Lords of Chaos (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

Lords of Chaos (2018)

Film: In addition to collecting movies, and books, and toys, and comics, I am also, stupidly, a record collector. This is an expensive hobby that is wonderful and a money pot if you allow it to be. As I am a movie lover, I predominantly own soundtracks to films, but I also have a fair bit of new wave, synth wave and heavy metal.

Now I understand that within the sub-genres of metal there is some quite opposed to each other, but I just don’t know why we can’t just all get along. Thematically, I do tend to lean more towards the harder, darker side of metal when I listen to it, though seeing as how my significant other is a country and western fan, I listen to it by myself. I also have read many biographies about musical artists and amongst those is a book by Didrik Søderlind and Michael Moynihan called Lords of Chaos, whose popularity is probably WHY this film was made as it is a fascinating story, and to paraphrase an old saying, the truth is almost always stranger than fiction.

Lords of Chaos tells the tale of Øystein Aarseth aka Euronymous (Rory Culkin), from whose point of view the entire tale is told, and the inception of a musical sub genre called Norwegian Black Metal.

Euronymous has a band called Mayhem which is looking for a new singer, which they find in a young man from Norway nicknamed ‘Dead’ (Jack Kilmer) who has a severe case of depression and a suicidal nature.

Euronymous has an ‘inner circle’ of devout followers to whom he preached the bands themes of destruction and rebellion, but it wasn’t until he met a young man named Varg Vikernes (Emory Cohen) that someone actually decided to act upon them.

Varg’s yearning for acceptance means he is willing to take Euronymous’ word as gospel, and eventually it seems Varg is more of a believer than Euronymous…. and this competition can only end in bloodshed.

Apparently, those who have survived this story, which has a subtext of ‘based on truth… and lies… ‘ have been critical of the accuracy of the film but a good filmmaker doesn’t always let the truth get in the way of a good story: the film ‘24 Hour Party People’ is a good example of this, where even within the confines of the film itself, the real people the film is representing appear to deny claims made about them, which makes for a seriously meta experience. Varg Vikernes was one who apparently particularly made commentary about the lack of accuracy within the film with reference to his character, and also it’s apparently not true that Euronymous had a girlfriend during some of the events of this film, but any excuse to see Sky Ferreira (from Eli Roth’s Green Inferno) is a good one, right?

As for the quality of the film itself, it’s completely engaging and the cast are a likeable bunch of teenage miscreants and Rory Culkin certainly makes the film his own and he controls every scene he is in even if he’s not the focus at that moment. The subtleties of his performance really makes ring true.

The director, Jonas Åkerlund certainly gets the best out of all the actors and his re-telling of some scenes from different points of view really makes this film tragic as well as just a fun ‘let’s make a band’ film. What’s also amazing, and this might be a result of his Swedish heritage, he really knows how to make places look cold, and the bleakness of the environment reflects the attitudes the characters have towards each other… well initially.

Another choice that was made to make this film more agreeable with an audience not into the music is that it doesn’t actually appear on the soundtrack too frequently. This was a wise decision and the music is only really present during performances so the story of the people and the scene, which is what the movie is about takes precedence over the music.

From the amazing cinematography to great acting and sublime direction, I have to say I thoroughly enjoyed this film and really think anyone who is into music biopics should look into it, even if they aren’t into the music.

Score: ****1/2

Format: The film was reviewed with the Umbrella Entertainment DVD release and is presented in a thoroughly decent 1.85:1 image with a matching 5.1 audio.

Score: ****

Extras: When one considers this is based on a true story, it’s a shame they couldn’t find any extras. There is a couple of cool interviews on the Arrow Bluray release so if extras are important to you, that might be an option.

Score: 0

WISIA: This is one of those films that the filmmaker has been so careful in creating subtleties in the mise-en-scène that it really does take a couple of watches to take it all in. Make SURE you watch it more than once!

Reform School Girls (1986)

One from the re-watch pile…

Reform School Girls (1986)

Film: The Women In Prison (WIP) subgenre of exploitation films has been around for a long time, the first really of note being 1933’s Ladies They Talk About which starred Barbara Stanwick and Lillian Roth. The genre continued not just in films but also in the men’s pulp magazine like Argosy and even still continues to this day with stuff like 2009’s Sugar Boxx, though the post 60s films were slightly saucier than the ones previous to that decade.

