Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Cast Out the Devil and Dark Was the Night: A Film Review

*full disclosure: an online screener of this film was provided by RLJ Entertainment.

Director: Jack Heller.

Writer: Tyler Hisel.

Cast: Steve Agee, Nick Damici, Kevin Durand and Heath Freeman.

Dark Was the Night is the latest film from rookie director Jack Heller (Enter Nowhere). The film, from the promotional material, appears to be a creature feature. But, Dark Was the Night is centrally a family drama; the creatures lurk around the edges of the central setting, Maiden Woods. Though, they do make a late CGI appearance. Starring horror vet Nick Damici (Late Phases) and Kevin Durand, the film offers three mediocre themes: the male protection of femininity, the Devil as evil and a minor one involving hunting, or the creature(s) being a hunter. All of these themes could have been forgotten for a more important one, involving humanity's encroachment on nature. As it is, Dark Was the Night is a fairly standard horror outing.

A small, isolated town and a sheriff a stalking creature, you have been here before. This time, the sheriff is dealing with a minor sub-plot, the loss of his young son, Tim. His marriage is suffering and a new deputy is doing his best to support him. Together, the two law enforcement officials realize that their town is under siege. Horses go missing, hunters turn up in trees and there are three hoofed tracks everywhere. Meanwhile, a CGI monster is doing its best to appear as menacing as possible, but its late appearance is almost laughable. Dark Was the Night never really emerges from the darkness into brilliance.

A second viewing reveals a major theme; the creature is a manifestation of the Devil. The three hooves and goat-like appearance provide a physical clue as to the creature's true identity. As well, Paul's wife makes it even clearer: "it's the Devil." Subtlety might not be the writer's forte. If that was not enough, a flock of ravens or crows fly over the church as Satan comes to town. A screaming flock of birds is almost always a bad sign, in film. This time the birds leave a proverbial poop on the church's steeple. Still, the examples of the Devil's invasion of the town, continue. A reddish hue, during the film's climax, will hit you over the head, that this is Hell and you should be afraid! But, the Christian, Catholic, or Protestant motifs are extremely overdone and repeated in the horror genre and they are uninspiring here.

The film's primary theme, masculine protection of femininity, is even more simplistic. There is a hint in the town's name, Maiden Woods, as to what the men are protecting. A maiden is a single, young woman. In the film, that maiden is played by Sabina Gadecki. She is the focus of Deputy Donny's affection. And, Donny (Lukas Haas) even states: "I feel I was sent to protect someone." But, does the object of his desire even need protection? Pixels do not make for a great enemy. To reinforce this theme, the film's protagonist is named Paul Shields. He is there to shield the whole town. Meanwhile, Paul's character arc involves his inability to protect his son, Tim; Tim died in a swimming pool accident. Now, he is trying to overcome this former loss by preventing more death. Masculinity as a protective force is as old as time itself. As a theme in film, it feels too simplistic to anchor the film.

Horror fans might be disappointed by this outing. Horror elements are relegated to the final act. Along the way, dead animals turn up, or a bloody arm will rest behind a tree. But, there is no great conflict between the protagonist and his nemesis, in early scenes. As well, there is no real terror drummed up in the film and this viewer was hoping for a little more. Also, the film misses an opportunity. The creature's egress from a local wood is initiated by foresting. Man's encroachment into the natural surroundings creates a consequence, a malicious force of nature. That social message is teased in a few logging scenes and then forgotten for the rest of the film. That was a mistake. Humanity's destruction of habitats is ongoing and only getting worse; this message is relevant and important, but brushed aside, quickly.

Dark Was the Night will be trying to put its meaty claws in your wallet, through Video-on-demand. But, you might want to push that clawed hand back and seek out other, more entertaining film fare. As it is, Dark Was the Night fails on a few levels: theme and conflict. If you are in the mood for a family drama, or thriller, then this film might whet that appetite. However, horror fans have seen many of the tropes here and there are few surprises within the film. There is no scary monster hiding under the bed, in Dark Was the Night.

