The Woman in Black (2012)

One from the rewatch pile…

The Woman in Black (2012)

Film: Any horror fan worth his mettle knows of the famed English studio Hammer films. Over many years Hammer entertained the world with Gothic tales of terror and fright, and gave us brilliant performances from the likes of Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee. They also introduced the world to many a blushing busty English rose. Great things don’t last forever though, and as a new generation of horror came to light in the 70s and 80s, Hammer disappeared. But not forever.

Recently, Hammer have re-emerged with a few new films: the English language remake of Let the Right One In called Let Me In and this, a retooling of Susan Hill’s novel The Woman in Black, filmed once before in 1989. This version has been adapted by Jane Goldman, who scripted Kick-Ass and X-Men: First Class and is directed by James Watkins, who previously helmed Eden Lake.

A young lawyer, Arthur Kipps (Daniel Radcliffe) is on his last legs at his job. It has been several years since his young wife Stella (Sophie Stuckey) died during childbirth and he has never gotten over it, bringing up their son Joseph (Misha Handley) with only the assistance of a nanny (Jessica Raine).

As the final chance to save his job, Kipps’ boss has given him the challenge of travelling to the town of Cryphin Gifford to make sure that the final will and testament of the recently deceased owner of the secluded property Eel Marsh, Mrs Drablow (Alisa Khazanova) is correct, by checking through any and all documents at her estate. What Kipps finds there though is a hate filled spirit of a woman in black, but why is she so filled with loathing, and can Kipps do anything to appease her torment of the town and it’s children?

The Woman in Black looks quite beautiful, and has a mood that perfectly matches that of the main character. The township of Cryphin Gifford is so dank that one feels the cold, wet and clamminess as if it is present in the room in which you are watching the film.

The performances are all solid. Still quite young, Daniel Radcliffe plays his Peter Cushing styled character with the intensity of a man well beyond his years, or an emo on depressants. The addition of the wonderful Ciarin Hinds as his ally within the town is excellent, and Hinds has a weight and subtlety in his performance as a man haunted by the death of a young son, and whose wife has never recovered from it.

The script also tells a grand ghost story, but here lies its biggest problem. Ghost stories in cinema have a language of their own and they can fall into a trap. That trap is they either do something out of the norm and have audiences not ‘get’ it, or they stick to the generic ghost story devices such as a creaky house and creepy toys et cetera, and even though they are speaking a cinematic language that your average cinema goer will comprehend, the story just doesn’t stand out.

Unfortunately, The Woman in Black is guilty of the latter. Even though there was some impressive imagery (Eel Marsh itself is simply amazing) the story just feels as though it is telling a tale we’ve all heard many times over. It seems to me that the makers of The Woman in Black tried to ignore the fact that the tastes of horror fans have moved on, and that perhaps this type of film isn’t relevant any more. I know whilst I was watching it I didn’t feel like I was watching a classic horror film, but someone who was trying to emulate one.

So Hammer are back, baby! The pure gothic tales of fright they have given us have returned with them, but, I’m afraid their time may have passed. The acting is generally of a high standard and the movie boasts some amazing gothic horror visuals, but it seems to miss that ‘classic’ horror mood. Perhaps this is due to the main elements of that “classic horror mood” being Cushing and Lee, who would have kicked arse as Kipps and Daily respectively, but without them, this whole event just feels a little ordinary.

Spooky toys, a creaky house, ghostly children, mysterious rocking chairs, generic, generic generic. The Woman in Black is a great looking film that ticks all the ‘spooky’ boxes and has some fine performances, but it fails to deliver any real scares and never tries to rise above the regular ‘ghost story’ trappings.

Score: **

Format: This film is presented in a pristine 2.35:1 aspect ratio, which I have to say, due to the colour palette of the film, works much better is pitch darkness, If your lounge room has even the slightest bit of light in it, you won’t get the full benefit of deep blacks and immaculate shadow detail The soundscape matches the visuals in excellence, and like it, works best in the dark, and is presented in DTS-HD 5.1.

Score: *****

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for Lockout, Magic Mike and Killer Joe before taking us to the menu.

