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*** This review contains demonic spoilers ***

Lorraine wanting to retire from the spiritual field and Ed Warren tired of justifying what they do travel to north London to help a family plagued by a malicious spirit.

Opening with a chilling medium session at the notorious Amityville home, where Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga) has an encounter with the dead Lutz family and a demon nun, director James Wan hits the horror road running. The creepy nun from Ed’s  (Patrick Wilson) painting an omen of death later turns up at Ed and Lorraine’s home and we’re introduced to their teenage daughter. Meanwhile, a single mother raising four children are harassed by the  previous deceased occupant. With a fistful of writers and the sharp editor,  Wan creates a good build up, fleeting between the US and UK and although it takes its time getting Ed and Lorraine to the English house, it works giving the film scope.

The cast particularly the child actors are great and Farmiga shines. Wilson delivers another great performance as the matter of fact Ed. Incidentally as well as being a handy man, he also does a good acoustic rendition of Elvis’ “Can’t Help Falling in Love”. The notable German actress Franka Potente also appears as a sceptic but gets very little screen time. Simon McBurney is solid and almost equals Timothy Spall’s performance as Maurice Grosse. Like its predecessor it shares much with other haunting films but it stands on its own due to Wan’s execution, he knows horror, the eeriness, atmosphere, timing of visuals and sound to get hairs standing on end effortlessly. Something which the rushed Annabelle (2014) arguably lacked in his absence as director.

With a pause for thought, like true crime murders, it gets under your skin and you can’t help feel that someone is profiting from someone else’s misery. Conscious aside, true or not, Wan stays close to the Enfield Haunting’s beats with plenty of artistic licence to inject enough practical and CGI effects without it losing its grounded feel too much in the first three quarters.

From wall posters to wallpapers, clothes and cars the 1977 is recreated almost perfectly. There is a set up with a remote control, although I don’t recall there being remotes like that in Great Britain, or at least the family surely wouldn’t have been able to afford that TV, in any case, the set up is still effectively creepy with a great jump scare when the young girl encounters an old man in both a reflection and face to face. As well as a scary zoetrope toy and fire engine, there’s a horrific moment where the girls young brother is tricked into thinking a ghoul is a dog wanting to go out by ringing a bell next to the door.

The UK terraced neighbour setting sets it apart, but naturally its reminiscent of the three part The Enfield Haunting (2015) and When the Lights Went Out (2012) which told the  1974 Black Monk of Pontefract story. Nevertheless, Wan to his credit recreates the Brit 70s injecting some nostalgia for the viewer, with the location, The Jam, TV clips of the day and so on. Wan packs the Conjuring 2 with energy, jumps scares and handles the emotional scenes delicately. In the closing act there’s a twist as it tries to hone The Exorcist. While it may not have the grit and weight of the aforementioned, it has an entertaining mix of drama and horror to set it apart from many others. As Ed and Lorraine do battle at the end, Ed stops the young girl falling to her death as Lorraine word duels with the demon (akin to the design of 2005’s The Nun/La Monja), yes there’s an unnecessary wash of practical and computer imagery in the finale but it comes back to earth with an eerie text epilogue, then the couple add the zoetrope toy to their collection which is followed by the leads bursting with chesmisty dancing happily together.

With Ouija boards, spooky nuns, spectres, toys, moving furniture, ghosts, demonic voices and so on you can’t go wrong. Excellent mainstream horror entertainment.

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So this blog is a little (well way off) what I usually post. My son and I decided to do a little restoration project. I’m not talking ‘American Restoration’ more Antique’s Road Show. So the geek in me got a 1980s He-Man vehicle from an auction site, incidentally the person selling it had a leather suite as well (see before pictures). Gave it a clean, got it working, put some new stickers and a new battery cover on. Voila – now a little bit of 80’s joy has been restored by my 7 year old and I.
Before:

 After

Before

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  Its that time again, 2015 is coming to a close. I’m sure Shakin Stevens, Slade and Wizard are selling records (downloads) and DVD sales of likes of Gremlins, Die Hard, Trading Places and Home Alone increase..

I’d like to thank you for your patronage, I take your support very seriously. Readers will be glad to know that at last Darkest Moons will be released (yes really!) I’ve poured in a lot of detail when crafting this novel, from the storyline and research, to exterior artwork. I hope you will enjoy.

This year I’ve been lucky enough to meet some of my early day heroes. I thoroughly enjoyed talking with Carl Weathers, Jenette Goldstein and her husband (also called Aaron) and my hero George A. Romero and his wife. After James Herbert (R.I.P) and George I think the only idol I’ve left on my list is Schwarzenegger.

As well continuing to support a diverse handful of indie film projects, as well as the day job and writing reviews for @BCRising  (I’ve seen alot of screeners this year) surreally I’ve found myself busy pitching ideas to SkyDance, NBC/Universal and Sony. I’m a little fish in a very big and experienced pond. So like all projects I won’t hold my breath. I simply don’t have time to travel in the ‘required’ circles. The NBC project has been particularly exciting but getting the right forum has proved challenging.

