Wednesday 31 January 2024

NEWS & TRAILER: Underground (2024 Film) Directed by Lars Janssen

Prepare for a descent into darkness as "Underground" unleashes a night of terror like no other in this spine-chilling British thriller, set to debut on UK digital screens on 26 February 2024, courtesy of Miracle Media.

Directed by Lars Janssen and co-written and co-produced by Charlotte Dawn Potter, "Underground" takes audiences on a harrowing journey into the depths of fear. What starts as a carefree hen-do quickly spirals into a nightmare as a group of girlfriends find themselves trapped underground after taking a wrong turn. As the night unfolds, their celebrations morph into a chilling battle for survival, with each passing moment bringing fresh horrors and escalating tension.

Will they escape the darkness unscathed, or will they become victims of the twisted forces lurking below?

With an ensemble cast delivering standout performances and pulse-pounding suspense around every corner, "Underground" promises to keep audiences on the edge of their seats from start to finish. Get ready to confront your deepest fears and experience the ultimate thrill ride as "Underground" takes you on a journey into the unknown.

Don't miss the digital debut of "Underground" on 26 February, only from Miracle Media. Brace yourself for a night you'll never forget.

Tuesday 30 January 2024

Get Ready for a Frightful February on NYX UK

 

Starting February 7th, NYX UK invites viewers into the dark and captivating world of "Elvira’s Movie Macabre," resurrecting the beloved horror hostess Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, portrayed by Cassandra Peterson. Prepare for a thrilling journey through a myriad of classic and cult horror films, as each episode showcases Elvira's unique perspective on everything from low-budget slashers to monstrous flicks, promising entertainment that transcends the screen.

But the terror doesn't end there! Throughout the month, prepare to be immersed in the realm of horror royalty. Chris Alexander, former Fangoria editor, takes center stage on Monday nights with "The Original NYX TV Series," offering a deep exploration into Canadian horror cinema. From the chilling depths of SHIVERS to the unnerving intrigue of TERROR TRAIN, Alexander's curated selection promises to captivate and terrify.

Meanwhile, Saturday nights belong to Alan Jones and "FrightFest Saturday Scares," where audiences are treated to discussions on Jones' favorite films, including the spine-tingling mysteries of TENEBRAE and ALICE SWEET ALICE.

Mark your calendars for February 4th as horror enthusiasts unite to celebrate the birthday of the visionary director George A. Romero. NYX UK pays homage to his legacy with a special double feature, showcasing Romero's groundbreaking works: THE CRAZIES and NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD. These films not only showcase Romero's directorial genius but also his knack for infusing horror with thought-provoking social commentary.

And the thrills continue with this month's premieres. The Soska Sisters' 2019 remake of RABID offers a fresh take on David Cronenberg's classic, while Peter Duffell's British horror anthology, "THE HOUSE THAT DRIPPED BLOOD," weaves a tapestry of chilling tales linked by an ominous house. Lastly, prepare for the whimsical and unique experience of "PUPPET SHARK," featuring an all-puppet cast that adds a delightful twist to the horror genre.

NYX UK promises a month filled with frights, delights, and unforgettable scares. Don't miss out on the spine-tingling excitement, coming your way this February!


For more check out www.nyxtv.co.uk/tv-guide

Sunday 28 January 2024

COMPETITION: Win Inside on Blu-ray



Dare you go Inside Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo’s ‘brutally affecting’ and deeply disturbing French feature?  The film is set to strike stomach-wrenching fear into audiences once more, 15 years after its original release in 2007 as Second Sight Films announced a brand-new Inside Limited Edition Blu-ray Box set release on 5 February 2024 complete with a host of fantastic new special features.

And to celebrate we have a great competition and 2 copies of Inside on Standard Blu-ray to give away.

Synopsis
Following a car accident that leaves her husband dead, expectant mother Sarah (Alysson Paradis – The Childhood of Icarus) is left to prepare for her impending birth alone while grieving her terrible loss. But when a stranger (Béatrice Dalle – Betty Blue, Night on Earth) turns up at her house on Christmas Eve, things take a terrifying, unimaginably twisted turn… as the deranged intruder will stop at nothing to take her unborn baby.

The Inside Limited Edition box set (Which you can pre-order at https://amzn.to/3SAvBtE) is presented in a stunning rigid slipcase with new artwork by James Neal and includes a 70-page book with new essays. The special features include: new audio commentaries by Anna Bogutskaya and Elena Lazic, brand new interviews with the writer/directors Maury and Bustillo, and many more. Please see full listing on attached. There will be a Standard Edition Blu-ray available on the same date that includes the special features.

Go deep Inside this welcome new addition to the family collection

Pre-order on Amazon at https://amzn.to/42dm5zX

Enter now for a chance to win.

COMPETITION CLOSED


Quick Terms and conditions - For full T&C click here
1. Closing date 12-02-24
2. No alternative prize is available
3. When the competition ends as indicated on this page, any and all entries received after this point will not count and emails blacklisted due to not checking this page first.
4. Winners will be chosen randomly and will be informed via email.
5. Entries that come directly from other websites will not be accepted.

Monday 22 January 2024

REVIEW: Night Swim (2024 Film) - Starring Wyatt Russell

In his directorial debut, Bryce McGuire plunges audiences into the chilling waters of supernatural horror with "Night Swim," featuring an intriguing premise and a suspenseful atmosphere. While the film successfully generates genuinely eerie moments and boasts commendable performances from its cast, it grapples with the confines of a linear and somewhat predictable plot.

Set in 1992, the narrative unfolds as a young girl's innocent quest to retrieve a toy boat from her family's pool takes a terrifying turn. Fast-forward to the present day, and the Waller family—portrayed convincingly by Wyatt Russell, Kerry Condon, Amélie Hoeferle, and Gavin Warren—finds itself ensnared in a nightmarish web. Forced into early retirement due to a degenerative illness, ex-baseball player Ray Waller relocates with his family to a new home, hopeful that the backyard swimming pool will offer recreation for the kids and therapeutic benefits for himself. However, Ray's optimism crumbles when a sinister secret from the house's history unleashes a malevolent force, thrusting the family into a harrowing abyss of inescapable terror.