There are only two, quite short, extras on this disc:

No Fear: Daniel Radcliffe as Arthur Kipps is a brief exploration of Radcliffe’s performance as Kipps, with comments from other cast and crew as to why he was good for the role.

Inside the Perfect Thriller: The Making of The Woman in Black, obviously, looks at the making of the film featuring interviews with cast and crew.

Score: 2

WISIA: It’s highly unlikely that I’d ever waste anymore of my precious time on this film.

The Wind (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

The Wind (2018)

Film: I must start this review with a simple statement about my genre tastes: I have zero interest in films, TV, comics or video games that take place in the American so-called ‘wild’ west. I’ve seen very few Django films outside of Tarantino’s, I’ve only watched the ‘Dollar’ trilogy once, my comic collection has a couple of cowboy comics, but not in comparison to horror, sci-fi and superhero ones and the video Red Dead Redemption 2, that everyone was cartwheeling in excitement over, bored three different shade of crap out of me.

I’m not a cowboy guy, ok? Even when everyone in horror was excited about Bone Tomahawk, I couldn’t get much more than a raised eyebrow out of the film, and that was just at the graphic violence! Maybe I should give it another go…

This film was directed by Emma Tammi, who directed the documentary Lens Across America, and was written by Teresa Sutherland, who prior to this hadn’t written a full feature, but her short film The Winter was very well received.

This film tells of Lizzy Macklin (Caitlin Gerard) and her husband, Isaac (Ashley Zukerman) who live in 1800s America in the Wild West. They live a frugal life and he spends a lot of time away working for their survival, leaving Lizzy alone, who is potentially suffering from post natal depression after a stillborn birth and because of the isolation, thinks something is in the plains watching her.

Our story sees a young couple, Emma (Julia Goldani Telles) and Gideon Harper (Dylan McTee) move in to the cabin close by, and Lizzy paranoia starts getting worse, thinking that Emma is attempting to seduce her husband.

So is there something in the wind on the plains, or is Lizzy slowly but surely losing her mind?

So this wasn’t the movie to change my opinion on the western. Don’t get me wrong, this film is visually realised beautifully and the performances are fabulous, but I found no tension and the story to be disjointed and plodding. I’m not one to be looking at clocks whilst watching a film, but this time, I was constantly with one eye on the time praying for the 80 odd minutes to come to an end.

As a discussion of post natal depression, paranoia and post traumatic stress disorder is where this film work best, and honestly I really think the addition of the supernatural elements may be where this film falls apart as you aren’t quite sure what it is you are watching.

I’m a fan of more deliberate horror films, like The Wicker Man, for example, but I just couldn’t get into this. Yes, maybe it was because I’m not a fan of westerns, but I am a fan of good pacing, and this didn’t have that.

Score: *1/2

Format: This film was reviewed with the Umbrella Entertainment region 4 DVD which runs for approximately 84 minutes. It is presented in a quite clear 2.35:1 image with a really good Dolby Digital 5.1 audio.

Score: ****

Extras: None. Not even a menu screen.

Score: 0

WISIA: Nope. It’s that simple.

The Curse of the Weeping Woman (2019)

One from the to watch pile…

The Curse of the Weeping Woman aka The Curse of La Llorona (2019)

Film: Sometimes, when choosing a movies, alarm bells should ring.

First, I don’t like supernatural films, but like some kind of self-flagellating moron, I still like to give them a chance, hoping that I might find another Sinister, instead of another dumb piece of tripe like Insidious. My mistake here was that the cover quite clearly states ‘From The Producers of The Conjuring Universe’ which for someone like me who isn’t a fan, that basically is like a restaurant having a sign out the front that says “our chef has a cold and never washes his hands after taking a dump’ and me going in and eating there anyway.

I deserve whatever I get.

Secondly, I occasionally make the mistake of watching a film because of the lead actor, and I have sat through some buckets of poop because of this. In this case, the tempting lure was two-fold: Linda Cardellini, Velma from the 2002 and 2004 Scooby Doo movies, stars and one of the supporting actors is Patricia Velasquez, from 1999’s The Mummy, and I bit like a hungry trout at a fish farm.

