Monday 30 August 2021

Bloodthirsty (2021)

Low Budget Werewolf Pic - With Songs!

Be advised, however, that Amelia Moses' BLOODTHIRSTY, getting a digital and DVD release from Signature Entertainment is not a musical. Instead it's the psychological (mainly) tale of vegan pop singer Grey (Lauren Beatty) who has two main problems: difficult second album syndrome, and dreams that she can turn into a wild beast with a hunger for flesh.

Blink and you'll miss him Michael Ironside plays the psychiatrist who puts her on anti-hallucination medication before she sets off to the isolated mansion of famed record producer and possible wife-killer (although he was never convicted) Vaughn Daniels (Greg Bryk) who believes he has the ability to bring out her latent genius. 

Grey's girlfriend Charlie (Katharine King So) comes along for the ride and to do some Night Gallery-style painting, and the film becomes a virtual three-hander as Grey works on her music by day and her increasing lust for blood by night. But what's that running around and killing things at night while Grey's busy elsewhere? Could the woods already have a beast? And could it have anything to do with how she's feeling?

BLOODTHIRSTY is the very definition of slow burn but within that it achieves what it sets out to do well. Acting and direction are appropriately low key and the songs Grey writes (actually written by co-composer Lowell Boland) embellish the narrative well. Don't expect a major special effects extravaganza (although there is quite a bit of blood as we get to the end) and BLOODTHIRSTY is a quiet, unassuming but effective low budget horror picture.

Amelia Moses' BLOODTHIRSTY is out on DVD and Digital from Signature Entertainment on Monday 30th August 2021. Here's the trailer:

Sunday 29 August 2021

Random Acts of Violence (2019)

Jay Baruchel stars (along with Jordana Brewster and Jesse Williams) as well as directs, co-writes and co-produces RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE, which is getting a Blu-ray, DVD and Digital release from Acorn Media International. It's one of a clutch of movies that have been airing on Shudder that are coming out in these formats, the others being the rather good TERRIFIED (2017) and the excellent TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID (2017 as well).

For the literary inclined, it's probably worth pointing out at the start that this film is not an adaptation of Jack Womack's 1993 Random Acts of Senseless Violence, rather it's an adaptation of the comic (?graphic novel) of the same name by Justin Gray and Jimmy Palmiotti.

Todd (Williams) is travelling cross-country with Cathy (Brewster) and his publisher Ezra (Baruchel). They're on a tour to promote a comic book Todd created based on the real-life activities of a serial killer called Slasherman, which is nearing its final issue. But Todd's having problems. He can't come up with how to end the series, he's suffering flashbacks to a family dinner that looks as if it's going to end in disaster, and worst of all someone is killing people and leaving their bodies in the form of macabre reconstructions of Slasherman splash panels. 

If you're a fan of the giallo genre, especially the wilder ones from the early 1970s, then RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE is just for you. It's got the weird murders, the flashback that we don't understand the significance of until the end, buckets of blood (especially during the climax) and a denouement that's really quite mad but makes the film all the better for it.

Baruchel's directorial style builds in its manic intensity, and the performances are all fine. In fact its nice to see some familiar faces - Jess Williams will be best known to genre fans from CABIN IN THE WOODS and Jordana Brewster will be familiar to anyone who loves the FAST AND THE FURIOUS movies. Extras include a 36 minute 'lockdown' interview with the director as well as a couple of short making of featurettes, 

Jay Baruchel's RANDOM ACTS OF VIOLENCE is out on Blu-ray and DVD and download and keep digital from Acorn Media International now.

Saturday 28 August 2021

Night Drive (2021)

One night in Los Angeles Uber driver Russell (A J Bowen) picks up Charlotte (Sophie Dalah) only for her to slip him $200 if he'll promise to wait while she pops into a friend's house to collect something which turns out to be a small makeup box cast members insist on calling a suitcase (maybe it was one in the original script? Who knows.) As a result the rest of his night involves death, deceit, and a very strange room indeed. 

Premiering at this year's Frightfest and getting a digital release from 101 Films, NIGHT DRIVE is the latest entry in a genre that could be described as 'character led unwittingly astray in a city at night'. Other examples would include Martin Scorsese's witty and superior AFTER HOURS (1985) and 2019's Frightfest entry, the low budget, entertaining and also rather witty DRIVEN.

