Category Archives: Survival Thriller

Breeder | Jens Dahl’s Danish horror thriller is brutal to the extreme

Directing his second feature, Pusher writer Jens Dahl explores the dark side of biohacking and the search for the ultimate youth renewal serum in Breeder, a brutal and bloody Euro-horror thriller which gets a UK Blu-ray release from Eureka Entertainment.

Ruthless in her determination to reverse the ageing process, Dr Isabel Ruben (Signe Eghom Olsen) resorts to harvesting the cells of newborn babies from the women she has kidnapped and inseminated with her wealthy client’s DNA. But when her funding partner Thomas (Anders Heinrichsen) discovers the terrifying reality behind her research, Ruben abducts his suspicious girlfriend Mia (Sara Hjort Ditlevsen) and locks her up with the other test subjects.

Without a doubt, Breeder is certainly a chilling scenario, but whatever social critique Dahl might be implying gets lost under the film’s grimy survival thriller surface. It begins all clean and clinical in A Cure for Wellness kind of way, then quickly descends into women-in-cages exploitation mode as Mia and her fellow unwashed subjects suffer relentless abuse at the hands of two psychopaths. At first, I couldn’t reconcile why the women were being forced to live in such filthy conditions when they were being used as baby machines but then comes a truly stomach-churning scene which explains why they aren’t in one of the nicer rooms of the abandoned factory where Ruben has her HQ.

If you like your Euro-horror in the extreme, then Breeder might just be your bag, if not then turn away now!

1080p presentation on Blu-ray
• DTS-HD MA 5.1 audio and optional English subtitles
• Interview with director Jens Dahl and screenwriter Sissel Dalsgaard Thomsen
• Collector’s Booklet featuring a new essay by film historian Kat Ellinger

Black Water: Abyss | The killer crocodile creature feature is unleashed in cinemas on 10 July

With some UK cinemas reopening this month, first out of the gate is Altitude’s killer crocodile sequel Black Water: Abyss from director Andrew Trauck, who helmed the first terror flick back in 2007.

An uncharted cave system in remote Northern Australia is the setting this time around which sees two couples Eric (Luke Mitchell) and Jennifer (Jessica McNamee), Yolanda (Amali Golden) and Viktor (Benjamin Hoetjes) joining guide Cash (Anthony J Sharpe) for a recce of the caves. But when a storm causes a river to break its bank, the caves start filling up with water trapping the adventure seekers. In a desperate race against time to find a way out, the gang’s efforts are then hampered by a territorial crocodile that starts picking them off one by one…

If you suffer from claustrophobia or have a fear of water then you might have to give this taut survival thriller a wide berth. But if you’re a fan of The Descent, 47 Meters Down and Crawl then you’re in for a gripping jump-out-of-your-seat ride. The young cast brings much gusto to their respective roles, and the film’s writers have come up with some neat plot twists that help make the characters more than just crocodile fodder. Oh, and that ending? Wow!

Black Water: Abyss is out in selected UK cinemas on 10 July.


Arrow Video FrightFest – Twenty Blood Years | Day One – Daddy issues, hungry alligators and Argentine zombies

Celebrating its 20th-year, FrightFest returned last night to the Cineworld Leicester Square and the Prince Charles Cinema in London and here’s my take on the opening night screamings that I managed to see…

30-something hipster Norval (Elijah Wood) receives a surprise invitation to visit his estranged father who he hasn’t seen since he was five years old. Arriving at his dad’s beach-house, he is shocked to find him drunk and reluctant to tell him why he has asked him to visit… but all is not what it seems, and very quickly Norval finds himself on a dark path of self-discovery…

I have a real soft spot for Elijah Wood, not because of his Lord of the Rings/Hobbit connection, but because of the offbeat film projects he chooses to add to his already impressive CV: in particular – I’m talking about Grand Piano and Maniac (in which he delivers probably his career-best performance). And he certainly impresses here as the doe-eyed hipster (complete with Frankie Goes to Hollywood dress sense, undercut hair style and moustache) whose sheltered Beverly Hills upbringing implodes when he discovers his life has all been a lie and that he now has to man-up or else. I won’t spoil it by saying how, but it does involve Stephen McHattie’s graggy, booze-fuelled character and the introduction of three mysterious characters – including a man in chains (Martin Donovan) and a particularly unsavory one carrying a flaming crossbow (Michael Smiley). Can I just say that McHattie is really creepy here, but its Smiley who ends up stealing the show — particular in the latter half of the film when things get really gruesome (watch out for the ‘shitty pen’).