Overall: 6 out of 10.

*the third, minor theme of hunting is referenced through the many appearances of dead animals. The stalking creature is a predator, which is readily apparent, in other, bloodier scenes.

*if you put all of the themes together, you will realize that the men are trying to protect the female characters from evil. This is an impossible undertaking in reality and not satisfying in film (possibly even insulting to female viewers).

**the film's only major attempt to offer symbolic language involves a toy dinosaur. The dinosaur is a reference to the creature's near extinction, which is also mentioned in the dialogue.

A trailer for the film is hosted here:

A Dark Was the Night Trailer on 28DLA

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Sunday, July 26, 2015

The Pressure Builds in this Exciting First Trailer

An underwater thriller, titled Pressure, is releasing on several more formats, shortly. The film focuses on the dangers of this activity. This writer knows the dangers of diving, first hand; a diving accident almost ended this life early, several years ago. Another family member lost someone in fourty feet of water, through their diving charter business. Diving is both an unpredictable sport and business. In Pressure, events takes place in over 600' of water. Here, the dangers of diving are extreme. The film stars Danny Huston (21 Grams), Matthew Goode (Watchmen) and Joe Cole. The first exciting trailer for the film is hosted here.

From the synopsis, four commercial divers are tasked with repairing an oil pipeline. In the Indian Ocean, disaster looms as their ship begins to sink. They are trapped below the water in a small craft, with only one way out - upwards! But, the deep pressure threatens the bends. And, this crew must band together, if they want to survive this most dangerous of experiences.

The trailer shows more of the film's dangers. The four men are trapped in a very small craft, which is continuing to descend into the depths. Characters are stretched to the breaking point as this accident promises more and more fatalities.

Release Date: August 4th, 2015 (DVD, North America) and August 21st, 2015 (Limited Theatrical, UK).

Director: Ron Scalpello.

Writers: Louis Baxter, Alan McKenna and Paul Staheli.

Cast: Danny Huston, Matthew Goode, Joe Cole and Alan McKenna.

The first trailer for Pressure is here:

*this film is currently available, through video-on-demand, in North America.

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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Something is Bearing a Grudge in These Three Clips for Into the Grizzly Maze

Into the Grizzly Maze has already been released through Video-on-demand, within North America (May 19th). The film will be released on DVD, in this territory on August 4th. Fans of more natural threats will want to keep this film on their radar as Into the Grizzly Maze promises an engaging cast. The film stars: James Marsden (X-men), Adam Beach (Windtalkers), Billy Bob Thornton (Bad Santa) and Thomas Jane (The Mist). Also, the United Kingdom distributor (Signature Entertainment) has just released three new clips for the film; each preview can be viewed here.

From the story, a rogue grizzly bear is on the hunt. A true man-eater, this huge animal has his eyes on several hunters, who hope to take down this mythical beast. Unfortunately, this living brick wall is not easily overcome, nor tracked down. Now, an Alaskan community quakes in fear as this creature tears through the countryside.

The clips show some of the hunters. In the first clip, a researcher sets a trap for the bear. But, the bear also has a forested trap for the researcher. In the second clip, actor Billy Bob Thornton plays Douglass, a veteran hunter. He is looking for another opportunity to kill this "Red Machine." The final clip shows a camping trip going horribly wrong. Do camping trips ever go right, in horror? Fans of film can view all of the short clips here, with a review coming soon from 28DLA writer, Kenna Rae.

Release Date: August 4th, 2015 (DVD, Canada, US) and August 17th, 2015 (DVD, UK)

Director: David Hackl.

Writers: Guy Moshe and J.R. Reher.

Cast: James Marsden, Adam Beach, Piper Perabo, Sarah Desjardins, Billy Bob Thornton and Thomas Jane.

Clip #1 for Into the Grizzly Maze:

The second clip for Into the Grizzly Maze:

Clip #3 for Into the Grizzly Maze:


Into the Grizzly Maze at Signature Ent.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

It is Time for Lake Placid vs. Anaconda to Go Jump in a Lake: A Film Review

*full disclosure: a DVD screener of this film was provided by Sony Pictures.

