REVIEW: CARCINOMA (2014, TetroVideo)

Notorious German filmmaker Marian Dora’s 2014 shocker Carcinoma receives a new lease of life in a limited release by TetroVideo. Marian Dora doesn’t do happy movies and this is no exception.

A terminally ill cancer patient refuses therapy from doctors and let’s his body gradually decay and his condition deteriorate beyond the point of return. The film starts with a burning candle, symbolising light in the darkness of life. Candles are sometimes lit in time of death and it sets us off on a path of despair.

The man does not fear death, instead he embraces it instead of trying to get better. He tries to maintain a sexual relationship with his partner despite his body starting to fall apart and he tries to maintain a normal life when his mental stability deteriorates. Expect to be taken to a very dark head space as the films bleakness grows at a dangerous pace. Much like Dora’s other work, the film is hard-hitting and visceral to levels most viewers will not feel comfortable watching.

There is almost always an element of danger which comes with watching Marian Dora’s films but he manages to deliver an unforgettable experience that most filmmakers strive to replicate. The film is extremely well shot, arguably Dora’s best looking film and the production values are consistently high from the visuals to the score to the acting. However, don’t be fooled by the inviting aesthetics as the subject matter is intended to make you ill. The practical effects are very realistic and will no doubt turn your stomach no matter what you’ve seen before.

Carcinoma does things which trigger inner feelings which you may not realise you had. There is a mixture of empathy and anger as you watch a man willingly let an illness take his life away from him without as much as a fight. There is an un-calm atmosphere which is both disturbing and uncomfortable to endure and it will make you feel on edge.

A snake features heavily during important scenes, slithering across shots and adding to the unsettling atmosphere. Be warned, there are some fairly graphic live-feeding scenes where the snake kills its prey and we see every last gasp of the helpless victims breath. It is a hard watch and may be too much for most viewers to stomach but the snake is used as symbolism for a creative life force and flirting with death. A snake sheds its skin, much like the man who is gradually losing his to a brutal and uncompromising illness.

Carcinoma is Dora’s most polished and provocative piece of extreme cinema which hits hard and pounds you mercilessly. It is an extremely uneasy watch but it really messes with your mind and makes you think. If you are looking for something which will take you to a dark place; this is it.

Score: 5/5

Carcinoma is now available to buy on DVD via TetroVideo.

CARCINOMA – LIMITED 50 GOLDEN MEDIABOOK

CARCINOMA – 250 limited edition

REVIEW: MALEFICIA (1998, TetroVideo)

Originally released in 1998, Antoine Pellissier’s French extreme ultra gore masterpiece Maleficia finds its way onto the Tetro Underground line with a brand new DVD release by TetroVideo. Set in 1860, the Karlstein family’s horse and carriage makes an impromptu stop in a haunted forest, unbeknownst to them that there is a large black mass happening featuring human sacrifices. After realising things are not normal or safe, they try to retreat to a deserted castle but find out there is more danger out there…

Right off the bat, Maleficia throws us straight into a brutal and uncompromising setting as blood is ready to spray everywhere. Starting off like a Hammer or Amicus classic horror film with vintage clothing and heavy use of fog and smoke, the film moves straight into the Video Nasties era with rough visuals and extreme content. Maleficia doesn’t take itself seriously with bad dubbing and intentionally bad over-acting but it instantly grabbed my interest with its over the top storyline and endless supply of guts and gore.

The blood splatter is plentiful and so is the entertainment value. Just when you think you’ve sussed out what Maleficia is all about, it throws more and more ludicrous twists at you. There are zombies rising out of mud and soil reminiscent of Zombie Flesh Eaters (1979) with bugs crawling out of their mouths, there are robe-wearing cults like a throwback to To The Devil A Daughter (1976), and blood hungry vampires which are a throwback to Blood Bath (1966). In addition to this we have gruesome gore and brutal death scenes similar to Dawn of the Dead (1978) and Burial Ground (1981); this is a true throwback to the very best in top shelf horror entertainment from days gone by.

Maleficia has no filter and it is simply glorious because of it. With a run time of 100 minutes, you are getting a hell of a lot in terms of bang for your buck. You’ll find it hard to find a film on the market with as much blood, guts and sheer carnage. Despite its warnings and clear age restrictions for viewers, the film was made by a cast and crew of all ages and you can tell they all had a blast doing it. There are young kids dishing out brutal punishment while also being on the receiving end of savage killings; you’ll likely never see a film which is as ballsy as this.

Maleficia is the second film released in the Tetro Underground line (after Rot by Marcus Koch) and it sets the bar incredibly high. I’m extremely happy I’ve now discovered this amazing film thanks to TetroVideo releasing it.

Maleficia is an absolutely bonkers and uncompromising horror film which left me speechless and in awe of its brutality and practical effects. If you love gore and splatter, you owe it to yourself to pick this film up. Now I understand why director Antoine Pellissier is referred to as Dr Gore…

Score: 5/5

Maleficia is available to purchase on DVD via https://tetrovideo.com/shop/maleficia-tetro-underground-standard-slipcase-edition/

REVIEW: CANDYMAN (2021, Universal Pictures)

Say his name five times and he will appear. Candyman returns to the big screen in Nia DaCosta (Top Boy, The Marvels, Little Woods) new reimagining, co-written by Jordan Peele (Us, Get Out). The new film is a direct sequel to the 1992 original of the same name and brings us back to the Chicago neighbourhood where the urban legend of Candyman began…

Anthony (Yahya Abdul-Mateen II) is a painter looking for fame and success in the local art circuit. He lives with his partner in a gentrified Cabrini Green apartment unaware of the full history of the area and its urban legend (Candyman) but is curious to find out more. He decides to embark on a project to bring the story of Candyman to life through a series of paintings for his exhibition on the hope of getting his big break but he is unaware of the consequences his art will bring.

The latest Candyman film pulls together a lot of the source material from the original film but it is a modernisation with a fresh tone and direction. The structure is completely different to what you might expect. Philip Glass’s classical score is long gone and replaced by urban music which poses the first issue; atmosphere. Candyman 2021 is very much a flat film in terms of atmosphere, there is very little tension for most of the film and it suffers from a disjointed structure. Candyman was famous for its urban gothic atmosphere and nail biting tension, but you’d be hard to find much horror in the first hour of the new film.

Candyman is a new breed of horror which focuses on storytelling over scares but sadly it is too comfortable and safe to watch. The 1992 original was full of unforgettable scary moments, the 1995 sequel Candyman: Farewell To The Flesh had a high kill count and tons of gore, while the lesser regarded Candyman 3: Day of the Dead (1999) still had its shock moments. Sadly, age ratings play a big factor. The first 3 films from the 90’s were all 18 rated slasher films whereas the new Candyman is barely a 15 certificate and it shows. Marketing a film to an audience who weren’t even born when the first 3 films were released is risky and ludicrous. Luckily, the new film has its own charm and is entertaining and solid in its own way.

If we remove comparisons to the previous films in the franchise there is a lot to love with the new adaptation. The introduction of shadow puppet scenes for flashbacks and re-telling the original film story is a stroke of genius and looked amazing on the big screen. The race related social commentary was very well written and relevant in today’s climate, albeit lacking the hard hitting effect that Spike Lee delivers. The acting throughout the whole cast was excellent and there was plenty of witty humour to lighten the mood.

The biggest mistake this film makes is it doesn’t show us enough violence or gore, we are shielded from it until the climatic ending which is a real shame. A perfect example of this is the bathroom scene in the school, we hear more than we see and it felt like we were being robbed of seeing violence. Also, Candyman’s trademark hook to the spine and stomach gutting kill scenes of the old films were strangely replaced by lazy throat slitting which just didn’t have the same impact or shock factor.

Despite its flat tone and lack of tension, I was gripped by the story and couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. The plot is superb, with plenty of red herrings and twists. There is no doubt they intended for a redirection in the tone of the film, they achieved that but I really missed the way the original film made me feel. I didn’t leave the cinema unhappy, I just felt disappointed that the film watered its content down so much that it felt barely a shadow of the original film.

