Sunday, October 04, 2015

Mania and Mem Ferda Win Best Feature at the Arizona underground Film Festival

Jessica Cameron's lesbian horror thriller was recently at the Arizona Underground Film Festival. Here, Mania won "Best Feature." The film continues to make its round on the film festival circuit. Produced by Mem Ferda (The Devil's Double), Mania follows two lesbian lovers, on the run after a brutal murder. The film centrally stars Tristan Risk (American Mary), Ellie Church (Time to Kill) and Carlo Mendez. An update on the film is hosted here.

Ferda and director Cameron have contracted to work on a total of three films together. Writer Jonathan Scott Higgins will also take part in this professional team-up. And, Ferda has something to say about the film's tone: "Jessica and I worked from a very dark palette for Mania. Parts are brutally blunt and may not be to everyone’s taste. But the exploration into a twisted lesbian love relationship and the presentation of characters that are not overly precocious but very infectious and real." A trailer for the film was released recently (found below). More on the film will be revealed shortly.

Director: Jessica Cameron.

Writer: Jonathan Scott Higgins.

Cast: Tristan Risk, Carlo Mendez and Ellie Church.

A fan page for the film is available here:

Mania on Facebook

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Thursday, October 01, 2015

Tales of Halloween Offers Twisted Humour and Dark Laughs: A Film Review

*full disclosure: an online screener of this film was provided by an anonymous source.

Directors/writers: Darren Lynn Bousman, Axelle Carolyn, Adam Gierasch, Andrew Kasch, Neil Marshall, Lucky McKee, Mike Mendez, Dave Parker, Ryan Schifrin, John Skipp, Paul Solet and Clint Sears.

Tales of Halloween is an upcoming horror film anthology. Developed by Axelle Carolyn, this anthology offers ten tales of terror, from directors such as Lucky McKee (The Woman) and Ryan Schfrin. Each short tale creates either a creepy or comedic vibe. The best shorts, including "The Ransom of Rusy Rex," combine both of these tones. This viewer also enjoyed Lucky McKee's "Ding Dong," which is influenced by folk tales of old. Almost all of the tales are top notch. And, this film fan enjoyed the comedic ones the most. This is a film not to be missed by horror fans.

There are simply too many tales to cover. So, this critic will look at this viewer's top two, starting with "Ding Dong." Other reviewers have critiqued this entry negatively. Yet, the use of a complex subject or topic, infertility, build's this short film's tension. Meanwhile, Hansel has to walk on glass, to stay out of reach of the cruel the witch. The eventual conflict between this twisted pair is unwound with a clever and classic payoff. The fiery ending offers some great CGI and a chilling ending.

This viewer's favourite short film was "The Ransom of Rusy Rex." The film's creepiness factor is created by a demonic being. Very little make-up is required for this monster. And, Rusty appears at the most inopportune moments. Sometimes, Rusty likes to appear over the shoulder of an ignorant kidnapper. The scene is hilarious, because viewers know what is coming next - more terror from Rusty. Rusty also likes to puke on his captors, or hide in the backseat of a creeper van. Rusty's smiling, happy visage is contrasted by his horrifying appearance. This viewer laughed out loud several times during this short film's runtime.

Many of the best shorts offer comedic moments of a comedic tone. Though, "Bad Seed's" parody of Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982) was well developed. "This Means War" offered a hilarious plotline - a competitive Halloween house dressing. Two homeowners, one starring James Duval, square off, in an attempt to out decorate the other. Events come to blows as the differences in style reach out-of-control proportions. Also, "Friday the 31st" spoofs the Friday the 13th series of film. A deformed villain, a la Jason Voorhees, chases after a beautiful protagonist, until the tables are turned via a small alien invasion. The gore is over-the-top as arms fly off and a chainsaw rips through everyone. Many of the shorts are developed tongue-in-cheek and the witty delivery was appreciated.

Tales of Halloween is moving towards an October 16th, 2015 release through home entertainment formats and horror fans should take note of this date. Fortunately, an anthology format offers a diverse range of shooting and writing styles. So, at least one, but likely many more, of the shorts will sit well with the watcher. Each of the tales is expertly crafted. Only one of the shorts fell flat for this critic. And, viewers will find lots to be thankful for in this one-of-a-kind release, which often tickles the funny bone, or demands the use of a barf bag. A true horror roller coaster, Tales of Halloween is one of the best horror anthologies to come out this year.

Overall: 7.75 out of 10.

