Emily Rogers was extremely good as the adolescent sister. She produced a very mature performance. But the most natural and inspired performance came from Erin Cline. Quite frankly she stole the show! Her charming cuteness out poured in bucket loads and when it was time to be scared, she was believable. This has to be credited to the direction also.

On the horror side of things, we're drawn in psychologically, rather than with blood and gore. The tension is there and there is a disturbing scene, but I couldn't help but feel if the score was better, it would've intensified certain scenes to give them more edge and conviction. For me, the score was the only real weak point.

Quite A Conundrum will be getting its worldwide release very soon and I recommend watching it. It put a smile on my my face all the way through, granted, sometimes that smile was a little sick and twisted, but in my case that meant the film did its job.


Quite a Conundrum gets 4 Stars

Check out the trailer below...

Thursday, 2 January 2014

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones (2014) Review

Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones is the 5th instalment in the very successful found footage franchise. However, do not get this new film confused with number 5, that's hitting cinemas this October!

Before I go any further, I have to point out that I've been a big fan of the franchise and the first film actually freaked me the fuck out in a massive way. Not since the age of around 11 watching Poltergeist was I effected by a horror in such a way! That said, I didn't like number 4 at all as it was way below par compared to the rest. Despite that, I was looking forward to The Marked Ones.

Starting off at a graduation ceremony in the year 2012, we soon start following the antics of Jesse (Andrew Jacobs) and Hector (Jorge Diaz). Clowning around with a new camera, they spend the next few days just randomly shooting there everyday activities.

Jesse lives with his sister, father and grandma in an apartment complex. His mother has passed away. Below them lives Anna (Gloria Sandoval) who has a bit of a reputation of being a bruja, (WITCH in Spanish). With their escapades they stumble upon some rather disturbing behaviour from Anna, but that is soon overshadowed by her death which involved Jesse's friend Oscar (Carlos Pratts).

After her death, the two lads have a look around in Anna's apartment. Shortly after, Jesse starts to exhibit some strange behaviour of his own that can't really be explained. Over time Jesse becomes distant. His friends Hector and Marisol (Gabrielle Walsh) become concerned when Jesse's actions become threatening.

They seek outside help from a couple of sources in an attempt to help Jesse and to try to fathom what's going on. But the further they dig the worse the situation becomes. When Jesse disappears they try to find him at a location given to them by a contact they found called  Ali (Molly Ephraim). This leads them into more trouble than they could ever expect.

Like most found footage flicks there's that introduction period, you know before the really interesting stuff happens. In this the character development is at a good standard, keeping you just enough interested in the normal everyday things that happen. I did reach that threshold where I was thinking to myself "come on, it's time for the scary stuff now" and sure enough not a minute later it kicked in.

More fun than a Ouija board!
If you're old enough to remember the electronic game "Simon Says" (pictured right) then you'll get a kick out of a couple of scenes. Instead of the same old use of a Ouija board, we see this apparatus get a rather genius twist.

Unlike the terrible 4th film, The Marked Ones gives us a different story arc and a new outlook on the material covered in number 3. In fact, this new instalment intertwines with the first 3 films in some way or another.  
I really want to tell how, so if you don't want spoilers, jump the next paragraph...


2 of the locations should ring alarms bells, this is towards the end of the film and they are the grandma's house in the PA3 and Katie and Micah's house (PA). If you've watched any of the trailers for The Marked Ones you should remember seeing Katie and Kristi (as children PA3) who both make an appearance. It's only brief and to be honest I really didn't see the point, unless it's to do with a certain door. Ali Rey (Molly Ephraim) is the daughter/step-daughter from the PA2. Again, a link to PA2 is the box of VHS tapes that went missing (now found in Anna's apartment PA:TMO), which of course was the feature in the PA3. And for those that research their films before seeing them you will know that Katie (Katie Featherston), just like in the PA4, pops up as well.


All in all this is a very strong addition to the franchise and the crossover with the other films is great. Fans of Paranormal Activity should love it. I enjoyed it a great deal.

The acting is solid, especially from the lead actor Andrew Jacobs. There's some really cool FX and a couple of misdirections which delivery decent jumps that maybe the other films were missing a little. The ending is blunt, but I'm now looking more forward to Paranormal Activity 5 and I'm hoping it will tie the existing films together. 

Christopher Landon (writer of PA2, PA3, PA4, PA:TMO) certainly made up for the 4th film with this, plus this is only the 2nd film he's directed, and he directed it well.


Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones gets 4 Stars

Check out the trailer below...