Category Archives: Thriller

Anti-Worlds proudly presents its inaugural taboo-busting Blu-ray releases

For cinema fans who like their films daring, innovative and controversial, then take a look at new production company Anti-Worlds, who are releasing their first slate of Blu-rays, featuring high-quality feature-film presentations from some new, ground-breaking film-makers, and each one complemented by an array of extensive bonus content.

CHAINED FOR LIFE
Aaron Schimberg’s impressive second feature is his response, as a filmmaker with facial deformity, to cinematic portrayals of disfigured people, from Freaks to The Elephant Man. Simultaneously empathetic and sardonic, Chained for Life’s multi-layered meta-narrative casts Jess Weixler (Teeth) as Mabel, a well-intentioned Hollywood star. She takes the role of a blind woman in a hospital-based horror movie about abnormalities, directed by an egomaniacal German filmmaker. As shooting progresses, Mabel gradually falls for her friendly British co-star Rosenthal, played by Under the Skin actor Adam Pearson.

BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES
DISC ONE: CHAINED FOR LIFE
• High Definition presentation
• Original mono soundtrack
• Audio commentary with writer-director Aaron Schimberg
A Different Kind of Intimacy (2020, 18 mins): actor Jess Weixler reflects on the themes and production of Chained for Life
Good Things Happen to Good People (2020, 10 mins): actor and activist Adam Pearson discusses the role of Rosenthal
We Are Family (2020, 17 mins): actor Sari Lennick recalls her experiences of making the film
• Eight deleted/extended scenes (12 mins)
• Super 8 on-set footage (2018, 2 mins, mute), silent material shot by film archivist John Kalcsmann
Late Spring/Regrets for Our Youth (2009, 5mins): short diary by Aaron Schimberg
• UK and US theatrical trailers
• Teaser trailer
• Image gallery
• English subtitles

DISC TWO: GO DOWN DEATH (LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE)
• UK premiere presentation of Aaron Schimberg’s 2013 debut feature
• High Definition presentation
• Original mono soundtrack
It would be sad to see this end up in a dump (2013, 6 mins): rare behind-the-scenes footage shot by producer-editor Vanessa McDonnell
• Nine deleted scenes (32 mins)
• Theatrical trailer
• Image gallery
• Optional English subtitles
• Limited edition booklet containing new writing on Chained for Life by David Jenkins, Jeff Billington on the 1950 exploitation film Chained for Life, Alejandro Bachmann and Michelle Koch on Go Down Death, and film credits
• Limited edition of 3,000 copies

HOLIDAY
This controversial drama, passed fully uncut by the BBFC, tells the story of the trophy girlfriend of a Danish drug lord who sets a dangerous game in motion when she seeks the attention of another man whilst on vacation in the Turkish Riviera. Included in the Hollywood Reporter’s list of the ‘Best 20 Films from Sundance 2018’, and in IndieWire’s list of Sundance standouts that deserve to find distribution. Director Isabella Eklöf was also selected in the ‘10 Directors to Watch’ list by IndieWire.

BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES
• High Definition presentation
• Classified fully uncut by the BBFC
• Original 5.1 surround sound
On ‘Holiday’ (2020, 20 mins): in-depth interview with writer-director Isabella Eklöf on the creation and production of her debut feature
• Q&A with Isabella Eklöf (2019, 29 mins): the filmmaker in discussion with Lizzie Francke, recorded at London’s Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA)
• Deleted scene (3 mins)
Willy Kyrklund (2002, 11 mins): short documentary portrait of the acclaimed author and poet, directed by Eklöf
• Theatrical trailer
• Optional English translation subtitles
• Optional English subtitles
• Limited edition booklet containing new writing on Holiday by Anna Bogutskaya, an interview with Isabella Eklöf by Addy Fong, Peter Walsh on Willy Kyrklund., and film credits
• Limited edition of 3,000 copies

RELAXER
Set on the eve of Y2K, Relaxer is a mind-bending drama about a young man who is tasked by his overbearing brother to get to level 256 on the classic computer game Pac-Man, and not to leave his couch until he does. Inspired by Luis Buñuel’s absurdist classic The Exterminating Angel, the film premiered at the 2018 South by Southwest festival, and won the Best Actor award at that year’s Fantasia Film Festival.