I want you to feel a part of my work as well. While I’m on Facebook and Twitter, the best way to reach me and get a personal response is via my website that includes any business or option queries.

Have a great seasonal time and I hope 2016 fulfils your dreams! Believe in yourself and keep plugging. A big thumbs up to you all.

A

*** This review may contain telephone call to the dead spoilers ***

Having a taste for Carol Anne’s life force the evil cult leader and his victims want their spirits freed.

Made in a time when sequels were usually cheap cash ins and one if any of the original cast would return, Poltergeist II production values are welcomely high, with the majority of the main cast returning. The only family member absent from the film is Dana, (sadly actress Dominique Dunne was murdered in real life) the reason for her character’s absence however is never explained.

The late director Brian Gibson’s Poltergeist instalment is more interesting when JoBeth Williams and Craig T. Nelson reprising their roles as Dianne and Steve are acting the hell out of it or when creepy Kane played eerily by the brilliant late Julian Beck is on screen with the visual effects, floating chainsaws, possession and heroic spell castings taking a backseat.

The special effects are nearly 30 years old and while some don’t hold up they’re still pretty effective for the narrative. That said, the practical effects are outstanding, notably a vomit monster scene where Kane comes out from Steve (Nelson) and begins to take form like something from The Thing or Hellraiser. There are some touching moments in the first half with the death of the Grandma but also oddities especially after she dies, they seem to get over the death quickly and the formalities involved, like arranging a funeral never happen.

Writers Michael Grais and Mark Victor give a solid cult back story and the ghoulish Kane is more scary than some of the effects setups whether its wire braces attacking the family or desert scenes which could rival The Exorcist Heretic bizarreness. The late Will Sampson who plays Taylor the medicine man is notable. There’s comedy littered throughout and many creepy moments, ghost telephone calls, ghouls in mirrors, head tuning dolls, evil tequila worms, zombies and skeletons bursting out from nowhere which add to its appeal.

While it does expand the mythology it’s not a touch on the first, but to Gibson’s credit part two is all aboveboard in a time when sequels weren’t very good.

13 Eerie zombie virus horror 

Posted: March 10, 2015 in Uncategorized

** This review may contain eye splinter spoilers **

A group of university students go on a field exam unbeknownst that the island was previously used for biological experiments on life-term prisoners. Lowell Dean director of the recent excellent 1980s throwback WolfCop, made his feature film debut with this little spin on the zombie genre. 13 Eerie is packed with nicely executed gross out effects, chewed off figures, exploding heads, torn neck flesh bites and like. 

While the cast are effective enough it’s really Nick Moran’s stone head Larry character and Katharine Isabelle as Megan that run the show and leave an impression. The set up mirrors Head Hunters as a group of FBI students go to a secluded island, only here it’s a group of six forensic undergrads who examine set up crime scenes with real bodies from the morgue.

The film benefits from an on location shoot, much of it at dusk, as the cadavers come back to life which gives it that required eerie (no pun intended) atmosphere. The score works best when it has the base and beats of the likes of Carpenter and Frizzi. The makeup and special effects are great, Dean offers some moments reminiscent of the music video Thriller as the infected burst through the floorboards and Fulici’s Zombi with an extreme eye splinter scene, there’s plenty of zombie-like homages as it comes to an action setup closing.

It’s a fine debut for the young director Dean with a novel staging for a virus zombie-like flick helping it avoid the usual cliché pitfalls.

Zombie 108 (2012)

Posted: February 16, 2015 in Uncategorized
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zombie 108As a virus sweeps the city, it falls into a bloody zombie- apocalypse and array citizens come together to survive the nightmare.

Yes we’ve seen it all before but what writer/director Joe Chien does have like his semi-side-quel Zombie Fight Club (2014) is a dark and ominous atmosphere.

Following the opening of a large abandoned metropolitan area where a woman wanders around and finds a mass of hungry zombies we are then presented with a flashback of how the city became deserted. Chien borrows from the best, which is a good thing but sadly Zombie 108 biggest slip up is an unnecessary off-putting subplot where a sordid pervert kidnaps women and traps them in his apartment. He keeps them locked up, tortures, rapes and murders them.

It’s messy, chaotic, graphic and at times borderline incoherent in keeping with many Asian zombie outings. That said, it does have its eerie creepy moments, it’s played serious and the zombies are well executed. However, you’d be excused if you skipped this mainly due to the distasteful secondary plot and went straight to Chien’s more rounded Zombie Fight Club.

Saturn 3

Posted: February 12, 2015 in Uncategorized
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saturn-3-usuk-release-posterTwo lovers stationed on a remote moon base of Saturn are intruded upon by a murderous man and his malevolent 8-ft robot.

Its production issues, changing of directors (one of which was the late great John Barry) and budget cuts aside for a film that was made in 1980 it feels like late 60s/70s. That said, the sets that take a leaf from Alien (1979) are partially effective and the blue ominous lighting works but is sadly used sparingly.