The film excels in building suspense and tapping into primal fears associated with water, delivering moments that genuinely send shivers down the spine. Jump scares contribute to the overall tension, and the cast's solid performances make the characters relatable and engaging.

Yet, "Night Swim" ventures into familiar territory with its linear and somewhat predictable plot. While the premise is interesting, it feels stretched for a feature-length film, and the film's adherence to a PG-13 rating limits its exploration of the full horror spectrum. Opportunities for delving deeper into supernatural elements and exploring the psychological toll on the characters remain largely untapped.

The inclusion of horror comedy moments provides a welcome break, injecting levity into the tense narrative. However, there's a lingering desire for the film to push boundaries further in this aspect.

In conclusion, "Night Swim" stands as a decent horror film with a solid foundation and effective scares. However, limitations in plot depth and the constraints of a PG-13 rating hinder it from reaching its full potential. While the premise may not fully support a feature-length runtime, McGuire's debut exhibits promise, delivering a satisfactory horror experience with a generous 6 out of 10 rating. While horror enthusiasts may appreciate the suspenseful moments, the film falls short of leaving a lasting, chilling impression.

Out now on Apple TV at - https://apple.co/3vIsiHY

REVIEW: There's Something in the Barn (2023 Film) - Starring Martin Starr

Out now at

Apple TV - https://apple.co/48lzms4

Amazon Prime - https://amzn.to/3RrXIcJ

Directed by Magnus Martens and written by Aleksander Kirkwood Brown, "There's Something in the Barn" delivers an enchanting fusion of horror and comedy against the picturesque backdrop of Norway. With Martin Starr, Amrita Acharia, and Kiran Shah leading the cast, the film follows the Nordheim family's relocation to a remote Norwegian cabin, where they unwittingly encounter murderous elves residing in their barn. Drawing inspiration from classics like Gremlins, Krampus, National Lampoon's, and Home Alone, the movie crafts a unique and entertaining horror comedy experience.

The storyline unfolds as the Nordheim family settles into their new abode, with young Lucas (Townes Bunner) stumbling upon the presence of elves in their barn. Ignoring the local legend of "Barn Elf Rules" has dire consequences for the family as the narrative progresses. The film introduces a diverse array of characters, including the oblivious father Bill (Martin Starr), the upbeat stepmother Carol (Amrita Acharia), and the rebellious teenage daughter Nora (Zoe Winther-Hansen). Kiran Shah's portrayal of the main elf adds a captivating and sinister dimension to the story, successfully blending horror and humour.

A standout feature of the film is its incorporation of culture clash gags, enhancing the comedic aspects of the narrative. The Norwegian authenticity further enriches the overall atmosphere, providing audiences with a festive treat. The film's combination of gore, humor, and a holiday setting pays homage to the creature feature films of the 1980s, creating a nostalgic and enjoyable experience.

While the film excels in seamlessly blending horror and comedy, it does stumble in its inclusion of left-wing politics and woke themes, particularly in the discussion of gun control. This element feels forced and detracts from the overall enjoyment of the movie. Additionally, some viewers may find the first half of the film a bit slow, but the pace picks up in the second half, leading to a satisfying climax.

In summary, "There's Something in the Barn" has the potential to become a cult classic comedy horror. Its unique genre blend, coupled with a mix of humor and horror, provides a refreshing take on Christmas horror. Despite some missteps in handling political themes, the film earns a solid 8 out of 10, making it a noteworthy addition to the Christmas horror film repertoire. While only time will reveal its cult status, the film's entertaining mix of elements ensures its standout position in the genre.

Out now at

Apple TV - https://apple.co/48lzms4

Amazon Prime - https://amzn.to/3RrXIcJ

REVIEW: Leave the World Behind (2023 Film) - Starring Ethan Hawke


The 2023 American apocalyptic psychological thriller film, "Leave the World Behind," proves to be a disappointing endeavor that falls short of its potential. Despite promising elements, the movie is hindered by a lackluster plot, numerous flaws, and an inconsistent focus that leaves viewers wanting more.

It plays more like a government propaganda / predictive programming type film, then a real Hollywood movie. (Is there a difference?)

Following the story of Amanda Sanford (played by Julia Roberts), a misanthrope, and her family on an unplanned vacation to Long Island, the film takes a dark turn with a series of unsettling events, including a blackout, mysterious strangers, and the breakdown of technology. As chaos ensues, the family grapples with the realization that a political coup may be unfolding.

While Julia Roberts delivers a strong performance as Amanda Sanford, her efforts are overshadowed by the film's political overtones. Mahershala Ali's performance as G.H. Scott is satisfactory, but it is Kevin Bacon who truly stands out, deserving a more significant role.

Despite these strengths, "Leave the World Behind" faces a multitude of issues. The plot is filled with significant holes, leaving audiences questioning the logic and coherence of the narrative. The slow pace in the first hour makes it challenging for viewers to stay engaged, and the film's constant shifts in focus contribute to a lack of overall clarity.

One of the most glaring drawbacks is the inclusion of offensive racist overtones that feel unnecessary and out of place. Attempting to convey a radical far-left agenda through these elements detracts from the narrative, adding discomfort for viewers.

The film struggles to find its identity, wavering between different themes and genres, making it difficult for audiences to connect with the characters or the overarching story. Consequently, "Leave the World Behind" lacks a satisfying payoff at the end, leaving viewers with a sense of disappointment and the feeling of having wasted over two hours on a poorly executed film.