Reform School Girls was a 1980s entry in the subgenre, written by Jack Cummins (co-writer of another WIP film The Concrete Jungle) and directed by Tom DiSimone who also directed The Concrete Jungle as well as other exploitation classics like Savage Streets and Hell Night.

Reform School Girls tells of the ‘fresh meat’ being delivered to a girl’s reform school for rehabilitation. Jenny (Linda Carol) decides to be a ‘protector’ of sorts to psychologically damaged Lisa (Sherri Stoner) and it’s something she desperately needs in this particular reform school as it’s run by the vicious warden Sutter (Sybil Danning), her fearful second-in-command Edna (Pat Ast) and a group of lecherous cruel guards.

Problem is though, the guards aren’t the only ingredients in this prison that are potentially deadly. The dorm bully is Charlie (Wendy O. Williams) who is constantly causing trouble for our heroes. Thankfully, there is relief in the form of the school psychologist Dr Norton (Charlotte McGinnis) but that doesn’t matter to Jenny, because she is slowly formulating a plan to escape…

From an exploitation point of view, this film has some epic exploitation pedigree, from the director’s previous output, the appearances from the They’re Playing With Fire and The Howling 2’s Sybil Danning, Friday the 13th: A New Beginning’s Tiffany Helm, Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Loves Darcy DeMoss, Heat’s Pat Ast and most importantly, The Plasmatic’s singer Wendy O. Williams.

Does that make it a good example of the genre though?

Well, no.

At it’s best, Reform School Girls is a parody of WIP films, and really doesn’t stretch itself beyond the generic tropes it’s type: naked shower scenes, delousing, food hall fights, initiations, fire hose torture etc, and it does all seem to be done quite tongue in cheek… especially when you consider the uniforms for Pridemore doesn’t include pants, and the bed clothing consists of everything from g-strings and bras, to aerobic fitness tights rejected from the Olivia Newton-John ‘Physical’ filmclip.

Unfortunately for the film, it’s so badly acted that it fails to execute the timing of any comedy it attempts, and any times it attempts to take itself seriously, it fails miserably. Also, for a ‘reform school’, there isn’t an inmate less than 25 years old!

When this came out, I am sure for a young man that the amount of female nudity would have been a great reason to watch it, but with the level of nudity available on the internet I’m sure it’s not so appealing now. It does, however, have an amazing soundtrack… mainly featuring Wendy O. Williams… which kicks arse.

Score: **

Format: This movie was reviewed on the Umbrella Entertainment DVD release, presented in a decent 1.77:1 image with a 2.0 Mono soundtrack that does the job well enough.

Score: ***

Extras: Not a sausage. Not even a disc menu.

Score: 0

WISIA: I saw thins when it was first released on VHS back in the 80s and this is the first time I’ve watched it since. The next time I watch it will probably be in two new formats time, for whatever the future of the internet looks like, but not before that.

Ouija House (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

Ouija House (2018)

Film: The cover to this film boldly presents this film to star both American Pie’s Tara Reid and The O.C.’s Mischa Barton which I find really weird as it seems to me that having their names on a DVD is like those awful photos and warnings that you find on a cigarette packet, though just like those warnings, those of us addicted to horror sally forth regardless and suck up their awful goodness.

Maybe the addition of Dee Wallace (Cujo) takes the edge off?

I’d like to suggest that perhaps Carly Schroeder’s name helps too, but I’m not sure one of the Lizzie MacQuire stars is quite horror royalty.

Anyway, I should point out that this is not a part of the ‘Ouija’ film series that includes ‘Ouija’ (2014) and ‘Ouija: Origin of Evil’ (2016) but instead one of the knock offs using the ‘Ouija’ name to tap into some of those films popularity… did they even have enough popularity to even do that?!?

If we are even questioning that, I guess they MUST have!

This film was directed by Ben Demaree, the director of Apocalypse Pompeii and Dear Diary I Died, and was written by Justin Hawkins and Jeff Miller, who also co-wrote 2019’s Dolls.

Our tale of the Ouija House begins in 1988, with a group of people, (including Tara Reid and Tiffany Shepis) who are in what appears to be an old, unused house where it was rumoured murder and torture and witchcraft occurred, using a Ouija board to communicate with any spirits who may exist within the house. Of course, this being a horror movie and not an historical drama, everything ends badly.

Flash forward to now, and we are introduced to Laurie Fields (Carly Schroeder) who is studying demonology at University (cool uni!) and intends on going to the same house, her Aunt’s, for research, even though her mother Katherine (Dee Wallace Stone) has strictly forbidden it.