BLU-RAY SPECIAL FEATURES:
DISC ONE: RELAXER
• High Definition presentation
• Original stereo soundtrack
• Audio commentary by writer-director Joel Potrykus
• Behind the Scenes (2018, 7 mins): on-set footage featuring Potrykus and actor Joshua Burge
• Deleted scene (5 mins)
• Rehearsal footage (2018, 10 mins)
Milk Party (2001, 9 mins): the real-life inspiration behind one of Relaxer’s most memorable scenes
• Four short films by Joel Potrykus: Ludovico Treatment (1999, 2 mins), Ludovico Testament (1999, 4 mins), Coyote (2010, 25 mins) and Test Market 447b (2019, 2 mins)
Follicle Gang (Green) (2011, 2 mins): music video for Heavier Than Air Flying Machines, directed by Potrykus
• Image gallery: behind the scenes photography
• Theatrical trailer
• David Dastmalchian promos
• Optional English subtitles

DISC TWO: BUZZARD (LIMITED EDITION EXCLUSIVE)
• UK premiere presentation of writer-director Joel Potrykus’ 2014 feature
• High Definition presentation
• Original stereo soundtrack
• Audio commentary by writer-director Joel Potrykus
Buzzard: The Rehearsal Cut (2014, 65 mins): alternative version of the complete film comprised entirely of rehearsal footage
• ‘Buzzard’ at Locarno Film Festival (2018, 9 mins): short documentary on the filmmakers’ trip to Milan, Italy, shot and edited by director of photography Adam J Minnick
• Behind the scenes footage (2014, 8 mins): a selection of outtakes and on-set material
• Seven deleted/alternative scenes (9 mins)
• Hidden ‘Buzzard’ (2014, 1 min): a guide to the ‘Easter eggs’ within the film
• Image gallery: behind the scenes photography
• Theatrical trailer
• Festival trailer
• Optional English subtitles
• Limited edition booklet containing new writing on Relaxer by Nathan Rabin, Joel Potrykus on the making of Relaxer, Caden Mark Gardener on Buzzard, Alex Ross Perry on Potrykus, and film credits
• Double-sided inlay with full Buzzard artwork
• Limited edition of 3,000 copies

Under the Shadow | Babak Anvari’s 2016 Sundance hit gets a UK Blu-ray release

Iranian director Babak Anvari’s 2016 Sundance hit Under the Shadow is loved by audiences and critics alike. Part ghost story, part social thriller with cutting political commentary, the film is already considered a genre classic and now gets a UK Blu-ray debut in a feature packed Limited Edition box set, courtesy of Second Sight.

Making his feature debut, Anvari has crafted an outstanding piece of work. It follows mother Sideh (Narges Rashidi) struggling to cope in a post-revolution, war-torn Tehran of the 1980s. After being blacklisted by the authorities from continuing with her medical studies, Sideh finds herself reduced to playing housewife and exercising to Jane Fonda work-out videos on a contraband VHS machine.

When her husband (Bobby Naderi) is called away on military service, Sideh refuses to take her daughter Dorsa (Avin Manshadi) to her in-laws despite the very real threat of a bomb attack on the city. And when one such bomb crashes through the family’s apartment block, it doesn’t so much as detonate, as bring with it something far more deadly – malevolent spirits called djinn that begin to haunt her home.

Many critics have compared Anvari’s thriller with 2014’s The Babadook, but its a very different entity indeed. While writer/director Jennifer Kent’s Aussie howler was about how grief, guilt and loneliness can manifest the monster inside us all, Under the Shadow is much more subtle affair – but one that’s not lacking in two seriously unnerving sequences.

The ‘monster’ in question in this Tehran-set chiller (that was – unsurprisingly – shot in Jordan) is an unseen malevolent force that is felt not only by Sideh and little Dorsa, but also their neighbours. But we see little of that, as everything happens behind closed doors. It’s all very much a metaphor for the country’s new world order under the Khomeini regime. And Amvari is certainly using his ghost story for some social subtext – especially with regards to the role of women following the revolution that toppled the country’s more liberal monarchy and replaced its with an Islamist republic.

Rashidi brings a wide range of emotions to her role as an educated young woman at war with her own internal demons  – she wants to rage against the machine and motherhood. And once her husband leaves, we are left pretty much with a two-hander, as Rashidi and Manshadi’s Dorsa soon come to blows over a missing doll and VHS tapes. And its their chemistry together that makes the film so engrossing to watch. I won’t reveal anything about the ending here, but I must admit I was begging to know what happens next. One final point is the Farsi language spoken throughout – it’s a wonderfully clear and melodious delight to the ear.

If you haven’t seen it yet, then do check out Second Sight’s new UK Blu-ray release, which is packed with some fantastic extras…

SPECIAL FEATURES
Two & Two: Babak Anvari’s BAFTA Award nominated short film
Escaping The Shadow: a new interview with director Babak Anvari
Within the Shadow: a new interview with actor Narges Rashidi
Forming the Shadow: a new interview with producers Lucan Toh and Oliver Roskill
Shaping the Shadow: a new interview with cinematographer Kit Fraser
• A new audio commentary with Babak Anvari and Jamie Graham

LIMITED EDITION CONTENTS
• Limited Edition of 2,000
• Rigid slipcase featuring new artwork by Christopher Shy
• Soft cover book with new essays by Jon Towlson and Daniel Bird plus behind-the-scenes photos and concept
illustrations
• Poster featuring new artwork

Night Tide | Curtis Harrington’s cult fantasy feature debut and eight rarely-seen experimental shorts get a luminous UK release on Blu-ray

Presented by Nicolas Winding Refn in a new 4K restoration, Curtis Harrington’s 1961 fantasy thriller Night Tide is an offbeat classic of American independent cinema, and it makes its UK Blu-ray debut with this must-have box-set from Powerhouse Films.

