Me; Ooh. It’s refreshing to see an understated performance by Nicolas Cage this time.
*20 minutes later*
Me: Oh, there we are. Normality resumed.
Note: It physically hurts to type ‘color’ and upsets me to see so many red lines in Microsoft Word, so I’ll be referring to the film as “Colour out of space” throughout. Pedants be damned.
The first time I came across director Richard Stanley, it was more through his notoriety than by watching one of his films. In 1990, he wrote and directed Hardware, a British science fiction horror about a reactivated war robot wreaking havoc in an apartment block. It was a bold debut, with a gritty punk/gothic aesthetic thanks to its cameos from Carl McCoy (from those talcum-powder dusted Goth cowboys Fields of the Nephilim), Iggy Pop and Lemmy.
I learned of it due to the fact I was an avid read of British comic 2000AD at the time, and it’s publishers – Fleetway – were suing the film-makers. Turned out that Hardware bore more than a passing resemblance to a short story called SHOK! that featured in the 1981 Judge Dredd Annual. Much as how Harlan Ellison didn’t hesitate to sue James Cameron for unashamedly stealing the idea for Terminator from his Outer Limits script for Soldier, 2000AD didn’t dither in doing the same with Stanley.
Eventually, much like with Harlan, it got sorted. The hurt parties got their credits (and maybe a little bit of cash, too) and all was well. Hardware went on to achieve a cult following, as did his next movie, Dust Devil.
And then Stanley began work on The Island of Dr Moreau, the adaptation of the 1896 H.G. Wells novel. It was a somewhat troubled production, and Richard Stanley was fired from the job within a few days of principal photography. The entire production history is a catalogue of disasters; Bruce Willis was forced to drop out due to his divorcing Demi Moore, actor Rob Morrow quit, and Marlon Brando refused to learn his lines.
And, other than the odd music video, documentary, short film, and a segment (The Mother of Toads) in the horror anthology The Theatre Bizarre, Stanley went very quiet - until it was announced that he was working on adapting H.P. Lovecraft’s Colour out of Space, in which he takes the helm of both director and writer.
For those unfamiliar with the source material by HP Lovecraft, The Colour out of Space is a short story from 1927. In it, our unnamed narrator (a surveyor) endeavours to uncover the secrets behind a shunned area of Arkham known as “the blasted heath”. Piecing together the facts with the aid of a local, he discovers what happened when a meteorite crashed into a farmer’s lands in June of 1882, and what unfolded in the months to come.
The movie – produced by Elijah Wood’s SpectreVision - unsurprisingly, as with most successful Lovecraft adaptations - takes the setting to the modern day, where we meet Nathan Gardner (Cage), his wife Theresa (Joely Richardson) and their three children, Lavinia (Madeline Arthur), Benny (Brendan Mayer) and youngest Jack. Nathan has inherited his dead father’s farm and feels like he’s living in the old man’s shadow – he’s a daddy with daddy issues. He farms Alpacas because, despite being a family man in this, he’s still quirky, goddamnit.
The surveyor character still exists, after a fashion. He’s Ward Phillips, a hydrologist come to investigate the water in the valley, and it’s through him we meet Nathan and his family.
Nathan’s wife Theresa works with stocks and shares as long as the satellite dish grants her internet access, and is recovering from cancer. Lavinia is a goth with purple hair (who owns the same printing of the Necronomicon that I do) and Benny is a stoner. Jack, the youngest, is played by Julian Hillard – who, after appearing in Penny Dreadful and The Haunting of Hill House must surely be used to dealing with this shit by now.
We’ve no sooner met them when a meteor lands slap bang in the middle of their garden.
Nothing good ever comes from falling meteorites in movies. They either carry a virulent infection that’ll turn you into a walking pile of moss (Creepshow; The lonesome death of Jordy Verrill), a ravenous amorphous acidic jelly that can only be defaulted by a youthful Steve McQueen (The Blob) or a swarm of malevolent alien parasites (Slither).