The late Farrah Fawcett is still a major draw and although there’s a cringe worthy age gap between leads it is fitting to the narratives themes. Acting legend Kirk Douglas is a little inconsistent and not on form possibly due to the script or production woes. Harvey Keitel has been unconventionally re-dubbed which is a shame, but he still is effective as the homicidal sociopath, off beat, boorish Earth Captain Benson. Although choppy, there’s some great set-ups with the interestingly designed Hector robot and Elmer Bernstein’s score if fantastic.

It’s not purposely ambiguous, but it leaves many questions and loose ends. It’s by no means the worst science-fiction movie, John Barry’s story offers some great ideas and has clearly influenced subsequent scifi’s notably the Matrix (1999) plug-in.

It’s flawed and inconsistent but still worth viewing for the concept alone.

IMG_0960 On investigating an ancient meteor in the jungle a boy’s parents are killed and he is raised by a gorilla. As a young man he encounters his humankind again which puts him and the jungles inhabitants in danger.

Without being uppity, oddly people are incessant, comparing this 2013 version to Disney’s Tarzan (1999) which is a redundant consideration of the similarities or dissimilarities between the two films. The Tarzan character created by Edgar Rice Burroughs is over 100 years old, there has been numerous incarnations across many mediums over the years.

After the prehistoric opening and the destruction of the dinosaurs this attempt by director Reinhard Klooss hits all the familiar beats of Tarzan incarnations including Jane, there’s also the greedy corporation angle that’s been well trodden (instead of riches it’s the greed for the meteor’s unique energies).

The CGI colourful animation is crisp, clear and wonderfully rendered. While no more wayward than some of the other Tarzan stories out there it is still not the most engrossing Tarzan tale. The pacing is a little slow and narration is a little sluggish, that said, it looks great and has an edginess about it.

If your looking for a definitive version of Tarzan, or something better than some of the classic black and white films or the much loved Filmation Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle this isn’t it but it’s not that bad either.

Bob Saginowski is a bartender at his relations bar “Cousin Marv’s” which also operates as a ‘drop’ for illegal takings for Chechen mobsters. With a strain of a big ‘drop’ looming after rescuing a puppy Bob finds himself at clashing with a local hood (with a reputation of being a killer) claiming to be the dog’s owner.

A gritty production which daringly hinges on a single surprise plot point (written by Mystic River’s Dennis Lehane), and to director Michaël R. Roskam credit its successfully executed. Its dialogue driven, small in scale and refreshingly the violence is minimum, hard hitting and over quickly.

Tom Hardy simmers throughout as Bob and carries the weight of the film to it’s boiling point. His unassuming bartender is believable, emotional and susceptible. In his last role playing on a naturalistic background James Gandolfini effortlessly graces the screen in the on location shoot, amongst the naturalistic settings as Marv. There are some touching moments when Hardy and Noomi Rapace are tending to a puppy mirroring the tenderness of Rocky and Adrianne in Rocky (1976). Rapace plays the troubled Nadia best when she’s on a back foot when her ex boyfriend turns up. Notable is John Ortiz in a small part as Detective Torres.

Roskam’s vision captures the everyday environment with 1970’s grit reminiscent of The French Connection (1971) and Dog Day Afternoon (1975) to name a few. He effectively builds up tension with the characters interplay. The Drop is subtle as it can be, there’s no elaborate heists, fights and explosions, just the characterisation of the cast to keep you intrigued until the end. Marco Beltrami is on form, harmonizing the on screen drama with his score.

Granted there’s an abundance of similar themed crime dramas, but The Drop raises the bar with its smartly written script and great small cast ensemble.

The ultimate resort: VICE, where customers can play out their wildest fantasies is shaken up when artificial inhabitants becomes self- aware.What starts off as a respectable sci-fi thriller never really explorers or develops its interesting premise turning into a chase picture with guns being uninspiringly fired left right and centre poorly imitating The Matrix’s (1999) modish feel in the latter half.

It’s reminiscent in part of Michael Crichton’s West World (1973) and Future World’s (1976) concept that then delves into the realms of a staged The Purge: Anarchy (2014) mixed with a pleasure park gone wrong and carbon copied Blade Runner dialogue scattered though out. What sits uncomfortably in Andre Fabrizio and Jeremy Passmore’s dialogue and Brian A Miller’s depiction, is that the park goers fantasies are either excessively sexual or sick and awfully violent in contrast in tone to the exaggerated gun play action.

With great physique not even Ambyr Childers’ look and performance as Kelly lighting up each scene as the park’s on the run self-aware artificial robot can help the clumsily action and expository sequences. With a lack of back story Thomas Jane tries his hardest with a clunky script and given his performance in the comparable Surrogates (2009) Bruce Willis is flat and looks bored. Bryan Greenberg’s Evan and Brett Granstaff’s James feel miscast and actors Charlotte Kirk and Johnathon Schaech are sorely underused.

As well as the classics there’s The Machine (2013), Automata (2014), Impostor (2001) and other quality low-budget movies or the Almost Human TV Series to name a few which have tackled the themes in a superior fashion.

Even the sequel enticing ending feels forced. Aesthetically Vice looks great and the score is fitting to the well-lit sterile environments. If only Vice we’re half as good as the actors cast, lighting and locale it could have been an entertaining A.I film to add to the shelf.