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The Battery (2012)
As small and brilliant as they come.
Two friends keep on the move through remote locations to avoid zombie hordes.
Director, writer and actor Jeremy Gardner delivers a break out zombie film that isn't heavily reliant on zombie action set ups but captures character and atmosphere.
Where as many low budget zombie films have poor execution or find it hard to meet expectations, trying to be bigger than they are or come across pretentious The Battery knows it's limits and is self aware. It's a finely constructed, mesmerising, humanistic zombie road trip.
You care about the characters and follow them on their journey, it's not dialogue driven but what there is, is humorous, heartfelt and rings true.
Overall, does what it says on the tin delivering a snap shot of two everyday guys surviving during a zombie apocalypse.
Does what it says on the fantasy horror tin
On a picturesque holiday a group of old old and new friends take a trip to an off limit island and find something thought to be of only fantasy.
With a skimpy dressed cast in amongst the nice scenery and locations there's blood filled impalement, beheading, hacking, stabbings and a creepy Mermaid. Nymph is a strong horror entry especially during it's atmospheric night segments as men are enticed by the sounds of the mermaid. The interesting aged Montenegero locations add a different look and feel to the proceedings. At times reminiscent of Dagon, to director Milan Todorovic's credit it sets the scene with an early killing, then builds up to a claret finale while taking a leaf out of Jaws (1975) book by keeping the 'monster' unseen until the final act.
Played straight, the actress Zorana Kostic Obradovic and Mina Sablic's mermaid steal the show, second to Miodrag Krstovic, a Castro lookalike protagonist and of course there's Franco Nero in a fitting role as Niko- an old salty sea dog amongst the easy on the eye cast including the notable Natalie Burn, Sofija Rajovic and Kristina Klebe. Yes some cast members sometimes struggle with the English dialogue, accents and the editing and pacing at times is a little off but it adds to the quirky off beat charm that Nymph/Mamula/Killer Mermaid posses.
Overall, this Euro part horror mystery, part slasher flick and campfire tale does what it says on the fantasy horror tin. Entertaining.
The Dead 2: India (2013)
Equals the first zombie instalment
The dead are returning to life and attacking the living. An American wind turbine engineer with the help of a local boy attempt a 300 mile journey to reunite with his pregnant Indian girlfriend.
Brothers Howard and Jonathan Ford add an usually unexplored religious angle with the obligatory social commentary subtext making The Dead 2: India as relevant as it's predecessor. While not as eerie as the first and lacking some logic in both dialogue and decision making, with Nicholas Burton's (played by Joseph Milson) seemingly six sense knowledge of what's going on there's still plenty to enjoy.
The India setting and on location shoot gives part two a realistic gritty, dusty and atmospheric feel. The traditional shambling dead are creepy enough and retain an air of menace with their biting and tearing of flesh, although their white eyes do feel slightly dated and over used. That's said, there's more gunplay, more blood and more zombies. With gripping stand out scenes, the crashed car execution, convoy executions, parachute escape and a car going over a cliff to name a few. The directors also deliver some excellent visual moments, a motor cycle blazing across the Indian wastelands, forgotten temples, grand cities, hovering helicopters, jets and burning slums to name a few.
This Ford Brother offering is probably the most grounded undead film since their first outing and Romero's original trilogy. The director/writers again manage to give their zombie outing scope with a fantastic naturalistic visual style as the engineer and boy go from one village to the next complemented by Imran Ahmad's music score.
Overall, while not as tension filled and ominous as The Dead, The Dead 2 doesn't try to reinvent the wheel giving the viewer a much needed solid and serious piece of zombie entertainment. Recommend.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
Didn't need a remake but still turtly good
April O'Neil takes on the Foot Clan which has been terrorizing the city with the help of her childhood friends.
It's a basic good versus evil film which fairs better than its previous counter parts, but it arguably didn't need to be remade, nevertheless it's here. The Turtles themselves are fittingly written which should appease fans, the one liners really to hit the spot, from Batman gags to pizza slicing and a cat playing chopsticks, the humour is as good as the dark story threads and action. Meg Fox does a great job with April in what could have been a two dimensional character.
Okay so Shredders costume design is a little puffed up (like he just walked out of a Wolverine film) and Splinter's voice doesn't quite fit. In addition, Splinters and Shredders hatred relationship isn't quiet reasoned. The Foot Clan is already well established and there's a lot of rushed exposition. That aside, director Jonathan Liebesman offers some great locations, staging and action set ups from off and surprisingly the writers manage to hit all the right spots and add some changes to the turtle mythos which works. However, there is an abundance of Turtle back story thrown in the dialogue and flashbacks, too much in fact.
Still there's Brian Tyler's score which is a little icing on the cake. Also the mutant turtles are wonderfully realised, the special effects are done well.
Overall, while some motivations are questionable this really is an enjoyable piece of action comedy entertainment, more so than that other Michael Bay film. Recommend.
Deliver Us from Evil (2014)
Derrickson's Exorcist 3 meets Seven.
New York police officer Ralph Sarchie joins forces with an unconventional priest, to battle the evil which is plaguing their city.
