Tuesday, 19 October 2010

In Memorium - Review


Director:  Amanda Gusack
Writer:  Amanda Gusack
Starring:  Erik McDowell, Johanna Watts, Levi Powell, Mary Portser, Doris Weldon

It is mildly surprising how many movies there are filed under the ‘horror’ category that aren’t actually scary in the slightest. Many don’t even seem to make any attempt to be, settling for mere surprise, shock tactics or that great old standard, the sudden loud orchestral BOOM! on the soundtrack to illicit any response in the viewer. It is a rare treat indeed to happen across a movie that needs none of these cheap parlour tricks and instead concentrates upon the task of using genuine atmosphere and story to turn the viewer into a whimpering bundle of nerves and neuroses. In Memorium is one of those all too seldom encountered movies which is able to actually unsettle the viewer and also manages to do this on an impressively modest budget.
The story centres around a young man who having been diagnosed as having terminal bone cancer decides to document his struggle with the disease and inevitable decline on film. To this end he and his admirably loyal girlfriend move into a rented house and deck it out with numerous motion-activated video cameras and sound recording equipment. Of course it isn't long before a malevolent ghostly entity makes its presence known via strange sounds and snatched images mysteriously appearing through bursts of static on the videotape. The movie the viewer sees is edited from this 'footage' and presented as reality, much the same approach to that taken by films such as My Little Eye, Under Surveillance and of course The Blair Witch Project.
This technique means that the entire film takes place within the confines of the house and from a set number of locked off shots. While this could have proved to be disastrously uninteresting, the variety of angles and sheer excellence of the editing ensure that it never becomes boring. It also has the interesting effect of frequently leaving empty spaces in the frame which seem to be just waiting for something ghastly to fill them. That this rarely happens is testament to writer/director Amanda Gusack's good sense not to overdo the more supernatural elements of the film. In fact there are very few special visual effects used and very little in the way of gore and the film is all the better for it. A sense of palpable menace and dread is established naturally through the tight and minimalist script which only falters with a few moments of rather forced exposition. In fairness however this is only noticeable due to the fact that the film is presented as 'reality'.
Much credit must also go to the two leads, McDowell and Watts playing the unfortunate lovers. They give a consistently convincing performance which does wonders for establishing the reality of the situation. They are also able to pull off the trick of making a film about a man dying of cancer not entirely morbid. They interact like you would imagine a couple in their situation would - not all hysterical histrionics but a sort of grim acceptance coupled with an undercurrent of terrified despair. Johanna Watts in particular impresses with her affecting and layered performance as the woman forced to watch her lover deteriorate and eventually die.
The atmosphere created by the excellent acting performances along with Gusack's assured writing and direction is so strong that it is practically a character in its own right. The lack of any music on the soundtrack compliments this atmosphere perfectly and at times the film becomes so intense that it is difficult to watch. Impressive indeed when you consider the amount of genre films there are being made with much larger budgets that are difficult to watch for all together different reasons.
This could also be seen as a possible flaw in the film however. The subject matter is so grim and the mood of the film so dark that it is hard to actually enjoy.  There is no doubt that this is a superbly crafted and effective film but its intensity may well turn off some viewers. To the true lover of horror cinema however, that can only count among the highest of recommendations. In Memorium is an exceptional film, it is terrifying, intelligent and moving, all the things any horror film should aspire to be.  

In Memorium - Indieflix Release Date

Great news for fans of effective original independent horror.

Amanda Gusack's supremely creepy IN MEMORIUM is finally getting a release having been pretty much in limbo for the past 5 years.  The director contacted us with the good news earlier today:

"We're going to release IN MEMORIUM as a 30-day-streaming rental this fall through Indieflix. Right now, it's US only, but more territories may be added. I'll know the specifics on that in a couple of days. 

Also, on October 31st,  for 24 hours, I'll be streaming the first 16 minutes of the film for free. "

IN MEMORIUM tells the story of a young man who having been diagnosed with terminal cancer decides to document his last days with a series of motion activated cameras positioned around the family house he has returned to with his loyal girlfriend.  It is not long before the cameras start recording more than just the young couple however.  

