Monday, August 28, 2017

The most wonderful time of the year... πŸ‘»πŸ’€

It's nearing October (well, close enough) and my thoughts are therefore OBVIOUSLY turning to this year's list of movies. Last October was sooo much fun that I've decided I definitely want to do it again: At least a film a day; as many reviews as I can possibly do from that number.

So here's a list of what I have so far, culled from titles that've caught my eye on various streaming services, plus new releases I haven't had chance to see yet. What do you think?

October 1st - Critters
October 2nd - The Blob (1988)
October 3rd - The Void
October 4thBeyond The Gates
October 5th - Lumberjack Man
October 6th (Fri) - Prince of Darkness
October 7th (Sat) - Shelley // Antibirth (effed up pregnancy double bill!)
October 8th (Sun) - The Eyes Of My Mother
October 9th - The Collector (2009)
October 10th - The Boy
October 11th - Refuge
October 12th (my birthday!) - The Prowler // Halloween III: Season of the Witch
October 13th (Fri) - Jason Lives: Friday the 13th Part VI
October 14th (Sat) - Train To Busan
October 15th (Sun) - They're Watching
October 16th - Let's Be Evil // *
October 17th - Baskin
October 18th - The Girl In The Photographs
October 19th - Submerged
October 20th (Fri) - I Am Not A Serial Killer
October 21st (Sat) - Return Of The Living Dead
October 22nd (Sun) - Willow Creek
October 23rd - The Wailing
October 24th - XX
October 25th - Spring
October 26th - The Blood Lands
October 27th (Fri) - Stranger Things! // Trick 'r Treat
October 28th (Sat)Tales of Halloween
October 29th (Sun) - A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
October 30th - An American Werewolf In London
October 31st! - The Exorcist

*Thinking about something cat related for Feral Cat Day... (Pet Sematary, Sleepwalkers?)
He Never Died
Intruder (added for the artwork but reviews are NOT good, so...)
Scream Queens

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Dark Tapes (2017)

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that low budget horror films can pretty easily scare the bejesus out of you.

There's a certain charm and ingrained creepiness to something that looks like your imaginative mate could have made it, and these lower branches of the horror tree really have the capacity to capture that feeling horror hounds are constantly chasing. 

Yeah, we want to be "scared", but the emotions are more complex than that. Speaking for myself, some of my favourite horror experiences have been less outright "fright" and more deep discomfort, helplessness and hopelessness. 

Without the gloss of Hollywood, you're one step closer to the dirt.

The Dark Tapes adopts the format which in some ways re-energised the genre. Found-footage movies have been around for years of course - as have horror anthologies - but together they created a beautiful little monster of a sub-genre (a sub-sub-genre?).

With V/H/S (and to a lesser extent, The ABC's of Death) viewers had the same feature-length runtime, but inside it were several stories to enjoy, usually with a wrap-around narrative to tie it all together.

And this too, is a series of found-footage, short spooky tales with a bookend narrative. Although the difference here is that all of the stories are from the same twisted mind, that of writer/director Michael McQuown.

First impressions were favourable, as viewing the trailer was enough to tell me that I probably couldn't comfortably watch this film in the house on my own. The POV's of dark domestic hallways alone ruled that out.

Tension is my absolutely favourite thing about horror, and I think it's one of, if not the most important weapon in this genre's arsenal. Even those cheap jump scares from the throwaway summer blockbuster horror movies wouldn't work if the audience wasn't nervous in the first place.

When The Dark Tapes lets itself breathe enough to build tension, it does so very well. The tape entitled "The Hunters & The Hunted" involves a couple in a new home experiencing ghostly activity, and the group brought in to investigate.

The Hunters & The Hunted

Of all the tapes this one is the most grounded in reality, and it benefits greatly from that. If the test for a decent horror sequence is whether or not you find yourself trying to escape into the back of the sofa with your hands over your eyes, then this segment passes.

The thing is, there's a blessing and a curse with film shorts. The makers must find that sweet spot of a strong idea, plus a no-frills, tight delivery of it. With little time to waste, the set-up and tear-down of these stories has to be confident and to the point.

The Dark Tapes felt in places - particularly the wrap-around narrative - that this was a draft or two away from that sweet spot. There's a LOT of exposition at the beginning, delivered in a pretty dry way, so it's easy to become lost (and the danger with being lost, is being bored).

The weakest link in the chain here is "Cam Girls". It asks us to take huge leaps with it, narratively, with a pay-off that will make you scrunch up your face in a "wha? is that it?" rather than an "oh shit!".

Cam Girls

Webcam/skype-centred movies are a real double-edged sword, too. It's so gimmicky that unless you fucking nail it, it doesn't work. 

All of the stories came from an interesting idea though, and "Amanda's Revenge" was another I enjoyed, due to the creative use of film and Brittany Underwood as Amanda. 

Amanda's Revenge

Underwood is the best actor in the entire movie, if playing it a tiny bit too earnest and peppy at times, given what she's apparently going through. With a faint smack of the It Follows about it, the "Amanda's Revenge" tape shows the most imagination and flair, with some creepily stunning shots towards its conclusion.

For a budget of $65,000 this film definitely gave it the old college try, and there are some genuinely imaginative and suspenseful moments here... you just have to wait through some scenes of questionable, unnatural dialogue and an overuse of "scary static". But I've done more for less :)

McQuown and this team are worth keeping on your radar though; apparently there's a sequel in the works, so it'll be interesting to see what a second movie from the same stable is like. Hopefully they'll have sanded down some of the rougher edges and polished the points from their debut that shone through, because they're undoubtedly there... they just need a little work.

The Dark Tapes is available on iTunes here, and a tonne of other places if you want to check it out: Google Play, Vudu, iNDemand (Comcast- Xfinity, Time Warner, Cox, Bright House & more), Dish TV, Amazon, Vubiquity (Verizon Fios, Charter, Sudden Link, Media Com &more), Xbox, Playstation, Sling TV & Vimeo.