Making his directorial debut, Ant Timpson is no stranger to FrightFest having produced The ABCs of Death, Deathgasm and the brilliant Turbo Kid. A USA/Canada/New Zealand/Ireland co-production, Come to Daddy is supposedly drawn on Timpson’s own experience with the death of someone close to him, and making the film became something of a cathartic experience. Stylistically, it has shades of a 1970s thriller (the title credits and soundtrack particularly so), while the beach house and its setting reminded me of the in Mario Bava’s Five Dolls for an August Moon (which was set in 1970). The black humour is also terrific here, with both McHattie and Smiley providing the lion’s share: and the one joke that got the whole audience laughing involved having sex with Tory politician Michael Heseltine (not sure if US audiences will get that though).

A deviously edgy offbeat thriller with some father and son bonding at its core.

From Alexandre Aja (The Hills Have Eyes, Piranha 3D) and producer Sam Raimi comes this claustrophobic thriller with extra snap. When a hurricane hits her Florida hometown, competitive swimmer Haley (Kaya Scodelario) heads to her old family home in search of her missing father, Dave (Barry Pepper). Finding him injured in the crawlspace underneath the house, the two soon become trapped by a congregation of alligators that have escaped from a local farm. But with the waters rapidly rising and the storm intensifying, its a race against time for the father and daughter to escape the sinister predators.

This text-book disaster thriller is hugely entertaining: featuring characters you care about (the father-daughter dynamic is at the heart of the drama and both Scodelario and Pepper are excellent), sharp direction, bags of suspense, and a couple of genuine ‘jump out of your seat’ scares. And like all good disaster films, there’s a family pet to route for — in this case its Dave’s loveable mutt Sugar.

While you have to suspend your belief with regards to the ‘flesh wounds’ that Haley and Dave receive while tackling their scaly adversaries (who are portrayed here as unrelenting killing machines), it just makes the MacGyver-styled action all the more gripping. While most of the action is confined to a flooded basement, there’s some great exterior set-ups (as the town outside is flooded) involving a gang of looters (who get their just desserts) and a couple of volunteer rescue workers. And the CGI of the alligators is particularly good, although there’s one or two instances that reminded me of those el-cheapo Sharknado films.

As a bacteriological war wages in the Northern hempishere, famine grips South America and those infected are call the ‘dry ones’. When a man (Esteban Prol) suffering from amnesia (the first stage of the infection) is lured into a desert compound, he finds himself at the mercy of three sadistic wild men and a knife-wielding feral girl (Fini Bocchino). Tortured and caged, Dog (as he is named) finally gets a chance to get his own back when the girl releases him…

Pablo Pares’ blistering Argentine-made apocalyptic horror fuses The Walking Dead with some Mad Max II-stylings and Fulci-esque zombies. It’s a grim ride, but utterly compelling thanks to the solid cast (who all look genuinely grubby and in need of a hose down), well-choreographed fight sequences and stunning cinematography (particularly the desert landscape). But the fun really starts when Dog returns with a pack of ‘dry ones’ to take down Father (Horacio Fontova) and his tribe…

Bone crunching horror with a Latin twist — but you’ll be rushing to have a shower afterwards!



The Mountain of the Cannibal God (1978) | Sergio Martino’s notorious exploitation cult looks ravishing on Blu-ray

From Shameless in the UK comes the 2k restoration release of Sergio Martino’s 1978 Italian horror The Mountain of the Cannibal God (minus the gratuitous animal cruelty) on Blu-ray and DVD.

Ursula Andress braves tarantulas, alligators, anacondas and treacherous terrain as she goes in search of her missing scientist husband, Henry, on a ‘wild and uncontaminated’ island in New Guinea.

