Category Archives: Home Media

Review: Krampus: The Christmas Devil (dir. Jason Hull, 2013)

Krampus the Christmas Devil

Krampus the Christmas Devil
USA, 2013
Director/Writer: Jason Hull

Review by N Emmett.

Krampus – the devil who, in Austrian folklore, punishes naughty children at Christmas – has been something of an international star lately. He has starred in his very own comic series from Image, and will be getting the Hollywood treatment later this year. Alas, his recent fortunes are sullied somewhat by his appearance in this clunker.

Let’s get this over with. Krampus: The Christmas Devil is a badly-made film. It is seriously amateurish in just about every regard. The plot is rudimentary, the direction is home-video level and the editing is painfully erratic. Even the most basic shots are poorly thought-out, with clumsy composition and distracting business at the sides of the frame. The film is loaded with sound editing anomalies: screams that are obviously the same two samples being looped, background noise abruptly cutting out, volume changing within the same scene, and the occasional mysterious buzzing.

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Review: The Falling (dir. Carol Morley, 2014)

The Falling

The Falling
UK, 2014
Director/Writer: Carol Morley

Review by N Emmett.

Abbie (Florence Pugh) and Lydia (Maisie Williams) are two adolescent pupils of a girls’ school in 1960s England. Abbie is already sexually active, having slept with Lydia’s brother Kenneth (Joe Cole). She becomes pregnant, but never gives birth – she drops one day in the school hallway and dies shortly afterwards.

Following the death of her best friend, Lydia begins taking on some of Abbie’s mannerisms and behaviour. She even begins pursuing sexual relations with Kenneth, despite the two of them being siblings.

Is Lydia possessed by the ghost of Abbie? If so, she is apparently not the only one. All around the school, girls begin acting in strange ways; many faint, while others begin shaking and convulsing as though taking part in an animistic ritual.

A project of writer-director Carol Morley, The Falling is an ambiguous piece of work that can be read as a psychological ghost story. Even if the girls are not literally being possessed by Abbie’s spirit, her carefree, rule-breaking influence is clearly lingering on.

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Review: Dead & Buried (dir. Gary Sherman, 1981)

Dead & Buried

Dead & Buried
USA, 1981
Director: Gary Sherman
Writers: Ronald Shusett and Dan O’Bannon

Review by N Emmett.

A photographer heads to the tiny fishing town of Potters Bluff to get some snaps. On the beach, he is approached by an attractive young woman who allows him to take photographs of her topless. The seduction, it turns out, is a trap: while he is engrossed, a band of locals abduct him, douse him with petrol, and set him on fire.

The town’s sheriff (James Farentino) investigates the crime, which turns out to be the first in a series of killings. He soon realises that something strange is going on – particularly when the murdered cameraman is spotted alive and well and living in Potters Bluff…

With a plot that involves corpses being brought to life by a vague method referred to as “Voodooism”, Dead & Buried is a zombie film. However, its treatment of the theme is far closer to Invasion of the Body Snatchers or The Stepford Wives than to anything by George A. Romero. The main concept on offer here is that the revenants are able to blend in perfectly with the living, adding a touch of paranoia as the protagonist tries to figure out which of the townspeople can be trusted.

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Review: The Possession of Michael King (dir. David Jung, 2014)

House of Mortal Sin

The Possession of Michael King
USA, 2014
Director: David Jung
Writers: David Jung and Tedi Sarafian

Review by N Emmett.

Michael King is left bereaved when his wife dies in an accident; as her fate was an indirect result of advice given to her by a fortune teller, Michael develops a hatred of anybody who encourages belief in the supernatural. He takes it upon himself to make a documentary which disproves the existence of paranormal phenomena.

Taking place in Los Angeles, Michael’s journey pits him not only against a Catholic priest but also against followers of fringe beliefs such as Satanism. He partakes in a ritual to invoke Haungore, a demon which preys on unbelievers and drives them to insanity. Slowly but surely, the once-skeptical Michael comes to realise that there is truth in this story…

The Possession of Michael King is not strictly speaking a found footage film, as it is not shot entirely from the point of view of Michael’s camera. However, its first act is rooted very much in mockumentary as Michael has himself filmed as he consorts with Satanists, mediums and necromancers.

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Review: House of Mortal Sin, aka The Confessional (dir. Pete Walker, 1976)

House of Mortal Sin

House of Mortal Sin
UK, 1976
Director: Pete Walker
Writer: David McGillivray

Review by N Emmett.

A young woman named Jenny (Susan Penhaligon) is involved in an on-and-off relationship with a two-timing rogue named Terry (Stewart Bevan). In a fit of desperation, she visits a local church and speaks to the priest, Father Meldrum (Anthony Sharp), for advice; in the process, she confesses to having had an abortion.

Jenny departs from the confessional in a hurry, but soon finds that Meldrum has taken an obsessive interest in her. The men in her life begin to fall victim to brutal assaults, and the priest turns out to have recorded her admission to being involved in abortion – placing him in a position to blackmail her as he chooses…

As with Pete Walker’s earlier film House of Whipcord, House of Mortal Sin is a film about the conflict between cruel, hypocritical establishment and victimised youth. Father Meldrum is allowed to get away with his crimes because he is a trusted authority figure, while Jenny is dismissed as a mere hysterical girl by the police. Indeed, Meldrum is shown to have put other girls through similar treatment: in the prologue, one of his past victims returns home in tears and promptly commits suicide.