Recommended release: V/H/S: Viral on Amazon

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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Dark Light Spotlights The Laughing Mask in Saint Augustine Florida - October 3rd

Director Michael Aguiar has completed special effects on The Laughing Mask. This indie slasher film will also have a World Premiere at the Wolf's Museum of Mystery, this October. The film involves a madman and one father's determined desire to track him down. A true tale of terror, The Laughing Mask has a new poster and stills for viewers. Fans of horror can find the material here.

From the story, Jake's (John Hardy) wife has been murdered and his child kidnapped. Now, Jake must team up with a detective to track this wayward killer. The Laughing Mask lays in wait, in his macabre lair.

Several monsters have been added to the final edit. The Mermaid, Pig-man and others will add a horrifying dimension in the killer's lair. And, fans, in Florida, can view some of the creatures at the World Premiere. The premiere takes place in Saint Augustin, Florda and the Laughing Mask character will be in attendance, for pictures. More details on the showing are below.

Release Date: October 3rd, 2015 (World Premiere).

Director/writer: Michael Aguiar.

Cast: Rohnja Morrow, Jeff Jenkins, Fran Rafferty, Isis Masoud and Inge Uys.

A clip for the film was released last year and it can be found here:

A fan page for the film is available here:

The Laughing Mask on Facebook

More on the film’s World Premiere is available here:

The Laughing Mask at the Wolf's Museum of Mystery

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Mexico Barbaro Hunts Horror Fans November 3rd on DVD!

Mexico Barbaro aka Barbarous Mexico is coming to horror fans this November. This title is a horror anthology, consisting of eight tales. Each short film has been influenced by Mexican traditions, including: the day of the dead, Aztec sacrifices and more!. A trailer for the film was released last year and a preview for the film's debut is hosted here.

For more on the themes, the eight short films also include stories on boogeyman, trolls, ghosts and monsters. Each story has been chosen for its influence on Mexican culture. More sacrifices take place in just a few weeks.

Mexican cinema is a bit of a blind spot in this film fan's vision. This reviewer has seen some material on We Are What We Are (2010). But, looking at a Top 30 list of Mexican cinema, almost none of the titles ring a bell. This part-time critic will have to track down a copy of the film, to see more of this territory's style and cultural influences. Fans of horror or of Mexican cinema can find more on Mexico Barbaro below.

Release Date: November 3rd, 2015 (DVD, VOD).

Directors: Isaac Ezban, Laurette Flores Bornn, Jorge Michel Grau, Ulises Guzman, Edgar Nito, Lex Ortega, Gigi Saul Guerrero, Aaron Soto.

*the run time is 115 minutes.

A fan page for the film is available here:

Mexico Barbaro on Facebook

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Friday, September 25, 2015

A Hidden Gem in All that Darkness: A Film Review

Directors/writers: Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer.

Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Andrea Riseborough and Emily Alyn Lind.

Hidden is a film from twin brothers Matt and Ross Duffer. The Duffer brothers have completed a couple of short films, leading up to their feature film debut. In Hidden, a desperate family hides below ground, in a bunker. Stalked above by "breathers," much of the film is set in one dank basement. Here, the lighting is almost absent and characters' expressions are mostly unreadable. As well, a child actress overacts in several scenes and her character screams at the drop of a hat, increasing the annoyance factor. However, the brothers manage to create some great tension, with the antagonists held just off screen. A mysterious force and conflict are revealed late, with Hidden offering a number of exciting scenes.

In the depths, Zoe (Emily Alyn Lind), Claire (Andrea Riseborough) and Ray (Alexander Skarsgård) have been holed up for 301 days. It is amazing that they have not gone crazy during that time - from the cabin fever. Above, an unshown enemy force stalks the grounds. Their visages are rarely scene, but their raspy breath floods the sound design. Building up to the eventual climax and confrontation, this trio does their best to be discovered. This is not a survivalist's how-to video. The characters set fire to their furniture, or create a lot of sound with the introduction of a rat, or they simply scream when others are at the door to the bunker. Survival is not for everyone, with one of the characters succumbing to an encounter with the breathers. Happy moments are few and far between in dystopic fiction, but the adrenalin often remains high with Hidden.

A certain tiny actress is not coached very well and her scenes are overacted. The character Zoe overacts and dominates the other two characters. She is overexpressive when she needs to be more understated. Scenes are often overdelivered and the actress received far too many lines. And, the brothers needed to reign in this little bundle of constant screams. As it is, Zoe, the character, creates a number of contrivances, which sabotage the character's survival. In one scene, Zoe's talking doll goes off at an inopportune moment. This blend of overacting and a number of silly scenarios created some annoyance for one viewer. Zoe should have been relegated to a minor character, rather than trying to act as the central protagonist.