Colour out of Space is no exception.
The meteor brings something with it - much like the Shimmer in Garland’s Annihilation, it changes everything around it – plants, creatures – even time and reality itself. Its effect appears as a colour, a hue that begins to bleed into everything. In the story, the titular colour of space is unknown to our spectrum, something truly alien and unseen by mortal eyes. Realising the obvious difficulties and complexities involved with inventing a brand new colour, Stanley has instead opted for a bright and distinctive Gaviscon™ pink.
Kudos to Stanley who – in his absence from horror – has lost none of his knack for visual flair. Some of the shots in Colour out of Space are outright beautiful. Purple and lurid pink skies shift and warp like a skin of oil on a body of water, and heat-haze clouds of lilac and amethyst light shimmer and dart through the trees.
Odd plants begin to fill the garden, and the farm starts producing a bounty of crops – but the harvest is bloated, misshapen and inedible. The effect begins to seep not just into the land, but the consciousness of the Gardners, the colours allure both distracting and confusing.
As hinted at the start of this review, it was pleasing to see a relatively reserved performance from Cage this time round – at least at first. However, as the effect of the Colour takes hold, his sanity begins to fray. His performance is by no means as manic or as intense as his role in Mandy, (to take a recent example) but Stanley allows him to get on with what Nicolas Cage does best.
You don’t hire Nicolas Cage if you want ‘restrained’.
Stanley does an excellent job at building up the impending sense of unease and dread before the film hurtles kicking and screaming into fully-fledged body horror – including one particular set of scenes involving Theresa and Jack which will remain embedded in my psyche for some time to come.
There are heavy elements of The Thing here, especially a later scene pertaining to the Alpaca herd. Ultimately though, the film is a little too keen to show you in too great a detail what was better left implied. When Stanley is restrained to just glimpses and the sounds of horror – some of which are truly disturbing - the film works a lot better than when you’re presented with some slightly-better-than-adequate puppet or CGI work. The film is far better when it’s hinting at horror, and far less effective when it’s being a monster movie.
Lovecraft is notoriously difficult to adapt to the cinema, with themes of existentialism and cosmic dread not translating particularly well to the screen. Considering much of his writing is about things that are indescribable and beyond mortal ken and comprehension, this often translates into little more than a CGI multi-tentacled beastie. There are exceptions to the rule; Reanimator works because it’s a lot less ambitious than other works by Lovecraft, and From Beyond works – for all its daftness - thanks to some excellent practical effects work. And Barbara Crampton in a basque.
Loose adaptations – or stories which could be said to be more inspired by Lovecraft’s themes than direct translations – seem to fare way better. The Thing beautifully captures the elements of paranoia and cosmic horror, as do Event Horizon, In The Mouth of Madness and The Endless. Even Prometheus, for all its many flaws, is essentially At the Mountains of Madness.
That said though, Colour out of Space stands strong, as is one of the better direct Lovecraft adaptations. When Richard Stanley restrains himself, it’s very strong. It’s not without its flaws, but it’s a satisfying watch – and it’s always good to see a film daring to stand alone and not set itself up for an obvious franchise flood of sequels.
It was Time Out magazine that broke the story about the connection between Stanley’s Hardware and 2000AD’s SHOK! and you can read how at https://londonhollywood.wordpress.com/2013/12/17/shia-labeoufs-plagiarism-scandal-and-how-history-repeats-itself/
There’s an excellent documentary about the troubled production of The Island of Dr. Moreau, and the Wikipedia article about it can be found at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lost_Soul:_The_Doomed_Journey_of_Richard_Stanley%27s_Island_of_Dr._Moreau
The story Colour out of Space can be found in the H.P. Lovecraft archive at http://www.hplovecraft.com/writings/texts/fiction/cs.aspx
About the Author
David Court is a short story author and novelist, whose works have appeared in over a dozen venues including Tales to Terrify, StarShipSofa, Visions from the Void, Sparks and Burdizzo Mix Tape Volume One.. Whilst primarily a horror writer, he also writes science fiction, poetry and satire. His last collection, Scenes of Mild Peril, was re-released in 2020 and his debut comic writing has just featured in Tpub’s The Theory (Twisted Sci-Fi). As well as writing, David works as a Software Developer and lives in Coventry with his wife, three cats and an ever-growing beard. David’s wife once asked him if he’d write about how great she was. David replied that he would, because he specialized in short fiction. Despite that, they are still married.
