Category Archives: Home Media

Review: Suck (dir. Rob Stefaniuk, 2009)

Suck

Suck
Canada, 2009
Director/writer: Rob Stefaniuk

Review by N Emmett.

Joey Winner (played by writer-director Rob Stefaniuk) is the lead singer of a band called the Winners – which is, ironically enough, not very successful. During a road trip, band member Jennifer (Jessica Paré) is turned into a vampire. Her newfound supernatural allure is a boost to the band’s fortunes – but how long can the other members cover up her habit of killing people?

Part vampire spoof, part road movie, part music video, part animation, part loving send-up of the rock business, Suck tries to be just a few too many things at the same time. This is evidenced by how, despite the straightforward nature of the plot outlined above, the first act of the film manages to be bewildering in its convolution.

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Review: Chastity Bites (dir. John V. Knowles, 2013)

Chastity Bites

Chastity Bites
USA, 2013
Director: John V. Knowles
Writer: Lotti Pharriss Knowles

Review by N Emmett.

Leah Ratliffe (Allison Scagliotti), a reporter for a high-school paper, is frustrated both by a lack of newsworthy stories and by the reactionary politics of her local community, which she describes as “teabagger heaven”. She is spurred into action by the arrival of Liz Batho (Louise Griffiths), a pro-abstinence pundit who sets up a school organisation called the Virginity Action Group (V.A.G.)

Leah’s research leads her to discover that Liz Batho is the legendary vampiress Elizabeth Bathory, whose determination to procure virgins is most certainly not rooted in old-time Christianity. And when Leah’s best friend Katherine (Francia Raisa) develops a crush on Batho, it is up to the plucky teenage reporter to thwart the evil schemes of the Blood Countess.

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Review: Leprechaun’s Revenge, aka Red Clover (dir. Drew Daywalt, 2012)

Leprechaun's Revenge

Leprechaun’s Revenge
USA, 2012
Director: Drew Daywalt
Writer: Anthony C. Ferrante

Review by N Emmett.

Teenager Karen O’Hara (Courtney Halverson) finds a red four-leafed clover while on a hunting trip with her grandfather. She picks it, and unwittingly revives a leprechaun that had been carried over from Ireland during colonial times. Contrary to legend, the leprechaun is not a lovable mischief-maker in a green hat, but a murderous demon with an insatiable appetite for gold…

The plot of Leprechaun’s Revenge (also known as Red Clover) is by-the-numbers stuff: an evil creature awakens, and while the body countr grows the characters discuss ancient folklore – clearly made up on the spot by the screenwriter – before they run off on a MacGuffin hunt.

What makes the film stand out is not its story, but its bizarre execution. Moments of inspiration sit alongside stretches of outright incompetence.

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Review: Frankenstein vs. The Mummy (dir. Damien Leone, 2015)

Night of the Wolf: Late Phases

Frankenstein vs. The Mummy
USA, 2015
Director/writer: Damien Leone

Review by N Emmett.

This loose reinterpretation of Mary Shelley’s novel portrays Victor Frankenstein (Max Rhyser) as a lecturer at a present-day American university, who is carrying on his experiments with reviving dead matter on the sly. Meanwhile, an Egyptology professor (Boomer Tibbs) at the same university unwittingly reanimates a mummy. Two undead monsters end up going on the prowl for bodies: one wants a more presentable body to house his brain, while the other hopes to find replacements for the sensory organs that were removed three thousand years ago.

The DVD cover for Frankenstein vs. The Mummy declares that “the epic battle has begun”, but in fact the film spends remarkably little time with its two monsters. This is not really a story about a conflict between Frankenstein’s monster and a mummy – it is a love story between Victor Frankenstein and youthful Egyptologist Naihla (Ashton Leigh).

And boy, what a pallid romance it is.

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Review: Night of the Wolf: Late Phases (dir. Adrián García Bogliano, 2014)

Night of the Wolf: Late Phases

Night of the Wolf: Late Phases
USA, 2014
Director: Adrián García Bogliano
Writer: Eric Stolze

Review by N Emmett.

Ambrose (Nick Damici), a blind Vietnam vet, relocates to a secluded woodside retirement community to live out the rest of his life. Shortly afterwards, he loses his next-door neighbour – along with his trusty guide-dog – to a vicious animal attack. He finds out that similar attacks occur on a monthly basis, and deduces that silver bullets will be necessary…

He does not tell his neighbours about his werewolf theory – after all, he has already has their mistrust with his gruff and cantankerous nature. Instead, Ambrose prepares for a one-on-one battle: the old veteran is ready for one final conflict, this time against a very different enemy.

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Review: When the Lights Went Out (dir. Pat Holden, 2012)

When the Lights Went Out

When the Lights Went Out
UK, 2012
Director/writer: Pat Holden

Review by N Emmett.