Enlisting the services of Stacey Keach’s professor Edward Foster and jungle explorer Manolo (Claudio Cassinelli), Susan (Andress) and her brother Arthur (Antonio Marsina) set their sights on the mountain of Ra Ra Me, where Henry’s clandestine expedition was headed. But everyone have their own private reasons for reaching this mystical destination… and not everyone is going to survive the ‘orgiastic pandemonium’ that ensues…

Also known as La montagna del dio cannibale (in Italy), Slave of the Cannibal God (in the US) and Prisoner of the Cannibal God (in the UK), Martino’s exploitation flick was banned in the UK as a ‘video nasty’ until 2001 for its violent imagery. Shameless have now reinstated the long-missing original dramatic gore, but has wisely chosen to ‘soften’ the animal suffering visuals which were patently inserted, completely out of context, to cater for commercial stipulations of the day. However, that bestiality scene involving a ‘disinterested’ pig remains intact!

Frankly, I think this rebuild makes for much more suspenseful jungle adventure (like King Solomon’s MInes meets Emmanuelle), while Giancarlo Ferrando’s cinematography of the jungle and its wildlife, and the cave locations (all shot in Sri Lanka,) really shine in this restoration. The camera also loves Andress, who looks flawless despite her many ordeals, which include climbing a genuinely dangerous waterfall and being turned into a living goddess coated in honey. The music score, by Guido and Maurizo de Angelis, is also one I could happily listen to in its own right. My only niggle is the film’s unflattering portrayal of indigenous culture (but that is something that’s problematic of many Mondo-style exploitation flicks of the era).

Martino has fully supported Shameless’ efforts not to ‘pander to exploitative and unnecessary violence against animals’, and the director explains that in detail in the extras that are included in this release.

• Cannibal Nightmare – Return to The Mountain of the Cannibal God: Documentary
• Sergio Martino on filming animal cruelty
• Theatrical trailer
• Italian credits






Triangle (2009) | Guaranteed to keep you guessing right up to the end

Triangle (2009)

Having helmed the visceral slasher Creep and the comedy horror flick Severance, director Christopher Smith turned to the psychological suspense genre for his 2009 British-Australian chiller, Triangle.

Triangle (2009)

Filmed in Australia, but set in Florida (basically for the all-important US market), the film stars Melissa George as Jess, the struggling single mum of an autistic boy, who just cannot shake the feeling that something is wrong when she goes on a sailing trip.

When the yacht is capsized during a freak storm, the sailing party board a seemingly deserted ocean liner, but Jess’s growing feeling of deja vu begins to move ever closer towards a horrible realisation.

Triangle (2009)

Having ‘experienced’ Triangle at its UK premiere back in 2009, I was bowled-over by Smith’s plotting of the film’s events, so – of course – I had to add the 2010 Blu-ray to my collection. It’s great to revel in the chilling atmospherics all over again. Part Greek tragedy, part The Shining… this ghost ship in The Twilight Zone is guaranteed to give you the shivers and keep you guessing right up to the end.

The 2010 UK DVD/Blu-ray special features include a Making of featurette, audio commentary with director Christopher Smith; three storyboards; deleted scenes; competition winners poster design; and a special effects featurette.

Triangle is available on Amazon Prime and also screens today at 9pm on The Horror Channel in the UK (Sky 319, Virgin 149, Freeview 70).

My Top 10 from Horror Channel FrightFest 2017

Horror Channel FrightFest 2017

Phew! Horror Channel FrightFest is over for another year and it was probably one of the best ever that I have attended with some great thrills and surprises amongst the 64 film shown over the Bank Holiday weekend at the Cineworld Leicester Square and The Prince Charles Cinema. Now, while I didn’t get to see all of them, I did rather burn out my retinas catching quite a few. So, for what it’s worth, here’s my Top 10, plus a couple pf runner-up faves.

• Tragedy Girls
• Cult of Chucky
• Better Watch Out
• King Cohen
• The Bar
• Freehold
• Victor Crowley
• 68 Kill
• Death Note
• Attack of the Adult Babies

Director: Tyler MacIntyre. US. 2017. 93 mins.
If you are a fan of TV’s Scream Queens, then you will certainly LOVE this gleefully camp Heathers meets Scream slasher in which two vain high school besties (played by Deadpool’s Brianna Hildebrand and X-Men: Apocalypse’s Alexandra Shipp) go on a killing spree just to increase their social media standing. With stylish cinematography, charismatic performances, and a smart script (with lots of 1980s horror movie references), this was a real winner at Frightfest.