In order to give what we believe to be a more unbiased constructive criticism of the piece, the members of Bloodhound Pix are tackling each review as a panel of three. None of the members know the others’ thoughts on the content until after they submit their initial response.
Director: Joe Begos
Writer: Joe Begos
Starring: Dora Madison, Graham Skipper, Tru Collins, Jeremy Gardner
A brilliant painter facing the worst creative block of her life turns to anything she can to complete her masterpiece, spiraling into a hallucinatory hellscape of drugs, sex, and murder in the sleazy underbelly of Los Angeles.
C. How do you begin with Bliss? With such a personal piece of work, to make any comment feels as though you’re commenting on Joe Begos himself. This is an incredible step forward for Begos, whose previous work, though entertaining, fell into the realm of “fanboy movies” by some reviewers. As fun as Mind’s Eye was it was consistently called Scanners 2 and the movie itself relishes in that. However, a lot of times when you make something that pays so much homage to another movie… you’d rather just watch Cronenberg’s Scanners. That all being said, there was some preconceived notions that I had going into my viewing of Bliss. I’m happy to report that those notions were destroyed within the first minute. Bliss enters into a realm of pure artistic expression, yet avoids becoming a vanity project. It’s one of those rare instances where it beat the odds based on so many elements that have tanked even the most well-seasoned director’s movie.
Now if you’re intention is to watch a more straightforward vampire flick, this may not be what you had in mind, despite lots of blood. The use of filming in 16mm gives the movie a gritty, tangible quality that makes you feel “icky” after watching it, in the same way I felt watching Street Trash. This however, is more artistically handled than Street Trash, as much as I enjoy the color pallet used in that film. The irony is that Begos, who has referenced hating the term “elevated horror” (as one should), has made a horror movie destined to draw that type of pseudo-arthouse crowd… if they can handle the bloodshed of course.
There are a few pieces of criticism that don’t hurt a film that’s more focused on its visuals over narrative but they did come up. The major thing I noticed comes from the tonal shift, which is necessary. There’s a general rule of thumb in most narrative cinema that you should establish the character’s “normal” world and when they enter into uncharted territory, they must find a new “norm.” In Spiderman, Peter Parker is a nerdy teenager, he gets bitten by a radioactive spider, his life is forever changed and he can’t go back to being the teenager he once was. While I don’t believe it’s necessary, Begos uses this rule and the plot is based around the (“on-the-nose”) concept of someone physically becoming different/entering a new world… so it is open for criticism. The issue with Bliss is that based on what new world the protagonist enters, it requires a large shift. She’s not just realizing she’s becoming a vampire, but coming to the realization that vampires are real, and that drinking blood is like this insane drug trip. That’s a big difference from an L.A. artist that smokes pot and occasionally does blow/other recreational drugs. I acknowledge there is a shift between the original “norm” and the crazy end, there’s even a shift when she is first turned. However, when she’s taking Diablo (another drug) most of the same lighting and visual effects are used as when she’s consuming the blood. Because the change is so slight initially, we are not able to see the true impact/differentiate the high that the blood provides. As the story moves forward, this is redeemed but it feels like a missed opportunity for the audience. Some could say screw the audience but then why the hell are you making something that is displayed to the public?