This film is directed by Michael Chavez, from a story by Mikki Daughtry and Tobias Iaconis, who co-wrote Five Feet Apart, the teen tear-jerker… was that another alarm bell?

Set in 1973, The Curse of the Weeping Woman tells of social worker, Anna (Cardellini) who has been called to investigate Patricia Alvarez (Velasquez) who has apparently been abusing her sons, but when she gets to Patricia’s house, she finds the boys locked in a closet, and Patricia willing to defend their imprisonment… violently if need be.

The police step in and Patricia tells Anna she needs to protect the boys from La Llorona, before she is taken away, and her sons are placed in temporary housing. On the first night there, though, they are taken by ‘something’ and drowned.

Anna, a single mum herself, is called to the scene of the crime late at night and has to take her son and daughter with her. Her son sneaks out of the car to see what’s going on and is attacked by a spirit of a woman, who attaches herself to the family, and the terror of the Weeping Woman, a scorned women who killed her sons and then herself, continues…

Will Anna and her children be able to survive her grasp, even after they enlist the help of father religious man, Rafael (Raymond Cruz), a shaman with seeming insane practises for exorcising ghosts?

Now the first thing I must point out that this isn’t just from ‘the producers of the Conjuring universe’ but IS a part of the Conjuring universe, and the character of Father Perez, played by Tony Amendola, was also in 2014’s Annabelle, so maybe that blurb on the cover should say ‘ steeped well within The Conjuring universe’.

Now, this is one of those post-millennial ghost stories that all seem the same: set in the seventies (to avoid technological trappings like mobile phones), deep bassy sounds to add to the terror, a ghost style-guide that fits an aesthetic that has worked so far in far too many films, a cold filter on the image to make everything look dark and wet (or should I say ‘the Wan Ghost Aesthetic) and a bizarre re-installation of Christianity/ Catholicism wielded loosely by a bizarre shaman as the heroic tool.

It’s boring, made seemingly exciting by SUDDEN INCREASES IN VOLUME, but essential is just another forgettable ghost story that’s directed well and has a half-decent cast

Score: **

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian, region B release which runs for 83 minutes and is presented in a high definition 2.4:1 image with a matching Dolby TrueHD 7.1 audio track, which it relies on heavily for its scares. Honestly you couldn’t watch this late at night while everyone else was in bed because you would be adjusting the volume up and down for the quiet ghostly bits and the LOUD SCARES!

Score: ****

Extras: There are 5 extras on this disc.

The Myth of La Llorona is a brief look at the history of the myth of the Mexican ghost ‘the Crying Woman’ and how it apparently dates back to the days of Cortez. This isn’t the first time this myth has been filmed: the TV show ‘Supernatural’ used her legend in the pilot episode, and in 1963, Mexican Director Rafael Baladón’s Le Maledición de la Llorona entertained the legend as well. This featurette is two minutes of cast members talking about the legend.

Behind the Curse looks at the making of the film and the incorporation of the legend into the film. Hilariously, one of the cast members mentions how it’s ‘not cliched’ which is one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard.

The Making of a Monster looks at the design of this ‘new, original’ monster. Make up effects are always interesting so at least it did offer that, and the performer Marisol Ramirez is a trooper.

Deleted scenes are just that! About ten minutes worth of stuff that really didn’t add to the film at all, if anything, it detracted from it somewhat, and would had slowed the film down, and even made Cardellini’s character seem maybe less of a good mother than she was.

Storyboards shows some PIP storyboards in comparison to the film, but don’t expect beautiful lavish illustrations here! No these are fairly crudely drawn thumbnails but they show they sat pretty close to the final film and it’s always interesting to see a director or cinematographer’s processes.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: I can 100% guarantee the next time I need to see something with Cardellini in it, I’ll watch Scooby Doo again and that’s a much better rewatcher.

Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape (2010)

One from the re-watch pile…

Video Nasties: Moral Panic, Censorship & Videotape (2010)

Film: As I sit here at the To Watch Pile Mansion, in my movie room, I look around and enjoy the fact that one wall is covered in blurays and DVDs, another has my vinyl soundtrack collection, the third is my TV screen and finally a big pile of books all about film, more specifically, horror, cult and sci-fi films. To say that I am a movie fan is a slight understatement: I simply LOVE cinema!