In conclusion, "Leave the World Behind" fails to meet expectations. Despite commendable performances by Julia Roberts and Kevin Bacon, the film's weak plot, slow pacing, offensive overtones, and lack of a cohesive identity make it a forgettable and unsatisfying cinematic experience. With a score of 3 out of 10, this film leaves much to be desired. Perhaps it's best to "Leave This Film Behind."

Now available on Netflix.

Monday 15 January 2024

Interview with Alan Jones

In anticipation of the upcoming FRIGHTFEST SATURDAY SCARES WITH ALAN JONES premiere on the Fast TV channel NYX on January 20, Alan Jones reflects on his journey to journalistic success. He shares anecdotes ranging from pilfering horror movie posters and socializing with ABBA to experiencing disagreements with filmmakers and detailing his forthcoming autobiography.


Did you know from a young age that you wanted to be a journalist?

Alan: No, I loved horror and fantasy movies from the age of ten, or rather the idea of them because obviously I couldn’t go to the cinema and see anything of that nature. I read horror novels nonstop, stole shocker posters pasted up on the billboards at the end of my street, cut out all the wonderfully lurid adverts from newspapers and pasted them into scrapbooks. I was literally waiting for the moment I could pass for sixteen so I could get into X films and start watching all the movies I was desperate to catch up on. 


Can you describe how you got your “big break” into journalism?

Alan: To cut a very long story short - in the early 1970s I worked as a receptionist at the Portobello Hotel in Notting Hill Gate. It was, and still is, a mega-celebrity watering hole and I partied with everyone from ABBA and David Bowie to Queen and Jack Nicholson. One of the guests was sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison who caught me one night writing up film reviews. Before I could stop him, Harlan was reading some entries and he told me he liked my style and that he knew an editor in the USA who could use my ‘talents’. That was Frederick S. Clarke, the editor of the seminal magazine ‘Cinefantastique’

You quickly became a pioneer of genre cinema with your insightful reviews and features, how hard was it building up your almost encyclopaedic knowledge?

Alan: Like every genre fan it’s an inherent thing, isn’t it? I learnt everything by seeing the movies, reading such great books at Carlos Clarens’ ‘Horror Movies’ and magazines like ‘Castle of Frankenstein’ and ‘Monthly Film Bulletin’. No internet, no video, if you missed a movie you hoped it would turn up in late night shows in rep or at the Scala cinema. The times I travelled to the Odeon Croydon to see dodgy exploitation double bills…. Back then no one was properly reviewing these movies so it was a blank slate I worked from and that’s why I’m proud of my early reviews. I usually got it right without any outside help clouding my judgement!


You are renowned for your honest reviews, has this ever affected your friendships with creatives in the industry?

Alan: Yes, but if it does affect it that much, they weren’t friends in the first place. So many people when they say they want you to be honest don’t want that at all. I lost Dario Argento for a year because I hated PHENOMENA so much. He got over it. My close friend rock video pioneer Russell Mulcahy too. He took me to Argentina on location with HIGHLANDER II: THE QUICKENING and was really shocked when I slated the finished result. No one died.


You’re hosting NYX’s very first original series, FrightFest Saturday Scares with Alan Jones, how did that come about?

Alan: They asked me. Simple as that. NYX are plugged into the genre zeitgeist in a way very few niche Fast Channels are.


Was it difficult to choose the movies to include in this series?

Alan: Not at all. Each of my choices means something special to me, either in terms of pure fandom or love of the director or because I was on the set watching it being filmed or knowing the people involved. I have been on location with thousands of films since the very first one - STAR WARS in 1977. I want to impart my knowledge and point the viewer to aspects they may not know about the movies in question and make them as enthusiastic about it as I am.


Do you have a personal favourite film which you present?

Alan: If you are holding a scalpel to my throat, wearing black-gloves, I would have to say Mario Bava’s BLOOD AND BLACK LACE because it was the very first X film I saw at the cinema. And when I look back in hindsight, it set the seal on my entire life because it engendered my love of Italy, Italian directors and artistic gore.


How would you sell this series to the casual viewer?

Alan: Even if you are a connoisseur, an aficionado or a casual NYX viewer I guarantee you will learn something you never knew about classics, guilty pleasures and bona fide masterpieces and hopefully see them in a totally new light.


FrightFest is 25 years old this year and is still the biggest celebration of the genre in the UK, you must be proud of how respected this brand has become?

Alan: Absolutely. I couldn’t be more delighted. Who knew when we started FrightFest back in 2000 as a meeting place for genre fans in London, that we would become a brand leader, a champion for independent fantasy, be vitally important to sales agents and be in the Top 20 Greatest Film Festivals of All Time Lists? As long as we keep that sense of community, I see no stopping us extending our reach. We have so much exciting stuff planned for our 25th Anniversary this year, I can’t wait.


So, what are you up to at the moment?

Alan: Apart from watching roughly 20 movies a week for FrightFest, and the other festival I am now Artistic Director of, the Trieste Science+Fiction Festival, I have two books launching this year. One is my ‘Discomania’ autobiography, which contains reviews of every Disco movie you cannot afford to miss (105 of them!). The other book is a volume of every review I wrote for ‘Starburst’ magazine during my 30-year tenure as their main critic. Both books are published by FAB Press. Also, I’ve just filmed my segments for the documentary I WAS A TEENAGE SEX PISTOL, a Disco conversation with my S’Express mate Mark Moore for the 4K restoration of THE MUSIC MACHINE, Britain’s answer to SATURDAY NIGHT FEVER, and next week I’m recording a commentary for OPERA, the most important Argento film for me personally as it was the first one I ever covered on location in Rome. Then there’s the Berlin and Cannes Film Festivals… And filming more ‘Saturday Night Scares’ for NYX of course.

FRIGHTFEST SATURDAY SCARES WITH ALAN JONES is broadcast on Saturday nights on NYX UK, kicking off at 9pm on Saturday 20 Jan. It is produced by FrightFest’s Ian Rattray and Greg Day. NYX can be viewed via Freeview 289 / Channelbox App / TCL TVs / Distro TV




Friday 12 January 2024

Interview with Robert Ager - By David Kempf


When did you first become interested in writing reviews? And how did you get involved in film analysis?