My last issue deals with the protagonist as an unlikable character. First repeat after me, “you do not need a likable character.” But if you’re going to have an unlikable protagonist they better be compelling. About halfway there’s a point where our protagonist is at peak unlikability and she stops becoming compelling. We experience character arc territory that almost enters meandering with more examples of how this drug (the blood) has turned her into a “dope fiend.” Luckily, that issue resolves itself quickly thanks to a major shift where gore and her conscience enter the picture.
Movies that are purposefully bad, you can overlook certain things because “it’s meant to be bad.” In the same sense, Bliss’ use of experimentation and symbolism over traditional narrative cuts it some slack when the film may come up short on these cinematic rules that modern audiences know at a subconscious level.
J. WARNING: If you’re not a fan of sex, drugs and heavy metal, you will be turned off by Bliss. I happen to be a fan of all three so, Bliss is amazing. I’ve loved Joe Begos his entire career and for me, he hits the highest note possible with this film. For one, he takes the vampire concept and does something completely original with it, which is no small feat as far as I’m concerned. The “V-word” never comes up in the film and that’s something I admire. We know what the hell is going on but we also don’t need to be force fed. From what I understand, the film is somewhat autobiographical, which makes it all the more impressive. Metaphors and all that fancy, academic shit are at play in something that is a gory rampage of a good time. Begos shoots the scenes in an experimental, avante garde way that perfectly matches the story he’s telling. Visuals are lush, vibrant and fitting and I think that’s somewhat of a rarity nowadays. You can tell that he is having a blast and doing so on his own terms instead of what might be considered “safe.” In terms of some of the visuals, Begos uses the Aronofsky actor harness shots from Requiem For A Dream but he does so in a way that out Aronofsy’s Aronofsky. One thing I don’t talk about enough in my reviews is editing. And Josh Ethier edits the ever loving shit outta this thing. It’s a high pitched fever dream aesthetic that once again, works wonders for the story Begos is telling. Steve Moore’s score and the mix of metal artists on the soundtrack compliment everything perfectly. Much of the dialogue in the movie isn’t really that important, which I think is kind of a blessing. You only need the action to really be engaged in the story and what’s going on. The character of Dezzy is working on a painting that she first has to finish to make money to live but then because her passion and the “Bliss” has taken over. What she ends up creating is definitely a masterpiece and the moment when she does finish is such a moment of bliss for her that you realize the film has more than one meaning behind it. If the autobiographical bit is true for Joe Begos, I salute that motherfucker because the film, Bliss, is without question his masterpiece and I love him all the more for letting me experience it.
K. This is my second time seeing Bliss and it’s even better on the second go around. I had the pleasure of seeing a midnight screening of Bliss at Cinepocalypse and it was a doozy. The perfect midnight movie. The gritty aesthetic and handheld camerawork really suited the down and dirty vibe of the film. Early on I was worried that the film might get repetitive when we don’t really know what’s happening to Dezzy and we’re playing the ‘is she crazy? Is she not?’ game, but even then it managed to find compelling ways to build tension and pile on the insanity. Unlike most of the shit we watch, this is really one where the less you know going in the better, so for once I don’t want to spoil anything by saying too much. All I’ll say is it’s a masterpiece of punk rock horror cinema, the likes of which we really don’t see much anymore. There was a Q&A with Joe Begos after the screening I attended and one of the filmmakers he mentioned was Abel Ferrera, which is an apt comparison in terms of uncompromising, in-your-face-filmmaking. If you’re in to that, you’ll be into Bliss.
C. Bliss is the type of film where directors think to themselves, “man, wouldn’t it be awesome to make a movie like this meets this with tons of crazy imagery?” And all those directors will never make a film like it because somebody/they’ll convince themselves it wouldn’t work. Better left as a crazy idea then trying to bring it to reality. Joe Begos provided proof that it’s possible and damn good. Is it his masterpiece like everyone is saying? I can’t say that since I’m hoping this is the start of something greater from the director. If he continually brings so much of himself into his work, while maturing as a filmmaker/person, I think we’ll see something truly spectacular.