There is a lot of darkness within Hidden. The dark lighting suits a bunker. However, it is difficult to see actors' expressions. The actors could have deadpanned their deliveries and most viewers would have never known. Lighting, in the bunker, is relegated to a couple of lanterns. The light generated by these Coleman lamps is not enough to shoot a movie with. In the climax, it only gets worse. The night shooting reveals almost nothing. Entire action sequences cannot be seen, in the dim lighting. Dark costumes do not help the situation, much. This is a shame. The writing is top notch and the conflict is well thought out. It would just have been better if events could have been seen better, or at all. This is not radio, where only sound matters; this is film!

Hidden does deliver great tension, though. The claustrophobic feel of the bunker can be felt as the characters' struggle to survive. This viewer wonders what effect so much hiding would have on one's psyche, in reality. In fiction, the characters seem overly well-adjusted to their solitary confinement. Still, monstrous characters move just out of frame. Or, they test the family's shelter and its security. The results are chilling and often thrilling. And, the emotive acting and charged dialogue are often on point. In the final few scenes, the tables are turned and the protagonists become the antagonists. This turn delivers well set-up conflict as the family confronts their pursuers. The outcome is a satisfying blood-filled denouement.

Hidden is a very under-the-radar release. The film was completed in 2013. It was expected to release in theatres, this same year. Then, the release was postponed to the following year, 2014. It has only just been released through video-on-demand - in 2015, possibly due to some of the film's foibles. This is by no means a completely professionally shot, well polished product. Yet, the film does hold something special in its writing and in its characters. Interactions are compelling and despite too much screaming (often at the wrong times), Hidden delivers a thrilling film, worthy of a second jaw dropping watch.

Overall: 7 out of 10.

A trailer for the film is available here:

A Hidden Trailer on 28DLA

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Danish Zombie Film What We Become Spreads the Virus in this Trailer

Another zombie thriller is coming out by way of Denmark. The film is called What We Become and this is the debut feature from director Bo Mikkelsen. The film will have its World Premiere at Fantastic Fest, later this month. And, the film's first trailer shows an urban setting under siege. Slightly similar to Jaume Balagueró and Paco Plaza's Rec (2007), government forces put a family under quarantine. Fast zombie fans can see more of the film here.

From an extended synopsis at the Fantastic Fest website, the Johansson family is at home in the countryside. But then, a virus is spread quickly from person to person, driving most mad. An unprecedented quarantine takes place. Now, the Johanssons must find a way to survive both government forces and the infected.

The popularity of zombie films and television continues to spread. With the AMC delivering several zombified television seasons from Robert Kirkman's novels, zombies have captured the imaginations of viewers. But why? Readers are encouraged to leave a comment on what the undead/zombies mean to them and what they represent, in modern times. More on What We Become is available below!

Release Date: September 27th, 2015 (Limited Theatrical) and March 2016 (Denmark).

Director: Bo Mikkelsen.

Writer: Bo Mikkelsen.

Cast: Mille Dinesen, Ole Dupont, Mikael Birkkjær and Troels Lyby.

A trailer for the film, courtesy of Joblo, is here:

What We Become at Fantastic Fest (Austin, TX):

What We Become at Fantastic Fest


What We Become at Quiet Earth

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A Family is Pushed to the Breaking Point in this Preview for Hidden

Film site Quiet Earth is reporting that Matt Duffer's Hidden has just been released. The film is now available through video-on-demand. And, the film was shot in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 2012. Warner Brothers is distributing the picture. And, Hidden stars Alexander Skarsgård ("True Blood") and Andrea Riseborough. The film's first trailer is a mysterious one, with one family hiding underground, from an unknown threat. The official release trailer is hosted here.

From the synopsis, Ray, Claire and their daughter have survived underground for 301 days. Above, a mysterious entity roams the grounds, looking for them. With supplies running out and the force drawing closer, this small family must find a way to stay out of sight.

Two trailers have been released for the film. The North American version is hosted below. A second trailer shows a dark mist as the encroaching force, in a brief shot. Both trailers keep some story elements behind the curtain. And, fans of mystery or of horror can find something intriguing with this recent release.

Release Date: September 15, 2015 (Video-on-demand) and October 6th (DVD).

Director: Matt Duffer.

Writers: Matt Duffer and Ross Duffer.

Cast: Alexander Skarsgård, Andrea Riseborough, Emily Alyn Lind and Heather Doerksen.

*the film is available through Amazon's rental service (Prime Video): Hidden at Amazon


Hidden at Quiet Earth

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Blood Punch is a Real Knockout: A Film Review

*full disclosure: a DVD screener of this film was provided by Midnight Releasing.

