Candy Skin (Review)


                                                              CANDY SKIN 


Firstly I’d just like to say thank you to Writer/Director, Kyle Martellacci for allowing me early access to an online screener of his 18 minute, Body Horror/Mystery short, “Candy Skin”. David Yersin (played by Renny Jachowicz) has recently taken a trip to the doctor’s office, with the hopes of finding out the cause of his sudden ill-health. He’s given relief and told to go home and rest. Shortly after falling asleep, he wakes to realize his seemingly normal existence with partner, Lynne (Stephanie Moran) isn’t what it seems. The film also stars Charles Alexander and Clayton Millette. With the independent film community being a fairly tight-knit one, Kyle knew of me and was kind enough to reach out with his latest short film. After doing a little digging, I realized he was in a scene from a short that Fatal Pictures released called, “Worm” *see review*, as well as also appearing in Brett Kelly’s horrible creature feature “Jurassic Shark” (not to hold anything against him haha). This is Kyle’s fourth short and my first introduction to his work.



Candy Skin feels like an idea inspired by the likes of David Cronenberg, particularly films like “The Fly” and “Crimes Of The Future”. It’s a somewhat uneven but intriguing blend of Mystery and Drama with a hint of science fiction about it. This is a Canadian made short and the production value looks really good. Most of the scenes are well shot, the camera work feels personal and everything is framed accordingly. During the opening section of the film there’s a lovely “Twin Peaks” style, synth theme, it doesn’t last long but it sounds great. From there, some clever bass drops help build the suspense. The remainder of the score is a mix of 80’s, Giallo inspired synth and intense vibrato sounds, which accelerate as the narrative does. The sound is the best part of the film and reminded me of some early Polanski films and more recently Mickey Keating’s *see reviews* and Kudos go to Martellacci for being able to clear the streets and surrounding locations in order to make this environment feel uninhabited. I’m not sure how you go about doing that in small town Canada but somehow he did. The practical effects and makeup work is of a high standard and took the short in a direction I didn’t think it was heading.



On the technical front, the dialogue audio could have been a little higher, that said, it’s only being played through standard computer speakers. Like “Pigskin” (another recent short I reviewed), I wasn’t a fan of the rotating camera work conveying David’s sudden isolation in the streets. I understand it serves a purpose in magnifying the gravity of the characters situation, it just makes for a difficult watch is all and my personal preference was to see it established in another manner. There’s also a brief slow motion sequence as David comes under potential threat outside his house, it didn’t really add anything to the film and only confused me. Some of Martellacci’s dialogue feels a little stiff and the delivery from both Jachowicz and Alexander during their interaction, seems a bit forced. Not all the details of the story were entirely clear to me either (could be because I take notes), so it’s probably the type of short I’ll have to go back and watch again at some point.


Candy Skin is my first foray into the work of Kyle Martellacci and I’m pretty impressed with what I saw. I like the Cronenberg style narrative and the consistent framework and shot choices. The highlights though are definitely the 80’s synth based score and the detailed practical effects and makeup. A couple of decisions down to creative license weren’t necessarily to my liking and the audio could have been a little louder. I’m not entirely clear on all the stories specifics but I was more than entertained and I can see the potential to expand on this story. Candy Skin is currently doing the festival rounds but you can check out the trailer below!

My rating for “Candy Skin” is 7.5/10

Death Metal (Review)

death_metal                                               DEATH METAL    


Firstly I’d just like to say thanks to Writer/Director, Chris McInroy for allowing me access to an online screener of his 5 minute, Horror/Comedy short “Death Metal”. Death Metal is about Lars (played by Kirk Johnson), a metal head whose lacking in the talent department. One day his father (Michael Dalmon) passes down a satanic guitar said to help one shred gnarly riffs…. but it comes at a cost if you don’t follow the rules, something Lars finds out the hard way. McInroy and Johnson teamed up previously a couple of years back on Chris’s short “Bad Guy #2” which was an absolute blast *see review* I’ve been eagerly anticipating something else from these guys and it comes in the form of a Peter Jackson esq (Bad Taste and Braindead) gore fest.


It doesn’t take much to peak my interest when it comes to the Horror/Comedy sub-genre. Occasionally you’ll get something that tries a little too hard or doesn’t quite get the balance right but when it’s done well, there’s nothing better than watching a gory humorous romp. Much like in Bad Guy #2, the production value in this one is impressive. The camera work is steady and the framing consistent. There’s also some gentle zooming, aimed to highlight Lars being caught off guard with the events that unfold. The tight and snappy editing works well in such a short run time and the couple of well-timed comedic moments are fun. The design of the satanic guitar was impressive, it looked very black metal and came up nice on-screen. Much like Chris’s last short, Death Metal is all about the carnage and showcasing plenty of those practical effects we all love. Bad Guy #2 was twice the length of this quickie, so there was room to pack in a bit more but the kills here are just as glorious. A healthy (or unhealthy as it would seem) variety of deaths make this a very fun watch.


It’s kind of ironic but the only disappointing part about Death Metal is the death metal itself. I’m a metal fan and the lack of skillful riffing in this one is the same complaint I had with last years New Zealand, Horror/Comedy “Deathgasm”.

Chris McInroy delivers yet again on both fronts in his latest short, Death Metal. He belongs in this genre and if all is right in the world he’ll continue to be able to make these sorts of films. All the technical aspects are well executed, the body count is high and the practical effects are impressive, given the modest budget. This is easily recommended for repeat viewings, the shorter running time the only thing stopping it from being as impressive as Chris’s previous film. Make sure you check this one out when it becomes available, it will riff you to shreds!

My rating for “Death Metal” is 8.5/10

Pigskin (Review)




Firstly, I just want to say thanks to ChicArt Public Relations for sending me an online screener of the 13 minute, Body Horror short “PigSkin”, Written by Jake Hammond (who also directed) and Nicola Newton. Pigskin follows a body image conscious, high school cheerleader named Laurie (played by first time actress, Isadora Leiva) as she struggles with an eating disorder that begins to manifest itself in the form of a faceless evil. The film also stars Pablo Gonzalez, Isabella Groff, Julie Moss and Luke Evans.