J. Depending on the day of the week you ask me, Bliss was my film of the year in 2019. It really fits my sensibilities and I connect with it on a personal level almost 100%. So what I’m saying is that I can’t endorse this film enough. It’s gorgeous and brutal and brings to light a new take on the vampire story which horror cinema has been lacking in recent years. Joe Begos is becoming a bonafide horror auteur and Bliss is all the proof the statement needs.
K. Craig described the go-for-broke filmmaking style of Bliss perfectly. It really is the kind of kamikaze cinema that we need more of. Immediate, uncompromising, risky. You can’t help but admire the guts on display here. I will answer Craig’s question with a resounding: “Yes, it is his masterpiece!” That being said I can’t fucking wait to see VFW and what’s next from Begos because I’m certain he will continue to top himself in the coming years. Don’t miss Bliss it drops on Shudder this Thursday (1/30)!
Bloodhound’s average score: 5 out of 5
Bloodhound Pix is made up of: Craig Draheim, Josh Lee, and Kyle Hintz
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Have you ever hated your job and the people around you so much that your painful stomach ulcer has turned into a demon and gone on a murderous rampage? I'm sure we've all been there, right?
Stomach is the story of meek and mild Alex, a young man who's pushed around and bullied by everyone around him. Boss, workmates, his own doctor – apart from his crush Anna everyone seems to hate him, and he quietly hates them right back. But inside him this hatred is manifesting as an ugly, brutish creature that's desperate to be born and to devour Alex's tormentors.
It's an interesting concept, like a serious take on the 2013 comedy-horror Bad Milo. But where that earlier film was polished and entertaining, Stomach sadly doesn't live up to the premise. Right from the get-go it's clear what kind of film we're in for. Ugly blue and red lighting? Check. Opens with gratuitous sex scene? Check. Sex scene morphs into violent bloody attack and it turns out to have all been a dream? Check. It's nice of the film to let us know where to set our expectations right at the beginning.
Alex is played by Fabio Carlani in his debut role. Carlani as Alex is mostly quite understated, bordering on boring for the majority of the film, which is a shame as he looks like a young Ozzy Osbourne and could have done with channeling some of that chaotic energy. Luckily he shines in his dual role as the creature. The creature's movements and physicality are quite unnerving, helped by the special effects that highlight its monstrousness. At times it's reminiscent of Channel Zero's Tooth Child. Hopefully Carlani will have the opportunity for more similarly physical roles as that's where his strength lies. Alex's emoting and lines are all pretty flat up until the climax, especially in the interminable narration.
The narration is a symptom of the biggest problem with the film: it's just not interesting enough. Instead of allowing us to discover the character through his actions, what little we know of Alex is given to us in narration and in dialogue from the people around him. He's too passive a character, spending most of the film clutching his stomach or getting picked on. By the time he decides to take action and reach out for help, it's too late as we don't care what happens to him. We certainly don't care what happens to the rogues gallery around him as apart from Anna they're all cartoonishly awful cardboard cutout characters. Too much of the film is just terrible people being terrible until they're murdered, a lazy trope that crops up in too many horror films. Add to this a couple of horrible gratuitous rape scenes and the end result is a fairly unpleasant film with a story that's too slim to be interesting.
It's not all bad, though. The gore effects are done well for the budget, and there's a couple of satisfyingly gruesome deaths that are carried off well. There's always the risk that something like a decapitation or an eye being gouged out can look quite silly without Hollywood production values, but Stomach manages to be effectively sick and gross without looking too cheap. There's some good creepy imagery, especially a scene where the creature crouches over a pile of guts like a grotesque gargoyle while Alex lies comatose beside it. And the twist, while inevitable in hindsight, was well-handled and ties up some logical problems that the story seemed to have. I didn't even see it coming, which is always a pleasant surprise.
The film is directed, written, shot, edited and produced by Alex Visani, who also handled cinematography and visual effects. It's always disheartening when a film-maker takes on so many roles on a single project because the film inevitably suffers as a result. These are all full-time roles that require maximum attention, and when one person tackles them all they stretch themselves so thin that they can't do every department justice. It also means you don't get multiple people's creative input, which is vital in film.