Director: Don Mancini. US. 2017. 91 mins.
Following a great Twilight Zone-homage from Hatchet’s Adam Green and Joe Lynch, FrightFesters were treated to the World Premiere of the seventh entry in the 30-year-old Killer Doll franchise – and it did not disappoint. This time round, Chucky continues to terrorise poor Mica (Fiona Dourif), who was found guilty of the murders in 2013’s Curse of Chucky. But is she just imagining things because Chuck’s old nemesis Andy Barclay (Alex Vincent) seems to have Chucky’s head locked up in a safe? If you want to read more (CLICK HERE). This one will be getting a Halloween release in the UK.

Director: Chris Peckover. Australia/USA 2016. 88 mins.
It’s Christmas, and parents Patrick Warburton and Virginia Madsen go out for the evening leaving 12-year-old Luke (Pan’s Levi Miller) in the care of his favourite babysitter, 17-year-old Ashley (The Visit’s Olivia DeJonge). But when a brick crashes through the window reading ‘You Leave, You Die’, it sets in motion a series of events that you will not expect. This Yuletide home invasion horror is enormous fun, but also very dark, featuring an intelligent, genre-bending script, and great performances from the young leads – especially Miller. It’s due out in the US on 6 October, and I do hope it gets a UK release soon.

King Cohen

Director: Steve Mitchell. USA 2017. 110 mins
I really enjoyed this fantastic appreciation of maverick US film auteur Larry Cohen, the writer/producer/director behind TV’s The Invaders and genre fare like It’s Alive and The Stuff. Featuring interviews with his former stars like Yaphet (Alien) Kotto and Eric Robert, and admirers like Martin Scorsese, JJ Abrams and John Landis, plus with the legend himself (and boy, can he talk!), this is a real must-see. If you want to know more, check out my full review (CLICK HERE).

Director: Alex de la Iglesia. Spain 2017. 104 mins.
This latest effort from the director of Day of the Beast and Witching and Bitching was one of the festival’s big highlights. It’s life as usual at Amparo’s bar in central Madrid until a group of regular customers – including hipster Nacho (Mario Casas), snooty Elena (Blanca Suárez), businessman Andrés (Joaquín Climent) and homeless beggar Israel (Jaime Ordonez) – witness two men being fatally shot as they try to leave. Who is responsible? Why aren’t the police doing anything? And why are there people wearing Hazmat suits in the square? Alex de la Iglesia’s black comic chiller puts human nature under the microscope, and it’s not a pretty picture. Death, selfishness, survival and hypocrisy are all treated with great wit and dark humour.

Director: Dominic Bridges. UK. 2017. 79 mins.
The feature debut from commercials director Dom Bridges and written by Outpost’s Rae Brunton is a twisted fusion of claustrophobic black comedy and urban morality tale, but with a bizarre spin on the home invasion premise. Contortionist Orlan (Javier Botet) secretly moves into the flat of slimy real estate agent Hussein (Mim Shaikh) by occupying the hidden spaces of his flat (like his cupboards and wardrobe). It’s all part of the master of concealment’s plan to slowly unravel Hussein’s life and drive him insane. But does he succeed? Well, hopefully Bridges’ searing comment on race, the house market (and Brexit) will get a proper UK release soon so you can find that out for yourself. Cleverly scripted and with strong performances (especially the double-jointed Botet – whose face is usually hidden behind loads of make-up in films like the new It, The Mummy and Crimson Peak), this is a cracker of a debut from Bridges.

Victor Crowley (2017)

Director: Adam Green. US. 2017.
The big surprise at FrightFest was Adam Green unveiling the world premiere of his fourth entry in the Hatchet series with the film’s star Kane Hodder in attendance. Hatchet 3 survivor Andrew Long (Parry Shen), is now a minor celebrity who ends up back on Crowley’s swamp turf (which has been turned into a tourist attraction) when he agrees to a $1million fee to participate in a TV documentary. But when the crew’s plane crashes and wannabe filmmaker Chloe (Katie Booth) invokes Crowley’s spirit (via clips on the internet), the slaughter begins all over again. Made in secret over two years, this gory fun ride is packed with inventive, and very bloody, kills and some LOL campy humour. It also earned Green a standing ovation following the screening. Green dedicated the film to two masters of the genre – the late George A Romero and Tobe Hooper, who actually passed away on the same day as the screening (26 August).