One thing that has always fascinated me was the Video Nasty scare in the UK. I first heard the term ‘video nasty’ as a kid when it was mentioned on an episode of The Young Ones, a hilarious 80s UK comedy series starring Ade Edmondson, Rick Mayall and Nigel Planer.

If you haven’t heard of this show, for me and my friends in high school, it was our Simpsons: funny and infinitely quotable. I don’t necessarily suggest everyone needs to see it as I’m not sure if a new, younger audience would appreciate it.

Anyway, this term fascinated me and I had read about it in everything from magazines like Fangoria, Samhain and Deep Red, but it didn’t seem to be something we experienced here in Australia as I worked in a video shop when I was about 15, and things like Evil Dead, and Lucio Fulci films were readily available to watch, perhaps cut in various ways, but still there to hire.

Anyway, to get the full deal on what the Video Nasty was about, I had to glean information from various sources, but now, this wonderful documentary exists, directed by Jake West, whose name you might know from films such as Doghouse and Evil Aliens.

West has managed to get so many interviews with both sides of the argument that you really get a complete picture of what was going on both socially and politically in the UK at the time, and whilst it does come from a director of horror’s hands, it’s surprisingly balanced, but even the least politically-motivated viewer will see that the hands of oppressive moral majority were heavy and unreasonable, bordering on WW2 book-burning and Frederick Wertham’s Seduction of the Innocent’s almost destruction of the comics industry in the US.

In addition to the incredibly informative amount of experts giving their opinions and recounting their tales, we also have a bucketload of bloody clips taken from the films in question.

I can’t express how enjoyable and informative this documentary is. It completely recounts the whole period, and even has a sequel: Video Nasties: Draconian Days which looks inside the censorship board in the UK. Both are must-sees for horror movie fans.

Score: ****1/2

Format: This film was reviewed on the UK DVD, which runs for 72 minutes approximately. It is presented in a 1.78:1 image of varying degrees of quality (to express points the director has deliberately degraded the film at times to visually explain how repeatedly copies VHS eventually looked) and the sound is presented in Dolby Digital 2.0, with similar eff ts performed on it to audibly explain VHS sound. It doesn’t, however, ever become unwatchable or inaudible.

Score: ****1/2

Extras: Extras… EXTRAS? How about two full discs of extras?!?

Disc 1: Video Ident-a-Thon is a selection of the video distribution companies of the time idents played at the beginning of every tape… and there is almost a FULL HOUR of them!

Bonus Gallery has a selection of VHS covers played as a slide show with a soundtrack.

Also available has trailers for other DVDs available from Nucleus films, including The Playgirls and the Vampire, Night of the Bloody Apes, Cannibal Girls, Teaserama, Varietease, Ghost Story, Grindhouse Trailer Classics 2, Bloodbath at the House of Death, Grindhouse Trailer Classics 1, Death Ship, Fausto 5.0, Gwendoline, The Ugliest Woman in the World, and Between Your Legs. That’s not to mention trailers for titles from Naughty Films such as Fantasm, Fantasm Comes Again, The Good Little Girls, Justine’s Hot Nights, Scandalous Photos, Dressage and Education Anglaise.

Disc 2: This disc has the trailers for 39 videos which became the actual Video Nasties. These trailers can be watched either with or without title cards, showing the release dates and other information, followed by introductions from Emily Booth, Kim Newman, Alan Jones (the UK one, not ‘ours’)and Stephen Thrower, all who were featured in the main documentary.

This disc also has another brief slideshow of the VHS covers of the 39 banned films, again with a score played over the top.

Disc 3: This disc is similar content to disc 2, but instead this has the 33 films that didn’t permanently achieve the Video Nasty status, or as they are called here ‘The Dropped 33’. This again has introductions from subjects from the documentary like Emily Booth, Dr. Patricia MacCormack, Alan Jones, Marc Morris, Allan Bryce, Xavier Mendik, Brad Stevens, Kim Newman and Stephen Thrower.

This disc also has a slideshow similar to disc 2,but of the Dropped 33.