This is Visani's first feature length film, after several shorts and a segment in The Pyramid (2013), so this is still early days for his career. Here's hoping for better things in the future.
BY SAM KURD
In order to give what we believe to be a more unbiased constructive criticism of the piece, the members of Bloodhound Pix are tackling each review as a panel of three. None of the members know the others’ thoughts on the content until after they submit their initial response.
Creator: Glenn Standring
Director(s): Peter Burger and Michael Hurst
Writer: Glenn Standring
Starring: Te Kohe Tuhaka and Darneen Christian
The series features a murdered Māori warrior, Waka Nuku Rau (Te Kohe Tuhaka), who’s sent back to the world of the living to redeem his sins. But the world Waka returns to is ravaged by a breach between Life and Afterlife as the spirits of the newly dead now stalk the land and hunt the living.
C. I may be the only one of the three of us that has seen the movie prior to watching the series. While I try my best to go into every adaptation or remake considering it as its own work, there was hesitation based on the film’s plot. The film (also The Dead Lands) in ways could be considered the Māori version of something like True Grit. A young person hiring a great warrior to get revenge on the group that killed their father. My worry was that idea can work (ex. Blade of the Immortal) as a series but has a timeline before you find yourself repeating or getting into filler territory. I can fortunately say that while the initial premise is there, the series’ version diverts into a story that allows much more expansion worthy of multiple seasons.
Maybe it’s the nostalgia of series/epics from my youth like Xena, Hercules, Lord of the Rings through the lens of the Indiginous peoples (before European influence), but I had a blast. It’s fun, brutal, doesn’t take itself too seriously, and accessible to general audiences yet doesn’t bog itself down in unnecessary exposition to explain the culture. The actors and world feel authentic and “lived-in,” avoiding the trap of many series that cast hot, young up-and-comers for international appeal.
I admit it doesn’t go without criticism as there are lines and insults thrown out that probably had the intention of sounding badass but ultimately make the dialogue clunky. This also relates to the themes being on-the-nose throughout, as there’s some repetition of characters discussing freewill, breaking archaic traditions, etc. However, based on the type of show it’s easily forgivable and many won’t notice unless you’re tasked with writing a review. Actually as I look through my notes that’s really the only major critique I have. The marketing for the series is “Ash vs. the Evil Dead meets Xena,” that comparison instantly targets it’s intended audience, and I happen to be one of them to answer the call. The Dead Lands is an epic tale of honor in a land with very little left, even among the dead, and after these episodes I’ll follow their journey.
J. If I had to imagine someone pitching this show it would go like this: “It’s Conan The Barbarian and Red Sonja meets The Evil Dead. That’s it folks. I don’t know how that wouldn’t be of some interest considering I’ve never heard of or seen anything that melds those classics together. I don’t want to get too much into plot stuff considering we only saw the first three episodes but the newly dead that stalk the Earth are very similar to The Deadites. Black eyes, ferocious as all hell, hard to kill and they taunt the living by imitating dead fathers. Sound familiar? Not surprisingly, only beheadings seem to do the trick. And Waka and Mehe are doing the beheadings with what essentially amounts to a goddamn spatula so that shit is bloody and takes some time! The actors are all terrific and adapt to the period setting well. I like that unlike Conan, these people all have bodies that seem to match the nutrition they must have been afforded. The perfect, pearly white teeth might be a bit much but whatever. Episodes 1-3 were all interesting and presented our heroes with new and exciting conflicts and goals and nothing was ever repeated. Yes, the dead are present in all of them and are a threat but that aspect is sort of weeded out as we moved to episode three. There’s possessions, there’s double crossing, piece of shit uncles, there’s witches, there’s a lot going on and a lot to unpack here! The relationship between Waka and Mehe is sort of been done before in that, she looks up to him but he thinks she’s annoying but we know pretty quickly that he doesn’t really feel that way about her, it’s just a tough guy front. The chemistry is well done and there’s even some mild humor in it that was well received, at least by me. I had a great time with these first episodes and when it ended I was a little sad that I would have to wait to see how the adventure plays out. If you like Conan, Red Sonja and definitely Xena mixed with Deadites, you’ll wanna check out The Dead Lands.