Night Tide sees Dennis Hopper (in his first starring role) playing a sailor on shore leave in San Diego, where he meets a young woman called Mora (Linda Lawson) who not only works in a sideshow as a mermaid, but actually believes she is one of the mythical Sirens, who lure young men to their deaths…

A dream-like fusion of arthouse, expressionism and the surreal, dominated by high-contrast lighting and deep shadows, Harrington’s first feature pays homage Val Lewton (one of Harrington’s heroes) and his classic 1942 chiller Cat People – and cements the young film-maker’s poetic cinematic vision that was born out of his earlier experimental shorts. This new restoration is simply luminous and one that I can happily watch over and over again.

Exclusive to this two-disc region free set is a bonus Blu-ray devoted to eight of Harrington’s short films. Previously released by Flicker Alley and Drag City in the US following painstaking restoration by the Academy Film Archive (that was carried out between 2003 and 2007 – the year of Harrington’s death, aged 80), these shorts (also making their UK Blu-ray debut) are a key insight into Harrington’s development as a film-maker…

The Fall of the House of Usher (1942, 10 mins): Inspired to become a film-maker after reading Paul Rotha’s The Film Till Now: A Survey of World Cinema, Harrington was just 16 when he crafted this hallucingenic and campy homemade short in which he plays both Roderick and Madeline Usher. It might be very low budget is bursting with style that would later inform his cinematic vision.

Fragment of Seeking (1946, 14 mins): This ‘examination of youthful narcissism’ was heavily influenced by Maya Deren’s influential Meshes of the Afternoon and is very much a companion piece to Kenneth Anger’s Fireworks in its exploration of homosexuality. In fact, when the two friends first screened their ‘erotic dream pieces’ to an LA art group, they were deemed ‘very sick boys’. Good on them!

Picnic (1948, 23 mins): Harrington persuaded his own parents to star in this ‘satire of middle-class life’, in which an angry young man chases false love and desires to escape authoritive control. Acclaimed French director and film critic Jacques Rivette praised the film’s poetic expression.

On the Edge (1949, 6 mins): Surrealism comes to the fore in this powerful short about youthful dissatisfaction and human frailty, which uses the wild and desolate landscape of Salton Sea (near Brawley, California) to great effect.

The Assignation (1953, 8 mins): In this love letter to Venice and in his first short in colour that was long deemed lost until it was rediscovered in the vaults of the Cinematheque Française, Harrington explores themes of ‘fleeting human connection’ while also showcasing the city’s brooding architecture.

The Wormwood Star (1956, 10 mins): This is my personal favourite and comes with a very interesting history. Entranced by the LA artist Marjorie Cameron, a magnetic and alluring woman whom he had met while appearing in Kenneth Anger’s Inauguration of the Pleasure Dome and who makes a witchy cameo in Night Tide, Harrington crafted this arty occult short to ‘present Cameron/the artist as alchemist who, through her creative work, becomes herself transmuted into gold’.

Very much part of the occult milieu of Southern California at the time, Cameron was a unique and troubled soul whose lovers included rocket scientist and Aleister Crowley follower Jack Parsons (who developed a belief system that was later appropriated by Ron L Hubbard — guess what that was?) and psychedelic artist Burt Shonberg (who was commissioned to create the ancestor paintings in Roger Corman’s House of Usher). Cameron later burned most of the pieces that appear in the short (which was filmed in the home of surrealist collector Edward James), so this is only record of her unique artistry.

The Four Elements (1966, 13 mins): Commissioned by the United States Information Agency, Harrington was tasked to make this propaganda film to show off the might of American industry. He does so, but with his distinctive flair. Following this short, Harrington went on to craft a host of psychological thrillers like Games (1967) and Who Slew Auntie Roo? (1971) that have now attracted cult status, and TV movies like Cat Creature (1973) and Killer Bees (1974), then ended up helming episodes of the biggest and campest soaps of the 19870s, Dynasty and The Colbys.

Usher (2002, 37 mins): This final inclusion sees Harrington return to what made him become a film-maker in the first place: ‘the art of it’. Filmed at his home with a crew made up of friends (and Church of Satan members, Nikolas and Zeena Schreck), its an atmospheric and humourous take on the same Poe tale that began his cinematic journey.

