REVIEW: THE ARCHIVIST (2021, Last Highway Films)

In the not so distant future, 2070 to be exact, Caulder Benson (Eric Hand) is a government archivist officer set with the audacious task of destroying all elements of society’s past. A futuristic sci-fi western style style unfolds in a stylistic and uncompromising fashion which you’ll be hard pushed to pigeonhole.

Eric Hand’s The Archivist surprised me from the opening scene right up until its epic finale. I was gripped from the get-go and shocked that a film could more of less act out like a compilation of my favourite movies and characters but some how do it in a mesmerising way. Beautifully shot on 35mm film, The Archivist looks like the films it takes influence from but ends up surpassing them with its unrelentless barrage of violence, comedy and action.

The sky is most certainly the limit with The Archivist as we are served a no-holds barred cocktail of flamethrowers, explosions, gunfire, motorbikes, aircraft flying and car chases. I wasn’t expecting to see so many high risk stunts and to see them all done perfectly with precision left me speechless. I’ve always wondered what could have been if Hobo With A Shotgun (2011) had received a sequel or spin-off purely based on The Plague and it probably wouldn’t have been anywhere near as good as this. Seriously, The Archivist blew my expectations clean-off from the very start and my heart was in my mouth all the way through it.

Imagine The Good, The Bad & The Ugly (1966) mixed with Mad Max (1979) with Street Trash (1987) and Fahrenheit 451 (1966) and you are still not even close! The Archivist is one of the craziest mishmash of styles I’ve seen in a very long time and it pulls it off with ease. Despite how out of the box it may seem it isn’t a million miles away from reality in its portrayal of a modern 1984 society or a poke at the Video Nasties era of the 80’s. If you violate the New Order you will be punished by torture or death…

If you are sick of seeing overuse of CGI in movies, you have come to the right place. The Archivist throws artificial cosmetics and trickery in the garbage can as it focuses solely on practical effects. Everything is real and it makes it extra special seeing it on a 35mm print. This is very much Tarantino style filmmaking and it sets its stakes high and reaps in the rewards.

With a run time of 110 minutes, The Archivist is by no means a short visit but time flies by and you’ll be gutted when the end is near. It is rare to come across an indie film which manages to push beyond a 90 minute standard without feeling stretched or dragged out. The pacing is so well done that barely a second goes by without something happening and it is impossible to look away.

The script is water tight but totally bonkers at the same time. The characters are developed carefully without force and the scenes fit like a glove throughout. Every character has their own gimmick and original one-liners (or sounds) and it all works a treat. I would be hard pushed to pick a favourite as I loved them all. The acting is great throughout, you can tell the cast had fun playing their characters and no-one took it too seriously.

In the sound department the film hits home with its crisp sound effects and voiceovers. It sounds like it is from the future but done in the past. This is otherworldly and simply incredible. Without exaggerating, The Archivist has one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard and I can’t get it out of my head (nor do I want to!).

The Archivist is a masterpiece in independent filmmaking which needs to be seen to be believed. It is a rare treat to watch a film which hits the spot in so many areas. You simply have to see this film and let it melt your brain. Enjoy the trip, I most certainly did.

Score: 5 / 5


Paul W.S Anderson’s 6-film live action series came to an end in 2017 with Resident Evil: The Final Chapter. While the video games continue to progress across generations of consoles, the live action films appeared to have died. However, British director Johannes Roberts (47 Meters Down, The Strangers: Prey At Night) embarked on an ambitious project to reboot the original film and bring Resident Evil back to the big screen. Now in 2021, while he fight out our own pandemic, Resident Evil: Welcome To Raccoon City is released in cinemas nationwide.