K. I didn’t catch the film version of this series, so I came in not knowing much about the plot and the world. As Craig and Josh have already pointed out it’s a bit of a throwback to the Xena and Hercules shows from the ‘90s (which I used to watch everyday after school), but with a touch more darkness and grit. The ancient Maori culture is an interesting and fresh world to set the story in, and they waste no time getting into the action with undead warriors all over the place.
The acting is solid throughout, particularly that of the two leads: Waka played by Te Kohe Tuhaka and Mehe played by Darneen Christian. As Josh mentioned their odd couple pairing is nothing new, but the chemistry between the two actors makes it work. I’d echo Craig in saying that some of the dialogue and story beats tend to be a bit on the nose, but the show moves at a quick pace so that wasn’t much of an issue.
I would say being a fan of early Peter Jackson films, Taika Waititi and Flight of the Conchords, it’s difficult to hear a New Zealand accent and not expect a certain kiwi sense of humor, but sadly that was a little lacking in my opinion. So I found the Ash vs. Evil Dead comparisons to be off the mark. But if any of what we mentioned sounds like your bag, I’d dive into The Dead Lands when it hits Shudder!
C. I think we all came to a similar conclusion, that for its target audience The Dead Lands will work wonders. However, that audience will be fans of fantasy series from the 80s and 90s. Thanks to the culture and mythology any potential cliche plot devices play fresh. They don’t fall into the trap of making obvious throwback references to their influences that take away from the series as its own world/story/etc. I credit the series with a strong artistic voice in a genre that, while there’s major hits, can fall into campy territory quickly.
As Kyle stated, it isn’t Ash vs the Evil Dead, so I wouldn’t go in expecting the over-the-top violence and gags that are associated with the iconic franchise. There are demons that share elements with the deadites but that’s about as close as you’ll get. While I understand the comparison for promotional purposes I know it may deter individuals that go in expecting the Māori version of Ash.
Traditionally as we’ve done this style of reviewing, I've found I lose some excitement. Usually my initial reviews are more forgiving and filled with a sense of wonder that comes with watching something, then this section is where I get critical. My opinion hasn’t changed with this. As someone who isn’t a binger, I will follow this because I am their target audience. Hell, even younger me would prefer it over Hercules and Xena.
J. The production values are pretty high, I didn’t notice or catch a lot of CGI bullshit either, so it was non-existent or too well done to notice or care. This series is another example of Shudder killin’ it and bringing something a touch familiar and also a touch different for genre fans. If you’re a fan of the big influences you’ll have fun with The Dead Lands. I’m still sad I had to stop watching after the first three episodes.
K. I would agree with Craig. If you’re into old school fantasy fare with a new twist, you should definitely check it out. It’s good to see Shudder continuing to produce their own content and branching out into new genres.
AMC Networks’ Shudder is a premium streaming video service, super-serving members with the best selection in genre entertainment, covering horror, thrillers and the supernatural. Shudder’s expanding library of film, TV series, and originals is available on most streaming devices in the US, Canada, the UK, Ireland and Germany. To experience Shudder commitment-free for 7 days, visit www.shudder.com.
TVNZ is New Zealand’s state-owned, commercially funded broadcaster. TVNZ’s all about sharing the moments that matter - whether it’s breaking news, following adventures, sharing stories or putting smiles on faces. Each day, TVNZ reaches more than 2 million New Zealanders through TVNZ 1, 2, DUKE and TVNZ OnDemand. Leading news site 1 NEWS NOW and socially-driven alternate news brand Re:connect Kiwis to the important issues throughout the day, however they chose to engage.
