Tuesday, 27 October 2020

Horror Film Review: The Unfamiliar (2020) ★★★☆☆

Jemima West is Izzy Cormack | The Unfamiliar (2020) | Horror Film Review

British Army doctor Izzy Cormack (Jemima West) returns home from a particularly brutal war to find that nothing makes sense anymore at home. She begins to suspect she has PTSD following a series of increasingly disturbing events but a charlatan manages to convince her that something supernatural is afoot.

Realising that his wife is slowly unravelling, Ethan Cormack (Christopher Dane) convinces Izzy that they should take a much-needed break in Hawaii. Unfortunately, events take a darker turn there as Izzy's disturbing visions continue and Ethan's history as an anthropologist catches up with the Cormack family.

The Unfamiliar is written and directed by Henk Pretorius, whose work I first encountered on Fanie Fourie's Lobola, a quirky South African romantic comedy.

The Unfamiliar is a very different film with tons of jump scares, very dark imagery and an exploration of Hawaiian mythology. The imagery, use of colour, props and scenery are all excellent and there are loads of scream-out-loud moments.

Jemima West is Izzy Cormack and Harry McMillan-Hunt is Tommy Cormack | The Unfamiliar (2020) | Horror Film Review

My only complaint is that The Unfamiliar tried to do too much. There is a lot crammed into this 89 minute film, so much so that it could easily be split into three films (for each of the three acts), each with its own unique plot. Charlatans, body snatchers, voodoo, revenge against anthropological raiders and possession, The Unfamiliar has got it all and its a pity because I think it could have been quite compelling with a little more focus.

Despite that small complaint, I give The Unfamiliar an okay three out of five stars.

★★★☆☆

The Unfamiliar Trailer

The Unfamiliar is available on digital and VOD and is released through Vertical Entertainment in North America and Lionsgate UK in the United Kingdom.

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Monday, 26 October 2020

Horror Film Review: Every Time I Die (2019) ★★★★★

Every Time I Die (2019) | Poster | Horror Film Review

Something's not right with Sam (Drew Fonteiro) and it's been that way for a long time. He suffers from blackouts that range from embarrassing to downright terrifying and he can't seem to shake a constant feeling of otherness. There are a million reasons not to go when his best friend Jay (Marc Menchaca) invites him to a weekend at the lake house but he goes anyway. As Sam's grip on reality loosens, he begins to question who he is and that is just the beginning of his problems for someone will die at the lake house and they will do what they can to warn the others.

Directed by Robi Michael, Every Time I Die features near-death experiences, out of body consciousness and an uneasy examination of the power of suggestion versus the paranormal.

I'm surprised that Every Time I Die isn't officially billed as a horror (it's billed instead as a sci-fi thriller). There were several seriously scary and chilling moments in the film, especially from the killer's point of view as it dawns on him what is actually going on. The backstory and final reveal were also full of fear, tragedy and trauma, making this entire film an effective metaphor for severe post-traumatic stress disorder.

Set to Ran Bagno's evocative score, Sam's story and the gradual unravelling of his identity is told through a series of haunting flashbacks, piecing together the true nature of his trauma throughout the film.

Every Time I Die is a film that demands your full attention. It's confusing and subtle in the beginning, featuring identical sisters Poppy and Mia (twins Michelle and Melissa Macedo) to add a level of complexity to an already labyrinthine plot. 'Blink and you'll miss it' is the feeling of this film and not a single word or scene is wasted or spared of meaning or intention.

Every Time I Die |Horror Film Review

The performances in Every Time I Die are superb but special mention must go to Drew Fonteiro. It's rare that a performance gets under your skin but Sam's pain emanated viscerally from the screen, such that I found myself thinking about him for hours afterward.

I give Every Time I Die a superb five out of five stars. I definitely call this one as a horror; it reminds me of the dread that Flatliners (1990) evoked, of that dull, terrifying fear of the other side. Definitely recommend this one.