Victor Crowley (2017)

Director: Trent Haaga. USA. 2017. 93mins
Chip (Criminal Minds’ Matthew Gray Gubler) is a hapless nice guy who pumps sewage for a living and is completely infatuated with his trailer park ex-stripper girlfriend Liza (AnnaLynne McCord). But she turns out be crazier than he first imagined when her plan to rob her sugar daddy goes horrible wrong. This fast-paced thriller is full of surprises, great fun and boasts some quite extreme violence.

Death Note

Dir Adam Wingard. US. 2017. 101 mins.
This Netflix-produced take on the Japanese manga comes from director Adam Wingard (You’re Next) and follows high school student Light Turner (Nat Wolff) who turns self-appointed judge, jury and executioner when he comes across a supernatural notebook in which you write the name of someone you wish to die. When he begins to kill all those he deems unworthy of life, a reclusive detective (Lakeith Stanfield) sets out to end his reign of terror. Featuring great Final Destination-style set pieces, excellent performances, superb John Carpenter-inspired synth score from Atticus Ross and Leopold Ross, and Willem Dafoe voicing Ryuk, the death god who becomes Light’s moral compass, this is not to be missed. Catch it on Netflix now.

Attack of the Adult Babies

Director: Dominic Brunt. UK 2017. 80 mins.
Dominic Brunt is best known as bumbling vet Paddy Kirk in Emmerdale, but he’s also a film director who has shared his passion for all things horror with his writer/actress wife Joanne Mitchell in films like Before Dawn, Bait and now this perverted shocker. A home invasion forces a mother (Kate Coogan) and two teenagers (Kurtis Lowe and Mica Proctor) to break into a country manor to steal some secret documents. Little do they know the stately pile – which is presided over by the mysterious Margaret (Sally Dexter) – is also where high-powered middle-aged men take refuge from daily life by dressing in nappies and having young women in nurses uniforms indulge them in their every perverse nursery whim. But these rich bastards also have another very sick agenda and it involves something quite monstrous in the basement. Brunt’s blunt, bloody and bonkers satire is a gleefully grotesque carnival of bad taste, over the top gore and gross-out scatological humour. It’s like Lindsay Anderson re-making Downton Abbey as a Pete Walker horror with added Benny Hill comedy touches. Just throw in some crazy claymation (courtesy of Lee Hardcastle) and some psychedelic chat with the God of Shit (voiced by Brunt) and you’ve got one of the weirdest British comedies ever made.

Attack of the Adult Babies

Freddy/Eddy – Tini Tuellman’s spine-chilling psycho suspense thriller
Leatherface – Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo’s stunning prequel to Texas Chain Saw Massacre
Canaries – Peter Stray’s alien-invading black comedy
Veronica – Carlos Algara and Alejandro Martinez-Beltran’s gripping psychological twister
To Hell and Back: The Kane Hodder Story – a moving documentary about everyone’s favourite Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th series (expect my full review soon, but here’s a pic of the legendary stuntman with one of his fans – me!)

Kane Hodder

Finally, a big thanks to Greg Day (Clout Communications) and the Horror Channel for inviting me back this year.








X Moor (2014) | Some nasty surprises await in the British indie horror – welcome to the lair of the Beast!

Xmoor poster

With her sights set on fame and fortune, American student journalist Georgia (Melia Kreiling) and her cameraman boyfriend Matt (Nick Blood) head to Exmoor in North Devon to capture footage of a legendary panther that is said to roam the moor.

With the help of an experienced animal tracker Fox (Matt Bonar), the couple set up camp in Slew Wood and begin fixing up 42 cameras to the trees and rocks. But when they uncover the rotting corpses of dozens of young women in the undergrowth, Georgia and Matt realise that Fox has intentionally led them into a serial killer’s dumping ground in a bid to hunt him down… So will they stay or will they go?

Xmoor (2014)

From writer/director Luke Hyams comes X Moor, an atmospheric survivalist horror. It’s a handsome looking film, with cool score and credits, and evocative photography of the wet and windy terrain (with Ballymoney, Northern Ireland standing in for Exmoor). The characters are well drawn and the cast is excellent.

Melia Kreiling’s Georgia’s got balls and a conscience and given what she goes through in the course of one night, she’s destined to join the ranks of horror’s other fierce Final Girls. Typically, Nick Blood’s Matt is a bit of a dick, although his relationship with Georgia comes off as playful and genuine. And when he sprains his leg and risks getting hypothermia, you can’t help but feel sorry for him.

