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Five teenagers chatting, but soon there will be four…

Five teenagers are talking in an live video chat when they notice a mysterious presence has joined…

Told entirely through live footage of main protagonist Blaire’s computer screen, this works surprisingly well. You are kept interested as Blaire (Shelley Hennig) switches between chat, Facebook, and Googling ‘how to deal with demonic presences on the internet’. It’s compulsive viewing – up to a point, only starting to grate towards the end when you want to see more of what’s going on, not just what you can see through each of their web cams..

Secrets about the teenagers are gradually revealed by the presence and it’s these that makes the film interesting and drive its plot.  A once apparently tight-knit group of friends will soon find themselves at each others throats… This is eventually taken a little too far and some of the secrets revealed make you wonder how this group could ever have been friends in the first place! I would also have preferred a cleverer ending instead of the rather unsubtle the one we get.

However it is nice to see a teen horror film that doesn’t rely much on sick gore and instead focuses more on character interaction, shock reveals and group dynamics. Grab some food, beer and snacks and enjoy 7/10

When staying in a old house in the woods still seemed like a great idea…

This is one of those horror films that does a lot right – here it’s a superb slow set-up, with a mature and realistic depiction of a relationship between newly weds Bea (Rose Leslie) and Paul (Harry Treadaway) who are on their honeymoon in an old house in the woods. It’s clear they know each other intimately, and want to please each other. If one is upset the other immediately realises and will try to fix things.This means for a good part of the introduction this doesn’t feel like a horror film. It’s more like a relationship drama – and so all the better to shock you by suddenly introducing something horrifying.

One night Bea disappears into the woods, and Paul finds her cold and naked – without the night shirt she had on earlier – and with strange marks on her legs. From this moment on her behaviour seems different. She insists it’s just because she’s still a bit confused since the ‘sleep walking’ incident. But Paul starts to become more and more sure that something is wrong with Bea and that as strange as it may sound, that actually maybe Bea, is no longer Bea…

The closeness between Bea and Paul that I mentioned earlier is important, not just for the new marriage but also because it’s used to make it clear to the viewer that Bea is behaving oddly. At first Paul only picks up on subtle things that seem different. For example, when Bea would have laughed or cried previously – she no longer does. She also inexplicably uses the wrong terms for things or objects.

Predictably though, after such a good start, the horror aspect of the film when it does arrive – isn’t horrific enough. Usually in a horror film when you see the ‘creature’, the film becomes less frightening. However that’s because it’s usually already been presented in an immature and shallow way. There will often be a bunch of teens who you don’t care about and who you know are going to get killed. Here however, after a more realistic set-up, the film could have done with an actual genuinely scary creature or creatures to shock you – but sadly no visible creatures ever arrive. There’s a bit of body-shock horror, some implied ‘creatures’ and some nicely twisted manipulative logic used by these ‘creatures’. You’ll know what I mean when you see the wife of Bea’s friend Will, telling Paul that “Will is hiding”, and when you realise what this means at the end of the film.

For the most part this is a good film, it’s often compulsive viewing and the acting is of a high standard. It perhaps could have played on ambiguity a bit more – maybe have made the viewer worry more that Paul is losing it instead of Bea, but mostly it’s well done. Ultimately though it’s a disappointing movie because it’s a mature treatment of the genre and it could have been something special but instead it just ends up touting the same half-scary low-budget bullsh*t you see in every other ‘mature’ horror film at the moment. 6/10

Liz (Kate Ashfield), Shaun (Simon Pegg) and Ed (Nick Frost) get ready to repel the zombie horde.

(Obviously) I’ve seen this before but I wanted to watch it again. It’s clever because it knows that you know it’s going to be a zombie film and it teases you. Is that a zombie or just Shaun (Simon Pegg) stumbling and moaning because it’s early in the morning? Wait that is a zombie! oh.. no it’s just a supermarket worker. Definitely a crowd of zomb…  no just teenagers shuffling along with headphones on. At the same time as making you smile it’s also a clever social commentary on the detached nature of modern life.

Eventually when the zombie epidemic does begin. There’s lots of laughs, tension and action as Shaun assembles a group of survivors – which include his mum (Penelope Wilton), his friend Ed (Nick Frost), his long suffering girlfriend Lizzy (Kate Ashfield), and in Shaun’s words “failed actress” Dianne (Lucy Davies) and her “twat” boyfriend David (Dylan Moran) – and attempts to lead them to safety. Shaun’s idea of safety however is pretty much the same as his idea of a good night out – hiding out at the Winchester tavern. Where beer is freely available and bar snacks are plentiful.

Watching this for the 2nd time now I noticed that many lines of dialogue gain new meaning. For example pre-zombie epidemic, Ed says to Pete after an argument  “Next time I see you, you’re dead”, and he is of course. Pete also says to Ed: “You want to behave like an animal. Go live in the shed”. By the end of the film – Ed is living in the shed. There also movie references to spot. For example “Kill the Queen” (Aliens or Resident Evil) in reference to the zombie-attracting jukebox starting to play Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” at the same time as a horde of zombies are lurking outside the pub.

One of the best zombie films out there and funny as well. Even if you’ve seen it before you’ll enjoy it. 8/10

The latest government anti-smoking campaign perhaps went a bit too far…

The synopsis of this film’s plot sounds make it sound like an update of The Wicker Man, but in fact it’s not at all – beyond the basic premise: A pastor and his family move to a new town. The community initially seems welcoming and friendly but in fact they have sinister plans in store for him and his family…

Good Points :  The uneasy terror you feel when the family realise that everyone in the town is against them – you empathise, after all what can you really do to protect yourself then? I also liked that the director didn’t feel the need to explain everything, and often leaves you to make your own mind up as to what’s really happening.