Director: A.B. Stone.

Writers: Berkeley Anderson.

Cast: Corin Nemec, Yancy Butler, Stephen Billington and Skye Lourie.

Special effects can create remarkable environments, like those seen in Bladerunner (1982). Special effects can also create artificiality, if they are the focus of the film. Unfortunately, Lake Placid vs. Anaconda casts several of its creatures in the digital realm; the result rings very false. The film's reality is further hampered by the overuse of ADR. Many minor characters have entire strings of dialogue dubbed. And, the production company, UFO Films, continues with its long series of blunders with this kitschy film. Lake Placid vs. Anaconda should be hung out to dry.

The film's plot is a real mess. Into the fourth sequel, a corporate executive wants to capture a genetically mutated snake, so that she can alter it even more. Meanwhile, a town is under siege, after an enclosure is demolished. Giant snakes and crocodiles are eating their way through an all-you-can-eat sorority sister buffet. But, a father, Tull (Corin Nemec), wants to save one of the sorority's pledges, his daughter. All of the minor characters are just food for the dog bowl, while many of the central characters struggle to find a believable motivation. Quality filmmaking this is not.

All of the animal antagonists are CGIed, or a fake rubber tale will streak across the screen; they appear very unreal and very unthreatening. It must be difficult for the actors to express so much terror, with nothing to feel terrified about. Mouths gape, eyes widen and really there is nothing for the actual viewer to fear. The giant crocodiles stand out, separately, from their environment. They look superimposed on the background. Even interactions between the characters and the creatures look faux. For instance, one of the Delta Phi Beta sisters finally manages to find her car keys, in a chase sequence. She runs over a crock and the result is a digital blood splatter. It looks ridiculous and so do many of the film's scenes.

Film has been around for a long time and so has dubbing; this is not a good thing. UFO Films is a production house in Bulgaria. They have co-produced many films, including: Lake Placid 2, Super Eruption and dozens of others. Still, they have not been able to avoid the overuse of ADR (Automatic Dialog Replacement). In this outing, a duo of wakeboarders trying to charm some girls, with their jumps and turns. Their mouths move and it appears as if someone else is talking. In this same scene, the actors appear to be mouthing the appropriate English words, but the post-production recordings do not match well with what is happening onscreen. Lake Placid vs. Anaconda completely fails to create any sense of a believable film reality.

SyFy launched this film earlier in the year, on their speciality channel. Now, the film is getting a second launch on DVD, but you will not be missing anything. A series of films that has included appearances by Bette White, Bridget Fonda and Brendan Gleeson has completely gone off the deep end. Though, the film offers some great eye candy. But, even b-movie director Jim Wynorski (Chopping Mall, 1986) said: "breasts are the cheapest special effect in our business." And, almost everything in Lake Placid vs. Anaconda appears or has been produced cheaply. This will be this reviewer's last trip to the film world's most crocodile infested lake.

Overall: 5.25 out of 10 (the film does not create a consistent horror or comedic tone).

Recommended release: Lake Placid at Amazon

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Monday, July 20, 2015

Face Your Demons with this Preview for June

June, "a coming of rage," horror title will be released by RLJ Entertainment. This film distribution company acquired release rights for June, appropriately enough, in late June of 2015. Now, a release date has been chosen, October 6th, 2015. The film was directed by L. Gustavo Cooper (The Devil Incarnate) and it stars Kennedy Brice (“The Walking Dead”), Casper Van Dien (Starship Troopers) and Victoria Pratt (Mutant X). The film's official DVD artwork is hosted here.

For more on the story, June is a tragic character. She leaves a trail of destruction as she moves from foster home to foster home. At her new location, she tries to control her demonic powers, until they control her. Now, an entire neighbourhood is under siege, with June possessed by an ancient evil.

The low quality graphic for June shows the central character and her ability to move objects. Knives and cleavers will be unleashed in just a few months. Also, the film will be released through Video-on-demand, on the same date as the DVD release. Fans of indie horror can find all of the release details for June below.