The film starts by showing Claire Redfield (Kaya Scodelario) and her brother Chris (Robbie Amell) who are living as children at Raccoon City Orphanage run by Umbrella Corporation scientist Dr William Birkin (Neal McDonough). Claire is visited late at night by a creepy figure who her brother tells her to ignore. Claire’s curiosity gets the better of her as she wants to find out more, leading to her first acquaintance with Lisa Trevor (Marina Mazepa), a tortured soul with a heart wrenching back story which will change her opinion of Umbrella forever…

The scene cuts out and we move to 1998 and the opening scene of Resident Evil 2 video game is recreated in all its guts and glory. As a fan of the video games since my childhood I was instantly in awe seeing my gaming memories being brought back to life on screen. The locations looks exactly how I remembered them especially the Police Station, Mansion and the streets of Raccoon City. The attention to detail in the location sets has to be commended for its accuracy and closeness to the video games. Watching the film was like playing the game albeit with less backtracking and puzzle solving…

The film tries to stay as close to the source material of the games as much as possible, something Paul W.S. Anderson failed to do with his efforts. However, Johannes Roberts tries to combine the storylines of two video games into one standalone movie with a few unique twists and turns. For the most part it works, there is never a dull moment and the plot is constantly moving. Unfortunately, sometimes it moves so fast between characters and locations that you aren’t given much time to admire the scenery or look for hidden easter eggs. Resident Evil (2002) had better pacing but Resident Evil: Welcome To Raccoon City (2021) has a better storyline and wears the source materials closer to its skin…

I was eagerly anticipating seeing the next room and scenarios as the film progressed but also sad to be leaving at the same time. Welcome To Raccoon City is a blast with its frantic pace, stunning locations and impressive CGI but I kept wanting it to slow itself down and give itself a moment to catch its breath. Despite its fast pace and action heavy sequences there is still plenty of horror and solid character development. This is quite possibly the best live-action survival horror adaptation of the Resident Evil franchise I’ve seen and I hope it stays true to its horror roots in the subsequent sequels which will no doubt follow.

In terms of the characterisation, most of the cast are portrayed well against their video game counterparts but there are a few mis-castings along the way. I thought Lisa Trevor (Marina Mazepa), Albert Wesker (Tom Hopper) and Dr William Birkin (Neal McDonough) were the real stars of the show with amazing performances. Former Skins actor Kaya Scodelario was good as Claire Redfield but the performance felt flat during some of the key scenes. Robbie Amell was good as Chris Redfield but lacked intensity. The film really dropped the ball with Jill Valentine (Hannah-John Kakem) & Leon Kennedy (Avan Jogia) who looked like terrible cosplayers and barely resembled who they were supposed to be. Leon is portrayed as a useless rookie; yes, it is his first day in the job but he was never as daft as this in the games…

Welcome To Raccoon City is by no means a perfect movie but it crammed in so many references to the game that I couldn’t take my eyes off it. I normally favour practical effects over CGI but this is a rare instance where I thought the special effects looked so good that I wasn’t disappointed. There are plenty of zombies and zombie dogs with plenty of rounds fired to deal with them. The licker looked fantastic and very creepy; something which the original film failed to do.

The music stayed true to the time period, as did the phone’s being used by the actors and the weapons at their disposal. It felt like a trip down memory lane and I absolutely loved it. It took me back to late late sessions playing the games. I felt the film served its purpose and gave as much as it could to please fans of the franchise. Infact, at times it may have given too much in its first outing.

Resident Evil: Welcome To Raccoon City is a fine tribute to the source material and gives fans of the franchise something to enjoy. Johannes Roberts has taken a dead-horse live action film series and given it a new lease of life. You won’t need herbs to enjoy this one, it is a glorious reboot that will hopefully give birth to many new sequels. Long live Resident Evil.

Score: 4/5

A Beginners Guide To Spaghetti Westerns (By A Beginner)

When you start watching films from a different genre it can be daunting, especially when the genre is so large as Spaghetti Westerns is…but once you find your footing everything else falls into place!

Westerns to me are like horse-operas, saddle-sore dramas and full-scale revenge stories. I’m addicted to the tales of retribution and deep characterisation and the pure escapism it provides!