Candyman is a fun and interesting sequel which links up well with the original film in terms of its story but it is a different beast in terms of its tone. If you are familiar with the original films you are likely to know where the plot is heading within the first half an hour. If you are new to the franchise, I strongly recommend you watch the original film first before booking a trip to the cinema. The lack of tension can be forgiven for the way the plot traverses in the last third, taking us to dark places and subject matter.

Candyman is an interesting reimagining of the story which extends its legacy but leaves us wanting more. Sadly, the new sequel is sugar coated to the point where it feels more thriller than horror but it finds its feet in the second half and finishes strong with an unforgettable ending. The new film is a nice way to reignite the franchise, hopefully we will see more sequels on the back of this that will sting more.

Score: 3/5

REVIEW: THE NIGHT HOUSE (EIFF 2021)

David Bruckner (The Ritual, Southbound) returns with his latest horror infused thriller The Night House starring Rebecca Hall (Godzilla Vs Kong, Christine), Sarah Goldberg (The Dark Knight Rises) and Vondie Curtis-Hall (Broken Arrow, Die Hard 2).

Beth (Rebecca Hall) is a widow who returns from her late husband Owen’s wake to experience weird activities in her home prompting her to investigate the reason why he decided to take his own life. Beth embarks on a journey to find out Owen (Evan Jonigkeit)’s darkest secrets and solve the mystery of what really happened…

The Night House is a hard hitting horror film which explores the grieving process in a very delicate but effective way. Early on in the film we build strong empathy towards Beth as she struggles with the loss of her beloved husband and strives to find a reason to live. The fight to cope and adapt is portrayed extremely well and Rebecca Hall shines in a role which is very challenging. From the very start, the focus on Beth’s emotional torment is portrayed in a very realistic way and Rebecca Hall throws every part of her soul into the character. We are shown all aspects of her life and how Owen’s suicide has impacted her, from her work as a teacher to her friendship with her best friend Claire (Sarah Goldberg). The intricacies of her character are perfectly written and are superbly portrayed by Rebecca Hall.

The horror aspects add another layer to the powerful impact of the drama. Simply put, The Night House is an intense viewing experience which rarely gives you a moment to relax. Beth’s house is haunted and her character is constantly on-edge, the film manages to pass this experience to the viewer through a smart sequence of jump scares which will make your anxiety levels hit the roof. The Night House is nerve shredding and heart pounding. It has been a long time since I felt so uneasy and jumpy watching a film in the cinema. Well, The Night House is certainly a scary ride. Shadow silhouettes and wood creaking will haunt your nightmares for some time to come…

The plot is almost flawless until it falls into the same trap that left a noticeable dent in Hereditary (2017); spelling it out for the viewer. The mystery surrounding Owen’s suicide is excellently written for the most part with plenty of red herrings and sustained tension, however during a couple of key scenes we are literally told exactly what has happened in simple terms and it completely flattens the curves. The less we knew, the less we were shown, the better it was. It worked perfectly and continued to build up the complexities of the mystery, it is such a shame the film decided to simply its story in the final hurdle.

Despite some small cracks showing in the plot it couldn’t damage my enjoyment of this movie. The Night House is a fantastic dramatisation which left me in a nervous state causing my body to sweat uncontrollably and I loved the experience. It has been a very long time since I walked out a cinema feeling like I’d been battered for hours. The jump scares hit me harder than I was expecting and it was so much fun. The ending was really well done but could have been cut sooner and left in a more ambiguous way but you can’t take that away from the film as it was forgivable.

The Night House is an amazing film which is well worth every nerve shredding minute of your time. It hits hard and leaves you gasping for air afterwards. Horror should get under your skin, The Night House does this with ease.

Score: 5/5

REVIEW: BORN DEAD (2019, Medienkuche)

Born Dead is a 22 minute zombie splatter short film directed by Simon Spachmann & Olaf Zanetti. A group of party animals search for a place to continue their drunken shenanigans after being left out in the cold. Just when it looks like they are bang out of luck, they stumble across a creepy abandoned house. Sometimes abandoned doesn’t always mean empty, as they soon find out…

When the group enter the abandoned house there are satanic ornaments and decorations everywhere and they soon realise they might have been better off just heading home…

For a low budget short film, the locations look great and there is plenty of variety. The heart of the house is its basement which is inhabited by dead bodies reminiscent of Dawn of the Dead (1978). The movement and look of the zombies is Fulci-esque and there is impressive editing and lighting which adds to the atmosphere around them.

With a short run time, the film has a lot to cram in to keep things ticking over and it runs seamlessly. The scenes never feel forced and the flow works well between the comedy and extreme horror. There is a wonderful selection of latex props made by James Bell & Simon Spachmann which are put to good use in blood squirting gore scenes which are a joy to watch. The zombies look terrific and the flesh eating looks amazing as the helpless group are ripped to pieces and munched by the hungry undead.

Born Dead finds a fine balance between comedy and horror, ensuring both are over the top and outrageous. I found myself laughing profusely at the hilarious lines and drooling at the gore drenched death scenes. The film really wears its heart on its sleeve as it stacks up as many gags and blood squirting moments as possible. Also, the catchy instrumental heavy rock soundtrack gives the action an added pulse as the films pounds in as much gore and laughs as it can. The acting is great and I enjoyed watching all the cast.

Born Dead doesn’t take itself seriously and is a ton of fun from start to finish. The comedy is on-point and the practical effects are top drawer. The moment the film ended, I wanted to watch it again. German splatter is on another level.

Score: 5/5

REVIEW: 29 NEEDLES (2019, Unearthed Films)

Word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool, among the extreme horror indie community 29 Needles has been highly sought after since it was announced. The fourth entry in Unearthed Films notorious Too Extreme For Mainstream line gave Scott Philip Goergens a platform to showcase his work. As a subtle nod to infamous serial killer Albert Fish who used to insert 29 needles into his groin, the film is not for the faint hearted…

Francis (Brooke Berry) goes on a journey to explore his limits with pain and sex, taking him to a dangerous underground world of torture and personal exploration. Francis struggles to find a way to contain his inner demons and desires until he meets a man called Hans (Jamee Nicholson) in a bar who invites him to an underground club which is beyond anything he has seen or experienced before…

29 Needles is designed to push you to your limits much like Francis. Nothing can prepare you for what you are about to see, and nothing will prepare you for how you will think afterwards. The film is a straight shooter, it aims for your nervous system and it will shock the majority of viewers within a matter of minutes.

There are few films which manage to really get under my skin the way 29 Needles does. The sexual content is extreme and very much real, and the pain being inflicted is at times hard to watch. To fully understand how challenging the film was to make you only need to dive into the extras on the disc. All the actors were sourced from advertisements on social media, a search for those willing to put their bodies and reputations on the line for the purpose of entertainment. This is an extreme project which had never been done before.

29 Needles found a star in Brooke Berry. Not only was this Brooke’s debut film as an actor but Brooke insisted on doing all the sexual activities for real. Brooke is incredible in this movie, reading every line with integrity and conviction, making the character believable and complex. There are countless method actors out there but how many are prepared to do the things Brooke did. Body and soul was poured into the character and it is truly a character study done right with a lot of heart and heartache.

Without spoiling the plot direction and finer details of the story, the practical effects department puts in an amazing shift. 29 Needles is a mix of real and practical FX and there is a lot of freakish moments which will make you squirm. Then we have the excellent sound design which adds a layer of tension which complements the dark nature of 29 Needles. P Andrew Willis creates an incredible soundtrack using synth, glass, metal , electric guitar and bass among other instruments to create a wall of distorted and uncomfortable noise which fits the film like a glove. The film wouldn’t be what it is without the music and sound design which is flawless.

It is a blessing 29 Needles made it to the finish line given the number of obstacles Scott Philip Goergens faced. The film was shot over a number of years and the editing must have been a nightmare. The casting was extremely difficult due to the nature of what was being asked of the actors. Also, achieving distribution for a film which is so far away from what else is out there must have been tricky. For all these challenges, to his credit, Scott Philip Goergens managed to pull it off and 29 Needles exists as a result of perseverance and determination.

