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Here Comes Hell

Comedy, Festival, Horror, Review, This Week Leave a Comment

Screened at Sydney Film Festival, in the Freak Me Out program strand, Here Comes Hell is a genre mash-up debut feature effort from UK Director Jack McHenry and co-writer Alice Sidgwick. Having worked on music videos and short films before this, McHenry shows confidence in his style. His previous short film, Dungeon of Vampire Nazis showcases his crew’s filmmaking style and passion for cinema, which also shines through in Here Comes Hell.

Hell does a great job of capturing an early cinema aesthetic by paying homage to classic filmmakers like Alfred Hitchcock and William Castle. From the opening shot, the mood is set, when the audience is greeted by a man talking directly to camera and introducing the film. To top it off, it’s also filmed in black and white and presented in the boxed 4:3 format.

This film knows exactly what it is and uses all the classic tropes of ‘50s B movies while mashing it with other genre film styles. The actors crank their performances up to 11 and at no point are they, or the film, afraid to be cheesy. The accents are hammy and over the top, just like the performances. If you can imagine a ’50s B movie classic with the slapstick gore of Evil Dead, this is what Here Comes Hell delivers.

The plot is familiar and simple, an old haunted manor house with a group of young people playing around with the occult and opening up a gateway to hell. There are plenty of laughs and scares, as the guests have to put down their wine glasses and pick up weapons with every man (and woman) for themselves in a fight to make it out alive before dawn.

Even though the runtime is short, it does take what feels like a very long time to get into full swing. Like two completely different movies, for the first 35 minutes you’re watching a social drama and for the rest it’s a 1980s horror flick, complete with one liners and crash zooms. The film becomes more entertaining once the gates of hell have been opened but before that there isn’t enough to cling to; the film would have benefited from spending the first act fleshing out characters, and there are plot points that are hinted at but never fully explored, such as the intertwined past relationships between the guests.

Mixing practical and visual effects to achieve a look that is both pleasing to fans of genre and general audiences, the filmmakers have made their modest budget work, and the passion behind the project shows on screen.

With its cheesy dialogue, hammy accents and stereotypical characters, Here Comes Hell does everything short of wink directly to camera. It’s refreshing when a director knows the ins and outs of the genre he’s trying to recreate, and McHenry shows a lot of promise with his obvious love for cinema and knowledge of its clichés and techniques. Parody films usually have a paper-thin premise and a style that is not unique, but Here Comes Hell is thankfully one of the exceptions.

 
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Short Film of the Week: They Can’t Hear You

Tapping into the horror of Filicide, Luke Creely's ticking clock, one shot film screened at Monster Fest and has won several international film festival awards, including Best Director and Best Short at the Sicily International Film Festival. Kudos to the mise-en-scene.
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Brightburn

Horror, Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

The story of Clark Kent is a tender one, and you almost certainly know it already. A child from another world lands on a small Kansas farm and is cared for and raised by a sweet, childless couple. They instill their values in the little tyke and years later he grows up to be the heroic metahuman known as Superman. But what if that kid hadn’t come from an essentially good place like Krypton, and what if that boy, when he grew older, had zero interest in using his powers for good? That is, essentially, the premise of Brightburn and it’s a beauty.

The childless couple in this case are Tori (Elizabeth Banks) and Kyle Breyer (David Denman), who live in the small town of Brightburn and raise young Brandon (Jackson A. Dunn) as if he were their own flesh and blood. For twelve years things proceed beautifully. Brandon is a sweet kid, and appears normal in every way, but once puberty starts knocking at the door, things turn nasty fast. You think adolescence is rough with a normal kid, try that same journey with a sullen superpowered pre-teen!

Brightburn, produced by James Gunn and written by his brother Mark and cousin Brian, is very much a dark and violent “what if” story. And the notion of a young superhero as a budding serial killer is darkly ironic and appealingly subversive in a misanthropic sort of way. The cast do a solid job, with Elizabeth Banks giving a typically strong performance, and director David Yarovesky manages to keep the tension high and really delivers on the squirmy gore when needed. One sequence in particular involving ocular trauma will have even the stoutest of gorehounds wincing.

In fact, the only really flaw that can be levelled at Brightburn is that it doesn’t do much with the premise other than what’s on the tin. The story proceeds briskly, and sometimes very nastily, but it never really offers much in the way of big surprises or twists once the conceit has been established. Still, if you’ve had a gutful of hopeful heroic adventures, and crave something from the darker side of the genre, Brightburn offers a jet-black look at a bad seed with super powers. And you don’t need X-ray vision to see that this is one story that’s going to get super bloody.

 
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Trailer: Midsommar

Ari Aster's follow up to Hereditary taps shiny happy Scandi evil, starring Florence Pugh, Will Poulter and Jack Reynor. Someone, please call the wicker man!
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The Curse of the Weeping Woman

Horror, Review, Theatrical, This Week Leave a Comment

The Conjuring series has long since expanded from being a franchise and is now a legitimate cinematic universe, for good and ill. While few would argue with the merits of the main series entries The Conjuring 1 and 2 (and upcoming 3), we’ve also had to contend with the likes of Annabelle and The Nun, with Annabelle Comes Home, The Nun 2 and The Crooked Man all on their way. The latest spin-off is the barely-connected-to-the-main-series Curse of the Weeping Woman.

Proceedings focus in on the slight tale of social worker, Anna Tate-Garcia (Linda Cardellini), who is working to support two kids after the death of her police officer husband. Anna becomes involved with a case involving two apparently abused children, who are terrified of the spectre of La Llorona, a ghost in Latin American folklore. Naturally, Anna takes the pragmatic view that ghosts don’t exist, but soon the crying lady’s evil intentions are fixed on our plucky heroine’s family and she may have to reevaluate some stuff… if she survives.

Originally titled The Curse of La Llorona (and inevitably released in the US under the title due to the large Hispanic audience), the film has a few things going for it, but it seems intent on squandering them all. Linda Cardellini is an agreeable lead and tries her best, but the material is so bare bones she never really gets a chance to shine. Similarly, Raymond Cruz, who was so unforgettable as Tuco in Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul, has nice moments as troubled ex-priest Rafael Olvera, but they never add up to anything. Hell, even the Weeping Woman herself, played capably by Marisol Ramirez, never gets to do anything other than lurch onto screen accompanied by loud noises or look creepy hanging around puddles.

The Curse of the Weeping Woman had a lot of potential, but like a lot of The Conjuring spin-offs, it feels like a lesser entity. Worse still, it’s not at all scary and frequently a bit dull. Hell, at least Annabelle was bad enough to cause a few unintentional chuckles, whereas mirth of any kind is in short supply here; as is tension, atmosphere or any compelling reason to keep watching.

Ultimately, The Curse of the Weeping Woman is a forgettable dud, and that’s a crying shame.