The Spaghetti Western is a sub genre of western films produced in Europe. While the majority of Spaghetti Westerns were made by Italians there is also a strong Spanish contingent involved too. The films were mainly filmed in locations such as Almeria and Madrid in Spain and Central and Southern Italy and aimed to replicate the Wild West in a European setting.

I could list all the directors and key actors but I really don’t want to spoil the surprise. That said, if the directors first name is Sergio or the cast includes Franco Nero, Giuliano Gemma, Lee Van Cleef, Clint Eastwood, or Klaus Kinski you know you are onto a winner!

Dive in and discover them as you watch the finest movies to come out of the 60’s which most of your friends won’t have a clue about!

Finding where to start is the hardest part, but once you are in you are fine. Luckily, in 2021 most films are actually easily accessible thanks to boutique distribution labels and vast supply and have stunning restorations.

A good place to start is Arrow Video, titles like The Grand Duel (1972), Cemetery Without Crosses (1969), Day of Anger (1967), Django (1966), Texas Adios (1966) are all top-tier Spaghetti westerns. Then, if you want to explore further and invest more of your hard earned money, the Sartana & Vengeance Trails box-sets are great value for money. With the Vengeance Trails set you are treated to 4 lesser known western films by known directors (like Horror legend Lucio Fulci for example) and Massacre Time (1966), My Name Is Pecos (1967) and Bandidos (1967) are all worth the price of the set alone.

Do what I didn’t do, make sure you watch Sergio Leone’s Dollars Trilogy as early as possible; A Fistful of Dollars (1964), For A Few Dollars More (1965) & The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966). All 3 films have Clint Eastwood at his very best. In addition to these it is also worth mentioning the masterpiece Once Upon A Time In The West (1968); it is a long film at nearly 3 hours long but ticks all the right boxes. Just be aware that it sets the bar extremely high and everything else you watch after it may not compare…

Imports are actually pretty accessible and cheap depending on where you shop. Wild East Productions (USA) releases are Region Free on DVD & Bluray and their library is crammed full of forgotten gems. Infact, if you want to up-skill yourself and fast track your knowledge, building up a collection of WEP titles is a great way to do it! Most films can be sourced new from Strange Vice or eBay. I highly recommend The Ugle Ones (1966), A Bullet For The President (1969) & Death Rides A Horse (1967). Just be aware, some of the harder to find OOP titles tend to go for big bucks in eBay auctions…

Eureka have an extensive range of incredible transfers for the cream of the crop films on bluray including The Great Silence (1968), Sabata Trilogy (1969), A Fistful of Dynamite (1971) and many many more! I can almost guarantee that if you buy a spaghetti western bluray from Eureka you will be satisfied.

88 Films have a limited range of spaghetti western titles but I highly recommend you pick up all of them. Especially Navajo Joe (1966) & The Mercenary (1968) which are classics.

Watching the films is probably enough for most people but I’m obsessive and throw myself deep into the things I like. The standard of books out there is very high and they serve a purpose as a reference point after watching films or as a prerequisite too. I’m really enjoying reading the Spaghetti Western Digest (Michael Hauss) issues which act as standalone books crammed full of reviews and interviews. I’ve found Howard Hughes books to be a great informative source too, namely Once Upon A Time In The Italian West & Spaghetti Westerns.

Follow the Spaghetti Western Database on Facebook to learn literally everything for free. The page really is a bible for the genre.

I’ve been collecting for only a few months, I’m still a novice to the genre but I’m loving everything I’ve watched so far. If you are sitting on the fence, now is a good time to hop on the horse!


Aldo Lado’s Night Train Murders is one of those films that most people have heard of but never seen. Rejected by the BBFC in 1976 then banned as a Video Nasty in 1983, the film was only granted a full uncut release in 2008 when it was released by Shameless Entertainment. Now, in 2021 the film is released on bluray for the first time by TetroVideo.