This box-set is currently my No.1 home entertainment release of 2020, and could only be bettered by seeing all of Harrington’s features and TV movies in another box-set or two. In the meantime, here are the complete specs on Powerhouse/Indictator’s fabulous release.

SPECIAL FEATURES:
DISC ONE: NIGHT TIDE
• New 4K restoration
• Original mono audio
• Audio commentary (from 1998) with writer-director Curtis Harrington and actor Dennis Hopper (This is a must-listen and very informative on the making of the film – also a piece of cinema history as both of them are no longer with us)
• New audio commentary with writer and film programmer Tony Rayns (excellent as always)
Harrington on Harrington (2018, 25 mins): wide-ranging archival interview with the filmmaker
The Sinister Image: Curtis Harrington (1987, 57 mins): two episodes from David Del Valle’s public access series devoted to cult cinematic figures (It was fantastic to finally see this)
• Original theatrical trailer
• Image gallery: publicity and promotional material
• New and improved English subtitles

DISC TWO: DREAM LOGIC – THE SHORT FILMS OF CURTIS HARRINGTON
• High Definition remasters
• Original mono audio
• Eight short films: The Fall of the House of Usher (1942, 10 mins); Fragment of Seeking (1946, 14 mins); Picnic (1948, 23 mins); On the Edge (1949, 6 mins); The Assignation (1953, 8 mins); The Wormwood Star (1956, 10 mins); The Four Elements (1966, 13 mins); Usher (2002, 37 mins)
• Image gallery: production photography and a rare selection from Harrington’s personal collection
• New and improved English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• 80-page collector’s book featuring new writing on Night Tide by Paul Duane, Curtis Harrington on Night Tide and the short films, archival articles by Harrington on horror cinema, experimental films and the making of Picnic, an overview of critical responses, Peter Conheim on the restoration of Night Tide, and film credits
• Limited edition exclusive set of five facsimile lobby cards

Arrow Video FrightFest – Twenty Blood Years | Day Three – Vlogging scares, a killer drone and the return of stoners Jay and Silent Bob

While temperatures rose on the streets of London on Saturday, the air-con kept everyone super chilled inside Cineworld Leicester Square (a little too much so for me) during Day Three of the festival. Meanwhile, over at the Prince Charles Cinema there was the first short film showcase which featured some excellent pieces, including folk horror Marianne, the Oz vampire flick The Hitchhiker, The Video Store Commercial and the occult chiller The Cunning Man. I must say, there were a few duds today on the main screens (and many of my FrightFesters felt the same), but here’s three that caught my interest for differing reasons…

DEATH OF A VLOGGER
YouTuber Graham (Graham Hughes) gains viral fame after one of his eerie videos contains an alleged out-of-this-world haunting. But when it’s revealed that it’s all a hoax, he kills himself. But was it?

Any time someone mentions ‘found footage’, I feel a shudder down my spin — the genre is an instant turn-off for me, as it opens itself up to some shoddy, cheapskate ways of making a film. But Graham Hunghes’ viral mockumentary was a genuine surprise. I found myself totally absorbed and taken on the journey, which is all about internet fame and social media shaming and, as such, is bang-on as to what’s happening around us today. Its well-executed, with a cleverly-crafted mix of head-shot interviews, archive material, ripped YouTube content and some unexpected frights; and all the characters have a well-crafted trajectory (and some interesting insights into the human psyche). Deffo one to check out.

DAUGHTER OF DISMAY
I really wanted to see Critters Attack!, but with it being sold out I opted to catch The Drone, which was preceded by this visually-stunning 9-minute short. Shot in 70mm IMAX with great pedigree in the crew department (including The Conjuring composer Joseph Bishara), this visually-stunning occult chiller involves a witch (Ieva Agnostic) attempting to resurrect her daughter (Dajana Rajic) from the dead by invoking a demon (Krist Mort). The scene in which she cuts her arm was probably the single most disturbing thing I have seen so far at the festival (I had to look away, it was so realistic). Director James Quinn is hoping to turn this into a feature. And I hope he does.

THE DRONE
Just before the police break into his home, serial killer The Violator (Neil Sandilands) invokes black magic and downloads his soul into the commercial drone he used to stalk victims. Finding the abandoned drone while moving into their new smart house, just-married Rachel (Alex Essoe) and Chris (John Brotherton) are happy to claim the device as their own. But when strange things begin to occur, they gradually realise the full horror of adopting the psychotic equipment…

The fact that this comedy horror comes from Jordan Rubin, the director of Zombeavers, should have alerted me as to what I was about to see. Yes, its tongue-in-cheek with a definite Empire Pictures vibe and a cheesy synth score that’s part-Richard Band, part Henry Manfredini, but its also down-right ludicrous with two lead characters that you just want to see die. Not because they are exceptionally good-looking (well that’s a big factor), but because they are just so stupid in their actions in dealing with the murderous drone.

