They know when to spook and when to shock, and they know how to press an audience’s buttons. The score by Benjamin Symons is great, full of tension and eeriness. The discordant Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies was a perfect choice too! It was just a really fun watch.
Ah, Christmas. Is there any more awkward time for a family? Arguments over what to watch on TV, long-held secrets bubbling to the surface, demon-possessed guests spoiling dinner. It’s not all tinsel and pressies, as film-makers Richard Oakes and Adam Leader remind us in Hosts, their impressive first feature as writer-directors.
When we’re introduced to Jack (Neal Ward) and Lucy (Samantha Loxeley), they seem like a normal sickeningly-in-love couple. They’re getting ready to go visit their neighbour Michael (Frank Jakeman) and his family for Christmas dinner when things quickly take a turn for the demonic. Cue sinister glowing eyes, bloody murder and the worst Christmas since that time your racist uncle Steve dropped by and drank all the brandy.
First things first – this film looks gorgeous. Oakes’ background in cinematography and music videos is a huge help here, as he has an eye for great shots. The directors make full use of this, with plenty of scenes that ramp up the creep factor from visuals alone. I love me some Dutch angles. The special effects are superb too, especially in the chilling possession scenes, especially especially in the very first one we see. Brrr! That image will stay with me for a while, I can tell you. The blood and gore are handled well too, it all feels very natural and realistic.
There’s something chilling about the thought that you willingly invited evil into your home, that your family are in danger because of your own hospitality. Couple that with the threat being from people that you don’t know are a threat, people you consider friends and perhaps even family? It hits you in a deep dark primal place. As events play out, you can’t help but feel for the victims because all they did was offer to share a Christmas meal.
A lot of the credit for this goes to the actors, especially Nadia Lamin as Michael’s daughter Lauren. She sells the distress and the terror very well, and not just as the blood is flung around. Ward and Loxley clearly have a whale of a time as they stalk around being sinister and terrorising the poor family who invited them in. They’re a joy to watch, and they each get some extremely creepy moments to shine in.
It does lead me to the first of the things that fell a little short here, though. When Michael invites them in, he doesn’t spot how off they are. No one does, no one notices that their friends are acting like monosyllabic automatons – it’s especially jarring because of how natural and bubbly the couple were at the beginning. It feels a little like Oakes and Leader have played their hand a little too early, as there would have been some good mileage in ramping up the paranoia if the possessed had the ability to appear normal. There’s also a weird moment in the climax that took me right out of the film; I obviously can’t go into details because I don’t want to spoil it, but where did the rope come from? Did I miss a set-up for that pay-off?
The story does have a tendency to run out of steam a little in the most emotionally-charged scenes, which do sadly drag and outstay their welcome a little. These scenes start great, but they each take a little too long to get to the emotional punches and it just takes the wind out of their sails a bit. I will say though that prolonging one particular moment makes it all the more jarring and shocking when one of the film’s most brutal acts of violence happens – I laughed and clapped like a toddler, but then I’m a sick man. There’s also a scene that plays out similarly to a scene in Us, but it didn’t quite work in the context of this film, though it was a game attempt at slipping some exposition in without just stopping and explaining what’s happening.
You might think that these problems would spoil the movie for me, but no. The thing is, there’s so much to enjoy in the film that these issues are far outweighed. There’s a great sense of fun to it all – not in the sense that it doesn’t take itself seriously, but in how its executed and put together. Oakes and Leader clearly love horror, and they make good use of the tropes and conventions. They know when to spook and when to shock, and they know how to press an audience’s buttons. The score by Benjamin Symons is great, full of tension and eeriness. The discordant Dance of the Sugarplum Fairies was a perfect choice too! It was just a really fun watch.
Hosts is a great directorial debut, with a compellingly tense story and brilliant performances all round, sure to leave a lasting impression. I’m looking forward to their next horror feature Dirge!