Two young girls take an overnight train from Münich in Germany to Italy with the intention of spending Christmas with their family. A scenic train journey descends into a nightmare when the train is boarded by two petty criminals who are out to make people’s lives misery…

Similar in tone (but certainly not identical) to Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left (1972), Night Train Murders is a notorious and savage revenge horror thriller which was way ahead of its time. When I think of Video Nasties, Night Train Murders is always on my mind and it had a lasting effect on me the first time I watched it and it is a rare example of one of the nasties which you could understand why it was banned back in the day.

There is nothing worse then being stuck on a train with a bunch of rowdy strangers late at night and it portrays this fear perfectly. It is the fear of the unknown which is in the air on every carriage on the train and you don’t know what is around the corner.

Aldo Lado assembled a fine cast of exceptional actors including Flavio Bucci (Suspiria) , Macha Mèril (Deep Red), Irene Miracle (Puppet Master) and enlisted the legendary composer Ennio Morricone (The Thing, Dollars Trilogy) to provide an epic score. The production values are incredibly high at every turn and it has the class and suave of a euro-crime thriller.

The film is shocking at times and really goes as far as it can to villainize the criminals and their newly met companion who humiliate and abuse two innocent teenage girls. Every scene is structured in such a way that every actor is involved or sells their behaviour traits, there are no background extras used just for the sake of it. There is even some slapstick humour thrown in at the strangest times to remind you it is just a movie. The acting is fantastic across of all of the cast, and the reason it hits you so hard is because it all looks so real and believable.

When Night Train Murders gets into full swing it is uncompromising. The seediness is turned up to full and it batters the morale compass repeatedly. It isn’t worth discussing the key plot points in this review is it will water down the effect of the on screen shocks. Much like I Spit On Your Grave (1978) you have to stick with it and it is worth watching it until the end credits. With any revenge thriller you have to sit through the bad stuff to get to the good stuff.

Night Train Murders is a movie which hit me hard long before I dabbled with the extreme genre, but going back to watch it all these years later made me appreciate it so much more. It is rare to watch a Video Nasty which has such a powerful impact in today’s times. Hopefully this is the first of many nasties to find its way onto the TetroVideo range.

Score: 5/5

Night Train Murders is available to pre-order on bluray from TetroVideo and is due for release on 15th December 2021.


Spanish extreme director Mikel Balerdi (Larva Mental, Vore Gore) returns with a double bill of short films due to be released by TetroVideo. Influenced by a true story where an unknown German woman was addicted to automutilation and posted the photos online, The Girl With The Cutter depicts what happened and the psychological and physical dangers.

Before proceeding with this review I would like to give very strong trigger warnings. The film is about self destruction featuring very graphic self mutilation using hyper realistic practical effects and very convincing acting. While it is not real, it is still extremely disturbing, hence why no photos are used in this review and there is flash imagery used which might be triggering for a-lot of people.

A woman is interested in the anatomy of the human body and particularly what lies beneath the skin. She is addicted to self-mutilation and pushing both her body and her mind to its limits. Unlike Balerdi’s previous film Larva Mental (2021), The Girl With The Cutter starts slow but it still manages to weed its way through 5 chapters of physical and psychological pain infliction which will test the boundaries of most viewers.

The film slithers like a snake and it’s bite is never far away. A nauseating synch soundtrack picks away at your nerves and really gets under your skin. If you are familiar with Balerdi’s work, you can ‘almost’ know what to expect but there is always an element of danger and you know you will be exposed to things that make you feel uncomfortable; that is the aim and purpose.

The pain and suffering the lead character goes through is very unsettling and hard to watch but it focuses heavily on the psychological element of the woman and her fight to stop what she is doing to herself. The film isn’t made to exploit or profit from the subject matter for the sake of being edgy, instead it puts everything on display for the viewer with nothing watered down.

The film lacks dialogue for most of its 51 minute run time and while there is good use of inner voices (in the woman’s head) more lines could have been used to understand the character more and build up more of a connection with the story. With that said, the acting by the lead woman (Cofi Valduvieux) is excellent and she really displays the series of emotions the character goes through with precision and integrity.

