Ah, late October. The time for sexy zombie maidens, Jimmy Savile costumes (well, this year, at least) and hoodies demanding cash lest an awful trick will befall their victims. Ever-lower-quality sequels to modern horror classics infest the cinema screens and DVD distributors line up a bumper batch of gorefests to keep you, the eager public, satisfied. You know the score, so I’ll skip the Tales From The Crypt-style intro just this once.
What with the US presidential elections coming up in the next few weeks, it seems only right that we start with the fictionalized tales of Honest Abe’s early years battling the undead, the Timur Bekmambetov/Tim Burton production Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. With a name this ridiculous, you might assume this alternative history bloodsucker horror would be a bundle of silly laughs. Sadly, this po-faced slo-mo stabfest takes itself far too seriously, with only the odd sweeping civil war landscape and OTT stunt to compensate for dull, predictable action and characters you can’t care about.
Sticking with wretched creatures that just won’t die (cue snarky aside about The X Factor), next up, we have the Singapore-set ghost story Curse. Esan Sivalinhgam’s movie follows a small team of soldiers sent to a remote island to track down a pair of AWOL colleagues, only to find they have the vengeful spirit of a wronged islander to contend with. Playing out like a supernatural spin on Arnie favourite Predator, Curse is good fun with some nice jungle deaths thrown in for good measure.
It seems that ghostly happenings are all the rage this month with a spate of haunted houses, sinister psychics and, erm, telekinetic terror? As is the norm around this time of year, there are a certain number of demonic possessions (aren’t there always?) with probably the best of these being Italian Massimo Dallamano’s 1970s B-movie The Night Child. Starring Zombie Flesh Eaters’ Richard Johnson as a widowed film-maker who comes to blows with his daughter’s inner demons, The Night Child is memorable for its brilliantly eerie score and classy direction from the exploitation hero Dallamano.
The Evil Inside sees a troubled teen start having somewhat irritatingly accurate predictions about her best friends’ deaths during a sleepover. Needless to say, this is not really the social etiquette for a small gathering and proves to be a little unpopular in this pretty formulaic but slickly thrown together movie.
Proving that every acclaimed horror director has at least one “aren’t women troublesome” film in them, The Blair Witch Project’s Eduardo Sanchez returns to the fray with his nervous breakdown pic Lovely Molly. Clearly influenced by the psychodrama Roman Polanski pulls off so well, thematically, Sanchez’ movie falls somewhere between Rosemary’s Baby and Repulsion as our pregnant protagonist gets in touch with dark family secrets and what appears to be the ghost of her father.
Sanchez is a master of the Steadycam and played a major role in creating the found footage style currently so dominant in this genre; as such, this slow-burning chiller (if that’s not too much of an oxymoron for you) proves to be both gracefully creepy and bluntly nasty when needed. With a great performance from unknown Gretchen Lodge sucking us into her psyche, Lovely Molly marks a return to form for this talented director.
Heading back to troubled teen territory, oh, and found footage, completely coincidentally, we have Apartment 143 from the pen of Buried director Rodrigo Cortes. Ultimately a take on Paranormal Activity with a specialist team of supernatural investigators on hand from the off and some more young girl possession (yawn), Apartment 143 is saved by some striking cinematography from Oscar Duran and overwhelming sound design from James Munoz, making mediocre material far more engaging.
Cortes crops up again with psychic medium thriller Red Lights, starring one Robert De Niro as blind showman Simon Silver, whom a cynical research duo (Sigourney Weaver/Cillian Murphy) believe is a fraud until spooky intimidation threatens their investigation. A nice idea is executed in a workmanlike fashion, though with De Niro’s emailed-in performance and a bloated, flabby slackness to proceedings, plus a truly idiotic denouement, the lights go out halfway in.
Finally getting away from those bloody spectres haunting this month’s blog, we finish on Cradle of Fear director Alex Chandon’s mildly delightful, highly original British curiosity, Inbred. Taking the great premise of a pair of community workers leading a group of young offenders to a remote northern village to do-up a derelict farmhouse, this dark and often surreal comedy horror comes across as The Texas Chainsaw Massacre meets Emmerdale’s cellar-bound evil twin.
Indeed, Emmerdale’s Paddy (Dominic Brunt) makes a gleeful cameo as a demented village butcher tasked with slowing down some of the unlucky youths. Silly, yet gory and suspenseful, Chandon’s film represents all that is good about independent British cinema plus it offers useful tips on slurry as an offensive weapon. Always a good thing to know, I’m sure you’ll agree.
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