I wasn’t expecting to open my email this morning and find a link to this brand new short film that’s currently doing the festival rounds. If you ask me I wish that would happen more often, particularly for films that I haven’t heard about because there’s so much great content out there that I’m sure gets by me. I’m a huge fan of the body horror sub-genre and I’ve reviewed some fantastic films within it, most notably the works of Richard Powell and Zach Green from Fatal Pictures *see reviews* and Jake and Nicola have written a pertinent script that explores the possible link between psychosis and those with body image issues (which most of us have had at one point in our lives). For entertainment purposes, the film takes a much more exaggerated approach to what can happen when the mind becomes a trap. Pigskin has wonderful production value, only further highlighted by Newton’s cinematography. There’s a fantastic mix of shot choices on display, a visual feast you might say, at least for those of us interested in the technical side.


The opening frames linger underneath the bleachers as Laurie attempts to make herself presentable, in the process revealing the long-lasting impressions of self harm. There’s some gorgeous tracking shots in the school’s locker room, a handful of distinct wide shots (one of which can be seen in the image above) and consistently good framing throughout the speedy 13 minute run time. The 80’s style, synth pumping score works a treat. Music from The Chromatics and the recognizable track “A Real Hero” from Nicolas Winding Refn’s masterpiece “Drive”, both help to set the mood. The remainder of the score exercises low-fi synth sounds and well-timed bass notes. Ordinarily I’m not a fan of films with sequences that slow their frame rate, usually because there’s no real reason for it but much like the aforementioned “Drive”, it works here for artistic merit. The performances from this small cast of five are good although there’s not a huge amount of dialogue. The dashes of creepy imagery throughout is where the film is most engaging.



I wasn’t a fan of the rotating camera work in the closing part of the film. I understand the character was probably feeling disoriented and hence the aim is to make the audience feel the same, it’s just a personal preference and I’d rather have seen it executed differently. The dialogue audio could have been a fraction louder in the mix as well, to be fair though, I’ listened through computer speakers which isn’t ideal.


Pigskin is a fantastic entry into the Body Horror sub-genre and more importantly, it touches on a couple of very important issues arising in young people today (particularly girls). The production value is truly impressive, the cinematography as good as anything I’ve seen and the 80’s influenced soundtrack gives it the vibe of something like “Carrie” and “It Follows”. If there’s a short film to watch out for at the end of this year it’s Pigskin, so keep an eye out!

My rating for “Pigskin” is 9/10

CarousHELL (Review)




Firstly, “Who brings a taser to a party!?”. I’d just like to say thanks to Co-Writer, Actor and Director, Steve Rudzinski for allowing me early access to an online screener of his Horror/Comedy film “CarousHELL”. CarousHELL is about one particular unicorn named Duke (voiced by Steve Rimpici) whose stationed at the local theme park. On a daily basis Duke has kids jumping on and off of him, hitting him, wiping things on him and he’s finally reached boiling point. Laurie (played by the lovely Se’ Marie) is tasked with babysitting her younger brother Larry, aka “Lunchbox” (Teague Shaw) and it just so happens that he’s the unlucky kid Duke sets his revenge filled sights on. Duke follows Laurie (yes that is a unicorn following a girl haha) and her younger brother to a house party where all hell threatens to break loose. Only a fellow amusement park employee who goes by “Cowboy Cool” (P.J. Gaynard), knows what it takes to stop the unicorn. The film also stars Haley Madison, Chris Proud and Steve Rudzinski himself. A few years back I watched “Everyone Must Die!”, Rudzinski’s micro-budget entry into the slasher sub-genre and I’ll admit, it was a very disappointing experience. Forget for a minute that it was a slasher with little to no actual slashing (at least on-screen), and the acting was terrible, it was really the technical aspects that were so poorly conceived that it bogged down any potential it may have had. To be fair, it was made for under $5,000 so there’s that, not to mention Steve was pretty new to film making at that point. Since then he’s dabbled in everything from Comedy to Action/Adventure and he’s back for another crack at the Horror genre, So how did this one fare?



CarousHELL’s script, penned by Rudzinski and Aleen Isley is quite an outlandish one. They’re channeling similar tones to that of a creature feature, B movie you would’ve seen lining the video store shelves in the mid to late 80’s. Now I’ve seen and reviewed just about everything on this site. I’ve done Bunny’s sporting wood (in the form of extravagant erections), Sleepwalking cannibals, Demons of the anus, Zombie beavers, Wolf cops and even Brass teapots that pay out, however, a Killer Carousel Unicorn is a new one, even for me (haha). Those crazy flying sharks that Fin Shepard fights off aren’t seeming so crazy now are they? Anytime we think we’ve seen it all, were inevitably defied and so I commend Steve and Aleen on being the two pushing us this time around. The shooting style in CarousHELL is an even blend of still shots and Steadicam work. Most of the framing is solid and there’s a bunch of tight shot choices, particularly in the second half of the film. The film’s crisp and clear audio track is probably the highlight of the technical aspects. Usually with micro-budget films like this there’s so much inconsistency in room tones and proximity of mics to the actors/actresses, so kudos to this crew for getting it right. A lot of the score just felt like background noise but the carnival themed music was a nice touch and a welcomed addition given the complementary narrative.