About GFC Films
GFC Films is an Auckland and Sydney based production company responsible for 18 feature films, 10 tele-features and numerous TV series and documentaries. The company’s work includes such award-winning titles as, The Dead Lands. Dean Spanley, Giselle, Beyond the Edge. McLaren. 6 Days and Capital in the 21st Century.
Bloodhound Pix is made up of: Craig Draheim, Josh Lee, and Kyle Hintz
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A lost-in-life self-help addict unwittingly finds herself on a killing spree with her unhinged new life coach
Directed by: Staten Cousins Roe
Written by: Staten Cousins Roe
Starring: Katie Brayben, Poppy Roe, Ben Lloyd-Hughes
Have you felt lost in your life, found it hard to manage, to cope with? Have you turned to self-help programs with the hope they’ll make life easier? Let’s say a life coach promises to unlock your full potential, and all that’s required is a road trip with a slight body count, would you take it? That’s Staten Cousins Roe’s A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life.
The story follows Lou (Katie Brayben), a “self-help addict” who is aimless and desperate to take control of her own life. At a seminar, she meets Val (Poppy Roe), a life coach determined to become the greatest self-help guru that ever lived. Val invites Lou to join her on a retreat where they’ll participate in other self-help programs before she unveils her own steps to success. Lou learns that Val’s methods involve the murder of other self-help gurus and their followers, leading to a “jet-black comedy” of self-discovery.
I should admit that while I try to go into everything without expectations, the promotional references to Ben Wheatley’s Sightseers and Alice Lowe’s Prevenge (both with serial killing premises) challenged me in that I’m a fan of both films. Rest assured A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life does not disappoint either. The movie offers great comedic moments in its satirizing of the self-help industry, but what sets it apart from the plethora of serial killer content lately, is its heart. While the commentary on the gurus and their exploitation of people is blatant, the movie puts a lot of care into the “victims” of these programs: People, like so many of us, trying to navigate through a chaotic world and looking for guidance along the way.
Despite the name and potential for nihilism the movie is surprisingly tranquil and sublime, formatted like a self-help program, featuring very little violence on screen. Though one could believe the lack of “shown” violence is due to budgetary restrictions, it feels purposeful. We are seeing the series of events unfold through Lou’s eyes, which of course concedes some unstable narration within the story. As she is unaware or blissfully ignorant of Val’s methods for a good chunk of the story, allowing for great gags, this provides solid reasoning behind the lack of violence. A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life reaffirms what crowdfunding can accomplish when the people involved have a unique artistic vision and are passionate. It’s one of those projects that no matter what the budget could’ve been, it’d have the same result.
Its success can’t go without mentioning leads, Katie Brayben and Poppy Roe. Their talent and chemistry make them compelling and relatable to the audience, which can sometimes get lost in films like these.
As an American viewer I know ultimately, with its British black comedy, mumblecore esthetic, and subject matter, A Serial Killer’s Guide to Life will probably fall into a “niche” category. Audiences looking for a comedy may not find enough jokes and people looking for a serial killer flick will want more thrills. For me, it’s right up my alley, marking an impressive end of one decade and the start of a new. Like Sightseers and Prevenge this has made it on my list of movies I’ll be championing for some time. So, check it out. Come for the jokes, kills, or whatever you want, but stay for the experience.
A Serial Killer's Guide To Life will be available on AppleTV, Amazon Prime Video and all other UK, US and Canadian digital platforms from 13th January 2020. Staten has also stated that the iTunes version will come with a behind the scene featurette that should have more content.
For upcoming news on a Serial Killer's Guide To Life, Staten and Poppy, their company (Forward Motion Pictures), or Arrow Films, check out:
Arrow Video's Facebook Page
Forward Motion's Facebook Page
Or follow on them Twitter at: @FMPictures, @AKillersGuide, and @ArrowFilmsVideo or by using the #aserialkillersguidetolife hashtag