The all-too-real horror of lies.
I’m a firm believer when it comes to horror movies that nothing is taboo or sacred, not even when it is something which hits home a little harder than average. Cruel summer is loosely based on the true story of a man with an autistic spectrum disorder who is brutally murdered by three teenagers. As I have Asperger’s syndrome I’m extremely aware of how vicious people can be toward those with physical and mental disabilities and disorders and I am particularly interested in the on-screen portrayals of them. A major misconception regarding autistic people is that we are mentally subnormal idiots, either that or we are ‘Rain Man’ types of savants, whereas the truth is more often somewhere between the two. Many of us are merely people trying to make our way in the world just like anyone else, yet with a whole different set of perspectives and difficulties to overcome in the pursuit of something resembling a normal life.
Danny Evans (Richard Pawulski) just wants to buy a new sleeping bag for a solo camping expedition for his Duke of Edinburgh award and head off into the woods for the night. Nothing wrong there at all, but as the very beginning of Cruel Summer indicates with a ‘flash-forward’ it’s not going to end well for him. There’s an angry young man called Nicholas (Danny Miller) who is told by Julia (Natalie Martins) that his ex-girlfriend cheated on him with Danny Evans. Nicholas and Julia then chat with their friend Calvin (Reece Douglas), making up a load of bullshit about what Danny is supposed to have done, such as being a paedophile and about a little girl going missing, none of which is true as what begins with Julia winding Nicholas up rapidly turns into a plot to find Danny and mete out the revenge he ‘deserves’.
The trio go out to Danny’s house, he’s obviously out, but his mom tells them where they can find him, either camping or in an amusement arcade. They don’t set out immediately, deciding to shoplift alcohol and have a little drink, so far all quite normal(ish), and then they head off to the local arcade to see if Danny is there, but he isn’t. There’s no real sense of anticipation here as we saw at the very beginning a taste of what’s in store for Danny, so the build-up is largely Nicholas, Julia and Calvin going through the motions of being disgruntled youths. Nicholas steals two scythes from a gardener’s van and they head off into the forest. Calvin isn’t particularly interested in the whole revenge thing but goes along anyway, and Julia thinks it’s all a laugh until she realises that Nicholas has more in mind than just scaring Danny.
When they find Danny, Nicholas interrogates him about allegedly fucking Lisa (who recently dumped Nicholas, thus sparking off Nicholas’ whole revenge thing). The bullying is extremely natural with what starts off as mild intimidation becoming nastier and physical, which Julia and Calvin disagree with and argue about, but Nick carries on regardless. Calvin isn’t happy with the situation, realising he’s been lied to and doesn’t want any part of Nick’s plan, so he heads off. Julia, scared of recriminations, stays behind, becoming horrified by the beating Nick gives Danny before herself being coerced into very vicious act. The brutality is highly realistic and not remotely glorified, it’s almost delicately staged.
This isn’t so much a horror film is a drama, one which I found to be particularly upsetting as I can very much identify with Danny and actually cried when I saw what Nicholas did to him. Obviously I found this to be a very powerful and unnerving film, more so in light of it being based on a real crime.
The film itself is a no-frills experience, there’s nothing glossy about it, nothing ‘Hollywood’ in any aspect. It’s not often that I can say that any film is flawless; this is one example in which everything is about as good as it gets. None of the technical aspects stand out, which is superb as with a film like this they are not supposed to, and the script, especially the dialogue, is wholly natural. I know that even in recounting a true story there are obviously going to be a few liberties taken as none of the real-life people involved were recording themselves, but as someone with an autistic spectrum disorder I found the bullying very much reminiscent of my own experiences. The cast for this film is limited, with the majority of the focus being on Nicholas, rightly so as his is arguably the pivotal role around which the incident revolves. I was intrigued with Richard Pawulski’s portrayal of Danny Evans as it left me wondering if Mr Pawulski is an autistic actor, but having discovered that he isn’t I am suitably impressed, as in fact I am with all of the main characters. It’s often the case that young stereotypes come across more as caricatures than as real people, it is to their credit that all of the performances held a much greater depth than I was expecting, with not a single bad performance throughout. Even the supporting cast was spot-on.
