Posts filed under 'Film Reviews'

Film review: Phobia

An easy on the eyes and mind horror anthology from four Thai film-makers, Phobia never truly scares, but there are some fun jumps along the somewhat predictable way in these thinly-linked stories.

Thongkongtoon kicks off with the segment Happiness. A young girl is recovering from a broken leg in her flat, received when the taxi she was in collided with a pedestrian. Hiding from her landlady because her rent is in arrears her only form of communication with the outside world is her internet and mobile phone. When the internet packs up she begins to receive text messages from a complete stranger. Bored, she starts up a conversation, and after a series of stranger and stranger exchanges she wishes she listened to that revised and updated nugget of parental wisdom: never text strangers. Especially if they’re dead… This segment has no dialogue whatsoever, just the irritating buzz of the mobile as messages come in, off-set by the steady build-up of a claustrophobically threatening atmosphere as the ghost decides he wants to meet up in the flesh. Thongkongtoon just manages to keep the single interior setting this side of tedious, but the inevitable pay-off did send a little shiver down my spine.

Tit for Tat, directed by Purikitpanya, might be a thirty minute extended pop-video, jam-packed with crazy cuts, colouring and frenetic nu metal riffs and beats. A classic story of bullying, what makes this a little different is the victim’s determination for revenge through black-magic, or something ritually similar. The gang members are dispatched in a series of enjoyable and gory set-pieces, and the threat of those on the other-side and what might lay in wait for us there is eerily depicted, albeit in rather unfortunate CGI. Of interest to some will be the modern echoes of M.R. James’ Casting the Runes and Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell fun-fest.

Pisanthanakun’s (one-half of the team behind Shutter) In The Middle centres around four friends rafting and camping in the jungle. Needless to say things go awry when they capsize and end up in the water. A self-referential humour that nods way too obviously towards feature films such as The Others and The Sixth Sense just about saves the proceedings from becoming too predictable and too sedentary, as the story and atmosphere is neither scary nor ground-breaking, just a little goofy.

The Last Fright, directed by Wongpoom (the second of the Shutter duo), is about an air stewardess who is asked to take the body of a recently deceased princess back to her homeland. On her own in the plane, the pilots locked away in the cockpit, she finds herself at the centre of a mid-air revenge haunting as the plane is rocked by heavy turbulence. Despite a clever storyline that comes full-circle with the details of the link between the stewardess and the princess steadily unfolding, our sympathies swaying back and forth with each reveal, it’s resolution is a (and here’s that word again) predictable dead-end.

Phobia, 2009

Directed by Banjong Pisanthanakun / Paween Purikitpanya / Yongyoot Thongkongtoon / Parkpoom Wongpoom

Reviewed by Mathew F. Riley

Add comment January 2nd, 2011

Film review: The Objective

objectiveA well-intentioned supernatural covert-ops thriller from the writer of The Blair Witch Project that may culminate in frustration for some, as the ending is speculative to say the least. On the other hand, there are those of us who appreciate such room for interpretation, and The Objective cannot be accused of being anything but original given the recent trend towards inept war/horror movies such as the tedious Red Sands and the atrocious Zombies of War.

The Objective of the title is itself cloaked in mystery as CIA Agent Ben Keynes is assigned a small Special Ops team to locate and interview a local mystic. This old man may or may not know about the massive radioactive heat signature discovered by satellites deep in an unforgiving terrain of mountains and desert. It becomes apparent that this search is only a part of Keynes’ mission, but whether or not he knows the reasons behind the team’s steady disintegration as they travel deeper into the wilderness is also unclear.

the_objectiveWhat is clear is the formula Myrick has chosen to apply to The Objective: this is The Blair Witch Project without trees (and witches). He develops a gradual unease as the lost group stumble across wooden triangles stuck in the barren landscape, possibly placed as warnings. Water turns to dust in their canteens and they see vague shimmering shapes in the distance, hazy figures walking into the triangular phenomena before ascending into the sky. As they are picked off one-by-one by a rarely seen force that literally disintegrates its victims (its geometries looking like something that might have come from a mind-meld of pseudo-scientist and new-age sf maverick Eric Von Daniken, and H.P.Lovecraft) the team is no nearer knowing what it is supposed to be doing.