Laurie goes against her wishes and travels to the house regardless with her friends, Nick (Mark Grossman), Tina (Grace DeMarco) and Spence (Derrick A. King), where they will be meeting her cousin Samantha (Mischa Barton).

The house seems normal enough but after Tina finds a doll, she begins to act… off, and the supernatural shenanigans begin…

The premise of the story is actually pretty good, and even the some of the performances are ok: it’s cheap popcorn horror, but it’s executed well. There’s some pretty stupid inconsistencies in the story, and I mean glaring, dumbass inconsistencies, but there are a few conceptual ideas that are pretty innovative… none I can discuss without spoiling the movie, so please, just trust me.

Barton and Reid are clearly here for name purposes only, though I’m not sure if their names either hit the young hip horror crowd, or the older, degenerative fans (like me, and you can tell I’m one of them as I used the word ‘hip’. These days it’s more ‘hip replacement’). I think the marketing department on Ron Lee Productions need to look deeper into who is cult-popular and cheap.

Overall, it’s a tidy, and mildly innovative story, with a cute cast and a soundtrack reminiscent of some 80s synth scores (by Johnathon Price) so it gets an extra bit of credit from me for that.

Score: **

Format: The reviewed copy of this film was the Umbrella Entertainment Australian DVD release, presented in a decent and unblemished 1.77:1 image with a clear and precise 5.1 audio track.

Score: ****

Extras: Nothing, not even a DVD menu screen.

Score: 0

WISIA: I can confirm any prediction that may suggest I will never watch this again. Not because it’s bad, but just because it’s a one-watch screamer.

The Night Child (1975)

One from the rewatch pile…

The Night Child (1975)

Film: With the likes of Argento, Fulci, Leone and the various Bavas dominating the spotlight it would be easy to get your name lost to these far more well known Italian directors, but in amongst these is the name Massimo Dallamano. Dallamano started as a cinematographer in 1964 and worked on films like A Fistful of Dollars and For A Few Dollars More, but was also an accomplished director in his own right, , as can be seen in films like 1969’s Le Malizie Di Emerge aka Venus in Furs (which he directed as ‘Max Dillman’), 1972’s Cosa Avete Fatto a Solange? aka What Have You Done To Solange? And this film, 1975;s Il Medaglione Insanguinato aka The Night Child.

The Night Child tells of recently widowered Michael Williams (played by Zombie Flesh Eaters’ Richard Johnson) and his daughter Emily (Italy’s first scream queen Nicoletta Elmi) who are to travel to Italy so Michael can film a documentary about the image of Satan in Art for the BBC. Emily, as one would expect, is extraordinarily disturbed by the death of her mother, and asks her father if he would mind if she could take a medallion from her mother’s belongings to wear as a keepsake.

Of course the old man doesn’t mind, and along with Emily’s nanny, Jill (Evelyne Stewert, aka Ida Galli from La Dolce Vita) they travel to Italy and meet up with the American producer of the documentary Joanna (Ghost of Mars’ Joanna Cassidy) and a local, Contessa Cappelli (Lila Kendrova from Polanski’s The Tenant), who knows all about a mysterious painting rumoured to have been painted by the devil himself.

Then, weirdness ensues.

Emily starts to have strange fantasies about a medieval girl being pursued by angry and fuck-ugly townsfolk, and the murders… that is, the ‘accidents’… start to happen…

My biggest problem with this film is it’s story. I have watched the film several times now and I am still not sure if it was the painting, the medallion, the girl, or all three are the cursed thing, and this ambiguity is hard for me to get over and therefore, spoilt any enjoyment I could had have of the film. I guess the clue that should straightedges out that curly one is the fact the film in Italian is called The Cursed Medallion but if you the film, I’m not sure that completely makes sense.

Don’t get me wrong, The Night Child is exquisitely shot, with some pretty good performances from a varied cast but the story was so flat, and the ending SUCH a downer (you know those ones where it seems like the writers wrote themselves into a corner?) that I just can’t give it any real credibility, because to this reviewer, the story is the most important part of a film.

So does Dallamano deserve to be amongst those big names of Italian cinema? Well, I believe he does, as like Mario Bava and Dario Argento, he sets scenes and shoots them so wonderfully that at times you just get caught up in the art of cinema itself.

