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Entertaining take on a slasher
27 September 2014
This latest release from Lucky McKee, the man who brought us the fantastic The Woman and the very original May, and co-director Chris Sivertson (The Lost) strays from their more serious tone and delivers us a new take on the slasher movie.

The story centers around Maddy, a high school student, as she attempts to infiltrate the slimy world of cheerleading and jocks at her school.

After a very memorable opening the story flows along at a great pace, never feeling bogged down by itself but avoiding feeling rushed, and the audience is kept interested with some nice plot developments and twists.

The actors do a solid job all around, and in particular the female leads are way above par for this type of production. Caitlin Stasey did a great job as Maddy, and I am definitely looking forward to seeing her develop her career, hopefully in horror. Okay some of the SFX look a little basic, but the movie didn't have a huge budget and it really doesn't detract from the film.

We are treated to some of the silliness that is expected of a film from this sub-genre, and of course not all of the decisions the characters take are logical, but the way the film is made is reminiscent of some of the best teen horror of the 90's, which for me can only be a good thing.

The biggest plus for me is that the directors have imbued a definite feminist slant into the movie, which is something I absolutely love, and something that can be found in Lucky McKee's other work. In a similar vein to Chastity Bites (also recommended), the directors have taken a familiar concept and updated and revived it, to provide audiences with a fresh angle, and I think making horror, particularly slashers, more empowering to women can only ever be a good thing.

The obligatory teen-horror tropes are there, the pretty cheerleaders, the jocks, making the whole setup feel comfortingly familiar to those of us who are partial to a good slasher. But McKee uses his talents to nicely subvert the traditional 'pretty girl gets slashed to bits' thread and provide us with an entertaining watching experience in the company of some female lead characters who seem distinct, more than mere stereotypes. You grow to like them, particularly Maddy, Caitlin Stasey's character, which is more than can be said for many female characters in slasher movies. Maddy and Leena in particular appear to be rounded characters, with something about them which will hopefully provide strength of character for the next installments of this.

The gore was minimal but well done, and the adding of supernatural elements to a traditional slasher film really worked. Think The Craft meets Friday the 13th but updated for the 21st century and that is what All Cheerleaders Die feels like.

It won't revolutionise the horror world, and it certainly isn't 'serious' horror, but if you're looking for a movie to have a laugh with, and one that is a little different from the norm, then you could do far worse than All Cheerleaders Die. Recommended. 7/10
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Avenged (2013)
Appalling, hilarious attempt at 'supernatural rape revenge'
15 April 2014
I saw this at Leeds Night of the Dead horror festival last year. It was atrocious. In a room full of hardened, full-on horror fans it got absolutely laughed off the screen.

I am usually very fair with movies, and if they have tried hard in at least some aspect of their production, I will reflect that with a fair score and review. This movie, however, deserves none of that.

It is full of inconsistencies and logical flaws, but worse than that is the fact that the makers of this thought that they could spice up the rape revenge sub-genre by making it half supernatural. Eh? How in the world do those two types of horror movie fit? The answer is that they don't. At all. The ending shot looks and sounds like a cheap whiskey commercial, and after watching it I wished I could have downed a bottle in order to forget that I'd lost 90 minutes of my life on this movie.

Everyone in the audience was laughing at the unintentionally cheesy or just plain ridiculous plot/characters/script and the sound of derision filled the air as it ended. Save your time and money guys.
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Really not that bad
13 March 2014
First off, I think a 3.9 rating on here is a little harsh. I have seen a ton of movies far far more deserving of a 3 rating than this.

Secondly, this movie is not so disgusting you'll want to tear your eyes out. Yes, it has some gross parts, but for all the reviewers screaming about how revolting it is, chill out. If you're a horror fan you're going to see many more disgusting films than this in your time. Granted, if you're looking for a chick-flick, it might be more grim than usual. Or depending on your point of view, possibly not.