The film opens with narration by Steve Rimpici, as Duke (the unicorn) voices his displeasure for simply being viewed as an object. On a daily basis he’s mistreated by the children that ride him, he can’t take it anymore and he wants out. After hearing Rimpici’s articulation, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the memorable narration from David Evans in the 1993 film “The Sandlot” (a nostalgic favourite of mine), the two sounded very much alike despite the films being the furthest thing from each other. I enjoyed plenty of the script’s specifics, even down to the basics of our lead actress playing a character named “Laurie”. Anytime horror fans hear that name, they automatically associate it with Jamie Lee Curtis’s character in the iconic, John Carpenter film “Halloween”. This Laurie pretty much lives a life (and I use that term loosely) that revolves around social networking, this app and that app and feels the urge to Tweet and Instagram everything that happens. It’s a really humorous plot point relevant in today’s society. At one stage she basically tells her mother that if she doesn’t post she’ll become “slightly less popular” (haha), which is about the total sum of the ramifications. The film only runs 68 minutes (with credits), most of which take place at a house party where we’re introduced to some of the films secondary characters. The two main inclusions being Sarah (played by Haley Madison), the host of the party and her boyfriend, Preston (Chris Proud).


My favourite parts of the film (killing aside), involved interactions between Laurie and the pizza delivery guy, Joe (played by Rudzinski). The film’s running joke revolves around no one being able to pay Joe for the pizzas. Every time he’s on the verge of getting his money and leaving, something or someone gets in the way. That someone is usually Laurie, displaying an over sexed veneer and physical attraction to Joe in the most obvious of ways, yet like a lot of us guys… he just doesn’t get it. Toward the end of the film there’s a great gag poking fun of the fact that Laurie is using a phone but claims no one has a phone to call for help. In other words, we all have phones but we can get so wrapped up in social networking that we forget there’s these things you can make with them called phone calls…. I know right?! In another instance there’s a humorous scene between rambunctious Preston and Joe, following an altercation with another party goer. Preston is distraught with how his face looks after said altercation and Joe just wants his money, its well-timed and delivered cleverly. In terms of characters and performance, majority of the cast do a decent job in their respective roles. Proud is over the top but entertaining, Marie looks great and balances the film out and Rudzinski has the best comedic timing of the bunch. Steve’s definitely improved over the years and I enjoyed watching him in one of his previous roles in “Scream Park” *see review* Some of the secondary performances in CarousHELL aren’t that great but those characters only have limited screen time.


Let’s get to the good stuff aye, the violence. There’s a surprising amount of carnage and practical effects work on display in CarousHELL. I don’t know the actual budget for this one but I’d imagine it wouldn’t be much higher than any of Rudzinski’s previous films. On a good note, there’s an early kill less than ten minutes into proceedings. More often than not most of the deaths are fairly ambitious and graphically presented and given the budget, that deserves some praise. As a Slasher and Horror fan, kills and a body count are what most of us are after and that was sorely missed in Steve’s last slasher film. This time around we get plenty more of what’s desired, including a couple of nice prosthetic neck pieces, as well as a cool death involving some wire. The highlights for me were a shock face split and a breakdown using effects that depict melting. As a fan I really appreciate and value the attempt as much as I do the execution. I’m glad that Steve and Co really put in the work with this one to make the action far greater than it had the right to be (given the budget). I’m interested to see what else he’s able to do in the genre.



CarousHELL, like Rudzinski’s previously mentioned film, suffers again from some poor technical execution but the upside is this time around it doesn’t put as larger damper on things. Most of the camera work is alright but there’s a brief sequence that utilizes shaky cam while a young victim runs from our deranged unicorn. Without a dolly or stabilizers, that type of shooting style comes across as amateurish so I probably would’ve opted for a wide shot or something else. On several occasions during the party scenes, the camera loses focus completely and it becomes quite distracting. Early in the film there’s some inconsistent lighting and some harsh glare during a scene in the car with Laurie and her boyfriend Scott (Chad Bruns). The editing is another one of those aspects that’s difficult to get right, especially in independent film making. There’s no interesting transitions here and some scenes feel like they’re cut too quickly, while others wear out their welcome. I mentioned the memorable carny music earlier but other than that, everything else is so low in the mix that it simply acts as background noise. I don’t recall the house party even having music playing, so I think the soundtrack definitely needed a lively boost.


I couldn’t get into a lot of the comedy in CarousHELL. I’m a difficult sell when it comes to what the masses usually find funny, even more so when in the Horror/Comedy sub-genre. For example, most people I know love films like “Zombieland” and “Shaun Of The Dead”, whereas I could take em’ or leave em’ and much prefer some of the lesser knowns. With that being said, Laurie’s constant hashtag references were totally lost on me (being a bloke who doesn’t use Instagram or Twitter). Don’t get me wrong, I know what they mean and I chuckled at one or two but that word play continues for almost all of her screen time and it gets old. Then we’ve got the inclusion of the “cheesy pun” every time Duke kills. Now I like a cheesy pun as much as the next slasher fan but it’s a tricky one to navigate. You’ve got iconic films like “Child’s Play” and “Nightmare On Elm St.” that kick started that whole phase but these days it just doesn’t quite work, as is the case with recent films like “Knucklebones” and now CarousHELL. I’m not sure if it’s the style of voice-over and whose doing it or the lines themselves, probably a combination of both but in this film they’re just lame and not even the good kind of lame. Toward the end there’s one of the most awkward and unhealthy sex scenes you’re likely to witness anytime soon. The scene itself and one character’s unicorn fetish is clearly played for laughs but it will depend on your sense of humor as to whether you think the gag actually hits. I thought it was beyond stupid and if I laughed it was just uncomfortably but hey that’s just me.


I suppose in a movie about a talking Carousel Unicorn with the ability to comprehend thought, I shouldn’t complain about the lacking exposition surrounding Duke and instead just sit back and enjoy the ride, Right? The film doesn’t have an introduction per say, Duke is already Duke by the time the first frame rolls and the origin behind the unicorn is never divulged. Aside from an apparent connection to the mystery Cowboy Cool character, you don’t find out how anything happened in the first place. I enjoyed most of the action sequences in the film but it’s still not without those typical run of the mill kills scattered throughout. There’s also one sequence that fails completely, at least on a visual level. Rudzinski looked to use prosthetics and cheaply made molds wherever he could and I commend that, however, one particular kill involving a pizza cutting tool could have been insanely executed, similar to one or two of the other kills. The implement ends up just rolling back and forth on the actors head for laughs and failing to make an indentation. My only thought was that Steve wanted to keep the actor performing throughout that scene and needed him in the frame. Otherwise why not use a dummy head cast and make a bloody mess of things? In the end that was one of the most disappointing scenes of the film because I had high expectations due to what I’d seen prior.


