Black gloop from another dimension takes on the form of a porn star. Okay, not the sort of thing I would queue up to watch, but as the request has come in I can at least spare 90 minutes to take a look. Five minutes in and it’s setting a pace which continues throughout… bloody slow. Fifteen minutes into this it was already dull with an annoying soundtrack. I’d have thought that with the basic idea this would at the very least have been fun, but as a ‘Dread Central Presents’ film I was hoping for some actual dread or maybe even a scare or two, but the story just flips between the imitation girl of the title and the real version of her whilst it seemingly tries to figure out a direction to go in. What this film actually does which hardly any other attempts to is to show an alien’s perspective to what it’s like to land somewhere with no knowledge of anything, so kudos for that.
Fake version’s first day is spent experiencing eating for the first time, soon followed by vomiting, making a friend and learning how to speak Farsi, use a toilet and to prepare a meal. This is stuff which the casual replicated person doesn’t generally do so quickly if at all in movies, generally appearing to instinctively know everything from the get-go. It’s refreshing, but not really elevating this film to anything more than mildly interesting.
The acting is good, in particular the lead actress (Lauren Ashley Carter) playing two roles perfectly well and making the alien one cute in her wonderment. An hour into the film and to be honest I’m struggling with seeing the whole point of it especially as there are some things which just don’t compute. Maybe I’m old-fashioned, but if I found a woman strolling around in a night-dress I’d be more likely to assist her by calling the authorities and trying to make sure she was ok, than taking her home and spending the next couple of days feeding and clothing and fucking her without knowing her name which would make it abuse at the very least. It’s obvious by her actions that she’s a few sandwiches short of a picnic even if she does learn Farsi in an afternoon, so I’m failing to see the logic of the events here as nothing is questioned.
With less than fifteen minutes left to go in this film the Imitation Girl finally sees the real version, well sort of, as she sees her on TV, so off she goes in pursuit of the girl with her face. With no explanation how she does it she manages to find her counterpart, which should give hope to millions of young men out there because if it’s THAT easy to find a specific porn star… Well…
As a best guess I’d say this film is meant to be an introspective art-house piece full of depth and hidden meanings. I can’t say that I found them so well hidden that it failed to speak to me, more the case that what it had to say is something I’ve heard so often before that it’s no longer deep. The porn star version is trying to justify caring about her life and finding her motivation, whereas the alien version is seeing everything as bright and shiny in a world bursting with things to experience. It’s all rather lightweight in handling what is a far more complex set of questions.
This is one of those rare beasts, a film which scored 100% on Rotten Tomatoes which to me would indicate that only the people who loved it bothered to comment. I can’t say it’s bad, it’s fine in its own way, but the dread I was hoping for wasn’t there, no horror either, and the sci-fi element is downplayed as to be almost invisible. It’s one for the intellectuals, and as I am at best a ‘pseud’ I’ll bow out by saying that it’s your money, what you spend it on is your choice, my choice would be for something with more pace and something malevolent bringing the chance of a faster heartbeat.
I’m sure I have come across the basic concept for this somewhere else but can’t quite pin it down. A successful writer has a monster he feeds victims to, in return for which the monster gives him writing tips. It seems like every writer I know could own up to a little of this in their lives, we all feed a monster, especially when being asked the one question a writer is routinely subjected to. “Where do you get your ideas from?” I’d say it’s a fair bet that the majority of authors, and especially those who write much more imaginative or gruesome fayre, have been asked this Ad Nauseum.
The central character here is Mitch Stockridge, creator of ‘Self-Help’ books; he’s a thoroughly detestable character from the get-go, which is a shame as it would have been far better in my opinion if Stockridge was a more sympathetic character like Seymour Krelborn in Little Shop of Horrors. It’s unfortunate that there are actually no truly likeable or fully-rounded characters in this film, but that’s the least of the problems I found with it.
The biggest problem I have with it is that it left me confused as to exactly what Stockridge was writing. He’s apparently a ‘self-help’ author, but there are constant references to his ‘stories’ and queries about his next ‘novel’, none of which compute for me. I know that sometimes that sort of book tells a tale of triumph over adversity, but it’s all sketchy here at best. His target audience? Well, according to the people who attend his book signings they cover the broadest spectrum of humanity with little girls, middle-aged men and grannies all attending the signings and saying how wonderful he is. It just doesn’t ring true, but what do I know, I’ve never attended a self-help book signing, so maybe they do have an all-encompassing audience I’d expect for something like Harry Potter. This probably wouldn’t be an important issue for many, as what is truly important here is getting the overall idea that this is a minor celebrity doing some majorly nasty things, the majority of which is supposed, not shown and here again we have a problem.