2006/7

I had no interest in becoming a reviewer until I began studying my favourite movies in detail to improve my own writing, directing and editing skills. While studying the fine details of Psycho, Alien and The Shining I came across embedded elements communicating themes I didn’t expect. For example, in Psycho many parallels exist between Marion Crane’s fractured reality (she was the shower murder victim) and the fractured reality of Norman Bates. Both characters hear voices, have trouble with romantic attachments that are considered forbidden, and have committed crimes, etc. I came to realize that these deeply embedded themes play on the viewer subconsciously, yet I’d never read about or heard about these themes anywhere in film discussion or literature. I found it all so interesting I just had to share it in a “film analysis” form. It actually ended up pulling me away from making my own films and sent me down a different path.


Tell us about how you started your first YouTube channel. 

As far as I know I was the first to create the film analysis essay format that’s now become a small industry of its own on Youtube. I think it was mid-2007. Youtube was small back then and the content was more organic and user created, instead of the corporate advertising, clickbait platform it’s become now. The only comparison to my work at the time was Red Letter Media, who started their channel around the same time I did, but theirs was a more casual, comedic take on film reviewing.

 Immediately after posting my first Youtube film analysis videos I started getting endless requests for breakdowns of other movies. In taking up those challenges I discovered many more movies had deeper, previously undiscussed layers. Gradually I began to pick up on the broad patterns of symbolic communication that span many film makers’ work. This made it easier and easier to dissect more movies. 


What your favorite genre?

I’m not sure that I have one. I do particularly enjoy genres that facilitate exploration of the surreal dream aspects of the unconscious – sci-fi and horror are great for this, but also the surrealism of David Lynch. Having said that, such exploration can be done in straight drama too, but the narrative requirements to make the story seem “realistic” can be limiting. Deviate too far and drama audiences frown upon it. The one genre I always couldn’t stand was musicals, but in recent years I’ve begun to take a keen interest in those because they deviate from reality into fantasies of the unconscious too. I’ve not made a many videos on it, but would like to.


Why do you think horror movies and books remain so popular?

We humans struggle to deal with the brutal, merciless aspects of physical reality and the parallel brutal, merciless aspects of our own psyche. The inner brutality is a necessary part of ourselves for dealing with the brutality that threatens us from outside. This inner and outer brutality is a colossal source of anxiety so, when our immediate circumstances don’t require a violent response, we suppress our awareness of inner and outer brutality. It mostly relieves us of our anxiety, but that anxiety surfaces in subtle ways and especially in our dreams.

One way we cope with our suppressed awareness is through fictional stories, in which we can explore and process brutality, while maintaining conscious dissociation. In a fiction story the violence is happening to “someone else” in a “different time and place”. This is evident in young children’s bed time stories, featuring violent threats in the wilderness such as the big bad wolf, the wicked witch and so on. It allows kids to learn about violence and danger in a way that causes minimal direct anxiety.

The horror genre in books and movies is the adult version of this process. Isolation, disease, sadism, murder, deception and a myriad of other anxiety-laden aspects of reality can be explored in their most extreme forms in fictional horror, not just through direct showing of a simulated experience, but using the surrealistic language of the unconscious.

Clive Barker’s classic Hellraiser, for example, explores the dark sadistic aspect of sexuality that’s present in all humans. The Cenobyte villains of the film are dressed in the kind of S&M bondage gear that are marketed and purchased on a mass scale in modern society, but literally hidden from the world in the privacy of closets. The film takes this sexual violence to extreme forms, but in a magical framing similar to childrens’ fantasy stories. If Hellraiser lacked the magical framing and was presented realistically audiences wouldn’t be able to handle it emotionally and the film would lose its power to communicate.

This is the eternal power of horror. It allows us to explore and process our most extreme anxieties and urges in a form we can consciously cope with.


What inspires your review choices and topics?

Mostly, I watch films casually for enjoyment and escapism. Occasionally a particular film will play on my mind for a long period after watching it, sometimes recurring in my mind for days, but I don’t know why. This I find is generally is an indicator that the film has played with me subliminally, whether the film makers intended it or not (often film makers don’t even consciously understand why they have an urge to make a film about a particular subject, but they feel compelled).

While thinking about the film that’s affected me, I sometimes stumble across some realization about the plot or whatever, something I didn’t have words for earlier. Other times I consciously go back and watch the film again, paying closer attention to identify whatever it was that affected me.

I’ve tried using the approach of selecting a film in advance for analysis rather than the film selecting me, but I usually don’t feel very inspired doing it that way.


What do you think the difference between American horror and British horror is?

Well, there’s so much to explore on that topic.

I can’t say a lot about modern British and US horror because I think there’s no major modern difference between the two. They’ve both become incredibly generic on the whole, falling back on the same old rehashed themes, metaphors and presentation. Aside from the work of Ari Aster, I think horror has been a largely dead genre for some years.

However, I’d say traditional American and British horror differ in some important ways, largely based upon cultural differences. British society, especially in the South and the middle and upper classes, is much more psychologically repressed than the North part of the UK and also much more repressed than US culture, at least in relation to sex and violence. Poverty tends to expose people to actual violence, hence my own upbringing in Liverpool hasn’t led so much to that type of repression. I gave the example of Hellraiser to a previous question and here it’s relevant again. Clive Barker is British, but crucially he is from my home town of Liverpool. I consider this a major factor in his willingness to explore the darkest depths of the psyche. Apparently Barker, who is gay, spent some time in New York too, another city too brutal for upper class repressed types. In New York, Barker was exposed to the darker elements of the New York gay sub-culture scene at the time and I believe this also led to the extreme sexual horror of Hellraiser.