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Review: Children of Sorrow (dir. Jourdan McClure, 2012)

Children of Sorrow

Children of Sorrow
UK, 2015
Director: Jourdan McClure
Writers: Ryan Finnerty and Jourdan McClure

Review by N Emmett.

Out in the Texas desert, Father Simon Leach (Bill Oberst Jr.) maintains a reclusive religious community. He regards his youthful followers as his children, and promises them a happy, wholesome life and a ticket to Heaven.

What at first seems like a clean, earthy lifestyle turns out to have a much darker edge. Father Simon has placed himself in a position of total authority over his flock, and begins exacting harsh punishments on those who step out of line. And God forbid any of them try to escape…

Praise the Lord, Children of Sorrow is one of those rare miracles: a found footage horror film that has managed to escape from the shadow of The Blair Witch Project. The camera is passed between multiple members of the cult, including Father Simon himself, in a joint effort to chronicle day-to-day life on the religious compound; the end result is closer to a mockumentary than the typical lost-in-the-woods fare.

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Review: Curse of the Witching Tree (dir. James Crow, 2015)

Curse of the Witching Tree

Curse of the Witching Tree
UK, 2015
Director/writer: James Crow

Review by N Emmett.

After her husband falls into a coma, Amber Thorson (Sarah Rose Denton) moves into a farmhouse with her children Jake (Lawrence Weller) and Emma (Lucy Clarvis) It turns out that the house was built near the Witching Tree, where a woman was hanged for witchcraft five hundred years beforehand.

Twelve-year-old Jake begins experiencing supernatural phenomena and concludes that the witch is still haunting the house. It is up to Emma, the eldest child, to convince their highly-strung mother that desperate measures are needed to solve the family’s problems.

With Curse of the Witching Tree, writer-director James Crow has delivered a half-intriguing, half-frustrating haunted house story. The film is stuffed with detail, so much that it seems rather longer than its modest 97 minutes, and some of that detail works very well.

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Review: The Sister of Ursula, aka La sorella di Ursula (dir. Enzo Milioni, 1978)

The Sister of Ursula

The Sister of Ursula (La sorella di Ursula)
Italy, 1978
Director/writer: Enzo Milioni

Review by N Emmett.

While staying at a luxurious Naples hotel with her sister, Ursula (Barbara Magnolfi) has visions of the other guests being brutally murdered. It turns out that these killings are actually taking place, and the hotel manager is covering them up so as not to harm his business. Will any of the guests survive long enough to expose the killer?

It is hard to pretend that The Sister of Ursula is a particularly well-written film. Its loose plot is assembled from giallo conventions, its characters are one-dimensional and its twist ending is utterly predictable. And yet, it has earned itself a place in giallo history. Why? Because of the sex.

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Review: The Living Dead Girl, aka La Morte Vivante (dir. Jean Rollin, 1982)

La Morte Vivante

The Living Dead Girl (La Morte Vivante)
France, 1982
Director: Jean Rollin
Writers: Jacques Ralf, Jean Rollin

Review by N Emmett.

A group of grave-robbers get more than they bargained for when they open the coffin of Catherine Valmont (Françoise Blanchard), causing her to rise as a vampire and kill them. Catherine then heads back to her old home to meet her sister Helene (Marina Pierro).

As children, Helene and Catherine vowed that when one of them died, the other would follow immediately afterwards. Helene did not fulfil this promise, but she remains close to her undead sister – even going so far as to kill people so that Catherine can feed on their blood.

Jean Rollin had been making his own brand of vampire films since the sixties with pictures such as Les Frisson des Vampires, but with 1982’s La Morte Vivante (known under various English titles including The Living Dead GirlQueen Zombie, Lady Dracula and Scare: Dead or Alive) he adapts to the era of Tom Savini. The body horror begins with the film’s opening sequence, in which Catherine uses her sharp, lengthy fingernails to stab the eyes of one grave-robber and slit the throat of another (the third, meanwhile, has half his face burnt off following a mishap with some acid). The Living Dead Girl owes as much to the gut-munching zombie cycle as it does to the vampire genre – one scene in particular shows Catherine going well beyond neck-biting and indulging in out-and-out cannibalism.

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Review: The Serpent and the Rainbow (dir. Wes Craven, 1988)

The Serpent and the Rainbow

The Serpent and the Rainbow
USA, 1988
Director: Wes Craven
Writer: Richard Maxwell & Adam Rodman

Review by N Emmett.

It is 1985, and Haiti is under the regime on Jean-Claude Duvalier. Dennis Alan (Bill Pullman), an American researcher, has suffered from nightmarish visions ever since ingesting an unknown concoction during a trip to the Amazon. He is sent to Haiti on a mission to investigate the alleged resurrection of a zombie, and try to find a rational explanation for the seemingly supernatural occurrence.

When he arrives in Haiti, Alan meets up with Dr. Marielle Duchamp (Cathy Tyson) who serves as his guide to the land of Vodou. He then finds out that he must tangle not only with zombies, but also with a secret police force which will stop at nothing to quash perceived radicals – such as Duchamp…

The Serpent and the Rainbow is one of those “based on a true story” horror films. This time, the source material is Wade Davis’ book The Serpent and the Rainbow: A Harvard Scientist’s Astonishing Journey into the Secret Societies of Haitian Voodoo, Zombies, and Magic, which posited a scientific basis for the legend of zombies.

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