As far as recommending it is concerned, I think it’s suffice to say that Cruel Summer isn’t going to appeal to fans of slasher flicks, or indeed torture porn as I believe the true value in this is the horror of realisation that nobody is truly safe as these things really happen.
Cruel Summer is available right now on VOD
When a newly married detective and his pregnant wife move into their dream home unaware of its dark history. When his wife claims their baby is being tormented by a supernatural force and seeks the help of a renegade demonologist, he must investigate the past to save his family.
Sounds very familiar, doesn't it? OUT OF THE SHADOWS can best be described as a hotchpotch of nearly every other haunted house/ some supernatural entity is after my child movie. Ranging from The Conjuring, to Insidious, with a wee bit of The Babadook (the monster bares more than a little passing resemblance to the Baba), OUT OF THE SHADOWS could so easily have come across a piss poor man's Poltergeist, luckily the film isn't a complete disaster it.
Out of The Shadows is beautifully shot throughout, a surprise for a film with such a low budget, and the use of zoom and pan out to panoramic drone shots of the Australian countryside work really well to give a real sense of isolation. Complementing the stunning cinematography is a very good film score, that reinforces the tension on the screen.
The two main leads provide a solid if not outstanding performances with Blake Northfield's portrayal of the beleaguered police detective is the better of the two. There is a nice subtly to his acting that allows for a sense of believability as his character develops and reacts to the unfolding storying line. Kendal Rae's performance isn't exactly bad, it just lacks a stable middle ground, she is excellent when the plot demands the needs for hysterics, and she is good at the start of the film when everything is all good and happy. It is the spaces in between where she has problems, and her acting only appears to have hot and cold, which hampers and blindsides her character completely.
Lisa Chappell's Demonologist character is also a slightly missed opportunity as she comes across almost like a failed comic relief, too much Bonzer and not enough bang.
However, the biggest failure of this film that keeps it from fulfilling its potential is the somewhat muddied and confused use of mythology. It can't seem to decide if we are dealing with ghosts, demons, or creatures from another dimension. Whether this is down to the film's troubled production, or just down to an unnoticed mistake, it does hamper the films ability to entice the viewer into its world.
Having said all this OUT OF THE SHADOWS, may not be original, and it may also suffer from some lack of unified vision. However it is still a reasonably decent supernatural thriller, it won't set your world on fire, but it will keep you pleasantly entertained for its running time. It finished with a sort of a cliffhanger and based on this film if there were to be a sequel I for one would tune in for it.
BY JOE X YOUNG
A WTF movie.
No, ‘WTF’ is not the production company, it’s wtf as in “What the F*** did I just watch!” If you are familiar with my reviews you’ll know I’m a tough crowd, and may by now be thinking “Oh shit, here we go, another hatchet job”, but you’d be wrong. If you’re going to make a low-budget indie flick about a rampant zombie dinosaur then this is absolutely the way to go about doing it.
Is it dreadful? Hell yeah, it has a nonsensical plot, is poorly scripted with cringeworthy dialogue and a guy in a large rubber dinosaur suit yomping around menacingly. It has a stock set of characters including some tech nerds and of course ‘Black Ops Mercs’ who might actually just be gun-happy rednecks, one of whom is an absolute hoot as there’s no effort whatsoever at disguising him being based on Duke Nuke-Em, hell they even called his character ‘Duque’ (Pro bodybuilder and U.S. National Freestyle Wrestling champ Andy Haman), that’s the sort of stuff we’re dealing with here. He’s joined by ‘Cuchilla’ Vasquez (Raquel Pennington - UFC Fighter), ‘Stick’ (Ruselis Aumeen Perry - American Ninja Warrior) while they attempt to stop the mad Dr Borge from unleashing a chemical apocalypse on the world which will turn every living thing into a zombie . Unfortunately Dr Borge has already reanimated a smaller than average bio-engineered T-Rex which is hard to kill as it’s already dead, hence the title.
Needless to say, Duque and his crew attempt to save the world. Can they defeat the Dino and prevent Dr Borge from destroying life as we know it? You’ll just have to watch it to find out.