Stockridge looks after his sick dad, who is resigned to a room upstairs. No visitors allowed et cetera, so I believe the intent here is to make one think that the monster is his dad, but they kill that idea off too by constantly showing his dad looking for all intents perfectly fine. The monster is in another room, and we do get a fleeting glimpse of a bulbous thing with a large mouth full of sharp teeth. I didn’t see eyes, I didn’t see arms either, nor did I see a pen and a writing pad, which the monster must actually have and use because it gives Stockridge written lines to help him with his books. It’s all a bit silly, but it’s not a comedy either, as far as I know that is, because if it IS a comedy it’s failing on that too.
This seems less of a review and more of an assassination, yet that’s not my intention, it’s simply that this film is bland and confusing. The acting is ok but nothing special, the dialogue is at best routine and there’s far too much of it as the film really has lengthy exposition scenes and not a lot of action.
Films are often intense things to produce, they take a lot of time to thrash out story, assemble a cast, rehearse and set everything up such as lighting, sound et cetera before the wrap and post production. It’s a lot of hard work for a lot of people, so it always saddens me when the result is something which in my opinion just isn’t worth the effort and left me with such apathy toward it that I debated whether or not to actually review it. I will end here by saying that this is one of many possible opinions, and yours may vary.
BY JOE X YOUNG
Fans of films such as Existenz and Videodrome might wish to take a butchers at Sequence Break as it belongs in the same Universe. The man behind this project is Graham Skipper, a name which may be familiar to some for his performances in Almost Human, Beyond the Gates and as Herbert West in the Re-Animator musical. Having not already done enough for the genre he now tries his hand at writing and directing his own movie, and a pretty fine job he’s made of it too.
A ‘sequence break’ for anyone unfamiliar with gaming parlance is when the player either finds or attempts to create a causality breach in the coding which would enable them to do non-linear things, such as pick up items before they should normally become available. It’s not hacking per-se, more the discovery and exploitation of coding oversights or integrated gags, such as the ‘sweet spot’ in Pac-Man where he can stay for ages without being discovered; enabling the player to rest his thumb and grab a coffee. We’re talking the early days here, with the Arcade Machines of the ‘80s and ‘90s.
Arcades and the relevant machines aren’t so popular these days, with most people playing on home systems or portable devices, and Oz (Chase Williamson) is on the verge of losing his job. His employer Jerry (Co-Producer Lyle Kanouse) has finally decided to call it a day and sell the business he has which isn’t a coin-op Arcade but rather a restoration business refurbishing the machines. A nice touch is that Jerry, knowing that Oz doesn’t have a pot to piss in and has been so loyal to the business, decides to give 50% of the sale to Oz. That, however is not really what this whole thing is about, it’s actually a multi-level love story. Ewww…. YUK! Ah, but it’s not as bad as you might think, partly because the love story here is one of the love of old gaming systems which Oz has a knack with and brings them back from the dead. There’s a secondary love story involving every nerd’s wet dream, a beautiful girl who is a gaming nerd, Tess (Fabianne Therese) who just so happens to end up in a whirlwind romance with our hero Oz.
Oz finds an envelope with a circuit board in it, which he installs in a console, revealing a game he’s never seen before, which of course he decides to try. There comes a stranger, credited as ‘Man’ (Johnny Dinan), a wild hobo type who keeps turning up and giving Oz cryptic warnings about the game, which has a bizarre absorbing effect on Oz with some sexual sequences a-la David Cronenberg involving him much more with the game than with Tess. A quick note about the actual game itself, although it appears to be a shoot-em-up with vector graphics it’s really quite beautifully designed, far beyond the likes of BattleZone, Tempest and others of the era, yet still seems to fit in fantastically well with the whole scenario.
The game has a serious effect on Oz, physically and mentally altering him into something he didn’t expect, pushing him beyond his own human limitations. He has to fight to save his own humanity and Tess before it’s too late. It tips a wink to the 80s in a big way, which is no bad thing, and although others have done it better this film really is effective in building a surrealist nightmare which has far deeper psychological connotations than are perhaps intended.
If you are indeed a fan of the David Cronenberg type back catalogue this is going to be one to watch, if you’re like me and not that big a fan it’s still a damned good film. It’s deep, whimsical and crazy and very nostalgic, I liked it a lot.
Special effects expert Hiroshi Katagiri, who worked on both Jurassic Park III and Pacific Rim not only handles the flawless special effects but also chose this as his impressive directorial debut.
The basics: The setup is familiar; the chance of a property deal in a nice setting (Saipan, a U.S. Commonwealth Island in the Pacific), this time for building a hotel resort, but the land up for sale contains an ancient burial ground with a rich history of the supernatural and brutal curse. There’re mini voodoo-doll type figures with a particular significance and an assortment of brutality up for grabs here but none of it is over-the-top and it all makes a somewhat bizarre sense.