By the way, an interesting theory about serial murder in Britain in past centuries is that, as part of the mass denial process, such murders would be attributed to symbolic supernatural sources – werewolves, witches and vampires. To an extent this still goes on today. Serial killers still get literally called “monsters”, a verbal way of classing them as a separate species to the rest of us.

Basically, a lot of traditional British horror was presented in a toned down, more subtle form, fitting with the psychological needs of a more consciously sensitive audience that’s not as willing to acknowledge inner or outer brutality. In the US, class divisions aren’t as culturally strong as the UK, so horror violence is more visceral. More blood is shown, more mutilation, more screams of terror or agony. And it may relate to the US having had a more violent history on its own soil in recent centuries – the wild west.

Incidentally, Japanese horror of recent decades has been fascinating in that I think it marries together the British suppression element and the US visceral element. Maybe it’s an expression of how Japanese culture simultaneously features the two mentalities. I think we see similar in Samurai stories – traits of honour, respect and humility are jarringly present in Samurai characters who are angry, sadistic and vengeful. Their screen presentations of Ninja are fascinating in this aspect too.

Back to your question, there’s another element at work that seems to be more prevalent in modern US horror. Again it leads to more visceral on screen violence, but the motive is different. The raw desire of the film maker to make an easy buck through media attention is, for some reason, stronger in the US. This is a major factor that’s led to the “torture-porn” genre – the Saw franchise etc.

Back in the 1980’s western populations were becoming increasingly aware of the serial killer phenomenon – and the number of serial killer cases seemed to be on the increase due to various factors (too much to go into here). The idea of being abducted and tortured to death by a serial killer is one of the most potent fears in the human psyche. And so, as more literature and media coverage of such cases occurred from the 1960’s through to the 80’s, the public needed to psychologically deal with that. I believe this led to the “slasher” and “video nasty” genres of the 80’s. It was a way for the public to psychologically process the very real horror of serial murder. It served its purpose and a lot of the more crude, cash-in movies of the genre have appropriately faded. But the movies that explored the subject in more artistic and psychologically potent ways have lasted – the first Nightmare On Elm Street, Silence of the Lambs, Halloween etc.

After the serial killer genre of screen horror ran its course horror didn’t seem to know what to do with itself. That’s where Japanese horror stepped in, combining visceral violence with psychological subtlety, but that seemed to run its course too. Since then we’ve been stuck with jump scare garbage horror and the continuation of “torture porn”.


What are your favorite horror books?

I don’t read many horror books, but I was a big fan of Stephen King’s IT when it was released. Neither of the film versions have come close to the movie I had in my head from reading that book. I’m also a big fan of Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon, Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal (the latter is so much better than the trashy movie version). 


What are some of your favorite horror movies?

Mainly the ones I review – Carpenter’s version of The Thing, Poltergeist, The Shining, Hellraiser etc. The Thing is my fave horror movie of all time.

 

Do you think what we don’t see is actually scarier in a horror movie than graphic gore?

Ok, this is an important subject, so I’ll answer at length with a specific modern movie in mind.

Last year I saw Terrifier 2, which I consider an unfortunate example of where future horror might be going. I watched the film because I’d heard it made prominent use of practical physical special effects instead of CGI and was quite brutal. The film certainly delivered in terms of high quality practical effects - the writer / director himself was the talent behind this. But unfortunately, the director’s motives are of a brand I find repulsive. I did take the time to watch a lengthy interview with him on Youtube and he seems like an intelligent guy with a lot of potential to make some great films, but he openly explains that he wants to push the boundaries of what kind of torture can be shown on screen. To me this is a shallow, cash-in motive that disrespects the audience and the role of horror fiction in the common psyche.

The Terrifier 2 movie itself is severely lacking in plot or interesting characters. The script exists solely as an excuse to show frequent scenes of sadistic violence to draw attention from a modern horror community starved of decent horror. The director is skilled at creating gore, both in terms of effects and his direction and editing of the scenes, but the level of on screen sadism I think is irresponsible. In one part of the film a teenage girl is savagely tortured across a span of three scenes. The killer pours bleach and salt into her wounds, among other forms of sadism, which isn’t a demonstration of special effects skill – it reveals the immaturity of the film maker. I’m surprised censors didn’t globally step in on this one, as they would with some perceived “hate speech” factor. There’s also great emotional sadism in the film as this merciless torture of a teenager is witnessed by the girl’s own Mother.

With Terrifier 2 the film maker takes the attitude of “I’ve got the guts to show you what other horror directors wont”, but he also consciously avoids showing any rape or sexual sadism in the film’s most depraved slaying because he knows it would get the film banned or would offend audiences and put them off his work. Yet he shows sexual sadism towards a male in a later scene, but the details are kept off screen. So the film isn’t as daring as the director wants us to believe it is..

Unfortunately, the director also expresses a desire to show violent sadism toward children, but never quite crosses the line. As well as the teenage girl, in one scene a boy of about fourteen has chunks of flesh bitten out of his ankle. And in an earlier scene the killer uses a gun to shoot and kill a room full of children in a playpen, but the children are played by adult actors dressed as toddlers in a Lynchian type dream sequence. It’s like the director wanted to show kids being killed for shock and controversy, but has chickened out of fully doing so.

So the director isn’t really willing to go to the worst extremes of violence present in real life cases, such as the sadism of Bittaker and Norris, the “Toolbox killers” of the 1970’s. The details of their crimes were so utterly horrific that not only do we not see any such equivalent in screen horror, but those details are largely kept out of general public discussion, even in print. I learned about some of it while researching Silence of the Lambs, which led me to consult some academic sources not on public record. I’ve never told anyone what I learned about the horrors of that case as I wouldn’t want to burden anyone with the knowledge.