The visuals are excellent throughout with solid cinematography and lighting. There is clever use of flash imagery and strobe lighting during disturbing set-pieces. The practical effects are brilliant with very realistic body parts and wounds which made me feel very uneasy. The blood was done using a very bright red paint to allow the pain to seep through on screen.

Balerdi’s work is extreme human art. Much like most great art, it is all down to perception and Balerdi covers strong subject matter in such a direct way that it is uncomfortable to watch but worth persevering. The Girl With The Cutter doesn’t shy away from its strong subject matter and certainly doesn’t glorify it; it explores the human aspect of why and the repercussions which follow.

Score: 4/5

The Girl With The Cutter is due to be released as part of a double feature with Gorgota on DVD. Preorders due to commence December 2021 via TetroVideo.

REVIEW: DAY OF THE STRANGER (2019, Darkside Releasing)

Billed as the UK’s first ever acid-western; Tom Lee Rutter’s Day of the Stranger is an ultra low budget indie film which aims to shoot straight from the hip. Starring Dale Sheppard and Gary Baxter (Beyond Fury) and loosely adapted from Mark Twain’s The Mysterious Stranger, Day of the Stranger is an ambitious stab at the acid-western genre with a beating indie heart.

A bounty killer (Caine) is chasing down two fugitives, pissed off at the death of his horse, he proceeds to carry one of the men’s dead bodies through an unforgiving and endless sand desert for miles while battling dehydration and exhaustion. Eventually Caine collapses and starts to hallucinate, seeing a dreamy figure of a woman. Upon returning to his boss to return one of the men’s dead bodies he has a new business proposition on the table. Everyone dreams of one more pay day, a job to make all your troubles go away. Well, chasing a good life has its risks…

For any western to hit the mark, the aesthetics need to be right. Filmed in the Midlands and Wales, this film doesn’t have the luxury of sun scorched deserts and mountain hills, but impressively it makes use of what is available and plugs the gaps. Visually the film has an artificial grain effect and a slightly dark lighting and filters which mimic the visuals of El Topo (1970). There are sand beaches, forests and wooden housing which give the locations an authentic look. We also have voice dubbing and over-acting which gives the film a spaghetti western style but never forces it more than it needs to. For a film on a micro budget, it is impressive that each of the small details of what is expected in a western film are addressed meticulously.

Despite it’s strong attention to detail and the length at which the production has gone to replicate a western environment, the film doesn’t take itself too seriously. Day of the Stranger has a barrel full of jokes and light comedy in its arsenal and it slides humour in occasionally to keep things fun and interesting. You can tell a lot of heart went into the production and you have to take your hat off to its delivery. The acting is actually pretty decent for the most part and the fake American accents are never taken seriously enough to be judged. The actors clearly gave their all to try to be fitting to the story and it works very well.

At times Day of the Stranger is violent, over the top and gung-ho but there are times where it became heavy on dialogue and took the foot off the gas. The writing is solid but it’s a shame that the gun fights were few and far between because they were so damn good. The film starts with a hail of gunfire with glorious practical and CGI blood squirts and kills, I wish there were more of this as it was executed perfectly. My favourite character in the film was Loomweather. Portrayed excellently by Gary Shail (Shock Treatment, Quadrophenia) , he added a new dimension to the film with his standout performance.

As the film moved into its final third it really pushed towards psychedelic territory and this is when it really took strides towards greatness. Without giving anything away, the final scenes are worth more than just your time and money. The film looked incredible during these scenes and it left me in a state of euphoria.

When Day of the Stranger pushes itself out of its western shell, it finds a niche which is both eye catching and bonkers. Tom Lee Rutter hasn’t set out to copy what has been done already, he has delivered a very entertaining acid-western which will leave fans of the genre drooling at the mouth.