Score: *****

WISIA: I’ve already watched it a 100 times and I’ll probably watch it a 100 more.

The Innkeepers (2011)

One from the rewatch pile…

The Innkeepers (2011)

Film: Vegemite and I have an interesting relationship. There are some days when I just can’t get enough of it, but on other days I think it is just the most revolting food ever. To me, it seems that that is an interesting look at just how taste can constantly change.

To write this review, I have watched The Innkeepers more than any other film that I have ever reviewed. Why? Well like Vegemite, every time I watch it, I have a different opinion of it. Sometimes I like it, and sometimes it’s like watching Big Brother: just a few people wandering around talking and doing stuff.

The Innkeepers tells of the last opening weekend of a hotel called the Yankee Pedlar Inn and the people that work there, Claire (played by a totally surprising and against type Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy). Luke runs a website about the Inn, and the apparent haunting that infects it, which Claire, who plays along with his investigations, has totally bought into. On this final weekend though, they have a few strange happenings, and as the weekend goes on, especially after the suicide of one of the guests, Claire becomes more and more uneasy. Actually borderline hysterical.

And then, the ‘terror’ begins….

Director Ti West has crafted a visually stunning film. He captures the quaintness of the Yankee Pedlar Inn, which is a real Inn I might point out, and creates tension throughout the entire film using all the usual horror tricks like sudden scares and low bass audio to produce that feeling of anxiety in the viewers chest, but he stops it just in time so the scare is even more jumpy!

West’s ability to inspire some great performances from the actors is notable as well. Sara Paxton, who normally plays the beautiful mean girl in films like Sydney White (yeah, I watch stuff other than horror and sci fi) or bland shark bait in Shark Night, plays this role with natural dorkiness ,and has even geeked herself up visually to complete the picture. It’s hard to believe she has played bitches in some other films she is so in tune with this dorky character. Pay Healy is also excellent, playing the computer nerd with such aplomb that I almost believe he must either be the greatest actor in the world, or he is really like his character. There are also some amazing performances from the unrecognisable from Top Gun Kelly McGillis and George Riddle along with a brief appearance from Sesame Street’s Alison Bartlett, whom I only mention as I have always had somewhat of a thing for her.

Fans of horror films and of haunted house films might find The Innkeepers a little on the lame side though, as it feels for the longest time like nothing happens. And it doesn’t. People who like films such as Ghost World or Art School Confidential will probably love The Innkeepers as it is one of those films that is more character driven than story driven, which to me seems to also be its failing, and this is where my dissatisfaction lies.

Whilst I completely enjoy the performances and the dialogue the actually story itself just doesn’t wash. The whole time I watched this film, I felt like I was watching a well acted and scripted final episode of a soap opera.

To me, this film is cinematic Vegemite. I wanted to like The Innkeepers, but it just hovered around mediocrity without doing a whole lot to actually entertain the viewer.It is well scripted, but at times it just feels like you are wandering around with no clear destination, and it’s just a disappointment.

Score: **

Format: Accent’s disc features a pristine and very natural looking 2.40:1 transfer. Like the image, the DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 track is exceptional, using all available channels to subtly produce a feeling of unease on occasions.

Score: ****

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for other Accent releases including Norman, Absentia, Forks Over Knives and Chasing Madoff, and one for this film, The Innkeepers.

The Innkeepers: Behind the Scenes is a fluff piece that tells an abbreviated version of the commentary information, which is the better option if you are interested in that sort of thing.

There are two commentaries, one with writer/ director/ editor Ti West, Producer Peter Phok and Larry Fessenden and 2nd Unit Director/ sound designer Graham Reznik, while the other features West and stars Sara Paxton and Pat Healy.The first commentary is an interest one that focuses on the making on the film, whereas the second one wis funny, but features people who are a tad conceited… typical actors.

Score: ***

WISIA: No. Never again.

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!

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!

Truth or Dare (2018)

One from the to watch pile…

Truth or Dare (2018)

Film: It seems that Wes Craven’s Scream didn’t just save the horror industry in the 90s, it also gave young’s tv stars an opportunity to find their way to the big screen… via horror movies. Every time a new Scream-derivative film was announced, it’s cast was led by someone from a popular Tv show. To be fair, some of the teen comedies were these gateways for these people as well.