Steve Rudzinski’s “CarousHELL” feels like it was made with genuine passion and effort, similar to the b movie schlock that Troma releases. Not only did I enjoy watching a whole new type of villain, I thought the shot choices and framing were neat and the audio track was superb. The addition of some carnival themed music was good and I liked Rimpici’s voice over, even with the shitty puns. There’s a few fun characters and some genuinely good jokes with solid comedic timing, albeit in patches. The performances from Marie, Proud, Madison and Rudzinski are very even, something that’s usually a rarity for the cast of a micro-budget film. The most fun you’ll have here is bound to be with the resourceful practical effects and the respectable body count. Some of the kills are damn gruesome and that’s what I was hoping to see in some of Steve’s future work. I’ve got to be honest and say that some of the technical aspects are still pretty rough around the edges (partly due to budget) but in particular those focus issues which need to be ironed out. The soundtrack needed some more life and the lack of plot details behind Duke make it hard to decipher the film’s rules if there are any. Big chunks of the comedy missed the mark and the sex scene was wacky to say the least. CarousHELL is like a blend between “Killer Pinata” and “Attack Of The Killer Backpacks” and still has its moments. On a personal note, there’s no denying it’s a huge improvement for Steve and I look forward to seeing what else he does down the track.

My rating for “CarousHELL” is 5/10

The House Of The Devil (Review)




This is a review for the 2009 Horror film, “The House Of The Devil”, Written and Directed by Ti West (Cabin Fever 2 and The Sacrament). It’s 1983 and financially challenged college student, Samantha Hughes (played by Jocelin Donahue of “Insidious: Chapter Two”) decides to take a babysitting job under mysterious circumstances. On the cusp of a full lunar eclipse and inside the Victorian manor, she quickly realizes that not all is as it seems in the Ulman household. The film also stars Tom Noonan (from TV’s “Hell On Wheels”), Mary Woronov (Silent Night, Bloody Night), Greta Gerwig (Arthur), AJ Bowen (You’re Next) and the infamous, Dee Wallace (E.T). Prior to this, West had only made a couple of short films, along with a couple of his lesser known features, “Trigger Man” and “The Roost”. The first film of Ti’s that I saw was Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever, the sequel to Eli Roth’s hard-hitting horror film about a flesh-eating bacteria. I’ll admit that aside from some decent practical effects and a couple of funny moments, I loathed that sequel. It was a weak screenplay for a follow-up film that we just didn’t need (the original is great). I heard of a couple of Ti’s other films not long after I saw him in a brief role in Adam Wingard and Simon Barrett’s home invasion film, “You’re Next”. I purchased House Of The Devil about five years ago and finally got around to watching it!



It’s clear from the outset that West’s, House Of The Devil is visually inspired by genre films of the 70’s and 80’s but even more so by the likes of, Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho), Stanley Kubrick (The Shining) and Roman Polanski (Rosemary’s Baby and Repulsion). Ti fully commits to the 80’s aesthetic here, his eye and attention to detail are as sharp as anybody working in the genre. There’s a great freeze frame when the opening title is displayed and the end credits play out over one singular shot (both techniques that were commonly used in that period of time, A Clockwork Orange if memory serves me correct). This film was shot on 16mm and color graded to emulate some of those films I mentioned earlier, the estimated budget was just under a million dollars. The cinematography is unbelievably sharp and the variation of shot choices give this a higher production value than you might think. A majority of the run time takes place inside the house but due to the tension created through the lens, it never feels boring, even with its slow approach. There aren’t a lot of still shots, the camera is always gently focusing and panning and I love that shooting style. Tone-wise you can’t help but be reminded of certain classic 70’s slasher films such as “Black Christmas” and to a greater extent, John Carpenter’s “Halloween”. There’s even a knife wielding sequence that’s shot extremely effectively, as Sam creeps down the hallway and knocks on one of the doors.


The audio levels are nice and consistent and the sound design, through good foley, helps maintain the tension that’s built within the first hour. The lighting is another standout feature in this one. In terms of the color palette the film stars out quite warm but as Sam’s situation escalates, it all darkens accordingly. Some of the highlights lighting wise, are a sequence where Sam goes into the bathroom to investigate and another where she makes her way up the staircase to look around. There’s fragments of light shining through the slats on the staircase and it’s a very subtle sequence. The wardrobe and set design are quintessentially 80’s, as you’d expect with it being a period piece. Sam’s always got her walkman playing (pumping out 80’s retro tunage) and along with her best friend Megan (played by Gerwig), pull on the faded denim jeans, flannelette button up shirts and wool sweaters to get into the swing of things. Everything inside the Ulman’s home looks old, older than the 80’s which should tell you something. The heavy pattern designs are reminiscent of rooms in The Shining and the couple themselves are quite strange to say the least. Ti’s approach to the soundtrack is an interesting one. Usually with films set in the 80’s, the complementary synth is just a given and while that’s ever-present here, there’s also some great songs by Grazer and The Fixx. It’s a fusion mixed score when things amp up and the use of synth and bass is what gives it that Carpenter esq feel, I really dug it.