As someone familiar with some of the special effects production techniques the film for me was also a ‘spot the CGI’ game, not so much in that I was looking for where it was, as that’s painfully obvious, but more of a ‘which company did they get their stock from’ game. It doesn’t make a difference to the film as it’s all been done on a budget, that much is obvious from the beginning, but the production crew must be commended on giving it an almost cinematic appearance.
It’s barking mad stuff from beginning to end, and has some genuine laugh out loud moments. Oh, and make sure you watch after the credits ;)
AVAILABLE ON VOD, DVD & BLU-RAY/DVD COMBO (EXCLUSIVE TO WALMART)
BLOOD CLOTS: A coagulation of horrors
From Freedom Cinema comes a collection of seven exceptionally well-made short movies featuring all manner of goodies such as cannibals, zombies, monster jellyfish and a certain Lovecraftian God who apparently calls himself ‘Charlie’ these days.
Anyone who watches horror anthologies will be aware that they are often a mixed-bag with some better than others and varying in production quality. This is almost no exception, because although some stories do fare much better than others, it’s all satisfyingly sleek and well put together.
It has the sense of humour and high production values of the likes of Creepshow and The Witching Season and manages to do quite a lot with what was probably a meagre budget. It is broken up into segments called ‘Clots’ and unlike Creepshow has no wraparound story linking them, they are standalones and each unique in its delivery.
Clot 1: HELL OF A DAY.
There’s not a lot I can say about this without giving too much away. It’s heavy Zompoc territory here, and there’s an injured woman locking herself in a basement and hoping for the best while the dead are battering their way in. Will she survive? You’re just going to have to watch it to find out. Trust me; you’re going to want to watch it ;)
Clot 2: NEVER TEAR US APART:
Two friends head to a dilapidated cabin off the beaten track, but when they get there… Oh dear! This was actually one of the weaker stories, mainly because it’s largely just two guys chatting on the way to a cabin, until things go tits-up, but when that happens it’s powerful stuff which is over much too fast. This was a very short segment which could have benefitted from more of the excellent gory special effects, and perhaps ramping up the fear more instead of plumping for an ending which seemed dissatisfactory in light of what preceded it.
Clot 3: BLUE MOON:
Sleazy and inventive this is a tale of ‘dogging’ gone wrong. Well enough acted, nicely scripted and definitely a novelty piece with enough gore to satisfy even the most bloodthirsty palate. There’s also a surfeit of T and A and even some D as well, so if that’s your kind of thing you’re going to love this.
Clot 4: TIME TO EAT:
There’s something in the basement. It has huge tentacles. It’s slimy.
There’s a little boy playing with a ball, he drops it, it goes right to the top of the stairs and quick as a flash… Okay, so the ball bounces down. The little boy goes to retrieve it. It doesn’t end well. But hey, the story IS called ‘Time To EAT’ ;)
Clot 5: STILL:
This one alone is well worth the price of the film.
Are you sick of Zombie movies and TV series? Really? Room for one more, surely? If you can just squeeze this in you won’t regret it.
STILL is the story of two things we would normally run from, one of which is Zombies, and the other being ‘street performers’. In this case there’s a street performer who is one of those well-dressed gents in a top hat, he’s painted head to toe in gold and is an expert at keeping still, which is for the best as all around him are either eating or being eaten. Can he keep still, or will he end up on the menu…
This is tense and gory fun, highly recommended.
Clot 6: HELLYFISH:
This is daft stuff, played 100% for laughs and hitting every note. If you like the comic mayhem of the Piranha movies and Sharknado films then this is bound to please as Atomic Radiation has mutated Jellyfish into gigantic ravenous monsters which go full-on Jaws at a crowded beach.
As with all of the film shorts it’s beautifully played and the effects are cheesy but superb.
Clot 7: THE CALL OF CHARLIE:
The OLD ONE gets a new twist with this tale of a most unusual dinner guest. I’m not into the whole Mythos thing and so I don’t know whether those who are will find this entertaining or insulting, but from the outside looking in it is a solid story with great acting, even if the basic premise does stretch credibility to snapping point.
I liked it, but for me the gem of this collection has to be ‘STILL’.
All told this is a fantastic anthology and the kind of thing that’s perfect for a dark night with a bunch of friends, pizza, beverages and popcorn. It’s quite easily the most entertaining thing I’ve seen in weeks.