I counted a number of instances when they should have just either tossed it back in the bin they found it in, or smashed it. And why does Rachel insist on having the dreaded contraption sit beside her when she keeps shouting, ‘I hate that drone’ and ‘I hate technology’? Of course, this is Rubin’s sledgehammer way of commenting on consumerism and our attachment to technology. The only sensible character in this farrago is Hector, the couple’s dog, whose efforts to try and warn his masters of the impending danger results in him being tied to a post out the backyard.

When Anita Briem’s cougar neighbour Corrine is sliced and diced by the drone, Chris becomes the prime suspect in her murder, which means the couple must now set out to clear his name. This is when the ludicrous plot turns ridiculous, as they hire a private investigator and track down The Violator’s brother, who has just given the possessed drone an upgrade (complete with razor sharp blades and audio speakers). Cue the climactic showdown, a not-so big reveal and a LOL twist ending that hints at (please no!), a sequel.

MADNESS IN THE METHOD
Jay (Jason Mewes) and Silent Bob (Kevin Smith) of Clerks fame reunite in Mewes’ directing debut. Playing an alternative version of his ‘Jay’ persona, Mewes wants to reinvent himself as a serious actor and sets out to land a coveted lead role in a major studio film. Upon advice from Smith, he tracks down a secret book outlining all the mysteries of the Method Acting process. But rather than following the rules, he decides to read the whole book at once — which has disastrous consequences.

Mewes’ self-reverential crime comedy is a bit of a mixed bag and frankly overstays its welcome by about mid-way through its 100-minute running time. But it does feature some wickedly funny cameos. Vinnie Jones, who is framed for the murder that Mewes commits (which sets the action in motion), is pure dynamite – in more ways than one, Casper Van Dien makes for a great bitchy queen, a feather-boa wearing Danny Trejo taps into his feminine side, Dean Cain is terrific as the Superman star hiding from his adoring fans (even though no one actually recognises him), and his old former co-star Teri Hatcher is terrific as a multi-tasking talent agent. There’s also a poignant final on-screen appearance from Marvel icon Stan Lee (and the film is dedicated in his memory). Mewes’ has certainly put his heart and soul into his pet project, but I wasn’t convinced that a horror film festival was the right fit for this screwball comedy.

BEST LINE (from Danny Trejo)
‘It’s not gay so long as the balls don’t touch the chin’

Arrow Video FrightFest 2019 – Short Film Showcase

One of the big highlights at FrightFest are the terrific short films from around the globe that get their own showcase over the weekend, and there’s something for everyone this year – from folk horror (Marianne) to body horror (The History of Nipples), the weird (The Cunning Man), the surreal (Five Course Meal), the sinister (Service) and the very odd indeed (The Video Store Commercial).

There are just a handful of tickets left for Showcase 1 and 2… just click on the links below

SHORT FILM SHOWCASE 1

SHORT FILM SHOWCASE 2

SHORT FILM SHOWCASE 1
SATURDAY 24 AUGUST – PRINCE CHARLES CINEMA from 1pm

Wither 
Director: Ethan Evans. Cast: Lamissah La-Shontae, Phillipa Howard. UK 2019. 4 min.
A young girl finds herself vulnerable to a sinister mythological farmer after failing to contribute to the annual tradition.

Hana 
Director: Mai Nakanishi. Cast: Hee-jin Jeon, Do Eun Kim, Jeongbi Lee. Japan 2018. 13 min.
Not all babysitting jobs are alike, as college student Sujin is about to discover when she is left in charge of a strange young girl.

Marianne 
Director: Matthew Losasso. Cast: Mae Losasso. UK 2019. 7 min.
A distinguished investigator is called to the grounds of an isolated rectory in a remote English hamlet to observe an enigmatic young tenant.

The Hitchhiker 
Director: Adele Vuko. Cast: Liv Hewson, Brooke Satchwell. Australia 2018. 13 min.
Jade and her friends are on their way to a music festival when they pick up a strange hitchhiker, who makes Jade an offer she might not be able to refuse.

The Dead Ones 
Director: Stefan Georgiou. Cast: Olivia Hallinan, Sebastian Armesto, Vinette Robinson. UK 2019. 19 min.
In this world, those whose lives are cut short by violence do not disappear; they live to haunt the person who killed them.

Abyssus
Director: Kim Westerlund. Cast: Sampo Sarkola. Finland 2019. 9 min.
A man regains consciousness as he is being buried alive. Overwhelmed by panic, he tries to force his way out of the box.

Glitter’s Wild Women
Director: Roney. Cast: Grace Glowicki, Cotey Pope. Canada 2018. 13 min.
In the Canadian backwoods, sisters harvest and smoke glitter that gives them super strength.