It's The Human Centipede, and if you're going into the 2nd installment of a film like this, you know exactly what you're in for and exactly what the main gist is. I found this one to be a lot better than the first - in pacing, storyline, acting, just about everything was better. It was darker than the first, and really tried to give more of an insight into the antagonist. Being shot fully in black and white was a great touch, it made it a little different and really added to the bleakness.

There were some glaringly obvious logical errors here and there, and it is by no means one of the best films ever made, but it was decent and a vast improvement on its predecessor.
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The Crazies (1973)
Excellent character driven desperation
23 November 2013
This was one of the few Romero films I hadn't seen before, and after seeing it I have no idea why I waited so long!

This very low budget movie about a town infected with a virus via its water supply has the classic Romero feel, in that the film focuses far more on the people affected than the situation at hand. The acting is not the best you'll ever see, but believable, and you do feel for the characters all the way until the end. The sense of desperation he manages to create is impressive and the film is completely engrossing from start to finish. While perhaps not quite at the height of his Dead trilogy, this is one Romero movie you can't miss.
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Hatchet III (2013)
Decent kills, refreshes the series
23 November 2013
I'll be the first to admit that I am not the biggest Hatchet fan in the world; I find them a bit contrived and the CGI blood & guts is something I'm not too keen on, but I can appreciate that they have a sense of fun and a smidgen of of old school slasher about them.

This third instalment in the series provides us with more of the stuff we saw in the first 2; some decent kills, plenty of creative beheadings and a few good moments of tension. My favourite thing about this movie is the appearance of several horror veterans, Caroline Williams gave a particularly enjoyable performance, and the pacing and emphasis on horror over comedy made this episode in the Hatchet series far more enjoyable than the 2nd. Danielle Harris was great again, lighting up the screen for her scenes, she is invariably the best thing about most movies she is in and she delivers again here.

Overall, for fans of the series, it is worth a watch. Otherwise it has enough to be a background movie, it won't be making any top 10 lists but it was decent enough and there was, of course, the obligatory 'cliffhanger ending', should anyone require Hatchet IV.
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The Church (1989)
Surreal supernatural effort
13 February 2013
I went into watching this film because I was on an Argento kick and was trying to devour as much of his work as possible. After watching this, myself and a friend of mine decided we weren't classing this as Argento anymore. It is directed by Michele Soavi, who directed Dellamorte Dellamore, a film I love and so I figured that the combination of two great directors would produce something special. It didn't work for me.

Watching this in the middle of my Argento-a-thon, it just didn't fit. Far from the Giallo style Argento is so amazing at, this is tale of a big Gothic cathedral, built over a mass gravesite, which is developing powers to trap people inside it. It's a fairly bizarre concept and filmed in such a way that I just couldn't get in to it. For starters the pacing was all off; it would cut from action scenes to bizarre, seemingly unrelated scenes for quite some time, then back in for some more of the people trapped in a church. It was jarring and felt confused, and I just didn't take to it at all.

The location of the cathedral and the architecture were brilliant and really lent an added depth to the film, likewise the cinematography and score were both good. The acting was hit and miss and the overall storyline left a lot to be desired, for me.

It all boils down to personal taste really, and I tend to prefer a more real threat in my movies - a homicidal maniac, a black-gloved killer or a chainsaw-wielding nut are much more up my street than demons are, and so it takes something a little more special than The Church to get me to really love a demon-based horror.

It's not a terrible movie, but it's really nothing special, and having seen it, I wouldn't bother to watch it again.
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American Mary (2012)
Gorgeous & gory, a must-see horror
31 January 2013
This is a film that has all the makings of a cult horror movie, and my god does it pack a punch. Gutsy, gory and gloriously unique, American Mary is a film that has propelled itself into the top ranks of my favourite horror movies. To say that this stylish, innovative and riveting piece is only the Soska sister's second directorial work is astounding. I was blown away by the storyline and by how beautiful the cinematography was, directed with such style and perfection, but with no fear of dark, gritty shots of blood and gore, everything about this film was incredible.