I watched 29 Needles the moment my Pre-order arrived from Unearthed Films, then rewatched the film a few weeks later and the experience evolved. I’ll be honest, the excitement I had for the film turned to apprehension when it was arrived. I was worried the film might be a step too far for me and cross the line of what I’m able to tolerate. However, to my amazement it didn’t. I found the sexual content very extreme and unsettling but the horror side of things was totally fine. This is because this was like jumping into a deep pool for me, without knowing how far it would go. Like anything, exposure to extreme things allows desensitisation to happen and your tolerance builds up. However, upon watching the film again a few weeks later I saw it in a different light and I really became obsessed with Brooke’s character transformation and the nightmarish visions that haunt his mind.

29 Needles is an extreme art film more than it is horror and it takes us to places we’ve never been before and lands a fatal blow to our subconsciousness. Once you’ve seen 29 Needles you’ll never forget it. It pushes extreme to new levels and in a cancel culture world we need films that make a real impact with no watered down content. You can’t prepare yourself for 29 Needles, much like Francis you have to test yourself to see how far you can go.

Score: 4/5

29 Needles is available to buy on bluray & DVD via https://www.unearthedfilms.com/catalog/tefm/29needles.php & https://www.diabolikdvd.com/product/29-needles-unearthed-too-extreme-blu-ray-preorder/

The official soundtrack is available digitally and in physical CD format via https://pandrewwillis.bandcamp.com/album/29-needles-original-motion-picture-soundtrack

REVIEW: MAD GOD (EIFF 2021)

30 years in the making, Mad God is VFX legend Phil Tippett long awaited stop-motion epic taking us on an odyssey through the layers of human hell. Set in a world of monsters and mind-bending landscapes and heavily influenced by Ray Harryhausen, Mad God is ready to invade your mind.

Pulling together themes from Dantes Inferno ,the 7 seven deadly sins and stages of hell; a stop-motion film has never looked so beautiful. Gore drenched set pieces orchestrated in Tippett’s hellish world visions, Mad God may be animation but it certainly is aimed at an adult audience. A powerful soundtrack takes us on a journey we’ll never forget through blood soaked surgeries to war torn landscapes to luminescent giant plantations. The film is eye candy in its finest form showing us the best and worst of humanity in a visually stunning display.

Mad God is a labyrinth inhabited by freakish monsters with body features rearranged and deformed. The depiction of hell and purgatory is both breathtaking and disturbing and it fully immerses you in its beauty and filth. The tone of the film is ever changing in line with its lighting, visuals and sound. There are strong themes of post-war and post-apocalyptic nightmares as we see bodies dispersed in inhumanly ways. Heavy industrial imagery and machinery outweighs the cost of human life as we are shown the brutality of power.

The craftsmanship by Phil Tippett is out of this world. The ambition and scale is mind blowing as we are treated to a groundbreaking display of stop motion and VFX which was worth waiting 30 years for. Tippett has created a universe that everyone should witness, a life changing experience which goes beyond words.

Mad God is an unforgettable mind-bending experience which brings light into our lives and opens our minds like never before. It is a stunning exploration of heaven and hell which everyone should witness.

Score: 5/5

REVIEW: MARTYRS LANE (EIFF 2021, Ipso Facto)

Martyrs Lane is Ruth Platt’s third feature film and focuses on Leah, a young 10 year old girl living in a vicarage with her parents and troublesome older sister. Leah (Kiera Thompson) lacks affection from her mum Sarah (Denise Gough) and starts to notice that her mum sleeps with a golden locket in her hand. Curious over the significance of the locket, Leah stumbles across it and opens it up; subsequently opening a gateway where she is visited daily by young girl with a ghostly stature (Rachel),

Martyrs Lane is a slow burner from the offset with a fairly uneventful first hour but this is required to set up the events to follow. Straight off the bat, Martyrs Lane isn’t a horror movie per say, it is a drama which deals with subject matters such as bereavement and questions the afterlife. Unfortunately, the opening hour of the film drags itself at a very slow pace and it can be very off putting and may be difficult to hold the attention of most viewers but try to stick with it.

Martyrs Lane places a lot of smart symbolism within its scenes which you might miss if you blink. One of the best examples of this is the appearance of a dragonfly which is known to be a gatekeeper to the spirit world. The film may test your patience at times but it is beautifully shot throughout and there is plenty of enjoyment to be found in finding the hints which will take you on a path to finding out what is actually happening.

The relationship between Leah and the ghost Rachel is childish throughout but they are both children after all and the humour fits their generation. I liked the way the ghost was portrayed in the sense that it wasn’t purely there for jump scares and creepy set-pieces. Infact, contrary to what I expected, the ghost doesn’t really show a darker side until the final third of the film. The human aspect of Rachel’s character was done very well.

In the final third of the film, Martyrs Lane comes out of its shell and is quite simply excellent. The pace picks up considerably and the excitement ramps up. The ending is both intelligent and original and really opens up adult discussions around loss and bereavement. I really enjoyed the build up to the films climax and I just wish the opening hour had similar pacing and direction.

Martyrs Lane showed a lot of promise but it was sadly let down by a lack of tension and action. However, this is still a very good film that brings something different to the table. It has great production values and story concepts but it felt like a short story stretched into a feature length due to a distinct lack of action.

Score: 3/5

Martyrs Lane will be screened at The Filmhouse on 20th & 22nd August as part of Edinburgh International Film Festival 2021.

REVIEW: PIG (EIFF 2021, Altitude)

Pig is the directorial debut from Michael Sarnoski starting Nicolas Cage (Mandy, Color Out of Space), Alex Wolff (Hereditary, Old) and Adam Arkin (Halloween H20). The film is about a recluse, Robin Feld (Nicolas Cage), who has his prized truffle-hunting pig stolen by thugs and he has to find her again.

Using a small but experienced cast, Pig is very heavy on character development. Robin (Nicholas Cage) is initially portrayed as a simple man with little interest in social interaction and tangible things ; all he cares about is his companion pig. However, there is more to the character than meets the eye, as we discover his background as a former chef and his connections with the local community. Robin works closely with Amir (Alex Wolff), a young determined man who is trying to find his foot as an entrepreneur and win the respect from his father (and successful businessman) Darius (Adam Arkin). Amir, like Robin, is a complex character and his cocky attitude at the beginning mellows down when we understand he is hurting inside from lack of self worth and external recognition. Darius, Amir’s father is portrayed as a ruthless, heartless businessman who only cares about money, but we discover his human side as the film progresses. Simply put, the writing and character design is consistently excellent and it forms the backbone of a very strong film production.

It is very hard to pigeonhole Pig, it has a mixture of comedy, drama and thriller all rolled into one. The film does get more serious as it progresses and there are coming of age themes for both Robin and Amir. There is a lot to say about the plot but it is really worth experiencing it for yourself first hand. The script is water tight and 90 minutes flies by as you are totally immersed in the story. For a debut feature film, the production values are very high, it has the look and feel of a big budget production.

The genius of Pig is in its title. A three letter word carries so much power and links in perfectly with the screenplay itself. Pig implies connotations of greed (hence, as greedy as a pig) and this is a strong theme throughout the movie. The theft of Robin Feld’s prized pig is driven by greed, and the motives of the other key characters are driven by making money. Pig also may imply a reference to a simple life (like a pig in a trough) which Robin tries to live without conflict or intrusion. Besides the excellent choice of title, Pig also drives home some very thoughtful messages. Sometimes looking for something you’ve lost brings disappointment and misery when you find it…

Pig is an extremely moving and delicate film which brings out the very best in Cage, Wolff & Arkin with career defining performances. The film is rife with social commentary and hidden messages which will leave a long lasting effect on viewers. Michael Sornoski makes a big impression with his feature length debut; an early contender for best film of the festival.

Score: 5/5

PIG has its European Premiere on Wednesday 18th August at Festival Theatre at 7pm as part of Edinburgh International Film Festival 2021.

REVIEW: BACKWOOD CARNAGE (2021, Blacklava)

Backwood Carnage is a new short film by Simon Spachmann which follows the exploits of a deranged serial killer on a blood-spilling killing spree in a forest.