Release Date: October 6th, 2015 (DVD, VOD).

Director: L. Gustavo Cooper.

Writers: Sharon Y. Cobb and L. Gustavo Cooper.

Cast: Casper Van Dien, Victoria Pratt, Addy Miller and Rachel Whitman Groves.

The official trailer for June is here:


June at RLJ Entertainment

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Reckless Keeps You Captive In This Dutch Remake: A Film Review

*full disclosure: a DVD screener of this film was provided by Artsploitation Films.

Director: Joram Lursen.

Writers: J Blakeson (The Disappearance of Alice Creed) and Frank Ketelaar.

Cast: Sarah Chronis, Tygo Gernandt, Marwan Kenzari.

Dutch director Joram Lursen (primarily known for romantic comedies and Dutch television shows) enters into thriller territory with Reckless (Bloedlink), his version of 2009's The Disappearance of Alice Creed. While this viewer has not seen the original, there's a general consensus that this remake does not stray far from the first and, according to some critics, even surpasses it. In Lursen's film, Laura Temming, the daughter of a wealthy real estate mogul, is kidnapped by two masked men and held for ransom. Over a period of roughly two days, we observe the three characters in close quarters and discover that there's much more going on than anticipated. Reckless not only delivers an intriguing plot with phenomenal acting, but also surprises with an intimacy that creates a heightened sense of tension and anxiety, providing an interesting glimpse into the three characters and their motivations.

Laura Temming is kidnapped in broad daylight by two masked assailants, then taken to a soundproof apartment where she is stripped naked and tied to a bed. This intense scene happens early on, and is quite terrifying. The audience sees what Laura's kidnappers look like well before she does, but we soon discover that Laura knows one of the masked men. While this revelation momentarily lessens the story's intensity to a degree, it ends up creating even more tension within a plot proving too full of twists to describe without risk of spoiling. These twists help to clarify elements of the story, but also make it difficult to decide where to place your alliances. Similarly, it is equally hard for the characters to figure out where their trust lies. Tactics such as these are essential in a good thriller, and make for a gripping, edge-of-your-seat film, from start to finish.

While successful on many levels, there are a few aspects of the story that are simply unbelievable. For one, Laura is kidnapped during the day, seemingly just outside her home in a populated suburban neighbourhood. Next, she is taken to an apartment building where she rides the elevator bound and gagged while flung over the shoulder of one of her kidnappers, then brought into the soundproofed suite. The windows in this highrise suite are boarded up, which is sure to create suspicion. Where is the landlord?! And, furthermore, how is it possible that nobody witnessed this crime? It seems that perhaps kidnapping her at night would have made more sense, and taking her to a secluded location would have been better, or at least more plausible. That said, the apartment was the right size and had a suitable atmosphere in creating a sense of claustrophobia which added to the intimacy and intensity of the film's better scenes.

Sarah Chronis plays the frightened Laura Temming.

For the most part, Reckless's strengths reside in the many scenes within the confines of the boarded-up highrise apartment. Most of the film's scenes take place in close quarters, and involve conflict between two of the three characters; this cleverly creates a sense of intimacy and anxiety, and allows the audience to feel a closeness to the characters. As a viewer, it is difficult to decide who you're rooting for. In fact, alliances can potentially change even a few times during the course of the movie. This nicely adds an element of excitement and anticipation in trying to figure out how it will end. The film does an excellent job of contrasting colours to aid in creating questions about whose side to be on. While all three characters wear blue and grey clothing, mimicking the apartment's cool decor, there are several instances when a warm golden light is shed on each character at different times, insinuating a possible goodness about them. Ultimately, we see the characters' true colours in the end, making for a compelling, yet slightly drawn-out climax.