Aside from the opening scene it is all familiar, I’ve seen variations on this before a dozen times over, but with Gehenna there’s plenty to keep interest even if it’s just the totally amiable local guide Pepe (Sean Sprawling) who gets my vote for the best character in this film.
Something of note here is that Lance Henriksen is in this, but that’s probably no big shock as he appears to be the go-to man for cameo appearances in low-budget horrors. He’s not in it for long, and does make a re-appearance after the end credits, so stay tuned for that one. I assume that employing the likes of Mr Henriksen is all about adding some star quality to the film, but this is one of those rare instances in which the film is good enough to not need it.
Aside from what I’ve already stated there’s a Japanese World War 2 bunker on the land, and it contains something rather bizarre. I’ll say no more about that except that it’s all rather cleverly constructed and absorbing. All of the acting is high quality with every character having a well-rounded personality and they all fit the circumstances perfectly.
Monster-man of the moment Doug Jones is his usual unrecognisable self as the ‘old man’ and his performance is as one would expect from a master of the art. Aside from the aforementioned Henriksen, Sprawling and Jones the rest of the main cast have somewhat clichéd characters but nonetheless deliver them in a plausible way, with the particular frailties of each one displayed honestly and with depth. Simon Phillips as Alan is believably mean and impatient without slipping into being an ogre, Eva Swan as Paulina shows that women in horror movies don’t have to be airheaded eye-candy, and Matthew Edward Hegstrom as Dave gives an impressive performance in his debut film role.
Gehenna: Where Death Lives is one of those rare films which has a sustainable sense of dread without having to resort to jump-scares, choosing to go with subtle creepiness, technical excellence, credible plot and great acting all topped off with a WTF ending. It’s all clever stuff and certainly stands up to a second viewing.
Available from 4th May in Theatres across the U.S. and VOD for everyone else.
A decent spookfest from Uncork’d Entertainment.
“From filmmakers Christopher A. Micklos and Jay Sapiro comes the story of a young woman whose run-of-the-mill Saturday night quickly turns into a confrontation with unspeakable horror!”
Yep, that’s about right.
Ranae (Maddi Conway) takes on a job babysitting in a secluded house. The baby is already asleep when Ranae gets there. Not long into babysitting she gets a picture sent by text message from her best friend Calista’s phone, it’s a rather unpleasant picture of Ranae’s dead Mom and Ranae is freaked out by it. She rants at Calista (Emmaline Friederichs) who insists that she didn’t send the picture and also insists that she heads over to see Ranae, which she does, bringing her two friends Grace (Carly Sauer) and Jeremy (Claudio Parrone Jr) with her. The film makes good use of technology as things take a turn for the creepy, the incident with the text picture being the least of it as phantom figures are seen over webcams and the goings-on over the video baby monitor are somewhat disturbing.
“There’s no such thing as ghosts, do I really have to say that out loud?” Says the only guy in the room, but Jeremy isn’t the sharpest tool in the box as it soon becomes apparent that there are such things and those things are dangerous.
There is an indicator very early on things will get freaky in a traditional way as the baby’s parents are Mr and Mrs Belasco (Deanna and David Sapiro), if the name Belasco (pronounced Blasko) means nothing to you then your reading on the wrong website. The more famous Mr Blasko makes a little cameo appearance in the film they are all watching when things start to go awry, but that’s the only reference I spotted. When it becomes apparent that there’s something spooky going on Ranae consults her younger brother Ray (Marco Lama), who spends much of his free time in Paranormal based chat rooms, Ray gives Ranae a few pointers on the expectancies with ghosts, which doesn’t stop the foursome from being manipulated and dispatched by supernatural forces, mainly in the guise of ‘The Nanny’ (Monica Bahr), who is unfortunately yet another Samara clone. There’s another important character called Rose (Nadia Horner) who comes into the story much later on but is integral to proceedings, it’s a minor role with a major impact with a heavily restrained performance adding to Rose’s effectiveness.
As far as horror is concerned it’s not a gorefest, choosing instead to ramp up the creepiness to greater effect than spooky movies generally achieve. I have seen quite a lot of dross recently, so it’s nice to be able to say this is a film I’m actually able to get into, which is not to say it is by any means perfect but it has still got enough about it to hold my interest. The acting is good enough, story is fine with some routine stuff alongside other rather more novel aspects, dialogue credible and the technical aspects are okay even if there is the occasional shaky camera or a little intrusive background music here and there. Nothing that ruins the enjoyment of the film though.
There are some good twists, a lot of atmosphere and a general air of gloom in ‘The Nursery’, so all in all it’s not a bad film to spend 90 minutes in front of with a bag of popcorn and the lights off.
The Nursery is available on VOD from June 5th and on DVD from August 7th, so be sure to put those dates in your ‘Ones to watch’ diary.