Storywise, The House Of The Devil is all about its build up and there’s not a great deal of action until toward the end. Now that’s not to say the payoff isn’t there but there’s no doubting it’s quite a wait (even a little slow for me). The first act sees the viewer getting to know a little bit about Samantha and her plight, as well as the dynamics of her relationships with her roommate, plus her best friend, Megan. The second act is our introduction to Mr and Mrs Ulman, an elderly couple (played by Noonan and Woronov) who’ve been desperate to get a babysitter so they can have just one night to themselves. Shortly after arriving, Sam finds out that Mr Ulman hasn’t been entirely honest with her about the specifics of the job. I won’t spoil any of the revelations from that point on but needless to say, it becomes a very tense situation for our heroine. The cast all turn in solid performances, particularly Donahue and Noonan. Their two characters share a conversation in the kitchen upon first meeting and it’s executed effortlessly. It was interesting to hear Ti West talk about the look of this cast and how they all personify that “classic horror” appearance which is what he wanted. Jocelin has that “Laurie Strode” (Halloween) look about her, Greta looks like the classic best friend and Noonan is that larger than life man shrouded in mystery. Both of our female leads are incredibly likeable (as are their characters). Donahue carries a large chunk of this film on her own and she does so admirably. As the action picks up during the climax, there’s also some really great practical blood and gore effects.



The only lapse in the acting came from Mary Woronov’s when her character has contact with Sam toward the end of the film. An exaggerated response to a certain action is the only thing that was sub-par (those of you who’ve seen it will know the scene). There’s the usual continuity problems (or stretch of plausibility) in some of Sam’s actions early in the film. It’s quite clear that she has her own trust issues (perhaps a little bit of paranoia), yet after Mr Ulman withholds important information about the job, she’s still willing to do it. I understand that money talks but Ulman doesn’t help his case by saying “we can’t pay your friend” (meaning Megan whose with her) but then follows up with a “we can pay you extra”…. well you either have it or you don’t, right? Obviously without Sam agreeing to babysit we don’t have a movie so yeah I can let that one slide a little… There’s a couple of other plot points that I found difficult to swallow, mainly because they could only occur due to decisions made by Sam. There’s an ongoing issue with the pizza in the town, Megan gets a slice or two early in the film and complains about how average it is. During Sam’s night of babysitting she also orders a pizza and everything that follows on from that, only occurs because she orders said pizza. I would have preferred a different approach to that whole scene, e.g, Mr Ulman has pizza already in the fridge and tells Sam to help herself and that way what follows isn’t so typical. There appears to be a room upstairs that’s locked, eventually we get a glimpse inside but I’m not sure (given the ending) why we needed to be shown that because it’s never really addressed again. The major let down of the film for me occurs during a scene in a graveyard, I’m assuming it’s only there to set up the closing shots and final twist but that’s a highly unlikely situation to be withstood by someone.


Ti West’s, The House Of The Devil is an immensely atmospheric and slow burn horror film that pays homage to its 70’s and 80’s counterparts. The screenplay is tension filled and the approach to the “cult like” sub-genre, reminds me of what Mickey Keating (Darling and Carnage Park) is trying to do for modern Horror. The camera work is exceptional, the shot choices exquisite and the sound design crisp. I love the 16mm shooting style and some of the stylistic editing, the lighting and score are what make this one of the most unnerving films of the last decade or so. The attention to detail is clear in every aspect of the film, all the way down to the casting and the really solid performances by all. Topping it all off are some gruesome practical effects, which add a nice touch. It’s really only the small continuity issues and a handful of convenient plot details that curb West’s film somewhat. After my experience with The House Of The Devil, I’m looking forward to watching Ti’s other films “The Innkeepers” and “The Sacrament”. If you prefer much slower pacing and mood based films over the visceral carnage of a conventional “slasher” film, look no further than The House Of The Devil.

My rating for “The House Of The Devil” is 7.5/10

Zombie Beast Of The Confederacy (Review)




Zombie Beast Of The Confederacy is a Micro-budget Horror film from Wild Boar Films, it’s Written and Directed by Diamond Troy Justice (who I’ve been given the impression is a wrestler at least part-time) and stars Justice himself, Bad Bubba Brewer and a bunch of other independent actors. The story goes, that in 1863 Confederate President, Jefferson Davis sent a dangerous chemical virus to Gettysburg to help in the fight but it, along with the soldiers, vanished into the hills of the county. It’s now 2016, the virus and plenty of the undead, have risen to fight once again and it’s up to just three local men to stop the virus from spreading before it’s too late. A company called “World Wide Multi Media” are distributing this one and I purchased it from Now I’ll be the first to admit, I’ve been caught out on several occasions with inferior products released through WWMM. “Milfs Vs Zombies”, “Season In Hell: Evil Farmhouse Torture” and “The Experiment Who’s Watching You” are just a few of their previous releases. They’re not exactly known for releasing high quality films but in the past I’ve bought a couple of decent films in Mike O’Mahony’s low-budget affairs, “Deadly Detour” and “Sloppy The Psychotic”, so you win some you lose some *see review*




Okay, here goes nothing. So right off the bat, it’s not a positive sign when you pick up the DVD and no one has actually been credited on the front cover (which in fairness to me I could have only known once it arrived). Of the countless films I’ve watched in my time, I think this is the first time I’ve encountered something like that. The only conclusion I can draw is that each person involved with the film doesn’t want to be shown as having been involved with it. The lead actors are not credited, the producers/finance (if there was any) are not listed and most importantly the Writer/Director isn’t credited either. Even once the films credits begin to roll, it’s apparent that several of the cast members have been credited with nicknames and only some listed with their actual names. After noticing this irregularity, I thought I’d dig a little deeper into the film but it that’s difficult to do because it turns out there’s no official IMDB page for it either. Any film, big or small, you can find it on the international movie database, so I’m stumped. The site is there for that very reason, as well as to better inform people about the film. It wasn’t until after I watched it that I checked for a trailer and YouTube does actually have one, so there’s that (and now I’m annoyed I didn’t know that before hand).