Check out our full review here and if you are reading from the US, check out Indieflix this Halloween.  You won't regret it. 

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Halloween Short 2010

Despite having worked on a couple of small projects lately, including my first starring role in the upcoming short, THERE'S A LOT OF "EM ABOUT by Chris Nelthorpe, I haven't exercised my directing muscles in far too long.  Not since the Nefarious Films Production, FEMALE OF THE SPECIES back in April as a matter of fact.

A right nasty little bastard - Sam
That's why I realised that what with Halloween a mere 18 days away it was high time to get my shit together.  Right now conditions in my life couldn't be less ideal for film making - I've just started a new and incredibly time and energy consuming job, I'm planning a wedding and I have financial resources comparable to that of a particularly hard up mollusc.  But, you know what?  Fuck it.  Who needs money?  Who needs sleep?  I'm supposed to be a horror film maker, I can't let Halloween go by uncelebrated.  It wouldn't be right, and besides Sam might come get me for dissing his holiday.  And he's a right nasty little bastard.

So here's the plan:

Write, shoot and edit a short halloween film in the 18 days between now and midnight Halloween.  It must be zero budget, shot in one day or night and be related to Halloween in some way.

I really don't know much more than that so far, don't know what it'll be about, who'll be in it or where it'll be shot.  But you know - there's something really fucking cool about that.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide - Trailer

A trailer has just been released for the Video Nasties box set from Jake West's Nucleus Films.  If you didn't catch our review from last week then check it out here but before you go why not click below and watch the trailer.

Jake West, director of the documentary VIDEO NASTIES: MORAL PANIC,
CENSORSHIP & VIDEOTAPE and co-owner of Nucleus Films, says:
"The Video Nasties era was the most shameful time in British film history that lead to the Video  Recordings Act being enforced under false information. People went to prison and lost their livelihoods because of what happened and that, unfortunately, still has a bearing on what is going on today. Hopefully, what Marc (Morris) and I have served up is a pleasurable but timely reminder that we need to be aware of the kind of rhetoric being used around issues of censorship".

Whilst it is a timely reminder of how easily our basic liberties can be stripped from us under the guise of morality this set is also an absolutely wonderful celebration of all things horror and as far as I am concerned is required viewing for any self-respecting genre enthusiast.

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Monday, 4 October 2010

Video Nasties: The Definitive Guide - DVD Review

What with the BBFC's recent actions in basically making damn sure that the controversial A SERBIAN FILM could not be seen legally in the UK it seems high time to take a good look at the 'Video Nasties' furore which resulted in 72 films being completely banned in the UK and the distribution of copies being punishable by prison sentences.  This DVD box set from Jakes West's (EVIL ALIENS, DOGHOUSE) Nucleus Films company then is a timely release.

The bulk of the 3-disc set is made up of a trailer for each and every one of the 72 titles preceded by a  fairly substantial introduction by an impressively well-informed selection of genre film makers, commentators and enthusiasts.  This actually sounds way drier than the viewing experience ends up being.  It's a familiar format beloved of the many 'list' programmes shown on television these days.

Where those shows usually have some D List celebrity 'reminiscing' about a clip they so fondly remember from the 5 minutes since they were shown it by the producer however, the introductions here are made by people with a genuine love for the genre and that particular era of film making even if they don't particularly like the specific film.

Anybody with even a passing interest in the films in question will be engaged by the sheer depth of knowledge, insight and opinion offered in these introductions.  On the down side, there is inevitably a fair bit of repeated footage used in the intros with selected clips form the trailer often being shown mere seconds before the trailer is seen in its entirety.  It's a small irritation however and one easily overlooked in light of the sheer wealth of films covered.