Horror Movies, which in the 80s seemed to be the place that either a) people at the end of their careers turned up or b) those prepared to do nudity killed their careers, became a place that soap or drama stars could wind up on the road to a cinema career.

It now seems to be the done thing by actors on the off-season of their TV shows, sometimes to little effect, but other times to some degree of success.

Truth or Dare, co-written and directed by Kick Ass 2’s Jeff Wadlow, features a bevy of these young stars from shows like Pretty Little Liars, Teen Wolf, The Flash and Grey’s Anatomy.

Our story is of YouTuber/ Snapchatter, Olivia (Lucy Hale), who is coerced by her friend’s to go to Mexico for Spring Break, and whilst there meets Carter (London Liboiron) who convinced them all to make their way to an abandoned convent and play a game of Truth or Dare.

The problem is, the game is not what it seems, and anyone that plays it becomes haunted by a demon who forces them into horrible, friend-destroying truths, or self-destructive and violent dares which, if they don’t commit to, will result in them being killed by the demon.

Once stuck in the game though, how can they get out? Is there a way to get rid of the demon, or are they cursed forever?

This film is pretty good, though the ‘thing’ that’s haunting them has a very It Follows way of ‘infecting’ the characters. The actors are all great and likeable and Wadlow’s direction tells the story with a minimum of effects but it still looks great, except for when people are possessed by the demon and their faces just look like a lame Snapchat filter, which is a shame. I think something even lower-tech, like coloured contacts and a voice changer, would have been more effective.

Basically this is an enjoyable film with a good cast that will be forgotten almost as soon as you finish watching it, until in two years time a completely unassociated sequel made by studio guns-for-hire will remind you it exists.

Score: **1/2

Format: Truth or Dare was reviewed with the Australian R4 DVD which runs for approximately 97 minutes. The image is presented in 2.39:1 with a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track which is perfect.

Score: *****

Extras: Before the menu starts, there are trailers for Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Tremors: A Cold Day In Hell and Pacific Rim Uprising.

Game On: The Making Of Truth or Dare isn’t really a proper ‘making of’ but instead is a 6 minutes overview of what the movie is about, it’s origins and a few comments from the cast.

Directing the Deaths is an even SHORTER piece which really just describes a couple of deaths in minor detail.

There is a commentary with Wadlow and Hale which is really interesting as each scene is described from the two pints of view and provides a nice overview of what is going on between cast and crew.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: I’m pretty sure this is gonna be a one and done for me.

Eloise (2017)

One from the to watch pile…

Eloise (2017)

Film: If I am totally honest, I have very little faith in post millennial horror films, particularly the ghost stories. I don’t want to be one of those guys who nay says stuff because it’s new, and I’m not quite doing that, but I think that very few horror movies made since the year 2000 have been made for me.

The real tragedy is the lack of a lack of quality in the straight-to-home-video market. In the 80s, the low budget stuff looked rough, was occasionally filled with has-beens and never-wases and usually sported a bunch of nudity… at the very least a boobie or two, but at least it was entertaining. Now it’s just about barely-audible scores set to scare and boring generic ghost stories that have NO surprises or original ideas in their stories and barely entertain in anyway. I guess companies are looking to make the next franchise.

This film, Eloise, stars Chance Crawford (ex-Gossip Girl), Eliza Dushku (ex-Buffy the Vampire Slayer) and P.J. Byrne (ex-Big Little Lies), and the fact that the three biggest names are ex-TV stars should immediately ring alarm bells… but what this film needs is a famous star from a big film who never really did anything else of note.

‘Hello, Robert Patrick, are you busy this weekend?’

Eloise tells of Jacob (Crawford) who has discovered his father has committed suicide and that he has inherited over a million dollars on the condition he can obtain the death certificate of his only other relative, his aunt who died in a mental institution called Eloise in the 80s.

