This distinctive style is all due to the vast amount of time these unfortunate souls spend sitting through some of the rankest cinematic stinkers production companies can hurl at them in the hope of finding that rare glimmer of real movie gold. It’s something of a pleasure, then, to announce that this installment of new releases doesn’t have one weak link in its bloody chain.
First up, we take a look at British writer/director Steve Stone’s debut feature, Entity, unsurprisingly featuring ghostly entities that really aren’t very cheery. Starring that extremely familiar face from TV shows as diverse as Ballykissangel and Doctor Who, Dervla Kirwan plays a psychic leading a TV crew into deepest, darkest Russia to investigate the site of a notorious war crime.
Though the premise and found footage slant isn’t exactly new, Stone’s movie succeeds in creating a genuine sense of dread from barely-seen figures looming in the dark. With strong performances from Kirwan and Branko Tomovic as the less than reliable local contact, Entity provides lean, skilfully-crafted chills that defy the somewhat derivative plot.
Sticking with the ghostly theme, The Last Will and Testament of Rosalind Leigh leads the viewer on a creepy meander through the empty house an antiques collector inherits from his deceased mother. With Aaron Poole convincingly troubled as the bereaved son discovering family links with a sinister cult, Vanessa Redgrave’s disembodied voice resonates around the film gracefully. This quiet little film has subtle emotional heft alongside the requisite frights, making for a more sophisticated haunted house situation than most.
Moving swiftly on, Todd Levin’s debut, Static, stars Heroes’ Milo Ventimiglia and Sarah Shahi as a married couple terrorized by a gasmask-clad gang. With the standard home invasion clichés ticked off (house in the middle of nowhere, friendly stranger isn’t so friendly, family are already traumatised by a previous tragedy), Levin’s film is far from routine, offering cleverly constructed scenarios that genuinely keep the viewer guessing.
As with Rosalind Leigh, what marks Static out from its competitors, though, is the intelligent fusion of stylishly suspenseful camerawork and a genuinely moving script far exceeding the genre’s usual limitations.
We finish on what may be both the most ambitious and possibly most accomplished anthology film ever made in the genre, The ABCs of Death. Ignoring the dodgy title, the simple, somewhat epic premise involved 26 of the best young horror film-makers each being given a letter and having to make a short film about death, with the title beginning with that letter.
With each of these given full creative control and names from as far afield as Chile, Japan, Serbia, Australia and Mexico alongside the standard US, UK and European directors, this is a mouthwatering prospect.
Luckily, this doesn’t disappoint. Ingeniously, by trying to cram as many very short films into the space of two hours as possible, what the producers Ant Timpson and Tim League have achieved is to bypass most of the normal problems with this type of film. This is usually the issue of having three sketched out chapters not quite substantial enough for a feature but too bloated for a simple concept short; here, near every contribution is extremely stylized, with directors forced by the bite-sized format to unleash their creativity.
The line-up is immense: modern genre favourites, including The Innkeepers’ Ti West, A Serbian Film’s Srdjan Spasojevic and Ben Wheatley reuniting his Kill List stars Michael Smiley and Neil Maskell, work alongside lesser known names from Latin America and Asia such as Nacho Vigalondo and Banjong Pisathanakun.
Throw in wildcards such as Adult Swim maverick Jon Schnepp, plots incorporating toxic fart gas, furry sex, Nazi women with massive phalluses, claymation toilet death and duck homicide and the result is a massively eclectic, sometimes brilliantly mad mix.
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