Lullaby. A film which doesn’t need one.
1901, Reitfontein concentration camp, a baby is murdered, its neck is broken and it is thrown off a cliff. In a voiceover… “If one of us fell pregnant, the Priest and the Midwife would make certain that the baby would never see a sunrise” The scene is of white people in clean clothes holding back the mother whilst the Priest gives the usual bullshit about sin, and then the baby gets killed and dumped. I’m surprised that they chose that to begin a film with as at the Reitfontein Camp the death of children was a daily thing with many months seeing child mortality rates in the hundreds, sometimes going into thousands. Disease, malnutrition, exposure, lack of medical care and various other causes resulted in around a third of the population dying, with children representing 81% of the deaths at the ‘Black camps’. There’s enough horror there without having to invent any.
Cut to modern day, a delivery room and a woman in labour. Chloe (Reine Swart) has the baby and rejects it. Her estranged mom Ruby (Thandi Puren) takes charge in spite of being pissed off that her daughter won’t say who the father is, and is seemingly incapable of doing even the most basic things new mothers should do such as clipping the baby’s nails, using a breast milk pump et cetera. She is (and looks) totally exhausted because the baby never stops crying. It’s all stuff we’ve seen before a dozen times, and there’s actually nothing new to see here.
I think a big warning regarding this film is that it comes from the same director as ‘Dracula 3000’, so yeah, it ain’t good. The acting is good, never quite good enough to elevate the mundane plot, but certainly not among the worst. It does give a bunch of scares, however they are mostly jump-scares and I’m probably not alone in thinking that they are generally present at the expense of actual proper scares which require a depth to them that this film fails to adequately convey.
Think back to the beginning, and to an actual horror which really happened. Surely with Reitfontein as the basis for the fictitious intro there could have been such a lot of ties to it throughout, but there wasn’t. No ‘angry spirits rising en-masse’, just a bunch of hallucinations about an evil old woman who wants Chloe to kill the baby.
The Lullaby isn’t dire. It’s watchable, but it is nothing new.
Currently available as VOD.
by joe x young
There are many films covering the cliché of spooky goings-on mixed with postpartum depression and Still/Born does little to push any boundaries. It’s a routine tale of Mary (Christie Burke) who is pregnant with twins but loses one during childbirth. Her depression supposedly manifests in the form of a Demon and the film hangs heavily on Mary’s anxiety over potentially losing the surviving child, which to pile on the clichés is called ‘Adam’. Another cliché is the somewhat witless husband Jack (Jesse Moss) who comes across as being as useful as a chocolate fireguard.
I don’t know if it’s my testosterone levels interfering with my enjoyment here but I just don’t find this sort of film to be delivering the goods to any great degree and I think it’s probably the case that I’m not the intended audience for this film. However, horror is horror and as such it should be effective no matter who is watching it, in this case it is lacking the fundamental ability to grip my interest. The audio-visual ‘hallucinations’ that Mary has are meant to be disturbing, but mostly are just contrived jump-scares which don’t do anything for me these days as I’ve seen too many of them to be impressed and would much prefer some actual atmosphere. This is not to say that there’s no atmosphere in this film, just that what there is of it is lumbering and isn’t served well by yet another ‘demon’ which looks like a grotty mental patient with all of the jerkiness used to better effect in the ‘Judderman’ Metz commercials which were far scarier than this film.
Mary is a believable character, with Christie Burke giving a solid performance which through the fluctuations of the plot shows enough versatility, it’s just a shame that her obvious acting talent is wasted on such a pedestrian film. It’s a grind, nothing much happens in the first half of the film, with the possibility of something demonic going on only happening toward the half-way stage with a broken window and a demonic voice (Am I the only one who is tired of ‘demonic voices’ sounding like Gollum with a forty-a-day smoking habit?). There are no real noteworthy performances other than Christie’s with the possible exception of Michael Ironside’s brief appearances as Mary’s therapist, he’s always good value no matter what and is grossly underused in this.
There’s a minimalistic stab at atmosphere here, and it all seems so damned familiar. The technical aspects are fine, sound and lighting add to the mood as it would be expected but there are certain aspects which are truly annoying, such as the reliance on a crying baby for creepy atmosphere and of course the aforementioned rasping ‘Demon’ voice. Baby monitors, webcams and sticking doors are used to assist with the delivery of tension which again doesn’t quite work as it’s all been done before and often better, and of course the cameras showing a totally different take on what actually happened, which is all anti-climactic in a horror story.
The last fifteen minutes unravel in plot and in Mary’s sanity; it’s all a bit of a mess of improbable scenarios leading to an ending which is meant to be terrifying but just comes across as preposterous.
If you have seen ‘The Babadook’ or ‘Mama’ then you have seen films which are much better than Still/Born and if you really want to see something along this line but much better then seek out the original ‘Rosemary’s Baby’.