With a short run time of only 15 minutes, Backwood Carnage strips back on filler and focuses on what we actually want to see in a slasher film. There is no dialogue, it doesn’t need any. Instead, we are presented with a barrage of brutal death scenes and buckets of gore and guts…

Heavily influenced by the much loved slashers from the 80’s, Backwood Carnage makes subtle nods to the likes of Friday The 13th, Madman & The Mutilator but focuses primarily on extreme violence and gore. The film has a grainy presentation with speckling and tearing to give it an old and worn-out aesthetic but there is nothing generic about the brutality on display. The soundtrack is heavy synth with as many hooks as possible and it fits like a glove. The production values are slick throughout and there is no cutting corners.

The film delivers in one aspect that most slashers either lack or fail on; extreme. Backwood Carnage piles all its chips into super realistic practical effects and amazing props (including some made by the master, James Bell) and it pays dividends. The standard of the practical effects is so high that the film doesn’t really need a plot or elaborate character design. We literally see a killer wearing a dead skin mask parade through the forest on a mission to massacre everything in sight and it is thrilling to watch. There are so many great slashers which only have a handful of kills, well Backwood Carnage is a great slasher with a very large kill streak…

Dismemberment, decapitations, necrophilia, spine ripping, skull smashing and ballsack chopping…Backwood Carnage certainly doesn’t hold back. Blood is sprayed everywhere at all times and it never gets boring, this is everything you could possible want to see in a slasher movie in a matter of minutes. One particular scene involving a pregnant woman will make your skin crawl…

Backwood Carnage does more in 15 minutes than most slasher films do in 90. This is an impressive showcase of what can be done on a small budget with big ideas. If you love slasher films and top shelf extreme entertainment you need to make it a priority to buy one of the 500 copies before they are all gone…

Score: 5/5

Backwood Carnage is available to buy via Black Lava Entertainment – https://blacklava.store/collections/frontpage/products/pre-sale-backwood-carnage-limited-500-edition-release-date-2nd-august-2021

REVIEW: TALES TO TELL IN THE DARK (2020, TetroVideo)

Tales To Tell In The Dark is a three-story horror anthology from the minds of Domiziano Cristopharo (The Obsessed, Nightmare Symphony, Red Krokodil et al) & Lorenzo Zanoni (Vore Gore, XXX Dark Web). Hosted and narrated by ‘The Bishop’, we are treated to a trio of dark tales, each with their own distinct style and twists.

As an interlude to each story, ‘The Bishop’ sets the premise with his creepy mannerisms, referring to the themes without delving too much into the stories themselves. This is similar to the format of 80s classics Tales From The Crypt (1989) and Creepshow (1982) but it has its own refreshing style.

The first segment in the anthology is called ‘Reveniens’, directed by Domiziano Cristopharo. A family drive is stopped abruptly after their car hits a man wearing camouflage.  In a moment of shock, the family gets out of the car to find themselves engaged in a tussle with the living dead. This segment is a love letter to the Zombie Flesh Eaters series and brings back all the thrills from the bygone era of stomach churning 80’s Italian zombie flicks. Combined with a Fabio Frizzi-esque throwback soundtrack by Antony Coia, we are presented with a gut wrenching zombie splatter fest with buckets of gore. Following the classic format of ‘slow moving’ zombies, there is enough action and carnage to make Fulci fans drool at the mouth.

This segment really manages to hit the ground running and I was beaming with excitement all the way through it. There is plenty to keep hardcore gore hounds entertained as there is a constant flow of Flesh eating and blood squirting scenes throughout. In particular, there is an excellently choreographed scene where a pregnant lady gives birth in a sea of her own blood which makes perfect use of practical effects and animation. The acting during this short story is superb and the cinematography shines through from start to finish.

The follow-up segment is a tale under the name of ‘The Snake With A Poison Tongue’; also directed by Domiziano Cristopharo. There is a change of pace and tone as the theme of the previous short switches to a supernatural element with a strong emphasis on ghosts. A tourist who is desperately looking for a place to stay finds a motel run by a creepy owner and begs him to let him stay for the night. The owner advises that the motel has been closed for a year but the man takes the benefit of doubt due to desperation and stays anyway. While the ‘Reveniens’ story was fast paced and crammed full of action set pieces, ‘The Snake With A Poison Tongue’ is a slow burner.  There is plenty of mystery surrounding the location and the eccentric owner and things do ramp up at a gradual pace, you just have to stick with it. The tourist develops a leg injury which worsens as the story progresses, while the behaviour of the owner and the atmosphere of the motel is ever-changing. 

There is a ghostly figure of a woman with a black veil appearing sporadically. It took a while for this segment to get under my skin but when the plot began to thicken I really became immersed in it. There is a strong theme of history repeating itself which resonated with me and kept it interesting.  The plot twist is carefully and perfectly executed and it will catch you off guard. If you pay close attention, you will spot many horror references, in particular a nod to Italian synth gods Goblin’s Zombi theme in the score around the town scene.

The third and final segment is called ‘Jinxed’ and is a directorial collaboration between Domiziano Cristopharo & Lorenzo Zanoni. A runner stumbles upon a crime scene where he finds the body of a murdered woman. As an opportunistic thief, the runner decides to help himself to a necklace belonging to the dead woman with the hope of giving it to another woman as a gift; unaware that in doing so he has opened a curse. Despite its short run length, this short had alot of tension and returned to the pacing of the first segment. Much like the first two short films, the locations are diverse and interesting and the stories are unique. The acting was great and the claustrophobic scene in the camper van was a distinct highlight.

‘Tales To Tell In The Dark’ is a strong horror anthology which keeps you guessing. It pulls together everything we love from the golden age of Italian Horror and encases it in a shell of modern Indie Horror. The emphasis on atmosphere and original storytelling continues to bring new life to Indie Horror.

Score: 4/5

REVIEW: THANATOMORPHOSE (2012, TetroVideo)

Thanatomorphose is a Canadian body-horror film directed by Eric Falardeau, originally released in 2012, and now finally being released on bluray for the first time ever curtesy of TetroVideo.

A sexually active young woman wakes up to find her body has been infected by a disease and her flesh is slowly rotting away. Laura (Kayden Rose) is a quiet but outgoing socialite who enjoys the company of her friends but nothing can prepare her for the virus which will take control of her body and change her life forever…

We know very little of the virus which will take over Laura’s body and there is an element of mystery around what is happening to her and where it will lead. It is implied that it may be a sexually transmitted disease due to the fact she wakes up after sexual intercourse to find bruising and other marks which get worse through time,however it isn’t as clear-cut as you may think. Laura’s sexual partners are not carrying the same symptoms despite having close relations with her. Thanatomorphose focuses on showing the stages of decomposition gradually through its chapters; watching a healthy woman develop an illness which rots away at her body is shocking and hard to watch.

For a body-horror film, Thanatomorphose never loses its focus. The spread of the virus on Laura’s body is shown graphically and we are shown everything (even real maggots). The film uses impressive practical effects and make-up to show the changes the virus has on Laura’s skin and the realism is breathtaking. There are several times where you will feel physically sick by the skin crawling visuals and gore which are accelerated in line with Laura’s horrific transformation into a walking carcass.

The sound design of the film creates a tense, knife-edge atmosphere which drags and pulls at your nervous system. Subtle, soothing violin music corresses the screenplay while harsh, distorted, noise grinds during art-house segments. The film is unpredictable and unrelentless, it doesn’t want you to have an easy ride. The lighting is another strong point for the film as each scene is perfectly lit using vibrant, neon colours which vary and are very much ‘alive’ like the virus taking over Laura’s body…

Thanatomorphose is layered with social commentary and hard hitting messages. Laura tries to repair herself as her body withers away but never thinks about giving up or accepting her fate. She tries to repair her body while sculpting a clay head. It is almost as if she is wanting to exist, without beauty but by being someone else. There is also a strong message around how men treat women. Men only visit Laura for one thing; sex. When her appearance changes, they gradually lose their sexual desires to be around her then lose interest in her wellbeing altogether. There is so much going on from a visual and psychological aspect that the film really struck a chord with me and I felt more and more empathy towards a helpless woman trying to do all she can to survive.

The film uses very little dialogue but it manages to achieve strong character development towards the lead actress through its solid storytelling. The acting is sublime and we build a vested interest in Laura as she fights to save her body from falling apart, certainly more than the other men shown on-screen. There is plenty of gore on display but the film still carries a somber tone regardless and we can’t escape the nihilism as the film drives towards its climax.