As a counter to Terrifier 2, the Australian movie Snowtown is more disturbing and realistic and far more intelligent. That movie really rides the line in terms of showing sadism, in fact it arguably crosses the line, but interestingly Snowtown hasn’t become part of “classic horror movie” culture. It doesn’t make it onto best horror movie lists and isn’t even called “horror” in film review literature. I think this is because Snowtown serves a purpose that’s the opposite of sensationalism. The movie does not allow the audience to enjoy the violence at all. It’s showing us how depraved we can become if we allow feelings of hate and revenge to overwhelm our psyche and it shows how the desperate desire for perceived social justice can lead us into becoming the monsters we claim to be fighting. In the case of Snowtown, which is based on real events, I think the level of onscreen violence was required to get the message across, though I’m still of two minds as to whether the censors should have stepped in.

I’m not a proponent of censorship generally, but I think there are limits to what should be shown and my concern is that lack of creativity, lack of maturity, and the desperation to make money will lead horror film makers down this ever-increasing form of torture-porn. It’s not the direction modern horror should go.

Instead horror film makers need to study more psychology and how it manifests in the modern world. Modern anxieties around subjects such as internet culture, lockdowns, increasingly desperate party politics, terrorism, A.I. and plastic surgery are rife with potential for representation in symbolic screen horror forms, but to do a good job of it requires the film maker to learn about such subjects to the point where they actually have some genuine insights worth communicating. I think too few film makers are willing to do that kind of challenging research.


What do you consider your greatest accomplishment?

The transition from being an emotionally messed up teenager carrying a lot of trauma and severe lack of self-confidence to developing a powerful new understanding of the human psyche (both my own and other people’s) through persistent research and risk-taking experimentation. This took years and has been the underpinning of everything else I’ve done since from mental health work to film making to video essays to independent journalism to programming / game design (my current major project). The Youtube film analysis is what I’m largely known for, but that’s just one of many outlets.


Do you have any advice for new reviewers?

For reviewers of films? Yes, make some films yourself so you get familiar with the process – learn to write, direct, produce and edit. Even if it’s just short films, you’ll be a much better film reviewer for it. It’s essential.


Tell us about your own experiences with filmmaking. 

I made a handful of short films and a feature film between around 2003 / 2012. I never had any illusion the films would be properly distributed as I lacked the physical equipment to meet industry technical standards. I did it for the learning experience and I learned fast and in more ways than expected. Without it my current film analysis work wouldn’t exist.

Any hope I had of getting into the film industry itself was quickly sapped when I encountered the soulless bureaucracy and propaganda-motivated nature of British film-funding. I decided I wanted nothing to do with it and that any films I make will always have to be under my own complete control – I get final say on script, editing, marketing, everything. To me it’s the only way worth working. Unfortunately it makes funds far more difficult to acquire. One day I may go back to making my own films, but right now I’m busy with parenting and other projects in different arenas.


What are your current projects?

I’m about to release my first video game, called To The Death, having taken up programming about six months ago. I’m very excited about this as it’s given me a new avenue of creativity, has developed a new branch of technical skills, and I’m already very pleased with the game. It’s intensely playable. If someone else released it I’d definitely buy a copy. The game might get expanded into a story mode, which I’ve partially mapped out already, and if does it’ll be as sophisticated as anything else I’ve done.

Aside from that I have my first book on film analysis mostly written and intend to finish and publish that after releasing the video game. I’m currently taking a break from Youtube film analysis as I’ve been at it for over fifteen years.


Please in your own words, write a paragraph about yourself & your work. 

Non-academic, psychology writer / researcher, film maker, film analyst, artist, programmer / game designer, independent thinker and Father. From Liverpool, England. Mostly known for my film analysis work at www.collativelearning.com


You can also check out Rob on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/@robag555

Wednesday 10 January 2024

FULL MOVIE - Sweet Taste of Souls (2020 Film) Starring Honey Lauren, John Salandria, Mark Valeriano, Amber Gaston, Sarah J. Bartholomew

"Sweet Taste of Souls" (2020) is a fantasy horror film directed by Terry Ross and written by F. Scott Mudgett. The story follows a group of band members who, after stopping at a roadside cafe for a slice of pie, find themselves trapped in the eccentric owner's surreal art collection. Now, they must confront a menacing force that has a hunger for souls. The film features a cast including Honey Lauren as Ellinore, John Salandria as Nate, Mark Valeriano as Kyle, Amber Gaston as Wendy, and Thom Michael Mulligan as Barney, among others.

Monday 8 January 2024

COMPETITION: Win High Tension Blu-ray



Prepare for some pulse-racing, heart-pounding High Tension. The fantastic French horror from Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Piranha 3D) gets a brand-new Limited Edition 4K/Blu-ray Dual Edition Box set release from masters in the field Second Sight Films 22 January 2024

And to celebrate we have a great competition and a copy on standard blu-ray to give away.

Synopsis
A new entry to the French extremity movement on its release in 2003, this fearsomely violent slasher stars Cécile de France (The French Dispatch, Around the World in 80 Days) and Maïwenn (One Deadly Summer, The Fifth Element), as two best friends whose sleepover goes shockingly awry. This  brutally violent, fear-fuelled cult classic arrives in the Limited Edition and Standard Edition 4K and Blu-ray versions, on 22 January 2024.

Alex (Maïwenn) and Marie’s (Cécile de France) study-weekend takes a savage turn, when a murderous maniac (Philippe Nahon – Irreversible), turns up on their doorstep. As Alex’s family is gruesomely picked off one-by-one, and one of them is taken hostage, a white-knuckle pursuit ensues… as Marie desperately battles to save them both from becoming his next victims.

Brimming with bloody violence and with a wicked twist in its tail, High Tension is one tense, terrifying terror ride you won’t be able to take your eyes off…

The brand-new box set is presented in a rigid slipcase with new artwork by James Neal with both discs featuring the film and bonus features. It comes with a 70-page book featuring new essays and the UHD is presented in HDR10+ and is the only approved HDR version of the film by the director. There’s also a host of brand-new interviews along with archive content.

Buy from Amazon at - https://amzn.to/47DXqWx

Enter now for a chance to win.