NIGHT DRIVE is played serious, which is a bit of a shame as a somewhat lighter tone might have helped add an extra layer to what is a pretty thin premise that feels drawn out and padded even for the film's scant 75 minute (minus credits) running time. Twenty minutes from the end the contents of Charlotte's little case are revealed and at this point in the film the revelation feels a little desperate, as if the film-makers got to that point and realised they needed to think of something a little offbeat. 

It's not a terrible film by any means, and some of the dialogue exchanges are endearing, especially the discussion about favourite Xmas songs. Ultimately, however, everything that this film deals with has been done better in movies that have gone before it (and some on a similar low budget). It's probably too much of a pun to say your mileage may vary with this but as it's in keeping with a film that doesn't have a single original idea in it that's what I'm going to end with.

NIGHT DRIVE is out on Digital from 101 Films on Monday 11th October 2021

Friday 27 August 2021

Demonic (2021)

"Oh Neill, What Have You Done This Time?"

The new film from director Neill Blomkamp (DISTRICT 9, CHAPPIE gets a UK cinema and digital release, to be followed by Blu-ray and DVD, after premiering as the opening film at 2021's Frightfest film festival.

Carly (Carly Pope) is troubled by dreams of her mother Angela (Nathalie Boltt) who she hasn't seen for many years. She's contacted by Martin (Chris William Martin) who tells Carly that Angela is now in a coma. Carly visits her mother in hospital to be told the coma was due to a self-induced blow to the head, the latest in a series of self-mutilations her mother subjected herself to while in prison.

Despite being in a coma Angela is apparently able to communicate through a virtual reality program the hospital's research team has been developing. They encourage Carly to enter her mother's virtual space where she finds her mother may have been possessed by a crow-headed demon.

DEMONIC has a great central idea and a great monster. Unfortunately the film itself isn't executed very well at all, with uninvolving storytelling that leaves you with the odd sense that someone lost all the good footage and it had to be replaced by people sitting in armchairs talking about it instead. The concept of an army of Catholic priests kitted out like the NRA's version of GHOSTBUSTERS pops up at one point but it's too little too late. 

It's another career mis-step for Blomkamp who seems to be suffering from M Night Shyamalan's problem of being a one-hit wonder with the quite excellent DISTRICT 9 (2009) but who in the subsequent 12 years following that has failed to come up with anything worth shouting about. It's sad to report that DEMONIC feels very much like a first effort by someone with a couple of interesting ideas but little talent or expertise to carry them through. Frightfest has something of a tradition of their festival opening films being extremely variable in quality and it saddens me to report that Neill Blomkamp's DEMONIC is one of the crappy ones. Here's the trailer if you fancy a look:

Neill Blomkamp's DEMONIC is out in UK cinemas and on premium digital from Friday 27th August 2021 and on Blu-ray and DVD from Monday 25th October 2021 

Thursday 26 August 2021

The Toll (2021)

"Entertaining Black Comedy Set in Wales"

More precisely it's set in Pembrokeshire - "where English people come to die" as it says close to the beginning of THE TOLL which is getting a cinema and digital release from Signature Entertainment at the end of August.

Michael Smiley is our unnamed protagonist who, for the last 29 years, has been manning the quietest toll booth in Wales. And he's been doing that for a reason. He has a dark past that's about to catch up with him in the form of vengeful gang boss Magnus (Julian Glover) and his goons. Fortunately our hero has not wasted his time in the back of beyond and has recruited a number of colourful characters as helpmates whenever he needs somebody bumping off or a body disposing of. 

As well as Smiley the cast is populated by familiar faces including Iwan Rheon and Paul Kaye, and even Steve Oram pops up as a petrol station owner. Obviously made on a very low budget with most of the action taking place outside, THE TOLL boasts some impressive location work and a surprising amount of nice weather considering it's Wales. It's director Ryan Andrew Hooper and writer Matt Redd's first feature and exhibits the skill, timing and a fine sense of balance between comedy and (occasionally) horror that Edgar Wright is so good at. As such THE TOLL marks them as a movie-making team to watch and the film itself is an entertaining 83 minutes elevated by stylish direction and some excellent performances.