Falardeau manages to deliver a body-horror masterpiece on his first outing as a director which pushes the boundaries of the genre like never before. Thanatomorphose has been released several times before by other distribution labels but this is the best it has ever looked. The film deserves to be on a bluray disc and it deserves to be in your collection.

Score: 5/5

REVIEW: LATE NIGHT DOUBLE FEATURE (2014, TetroVideo)

Late Night Double Feature is a Canadian horror anthology which brings together the directorial talents of Torin Langen, Navin Ramaswaran and Zachary Ramelan. Shot from a TV channel perspective, we are shown a double feature of short films (Dinner For Monsters/ Slit) as part of Dr Nasty’s Cavalcade of Horror.

The film kicks off at a frantic pace, throwing us straight into the action by introducing us to Dr Nasty and Nurse Nasty who are the hosts for tonight’s late night double bill. The presentation is very much 80’s B-Movie nostalgia with over the top acting and bonkers character design. We are very quickly immersed into the TV shoot delivery by being shown a series of short horror themed trailers and commercials before the first film starts…

The first short film is called ‘Dinner For Monsters’ and sees a chef recruited to join a lavish, wealthy household where he will be catering for an table of eccentric guests. While entering his new workplace, the chef doesn’t fully understand the type of cuisine he will be expected to serve up but he very quickly (and shockingly) discovers the order of the day is ‘human flesh’. This film perfectly combines comedy with horror as an interesting tale of cannibalism unfolds. Visually, the short is extremely well produced with crisp visuals and stellar acting. This segment is very much in the tone of Parents (1989) and Delicatessen (1991); it doesn’t take itself too seriously but is highly entertaining. I found this to be a very strong appetiser for things to come and it left me wanting a further serving…

After a short interlude, we are then shown the second film ‘Slit’ by Torin Langen. A man works as a professional ‘cutter’, providing a service to those who seek self-mutilation for pleasure and relief. Abruptly, and very much unexpectedly, this short film knocked the smile off my face as the comedy of the previous segments was trampled on with a very dark and ‘extreme’ boot. I guess it caught me off guard at first but after a short while I sussed out the direction where this segment was going and eased myself back into the film. Much like the first short, Slit is very well made with high production values and original storytelling but it ramps up the gore and violence. The practical effects were magnificent and it really delivered in terms of shocks and squirm moments while also giving integrity to the subject matter. We see the ‘cutter’ visit one client he would later regret meeting and the tension was managed perfectly right up until its epic finale. The placement of strong subject matter after a comedic start actually provided a very smart juxtaposition and added variety to the proceedings.

After the two films had been ‘screened’ the focus moved back to Dr Nasty’s Cavalcade of Horror as we are exposed to all kinds of debauchery. Dr Nasty is portrayed as an out of control, violent and drunk chauvinist who tries to exert power over his co-host Nurse Nasty. This segment baffled me alot as it switched between ‘comedy’ and ‘serious’ sporadically and I didn’t really feel that it was all really necessary. The story evolved into chaos as several members of the production characters began to fall-out and this is went things got really interesting again. Just when I thought things were slipping away, they managed to save the story with a convincing ending which worked as a neat wrap-around.

Late Night Double Feature was a real surprise. It managed to cover alot of ground and combine alot of different styles within its run time. It was great to see a film dare to do things differently and it provided a unique and unpredictable experience.

Score: 3.5 / 5

REVIEW: XPIATION (2018, TetroVideo)

Directed by extreme horror veteran Domiziano Cristopharo (Red Krokodil, House of Flesh Mannequins), Xpiation is the third and final installment in the notorious ‘Trilogy of Death’ and is a brutal follow-up to Torment (2017, Adam Ford) & American Guinea Pig: Sacrifice (2017, Poison Rouge).

Xpiation wastes no time in serving a stacked platter of torture and punishment as ‘Latino Guy’ (Emanuele Delia) wakes up in a room tied to a chair with a gag in his mouth. Infront of him is an eloquently dressed lady (Chiara Pavoni) sitting cross-legged on a chair holding a hand held JVC video camera. We are then introduced to the ‘torturer’ Simone Tolu who takes direct orders from her to inflict torture on the Latino man…with no holds barred.

From the very start, we know very little about the characters and the situation, but things become clearer as the film progresses. At first it appears the lady is a sado masochist using a ‘easily led’, naive man to bring her disturbing fantasies to life by beating the “Latino Guy’ senseless, but there is more to the story than meets the ‘eye’. There is an almost p’mother/son’ type relationship going on but the woman is ‘using’ the ‘torturer’ to do things he doesn’t entirely understand. Doping him up with drugs to pull him as far away from reality as possible and using him like a slave to carry out cruel acts on a helpless victim.

There is an intricacy to the story which takes a while to brew but simmers nicely. There is a deeply embedded theme of ‘atonement, as the woman plots for revenge on her unstable upbringing and past suffering of unimaginable abuse. The film touches on some very ‘real’ and hard hitting subject matters which brush away any possible comparisons to ‘torture’ horror movies which have came before it. This is very much a tale of ‘abused’ becoming the ‘abuser’ but with some clever twists along the way…

As with all good extreme horror films, the practical and special effects are paramount to its success; Xpiation punches high above its budget with űber realistic gore and ultra realistic violence. We see an array of household objects used as weapons to devastatingly brutal effect as the victims face is battered until it looks like a burst football, and his limbs are burnt and destroyed beyond repair. The gore is painstakingly realistic and bloody thrilling to watch. The torture scenes involving an iron make Hostel look like a Disney movie…

The production values are strong throughout, for a small cast the acting is decent. Chiara Pavoni steals the show with her portrayal of a troubled soul trying to find peace with her past. There are so many layers to the characterisation that you won’t know what is around the corner. The cinematography is excellent, focusing on a single location for the most part but ensuring the room is atmospheric and interesting. The switch to hand held camera perspective adds a nice touch of ‘ fake snuff’ aesthetic and realism to proceedings.

While many modern torture horror films are ‘half-cooked’, Xpiation is ‘sizzling’ all the way through and ‘very well done’. The film is a perfect way to end the ‘Trilogy of Death’ by serving up a feast of gore and violence.

Score: 5/5

REVIEW: Frankenstein’s Creature (2018, Hex Studios) + Director Interview

Frankenstein’s Creature was the debut feature film by Sam Ashurst released in 2018, based on Mary Shelley’s novella Frankenstein (1818). The film is a monologue telling the story of Frankenstein from the perspective of the creature.

Frankenstein’s Creature is an intricate character study which stays true to the source material but also delves deep into the lesser known aspects of the story. The Creature, played by James Swanton, has many layers to his personality and many aspects to his psychology. The Creature is a tortured soul but not devoid of feeling or emotion, quite the opposite infact. The Creature talks through his life experiences and saddening shortcomings while also taking pride in being responsible for his makers downfall. We get to see all aspects of The Creature’s traits. The innocence of his initial life experiences, to the sadness and disappointment, to the dangers of rising bitterness and jealousy.

Frankenstein’s Creature consists of a one-man cast set in a single filming location. For a 91 minute run time, normally this type of set-up would enounter many difficulties but Sam Ashurst ensures the lack of characters and set designs actually adds to an immersive experience and luring atmosphere. In terms of the casting, the performance by James Swanton is so dynamic that it never gets boring. The script is heavy on dialogue but James Swanton manages to get under the skin and into the mind of The Creature and carries the film with strong theatrical acting and high energy levels in his performances. Imagine being front row at the Theatre, with noone else around you; this film creates that simulation and is immersive from start to finish. Swanton uses a limited number of props to drive the story forward but for the most part uses his own movements and limbs to re-enact the story telling through improvisation. In any film, a strong performance from a single actor can win you over, well in a film which has only one cast member and the acting is delivered as intense as this; it is simply captivating and breathtaking.