The DVD also comes with three quotes from online reviews, one on the front and two on the back. “Awesome Mag” say Zombie Beast Of The Confederacy is “Weird, Gory Schlock. Fun As Hell”. In addition to some sharp look stills on the back, there are two more summaries, one from “Extreme DVD”  that says “So badly homegrown, it’s great!” and another from “Deadly Indie Drive In” saying the film is “Downright Apocalyptic”. Okay, bear in mind I can’t say this with absolute certainty because after all, the world-wide web is an infinite database of information but I really don’t believe any of these websites or reviews actually exist. On the other hand, if they do exist then I sincerely apologize to everyone involved with the film for not doing a more thorough research. I figured after entering each website into the google search engine and browsing the first five or so page results and finding nothing, that it was a pretty safe bet that these sites and reviews were fake. Everyone’s taste is different and I’m not saying these quotes are fake just because I thought they couldn’t be any further from the truth. I do ask the question though, Why don’t they show up when you search them? This is a brand new film, there should be reviews for it, right? It’s bad enough that the running time is listed as 80 minutes when it’s actually 107 minutes but I draw the line at fake reviews and if that is the case, they have no respect for the buyer and therefore I have no respect for the filmmaker.

Onto the film itself. Zombie Beast Of The Confederacy opens with stock footage and gun shots playing over sloppy credits, displayed with different colored fonts. We then get given a small monologue about the events of 1863, which is essentially the exact same synopsis on the back of the DVD. Following that, is an introduction to some military man who reads off mission parameters, as he points to monitors that consist of a couple of really poorly placed photos and a giant map of the world, when I’m sure we’re supposed to just be looking at a small county (haha I’m not sure why that’s there). Enter a whole bunch of stereotypical redneck characters who are poorly portrayed by an amateur cast. From a technical point of view the film is an absolute mess. Big chunks of dialogue are completely out of sync, there’s no sound bed or impact foley for any of the action sequences and the score continually fades in an out. I don’t expect a lot from a filmmaker working with no money but the worst mistake you can make is to not even try. Troy’s camera has to be worse than my $80, DXG 5.0 Megapixel handheld one. The shots are either out of focus or atrociously framed, characters heads are out of the frame or the height of the shot is around people’s midriff, not to mention all the editing is glitchy as well. Most of my readers know me well enough and know that I’m always looking for positives in film, so if it’s done well I can dig thrills even on as cheap of a budget as this. Take Richard Mogg’s micro-budget work on “Massage Parlor Of Death” and “Bigfoot Ate My Boyfriend”, they’ve both got heart and good intentions unlike this one.

The digital effects are by far in a way the worst part of Zombie Beast Of The Confederacy. I don’t know the actual budget for this film but I imagine it couldn’t have been more than $1,000 and if it is, I feel sorry for these guys. Logical thinking should tell you that you probably want to limit the amount of digital effects in a film of this nature. Nope, these guys decide they’re going to go all out, with what must have been 25 to 30 vfx shots just in the short amount of time I watched for. There must have been countless lengthy sessions in “Paint”, creating drawn on blood, fire and fake weapon flashes. I can’t actually fathom why you’d choose digital effects, or for that matter any effects, for a film with such a small amount of money and think you’d be able to produce something people would want to see. I’ll be honest with you, this film ran 107 minutes and I lasted all of 14 minutes and 12 seconds, this from the guy that will watch just about anything. I know some readers will probably say I’m not in a position to give a fair and honest critique because I only watched a very brief portion of the film, hell maybe they’re right. Though maybe, just maybe, that should tell you all you need to know about Zombie Beast Of The Confederacy.

My rating for “Zombie Beast Of The Confederacy” is 0/10

31 (Review)




“It’s time to play 31”. Violence has been the cornerstone of the Horror genre for as long as I can remember. Today there’s many sub-genres within horror, most of which contain violent themes but even before we specifically started categorizing films, there’s been violence in cinema. Back in the early 30’s there were films like James Whale’s, “The Invisible Man” and “Frankenstein” that illustrated a fair share of violence (given the times). Since then we’ve seen the birth of the iconic “Slasher” and its subsequent rejuvenation, in addition to graphic works like “Cannibal Holocaust” and “Salo 120 Days Of Sodom”, all the way through to a new wave of extreme horror that’s coming out of Asia and Europe. Takashi Miike’s “Audition” and “Ichi the Killer” initiated what would eventually become known as “torture porn”, ultimately leading us all the way to the farfetched works of Olaf Ittenbach (Dard Divorce and No Reason) and Yoshihiro Nishimura (Tokyo Gore Police and Mutant Girls Squad), both Directors of exaggerated movies coined as “Splatter films”. As we’ve all evolved and grown (well most of us), so has the genre and its hardcore fans ongoing appetite for violence. For the most part, my love for the genre lies more in the behind the scenes phase, I take interest in the creative process as much as I do the end result. I don’t advocate violence simply for shock value. Showcasing the talent of special fx artists, via realistic practical effects isn’t violence for violence sake (at least not in my mind). Some of the most extreme films, such as the appalling “A Serbian Film” or aforementioned “Cannibal Holocaust”, have no real reason to exist other than to shock and disgust. They essentially have no redeeming qualities, they’re not art, they’re not meaningful and they’re most certainly not entertaining (if you find them entertaining I suggest you seek professional help).


This brings me to 31, the latest Horror film from Musician turned Filmmaker, Rob Zombie. Here’s a guy that up until 2003, only had experience shooting music videos until he came crashing onto the scene with “House Of 1000 Corpses”, a film about a backwater family of sadistic killers (I still haven’t seen it yet). Since then, he’s made four more feature-length films, most notably a stellar remake of John Carpenter’s 1978 classic, “Halloween” and 31 is his fifth effort. I’ve seen all of his films excluding his first and there’s no doubt that each have been a startling experience in their own right and making that sort of impact is a big part of succeeding in the genre. 31 is about five traveling carnival workers who are kidnapped, held hostage in a compound of sorts and forced to play a life or death game called 31. The goal of which is to survive 12 hours against a group of sadistic clowns. The carnie’s consist of motherly figure, Venus (played by Meg Foster of “Lords Of Salem” Zombie’s previous film), free-spirited, Charly (Sheri Moon Zombie), Roscoe (Jeff Daniel Phillips), Panda (Lawrence Hilton-Jacobs) and Levon (Kevin Jackson). The film also stars Richard Brake, Pancho Moler, David Ury, Lew Temple and Malcolm McDowell.