Unfortunately the story here is just far too convoluted to be a good example of his storytelling, and The Night Child simply cannot complete with that competition.

On. Side note, redhead-o-philes will love this film as in addition to young Italian film legend Nicoletta Elmi who was in stuff like Demons and Bay of Blood, and American bombshell Joanna Cassidy, almost every female character is a redhead. Is there something Dallamano is trying to say, or was he just a fan of the red? Maybe there was a subtle I nod to the medieval idea that redheads were of the beast..

The Night Child feels like, it had several initial ideas, but instead of picking just one, the writer went with all of the , resulting in somewhat of a mess. It is a well-crafted and beautifully crafted mess, but still a mess. Really for Dallamano or Elmi or possession completists only.

Score: **

Format: Arrow’s DVD presents the film in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio and the image is sharp, colourful and generally a decent with only occasional film artefacts present. The audio is presented either in English mono, or Italian mono with English subtitles. It is a clear soundtrack, but you will notice what almost seems to be a vinyl record styled crackling here and there. Honestly I only noticed as I was listening for audio faults, and a casual viewer may not even notice it at all. The English track does occasionally play Italian with subtitles: for completion purposes, I suppose.

Score: ***

Extras: Exorcism – Italian Style is an interesting look at the post Rosemary’s Baby/ The Exorcist Italian rip-offs of possession films with interviews with filmmaker Luigi Cozzi, screenwriter Antonio Tentori and Italian film critic Paolo Zalati.

There is also an Italian and a US trailer. the Us trailer is particularly funny with the Last House on the Left tiff of ‘keep telling yourself, it’s only a child, it’s only a child…’

Included in this DVD release from Arrow films is a booklet featuring a detailed history of Dallamano’s work by High Rising Productions Callum Waddell, which is an interesting and thorough considering it’s only 5 odd pages of text.

Score: **1/2

WISIA: I don’t believe I need to revisit this yet again.

The 33D Invader (2011)

One from the rewatch pile…

The 33D Invader (2011)

Film:

I just love watching international films. Sure the whole ‘subtitles’ thing may turn many people off, but the fact that we are able to watch films that aren’t restricted by Hollywood, and therefore, English cinematic conventions, is a great thing for film fans. To me, the greatest continent for a variety of genre films is Asia, with the highlights probably being Bollywood, Hong Kong action and J-horror.

This film, Mi Tao Cheng Shu Shi 33D aka The 33D Invader isn’t typical of the output we’ve previously seen from the above countries. Believe it or not, it is a mix of 80s teen sex comedy, Weird Science, The Terminator and Species (and maybe a bit of a My Stepmother is an Alien). Figure that out! The film was directed by Cash Chin, who also gave us bawdy romps like Sex and Zen II, and was written by Sean Chan, who thankfully, seems to have had nothing else he has written produced.

This totally bizarre film goes like this: in 2046, an alien race known as Xucker, through their attacks on Earth and the resulting radiation, have reduced male fertility by 99%, and so the human race is dying out. A girl named Future (Macy Wu) has been sent back in time to 2011 in order to collect ‘good’ sperm to repopulate the human race, but somehow the Xucker learn of this plan, and have also sent their best operatives, known cleverly as Xucker Number 1 (Kato Takako) and Xucker Number 2 (Hsueh Ya-Wen) to stop her.

Unfortunately, Future’s trip back through time lands her in an apartment complex populated by a bunch of bumbling and horny university students and their female, mostly promiscuous, neighbors, who whilst apparently on a study vacation, are doing anything but study. Will Future collect some decent sperm to re-populate the Earth, and will we bear witness to many scenes of naked Asian hotties while she attempts to succeed in her mission?

Let’s hope so!!

This was one of the most schizophrenic films I have ever seen. The soft-core sex scenes are filmed like they are aimed at aficionados of high-class VHS erotica with delicate lighting and soft sexy music, but the low-brow comedy is abrasive and attempts a Farelly Brothers styled grossness, highlights (or lowlights) being penis-eating, and ejaculating on a teacher in class.

This scatter-shot approach is unfortunately The 33D Invader’s biggest undoing, as it’s too explicit for a younger audience who might appreciate the sophomoric and lowbrow (and mostly inappropriate) humour, but adults won’t. If the sex had been played for laughs, which admittedly it attempts occasionally and unsuccessfully or if the entire thing had been played as a straight sci-fi flick with occasional gag as and nudity, it might have felt more complete, but the extremes, in particular the casual attitude towards rape,( which felt completely out of place amongst the infantile humour) are too far apart for it to be truly successful.