In terms of the production values, Frankenstein’s Creature has a very unique style but is top-tier throughout. Presented through a grey/blue-monochrone filter, the film pays homage The Golden Era of Horror films but with a modern tint. Despite being set in a single location with a still camera for the most part, the background never feels bland because it adds so much character to the atmosphere with its fixed lighting and stone textures. Ashurst uses overlapping techniques to merge scenery into the frame during key moments of The Creature’s story telling to bring it to life. The insertion of images of flowing rivers and animals walking freely adds alot of depth to the backgrounds while also ensuring there is enough on screen activity to keep things fresh and interesting. Much like the single cast/single location approach, the sound design is simplified but also dynamic. The score by Johnny Jewel is delicate, luring and fractured to complement the other elements of the film and manages to effectively lift the mood when needed and also lower the tone when required too. The combination of moving imagery and ever changing sound design creates a ‘trance’ like effect on the viewer. There is a haunting aspect to watching The Creature open up his soul to us while the visuals sway like a breeze…

We’ve seen countless adaptations based on Mary Shelley’s novella but they normally follow the same formula with a predictable blueprint. Frankenstein’s Creature strays from the path and finds something more pure and honest. The film is a journey, unravelling more than we’ve ever seen or heard before and deserves multiple viewings.

Score: 5/5

Interview with Director Sam Ashurst

NF: How many days of shooting were required to make Frankenstein’s Creature and what were the biggest challenges when filming?

SA: In terms of shooting the performance, we shot it in a single day – in a single take. What you see is an unbroken take, which is 90 minutes long. We had the space for a day, so we had enough time for three chances to get it right. I actually used the first take, because I knew we had it as soon as James finished.

I thought about doing a Kubrick and getting him to do those two extra takes anyway, for safety, but I’m not a monster – that performance always took so much out of him – so I used the rest of the time to get those other angles, of specific moments, for the dissolves.

For the dissolves that don’t involve James, our second-unit director Jonatli Gudjonsson, who’s an Icelandic documentarian and editor, spent a week in Iceland getting those incredible natural shots. I asked him to hunt out the horses, the sweeping vistas, the ice, the abandoned house – which were all so invaluable for the feel of the film. I was so excited when he came back and I saw that footage. It was perfect.

Outside of that, James and I spent a week rehearsing the play at my house, adjusting the blocking and timings to fit the space / make it feel more cinematic.

NF: As a film reliant on one actor, how did you find out about James Swanton and how did you end up working with him?

SA: James actually appeared in a promotional trailer I’d made for a script I’d written, called The Devil’s Patient. This was in 2017, and The Devil’s Patient was intended as my first film. Sadly, I don’t think I’ll ever go back to it. Since then, Hereditary has been released, and there’s an eerie amount of similarities with that movie.

The Devil’s Patient was about a nurse who got slowly possessed by a demon trapped inside a coma patient, and the conspiracy around her was so close to Hereditary – the ending is basically a mixture of that and Saint Maud – I threw up my hands when I saw that in the cinema!

Anyway, I got impatient while I was waiting for the producers to get the money for The Devil’s Patient, and, in the meantime, Channel 4 gave me a really small budget to make a music video for their Random Acts TV show.

As I was directing that video, looking at the crew around me, it hit me that the budget was so low, I could probably raise it myself. If I did, I’d have the team I needed for my debut film – if only I could make a movie in a day.

I spoke about the idea with my friend Dan Martin, who I host the Arrow Video Podcast with, and he gave me some advice an old teacher had given him – if you want to make a film in a day, shoot a play.

I loved the idea of filming a play, because loads of my cinematic heroes also did theatre, whether that’s Orson Welles, Ingmar Bergman or Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and their movies had that theatrical influence.

I knew James had a one-man Frankenstein, and he’d been such an absolute joy to work with on that trailer, so I asked him to send it over to me. He did, I found it insanely powerful – it reminded me of the ‘tears in rain’ speech from Blade Runner, but feature-length! And the rest is cinema history.

NF: Apart from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein novella, did you seek any influence from past Frankenstein film adaptations when deciding on the direction you wanted to follow?

SA: In terms of the influences, we just looked to the book and used that as the starting point. The play is so insanely faithful to the book (in which the Creature is verbose and intelligent, as opposed to a groaning monster), I wanted to imagine that this was the first ever cinematic adaptation of it.

So, instead of looking at James Whale’s film or whatever, I looked at the cinema of the 1800s, and decided to make a film that could feel like it had been made just after the book was released, lost, and rediscovered. We shot it on the 200th anniversary of the release of the book, which was beautiful timing.

Also, I’m from a working class background, and silent film was originally a working class entertainment, for people who couldn’t afford the theatre, or the opera, so it felt true to where I come from.

A lot of those earliest movies were recreating plays; it was part of the evolution from theatre as entertainment, so they were shot in that proscenium style to recreate the look of the theatre, so I found a location that would allow us to do that.

Every decision was made in relation to that overall vision. Shooting with bold shadows for the black and white grade, using the kind of dissolve trickery Georges Méliès was known for, and the fixed camera of the Lumiere brothers (combined with more modern motivated zooms)… It was all in service of that feel.

I also wanted it to have a Fritz Lang feel, there was definitely a German Expressionism influence, because those specific silent films helped birth cinematic science-fiction and horror, which the novel did too.

Even when I selected James’ costume elements (some of which had come from the play, but not all), and when I worked with the incredible make-up / prosthetics artist Roz Gomersall to create a new look for the movie, the style of those silent films were firmly fixed in my mind.

There were more modern influences though – I wanted it to be a trance film, like Inland Empire or some Tarkovsky stuff, to really take audiences on a weird trip. At the premiere you could really feel it start to hypnotise the audience, that was such an incredible feeling.

NF: At the Frightfest 2018 premiere, you were asked if you would consider making another monster film adaptation as a character study. Is this something you would still like to do in the future and which monsters interest you the most?

SA: I’m not sure if I would, actually – I’m so proud of Frankenstein’s Creature, I’m so happy it’s my first film, but I think I’ve said all I have to say about the classic monsters.

NF: Do you feel your debut feature film, Frankenstein’s Creature, influenced your work on the two ‘A Little More Flesh’ feature lengths which followed?

SA: Definitely, in terms of what I learned making it. I learned how to produce a film, and how to manage a budget. For the recent films, I taught myself how to edit, and shoot, so that I could use my DIY budgets on bigger casts / more intense effects.

I also feel like I’ve continued to combine arthouse and grindhouse influences to create really unique cinematic experiences that are unlike any other movies. No-one had seen anything like Frankenstein’s Creature at the cinema before, and that’s driven me to create other new experiences for audiences.

I definitely feel like these three films are connected, they’re a DIY horror trilogy that will always be linked as a whole – for me, anyway.

NF:  It has been 3 years since Frankenstein’s Creature was released, what are your fondest memories of the production?

SA: Probably the rehearsal period with James. We’d run through the play as many times as possible throughout the day, then I’d cook for him and show him a movie that I thought could help his performance. So, stuff like Secret Honor, There Will Be Blood, and Possession, all of which were first time watches for him.

Obviously it was a rush getting the performance on the day itself, and I loved the edit process too – working with David Marshall to get the timings of those dissolves exactly right, and adding Johnny Jewel’s score – the whole thing is a fond memory to be honest.

NF:  What is your favourite Frankenstein movie and why?

SA: Outside of the Universal stuff, a more under-the-radar choice that people should check out is Larry Fessenden’s Depraved. It’s a different, modern approach to the story, with a hell of an ending.

NF: How has the response been in the years since Frankenstein’s Creature was released and what are you most proud of?

SA: Working with James for sure. I am incredibly proud of giving him his first feature lead role. The fact that I spent my own money on bringing his play to the big screen, which premiered at the legendary Empire Cinema on Leicester Square no less, will always be a source of great pride.

It was such a risky project in so many ways, a single-take movie delivered in a Shakespearian style influenced by silent cinema… In a world of Marvel movies or whatever, I might as well have gone to a Scottish island and burned my money, like the KLF! But it was the first film to sell out at FrightFest in 2018, then in 2019 Hex released a limited edition DVD, which sold out in the pre-order stage.

Audiences want to be challenged, and it’s important that independent filmmakers remember that – don’t try to copy what’s out there, make something that’s uniquely you, and it will find its audience.

But, yes, to answer the question, James is an absolute, unquestionable, genius, so I’ll always be proud of bringing his work to a new audience.