We are taken on a journey following Mary, a talented med school student, who comes to realise that the world she is entering is not what she thought it was. I do not need to tell you the details of the story, indeed this film will be more of a pleasure to you if you avoid reading details and just see it.

There are some scenes that are amazingly creepy, and the Soska's show they can ramp up the tension and bizarre factor in both subtle and glaring ways, and both are just as effective. It is disturbing and shocking, but delightful for being so. The surgery scenes are so well shot that it's impossible to look away, and they did such a good job of making me feel so deeply for Mary that when things begin to happen to and around her, I felt as brutalised as she did. This super-effective characterisation is in part down to fantastic writing, and of course down to the sensational performance that Katharine Isabelle delivers here. She carries much of the film on her own and is simply incredible. A thoroughly solid performance, she brings Mary to life as someone we equally feel for and fear, which is no easy task. She makes Mary personable yet brilliantly insane, in a haunting, creepy and oh so sexy performance. For me this is the stand out performance of the last few years, indeed Katherine Isabelle brings here one of the most impressive solo performances I've ever come across in horror.

The Soska sister's cameo in American Mary brought about one of the creepiest sections, filled with the bizarre and I loved it.

This is such a unique film, people are labelling it 'body-horror', and I can understand that, but for me it transcends the labels any one sub- genre can impose on it. It is sadistic, bloody and psychological, with some bizarre and gloriously disturbed scenes, and also provides moments of tension and sadness. It is an amalgam of a lot of great things in horror, and it works wonderfully.

I cannot recommend this film enough. You have to see it. I have no doubt in my mind that Jen and Sylvia Soska are going to go on to become legends in our genre. I adore that some of the most creative, impressive work in a long time has come from female directors; we need more of them and I, for one, am damn happy that the Soskas are here. I think they're going to be here to stay.
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Confusing yet captivating Giallo
25 November 2012
Four Flies on Grey Velvet is the third of Argento's films, and the third I have seen. It stars Michael Brandon as Roberto Tobias and Mimsy Farmer as his wife, Nina Tobias, and is the third and final film in the unofficial 'Animal Trilogy', the others being The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and The Cat O'Nine Tails. Of the three, I would consider this one to be the weakest in storyline, and consequently the most confusing, although the final scene is the best ending of any of the films. 

The film is fragmented and sometimes maniacally shot, with scenes being edited together in such as way so that as a viewer you are never quite sure which part of the film you are seeing. This works quite well at building up the confusion, as in typical Giallo style there are a lot of characters and a lot of red herrings, pseudo reveals and possible villains. The storyline itself concerns the protagonist being blackmailed over an accident that occurs at the very start of the film, and from there on, we are taken on a chaotic and pretty befuddling journey of kills, private investigators, flashbacks and an array of characters. Sadly the kills were very tame, even for Giallos of the time, and I can't help but feel that, although the film built tension very well, and the suspense did ratchet up throughout, there would have been a lot more suspense if the kills had been more shocking. The acting is not top class, Brandon being particularly stale in some scenes, but I'd be lying if I said Mimsy Farmer wasn't captivating in the final few minutes. 

As in all of Argento's films, the beauty is there in the visuals, and although this is not as visually striking as his other films, there is one scene where a woman is in a park in the daytime, surrounded by creepy carnival music and lots of playing children. All of a sudden the park turns to darkness and we see the woman running through an increasingly mazy, fog-filled scene, trying desperately to escape her pursuer. This is one of the most beautifully shot pieces of the film, and, barring the ending, the most stunning visually. It showcases Argento's immense skill at building suspense in eerily beautiful surroundings. Another captivating visual is the frequent dreamscapes/flashbacks to a person being beheaded in a very washed out desert setting, which is also probably the most graphic scene in Four Flies. This becomes all the more mesmerising after the credits begin to roll.