The Video Store Commercial 
Director: Cody Kennedy. Cast: Joshua Lenner, Kevin Martin, Jesse Nash. Canada 2019. 4 min.
A desperate video store owner hires a crew to shoot a commercial in his shop. But when they accidentally destroy a cursed VHS, suddenly, all their lives are in danger.

The Cunning Man 
Director: Zoë Dobson. Cast: Simon Armstrong, Ali Cook, Ian Kelly. UK 2019. 13 min.
An old farmer must resort to extreme measures to clean up his dead cattle or face a hefty fine from the Inspector.

The History of Nipples 
Director: Bailey Tom Bailey. Cast: Joseph Macnab, Lily Wood. UK 2019. 10 min.
‘What are my nipples for?’ With this question Ron falls into an existential crisis which seems to have only one solution.

SHORT FILM SHOWCASE 2
SUNDAY 25 AUGUST – PRINCE CHARLES CINEMA – from 15:45

Service 
Director: Theo Watkins. Cast: Paul Clayton, Alison Lintott. UK 2019. 8 min.
Ted is just trying to pay for his shopping, but the shoddy self-service till and eerily elusive shop workers have other, more sinister ideas.

One in Two People 
Director: Ali Mashayekhi. Cast: Katie Strain, Jade Hassoune, Ashley Leggat. Canada 2019. 8 min.
Emily’s friends are getting a bit tired of her insistence that someone in her room is trying to kill her. But maybe they should listen more closely.

Old Beginnings 
Director: Suni Khan. Cast: Hannah Arterton, Lewis Reeves. UK 2019. 16 min.
A young couple trying to rid themselves of the past use an unorthodox and bizarre ritual as they rekindle their love.

Tomorrow Might Be the Day
Director: Josefa Celestin. Cast: Jocelyn Brassington, Tim Barrow. UK 2018. 20 min.
A fanatical believer sets into motion a chain of dark events that he believes will spare his rebellious niece from the impending apocalyptic doom.

Five Course Meal
Director: James Cadden. Cast: Melissa Kwasek, Murray Farnell. Canada 2018. 6 min.
Mark and Jenny agree to take part in a mysterious experiment for money. Things get exceptionally messy.

Under the Parasol 
Director: Stanislava Buevich. Cast: Sarine Sofair, Joe Wredden. UK 2018. 6 min.
Marie comes to the beach to catch some sun. The only problem is that it’s nighttime…

Makr 
Director: Hana Kazim. Cast: Mansoor Alfeeli, Mohammed Ahmed, Madiya Humaid. United Arab Emirates, 2018. 15 min.
A fake exorcist visits the home of a man who thinks his wife is possessed by a Djinn, only to find out that things are not as they seem.

Patron 
Directors: Emily Haigh, Alon Young, Cast: Mhairi Calvey, Jamie Lee-Hill. UK 2019. 11 min.
Vickie has her employment sights set high, but the questions from her faceless male interviewers soon become predatory.

The Obliteration of the Chickens 
Director: Izzy Lee. Cast: Bracken MacLeod. USA 2019. 3 min.
The universe does not care. The abyss is stupid. Existence is banal.

Torching the Dusties 
Directors: Marlene Goldman, Philip McKee. Cast: Clare Coulter, Eric Peterson. Canada 2019. 14 min.
Frank and Wilma are finding that retirement life is more trouble than they had imagined, as protestors appear outside making some very serious demands.

SHORT FILM SHOWCASE 3 ***SOLD OUT***
MONDAY 26 AUGUST – PRINCE CHARLES CINEMA – from 13:00

Pig 
Director: Evan Powers. Cast: Aaron LaPlante, Lindsey Rose Naves, C.J. Vana. USA 2019. 8 min.
A self-conscious psychopath struggles with his body image while terrorizing a group of unsuspecting campers.

One Last Meal 
Director: Jill Gevargizian. Cast: Matt Mercer, Jake Martin, Tim Marks. USA 2019. 11 min.
A prison guard is forced to fulfil an unusual request from a violent criminal on death row.

Dog Skin
Director: Tiago Teixeira. Cast: Maxwell Cavenham, Laura Obiols. UK 2019. 13 min.
A man in a self-imposed exile is haunted by a mysterious dog, who transforms into an elusive woman every night.

Re-Possessed Homes 
Director: Matthew Evans Landry. Cast: Natalie Lisinksa, Jordan Gavaris. Canada 2018. 15 min.
Shirley Parker is a real-estate godsend who has discovered a niche market. However, it might put her family in some danger.

Hunting Season 
Director: Shannon Kohli. Cast: Hannah Levien, Luke Camilleri. Canada 2018. 11 min.
It’s a creepy evening when gas station attendant and recovering alcoholic Callie must deal with a wild beast roaming the area, and the men who are determined to hunt it down.