Review by Sam Kurd
CALEB WATCHES MOVIES: HOSTS
HORROR MOVIE REVIEW: HOSTS (DIR: ADAM LEADER AND RICHARD OAKES)
WHO LET THE DEMONS OUT? AN INTERVIEW WITH THE DIRECTORS OF HOSTS, ADAM LEADER AND RICHARD OAKES
A man finds a sexy genie and wishes for her to tell him ten terrifying tales of horror.
Director: Mathew Kister
Writers: Tony Crumpton (Segment "Whispering Board"), Mathew Kister | 2 more credits »
Stars: Jim Brodhagen, Danielle Brookshire, Kevin A Casey |
Collegian Tree Gelbman wakes up in horror to learn that she's stuck in a parallel universe. Her boyfriend Carter is now with someone else, and her friends and fellow students seem to be completely different versions of themselves. When Tree discovers that Carter's roommate has been altering time, she finds herself once again the target of a masked killer. When the psychopath starts to go after her inner circle, Tree soon realizes that she must die over and over again to save everyone.
The Conjuring 2 (known in the UK and Ireland as The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Case ) is a 2016 American supernatural horror film, directed by James Wan. The screenplay is by Chad Hayes, Carey W. Hayes, Wan, and David Leslie Johnson. It is the sequel to 2013's The Conjuring, the second installment in The Conjuring series, and the third installment in the Conjuring Universe franchise. Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga reprise their roles as paranormal investigators and authors Ed and Lorraine Warren from the first film. The film follows the Warrens as they travel to the United Kingdom to assist the Hodgson family, who are experiencing poltergeist activity at their Enfield council house in 1977 which later became referred to as the Enfield poltergeist.
In July 2013, before the release of the first film, it was reported that New Line Cinema was already developing a sequel with both Farmiga and Wilson signed on to reprise their roles. By October 2014, it was announced that Wan would return to direct the sequel and would make his first contribution as a writer in the franchise. Principal photography began in September 2015 in Los Angeles and concluded in December 2015 in London.
The Conjuring 2 had its world premiere at TCL Chinese Theatre on June 7, 2016, and was theatrically released in the United States on June 10, 2016, by Warner Bros. Pictures and New Line Cinema. The film received generally positive reviews from critics—who praised the performances, Wan's direction, screenplay, atmosphere and Joseph Bishara's musical score—and grossed over $320 million worldwide. A spin-off prequel, The Nun, was released on September 7, 2018. A sequel, The Conjuring: The Devil Made Me Do It, is scheduled for release on June 4, 2021.
Directors: Chris Green, Steven Morana
Writers: Matthew Campagna, Rudy Jahchan
A lavish launch party for a new gaming app "Werewolves Awaken" has all the media bigwigs in attendance. The young lead developer, August, is promoted as the star talent driving the game's launch. The festivities are interrupted by a priest who condemns the party guests as "marked for the beast." Convinced it's a publicity stunt, the party-goers disregard the protest until a dead body is found.
A murdered body is discovered at a Gaming App launch party, guests grow suspicious of each other as they become players of the deadly game.
Enemy is a 2013 Canadian surrealist neo-noir psychological thriller mystery film directed by Denis Villeneuve, produced by M. A. Faura and Niv Fichman and written by Javier Gullón, loosely adapted from José Saramago's 2002 novel The Double. The film stars Jake Gyllenhaal in a dual role as two men who are physically identical, but different in personality. Mélanie Laurent, Sarah Gadon, and Isabella Rossellini co-star. It is internationally co-produced by production companies from Spain and Canada.
The film premiered in the Special Presentation section at the 2013 Toronto International Film Festival on September 8, 2013. It was then released on March 14, 2014, by A24. It earned $3.4 million at the box office and received positive reviews. The film earned five Canadian Screen Awards, including Best Director for Villeneuve, as well as a Canadian Screen Award for Best Supporting Actress for Gadon and Best Motion Picture. It was named Best Canadian Film of the Year at the Toronto Film Critics Association Awards 2014.