NF: ‘ Monster’ movies bring great escapism, especially those which focus on human emotion, do you feel there will be a change in demand after this pandemic?

SA: It’s interesting, because Frankenstein’s Creature involves so many themes that feel relevant – whether that’s isolation, creating a giant inner world, or finding yourself through solitary engagement with nature, that it almost feels like a pandemic movie! It was certainly shot in a way that is conducive to the current challenges we’re all facing as filmmakers.

But I’m not quite sure – I think a desire for escapism is right, but we’re in such a transitional period right now: I think smaller, personal movies might be what people start to crave, because the big screen experience is changing so much, which matches the business sides of things – the studio balance sheets are also changing. That said, it’s probably best to look at politics for the answer, horror always seems to grow out of what’s happening there.

NF: Graham Humphreys designed the stunning art poster for Frankenstein’s Creature, how was he to work with and did you set any criteria for how you wanted the poster to look?

SA: He was an absolute delight, a dream. I grew up on Graham’s VHS covers, so I was truly honoured when he agreed to take this on. I sent over images for him to use, and gave him a rough layout, which is very close to what you see. But everything else, the colour choices, the style, it was all him – I can take no credit for that masterpiece of art.

Also, to Graham’s immense credit, I only had enough in the budget to cover a digital image, but he surprised us and went ahead and painted it anyway, for which I will always be hugely grateful. This film was blessed in many ways!

Huge thanks to Sam Ashurst for kindly donating his time and effort for this interview and allowing me to review his work.

Frankenstein’s Creature is OOP on DVD, but the Digital Version is available to buy via https://hex-media.myshopify.com/products/frankensteins-creature-digital-version

REVIEW: eROTik (2018, TetroVideo)

Filmed in Turkey, eROTik is an extreme horror film directed by Domiziano Cristopharo (Red Krokodil, House of Flesh Mannequins) which follows the necrophile ways of ‘Dahmer’ (Adam Western) who has a passion for Egyptian culture (particularly mummification), love and extreme sex.

From the opening scene, eROTik instantly throws you into it a land of extreme horror; jerking off at the face of censorship and moral standards. The film wastes no time in trying to make you spew your load, lighting is nice but the subject matter is dangerously dark and there is no sugar coating. The madman is not someone you can relate to, he is extreme beyond your imagination and his nightmarish visions merely stimulate his abnormal appetite to do bad things. Seasoned fans of this genre will probably expect this to be a relatively linear film following what has been seen and done before but eROTik is no ‘copy cat’. It is nasty, grim and seedy but also beautifully shot with an infectious minimalistic soundtrack. There are plenty of gross out moments which will make you reach for the nearest barf bag or sick bucket but it is simply too brutal and interesting to look away.

When it comes to necrophilia, Europeans do it better. Paying tribute to (but not imitating) the Nekromantik films by legendary German filmmaker Jörg Buttgereit, eROTik is a modern throwback to the much loved (and sorely missed) Video Nasties era. The film certainly doesn’t hold back as we watch the lead actor torture, abuse and dismember his victims aswel as having sex with them (alive and after death). To put it bluntly, eROTik is ‘top shelf entertainment’ which is not designed for mass consumption. For the weak of heart, it will turn their stomach and creep them out and probably force the majority of viewers to ‘rage quit’. But, for those looking to sink their teeth into something with buckets of blood, gore and violence this should be on your list…

Much like the maggots and bugs which inhabit ‘Dahmer”s home, the film is crawling with dirt, seediness and depravity. We see things we don’t want to see. The film is harsh and pushes the envelope at all times with its dark and disturbing imagery. As blood runs black, so does eROTik’s dark themes which are uncompromisingly brutal and unapologetically unnerving. Themes of spirituality and desires are mounted by an uncontrollable urge for the madman to flirt with ‘death’ and we see it unfold in all its guts and glory. The practical effects are so good, it makes it uncomfortable but exciting to watch the brutality reach new heights.

eROTik is an expression of repressed violence and a much needed shock to the system. The film is a bloody, disgusting, morbid and vile masterpiece that will make you want to take a shower after viewing; but isn’t that what we always wanted?

Score: 5/5

REVIEW: THE OBSESSED (2019, TetroVideo)

The Obsessed is an Albanian body-horror film by The Bad Trip Bros, directed by Domiziano Cristopharo (Red Krokodil, House of Flesh Mannequins, eROTik et al). Inspired by the real life story of Bjork’s stalker Ricardo Lopez, the film follows Ricardo (Jacopo Tomassini)’s unhealthy obsession for famous singer Eva (Elisa Carrera Fumagalli).

Broken down into three phases, we observe the stages of Ricardo’s dangerous infatuation with Eva. The Obsessed is a character study which revolves around showing all aspects of Ricardo’s disjointed life style and shows the demise of his mental and physical wellbeing in a very graphic way. Ricardo is a loner, living with several cats and a dog who clearly values the company of animals over people. He has a dirty drug addiction, using his own saliva as lubricant when cooking up, and snorting powder off unclean surfaces. He has no pride in his physical appearance or health and fails to conform to a normal way of living.

Ricardo’s obsession intensifies through time and we are exposed to his hallucinations, brought to life beautifully by high production value practical effects and props. This is where the film really shines, the practical effects are ambitious but the talents of the team involved clearly surpass this. We are shown incredible transformation and body-horror segments on a par with Stuart Gordon’s best films. Seeing a man transform into a cat is one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen in my life time watching horror films. We are also shown a series of interesting segments where Ricardo has out of body experiences and speaks to his demons; the level of creativity is extremely original and impressive.

Despite being a straight up body-horror film, The Obsessed doesn’t run far away from extreme. In a sense, it holds it ‘hand in hand’. Showcasing the amazing practical effects, we are exposed to super realistic gore which looks too real to be staged at times. In particular, a self-harm scene where Ricardo cuts his entire body all over with a razor blade is worthy of a squirm and really pushes the buttons of the viewer. I think The Obsessed found a fine balance between ‘over the top’ horror and extreme and it never goes too far on either side. The film starts off as a slow burner but this is needed for the viewer to fully understand the lead character and his intentions, when the film really gets going it hits hard.

As previously mentioned, the practical effects are fantastic. The nightmarish hallucination sequences all stand out of prime examples of why Indie horror does it better. There is no sugar coating. From a giant talking penis with teeth to a chest burster scene to a scene where Ricardo transforms into a demon. There are so many moments where my mouth was open with shock in awe of how amazing it all looks. This really needs to be seen to be believed; truly mind-blowing workmanship.

The acting performance of the lead character Ricardo is incredible. Jacopo Tomassini really sinks deep into the character and leaves no stone unturned. As the viewer, we never get bored of the plot progression as it is unpredictable and exciting. A special mention must go out to Elisa Carrera Fumagalli who plays Eva, her segments may be short and sweet but she is interesting too and the singing (if her) is amazing on the songs we hear during the film. If it is her, the soundtrack deserves to be released. Similarly, the synth score by Antony Coia is breathtakingly good.

The Obsessed is a head bending body-horror film which takes strong influence from the story of Bjork’s stalker but adds its own twisted spin. The practical effects and cinematography are mind-blowing and out of this world. Fans of body-horror need to make a priority to watch this masterpiece. Words can’t do justice at how majestic The Obsessed is.

Score: 5/5

REVIEW: ILL – FINAL CONTAGIUM (2020, TetroVideo)

4 extreme horror directors collaborate to create a powerful pandemic movie with a difference. Lucio A. Rojas (Trauma), Lorenzo Zanoni (XXX Dark Web, Vore Gore), Domiziano Cristopharo (House of Flesh Mannequins, Red Krokodil) and Kai E. Bogatzki (Blind, Scars of Xavier) each bring their own style & short films to the table with a common theme; the spread of a deadly virus worldwide through the handling of contaminated money.