Score: **

Format: Madman’s 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer is sharp enough and serves the films vivid colour scheme well. Audio is available either in the original Cantonese in Dolby Digital 5.1 or a ‘andarin dub in DTs 5.1. Considering this IS little more than a soft-core, 80s styled sex comedy, the sound is as active as you would expect. English titles are also also provided and they are a source of accidental humour as they are occasionally nonsensical.

Score: **1/2

Extras: Not much in the extras department, I am afraid. Just trailers for this film. the Raid, Sex and Zen: Extreme Ecstacy, The Forbidden Legend: Sex and Chopsticks and Big Tits Zombie 3D.

Score: **

WISIA: I’ve watched it twice, that’s once too much.

Ratman (1988)

Ratman (1988)

Film: Sometimes, being a B movie fan is like trying to find your wife’s wedding ring after she dropped it in a septic tank: you must wade through a lot of shit to find a gem. Discovering that gem is a treat, but generally you’ll find yourself with a large handful of excrement. Unfortunately, Ratman is not a gem, but instead one of those piles of shit one more than often finds, and not just any piece of excrement either. No, Ratman is a steaming fresh pile of peanut-encrusted beer bog.

Spoiler alert: it’s that bad.

Ratman, also known in Italian as Quella Villa in Fondo al Parco (The Village by the Park? Something like that) was directed by Giuliano Carnimeo, who also directed The Case of the Bloody Iris, and is written by Dardarno Sacchetti who gave us Lucio Fulci’s The Beyond, City of the Living Dead and House by the Cemetery, along with many other classics of Italian horror. Honestly, I don’t know what either of them was thinking when they made this – and that goes for star David Warbeck as well. Surely times never got that lean!!

Set on a small island, Ratman starts with a professor proudly proclaiming that he should win the Nobel Prize for science after he creates a monster he calls ‘Mousey’ (played by tiny actor Nelson De La Rosa. Seriously, this guy is so small even Verne Troyer could pick on him), a rat/monkey hybrid. The problem with Mousey is that he has also developed poisonous teeth and claws, which will kill a man in no time at all.

Of course, Mousey escapes and starts a half pint reign of terror!

Mousey starts by killing a model, and her sister is called to the island to identify the body. Upon arrival she meets an author, and they soon become chums and visit the morgue together only to find the girl is not her sister, and that her sister has made a trip into the forest on another photo shoot, and the two choose to investigate… but what they find is a trail of death!!!!!

I really can’t stress enough what a piece of crap this film is, and its directorial and writing genealogy, with Sacchetti and Warbeck’s involvement specifically, makes it even more disappointing.

I know that as a B movie fan this is one of those ‘gems’ I am supposed to like, but I just found it to be crap, and barely watchable. Of what I have seen from Shameless so far, I have enjoyed this the least. Only purchase this if you really want a full set of Shameless’s collection. I will say though, that this film has the best tagline ever: “He’s the critter from the shitter”. Pure comedy.

Score: *

Format: In a decent act for such a film, Shameless have presented this in 16×9 anamorphic widescreen, but the image is terrible. Unfortunately, it is foggy and laden with film artefacts, but I guess that heightens the sleaziness of the proceedings, so perhaps that adds atmosphere? I didn’t feel that at all though. The audio is presented in English mono and the best I can say about it is that you can hear what people are saying. It performs the function that is required of it. To give Shameless credit though, they do apologise for the poor audio on David Warbeck’s character at times due to multiple audio sources.

Score: **

Extras: Nothing but trailer for Ratman and other Shameless titles here: The Frightened Woman, My Dear Killer, Baba Yaga, The Black Cat, The New York Ripper and Manhattan Baby. Shameless do offer multiple covers on this disc, which is something I always find to be quite cool, one of which is a funny but poorly executed Jaws piss-take. The other looks to be original video art, which is nice, but not at all relevant. then again, what video art ever was?

Score: **

WISIA: No. just no.

Ghost Stories (2017)

One from the to watch pile…

Ghost Stories (2017)

Film: Sometimes I’ll buy a dvd or a bluray for no reason other than I find something evocative about it, be it a dumb name, the fact it’s a sequel to something I’ve previously enjoyed (yes, for some reason I have Bring it On!, a funny movie, and all its sequels, each one crapper and crapper than the last) or if there someone on the cover who sparks interest.