There are some absolutely wonderful moments of all kinds in this collection.  A personal favourite is the gloriously tasteless THE BEAST IN HEAT (an almost indistinguishable imitation of the wonderfully repugnant ILSA: SHE WOLF OF THE SS) and its scenes of bound naked women being eaten alive by rats, scenes only slightly marred in their ability to horrify by the fact that the rats are in fact, very obviously, gerbils painted black.  Fantastic. Other highlights are genre critic and Frightfest co-organiser, Alan Jones not so fondly remembering the time Lucio Fulci vomited on him after a hard night's drinking and gambling or Chris Smith (CREEP, TRIANGLE) reminiscing over the first time he saw a man's penis pulled off by a hungry yeti.  All the memorable (for the right reasons) moments from these movies are on display here too in all their gory glory.  The woman impaled on the wooden spike from CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST, the eye gouging scene from ZOMBIE FLESH EATERS, the tree rape from THE EVIL DEAD, all present and correct.  It serves as a great reminder of just how innovative and inventive many of these movies were and one of the most striking aspects of this collection is the fairly surprising realisation that although many of the films on the infamous list of 'video nasties' are clearly unmitigated crap, there are a good number of incredibly effective and original movies included. Movies that have gone on to inspire and influence the film makers of today.

This is something clearly illustrated on the third disc which contains Jake West's documentary on the whole affair with contributions.  The film was accused by many as being a little dry when it screened at this year's Frightfest but playing on the small screen this is a fascinating account of what actually happened with contributions from many of the main players in the debate including the man responsible for much of it - Sir Graham Bright.

 Ultimately it is of course a great pleasure for any genre fan to soak up all this information, opinion and footage and what really comes across from this whole set is that nostalgic love for the days of scratchy VHS video and lurid cover art.  These films are not just part of the genre's history but they are a vital part of culture and seeing them collected in this manner paints a beautifully vivid picture of a time in film making history when all the rules changed.  A time which seems incredibly distant now but nonetheless should be remembered and honoured.

Which is what this box set so ably does.


Sunday, 3 October 2010

Frightfest Halloween All-Nighter Line-Up

The UK's biggest horror festival returns to London's Empire Cinema at the end of the month for its annual Halloween all-nighter and with it comes a characteristically intriguing line-up of premieres and previews.

"Revenge Japanese style, American psychos, sharks, cannibal girls and a Finnish nightmare before Christmas  - it can only be Film4 FrightFest’s Halloween all-nighter event – taking place this year at the Empire Cinema 2, Leicester Square on Saturday October 30, 2010.

A fantastic line-up of world or UK premieres, sneak previews and a Retro Classic to scare you, dazzle you, make you jump and creep you out.


Kicking things at 6pm in spectacular fashion we have one of the best films of the year - Japan’s official Oscar contender CONFESSIONS. This twisted revenge saga, directed by ‘KAMIKAZE GIRLS’ Tetsuya Nakashima will take your breath away. Not since Park Chan-Wook’s VENGEANCE trilogy has the psychological warfare of crime and punishment been so brilliantly or elegantly brought to stark life.  

Then it’s up, up and away with ALTITUDE, a remarkably taut Twilight Zone-style tale about high flying teenagers trapped in a deadly showdown with an airborne supernatural force. Next is this year’s Cannes sensation - director Gustavo Hernandez’s haunted house shocker THE SILENT HOUSE.

The Midnight Madness slot goes to CHOOSE - to jolt you into Sunday. Scarlip is the new games master on the shock block in our highly anticipated World Premiere presentation. Then, to follow, there’s grief on THE REEF in the scariest shark chiller since JAWS, the latest wilderness survival thriller from BLACK WATER director Andrew Traucki.

If you’re feeling a bit dozy at this point, it’s time to face ‘The Picture with the WARNING BELL!’ FrightFest proudly presents our 2010 retro classic, Ivan (GHOSTBUSTERS) Reitman’s CANNIBAL GIRLS in all its gruesome gimmick and gag glory.  And we finish off with a Finnish fairytale currently garnering ecstatic world-of-mouth on the festival circuit. RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE is unlike any Santa Claus movie you’ve ever seen before.

Tickets cost £50 and go on sale on Saturday October 2. To book call 08 714 714 714 or go online to: www.empirecinemas.co.uk. For full programme & timetable log onto www.frightfest.co.uk."