Bad Points : Beyond the uneasy fear mentioned above, it’s not really frightening. There’s a ‘creature’ of sorts (I’ll avoid going into details to not spoil things) that is so slow moving that if you have half a brain, actually poses no danger at all. The acting is generally terrible. The central couple (the pastor’s daughter and her boyfriend) are so wooden they are often in more danger of being made into furniture.

With a decent cast, script and story, this could have been genuinely scary but instead the result is a below average horror film

Don’t watch. 3/10

Eve (Amber Clayton) is about to find out there’s something even more dangerous than the soldiers who have been sent to kill her.

After an ‘incident’ at a top secret Australian government research facility. 3 special forces teams are sent in and given orders to kill the human research subjects there.

Why is it called Crawlspace? Well because there’s not much wriggle-room in the air ducts (where the protagonists seem to find themselves a lot of the time) and even less when someone else has access to your mind and thoughts. Just where do you go to hide then?

This is the real horror in Crawlspace and it would be an intriguing idea to explore if it wasn’t buried amongst a huge amount of cliche, events and characters you’ll already have seen in so many previous films. You’ll notice the motion-detectors from Alien, the same squad make-up as in Aliens and in many films since : tough badass female, crazy male, sensible captain. Then there’s the lone female with special powers who doesn’t know how powerful she is yet – see Resident Evil 1, Fifth Element, etc. There’s even an English villan – I won’t list films here because in 50% of films we get cast as the villan. I will need serious help if I ever have to defend myself in a foreign court – after all how can I be English and not be evil?

So yes Crawlspace is cliched, derivative, and predictable. There are also times however when it’s inventive, fresh and unexpected. Unfortunately this is only about 10% of the time. This means that although it’s watchable and you’ll want to see what happens next, it’s not a particularly rewarding experience. You’ve mostly seen it all before. I wish they had taken the central concept of thought and memory control and put it into a completely fresh setting, ditched the soldiers and generated some real horror in an environment we could all relate to. As it is, for a horror film Crawlspace is not very scary. It gets an average 5/10

A pre-horror Kelly (Alexie Gilmore) and Jim (Bryce Johnson) enjoy a Bigfoot Burger in Willow Creek.

A found-footage film that follows a young couple’s attempt to make a film about Bigfoot and the famous Patterson-Gimlin 1967 film. (looks very fake but experts have since struggled to replicate the gait of the ‘creature’ on the film). The initial setup is told quite well, the highlight being the couple mocking a mural in the nearby town that shows Bigfoot helping the townsfolk in various tasks and also sitting with his head in his hands looking depressed – is it any wonder after all that slave labour?

The woman Kelly (Alexie Gilmore ) I thought was pretty much perfect but Jim (Bryce Johnson) was a bit too bland to be worth watching for more than half-an-hour. Maybe though that’s the idea – a perfectly nice and inoffensive couple getting terrorised in the Californian woods is more frightening that a couple you don’t like and can’t empathise with.

Disappointingly after all the set up – nothing out of the ordinary happens for at least an hour into the film. There’s the standard frightening noises – cue unending shots of the couple in the tent looking scared. Eventually at the end of the film there’s 5 minutes when something does happen. But it’s not frightening at all and you don’t actually see anything. Ok maybe I blinked at the wrong time but I never saw a Bigfoot. In fact all I saw was a distressed looking topless woman. When you have no special effects budget she’s probably much easier to conjure up than a 300 pound 7 foot ape man.

I would now like to see a found-footage horror film where absolutely nothing scary happens at all. That’s certainly a twist the audience won’t be expecting. Willow Creek has already made bold steps in that direction.

2/10

They’ve just been told that series 14 of Indonesian Big Brother is starting in the TV room…

A interesting collection of horror tales linked together by an unnecessary meta-tale involving a couple of investigators looking for a missing man. All the stories are in the form of found footage and predictably none (of the ones I saw at least) are actually scary. Relying instead upon the slightly cheap tools of shock and gore.

The first tale is about a man who after an accident has an eye-implant fitted. However as well as restoring his sight he gets slightly more than he bargained for – he can now see the dead. If you’re thinking the Sixth Sense – don’t. It fails to do anything interesting with this concept other than reduce it to a series of cheap scares with an unconvincing ending. The acting in this tale was also on the poor side.

I felt that the second story had artistic merit. It didn’t really hold my interest but the story of a cyclist who goes to the aid of a woman but ends up being bitten by a zombie and then turns into one himself was certainly interesting. After being bitten the his helmet-cam is still rolling and the story now continues with him as a zombie. You watch as he first tries to snack on his own arm and then on a couple of other cyclists who come to his aid, and then worse as he approaches a children’s party. Despite not being that involving at the story level it did manage provoke feelings of disgust, interest, amusement, and even boredom. So like I said, perfect as a piece of art.

The third tale was the most inventive, and the one that came closest to truly unsettling. That it offered something other than the standard ghosts and zombies was welcome too. It details what happens to a group of journalists and camera crew after they go to interview an Indonesian cult-leader. Halfway through the interview he decides that it’s time for him and his followers (and apparently the journalists too) to enter the “Gates of Paradise”. There is some impressive editing and your empathy for the camera-crew, and their helplessness against the huge numbers of the cult gives it the potential to be frightening but ultimately this story just ends in death for pretty much everyone and huge amounts of gore and violence. So it was more shocking than anything else.

I stopped watching at this point. It felt a bit sick watching as people get their heads blown off and as demons emerge in a bloody mess from pregnant women. Gore has it’s place in horror films but when it’s just person after person getting ripped apart or exploding into fleshy pieces…  if you are enjoying that then you have a problem.

Often inventive and from what I saw a mostly above-average collection of  found-footage horror films, but it is a little sick and exploitative.

6/10