Monthly Archives: February 2016

Vienna Waits For You (Short Film Showcase)

 

Next up in our Short Film Showcase series is Vienna Waits For You, a gentle yet deeply unsettling body shock horror that warns that everything, no matter how much of a bargain it may seem, has a price.

Directed by Dominik Hartl, Vienna Waits For You tells the story of Anna, a young woman who is seeking an apartment in Austria’s capital city. So when she comes across a spacious, if slightly dated, pad at a bargain price she is delighted, but she soon learns that she is paying a greater cost than mere money. Hiding underneath the doilies and fading wallpaper there lurks a living presence that is determined to feed off of Anna’s vitality, decaying her body as she grows weaker.

Straddling the line between body shock horror and unsettling suspense flick, Vienna Waits For You is a great example of making a viewer feel uncomfortable without resorting to shock tactics and jump scares. The effects make up is superb, and lead Petra Staduan does a great job of conveying both Anna’s failing physical vitality and descent from rage into muted acceptance. The film is beautifully put together, and the final, lingering shot will stay in your mind long after the credits have rolled.

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Hammer Films announces comic series

With their cinematic rebirth now well under way Hammer Films has set its sights on conquering a new medium with the announcement of their team up with Titan Comics. As confirmed at yesterday’s comic retailers conference ComicsPro, the legendary British studio will allow Titan access to their back catalogue to create a new line of comics based on such famous properties as Horror of Dracula, Quartermass & the Pit and Curse of the Werewolf.

Hammer-Films-LogoThe history of Hammer Films is as storied as some of their legendary franchises. After becoming the byword for horror in the fifties and sixties the company suffered a spectacular fall from grace in the nineties before eventually becoming bankrupt. But after they were purchased by a Dutch consortium in 2007 the studio has risen from the ashes, and their recent output includes the adaptation of the classic Woman in Black and the Jared Harris-led ghost story The Quiet Ones.

Titan editor David Leach stated that, “Hammer is the home of some of the most groundbreaking horror and genre films in motion picture history. Together, we’re going to make some terrifyingly good comics.” Titan have previous form in adapting on screen properties for the comic book market, having been responsible for series based on the likes of Doctor Who and Assassin’s Creed.

The announcement stated that the series would be coming later this year. Coming hot on the heels of the announcements around the proposed Universal Monster cinematic universe it seems that fans of classic horror have a lot to look forward to in the coming months.

(Original story from THR)

The Paranormal Diaries: Clophill (2013)

Combining elements of Most Haunted, Blair Witch Project and The Wicker Man in a documentary melting pot may not sound like the most entertaining concept for a horror film, but then Clophill is not your average horror film. This feature from Off World Films and Bleeding Edge Films is a refreshingly understated and enjoyable take on a sub genre that has been recently defined by decidedly third rate fare.

Set in the actual village of Clophill in the UK, a place that has an actual history of haunting and occult activity, and shot in a documentary style the film follows a group of film makers that has set out to investigate the ruin of St Mary’s Church. The now derelict building was once the site of satanic rituals and animal sacrifices, and a history of strange sightings and other paranormal activity has persisted to this day. Surrounded by a frightened and superstitious local population the team sets up for a three day investigation, unaware of what lurks at the old graveyard or what danger they may be in.

p10274185_d_v7_aaWhile undoubtedly marketed as another found footage affair, PD:C is very much a mockumentary; the first third of the film is made up almost entirely of interviews and voice over work. This adds credibility while allowing the filmmakers to let the situation dictate their exposition, without the over reliance on otherwise banal dialogue. This approach also allow the viewers to build a rapport with the characters and the situation, which helps to buy into the more traditional found footage horror elements of the film’s final act. It’s also worth nothing that the crew have confirmed that around 90% of the on screen action was based on actual experiences of the team while filming.

For people expecting a traditional, jumpy horror they are likely to be disappointed; PD:C is much more interested in building tension and atmosphere than throwing out cheap scares for ninety minutes. The film has more in common with the BBC’s paranormal special Ghostwatch than Paranormal Activity, as the on screen action is presented in such a way as to be completely genuine. The scary moments, when they do come, are subtle and designed to make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck rather than force your bum from your chair. And while the inclusion of the post investigation interviews does add an element of predictability to proceedings it never affects the tension.