Xmoor (2014)

Mark Bonnar’s Fox, meanwhile, is the film’s most intriguing character – part menacing, part sympathetic. He provides real gravitas to the proceedings and also one the film’s big shock moments. The other big jump-in-your-seat moment is when one of the six corpses the trio uncover is found to be still alive! That one really got me – as did the idea that the killer (the Beast) drugs his victims and buries them so that he can hunt them down later. That’s just sick!

The film however is ultimately let down by some serious randomness, especially the introduction of Charlene (Jemma O’Brien), the unseen killer’s one-eyed daughter, who is found by Georgia waiting for her father to return from grouse shooting. That was just too leftfield.

Xmoor (2014)

Then there’s the messy climax, in which everyone (killer included) make really stupid decisions until its just Georgia left to face her hunter armed with the jaw bone of a deer. What happens next is suppose to be the film’s big shock twist. But it just left me scratching my head and, in the end, there’s no closure for either Georgia or the audience. There’s also a suggestion that there’s more than one killer involved. I really wanted that one explained. The panther, by the way, does make an appearance on one of the CCTV cameras at the very end of the film. Growl!!!

‘Smells like a giant kitty litter’

XMoor gets its UK TV premier on The Horror Channel today (Friday 18 August) at 9pm.


Wolf Creek | The cult Aussie serial killer thriller gets a searing TV serialisation

Wolf Creek (TV Series)

Fresh from freaking out viewers on FOX, Wolf Creek is heading to VoD, DVD, Blu-ray from today (10 October), courtesy of Eureka Entertainment in the UK.


Based on the cult Aussie serial killer thriller films of same name, the six-part drama sees John Jarratt reprising his iconic role as chuckling psychopath Mick Taylor, who continues to wreak murderous havoc on backpackers and holidaymakers in the Australian outback.


But, this time round, he may have met his match in American teenager Eve (Lucy Fry), when he takes his blood stained Bowie knife and guts Eve’s mum, dad and brother, but mistakenly leaves the wannabe athlete behind for croc bait.


Wounded and pissed off, Eve will stop at nothing to get her revenge. So, after stealing evidence from Darwin detective Sullivan Hill (Dustin Clare), who is investigating unsolved missing persons cases, Eve sets out across the outback to remote parts of WA and South Australia where she picks up clues that will lead her inextricably to… Mick. But following close behind is dogged detective Hill and a gang of vengeful drug-running bikers. And when Mick picks up her scent… all hell breaks loose!


Writer/Director Greg McLean has done a sterling job transferring his slasher sleeper hit to the small screen. It looks great, with the great Australian landscape being showcased in all its bleak, barren beauty – including salt lakes, billabongs, an opal mine and lots of dusty and dangerous highways. There’s action aplenty, while the blood-drenched horror (people getting skinned, beheaded and blown apart) will please gorehounds.


Lucy Fry (last seen on TV as Lee Harvey Oswald’s wife in 11.22.63) makes for an energetic Mad Maxine-styled heroine (albeit one that never smiles until she befriends a stray dog that becomes her spirit guide), while John Jarratt is a hoot every time his murderous Mick slays another tourist (the yoga lady was my favourite).


But you have to suspend your belief over the show’s basic scenario in which Fry’s naïve American is able to escape police custody – and a jail cell – and seems to stay under the radar of the local cops and media. This would never have happened under my watch when I was working as a TV journo in the Goldfields. Australia might be a big place, but even in the remotest parts, when anything happens you’re on it like a shot. Plus, the cops are much more clued in than those portrayed in the show.


But if you can manage to overlook those plots holes, then this Aussie thriller is a must-see. Oh, and one final thought. I’m sure those know-it-alls at Screenwest must be kicking themselves for passing on McLean’s original film – given its cult status, and spawning a sequel (reviewed here) and now a series, it’s been great for South Australia, but another missed opportunity for WA.

Wolf Creek is available on DVD and Blu-ray on 10 October, and includes featurettes on the locations, visual effect, cast and bringing the film to the small screen.


JeruZalem (2015) | This Israeli biblical horror is Monsters with smartglasses

JeruZalem (2015)

The found-footage genre gets an inventive twist in this Israeli apocalyptic horror, which puts a pair of smartglasses through a test drive that’s literally hellish.