It was the latter that caused me to pick up this one.

The first reason was it has a great big image of Martin Freeman on the cover, and I thought it surprising that one of the stars of The Hobbit, Black Panther and Ali G Indahouse would be in something I had never heard of. The other thing that was interesting was the other names of the cover: Andy Nyman who appeared in the documentary Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship and Video Tapes from 2010 and Paul Whitehouse who was one of the stars of the comedy TV series The Fast Show.

What I found particularly interesting was that this was written and directed by Nyman along with League of Gentleman writer/ actor/ director Jeremy Dyson, and was based on a stage play of the same name written by them.

Ghost Stories tells of Professor Goodman (Andy Nyman), a notorious debunker of psychics and ghost stories who was heavily influenced by a TV star who was employed to do the same thing, but who mysteriously disappeared.

Surprisingly, he receives a letter from the former TV host and tracks him down to a small remote caravan where he lives basically in squalor.

Goodman is asked to investigate three ghost stories that he was unable to debunk, and report back with his findings. The people he must investigate though have had their lives, at various levels, destroyed by their experiences.

The first investigation leads him to former night watchman, Tony Matthews (Whitehouse) who whilst on duty is haunted by a young girl in a yellow raincoat, who eventually locks him in a room.

The second investigation is with Simon Rifkind (Alex Lawther), a young man who can barely leave his room due to the fright he had. One night, whilst driving home from a party along a quiet road through a forest, his car breaks down and he is visited by a ‘thing’ (Paul Warren) which scares him almost to death.

The last investigation is the haunting of Mike Priddle (Paul Freeman), a man who, whilst waiting for his wife to give birth, is visited at home by a poltergeist which ends up being a portent for some extraordinarily bad news.

Goodman sees a link within all the stories, and once he sees them, his life takes a dramatic left turn and he realizes that nothing is as it seems, and these tales may have something to do with him…

This film was apparently filmed over a weekend, and it shows that a solid, incredible film can be pumped out quick-as-you-like. The script by Nyman and Dyson is solid and every performance is amazing, and each of the individual stories are well made, and quite scary. Where the story goes is also so bizarre and left field, but there is clues… oh yes, there are clues which become clear upon a second watch.

This is a great film with a small cast that is an amazing watch. Highly recommended.

Score: *****

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian R4 DVD which was presented in a just fine 2.39:1 image with a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.

Score: ****

Extras: None.

Score: 0

WISIA: This will definitely get rewatched several times as I think even on my second review watching, I may have missed some stuff!

The To Watch Pile’s GoFund Me campaign

You may have heard, like Arnò above, that running a website isn’t free. I don’t mind that either as the To Watch Pile is a passion project and I enjoy doing it cost is something that can accompany ANY hobby.

I want to change things up a little though, and start a comic related podcast, and extend my YouTube stuff up a bit more, but need equipment to do so, and unfortunately I DON’T have the capitol for it.

So, I have started a GoFund Me Page to try and acquire better cameras, microphones and stuff so I can make more content for you to enjoy.

I can’t offer anything in return, but just a bit of spare change thrown towards the TWP will not just keep the doors open a bit longer, but also give me an opportunity to make more engaging content, maybe even with an occasional co-contributor!

The link for the page is right here: https://www.gofundme.com/keep-the-to-watch-pile-website-afloat?pc=ot_co_dashboard_a&rcid=e28632772b5242a08151aafce5b9b0a0

Slumber (2017)

One from the to watch pile…

Slumber (2017)

Film: My acquisition of this film came completely by accident. JB Hifi, an Australian electronics retailer, were doing a ‘buy 2 get 1 free’ thing and I’m a dummy who gets suckered into those sales and blind buys movies I’ve never heard of, starring people whose careers should have been over long ago.

This film, Slumber, also had a name on the cover which drew me to it: Maggie Q. I remembered her from Mission Impossible 3 and then Die Hard 4.0, as she is both talented and beautiful. After a quick look at IMDB I also discovered that one of the Doctors from Doctor

Who, Sylvester McCoy also Stars As does Lt Gorman, William Hope, from Aliens… this was pedigree I couldn’t pass up for a budget price.

Our story tells of Alice (Q) a sleep disorder specialist whose brother died when she was 6 years old, by throwing himself out the window after seemingly talking to a threatening imaginary friend.