Let’s begin with the obvious shall we? The poster art. It’s a great layout and design that will undoubtedly change when the film hits DVD and Blu Ray, unfortunately these types of one sheets don’t stick around long. One might compare aspects of 31’s premise to that of Leigh Whannell/ James Wan’s “Saw” franchise. They’d be right in terms of the game style and set amount of time for events to play out in but this is a tonally completely different. What I mean by that is simply this, Rob Zombie films have a certain harshness about them, he’s a pulls no punches kind of guy and if you’re a hardcore horror fan that’ll please you and you have to respect that even if you’re not a fan of his. The very opening sequence of the film is one of my favorites, it’s in Black and White which is extremely effective. A slender man in the distance steps out of the light and into the shadows, the constant sound of dripping water echoes, as he makes his way down a dark and dingy basement corridor to address the camera (and in turn the viewer). From there, “Doom-Head” (played by Richard Brake of “Ray Donovan”) explains to the audience what’s about to take place, what you’re going to witness and why you’re going to witness it. It’s a disturbing introduction that showcases a hate filled monologue, some great makeup and really good foley to kick the film into gear.


The opening credits reveal that the movie is set in 1976, on display are some trendy Polaroids of the traveling carnival group doing their thing, being young and wild and free. I dig the 70’s aesthetic when it’s done well, look at films like Tarantino’s, “Death Proof” and Mickey Keating’s pulsating Suspense/Thriller, “Carnage Park” *see review* Zombie’s worked inside the parameters of the 70’s before, so his approach to the color palette here is much the same as it was in “The Devils Reject” and even the Halloween reboot. Washed out saturation and gritty detailing are what make this one feel like a 70’s exploitation flick. Scenes with the group in transit feel directly lifted from Tobe Hooper’s “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, minus them picking up a hitchhiker (which actually almost happens haha). Apart from the opening scenes, the highlight in a cinematic sense is a series of fantastic aerial shots over grimy and decayed bathroom stalls, eventually landing on a frightened Charly. As I said earlier, the foley all sounds great, as does the horn and tornado sound warnings used to commence the game. There’s a stylish, 1920’s piece of blues/jazz music toward the beginning and when the suspense picks up, the rest is a bass and synth pumping soundtrack. The detail in set design is yet another well conceived element of 31. You have to admire Zombie’s extravagant set pieces, he’s been doing it for years and you can’t say these aspects of the production value take a backseat when he’s driving because they don’t.


A lot of the cast is made up of Zombie’s regulars, most notably his wife Sheri Moon as well as Meg Foster, Jeff Daniel Phillips (both from Lords Of Salem) and the infamous Malcolm McDowell. I think as much as he likes working and reuniting with old friends, he’s all about the right look for his characters. I know fans were complaining that Bill Moseley (who plays Otis in The Devils Rejects) wasn’t cast as Doom-Head or at least one of the other psychotic clowns. I’m not saying Moseley wouldn’t have fit the part but everyone was chosen for a specific reason. For example, both Jacobs and Jackson have that 70’s feel about them, I bought them as carnie members even with their uneven performances. Phillips sports those extra long side burns that flow into a gnarly mustache and beard… very 70’s. As for Meg Foster, she looks like she’s done it hard and that goes hand in hand with her character of Venus. Sheri Moon is a rarity in the sense that she’s got a sort of natural beauty about her (not often seen in this film) but she can play the promiscuous, foul-mouthed trashy girl well too. The supporting cast members have their moments but overall they lack consistency, however, there’s a couple of memorable performances in 31 and they come from Richard Brake and of course the accomplished Malcolm McDowell. Brake’s controlled aggression in regard to the portrayal of Doom-Head, makes him completely unpredictable. The peeling white makeup, greasy hair and distinctive teeth are unnerving in their own right but add Richard’s gaunt body type and it really makes that character. McDowell plays the master of games “Father Murder”. He dons aristocrat garb better suited to a revolutionary war picture but it’s still neat all the same. He’s got wonderful diction and he’s had a flair for the theatrics ever since Kubrick’s, “Clockwork Orange”, so this suits him perfectly. It’s great to see Tracy Walter in a small cameo again, that guy should just buy a convenience store or a mechanics garage because he’s always playing characters with those kind of roles (haha).


The most common question surrounding 31 is, How violent is it? Zombie came right out and said that this was his most violent film to date but I’m not sure I’d agree with that. Based on what I’ve seen, The Devils Rejects still holds that honor. Now that’s not to say 31 doesn’t have its fair share of carnage. There’s five other clowns roaming the warehouse besides Doom-head. A chainsaw wielding, brother duo called Schizo-Head and Psycho-Head (played by Ury and Temple), a crazy couple in Death-Head and Sex-Head (Torsten Voges and Elizabeth Daily) and a little maniac that goes by Sick-Head (Moler). Each of these villains enter one at a time and do their best to kill our five players and you just know Doom-Head is going to re-enter the fold at some point. You have to wait a little longer than expected for the good stuff, which can be a bit of a drag but gore hounds will still be pretty impressed. All the effects are practical and look quite good, the addition of the chainsaw in the clown sub-genre has been long overdue. Other than Marcus Koch’s “100 Tears”, I don’t recall seeing another clown film involving a chainsaw. There’s another couple of impressive kills in which a spiked bat is used and a couple of throats are slit. Due to the hype surrounding the film and everything that it promised, I can’t help but feel a little let down in terms of the delivery and what was offered up with on-screen kills.