The Objective suffers by its director’s reputation, and by comparison to the aforementioned Blair Witch Project, but it is relatively well-acted and fresh enough to be worthy of your time. Having said that, I’d like to see this script worked into a short story or novella – the reader would undoubtedly enjoy a more subtle and gritty supernatural experience that would make a much greater and longer-lasting impression, as suggestion is often more effective on the page than on screen.

The Objective, 2009

Directed by Daniel Myrick

1 comment July 21st, 2010

Film Review: Colin

colin-zombieA new independent British zombie film following in the footsteps of the adequate The Zombie Diaries, and the more polished, if unseen to date, The Dead Outside (will someone please give these guys a DVD deal? In fact, put all three movies into a cool little box-set please), Colin has been touted around with the story of a £45 budget spent on tea and biscuits. If that’s true then all well and good, but the film itself certainly stands up to geek analysis without the aid of a gimmicky marketing campaign, and will receive a deserved short run and DVD release in October.

Colin is the eponymous central character whom we meet returning home one afternoon. It soon becomes apparent there’s anarchy in the streets of Wandsworth, South London as gunshots and explosions fill the City air and he washes his blood-soaked hands and knife. Colin has been bitten and after fighting off his flatmate we witness his inevitable un-birth. The film then follows our hero around the streets of London as he slowly descends into a state of fully-fledged zombie. For a zed geek like me this is one of the most interesting aspects of the film as, initially, Colin appears to have a certain amount of intelligence to his actions, maybe considering whether or not to tuck into some easily available flesh as the more developed around him flood the streets and chase down the unfortunate survivors.

Colin wanders around, occasionally chowing down, mostly on the already dead, possibly learning from the actions of the others. There are some interesting victims, notably the man who is being eaten alive while he listens to his MP3 player, a gadget which attracts Colin’s attention for a while. There are a couple of episodes where our hero disappears amongst the whole zombie horde, such as the time when he stumbles into a townhouse where four students are fending off a whole front room of the undead. As sheer weight of numbers overwhelms them the scene does actually become fairly harrowing and only one girl escapes. We follow her as she breaks into a seemingly disused garage where a sleazy bloke seems to be torturing zombies by removing their eyes. Again, it’s an intense scene, but its effect is somewhat dampened by the fact you can’t see what’s going on most of the time, and it’s so unexpected and jarring when set against the carnage in the streets. Director Marc Price should be commended for trying something a little different with these interludes, and with Colin being almost totally from an undead perspective.

Price also succeeds with his decision to introduce a sub-plot wherein his sister realises he’s a zombie, and with some mates captures him in an effort to see if he can remember who he is was/is. These poignant scenes are well balanced by her mates’ dislike for Colin in his current state, and the decision they must make when it becomes obvious he cannot be ‘returned’. (Another geek note of interest – apparently, immersing a zed’s head in a bath of water will calm it down temporarily).

Colin is surprisingly well-acted given the majority of its cast were recruited via Facebook and MySpace, although it helps that the majority of the film is without dialogue, and where there is speech it is mostly experienced from Colin’s point-of-view. Being sympathetic to a central character is a prerequisite of most films; the viewer’s interaction with Colin is no different as we know just enough about him to care and as the story unfolds and he descends into a new form of life this sympathy only increases.

Reviewed by Mathew F. Riley

Add comment October 25th, 2009

Film review: Trailer Park of Terror

tpoterror1Based on the Imperium comic book series and including a nice little colour mini-comic of its own, Trailer Park of Terror’s redneck horrors have sneaked into the UK shops unannounced much like The Dark Hour, albeit less successfully, and with a completely different vibe.