★★★★★

Every Time I Die Trailer

Every Time I Die is available on Sky Store, AppleTv, Google Play, Rakuten and Amazon now.

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Saturday, 17 October 2020

Horror Film Review: Revenge Ride (2020) ★★★★★ (Grimmfest Festival 2020)

I like Pollyanna McIntosh. There's no specific basis for this, except for Pollyanna's all-round awesomeness and her criminally short stint as Jadis in The Walking Dead but I like her a lot. I quite like Serinda Swan too and that was enough to make me want to catch Revenge Ride at Grimmfest 2020 - Online Edition.

CW: sexual assault

Pollyanna McIntosh is Trigga and Serinda Swan is Maggie | Revenge Ride (2020) | Horror Film Review

It's a tale as old as time, a naive woman goes on a date with a man she barely knows and it all goes wrong for her. Revenge Ride opens with Maggie (Serinda Swan) falling victim to a vicious sexual assault, which leads her to join Trigga's all-female Dark Moon biker gang.

Pollyanna McIntosh plays Trigga and I'm pleased to say that she has infinitely more and better dialogue than Jadis in The Walking Dead.

When Maggie's cousin Mary (Vanessa Dubasso) is drugged and assaulted at a frat party, Maggie tells the Dark Moons and they swear bloody vengeance. The only problem is that their marks will not be easily defeated.

Revenge Ride (2020) | Horror Film ReviewDirected by Melanie Aitkenhead (Mother, May I Sleep With Danger?) and based on her 2017 short Blood Ride, Revenge Ride is a deeply satisfying revenge film. It's showing at Grimmfest but I wouldn't say it's scary, more thrilling and a damning indictment of how little we often have in common with the social circles we fall in to through mutual victimhood.

I genuinely cannot understand why the film is fairing so badly on IMDb. The performances are good all round and each character's motivation is explored as well as the perpetrators' privilege and sense of entitlement. It's also got a killer soundtrack, which always pleases me, and fantastic lesbian representation.

I give Revenge Ride a superb five out of five stars; great plot and performances always please me in the horror genre, plus it was a lot of fun. If life has you feeling a little powerless at the moment, I highly recommend this thoroughly gratifying little revenge flick.

★★★★★

Serinda Swan is Maggie | Revenge Ride (2020) | Horror Film Review

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Tuesday, 13 October 2020

Horror Film Review: Rose (2020) ★★★★★

There's a great paradox with superior films; sometimes it's better to know absolutely nothing about them before viewing but then how do you decide which films to watch? Rose is one of those films. Watching it for the first time, I found myself wishing I hadn't watched the trailer nor read the synopsis. It would have been a far richer experience to allow this slow-burn of a film to unfold independently of what I knew about it, to allow the plot to be delicately and quietly delivered.

Sophie Rundle is Rose | Rose: A Love Story | Independent UK Horror Film

If you're the type of person to follow wise and sage advice, stop reading here and go see Rose. It's premiering at the 2020 BFI London Film Festival tonight and I suspect that it's going to be a favourite of critics and fans alike.

Directed by Jennifer Sheridan and starring Sophie Rundle (Peaky Blinders) and Matt Stokoe, Rose opens with a couple who have escaped the chaos of modern life to live a life of self-subsistence in a cottage in the woods.

The fragile life they have forged and the secrets they harbour are threatened when another person enters into their lives; can they maintain their tenuous grasp on their way of life?

Rose is a visually beautiful horror film, filmed in a snowy forest in Wales. I knew within the opening shots that I was going to enjoy the film with it's beautiful cinematography and chilling atmosphere.

The icy conditions burst through the screen, rendering the viewer intimately aware of the conditions the couple are facing, of what it would mean to run out of fuel for their generators and just how isolated they are.