Let’s talk about the biggest issues with 31, the shooting style, lighting and of course that dialogue. Just because this is gritty and brutal in content doesn’t mean Zombie has to make it hard on the eyes. This is such a difficult watch in terms of the film making process. There’s a healthy (or more accurately, unhealthy) dose of carnage, or so it would seem but the shooting style lacks any kind of control. One can only think that everything is so rapidly edited in order to mask the lack of actual on-screen violence that Zombie initially promised us. It’s disappointing that there’s no graphic kills until almost half way through, to be fair, I heard that Rob went through a lot of cuts to actually get a license for a theatrical release. It begs the question, for someone who has a reputation for doing as he pleases, why is he suddenly worrying about the appropriate cut for a theatrical release. 31 was a mostly crowd funded project and I know theaters are where you get a return on your money but if he’s really about making a truly visceral film then show it to audiences how it was intended to be shown. In several of the stills above you can see some effective mood lighting, unfortunately that all goes south in the actual film. This is by far Zombie’s worst lit film, so much so that it completely distracts you from what’s happening on-screen. There’s some circular colored lights reflecting on and off the lens during the chainsaw sequences, followed by what feels like five or ten minutes of horrendously intense strobe flickers toward the end of the film.


Zombie’s dialogue, at least in any of his original work, has always been rather crude and I suppose that’s par for the course with the kinds of horror films he makes. However, the writing in 31 is unbelievably juvenile and crass and that’s not just coming from our villains mouths. We get it, these clowns are bad people and for the most part they have no redeeming qualities but what’s with our so-called protagonists? A majority of the dialogue is just trash that plays as filler until the violence hits. The conversations that take place in the camper were difficult to make out and there’s no subtitles for the small portion of foreign dialogue throughout the film. I found a lot of the linguistic riffing quite offensive (and I’m not easily offended) and it will no doubt be seen as demeaning toward women, especially when there’s sexual content being spouted off by the brother duo at an alarming rate. I think I speak for us all when I say we could have done without the extra nightmare scene involving Schizo-Head and Psych-Head because it’s just more of the same sleazy junk being spewed out. Audiences might be disgusted with what they hear but they won’t be scared by these clowns because they just talk way too much and it negates any tension that could have been created. If I’ve learnt anything from Horror it’s usually that less is more (in terms of the suspense). Our cast playing carnies are only given a bare bones arc to work with, which I’m sure was Zombie’s intention but what you’re left with in the end are characters you can’t invest in because you haven’t learnt to care about them.


If you can get past the shoddy presentation and cheap talk you’ll still be witness to some forced acting and uncomfortable innuendo, the gas station sequence involving Phillips and Daily’s characters comes to mind (similar to The Devils Rejects). The kidnapping sequence begins so hurriedly that you can’t make out where the striped men come from or how they’re able to gather everyone together so quickly. Not to mention the action can’t be seen properly because the scene is way too dark. Then there are problems with the finer points of the plot development as well. You’ve got three characters led by McDowell’s “Father Murder”, who are overseeing the game and make announcements while re-adjusting their wagers on who might win the game. Somehow they seem to know everything that’s happening in the game at any given time, yet it’s the 70’s so there’s no technological advancements available. There doesn’t appear to be any surveillance, we don’t see them monitoring anything and they don’t receive any phone calls in regard to the events of the game, So how do they know what’s going on? My biggest gripe is that you’ve got Sick-Head dressed as a Nazi, being played by a Chilean actor, yet for some reason he speaks in Spanish. Then you’ve got Death-Head, who appears to be speaking German but he’s dressed like a transvestite and not a Nazi like he should have been, it’s all back to front and I’m not sure what Zombie was thinking. The part that really had me scratching my head is the complete absence of the mandatory freak out moment. You know what I’m talking about, that moment in any given Horror film when the individual or group finds themselves in a life or death situation and they lose their shit like a shit collector with amnesia (a quote from Dane Cook). Each one of our protagonists adjusts to the severity of the situation without a moments trepidation. There’s no struggle, no breaking down, it’s just suddenly they have it in them to kill and to do so without hesitation (for the most part anyways). A true horror fan loves to watch the process of those ordinary characters do something extraordinary and rise above and beyond in the face of certain death and 31 just doesn’t have that. There’s an effective ending to the film that I was genuinely impressed by but it’s somewhat negated due to the unnecessary twist that follows.


I’ve been eagerly anticipating Rob Zombie’s, 31 for over 12 months and with that comes a lot of expectation, especially when he promised so much. There’s no ifs, buts or maybe’s, 31 is an unapologetic, nihilistic, no holds barred, mean-spirited film from a Director who likes to push boundaries. Let’s ignore for a second that Billy Pon’s, “Circus Of The Dead” which also centers on a carnival of clowns and features a disturbing leader (played by Bill Oberst Jr.), was probably committed to screen long before the idea for 31 even entered Zombie’s twisted head, *see review* So with that in mind, I dug the 70’s aesthetic and the limited cinematic camera work, most notably the chilling introduction and Brake’s first appearance. Most of the music works and the sound effects are unbelievably sharp, Zombie’s usual attention to detail in the set design is a positive. Performance wise, McDowell and Brake are leaps and bounds ahead of the supporting cast, I suppose Sheri does her bit too. There’s a steady blood flow and a good variety of kills but unfortunately some terrible editing and shaky camera work ruin most of what’s presented to us. There’s no sugar-coating it, the gritty shooting style and hyperactive lighting are just plain bad and the worst I’ve seen from any of Rob Zombie’s film. The dialogue is tasteless and empty, whether that be chit-chat among the group of carnies or threats from the clowns. The characters arcs completely lack individuality and some of the specifics in the plot development don’t add up. The big thing for hardcore fans is that the violence an on-screen havoc don’t live up to expectations. For all its hype, 31 is probably Zombie’s weakest film and I don’t think I’ve been this disappointed in a Horror film for a long time. I suggest fans keep an eye out for Damien Leone’s upcoming film “Terrifier”, it’s another clown film promising bigger and better things…. maybe you’ll have more luck with that.

My rating for “31” is 5/10