The performances of the cast are perfect across the board, and it never feels like watching anything but a sincere documentary film unfolding. The editing and setting are both spot on, and the camera work is admirably steady and a world away from the usual motion sickness inducing pap we have grown used to. There is also a very British, stiff upper lip feel to the film that will certainly appeal to UK and European audiences, with characters showing a healthy dose of cynicism in the face of the unfolding horror. The story is very well written and executed, although if one were to pick a fault it was that the ritual element of the films last third could have been left on the cutting room floor with no detriment to the overall experience.

While PD:C may alienate a portion of the modern horror audience that has grown used to jump scares and gore the more discerning fan is likely to appreciate its attempts to do something different, shunning the predictability that this sort of film usually emits in great, stinking waves. One of the freshest and most enjoyable entries into the found footage genre we have seen in years, and one of the best horror films to come out of Britain in many years.

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How will the Universal Monster cinematic universe work?

Following on from the announcement of Tom Cruise’s involvement with the upcoming The Mummy film, Universal Studios this week further strengthened the box office draw of their attempts at creating a multi movie cinematic universe by casting Johnny Depp as the lead in the as yet undated The Invisible Man. Adding this to the longstanding rumours that Angelina Jolie has been courted for the role of the Bride of Frankenstein it is clear that the studio is swinging for the fences with their casting. Cruise may not feature in the big mash up but he, Depp and, if cast, Jolie are the sort of box office draws that will pull in the more casual film goer. However for all the big name casting announcements, we are no closer to discerning how these classic monster will co-exist with one another on the big screen.

Ever since Marvel started us down the path of multi-instalment cinema universes, the connecting film franchise has become the holy grail for studio executives; DC has been so keen to grab some of those Marvel billions for themselves that they have foregone any attempt at a slow build by jamming every DC hero except Booster Gold into the upcoming Batman V Superman, while it was only the catastrophically bad performance of this summer’s Fantastic Four that seems to have deterred Fox’s plans to create their own mini Marvel universe. Even Hasbro and Paramount wants in on the act, with plans afoot for multi film franchises for Transformers and GI Joe. But ignoring the blatant cash grab, it almost makes sense for these properties to inhabit the same world (yes, even the Hasbro characters). These franchises are all built around heroes and crime fighters, the sort of people used to banding together to overcome a seemingly impossible foe. It is harder to imagine building a whole world around an assortment of demons, monsters and scientific creations gone horribly wrong.

Alex Kurtzman, who along with Chris Morgan has been charged by Universal with building this universe, was recently questioned about the current state of pre-production for the franchise, and stated that ‘the monster universe is coming together very, very quickly, we’re very excited. There will be announcements soon. We have actually started doing a lot of design work, we’re getting scripts in, everything is feeling really, really good, so I don’t want to curse it by saying too much to you, but it’s going well‘. So far so positive, but details about the films are still frustratingly elusive. It’s true that a number of the Universal monsters are often portrayed as misunderstood or sympathetic characters but there’s no getting around the fact that the majority of their collective cinematic adventures have seen them cast as the antagonists. As such it’s tough to imagine how a film featuring all of them will work. Will they come together as a group of heroes to fight a bigger, badder antagonist or will they team up as villains, ala Monster Squad, with someone like Cruise leading a human resistance effort?

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Unfortunately we’re not even blessed with a great deal of previous stories from which to draw inspiration, especially when looking exclusively at the Universal version of these monsters. With the exception of Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, the only real ‘cross over’ featuring these characters has been with comedic duo Abbott and Costello, and it seems the modern reboot is unlikely any inspiration will be taken from this film. Some details as to the direction the films may take, however, could be inferred from the current slate of films currently listed on the Universal monsters cinematic universe Wikipedia page. In addition to The Mummy (currently scheduled for June 2017), The Wolfman (March 2018) and The Invisible Man, there are also listings for Bride of Frankenstein, Van Helsing and The Creature from the Black Lagoon. Meanwhile, conspicuous by their absence, are the two biggest hitters in the Universal arsenal; the recent Luke Evans led origin story Dracula Untold has been rumoured as part of the continuity but the current slate of films does not include another solo outing for the vampire, and there is no mention at all of Frankenstein’s monster.

Could this mean that the antagonist for the eventual team up is the Count himself? After all, he has traditionally been portrayed as the most powerful of these monsters, and his lack of main film means Kurtzman and Morgan could be holding him in reserve, intending using him as a tool to connect the other films. Another option could be that Dracula will be the central villain for the Van Helsing film, with his next appearance coming later down the line in the same way that Marvel used Tom Hiddleston’s Loki in Thor and The Avengers. A similar path could also be in store for Frankenstein’s monster, although it seems more likely that his first appearance would be in the Bride of Frankenstein reboot. It’s also possible that he will be held back until the team up, possibly used as a unwilling pawn by Dracula or as a peripheral character sitting on the fence between the good and bad.