Matt Stokoe is Sam | Rose: A Love Story | Independent UK Horror Film

Matt Stokoe (who wrote Rose) is superb as Sam, a man determined to do whatever it takes to protect Rose. Rose is, after all, first and foremost a love story and Sam's love for Rose knows no limits. Sophie Rundle shines as Rose, drawing the viewer into the psyche of a terrified, insecure and delicate woman, barely keeping it all together. Final mention must go to Olive Gray who is superb as Amber.

The real star of the show in Rose is the plot. I want to say there is a twist or a reveal but the truth is that if you've been concentrating, it won't be much of a surprise at all. It is very well done, is very frightening and gave me that warm feeling inside that only a good horror film can deliver.

Sophie Rundle is Rose and Matt Stokoe is Sam | Rose: A Love Story | Independent UK Horror Film

I emphatically give Rose a superb five out of five stars and recommend to fans of slow-burn, British independent horror. Definitely add this to your to-watch list and remember that horror isn't only for Halloween.

★★★★★

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Thursday, 1 October 2020

UK Horror 'Rose' to Premiere at 2020 BFI London Film Festival

I'm always excited about new British independent horror films, especially when they look creepy and atmospheric, but I'm especially thrilled to see that Jennifer Sheridan's Rose will receive its world premiere at the 2020 BFI London Film Festival on 13th October.

Rose: A Love Story | Independent UK Horror Film

Starring Sophie Rundle (Ada Shelby, Peaky Blinders) and Matt Stokoe (Cursed), Rose - A Love Story is the story of a young couple who retreat to a hidden cottage in the woods, seeking a life of privacy and calm. Their life seems idyllic at first; Sam hunts animals and fortifies the cottage while Rose works on her novel. Not everything is as it seems though as Rose suffers from a terrifying, life-altering illness that haunts the couple's every step, dominating every moment of their lives.

Events take a dangerous turn when a simple trip to collect supplies goes wrong and a mysterious stranger arrives in Sam and Rose's life, threatening their fragile existence and control of Rose's illness.

Filmed in a very snowy and cold Welsh forest, Rose is the feature directorial debut for multi-award winning shorts director Jennifer Sheridan. It is an independent British horror brought to life by Mini Productions, Great Point Media, Bone Garden Films, Fields Park & The Development Partnership.

Rose - A Love Story will be celebrating its World Premiere on 13th October at the 2020 London Film Festival, the first ever edition of the Festival to be widely accessible across the UK, with 50 Virtual Festival Premieres to be enjoyed at home. Click here for tickets.

Rose (2020) Production Stills

Sophie Rundle is Rose | Rose: A Love Story | Independent UK Horror Film

Rose: A Love Story | Independent UK Horror Film

Rose: A Love Story | Independent UK Horror Film

Sophie Rundle is Rose and Matt Stokoe is Sam | Rose: A Love Story | Independent UK Horror Film

Rose (2020) Official Trailer

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Sunday, 27 September 2020

The Must-See Film This Autumn: David Mclean's Schemers (2020) ★★★★★

It's been a long, long wait to see David Mclean's Schemers. Originally set for release in May 2020, the world turned upside down and we had to wait for cinemas to reopen again before we could see this gem of a film. Set in Dundee in the early 1980s, Schemers is the true story of the set of very ambitious gigs that Davie (Conor Berry) and his friends put on that nearly cost them everything. The list of bands is eye-watering, featuring some I've seen (Simple Minds, front row, Glastonbury 1995), some I would love to see (The Specials) and some that were heartbreakingly before my time (Thin Lizzy and Ultravox, "Whiskey in the Jar" and "Vienna" were two of my earliest musical loves).

Schemers (2020) | Conor Berry is Davie Mclean | Independent Film Review

It seems obvious from the beginning that Davie and his friends are in over their heads. Hailing from the council schemes, Davie knows university isn't for him but decides to try impress his trainee-nurse girlfriend Shona (Tara Lee) by putting on a disco. (Note: you have not lived until you've heard the word 'disco' uttered in a Dundonian accent).