This Little Death 
Director: Alex Hardy. Cast: Sarah Bauer, Jay Simpson. UK 2018. 19 min.
Young chef Zoe who falls for Mortimer the poet. The beginning is filled with love, lust and laughter, but as the months pass, they realise they have very different ideas of happiness.

Toe 
Directors: Neal O’Bryan, Chad Thurman. Cast: Cassie Carey. USA 2019. 7 min.
A starving boy eats a toe he finds sticking out of the ground. Later that night, something ghastly comes to his bedroom wanting it back.

Midnight 
Director: Katie Bonham. Cast Eleanor Crosswell, Ian Recordon. UK 2019. 8 min.
A ticking clock. Hurried footsteps. A woman struggling. Who are the ghosts that come haunting your apartment at the stroke of twelve?

The Game of the Clock 
Director: Michele Olivieri. Cast: Simone Mumford. UK 2018. 7 min.
A young woman innocently comes to a friend’s home, only to find herself stalked by menacing creature, and time is running out fast.

Sleep Tight 
Director: Lewis Taylor. Cast: Mark Field, Joseph Richard Thomas, Péline Liberty. UK 2019. 8 min.
A wheelchair-bound teen complains about lack of personal space to his overly attached father. But maybe he shouldn’t complain when the lights go out.

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…

COME TO DADDY
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.

CRAWL
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.

I AM TOXIC
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!

 

 

Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado’s Big Bad Wolves gets its UK Blu-ray debut from 101 Films

From 101 Films comes the UK Blu-ray of Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado’s Big Bad Wolves (2013), a brutal and unpredictable Israeli thriller that addresses the perils of victimhood and the consequences of vengeance.

SOME MEN ARE CREATED EVIL
Following the disappearance of a number of young girls in a small Israeli town, hardened police detective Miki (Lior Ashkenazi) fingers socially awkward religious studies teacher Dror (Rotem Keinan) as the culprit. When Miki is caught on-camera using extreme violence while interrogating the teacher, he is forced to let him go and is suspended from the force.

Big Bad Wolves (2013)

Unable to let the case go, Miki pursues Dror, but the two men are then kidnapped by Gidi (Tzahi Grad), the father of one of the girls, whose headless body has just been discovered, who plans to extract a confession out of the teacher. But as the tension mounts and Dror maintains his innocence, the lines between justice and vengeance, innocence and guilt, become increasingly frayed. Just how far should you go before you accept a truth? And what does it cost you to find out?

Big Bad Wolves (2013)

MANIACS ARE ONLY AFRAID OF MANIACS
Big Bad Wolves comes from Israeli filmmakers Aharon Keshales and Navot Papushado, who are best known for their breakout festival hit, and Israel’s first slasher, the black comedy Rabies (check out my review here).

For their follow up, Keshales and Papushado have created a brutal scathing shocker that has divided both audiences and critics. Part giallo, part torture porn, part political comment, it’s really hard to pigeonhole this incredibly violent tale about child abduction and vigilante revenge, that even adds elements from the Hansel and Gretel fairytale into its sordid mix.

Big Bad Wolves (2013)

The political comment, laced with absurdist humour, is evident throughout, with much of it aimed at Israeli identity, attitudes towards their Arab neighbours, and the use of excessive force over due process and trial by jury. The vitriolic hate espoused by the characters as they dish out their extreme form of justice – which gets increasingly stomach churning as the film progresses – certainly does leave a bitter taste. But what really sends a shiver down the spine is how these characters end up appearing, which is best summed up in one of the film’s most chilling lines: ‘Smells like a barbecue. You have no idea how much I’ve missed that smell’. In the end you have to ask yourself, just who are the real big bad wolves in this world?

Released on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK, this release from 101 Films includes Last Night at the Empire: Big Bad Wolves at FrightFest, a brand new documentary on the background and impact of the film, and its UK premiere at FrightFest in August 2013. In closing the festival, it became the last film to screen in the Empire Leicester Square’s famous main screen, before it was refurbished and split in two. The other extras include AXS TV: A Look at Big Bad Wolves and the theatrical trailer.

 

Killer Party | It’s the event to die for!

When teenage thieves Caspar (Sam Strike), Iris (Virginia Gardner) and Dodge (Brandon Micheal Hall) infiltrate a mansion dinner party, they have plans for pulling off an easy heist. Little do they know that the dinner party is actually being hosted by for a group of recovering serial killers. Once the mansion owners realise they are about to be robbed, all hell breaks loose…

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Each of our would-be thieves have their reasons for attempting one last heist to ensure a better life, but not even the best of intentions will save them from the party’s killer line-up. John Wick regular Lance Reddick carries a remarkable gravitas as the ‘recovering’ murderers’ de facto leader, YouTuber-turned-actor Kian Lawley’s cranks up a disturbing turn as the sleazy son, and Charmed‘s Julian McMahon has a whole lot of scenery-chewing fun as the family patriarch.