Her latest patients, the Morgan family, have recently suffered with the loss of a child, and since have all suffered from various sleep disorders. The mother, Sarah (Kristen Bush), father Charlie (Sam Troughton) and daughter, Emily (Honor Kneafsey), all have various occupants es of sleep walking, whereas their son, Daniel (Lucas Bond), suffers from Parasomnia, where he is awake, but can’t move…and believes that something trying to hurt him.

After the meeting, Alice herself starts sleepwalking and having dreams about her deceased brother, but after the whole family have a night at the sleep clinic , it all seems to fall apart.

The cleaner, Cam (Vincent Adriano) sees what happens and warns Alice to stay away from the family as he believes they are haunted in the way that his grandfather, Amado (McCoy) once was… of course she ignores this advice, and things start to get worse…

Slumber feels like a mix of Nightmare on Elm Street 3 and 4, (in actual fact, the synopsis on the back of the cover sounds like a highbrow description of a new Freddy Krueger movie) with a bunch of j-horror and post millennial ghost story thrown in for good measure. The good thing about this film is though, it actually works, even though the premise is quick a schlocky and well-travelled one, what makes that even better is that the film has a moderately short run time at 80 odd minutes, so it doesn’t try to oversell its story.

Of course, with a well worn path, there are a few tropes in this film that are not new, but they can be forgiven. Also, the toothless tiger, wet blanket character of Alice’s husband seems to be there just as set-dressing, and with no real purpose except so that Alice’s daughter has a stable family home. I honestly don’t know why this character even exists outside that purpose.

There’s some great performances and the direction is really nice, and there is one or two pants-filling jump-scares that will give the old alimentary canal a good cleaning out too.

Score: ***1/2

Format: Slumber was reviewed on the Australian Region 4 DVD, which runs for approximately 80 minutes and is presented in a fine 2.40:1 image with a matching 5.1 Dolby Digital audio.

Score: ****

Extras: Absolutely no extras unfortunately, as I think when you boldly proclaim ‘based on true events’ an explanation should be mandatory.

Score: 0

WISIA: I will definitely give this another go!

Boarding School (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

Boarding School (2018)

Film: Don’t you just love those movies that surprise you?

The only reason I grabbed this movie, Boarding School, was that I needed a ‘free’ movie in one of those ‘buy two, get one free’ deals, and in this case, the free movie is the winner, and I can’t even remember what the other two were!

Written and directed by Boaz Yakin, who wrote films like the original Punisher movie (no, not that one: the 1989 one!), Now You See Me and The Rookie, and directed Remember the Titans and Safe, so whilst it has an odd pedigree, it is a solid one.

Jacob (Luke Prael) is an odd boy: quiet, likes horror movies and comics (wow, this cuts close to home already!) with a mother (Samantha Mathis) who is oppressive and obsessed with his well being. His grandmothers dies and he becomes somewhat obsessed with her and when he gets in trouble at school, his step father informs him that she is sending him to a small boarding school outside of town.

The school is run by Dr. and Mrs Sherman (Will Patton and Tammy Blanchard, respectively) and it is run with a cruel iron fist and devoted heavily to the teaching of the Holy Bible. There are only a few students at the school, all of whom suffer from various mental and physical disorders and the teachers objective seems to be to get the devil out of them, but the longer Jacob stays, the worse things seem to get… and the death of one of the students starts a series of events that will change Jacob’s life forever!

This story is engaging from the start, and has an extraordinarily interesting bunch of characters and situations that will keep you guessing as to where the story is going to lead, and whilst one specific plot point is obvious, the trail of the rest of it remains surprising and there are certaining some atypical story decisions made, which is probably why this snuck out straight to DVD.

The acting in the film is amazing. All the children are exceptionally talented and carry a huge pile of emotional weight in their roles, and there is some difficult issues happening within their character’s psyche. Will Patton is, of course, extraordinary as the oppressive teacher.

I was pleasantly surprised by this movie and highly recommend it.

Score: ****1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the Australia DVD which runs for approximately 107 minutes and is presented in a far-too-dark 1.85:1 image, which I am not sure was deliberate or not but the film was too dark for anything other than a night time viewing. The audio was a perfect Dolby Digital 5.1

Score: ***1/2

Extras: Unfortunately none, but unlike most DVDs that don’t offer any extras, this at least has scene select and set-up, which is just subtitles for the hearing impaired.

Score: 0

WISIA: Whilst it is an amazing film, I am not so sure it’s rewatchability is of a high level.