‘Remind me never to take travel advice from you every again’
Newcomer Danielle Jadelyn is our geeky heroine Sarah who, along with her clueless pal Rachel (Jane the Virgin’s Yael Grobglas), gets trapped inside Jerusalem’s Old City following a suspected airstrike during Yom Kippur.


But as the girls attempt to find sanctuary deep beneath the city walls with the help of pot-smoking hostel manager, Omar (Tyrant’s Tom Graziani) and anthropology student, Kevin (Yon Tumarkin), they discover the city has become ground zero for an army of dark angels to be unleashed from the gates of hell.


Have you heard the one about the Muslim, the Christian and the Jew all trapped in a cave surrounded by an army of dark angels…?
Like Gareth Edwards’ Monsters, this found-footage shocker defies its modest budget, with filmmakers Yoav and Doron Paz successfully creating a sense of scale where there is none, and their clever use of smartglasses makes the over-used POV gimmick more believable – plus you get a first-person tour of the city’s most important religious sites (the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Wailing Wail) alongside the apocalyptic tale.


Cynics might say this is just an ad for the technology, but the filmmakers also make room to touch on issues of privacy and our every increasing need to stay connected 24/7. It’s a Fatal Error indeed, especially when Sarah’s navigational elements pack up…

And with Israel being the most hotly contested places on the planet, the Paz Brothers don’t shy away from some self-deprecation: and this is best summed up in a taxi-driver’s remark that: ‘we have a beautiful tradition of killing each other’; while their tongue-in-cheek irreverence for religion is touched when Kevin is locked up when he’s suspected of Jerusalem Syndrome, a psychosis which affect more Catholics than Jews or Muslims (according the film-makers); even the stereotyped characterisations of the girls (as stupid, but beautiful American Jewish princesses) is done on purpose.

While the film does get bogged down with some racing around a dark cave malarkey, the pay off is a sinister treat that begs a sequel – something that’s already in the works.

JeruZalem is out on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK from Solo Media and Matchbox films, and also gets its premiere today on Sky Cinema Premiere (Virgin 401/431) at 10.05pm.



Harpoon: The Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre (2009) | Horror legend Gunnar Hansen chills in his final film

Harpoon: The Reykjavik Whale Watching MassacreEver been part of a tour group with a bunch of strangers in some remote foreign clime and wondered; ‘If we got into serious trouble, would we all work together to protect each other?’ Well that’s the premise of 2010’s Harpoon: The Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre, an Icelandic slasher that’s definitely way better than its exploitive title might suggest.

Harpoon: The Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre

Texas Chain Saw‘s original Leatherface, the late-Gunnar Hansen (who died in November 2015, aged 68), plays the captain in charge of a whale watching boat, Poseidon, that sets out on a three-hour tour with handful of eco-tourists: amongst them is a German night-clubber, who smashes her knee while boarding the boat; a Japanese translator, who is struggling to please a misogynist businessman and his loyal wife; and a quiet African-American man.

Harpoon: The Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre

But this is no Gilligan’s Island adventure, as events soon take a dark path. While coaxing a drunk French Arab down from climbing the ship’s mast, the captain becomes impaled by a stray harpoon. Instead of helping, the Poseidon’s repellent first mate then jumps ship, leaving the tourists to fend for themselves. Hailing down a small craft, the tourists think they are heading back to the harbour, but they are far from safe. On boarding an old whaling boat, the small group are soon fleeing for their lives, as they become blood sport for a family of revenge seeking whale hunters.

Harpoon: The Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre

Scary, exciting and with characters that you really can believe in, this is a slasher for grown-ups. While it may conjure up memories of Hostel and its ilk, there is so much more here, thanks mainly to the screenplay (from Sjón Sigurdsson, the lyricist for Lars von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark), which is a blackly comic social commentary on commerce, race and morality, and Júliús Kemp’s careful direction, which stays on the right side of gore – thrilling, but not eye-wincing.

From the inventive opening credits to the punk-rock remix of Bjørk’s It’s Oh So Quiet over the closing credits, this chilly Icelandic offering is a carefully crafted, intelligent addition to the horror genre. As for who survives, well I was genuinely surprised… but I loved it.

Harpoon: The Reykjavik Whale Watching Massacre screens on The Horror Channel in the UK (Sky 319, Virgin 149, Freeview 70, Freesat 138), with the next showing on today (Tuesday 15 March) at 10.55pm.


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