Despite the question marks around this series of films, however, they remain a genuinely exciting proposition. The Universal interpretations of these characters are arguably the most iconic in cinema history. The chance to see them back on the big screen, and especially interacting together, is one that any horror fan should want to see. Fingers crossed that the story is strong enough to do these monsters justice.

The Sleepover (Short Film Spotlight)

 

Woodsboro. Haddonfield. Crystal Lake. Fictional locations that have all shared the same, shameful burden; the serial killer. Luckily for us our own visitations to these cursed spots are limited to just a couple of hours; imagine having to grow up in a town with its very own knife wielding psychopath.

So goes the premise for The Sleepover, the first film in the (hopefully) regular new Final Guy feature ‘Short Film Spotlight’. Coming from writer/director team Jennifer Raite and Chris Cullari, the flick shows a typical night in a town where the local serial killer is considered less an unstoppable force of nature and more like a minor irritant, albeit one that carries a machete. Cars have bumper stickers supporting Moms Against Serial Killers (MASK), sleepovers have a check list of rules to follow and babysitters are specialists in armed and unarmed combat.

Although not the scariest, The Sleepover is both smart and hilarious, effortlessly twisting the deeply ingrained tropes of the slasher movie genre. The film was made as a proof of concept, and won official selection at a host of festivals, including Fantastic Fest, Shriekfest, Seattle International Film Festival, Florida Film Festival, Vassar FilmFest and the Knoxville Horror Fest. Fingers crossed it eventually makes it to feature.

 

 

Maggie (2015)

In the midst of a deadly plague that is reanimating the deceased, Wade Vogel (Arnold MV5BMTkyNzk0MTU2Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTgwNDExNzMyNTE@._V1__SX1473_SY656_Schwarzenegger) brings his infected daughter Maggie (Abigail Breslin) back to the family farm to spend her final days before she must be quarantined. Both struggle to come to terms with Maggie’s condition as they resist outside pressures and internal conflict, all the while anxiously waiting for the more murderous symptoms of the illness to take hold.

The first feature from director Henry Hobson, Maggie is a slow burning look at terminal illness, and the different ways people deal with such a painful and inevitable situation, wrapped up in a zombie film. Unlike the majority of zombie films, which usually focus on a group of survivors living in a post apocalyptic landscape, Hobson attempts to increase the emotional impact by keeping a sense of normality to the world and zeroing in on the plight of one particular family. Anyone expecting a typical horror film is likely to be disappointed, as there are very little scares to be had, but it is refreshing to see a director willing to take a different approach to this genre.

Unfortunately, while there are moments of real depth and feeling, there are also too many times when the pacing is almost glacial, grinding the narrative to a halt. Dialogue is sparse, and although this absence does support the gravity of the situation that’s unfolding on screen a few more verbal exchanges would have developed our bond for the characters and their plight. In several important moments it almost feels as if Hobson trusts his leads a little too much, choosing to rely on facial expressions and brooding silence to move the story along. This is particularly true an issue for Schwarzenegger, branching out into arguably the first ever role where he’s expected to act as opposed to just fill a flak jacket and look mean. There are a few moments where he manages to convey the weight of the situation on Wade’s shoulders but this is soon removed whenever he is called upon to deliver dialogue, and the majority of the acting appears to be being performed by his beard and the lines around his eyes. An accomplished actor could have made more of this role, and it ultimately seems a waste that Schwarzenegger was cast, even if kudos are due for stepping out of his action centric comfort zone.

On the other end of the spectrum Breslin is superb, and carries the film as the titular character. She delivers a nuanced performance as a young woman facing both her own mortality and the knowledge of what she will eventually become, and it’s a real shame that Hobson didn’t give her more screen time. Of the supporting characters only Joely Richardson is given much to do as Maggie’s god fearing stepmother, and again it would have been interesting to see more focus given to her reactions to Maggie’s illness.

The film is shot beautifully, with plenty of wide shots conveying the isolation and emptiness of the world surrounding the Vogel farmstead. The colour palette is suitably washed out and bleak, although there are moments when the image is almost too dark. However there are moments when it feels as if a particularly visually arresting scene could have been cut in order to move the story along.

Overall, this feels like a nearly but not quite, and you can’t help but wonder at the missed opportunities. Although I would still recommend this film a wonderful performance from Breslin isn’t enough to save the film from some serious pacing issues and Schwarzenegger’s uneven work.

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