ILL: Final Contagium is broken down into four distinct shorts, each taking place on a difference day in a different country. The film starts with ‘Contagium Day #0’ (Lucio A. Rojas) set in Chile, where two ‘gold digger’ ladies meet a rich man with the intention of spiking his drink and stealing from him. After a few drinks, they had back to the man’s house, finding a briefcase which they assume is ‘only’ full of money…

Dangerous consequences take place when the girls let greed take over them and they unleash a flesh eating virus to the world. The first short sets the tone perfectly for the film, things escalate quickly and the practical effects are incredible.  The level of grimness is on a par with Éric Falardeau’s body horror masterpiece Thanatomorphose (2012). A strong short to kick off proceedings and its fast pace and powerful execution gave me a quench for more!

The next short is ‘Gully (Day #86)’ by Lorenzo Zanoni which is set in Italy. The short starts with a man trying to flag down an ambulance for a car crash victim, while helping himself to the victims wallet. In line with the previous short, upon obtaining the cash the thief gradually starts to fall ill and we are shown the stages of his health deteriorating and suffering. This short is a real showcase of extreme practical effects and transformation and reminded me of The Fly (1986). While his body starts to rot and decay, the man builds an uncontrollable hunger for food and can’t suppress his appetite leading to more disturbing consequences. This short is brilliantly acted and we build empathy towards a character who we initially disliked due to his actions. We watch the man’s body and life fall apart as his girlfriend walks out on him and leaves him to rot in his flat. This short really nails the physical and mental despair of the man and it is sad to watch him wither away.

The third short is directed by Domiziano Cristopharo; ‘The Body (Day #104). This focuses on a Kosovan trans woman who has recently gone through body transformation surgery and is adapting to her new body. This is a highly original short which continues with the theme of a virus spreading through exchange of money but also asks alot of questions to the viewer through its social commentary. 

Pain is the price of perfection. This short has many twists and turns, particularly when we realise the woman is a prostitute and she continues to invite clients over while her body slowly starts to become more and more infected. This short lays alot of focus on the woman’s breast implants which she paid alot of money for. Her desire to be pretty comes at a dangerous price. This short really stood out to me as relevant and current in today’s times, I was horrified and saddened by the pain the woman was going through as her happiness turns to sheer horror.

Last but certainly not least, we have the closing short ‘The Cabin (Day #913)’ by Kai E. Bogatzki. A father looks after his sick son who he has isolated in a cabin. Set in Germany, this short shows the power of a father’s love at caring for a son who has an inevitable death looming. Much like the previous two shorts in this film, this manages to pull the heart strings as we watch the agony and torment of a father trying to do the right things for his son. This short took the film out of urban areas info rural landscapes to emphasise that the virus has no boundaries. I felt the placement of this short as a wrap around was perfect as it reminded me of the ending of 28 Days Later (2002) where we realise escaping to rural areas doesn’t always bring safety or immunity…

The four shorts all carry a common theme around the spread of a virus through the exchange of money but they all ask different questions of the viewer. Is greed worth more than your health? Is beauty worth more than your health? Is money more important than life?. It is safe to say, the film is perfectly crafted to please both ‘gore hounds’ and ‘deep thinkers’ due to its intricate design. The production values are consistently high from start to finish with beautiful visuals, great acting and an impressive soundtrack score.

Overall, Ill: Final Contagium is a stacked , horrifying and thought provoking infection movie which strikes a fine balance between physical and psychological horror. This is easily one of the best infection movies I’ve seen in decades and is up there with the works of George A. Romero and David Cronenberg. It is a perfect blend of body horror and social commentary. While we are all currently living through our own pandemic, Ill: Final Contagium reminds us that it could be so much worse…

Score: 5/5

Ill: Final Contagium is available via TetroVideo: https://tetrovideo.com/shop/ill-final-contagium-bookbox-dvdposter/

REVIEW: Dead Celebrities (2018, Fausti Films)

Dead Celebrities is a 10 minute short film by British filmmaker Michael Fausti (Exit, 2020). Mick (played by Michael Fausti himself) is a deranged psychopath who dreams of being famous and knows a ‘dark secret’, a secret he shares with many of our favourite ‘dead celebrities’…

Much like Fausti’s strong feature length debut Exit (2020), Dead Celebrities is rich in humour and dark subject matter. The disturbing elements are laced with witty, sharp, English humour. The short film is well-shot with stunning ‘eye candy’ visuals and stellar sound design. Dead Celebrities makes great use of black & white flashbacks while the colour pallet is rich during key story moments.

Dead Celebrities explores social commentary by asking questions we’ve always been curious about but have never been fully explained. Do we want our favourite celebrities dead? And, why are most celebrities more profitable when they die than they are when they are alive?

The film starts strong and still manages to finish stronger with an epic climax of violence and gore. Dead Celebrities ticks all the right boxes and showcases Fausti’s many talents from directing to acting and voice over work. The acting among the small cast is on-point and has a strong indie feel but with high production values.

It is rare for a short film to contain as much substance as a feature length film but Dead Celebrities is a stand-out. In its short run time there is plenty of depth in its story telling and characterisation and it leaves a lasting impression. Fausti has a distinct approach and style to filmmaking which stands out from many of his industry peers and leaves you wanting to see more.

Score: 5/5

Watch Dead Celebrities for free at: https://quadplayer.vhx.tv/videos/dead-celebrities

Purchase Fausti Films films at: https://faustireleasing.bigcartel.com/

REVIEW: THE BAD MAN (2018, TetroVideo)

A couple move into a bed & breakfast after a grandmother passes away, short after arrival they receive an unexpected guest who claims to have a booking. Rather than turn the stranger away, Mary (Ellie Church) & PJ (Jason Crowe) decide to put Lawrence (Arthur Cullipher) up for the night and even throw in the promise of a cooked meal. Things take an unexpected turn when Lawrence tells the couple his occupation is a clown, Mary hates clowns and little do they know what plans he has in store for the pair of them…

Directed by Scott Schirmer (Found, Plank Face), The Bad Man is somewhat an oddity from the offset. The tone is never serious enough to he full-on horror, yet the humour isn’t so ‘out there’ that is fits into comedy either. The Bad Man sits on a see-saw which is constantly rocking and it makes it a fairly uneasy ride at times. It switches between the perspective of Mary telling  an investogator about the crimes she and her partner PJ have suffered at the hands of Lawrence while shifting to flash back scenes.

The movie is very much a ‘game of two halves’. The opening hour of the film starts off dialogue heavy with very little happening. From the moment we discover Lawrence has plans to turn Mary & PJ into ‘sex slaves’ under the names of ‘Pretty Lady’ and ‘Good Boy’, the pace is still fairly staggered and all over the joint. At first, the acting performances are fairly lacklustre and the chemistry between the couple is lacking any real depth, but as the film progresses we do start to see the characters come into life albeit slowly. For the Clown character, Lawrence, the opposite can be said. Lawrence hits the ground running with sharp lines and vicious intent but as the film goes on he becomes less and less threatening. The lack of action in the opening hour definitely hinders the film in terms of gripping the viewer and setting a dark tone but don’t let this put you off as it does improve. The second half of the film picks up pace and things start to happen and strange gets stranger very quickly…

Setting your expectations is the key when watching The Bad Man. This is not an extreme movie, if you are expecting a gore fest or it to be dripping with sleaze you are in for a big shock. The film is a low budget indie film which touches on strong subject matters but never ventures beyond suggestion for the most part. The camera turns away alot and alot is said but not actually ‘shown’. Lawrence has Gacy inspired face paint but don’t expect Torment (2017) style brutality and shock factor, this is a totally different breed. If you watch The Bad Man for what it is, a low budget indie horror film with buckets of humour you’ll actually find quite alot to like.

In terms of the films strengths, The Bad Man has a pretty interesting and original story with some nice twisted elements. Despite being more talk than action, it never gets boring due to the character development in the film. Charlie (Dave Parker), a character wearing a gas mask who never speaks a word actually became my favourite character as the story progressed due to his humour and improvisation. As did Good Boy/ PJ, seeing a grown man being mentally tormented into acting like a dog was extremely funny. The film is competently made, well shot throughout with a cracking synth soundtrack so there are no complaints from a production value perspective.

The Bad Man may not be overly graphic, but it oozes originality and character. It wears its heart on its sleeve and its shortcomings don’t ruin the experience of watching it. The Bad Man is truly something different.

Score: 3/5

The Bad Man will be available to preorder on DVD via TetroVideo on 1st June 2021.