COMPETITION CLOSED


Quick Terms and conditions - For full T&C click here
1. Closing date 22-01-24
2. No alternative prize is available
3. When the competition ends as indicated on this page, any and all entries received after this point will not count and emails blacklisted due to not checking this page first.
4. Winners will be chosen randomly and will be informed via email.
5. Entries that come directly from other websites will not be accepted.




Friday 5 January 2024

REVIEW: It's a Wonderful Knife (2023 Film) - Starring Jane Widdop

"It's a Wonderful Knife" presents a captivating deviation from the conventional Christmas film, interweaving horror, comedy, and holiday warmth with a thrilling and gore-infused twist. Directed by Tyler MacIntyre and written by Michael Kennedy, the movie adeptly navigates between chilling kills and heartfelt moments, offering a unique take on the cherished genre.

The plot follows Winnie Carruthers (Jane Widdop), a year after thwarting a psychotic killer on Christmas Eve, who, upon wishing she had never been born, finds herself in an alternate reality. In this nightmarish parallel universe, she discovers the dire consequences of her absence as the killer returns to wreak havoc. Teaming up with the town misfit, played by Justin Long, Winnie strives to identify the murderer and return to her own reality.

A notable feature of the film is its enthusiastic embrace of holiday-themed horror-comedy. "It's a Wonderful Knife" ingeniously twists traditional holiday movie tropes with blood-spattered creativity, providing a viewing experience that is simultaneously shocking and entertaining. Despite its horror elements, the film manages to encapsulate the true spirit of Christmas, blending charm, gore, and a touch of angst in a surprisingly cohesive manner.

The cast, led by Jane Widdop as Winnie, Joel McHale as David Carruthers, and Justin Long as Henry Waters, delivers compelling performances that elevate the overall appeal of the film. Widdop, in particular, shines as the lead, effectively conveying the emotional weight of her character's journey through the gruesome and fantastical events.

While excelling in delivering a captivating mix of horror and comedy, the film may not entirely satisfy hardcore horror enthusiasts seeking genuine scares. "It's a Wonderful Knife" prioritizes its holiday-themed narrative and character dynamics over relentless horror, catering to a broader audience that enjoys a fusion of genres.

In summary, "It's a Wonderful Knife" is a must-watch for those who appreciate a horror film during the Christmas season. With an 8 out of 10 score, the film successfully provides a fresh perspective on the holiday genre, blending festive charm with blood-soaked excitement. Include this in your holiday viewing list for a unique and entertaining cinematic experience.

Out Now on Amazon at https://amzn.to/46Im8Eo

And Apple TV at https://apple.co/47JO6Ry

REVIEW: A Haunting in Venice (2023 Film) - Starring Kenneth Branagh

Kenneth Branagh's 2023 film, "A Haunting in Venice," serves as a sophisticated directorial and production endeavor, where he reprises the role of Hercule Poirot following the 2022 release "Death on the Nile." Inspired loosely by Agatha Christie's "Hallowe'en Party," this installment ventures into unexplored territory, presenting a darker and spookier ambiance.

Set against the backdrop of 1947, the narrative unfolds with Poirot in retirement in Venice. The aging detective becomes entangled in an enigmatic Halloween soirée at the lavish residence of opera singer Rowena Drake (Kelly Reilly). The story weaves a complex tale intertwining wartime trauma, paranormal phenomena, and a perplexing murder that disrupts the Halloween festivities.

Branagh leads an ensemble cast, including Kyle Allen, Camille Cottin, Jamie Dornan, Tina Fey, and others. While their performances contribute to the film's allure, some actors are unfortunately underutilized, offering a nuanced critique within an otherwise outstanding ensemble.

Cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos, known for his expertise, skillfully crafts the visual tapestry of "A Haunting in Venice." He captures the allure of the city and the palpable haunting atmosphere within the palazzo's twisting walls. The cinematography dances between elegance and eeriness, enhancing the overall cinematic experience.

The plot revolves around mystery writer Ariadne Oliver (Tina Fey) convincing Poirot to attend a Halloween party and séance at Rowena Drake's palazzo to expose the medium Joyce Reynolds (Michelle Yeoh) as a fraud. The film expertly blends classic whodunit elements with a nuanced infusion of horror, as Poirot navigates the haunted palazzo, revealing layers of supernatural occurrences, wartime trauma, and psychological unraveling.

Despite its strengths, the film struggles in character development, leaving some ensemble members overshadowed by the central mystery. The atmospheric narrative comes at the expense of fully exploring certain characters' backgrounds and motivations. The film misses an opportunity to delve deeper into the nature of spiritualist mediums and the physical séance, potentially benefiting from expert consultation in these aspects.

Where the film excels is in its empathetic portrayal of post-war grief. Characters grapple with haunting memories, and the psychological toll of wartime experiences adds emotional depth to the narrative, elevating it beyond a mere murder mystery to a poignant exploration of the human psyche after conflict.

In conclusion, "A Haunting in Venice" is a commendable addition to the Poirot series. While it may not surpass its predecessor, "Death on the Nile," the film explores a darker and more complex side of the iconic detective. With skillful cinematography, a compelling fusion of genres, and a notable cast, despite some underutilization, the movie secures its place as a noteworthy installment in Hercule Poirot's cinematic universe. I give "A Haunting in Venice" a respectable 8 out of 10.

Pre-order on Blu-ray now at https://amzn.to/46pixLo

Watch at Apple TV at https://apple.co/3MRv3MA

REVIEW: The Puppetman (2023 Film) - Starring Alyson Gorske

"The Puppetman," directed by Brandon Christensen, unfolds as a captivating 2023 horror film that seamlessly blends psychological thriller and supernatural horror elements.