Spiral is a Canadian horror thriller film, directed by Kurtis David Harder and released in 2019. The film stars Jeffrey Bowyer-Chapman and Ari Cohen as Malik and Aaron, a same-sex couple who move to a small town with their daughter Kayla (Jennifer Laporte), only to suspect that their initial welcome from their neighbours Marshall (Lochlyn Munro) and Tiffany (Chandra West) may be concealing something much more sinister.
The film premiered on August 25, 2019 at Arrow Video Frightfest, and screened at other horror and LGBTQ film festivals through late 2019 and early 2020. It premiered on Shudder in September 2020.
Bettis is reason enough to check out the film and I do think Brea Grant shows promise as a writer/director and I look forward to seeing what she creates next.
Writer/Director: Brea Grant
Starring: Angela Bettis, David Arquette, Chloe Farnworth, Mick Foley, Dusty Warren
It's 1999 and over the course of one 12 hour shift at an Arkansas hospital, a junkie nurse (Angela Bettis), her scheming cousin and a group of black market organ-trading criminals start a heist that could lead to their imminent demises.
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.
K. Right off the bat, 12 Hour Shift expertly evokes the world of 1999 Arkansas (with a nod to Kroger and Surge and Squirt brand sodas with a ‘Spurt’ soda machine) and the grueling life of shift nurse, Mandy (Angela Bettis). Bettis oozes world weariness as the cynical Mandy. We quickly find out she’s a chain-smoking, pill snorting misanthrope engaged with head nurse Karen (Nikea Gamby-Turner) in a scheme selling kidneys on the black market. Her hot mess cousin by marriage, Regina (Chloe Farnworth), acts as courier, transporting the organs to a gangster named Nicholas (Mick Foley in a fun cameo). The only thing is Regina forgot to bring the kidney and now she needs to come up with one in an hour or Nicholas will be all too happy to remove hers. So Regina forces Mandy to help her come up with another kidney under the noses of the hospital staff, visitors and the cops.
There’s an odd assortment of other wacky characters bouncing around the hospital, most notably David Arquette as a cop-killing prisoner, who sadly gets little screen time. The performances are solid across the board. Bettis anchors the piece as the acerbic and tense Mandy. When it lands the humor is black and appropriately weird but the writing feels unfocused at times with some of the characters being underused. Despite the feeling that there’s some lost potential there, it’s still funny and a lot of fun and it’s great to see Bettis getting the kind of role she deserves.
C. I’m at a crossroads with 12 Hour Shift as it accomplishes something that makes me crave more but also leaves me with the feeling of unfulfilled frustration. I’ll return to this in a second.
I adore black comedy and eccentric characters, which this movie has in excess, so on paper and for the most part while watching it I am fully in, because this is my subgenre niche. Angela Bettis as Mandy is outstanding and makes you wonder why she doesn’t get more roles like this. She commands the screen, even as a worn down nurse that’s meant to be more on the deadpan-side of delivery. A large reason for her character is to play “straight” and counter all the over-the-top characters that pass through the story, which there’s a lot. Some of the frustration actually comes with this interesting supporting cast that makes you wish they were more expanded upon. You don’t want boring characters but by having more caricature-like performances we’re left daydreaming of a “what could be” scenario if the story followed this person or went this route. Overall the story feels like a nurse dealing with all these strange people over the course of her shift, which is the intention but it’s not fine-tuned enough for us to feel like this is the only correct version of this story. I avoid going into a movie thinking “this is how I would’ve done it” but that’s what this invokes, which is as much of a compliment as a criticism.
Technically it’s fine, there’s some clunkiness in the editing here and there that feels purposeful but doesn’t achieve the desired effect it was going for, which I guess is the general theme of my review. It’s fun, watchable, and fills that black-comedic itch I have, if only it had a little more editing throughout every level of production.
C. Ultimately I liked the movie a lot and would watch the next thing that Brea Grant releases. I can’t deny you get the sense of “here’s another actor that’s trying to transition into directing because (insert reason here), so they’re making a low budget genre flick because those get attention.” But Grant comes from that spot in the indie horror community where they all wear many hats so it doesn’t feel completely out of the ordinary unlike many others that have come out within the last couple years.
