If there’s one thing horror movies have taught us, it’s that you really shouldn’t take people at face value. At best, they let you down, like, say, disgraced former MP Chris Huhne. At worst, you get the slightly more besmirched reputation of that charming benefactor Sir Jimmy Savile. Admittedly, this edition’s batch of psychos and monsters aren’t quite like either of these public figures (we don’t think Jim’ll Fix It was set in an abandoned asylum, but we may be wrong), but hopefully you get our clumsily-made point.
First of this blog’s traitors is the seemingly Good Samaritan roadside bar staff that take pity on our typically young, dumb protagonists in the standard exercise in torture porn, The Helpers. Seven highly unlikeable friends on a road trip to Vegas just happen to break down near a travel tavern (to use the Alan Partridge phrase), when they are offered rooms for the night until their car’s fixed.
Needless to say, each friend wakes up on what you might call the wrong side of the bed as the friendly locals almost inevitably turn into redneck evildoers. This is all pretty obvious stuff, with Chris Stokes’ uninspired direction not helping the terrible acting and predictable storyline.
Much more interesting in premise though not execution, we have low budget indie specialists The Clay Brothers’ zombie pic State of Emergency, set in a small town that falls victim to the traditional pesky old government experiment gone wrong (don’t trust the government, by the way).
A stoic Jay Hayden leads a group of survivors battling not just the vicious dead but a dull script, irritatingly conspicuous direction and the most annoying over-use of clichéd wannabe ‘tension-building’ strings in years. There’s always room for another post-apocalyptic zombie-fest as long as it’s done well; this, sadly, is not.
Dutch director Bobby Boermans’ debut feature, Claustrofobia, on the other hand, takes a pretty standard idea (twisted bugger nabbing a large-breasted lady and keeping her in his cellar) but lays an icy sheen on top of a few interesting twists and turns for a coolly efficient thriller. Feeling more like the Nordic Noir of The Killing at times than the hammy schlock this really is, Claustrofobia is an assured first film from Boermans and a watchable exercise in suspense.
Say what you want about two-faced horror flick psychos, but at least with the Wrong Turn series you know what you’re getting: namely, disfigured, shrieking rednecks lumbering about the place like the malignant oafs they are. Somehow, there’s now a fifth movie, Wrong Turn 5, and the meat-and-veg of the genre this time turns to a festival taking place in honour of presumed-false rumours of the actual murders committed previously by our anti-heroes. A decent, Scream-style twist plus the presence of Hellraiser’s Doug Bradley unfortunately, though, do little to save this latest low-rent wheeze.
Lastly, we get the sequel to the surprise hit, found footage ghoul-fest Grave Encounters, ingeniously entitled Grave Encounters 2. Picking up on the original’s apparent online popularity (the blurb says its trailer has been viewed 25 million times), the first film’s director duo, The Vicious Brothers, are on scripting duties as we join a group of YouTube devotees who decide to follow in their heroes’ footsteps by visiting the old asylum for a college video project.
With plenty of decent nasty-things-in-the-dark shock-cuts alongside some nicely playful postmodernism and the franchise’s now-familiar combo of overwhelming hopelessness and dark humour, thankfully it seems The Vicious Brothers are one creative team you can put your trust in (see what we did there?).
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