The Maynard family, consisting of father Len (Steven Waddington), mother Jenny (Kate Ashfield) and adolescent daughter Sally (Tasha Connor) move into a new home. Sally faces the usual problems of relocating to a new town and being forced to make new friends, but it is not long before she faces a far more severe problem: the house is haunted by a malicious poltergeist, seemingly intent on tearing the family apart.

When the Lights Went Out is based on a real-life poltergeist incident, which is of personal interest to writer-director Pat Holden: the alleged haunting occurred at his aunt’s house.

Horror films based on true stories must always walk a tightrope. On the one hand, the source events may not always adapt well to the screen, necessitating a degree of artistic license. On the other, if too many changes are made to fit the demands of genre, the narrative which inspired the film risks losing its unique flavour and character. (Whether or not the paranormal events behind the “true” story actually occurred is largely irrelevant – the many stories dealing with poltergeists, flying saucers, cryptids and so forth comprise a rich strain of modern folklore even if we reject their veracity.)

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Review: Dark Summer (dir. Paul Solet, 2015)

Dark Summer

Dark Summer
UK/USA, 2015
Director: Paul Solet
Writer: Mike Le

Review by N Emmett.

Teenager Daniel (Keir Gilchrist) becomes so smitten with a girl named Mona (Grace Phipps) that he hacks into her social networking accounts. After being caught he is placed under house arrest, visited only by his friends Abby (Stella Maeve) and Kevin (Maestro Harrell).

During a Skype session Daniel gets an unexpected call from Mona, who gives a series of enigmatic utterances before suddenly shooting herself in the head. After this, he begins seeing visions of Mona throughout the house. Are these hallucinations brought on by the trauma of witnessing her suicide, or has her ghost come back to haunt her?

Dark Summer is a frustratingly non-committal film. During its opening act it tries for an arthouse flavour, the camera lingering on household ornaments or the back of the lead character’s neck while wistful violin music plays. The trouble is, none of this really means anything. It was presumably intended to evoke the loneliness and isolation felt by Daniel, but all it does is give the impression of a bored cameraman letting his attention wander.

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Review: Ouija (dir. Stiles White, 2014)

Ouija

Ouija
USA, 2014
Director: Stiles White
Writers: Juliet Snowden and Stiles White

Review by N Emmett.

A teenage girl named Laine (Olivia Cooke) uses a Ouija board in an attempt to get in touch with the spirit of her friend Debbie (Shelley Hennig), who died in an apparent suicide. Laine and her friends discover that Debbie did not kill herself but was possessed by a malicious spirit – and the Ouija board has left the door open for that spirit to extend its influence…

Ouija is a film that exists due to branding. Following the commercial success of Transformers, the toy company Hasbro set about licensing more of its properties to Hollywood. The 2012 film Battleship was the first attempt to bring a Hasbro board game to the big screen, and now we come to the second.

While there is nothing inherently wrong about making a film based around the Ouija board, the fact that this one was overseen by a toy company may go some way to explain how utterly soulless it is. Ouija is one mass-produced plastic chunk of a horror movie.

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Review: Tower of Terror (dir. Lawrence Huntington, 1941)

Tower of Terror

Tower of Terror
UK, 1941
Director: Lawrence Huntington
Writers: John Argyle and John Reinhardt

Review by N Emmett.

A young woman named Marie (Movita Castaneda) is on the run from the authorities in Nazi Germany. She escapes her pursuers by jumping from a harbour into the sea, and is pulled ashore by a hook-handed lighthouse keeper named Kristan (Wilfred Lawson).

It turns out that Kristan is mentally unstable, and rescued Marie because he believes her to be his dead wife. She is safe from the Nazis, for now – but for how long will she be safe from Kristan?

Tower of Terror’s utterly generic title belies the fact that the film plays with multiple genres. The British film industry did not pursue horror in earnest until the late fifties; before that point, however, horror motifs often bled into films of other types – creating entertaining oddities such as this one.

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Review: Nightmare, aka Dark Circles (dir. Paul Soter, 2013)

Nightmare

Nightmare
US, 2013
Director/writer: Paul Soter

Review by N Emmett.

Mother-to-be Penny (Pell James) suffers from a nightmare of a gaunt, black-haired woman having a miscarriage. The following night Penny gives birth to a healthy baby boy, and the bad dream is forgotten as she moves into a rural retreat with her husband Alex (Johnathon Schaech).

But then, things start to go wrong. It all begins with minor annoyances, such as the previous owner’s junk still cluttering up the property. Later, the young couple finds out that construction work is being carried out next door, leading to many a sleepless night.

As tensions rise and arguments begin to break out, the ghostly woman makes her return. Both Penny and Alex see her around the house, glimpsed in a mirror or in the grainy footage of a baby monitor. Seeming poltergeist phenomena places the baby in danger, and the parents blame each other. All of this is compounded when sleep deprivation causes the couple to hallucinate. With reality and dreams blurring in and out, how can the two young parents hope to get to the bottom of the trouble?

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