K. I agree with Craig completely. There’s a lot of things to like about the film but there’s also a lot of things across the board that felt like they needed some elaboration and there were some hiccups in the editing and score. But Bettis is reason enough to check out the film and I do think Brea Grant shows promise as a writer/director and I look forward to seeing what she creates next.
Bloodhound’s average score: 3 ½ out of 5
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To Your Last Death is a 2019 American adult animated action horror film directed by Jason Axinn, and written by Jim Cirile and Tanya C. Klein. The film premiered at the London FrightFest Film Festival on August 23, 2019, and was released on video on demand on March 17, 2020.
Sole survivor of a brutal attack that destroyed her brothers and sister, Miriam Dekalb is given a chance to re-live that night from the beginning, armed with foreknowledge of the events. Of course, there's always the chance that Miriam is insane and murdered everyone herself.
Getting comedy right is hard enough, as getting horror right, and the fact that Pegg and Frost, have managed to combine these two genres into one utterly fantastic fun-filled series is a testament to their craft.
Dir: Jim Field Smith
Written by: Nick Frost, Simon Pegg, Nat Saunders, James Serafinowicz
Starring: Nick Frost, Malcolm McDowell, Samson Kayo, Susan Wokoma, Emma D'Arcy, Simon Pegg, Julian Barratt
Starring Nick Frost as Gus and Simon Pegg as Dave, Truth Seekers is a horror comedy series about a team of part-time paranormal investigators who team up to uncover and film ghost sightings across the UK, sharing their adventures on an online channel for all to see. However, as they stake out haunted churches, underground bunkers and abandoned hospitals with their array of homemade ghost-detecting gizmos, their supernatural experiences grow more frequent, more terrifying and even deadly, as they begin to uncover a conspiracy that could bring about Armageddon for the entire human race.Set in a mysterious world filled with dread and just-out-of-sight monsters, Truth Seekers mixes the very funny with the very scary in an exciting take on genre storytelling from the minds that gave us Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, Sick Note and Paul.
When news of a new sitcom from Simon Pegg and Nick Frost hit social media, the internet's ears all pricked up, and the excitement levels hit heights not seen for a long, long time for a TV comedy. This comedy partnership has been responsible for some of the finest moments of comedy gold to grace our screens, well if you ignore World's End and their acting role in Slaughterhouse Rulez, could Truth Seekers reach the giddy heights of their last TV comedy outing (I'm not mentioning it by name I'm determined not to give space to the title in this review, I want to be the only review not to say it)?
Let's be clear right from the start, those looking for a clone of the best-known sitcom, are going to be severely disappointed. This is, in no way, a clone of that show. In fact to call it a Pegg/Frost show is a bit of a mislead, yes they are the lea scriptwriters on the show, but sadly their shared onscreen time is limited to short "scene-setting" sections of comedy gold. A perfect example of this is when Gus ( Nick Frost) is introduced to his new partner Elton (Samson Kayo). The chemistry between our two comedy friends is a joy to watch, and this is the sort of thing that you can't just create, the symbiotic way in which they play off each other can only come from decades of friendship and working together. Would we have liked to scene more screentime being shared between them, yes and no, while these moments are great fun, this is a story where one of the underlining themes is the forging of new friendships. Watching the relationship between Gus and Elton take the journey from awkward workmates thrown together, to warriors against the gathering forces of darkness.
The camaraderie between the Truth Seekers is one of the highlights of the series. It is not just Gus and Elton who benefit from a sympathetic and heartwarming treatment from the script, Elton's sister Helen (Susan Wokoma) and Gus' father Richard (Malcolm McDowell) have perhaps the most heartwarming of the relationship strands in the series. There is a lovely gentle sense of trepidation between the pair of them as their friendship solidifies.
What helps the series is the standout performances of the supporting cast, I don't mean this as a dig at Pegg or Frost, but neither of them stretches their acting chops here if you have watched them in anything else before then you know exactly what you are getting, Frost probably does more with his character as the narrative unfolds. There is a moving scene towards the latter half of the series that shows he is capable of so much more than his usual roles expect of him.