THE TOLL is out in cinemas and on premium digital from Signature Entertainment on Friday 27th August 2021 

Friday 20 August 2021

Climate of the Hunter (2021)

"A Peter Greenaway-Style Vampire Movie"

        Well, a bit, anyway. The new feature from Oklahoma-based film-maker Mickey Reece, known as 'the Soderbergh of the Sticks' or so it says here, gets a cinema and digital release from Bulldog Distribution.

Two middle-aged sisters, Alma (Ginger Gilmartin) and Elizabeth (Mary Buss) await the arrival of Wesley (Ben Hall with his Stephen McHattie voice) at their remote cabin hideaway. Once he's there the conversation turns to events of the past over a succession of 1970s-themed meals that look as if they've come straight from Vincent Price's actual cookbook. As the days pass it seems that Wesley may be a vampire. We also learn he has placed his wife in an asylum. But is she still there?

Described as a cross between Harry Kumel's DAUGHTERS OF DARKNESS and the films of Jean Rollin, fans of the work of those directors may find themselves scratching their heads at the comparison. With its measured pacing and accent on dinner table conversation between the three leads CLIMATE OF THE HUNTER feels more like a cross between DROWNING BY NUMBERS and a 1970s AIP picture, as if Peter Greenaway had directed COUNT YORGA, VAMPIRE. 

It's well shot and acted and obviously not the work of a hack, but certain viewers should be warned that in terms of horror we're very much in IT COMES AT NIGHT territory here in terms of slow pacing and if that's not your kind of thing you may find the 82 minute running time feels rather longer than it actually is. That said Reece obviously has talent and is definitely a director to be watched and I very much suspect his best work in the art house horror genre is yet to come. Anyway, here's the trailer for CLIMATE OF THE HUNTER:

Mickey Reece's CLIMATE OF THE HUNTER is out in cinemas from Bulldog Distribution on Friday 13th August 2021 and on Digital rent and download-to-own on Monday 23rd August 2021

Thursday 12 August 2021

Prophecy (1979)

"Beware the Lumbering Monstrosity!"

The movie which Stephen King famously described as 

"A $12 000 000 movie that looks like it cost $1.98" gets an HD 1080p Blu-ray release from Eureka.

Public health doctor Rob (Robert Foxworth), sick of the futility of working in inner city slums, takes up a job with the Environmental Protection Agency looking into a land dispute between a logging company and the Native Americans who claim the forest the company has purchased belongs to them.

It's not long before he makes some peculiar observations - the natives are staggering around drunkenly and are complaining of diminished sensation, while animals are growing to way beyond their normal size. Could this last finding have anything to do with the recent spate of killings in the area?


It's a bear.

Actually it's a mutant bear, and it got that way by eating mercury-poisoned fish which of course our hero and his pregnant wife (oh no!) have also been eating. Trapped after a storm renders their helicopter useless, Rob, his wife, and assembled interested parties have to survive the night and the bear and get back to civilisation before they're all killed by the lumbering monstrosity.

And lumbering monstrosity is a pretty good description of PROPHECY itself - a big budget, bottom of the barrel, daft as a brush eco-horror that takes ages to get going and then doesn't really do anything of interest when it does. None of the characters are especially engaging or likeable, with Foxworth one note beardy/shouty and Talia Shire as his wife moping around when she can't distract herself with her cello. The script is by THE OMEN's David Seltzer and Foxworth's explanation of human embryology is so silly it deserves a place in the Hall of Ridiculous Movie Science.

John Frankenhemer directed and it would seem his heart really wasn't in this one. The only scene where his skill shines is when the survivors are trapped underground, the beast lurking outside, but it's a long wait for a few moments of good film-making. Oh, and normally I'm all for a bombastic music score in a film like this but Leonard Rosenman's has to be the most over the top, over-orchestrated stuff a film like this has ever had accompany it. Just wait till that establishing shot of the paper mill. 

Eureka do give us some nice extras, including a good 20 minute piece with mime artist and writer-director of FRIDAY THE 13TH PART VI Tom McLoughlin who talks about working on the creature movements. There's also a new interview with David Seltzer plus two commentary tracks, one from Richard Harland Smith, and another by Lee Gambin and Emma Westwood. The first print run of 2000 copies comes with a booklet featuring new writing by Craig Ian Mann.

John Frankenheimer's PROPHECY is out on Blu-ray from Eureka on Monday 16th August 2021