Overall, while it is not the best of Argento's first three films, it is still definitely worth a watch, and although it can be confusing at times, it is not overwhelmingly so. It is a good suspenseful film, and the ending is memorable and very well done. 

I recommend it to anyone who likes Giallos, wants to see older Euro-Horror or is interested in watching something s little different. 6/10 
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Enter Nowhere (2011)
Gripping indie thriller - but definitely NOT a horror
5 June 2012
I'm a massive horror fan. I pretty much only watch horror. So I picked this one expecting it to be just that. Right away, let me tell you that it isn't horror in any way. There wasn't a single horror element that I could pick out, so if you're looking purely for horror then this isn't for you.

Having said that, it was a good film. More of a sci-fi film than anything else, the story revolves around three people who find themselves stuck in the middle of the woods, with no way of going for help and dwindling supplies. It was shot very well, making the audience feel the sense of isolation that pervaded the place, and it was heavy on characterisation, which was also well done, meaning that by the end we really cared about the characters. I won't give too many more details about the film, because this is a film which is better the less you know going into it, but by the time the twist comes you're really believing in the characters and willing them to do well.

I didn't see the twist (but that's probably because I never watch sci- fi) and I thought it was pretty interesting. It really made me think more into the film, and remember bits from the start. I'm still thinking about the ending now, which is the mark of a good film for me. It got into my head and made me think it all through.

I gave it 6/10 because I enjoyed it, it made me think, but I don't understand why it was labelled horror and now that I know the twist, I wouldn't watch it again. It's worth 90 minutes of your time though
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Apartment 143 (2011)
Better than Paranormal Activity, but that doesn't take much
28 May 2012
'Found Footage'/shot at home style horror movies are 10 a penny these days, mostly because they are relatively cheap and easy to film. As such, it takes a lot to make them original because there are so damn many of them. This had it's moments of originality but for the most part was same-old, same-old. However, Apartment 143 starts out a lot better than most, jumping straight into the story without the tedious back story of the investigators or family padding out the first half, which was a good move.

The basic story is that there are some spooky goings on surrounding a family consisting of Dad, daughter Caitlin and son Benny. The investigators pitch up in their house and stay there, setting up their equipment and monitoring the situation. There are a few jump scenes thrown in here and there, and some rather confusing explanations as to what is causing the phenomena.

The acting was mostly decent throughout, and the way the investigators conducted themselves was a lot more interesting than the typical cliché investigators, who freak out at the slightest thing.

The reason the Paranormal Activity money-grabbers are so dull is that virtually nothing happens, and if it does it happens right at the end of the movie. Thankfully Apartment 143 does give the viewer some supernatural goings on very quickly, and they are not badly done, but overall I felt it was just a little boring. Nothing like as bad as PA, and I watched the whole way through, but it wasn't 'edge of your seat' stuff, and none of the jump scenes got me.

The one thing I did like was how the tension built for the one scene where they are using the constant flash on the camera. I thought that was really well done, and the best scene in the movie.

All in all, it wasn't a bad found footage movie, and it might scare you a bit if you're not a horror buff, but for any aficionados it wasn't up to much. See it rather than Paranormal Activity, but for something better with more scares, grab Grave Encounters instead.
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Stunning location, tense & intriguing
27 May 2012
2 girls go on a cycling holiday to France. When one of them goes missing, it's up to the other one to try to find out what is going on and try to save her friend.

The set up of this was pretty slow but it built up the atmosphere and tension really well. It is set in the French countryside and the sunshine is relentless, which was a nice change from horror movies being shot in a lot of darkness. A lot of the time people are speaking French and the protagonist doesn't understand the language, as there are no subtitles the audience doesn't either, which I thought was clever.