An undeniable strength of the film lies in its unique premise, centered around Michal (Alyson Gorske), the daughter of a notorious killer who claims to be under the control of an evil force. As mysterious deaths surround Michal, viewers embark on a suspenseful journey to uncover the truth behind her father's assertions and the haunting curse of The Puppetman. The enigmatic nature of the protagonist's intentions adds a layer of curiosity, ensuring the audience remains captivated.

The film excels as a horror experience, featuring intriguing concepts and well-crafted set pieces. As the horror intensifies, the audience is treated to two impressively shot, brutal kill sequences that inject vitality into the narrative. The third act, skillfully overcoming pacing issues, delivers a gripping and satisfying conclusion.

A central theme of a supernatural presence taking control of characters at any moment contributes to a pervasive sense of unpredictability, heightening tension throughout the film effectively.

However, "The Puppetman" is not without its shortcomings. Pacing issues, particularly in the initial hour, may test the patience of some viewers, and occasional lapses in performances hinder complete emotional connection. The film briefly ventures into the realm of a coming-of-age drama, creating a slight disconnection from the horror elements.

While the writing generally proves effective, occasional clunkiness detracts from the overall experience. Notably, the lack of a thorough explanation regarding the Puppetman Killer stands out as a drawback. While the film introduces the events that set the story in motion, it falls short in providing a satisfactory rationale for why the central characters succumbed to the dark forces. Offering more context on what made them susceptible to the malevolent force could have enriched the narrative.

In conclusion, "The Puppetman" emerges as a surprisingly decent horror film with engaging ideas, well-executed set pieces, and a compelling third act that compensates for initial pacing issues. While not flawless, the film effectively maintains tension through its supernatural elements and chilling atmosphere.

I would rate "The Puppetman" a decent 7.5 out of 10.

Out Now

Watch for Free with a 7-day trial of Shudder https://amzn.to/47b6MJH

Also available on Apple TV - https://apple.co/3G6aGYp

REVIEW: Deliver Us (2023 Film) - Starring Lee Roy Kunz

"Deliver Us," the 2023 religious horror film directed by Lee Roy Kunz and Cru Ennis, presents a chilling and atmospheric exploration of the timeless struggle between good and evil. Earning a solid score of 7.5 out of 10, the film adeptly combines moody cinematography, practical gore effects, and a captivating premise to craft an engaging viewing experience.

Set in a Russian convent, Sister Yulia faces the unexpected revelation of an immaculate conception, leading to the prophecy of her twins embodying the Messiah and the Antichrist. In response to the threat from the Vox Dei sect, Father Fox and Cardinal Russo embark on a perilous journey to protect Yulia, eventually finding refuge in Estonia at the estate of Laura, the priest's fiancée. However, their sanctuary is disrupted by the malevolent twin's sinister actions.

The film skillfully intertwines elements of religious horror, psychological tension, and supernatural occurrences, guiding Sister Yulia, Father Fox (Lee Roy Kunz), and Cardinal Russo (Alexander Siddig) through the treacherous path set by the Vox Dei sect. Notably, "Deliver Us" distinguishes itself by eschewing typical jump scares, opting for a deliberate and atmospheric approach that instills a pervasive sense of unease.

The cast, led by Lee Roy Kunz and Maria Vera Ratti as Father Fox and Sister Yulia, delivers commendable performances, fostering a strong emotional impact as the narrative explores themes of faith, family, and destiny. However, the film is somewhat hindered by the absence of a formidable antagonist, affecting the overall narrative impact.

Visually, "Deliver Us" impresses with its stunning backdrop and cinematography, enhancing the eerie atmosphere of the film. The practical gore effects are executed with finesse, contributing a visceral and unsettling quality to the horror elements. While the character development may fall short, the film maintains audience engagement through its cinematic beauty and promising premise.

While "Deliver Us" doesn't necessarily break new ground in the religious horror genre, it successfully captures the essence of classics like "The Omen" while introducing its own unique twists. With effective atmospheric tension, visually striking scenes, and a blend of horror elements, the film earns its 7.5 out of 10 rating. Despite some character development shortcomings and the lack of a formidable antagonist, "Deliver Us" stands as a worthwhile addition to the horror genre, offering a satisfying and chilling experience for fans of the macabre.

Out Now at

Amazon - https://amzn.to/3MO1yva

Apple TV - https://apple.co/3SMY2oL

REVIEW: The Killer (2023 film) - Starring Michael Fassbender

In 'The Killer' by David Fincher, audiences are thrust into the compelling world of a seasoned assassin, brilliantly brought to life by the talented Michael Fassbender. The film skillfully weaves a narrative that captivates viewers with its calculated precision and high-stakes tension.

Under Fincher's expert direction, the film maintains a top-tier quality, complemented by an exceptional cast that crafts a clever and engaging story. Fassbender's portrayal of the lead assassin adds depth, offering a chilling exploration into the psyche of a character navigating the perilous realm of his profession.

The plot unfolds around a meticulously planned sniper job in a Parisian hotel gone awry, as the assassin mistakenly targets the wrong person. This misstep sets off a chain of perilous events, transforming the hunter into the hunted. In his quest for truth and revenge, the assassin confronts his handler, played by Charles Parnell, unraveling a web of betrayal.

Navigating a hazardous path to uncover those behind the attempts on his life, the assassin faces a diverse array of adversaries, each encounter laden with tension. The film's high-stakes confrontations unfold in various locations, leading to a thought-provoking showdown with the initial client, portrayed by Arliss Howard.

Tilda Swinton and a strong supporting cast deliver standout performances, painting a vivid and intricate picture of the assassin's world, blending deception and strategic maneuvers.

While 'The Killer' provides a tension-filled experience, some viewers may find the scarcity of intense action sequences and occasional predictability in the plot somewhat lacking. Nevertheless, Fincher's masterful direction, Fassbender's gripping portrayal, and the overall execution establish 'The Killer' as a compelling addition to the thriller genre.

I would rate 'The Killer' a fair 7.5 out of 10.

Out now on Netflix.

https://www.netflix.com/gb/title/80234448