Obtaining this certificate is going to take several months, but as a deus ex machina of improbable proportions, a friend of Jacob’s, Dell (Brandon T. Jackson), desperately needs $20,000 to pay off a debt, so they devise a plan to break into Eloise utilising the help of Eloise expert, Scott (Byrne) who also is a special needs person, and his sister/ carer, Pia (Dushku), whose mother worked there before she mysteriously disappeared.

What they find there is ghosts that offer nothing but horror and torture that shows that the writer probably watched the remake of House on Haunted Hill and thought they could do better with the aesthetic of the flashback sequences, which are so anachronistic that it destroys any credibility the story might gave at all, and that’s not to mention the improbable coincidences of the story.

Seriously, this film is just terrible, apart from some actual good performances from those TV cast members I mentioned, though Byrne’s character gets constantly on your nerves with his frenetic behaviour, but that’s probably the point.

Normally no matter how bad a film is, I can get through it in one sitting: this took 4.

I’m afraid that’s not a sign of quality.

Honestly, the only good thing about this film is that it shares a name with the Damned awesome 80s cover of Barry Ryan’s song. Avoid at all costs.

Score: *

Format: This film was reviewed with the Australian DVD which runs for approximately 88 minutes and is presented in a 2.40 image with a Dolby Digital 5.1 audio, both of which are of a high quality.

Score: ****

Extras: Nothing.

Score: 0

WISIA: If I ever watch this film again, it will be on a dare. Avoid at all costs.

Dead Awake (2016)

One from the to watch pile…

Dead Awake (2016)

Film: This film shouted out at me from the shelves of my local store for one reason: how absolutely stupid the title is. I get that throwing the word ‘Dead’ into a title will make most younger (and this older) horror fan stop and check something out, and if it were a term that was actually used in the English language, you know, like Dead End, Dead Stop, Dead Tired, I’d be impressed, but Dead Awake was such a stupid combination I had to check it out.

Then I read the back of the Bluray slick and I find that it’s about sleep paralysis, which is something I find both horrible to think of, and an interesting idea for a horror film, especially when it’s mixed with a little American-styled post-millennial ghost story like Grudge/ Ring/ Darkness Falls/ Boogeyman films that haunted the cinemas in the early 2000s. I’m not really a fan of many films of this period, but for some reason I find I revisit these films occasionally.

This film was written by Jeffrey Reddick, the guy who came up with the concept of the Final Destination movies so it has some positive providence , and directed by Phillip Guzman, who directed A Kiss and a Promise.

When Kate Bowman’s (Jocelyn Donahue) recovering drug-addict sister Beth dies during a sleep paralysis episode, she discovers that perhaps her sister was being haunted by a creature who kills people in their sleep during these episodes.

She meets Beth’s doctor, Dr Davies (Jesse Borego) and at first isn’t convinced of this weird malevolent being bent on killing that he tries to tell her about, until she starts having episodes herself, as does her sister’s boyfriend, Evan (Jesse Bradford… remember Cliff Pantone from Bring It On? THAT guy!).

So Kate and Evan start a trail that starts at a sleep hospital run by Dr. Sykes (Lori Petty) to try and defeat whatever it is that haunts them, but how many people will die along the way, and can this creature, that appears to have existed for centuries, even be destroyed at all?

I really wanted to like this film. The cast are all really well picked, it’s filmed beautifully, the script is ok, but the premise is just so generic.

Dead Awake is a bizarre 80s-nightclub styled megamix of A Nightmare on Elm Street, The Grudge and Ring, that is, the male and female lead of Ring versus a dream monster, who moves like the ghost from The Grudge. It’s not that this is a bad film, it’s just been done before by other films that did it far better. Emulating something is fine, but doing so with no point of originality is detrimental to your product.

To provide a metaphor, this film is the nerd who desperately wants to be a cool kid, but ends up being the kid from the Pretty Fly for a White Guy film clip.

Score: **

Format: Dead Awake was reviewed with the Australian region B Bluray which runs for 99 minutes and is presented in a 2.0:1 image and a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Audio, both of which are immaculate.

Score: *****

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for Revolt, Faults, Eat Local and 13 Sins.unfortunately, that is it for the extras, but those last three films I’m definitely going to keep an eye out for… Revolt, not so much.

Score: *

WISIA: Probably not.