While the ending was not unexpected, the amount of suspects did keep me guessing for a while and the film kept the tension building the whole way through. Pamela Franklin did a good job carrying the film mostly on her shoulders, and overall I think it was a very good, tense little thriller. It wasn't particularly scary, so don't see it if you're wanting a good fright, but as a thriller it was pretty good.
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Heartless (I) (2009)
Heartless….it was anything but
18 October 2011
Wonderfully, powerfully, moving and thought-provoking. It is a rare thing for a horror film to genuinely touch me, but Heartless did just that. It was such an odd mixture of creature-feature horror, a stunningly emotive story and fantastic characterisation that it really defies classification.

One thing I do know, however, is that watching Heartless gave me an experience like no other 'horror' film I've seen. The scare moments were in there, and I jumped in all the right places, but the deeper storyline, so brilliantly given life by Jim Sturgess and Nikita Mistry, was what made this film stand out as one of the best I have seen all year. As a general rule I'm not fond of creature/demon based films, because human beings are a lot scarier to me than something that doesn't exist, but far from being just a quest to scare you, this felt like a film that also compelled you to think, and that is where it excelled.

The characters were refreshingly three-dimensional, and I really grew to care for them, which made the story all the more engaging – I wanted things to be alright for Jamie, I was rooting for him, and the deeper I got into the story, the scarier it became. That is how horror should work, it should suck you in to a point where you feel what the protagonists are feeling; that is how to produce a real scare. Not just in a jump out of your seat moment, but in the moments after the film has ended and beyond, where you think and contemplate what you may have done in the situation.

The direction was excellent and the actual cinematography and use of photographs within the film was gorgeous. The standout element though was by far the superb acting throughout the entire piece. The leads in particular were impressive, but all of the supporting cast were stellar too.

Heartless was a winner for me, because it is a film that I know will stay with me for a long time, and could well become one of my go-to films when someone asks me for a gem.
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The Orphanage (2007)
Stunning, heartfelt horror
2 October 2011
Achingly sad is a term I have never used before to describe a horror movie, but it captures 'El Orfanato' perfectly.

This tale revolves around a young family who move into an orphanage where the mother resided as a child. They intend to re-open it as a home for disabled children, but as we get to know them the realisation dawns that they are not alone in the house.

What starts with the premise of being a classic haunted house tale, including the new vogue for stories of this kind – i.e. creepy children, is actually transformed into something which takes it from a standard horror to something much more powerful. With powerful emotional performances, especially from the lead actress x (as mother Laura), who was sensational in her portrayal of grief, this ghost story transcended its genre and turned into a touching, desperate account of a mother driven mad by the disappearance of her son.

The audience couldn't fail to be moved almost to tears as we follow what essentially becomes Laura's story, and the Spanish language made it somehow more realistic for me. I do hope this film doesn't get an English-language remake. It is so unique for a horror film to move me close to tears, alongside providing a wonderfully built up, tense and creepy atmosphere, and this is where El Orfanato comes into its own. There is a slow-burning build up to the emotionally-wrought finale, and the direction, acting and score (which is quite impressive on its own, especially the end credit music) each add something to this brilliantly atmospheric piece. Indeed, the creation and sustaining of the atmosphere is probably the films highest point, because it build in you a classic horror tension, whilst letting you into the personal grief and sadness of Laura at the same time.

There are some shock moments, and jumps hidden amongst the twists and turns of the plot, but this is not a film to see if you are looking to be scared witless by your horror. More, this is an entirely different film which is seeking to add depth and something more to the horror genre than cheap thrills and moments that make might make you jump but ultimately add nothing to the story.

Each part of the film was well made, acted and directed and all go to making this film one of the most unique horrors I have come across. 8/10
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Chain Letter (2009)
Boring, predictable teen-slasher
25 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Another day, another horror movie where teenagers are killed off, in no particular inventive way whatsoever.

Firstly, this film is exactly what it says. The tag line of "If you don't send it on, you die", should give you enough of a clue as to how bad this film is. And that is probably one of the wittier lines 'Chain Letter' has produced.