Malcolm McDowell is brilliant in this, when you are so used to watching him either as a highly confident man, or some cold as ice villain, it is a revelation to watch him as a slightly awkward, and nervous old man, I'll never look at a pair of white y fronts in the same way ever again.
Samson Kayo was an actor who I was unfamiliar with before watching Truth Seekers, and boy what a revelation he was, his comic timing and how he bounced of Frost and Wokoma, in particular, was a pleasure to watch. The brother and sister dynamics of Kayo and Wokoma is one of the genuine highpoints of this series. How Kayo and Wokoma portrayed a bother and sister haunted by a tragedy in their youth and the effects on them in the present day is a sympathetic examination of trauma can have long-lasting effects. Not something you would expect from a supernatural comedy, but you get it here, and it is another reason why Truth Seekers is not just your run of the mill comedy show.
As for the story itself, I was going to do an episode by episode breakdown, but in doing so, it would give away far too much of the plot. Despite that it is a show that is built around tropes and plot devices that are on the relatively well-worn side, there are far too many surprises and creative handling of these tropes to do such a thing. But buckle in for a crazy ride that includes ghosts, possessed dolls, haunted world war two radios, "zombie" dogs and a device plot for the show's villain. Not to mention more conspiracy theories than you can shake a roll of bacofoil at.
All I will say is ghosts are real, and Gus, the original Truth Seeker of the show has spent a lifetime seeking them out, but the arrival of Elton John, no not that one, brings the reality of ghosts right to Gus's front door, and they must find out the truth before many lives are put at risk.
Truth Seekers is first and foremost a comedy, but unlike recent horror-centric comedies like Hubie Halloween, Truth Seekers honours the horror in the story. In far too many cases, the horror or supernatural element of the story is the but of the joke, and horror fans like myself get rather bored of this. It is clear from the very first scene that Frost and Pegg are both genre fans, which of course is evident to anyone who has watched the Cornetto trilogy, or that show which shall not be named, but even so, there was a degree of concern going into this that it would be just another a comedy that doesn't take the genre seriously enough. The gags both visual and spoken are built around making light of the situations that they find themselves in or as a wonderful tongue in cheek nod to some classic horror film references. Even now the stairlift gag which plays a few times during the series still brings out a little chuckle. It's a running gag that could have worn thin, but they manage to find creative and inspired ways to get the most out of it.
And just as the comedy in the show shows reverence to the genre, the horror element does exactly same and considering this is a comedy they don't shy away from the scares either. There are some nail-biting moments and at least one or two moments that brought forth a swear laden shout when this jaded horror reviewer almost wet their pants. Yes, you can argue that there is nothing particularly new on offer here, but don't be fooled into thinking that this means that Truth Seekers is a badly cut and shut dodgy car you would buy from some bloke down the pub. Truth Seekers is a finely crafted show that exemplifies the notion that you can still be highly entertained by something that isn't afraid to wear the genre's past on its sleeves.
I loved how, despite obviously being a show that is built around a whole series story arc, the arc was played down somewhat in the early episodes. Having fully self-contained stories with just hints at the bigger story allowed the show to breathe, the characters to gel and the viewer to get super comfy and invested in the main narrative thread running through the show. I don't know at the time of writing this review if all of the episodes are going to be released on the same day if they are I would suggest clearing a four-hour window in your schedule and get plenty of popcorn in because you are going to be glued to your screens watching one of the highlights of this year's television output.
Getting comedy right is hard enough, as getting horror right, and the fact that Pegg and Frost, have managed to combine these two genres into one utterly fantastic fun-filled series is a testament to their craft.
None of us will be going out Guising this year ( sorry I'm Scottish and Trick 'n Treating is an American term I refuse to use), but if sitting in and watching Truth Seekers is the price that we have to pay it is one that I am more than willing to pay. I just hope I don't have to wait a whole year for the second series of this.
Truth Seekers will be available worldwide on Amazon from 30October 2020