Writer: Eddie Guzelian.

Director: Madellaine Paxon.

Cast: Milo Cawthorne, Olivia Tennet and Ari Boyland.

From the makers of various popular children's television shows, including Power Rangers R.P.M, comes the smart, kickass horror comedy, Blood Punch! Though seemingly unlikely to venture into the horror genre, writer Eddie Guzelian and director Madellaine Paxon come across as seasoned veterans. This high energy, action-packed, hysterical splatter fest with have you wondering why the two weren't making horror films all along. Blood Punch is a clever concoction of comedy, gore and a fantastic original story with stellar performances. Containing all the elements of a cult classic, this film is sure to spark the interest of Evil Dead heads and genre die-hards alike. If you're looking for something fun, smart and original, then put this on your must see list.

The film begins with a bang—Milton wakes up to find a video of himself that he doesn't remember making. In this video, he ends up cutting off two of his fingers. How is this possible? Milton has all of his fingers. From that moment on, viewers are totally locked in. Next, we are taken to a drug rehab facility where we find out that Milton is a super smart chemistry student, who also happens to be a recovering meth head. There he meets Skylar—a feisty young woman with a one-track mind—she's desperately determined to find an experienced druggie to help cook a bunch of meth for a big-time drug deal. After deciding that he is the chosen one, Skylar seduces Milton and convinces him to run off with her to cook some drugs and make some fast cash. But, of course, there's a catch.

Skylar has a boyfriend—a boyfriend with violent tendencies who “fucking loves guns.” He also happens to be in charge of the whole meth operation. After busting the two out of rehab, Russell (Skylar's boyfriend) takes Milton and Skylar to a secluded hunting lodge where they can cook up meth and have some fun. Unfortunately for Milton, that fun involves messing around with guns, among other things. Tension mounts as Russell becomes aware of the chemistry between Milton and Skylar, and when Milton discovers that Russell plans to kill him after he's finished cooking the drugs, things get a lot more crazy, and bloody.

Together, Skylar and Milton plan to off Russell so they can make the deal, take the money and be together, but the plan takes an unexpected turn. Russell won't stay dead. They kill him, but he continues to rise every morning as though nothing happened. Like a blood-soaked version of 1993's Groundhog Day, no matter what they do, the day seems to be on repeat. As Milton and Skylar continue on their confusing killing-Russell spree, trust waivers and the story unearths more than just bodies.

Most of the film takes place at the hunting lodge; the intimacy of the single setting works exceptionally well in a story that focuses on a few characters. With no other characters around, the atmosphere remains tense and the story stays focused. The few scenes that have other characters are, for the most part, boring and would have been best left on the cutting floor. The music in the film is what truly sets the mood—a mix of tango music and old-timey tunes from the '20s and '30s creates a quirky, fun vibe and suits the story. Though entertaining, the film drags on a bit too long, and some of the concepts are slightly played out nearing the end. If the editing team had cut roughly ten minutes, they would have had a more polished final product. Nonetheless, the movie is still successful on many levels, making for a thoroughly enjoyable watch.

Part of what makes this film so engaging is the phenomenal cast of kiwis who worked together previously on Power Rangers R.P.M. Olivia Tennet (Skylar) Milo Cawthorne (Milton) and Ari Boyland (Russell) have incredible chemistry. Each brings great energy to their character and projects the dark yet playful tone of the film perfectly. Tennet and Cawthorne, real-life husband and wife, are fun to watch as they try and figure each other out; cool to discover that the convincing onscreen romance wasn't all fabricated. Ari Boyland is incredibly entertaining as the trigger-happy psycho, Russell, adding a healthy dose of laughter, while maintaining intensity. These three actors will definitely be on this viewer's radar. Be sure to catch Milo Cawthorne in the awesome-looking upcoming horror comedy, Deathgasm, which is set for release in early October.

Although Bluff Road Productions is a young company, they have already put their bloody stamp on the industry. It appears that working in children's television inspires crazy creativity. Let's hope, for the sake of the genre, that Madellaine Paxon and her team continue to pump out more gloriously gory horror films. Thought not without faults, this first ditch effort at a feature film is impressive. Cleverly combining a hysterical original story, fantastic score and great actors, Blood Punch is sure to satisfy even the most delicate of palates.

Rating 7.75/10.

Writer Kenna Rae has her own personal blog, hosted here:

Hey Kenna Rae Blog/Website

Kenna is also a Twitter Scream Queen here:

Kenna Rae on Twitter

Recommended release: Triangle at Amazon Prime

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