Everything about this film was bad. The concept, that not sending on a chain letter will have some manic, chain/axe wielding nutter chasing after you, tracking your movements through GPS and hacking into your computer to watch you through your own web cam (despite the fact that the chain letter in that particular case was received on a phone and at no point on the computer in question), was pushing it, to say the least, but if it had been well plotted, written and acted it could just have made it. Unfortunately, it was none of these. The writing was terrible and whenever there was a 'reveal' (not very often, I might add), the writers dumbed down this film so much that they had to literally spell out every last thing.

With the exception of Nikki Reed, who played Jessie, the film featured some pretty poor acting. And the plot holes and ridiculous inconsistencies and errors made this teen-gets-killed worse than many of its counterparts.

For example - the first death. A body is that badly mutilated, by a killer we have no trace of, yet it is released to be buried 2 days afterwards? No way would that ever happen. Also, the police would not interrogate people at the actual funeral. I don't know if this film was created specifically for morons, but if not, please credit your audience with a little more intelligence than that.

The second death, where the engine falls on Dante - how would the police know that was murder on the same day? The guy said he fixed it onto the ceiling himself, why on earth would the police assume someone murdered him, rather than the more obvious solution of the engine falling because it wasn't affixed properly?

The third death, where the killer bursts through a skylight (!) - by this stage 3/4 people have been killed and the police are assuming it's the same killer. His own sister has been killed, in the house. Disregarding the fact that that house would be a crime scene just one day on, where the hell are the kids parents? They've just lost a daughter and yet someone can make all the commotion they like, climbing onto a roof and smashing through a skylight to drag their son through it, and the parents do not hear a single thing. Unbelievable. Plus, why have the storyline building up to something about an anti-technology cult, which would have been quite interesting, and then never explore it in any depth?

There are so many more annoying, ridiculous things about this movie but it would take me all night to list them all.

Overall, the shock moments were cheap and predictable, and didn't make me jump once. The storyline was full of plot holes big enough to fit on ocean liner through, the kills were uninventive and not even particularly gory, and when there would have been gore, the camera cut away! The writing was stilted, the acting was wooden and the mistakes drove me mad.

The single payoff came right at the end, and if I hadn't seen it coming would have been the best bit of the film. Seriously, don't bother. 2/10, because sadly, I have seen (slightly) worse.
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Jumpy, creepy and an all-round good ghost story!
4 September 2011
I watched Grave Encounters last night and I am delighted to say it actually scared me!

As a die-hard horror addict, I've seen my fair share of dross and cheap jump moments, and I'm nearly always disappointed that I don't get scared, and while Grave Encounters wasn't unique or new, it did take the elements it had and freshen them up.

Lance Preston and his 'Grave Encounters' team are ghost hunters. Like Most Haunted or any of those other shows, they start out trying to make things as dramatic as possible for the camera. By the end we see Lance deteriorating so that the camera essentially becomes his solace.

This film took the 'handycam' style and ramped it up. There were shocks, true jump out of your seat moments and some really scary parts to this film. It was better than I was expecting, the acting was solid throughout and although it was slow to start I actually enjoyed that more because it brought a very creepy, isolated atmosphere to the whole shebang.

Grave Encounters, for me anyway, had the sort of ghostly shocks and scares and excellent jump moments that Paranormal Activity SHOULD have had. This was better than the previously mentioned disappointment, and more overtly scary than Blair Witch, which is the film it will be most compared to. It didn't shove a load of horror clichés in, which is always a plus, and it didn't feel predictable at any point.

My advice would be to NOT watch the trailer, you'll be much more scared if you don't know what's coming! Late night, lights out and sound all the way up is the way to go if you want to enjoy yourself with Grave Encounters!

I'd give Grave Encounters a solid 7/10 because, while it could have been better, it spent at least an hour building up the scares and I didn't love the ending, my overall feeling is that this is a scary, jumpy horror that I would definitely watch again.
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