Johnny Grissom (Anthony De La Torre), 17-year-old metal head and general rebellious type is killed by his friend Gary (Chris Modrzynski) in a somewhat over the top situation at the start of the film. As he’s not a big fan of staying dead he returns from the grave for a spot of supernatural revenge against his so-called friend and those who covered up the murder. I could not help but chuckle watching Johnny walk away from his grave showing a comic undertone which lead me to expect a fun horror film. What’s the first thing a zombie metalhead does when he returns from the dead? Well obviously he goes home to change out of the suit he was buried in into something more ‘him’, I can totally dig that. Personal style is something more often than not overlooked in films featuring zombies and revenants.
A third of the way into this and it’s unfortunate that the acting isn’t the best with poorly delivered dry dialogue being the order of the day. The special physical effects and CGI are not amongst the best either, which is forgivable on low budget flicks, but Johnny’s zombie makeup is more clownish than zombie-like, which may have been intentional but I doubt it. The film is somewhat slow going as the kills are few and far between, but I’m still actually enjoying it, although I am at something of a loss to figure out why some of the people he kills became victims.
It’s actually unfortunate that an hour into the film the tone changes leaving little doubt that Johnny is actually an arsehole, which is a shame because a supernatural revenge story should at the very least give you some degree of sympathy with the main character, he was after all the one who had been murdered. Instead the film is actually getting dull, which is a shame as it started off with a lot of promise but has failed to meet my gradually lowering expectations.
The final 20 minutes or so felt somewhat cobbled on and nothing much had improved. I found that I couldn’t care less about the demise of any of the characters, which is something that absolutely should not happen in a horror film because you should either want them to live because they are innocent or get what’s coming to them if they are not. All in all, although well-intentioned, it just seems to lack heart. I was hoping for something along the lines of a modern version of the 1986 film ‘The Wraith’ but that wasn’t to be.
The film’s ending was almost wholly unsatisfactory with the exception of one fun moment of animation which unfortunately wasn’t enough to redeem all which had gone before it. I can’t say it is terrible nor could I thoroughly recommend it, all I can really say is that it is mediocre and probably okay to watch once as I couldn’t see anybody sitting through it twice.
Check it out for yourself when it is released for home video on October 16th.
This September sees the launch of ‘The Basement’, the story of a serial killer with a split personality. Now right from the start I’m going to state that I haven’t seen M. Knight Shyamalan’s ‘Split’ and as such, I won’t be making any comparisons to that.
I’m not easily impressed so I sat here playing ‘The Basement’ expecting a strictly by-the-numbers effort. That’s not what I got; instead I was engrossed by a particularly clever and skilfully constructed story. However, the story is in fact quite basic, with famous musician Craig (Cayleb Long) being abducted and waking up tied to a desk seat in the titular basement. He is then subjected to a bizarre and convoluted physical and mental torture session by ‘The Gemini Killer’ aka ‘Billy’ (Jackson Davis).
What sets this film apart from so many others with the same basic premise is Billy, although if you don’t pay attention to this film you may be confused as to whether Billy is the torturer or if Craig is really Billy, as that’s what the torturer continually calls him. He is of course imprinting his personality on his victim, or at least one of his many assumed personalities. I think it’s fair to say there will be some people who will see this film and will find the multiple personalities to be somewhat better organised than expected, as that was how it appeared to me, but at the very end of the film there is a very simple, almost throwaway explanation of the personalities involved. It’s clever stuff which could so easily be overlooked, and is something which enhances the final experience.
The interaction between Craig and Billy is quite complex, with Craig very much trying to make the best of a bad lot and to somehow coerce one or more of Billy’s various personalities to set him free. Craig is a very smart guy, who generates credibility in his efforts to outsmart Billy and there is significant depth to the performance in that it never at any time appears fake. Billy is very much Craig’s equal, which leads to many very interesting interactions with a macabre logic behind his actions.
Although this film is billed as starring Mischa Barton her screen time is relatively and mercifully short with her role being that of Craig’s wife, who sends Craig to the shops for champagne and spends much of her screen time trying to convince the police something bad has happened to Craig when he doesn’t return home, as well as chatting with her best friend. The subplot, which I won’t go into here as it’s a spoiler, doesn’t add a lot to the film except to provide some sort of motive/justification for what happens to Craig, and isn’t particularly well handled.
The rest of the cast all do their jobs respectably, with nothing outstanding about them. The real stars here are Craig and Billy with the constant mental manipulations superbly balanced between the two. Billy’s somewhat matter-of-fact sadism being used sparingly enough that this doesn’t descend into torture porn territory, choosing instead to prove its point early on so that Craig and we the audience are left with no doubt of the seriousness of Billy’s intentions. Both Davis and Long are new to me, but I hope to see more from them in future as they are clearly capable of doing exceptional work.
The horror in this film is mostly suggested, which I believe the film is stronger for, which is not to say that doesn’t deliver some gruesome moments especially with the ‘ewww’ inducing dénouement.