Schemers beautifully captures the chaotic atmosphere of the early 80s music scene. As the film progresses, it becomes increasingly surprising that Davie, Scot (Sean Connor) and John (Grant Robert Keenan) stayed alive, never mind able-bodied, because the stunts they pulled off were astonishing. One less stroke of impossibly good fortune could have resulted in a very different outcome for the lads and the stakes are higher than ever when they secure an Iron Maiden gig at Caird Hall, Dundee.

Schemers (2020) | Conor Berry is Davie Mclean | Independent Film Review

I'm not going to spoil it for you - although I'm dying to talk to someone about how a series of monumental blunders somehow synergised into that night at Caird Hall - but if you loved rock music in the late 70s and 80s, chances are you're going to love Schemers. The film won the Audience Award at Edinburgh Film Festival and both Best Director & Best Actor at the New York Winter Film Awards. I can see why, shot in Dundee and featuring local talent, Schemers features fantastic performances all round.

David Mclean worked with some of the biggest names in the music industry including Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins, Pearl Jam and Green Day before going on to manage Placebo. He's a true rock 'n' roll superhero and Schemers is his origin story.

Schemers (2020) | Conor Berry is Davie Mclean | Independent Film Review

I give Schemers a superb five out of five stars. If you love indie music or Trainspotting, you'll love this.

★★★★★

Schemers (2020) Trailer

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Sunday, 23 August 2020

TV Review: NOS4A2 - "Bats" (Season 2 finale)

The final episode of NOS4A2's second season is here. The events in "Bats" take us to the end of Joe Hill's novel, with a few notable differences, some of which you may have already picked up in previous episodes.

I was very wary of whether the season was going to finish the story or whether we were simply going to be set up for another season. I’m very happy with how this episode played out but it will be impossible to discuss further without divulging spoilers. I’m therefore going to split the post into spoiler-free and spoiler-heavy sections.

Spoiler-Free: NOS4A2’s Second Season Rocked

NOS4A2 - Bats - Jahkara Smith is Maggie Leigh and Ashleigh Cummings is Vic McQueen

Building on the false victories of season one, NOS4A2’s second season has been strong throughout. Characters such as Chris and Linda McQueen (Eben Moss-Bachrach and Virginia Kull) showed great character development, moving on from being abusive, alcoholic teen parents to being towers of strength when Vic needed them most.

A common theme in this season was generational grief, pain and anger and the possibility of redemption. The McQueen family had a heavy burden to bear but each of them showed that you can both escape and build upon your past.

For her part, Vic McQueen (Ashleigh Cummings) struggled with her demons, going on to repeat many of her parents’ mistakes as she fought to come to terms with the trauma that Charlie Manx has created. The one major change was the birth of her son Wayne McQueen (Jason David) and her determination to protect him from Manx.

Much time was spent this season on the origin of Charlie Manx (Zachary Quinto). Have no fear, it didn’t make anyone dislike him any less but it did introduce some interesting characters to the show, most notably his wife Cassie Manx (Celeste Arias).

In a deeply moving and emotional season, two beacons of light were the love Lou Carmody (Jonathan Langdon) had for Vic and Wayne as well as the love between Maggie Leigh (Jahkara Smith) and Agent Tabitha Hutter (Ashley Romans).

Abandon Hope All Ye Who Enter Here: Significant Spoilers Ahead

NOS4A2 - Bats - Jahkara Smith is Maggie Leigh

Seriously, if you somehow missed the spoiler warning above, the next section is absolutely drenched in spoilers, partly because I really need to speak about the events in “Bats” and partly in the hope that there will be a third season of NOS4A2 and we’ll want a season 2 recap.