Available now on Amazon and VOD, though once you stream it you’re probably going to want to own it ;)
JOE X YOUNG
William, it was really nothing.
Minutes to midnight is the film that could have been. Could have been funnier, could have been scarier and could even have been destined for cult classic status (who knows, it still might be), were it not for minor details. ‘Starring’ William Baldwin (of the lesser-spotted Baldwin brothers) you kinda-sorta know a film is in trouble when he’s the star, more so when the co-star is former teen-hunk Richard Grieco who these days looks like his plastic surgeon owes him an apology and a refund. The story is a simple one, it’s New Year’s eve in a small town and a small bunch of people who work for Baldwin are looking to celebrate. He pops in, wishes them a Happy New Year, and buggers off, which is pretty much all that you see of him until the end of the movie. Okay, that’s up to you whether or not that’s a blessing in disguise given that his acting career hasn’t exactly set Hollywood on fire, but it seems as if more and more mothballed ex-celebs are being dusted off and put into low budget horrors with varying results. The same can be said for poor Mr Grieco, who plays one of the most unconvincing Town Sheriffs I’ve seen to date. The story has a slight, and I do mean slight, echo of ‘My Bloody Valentine’ in that something nasty happened in the town once-upon-a-time, so there’s generally not a whole lot of celebrating going on, but hey, the youngsters never learn, so off they go to a… wait for it… Cabin in the woods. Yeah, that’s right, another film in which a bunch of young people (I’m avoiding the word ‘teens’ here as they clearly aren’t) get attacked by a mystery assailant, or indeed several.
I began by saying what this film could have been, but here’s what it actually is, it’s a decent enough film with some of the better ingredients of many of the better horror films of its type. It has a routine story and the acting isn’t all that and a bag of chips, BUT it is actually quite effective in the horror aspects, with wholesale gore and the kind of masked psychos that companies make action figures of. Where this film really goes wrong is that it’s trying so hard to be a Rob Zombie film without having Rob Zombie involved, even to the point that there’s a suitably maniacal performance from everyone’s favourite Otis Firefly the legendary Bill Moseley, so it’s not all bad. The other actors are largely just window dressing, with no stand-out performances from the usual stereotypes, and yes, there’s a bit of screwing involved and there IS the almost obligatory gratuitous lingering shower scene, all of which is totally unnecessary in a film which if it were just to concentrate on the horror instead of cheap titillation could have been so much better. When it comes down to pure adrenaline soaked action, well, there’s an attempt at it, but it comes across a bit like two pensioners in a nursing home fighting over the last biscuit on the tea tray.
Can I or would I recommend it? Sure, it’s not so bad that it’s not worth watching, and if you can see it on VOD for cheap then it’s probably ok with a couple of beers and some popcorn, but it’s not going to rock your world or even wiggle it a bit.
by joe x young
Let’s all join hands and try to contact a decent scriptwriter…
This is going to be a very short review, mainly because there’s not a lot to say about this film, which is somewhat sad given that it is well-intentioned yet very poorly executed by those-on screen. The title gives the impression that it’s the last in a series, which when watching the film itself there is no indication of and if this were any sort of sequel I could only hope that what went before it benefitted from a different script and cast. This film is all rather basic, girl studying to be an art restorer inherits a house she doesn’t want but has to drop off some documents there. She goes with three stereotypical friends, they find a hidden room, find a Ouija board, use said Ouija board and all hell breaks loose… Except it doesn’t.
What actually happens is an hour and a half of tedious scripting, ham-fisted directing, piss-poor dialogue and bad acting. No creepy atmosphere, no scares and pretty much nothing of any note in this film. It’s an absolute shame because it is fairly tightly focused, beautifully lit and shot, and the sound quality is superb. Almost all technical aspects of the actual production are fine as one would expect from an Italian film company, it’s just unfortunate that the script offers nothing new, in fact it is even struggling to hit the cliché riddled heights we could expect from a straight-to-video 80s movie.
I’m ending here as I don’t want to say anything which might really hurt any individual’s feelings. Suffie to say that I don’t recommend it, but if you feel like watching it it’ll be available soon.
Ouija Seance : The Final Game is on VOD 7/3/18 and 8/3/18 on DVD.