Imagine the gritty on location feel reminiscent of Seven and Training Day mixed with the Exorcist 3 and you pretty much have Deliver Us from Evil. Packed with jump scares and given that added creepiness factor due to the based on a actual events, Scott Derrickson's offering (who brought us Sinister) is wonderfully filmed.
The supporting cast are excellent and lead Eric Bana's Sarchie is riveting as the flawed everyday man. Both Édgar Ramírez and Sean Harris give nonchalant stellar performances. Yes the final act is a little overblown but the believable tension filled first three quarters offers plenty of genuine shocks.
Recommend for the atmosphere and on location ambiance that Derrickson's and crew creates which spans from the Middle East to New York.
The Purge: Anarchy (2014)
Surpasses the first
Due to a series of events a group of people are unintentionally left on the streets right as the annual purge commences.
Whereas the first instalment was very much confined to a house, with the premises being interesting, it fell short turning into Panic Room by the end. With The Purge: Anarchy you get the sweeping feeling of scope across the whole city. Also you get an insight into the under belly of the Purge evocative of Hostel 2. Actor Frank Grillo is particularly notable and gives a great performance.
Reminiscent of Judgement Night and more recently Aftershock; being hunted down, chased through the city, it oozes tension. It's well filmed and acted and not a straight to DVD follow up like Hostel 3.
While it may not answer all Purge questions, for example what happens if some dies after the Purge of injuries sustained during the Purge it gives a feel of what happens across America on Purge night.
What it boils down to is that if you enjoyed James DeMonaco's first the second will surpass expectations.
If a cult icon wish came true...
A group of female prisoners are assembled to infiltrate a people trafficking prison for a daring rescue.
For novelty cult value you can't beat this offering, shortly after watching The Expendables I made a wish list for a female version, and to Asylums credit both 80s stars Brigitte Nielsen and Cynthia Rothrock appear, sadly Grace Jones is not included, but there could always be a sequel (with Nielsen's return).
Nielsen puts in an entertaining evil performance and Vivica A. Fox battles through. Okay so the characters don't have second names, yes the stunt men extras act like they just stepped out of the A-Team, granted the effects and sets lack some lustre but there's some solid action pieces mostly involving Loken or Zoe Bell. On top of that you have a few humorous one liners, violence and gun play. It's B action cult gold.
Yes it's a pity it doesn't have a big budget look but what it lacks in production values it makes up for it with it's fun ensemble cast, take it with a pinch of salt and you'll have a blast.
The Machine (2013)
Caity Lotz is impressive amongst the array of sci-fi
When a scientist is killed, Britain's Ministry of Defence clash with a lead scientist over plans for an artificially intelligent, self-aware and conscious android.
Inventive, visually interesting science fiction, packed with an array of sci-fi ideas. With an wealth of unapologetic camera light flare and well executed effects Caradog W. James The Machine delivers a thinking man's sci-fi with action thrown in for good measure. Computer scientists Caity Lotz and Toby Stephens give good innings with Lotz stealing the show in a dual role.
With echoes of Vangelis and Jean Michel Jarre, Tom Raybould's score helps smooth over any flaws of the film. In addition, making up for some clunky paced and staged scenes is the design of The Machine with her stylised look and robotic soft voice which will stick in the mind long after the credits.
With some great special effects and some strong performances this is solid entry in modern British sci-fi. James delivers a brooding, stylish and highly atmospheric science fiction. Recommended.
Gallows Hill (2013)
Worth watching for the atmosphere and Carolina Guerra
After a car crash a group of people take sanctuary in an old hotel, only to find a girl in a basement that is not all she seems.
Gallows Hill A.K.A The Damned is packed with atmosphere and wonderfully shot by Richard D'Ovidio. As a creepy tale in a large decrypted hotel it works well but as horror piece it falls short. Sophia Myles (when not possessed) is on fine form and Carolina Guerra is simply outstanding as Gina leaving her co-stars in her wake.
There's blood, shootings, twisted heads and fantastic settings but unfortunately the well trodden Exorcist and Evil Dead style demonic voices fail to give big scares. This offering is debatably not as strong as some atmospheric horrors Livid, REC, The Beckoning (2009), or The Orphanage to name a few.
That said, The Damned is still worth watching for its eerie ambiance created in the first half and Carolina Guerra performance.
Schwarzenegger's performance saves the unevenness
Members of an elite corrupt DEA task force find themselves being hunted down one by one.
A seemingly nihilistic, gritty actioner that's shot with kinetic camera work by director David Ayer. Arnold Schwarzenegger is fine form here as the disgraced task force leader, the supporting cast are an array of familiar faces including another Terminator franchise actor Sam Worthington. Notable are both Josh Holloway as Eddie 'Neck' and Joe Manganiello (Grinder) with Mireille Enos giving a memorable action packed introduction as Lizzy Murray.
Sabotage is rough, bloody, very antihero and void of much of the traditional Hollywood gloss which is refreshing. While there's some interesting twists from Ayer and writer Skip Woods this part mystery unravels along with its pace in the latter half with an uneven oddly edited chase. However, thanks to Schwarzenegger's performance it redeems itself in the closing.
If unsavoury characters and hard hitting action thrillers are your thing, Sabotage is worth a viewing.