The acting in this film is worth mentioning as Reckless truly is a character-driven story and would have completely fallen apart without a solid cast. Sarah Chronis (known for Dutch TV series' "Onderweg Naar Morgen" and "Het Glazen Huis") is convincing as the shaken Laura Temming, and is particularly effective in the intense early scenes, before the character knows what's going on. Tygo Gernandt (famous for his role as Dennis Hulshof in the Dutch series "Fort Alpha") plays the intimidating captor, Victor. His character possesses a strong presence in each scene, and Gernandt provides an impressive, emotionally charged performance. Most noteworthy is Marwan Kenzari's (Wolf, 2013) portrayal of the character Rico. Rico is arguably the most interesting and complex of the three, and the handsome Kenzari does a brilliant job of this role. Viewers will get the chance to see Kenzari opposite Anthony Hopkins and Ben Kingsley in this year's action-thriller, Autobahn.

Marwan Kenzari as Rico.

Having not seen The Disappearance of Alice Creed, it is impossible to judge Joram Lursen's Reckless as a remake. Luckily, this film stands quite tall on its own merits. The story, though not without faults, is enthralling, as are the performances by its gifted actors. This viewer is not typically a fan of the whole kidnapping/ransom plot; however, this film is extremely powerful and quite handily pushes on without a dull moment. While seeing the original is always recommended, it's hard to believe that the first could be much more well-executed. This film comes with high recommendations as a clever, high-energy thriller that will surely not disappoint.

Rating: 8/10.

Readers can find more of Kenna's writing at her Blog, found here:

Hey Kenna Rae Blog

And, she also Tweets on Twitter:

Hey Kenna Rae on Twitter

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Saturday, July 18, 2015

These Worry Dolls are Ready to Toy with Someone: First Trailer

Worry Dolls is an upcoming horror film. In the film, an ancient cult curses a rural city as authorities search for a serial killer. Worry Dolls stars: Brea Grant (Halloween II), Brandon Johnson, Ashlynn Ross and Samantha Smith. The film was shot in Mississippi. And, the first trailer for the film is available here.

The trailer develops the story further. However, a serial killer escapes capture, but he has his eyes focused on a dirtied, emotionally scarred, young woman. Meanwhile, a worry doll is found by a child; she is changed by her interaction, with this strange voodoo-like figurine. A cult leaves strange symbols about and the killer returns, late in the clip.

Worry Dolls is now on this film fans must-see list.

Release Date: August 31st, 2015 (Film4Frightfest, Limited Theatrical, London).

Director: Padraig Reynolds.

Writers: Danny Kolker and Christopher Wiehl.

Cast: Christopher Wiehl, Kym Jackson, Samantha Smith, Kennedy Brice and Tina Lifford.

The film's first trailer is hosted here:

A fan page for the film is hosted here:

Worry Dolls on Facebook

Recommended release: Madison County on DVD (Unrated)

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Friday, July 17, 2015

The First Trailer for Contracted: Phase II Requires a Hazmat Suit

Contracted (2013), from director Eric England, dealt with a very contagious sexually transmitted infection. In Contracted: Phase II, that disease is continuing to spread. Though, England has passed the director's chair to Josh Forbes. This next film focuses on the disease ridden character Riley. Recently, the film's first action packed trailer was released; horror fans can find it below.

More story details can be found in the trailer. However, the synopsis mentions that this second film picks up right where the first left off. Riley (Matt Mercer), contaminated by Samantha (Najarra Townsend), is searching for a cure to his illness, which is ravaging his body. Meanwhile, the infection is spreading through much of Los Angeles, with no one immune.

IFC Films will distribute this title. Contracted: Phase II will be available September 4th, 2015, through Video-on-demand. And, the film will see a few select theatres, likely in LA. Fans of zombie thrillers are encouraged to preview the film, below.

Release Date: September 4, 2015 (VOD, Limited).

Director: Josh Forbes.

Writer: Craig Walendziak.

Cast: Matt Mercer, Peter Cilella, Marianna Palka, Morgan Peter Brown, Laurel Vail, Alice Macdonald, and Anna Lore.

The first trailer for Contracted: Phase II is here:


Contracted: Phase II at Indie Wire

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