The crew do a fine job, with lighting, sound and script all top quality and special effects which drive everything home beautifully.
The Basement gets a 10-market theatrical and digital release on September 15 from Uncork’d Entertainment and is well worth checking out.
Evil is pervasive but can it really spread via the Internet? In E-Demon the answer appears to be a resounding yes as four online friends discover thanks to yet another demonic book of incantations, yeah I know, they’re everywhere these days.
The book aside this is good stuff, which comes across as an absolute reality. The film begins with a crazy warning from a shadowy figure showing multiple online news reports about what they refer to as the ‘Quad murders’.
The entire film takes place over the Internet via web cams and video headsets, everything is plausible especially the interaction between the four friends who have known each other since high school and are now independent adults living in different areas. The four-way chat doesn’t even appear scripted (in a good way) and everything is highly realistic. Whilst the screen cuts from one person’s desktop to another we see multiple visuals of what’s on their computers including the direct messages they send each other whilst chatting as a group and whatever subjects they look up online also pop up on the screen. Use of the Internet as a medium for horror films isn’t new especially with films such as ‘Unfriended’ and its sequel currently doing the rounds. I haven’t seen ‘Unfriended’, however I believe it would have to go a long way to improve on E-Demon as this film pretty much nails it with each character having fully rounded personalities and each situation being credible in its execution.
Every film has a downsideand in this film’s case it is one in which a couple of the situations are rather rushed and matter-of-fact. Without going into too much detail I’m referring to moments when certain people become possessed, we are not shown the process and it is fairly much instantaneous, which I should imagine would be more of a timesaver to shorten the film’s duration. The possessed people seem quite normal, which is unusual in horror films as the possessed usually shove in pale contact lenses and get a zombie paint job which doesn’t happen here and which I think is a very smart move not only as it keeps production costs low but also I think true evil is much more effective when it’s inconspicuous.
It’s all a bit ‘dark web’, talking of a resistance to beat a Demon who was actually responsible for four multiple homicides which is another clever point of the film that everything we see has already happened so we are informed by the shadowy figure of the conspiracy and cover-ups and then he shows us the actual events as they unfolded. It’s very clever right from the get-go and the clips of news reporters come across as totally authentic which is very unusual in indie productions these days. It is another of those films in which almost everything would be a spoiler, so it’s suffice to say that there’s a lot going on in this which alternates between comical and brutal with various severe scenes making the reactions of the cast all the more believable.
Everything about E-Demon is perfectly realised and I don’t hesitate recommending it to you.
Coming September 14th
Theatrically in L.A. plus Digital Streaming Platforms & DVD everywhere else.
Adam Green is visiting familiar territory as it’s back to the swamp for Hatchet 4, however it’s not entirely ‘more of the same’ from the Victor Crowley franchise as for some bizarre reason Green has decided to play Hatchet 4 strictly for laughs. The first three films pile on the gore, and this latest instalment is no different in that the practical effects are horrible with plenty of mashed heads and arterial spray to keep the fans happy, yet I’m wondering if it will actually be a crowd pleaser because it is largely focused on humour which for the most part doesn’t actually work well enough.
Plot-wise it’s straight-forward as Andrew, played by Parry Shen is back as a survivor of Crowley’s murderous rampage who is on a book-promotion tour. He is somewhat tricked into returning to the swamp for another round of vomit-inducing violence when the light aircraft he is on crashes within easy reach of Crowley’s shack bringing several people into harm’s way. Among those people are Andrew’s ex-wife who is a chat-show host, and her entourage. They share the plane with a trio who want to shoot a promo piece for a movie about Crowley.
Character development is quite basic with stereotypes being the order of the day, yet there are some pretty good turns from Felissa Rose (Sleepaway Camp), Dave Sheridan (Buzzkill, Scary Movie), and the actress who from my point of view stole the show Laura Ortiz (The Hills Have Eyes (remake) and Chillerama).
Anyone already familiar with Victor Crowley will know what to expect from the horror perspective as it doesn’t do anything really new with it, and to be honest it does take a hell of a long time to put any meat on the bones with Crowley himself (Kane Hodder reprising his role and looking as if he’s enjoying every minute of it). I can’t say it’s a bad film, even if it does kinda piss on the franchise, but I think if you are going to end a run of a particular character then this is a pretty good way to go out. Not all of the humour worked for me, but much of it was ok if a little forced, and there are plenty of ‘ewwww’ moments to keep you watching.
The Hatchet series hasn’t fared too well with reviewers, for example struggling to get beyond a 40% score on Rotten Tomatoes, and I can’t see this latest instalment doing any better, however it is actually quite entertaining, so I wouldn’t write it off entirely.
The DVD extras are plentiful, with cast and writer/director commentaries, trailers, interviews and over an hour of ‘behind the scenes’ footage which in itself is worth watching.
By the time you read this it’ll be on a UK DVD release.
Click here for a chance to win a copy of the film