The situation is pretty dire in Christmasland. It may very well be too late for Wayne who is rapidly succumbing to the dark side and stabbed Vic with a pair of scissors and Maggie Leigh is seriously wounded after her encounter with Manx. Vic has to make the most painful decision of all and decides to rescue Wayne, dropping him off with Lou Carmody by the Christmas trees, before going back for Maggie.

Somehow Charlie Manx is driving the Wraith again after Vic nearly destroyed him in the ice maze. As he guns for Vic and Maggie in his Wraith, Vic rides the Triumph with all she has and heads for her bridge. The scenes on the bridge are spectacular. Realising that they cannot lead Manx through the Shorter Way to Lou, Tabitha and Wayne, Vic harnesses the full power of her mind and brings her Inscape crumbling down around the Wraith, sending it plummeting into the static below.

NOS4A2 - Bats - Zachary Quinto is Charlie Manx

Destroying the Christmas Ornaments

Meanwhile, Lou and Tabitha realise that by destroying the Christmas ornaments, they can release the souls of the children and suddenly all of them appear in the real world from Christmasland. Gone are the demon teeth and evil ways, except for one particular demon child who I knew we shouldn’t trust! Millie Manx watches from the trees, hanging on to her intact ornament and pointy teeth for dear life.

Wayne McQueen and Millie Manx

One month later and Wayne McQueen is subsisting on sugar alone. He escapes to the Christmas trees to find Millie Manx (Mattea Conforti) subsisting on live bunnies and bambis.

Wayne admits that he desperately misses Christmasland and that he never wants to grow up.

Wayne (on adults and growing up): "They pretend they're happy but they're really just tired" .

Millie Manx blames Vic McQueen for the death of her father and vows to rebuild Christmasland, neatly setting us up for a third season. (Yes please, pretty please AMC).

The Destruction of Charlie Manx

Meanwhile in Haverhill, Massachusetts, Charlie's body is discovered in the Merrimack River amongst the ruins of his wrecked Wraith (I’ve been waiting 20 episodes to say that). Just in case you’re expecting a repeat of the previous season, I can confirm that this is it. They've cremated his body, crushing the Wraith and by doing so have successfully destroyed the strong creative, his knife and his Inscape.

The Legacy of Chris McQueen

Linda and Vic are packing up Chris’s stuff and Linda remarks that she has been cleaning up after Chris McQueen her whole life. While he may be gone, his sacrifice and legacy remains and just for today, Vic manages not to take a drink.

She works on her art, a legitimate creative outlet that doesn’t drive her towards an aneurism and Wayne is working on art of his own - creepy, disturbing, weird art – but art nonetheless.

Vic: “No more running away for either of us. Hmm? No more pretending like we feel okay when we don’t, Dad included. Team McCarmody, alright, yeah? We’re staying in the real world”.

An Addict Cannot Stop

While Vic may have her addiction under control, Maggie does not. After failing to convince Vic to explore other Inscapes with her, Maggie asks her tiles how she gets into the World of Thought and lands up at the hotel where she dispatched The Hourglass. I suspected he’d be back! His demise was far too simple and easy and even if he is indeed truly gone, there is a lot in store for another season.

One vital thread that ran through the episode was the inevitability of it all. Maggie Leigh lost her tiles in Christmasland when the demon children robbed her of them but ultimately they found their way back to Maggie. As Maggie tells Agent Hutter, they would have found their way back whether Hutter had brought them back or not. The significance is that while Vic (and Lou and Hutter) want to move on in the real world, fate (and Maggie and Wayne and Millie) are going to drag them right in again.

I am so pleased that we reached a proper ending for Charlie Manx’s story arc. I love it when shows get to end and I’d be equally satisfied if NOS4A2 ended here or if it went on for a third season. I’m also thrilled that Maggie Leigh and Vic McQueen reached less horrible endings in the TV version of the NOS4A2 compared to the book version and am excited that the alternative-book-ending featuring a still-alive Millie Manx is being explored.

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© 2005 - Mandy Southgate | Addicted to Media

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