Initially Trailer Park of Terror follows a bog-standard template: a bus load of delinquent teens with attitudinal problems and their group leader are stranded as said bus crashes in a massive rainstorm. The argumentative bunch find themselves in Trucker’s Triangle, a haunted patch of dusty land that the Devil himself (in a suitably black Cowboy outfit) has frequented, doing all manner of deals with the locals over the years, especially pretty lil’ Norma, the cursed, and now very dead owner of the abandoned Trailer Park.

The kids argue, muck around and are just plain irritating (thus allowing us to dislike them enormously and increase our hopes for swift and bloody retribution) and inevitably attract the attention of the luscious make-up coated Norma and other returned resident rednecks who made Norma’s life a misery all those years ago, until the aforementioned Devil gave her a big gun and she took appropriate revenge. These white-trash characters include a colourful guitar-wielding ghoul, a monstrously fat cannibal, and a jerky obsessed butcher (and it’s not beef), all of whom take great glee in torturing and killing the deserving teens in fashions relevant to their previous lives, whilst cracking tasteless jokes of questionable redneck wisdom as the gore flows.

Via convincing fx and EC-inspired creatures, decent directing and a fun spiky country soundtrack Trailer Park of Terror almost manages to tap into the same vein of humour as can be found in The Evil Dead, and Roach the rockabilly ghoul is as strong and fun a demon as Ash was a flawed hero. But it cannot be denied that Trailer Park of Terror is a very basic story trying too hard to be truly scary through gruesome set-pieces. There are no surprises and not much inventiveness, but then it never promised any I guess, so it sits uneasily on my DVD shelves, possibly never to be watched again.

Reviewed by Mathew F. Riley

[This review was originally published in the Easter 09 edition of Prism, the Newsletter of the British Fantasy Society]

Add comment June 15th, 2009

Film Review: The Dark Hour

darkhourI picked the claustrophobic The Dark Hour up from a bargain bin in HMV, based on user comments on the Quiet Earth website – a wonderful source of all things apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic – comments suggesting it was an undiscovered gem from Spain, a country that’s been at the forefront of fantastic films over the last few years. How right those comments are.

Nine survivors of what might have been a biological and/or nuclear holocaust are locked up inside the ruined planet. Their lives run like clockwork, ruled by restricted movement, rationing of food, power, and hope.  Hazardous missions to forage for new supplies of food and medication form part of the survivalist routine. Outside the sealed sanctuary toxic ghouls (possibly zombies and referred to as Strangers) roam myriad corridors dripping in filth and disease. But there’s more to the subterranean inhabitants than slow decaying remnants of society – for one hour every day, ‘the cold hour’, the Invisibles roam the shadowy environment. Freezing air, wood and metal as they travel the length and breadth of the sanctuary, the survivors lock themselves into their rooms for fear of encountering these ethereal predators.

Terrorised by two types of evil and imprisoned beneath the surface by the fallout, the nine survivors convincingly play out strained relationships, their quirks and bigotries manifesting in treachery and a desperate fight for survival. The youngest survivor, a boy named Jesus records a video diary showing us a child’s fears of this awful world he has been born into, and through this young voice, debut director Quiroga manages to successfully create, maintain and manipulate a tense atmosphere of dread and anticipation, of love and hate, innocence and strength that is gripping from the first minute to the last.

And that last scene! A truly surprise ending, and you can’t say that of many a film. Maybe you’ll love it or hate it. I thought it was perfect. Either way, this single awesome scene provides answers to what’s gone before and takes the story into new realms even as it ends.  An emotional, savage, and wholly original sf/horror hybrid, The Dark Hour is recommended without reservation.

Reviewed by Mathew F. Riley

[This review was originally published in the Winter 08/09 edition of Prism, the Newsletter of the British Fantasy Society]

1 comment June 6th, 2009



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