From the energetic camerawork and music to some imaginative feats of bloody ultra violence and the lashings of black humour, Killer Party is an event to die for!

Out on DVD and Blu-ray 27 May 2019 from Altitude Film Entertainment

Demonlover | Olivier Assayas’ neo-noir/cyber thriller unleashed on Blu-ray

Twenty years after David Cronenberg prophesied the dark side of the Internet age in Videodrome, acclaimed French filmmaker Olivier Assayas (Irma Vep) updated it for the New Millennium in his startlingly prescient 2002 thriller Demonlover, a chilling exploration of the nexus between sex and violence available at the click of a button.

Up-and-coming executive Diane (Connie Nielsen) lets nothing stand in her way when it comes to landing the lucrative Tokyo Anime contract for the Volf Corporation, guaranteeing worldwide exclusive rights to the latest in cutting-edge hentai.

Despised by her assistant (Chloë Sevigny) and engaged in a risky game of corporate espionage, her ruthless ambition meets its match in Elaine (Gina Gershon), the charismatic representative of an American Internet porn company called Demonlover.

However, the company is only the front for an online portal to the Hellfire Club, which gives its users control over the next big thing in interactive extreme pornography: real women, tortured according to subscribers’ whims, in real time.

Diane wants a piece of the action, and will stop at nothing to get it; but as she delves deeper into the twisted world of the Hellfire Club, reality slips away and the stakes of the game are raised to the point of no return.

Armed with a pounding score by Sonic Youth, Assayas’ neo-noir/cyber horror is finally unleashed for the first time on Blu-ray from Arrow Academy, with revealing extras and a new director-approved restoration.

BLU-RAY SPECIAL EDITION CONTENTS
• Brand new 2K restoration of the 121-minute director’s cut, approved by Olivier Assayas
• High Definition Blu-Ray (1080p) presentation
• Original 5.1 DTS-HD master audio
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard-of-hearing
• Audio commentary by writer/director Olivier Assayas
• New visual essay written and narrated by critic Jonathan Romney
Peripherie de Demonlover: Behind-the-scenes documentary directed by Yorick Le Saux
• Archive interviews with Olivier Assayas, Connie Nielsen, Chloë Sevigny and Charles Berling
SY NYC 12/12/01: The Demonlover Sessions: a fly-on-the-wall documentary about the recording of the music score by Sonic Youth
• Q&A with Olivier Assayas filmed at the Wexner Center for the Arts in 2003
• Extended version of the Hellfire Club sequence
• Original theatrical trailers
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Chris Malbon
• FIRST PRESSING ONLY: Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring new writing on the film by Anne Billson

The Night of the Generals | The World War Two whodunnit on Blu-ray

From Eureka Entertainment comes the World War Two thriller, The Night of the Generals, on Blu-ray for the first time in the UK, taken from a brand new 4K restoration, as part of the Eureka Classics range.

In 1942 Warsaw, a prostitute is found brutally murdered. Normally, the crime would attract little attention in war, but evidence points to one of three top Nazi generals as the killer. Thanks to German Military Intelligence officer, Major Grau, an epic man-hunt begins, through to Nazi-occupied Paris where, in 1944, an almost exact replica of the crime is committed…

This epic 1967 film, adapted from Joseph Kessel’s novel and directed by Anatole Litvak (making his penultimate picture), has a cast to die for! Not only do you have Peter O’Toole, Donald Pleasence and Charles Gray playing the prime suspects, you’ve got Omar Sharif (as Grau), Tom Courtenay, Christopher Plummer, Gordon Jackson, Coral Browne and many more. Even Juliette Greco gets in a little song.

More whodunnit than full-on war drama (with a Hitler assassination subplot that, frankly, seems a bit of an add-on), it also features a magnificent score from Maurice Jarre and evocative film location camerawork, alongside Litvak’s carefully calculated direction.

The highlight for me, however, was seeing Gray and Browne sparring as the devoted von Seidlitz-Gabler couple – as they would play similar roles on the London stage in 1975 in Jean Anouilh’s Ardèle alongside Browne’s hubby, Vincent Price. But O’Toole really is also totally captivating – even though he looks rather pale, sweaty and ill throughout most of the proceedings.

SPECIAL FEATURES
• 1080p presentation on Blu-ray, taken from a stunning 4K restoration
• Uncompressed LPCM audio (original mono presentation)
• Optional English subtitles
• Brand new and exclusive Audio Commentary by author Scott Harrison
• Original Theatrical Trailer
• Collector’s booklet featuring new writing by author Scott Harrison

 

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