As the saying goes, sometimes less is more. Day of the Stranger does the best it can with location and budget constraints and is a fine example of the DIY attitude in the indie community.

Score: 4/5

REVIEW: HATE CRIME (2012, TetroVideo)

Hate Crime is a found footage shocker made by James Cullen Bressack back in 2012. Long out of print and still dividing opinion among the underground extreme horror community, the film is returning with a shiny new release by TetroVideo.

A close-knit Jewish family are celebrating their youngest sons birthday at their home when they they receive an unexpected and frightening visit from a group of masked neo-nazi scumbags off their face on crystal meth. The family endure horrific torment, humiliation and torture by the men who are intent on going as far as they possibly can to inflict pain and suffering on their victims.

The film gives no warning and gives viewers no opportunity to settle in or process what is going on before it starts firing shots. Within a mere 4 minutes we go from watching family happiness to unimaginable heartbreak. It is savage, there is nothing that can prepare you for what you are about to witness but it isn’t meant to be a fun watch. It is very likely that the opening 10 minutes of the film will mentally scar most viewers and leave an irreversible sense of dread in their thoughts for many days and nights ; be ready for it.

For a found footage film, Hate Crime is hyper realistic. It looks and sounds incredibly real and it is extremely disturbing because of it. Found footage films are a hit and miss genre but this one really gets the basics right and is really impressive in most departments. The acting is tremendous across its small cast, the performances of both the victims and the perpetrators are tremendous. You really feel for the victims, and really quickly build up hate towards those hurting them. The cinematography is right on the money too, it is shot like a one-take with barely any noticeable breaks as it runs seamlessly with the actors going through the motions.

Nothing ever feels forced plot-wise, it sets up some very hard to watch scenes but it never exploits the situation more than it needs to. In fact, clever use of angles and cut-aways makes us think the worst in our heads when things are done fairly tastefully on screen. There is no nudity, and the practical effects used are mostly pulled into shot using a whip pan technique. From a technical aspect, this isn’t a high school project, clearly the filmmakers knew what they were doing.

The film pushes a lot of buttons and tests a lot of boundaries. It highlights the dangers of racism and hatred and is still relevant to the world we live in today. The film makes a statement in the most violent way possible, it reminds us that hatred drives bad people to do unforgivable crimes against humanity. The films title is a perfect fit and while it will never be used for educational purposes, it is an eye opener for those who think they have seen it all.

This is a movie, it isn’t real but this type of stuff does happen in real life and it is disturbing because of that. Very early on there is a line where one of the evil men reminds the family “it’s not going to be ok”, and that stayed with me for the whole movie. I think my only small gripe with the film is it felt too one sided at times and the victims didn’t really have much opportunity to change the course of the film, they seemed doomed from the start but maybe that was the intention. Some of the torture scenes went on too long at times and this drained a lot of the 71 minutes run time but the realism was on-point and it didn’t exploit the situations for cheap frights.

Hate Crime is wrong on so many levels in terms of its content but the finesse of the filmmaking should be admired. The film hit me harder than most and left me in deep thought about how evil the world we live in really is; it served its purpose well. Hate Crime is a true hammer blow to the skull.

Score: 4/5

Hate Crime is available to pre-order from TetroVideo on 2nd November 2021.


In 1991, Don Dohler, the man behind B movie sci fi horror cult films Fiend (1980) and Nightbeast (1982) released splatter piece Blood Massacre. Now the film receives another run out in TetroVideo’s highly regarded retro line Tetro Underground.

A group of maniacal Vietnam veterans go on a rampage. Starting off with a robbery in a local store then a crazy murder spree. They find solace in a rural family home which they invade and hold the residents hostage. Little be known to them that the family are pretty happy they visited…

Staying true to the original film, the film is presented in its true VHS glory with plenty of grainy visions and dark areas. Much like the other Tetro Underground releases, the aim is to bring forgotten cult films back in the way they were intended to be seen. The nostalgia of the video store days are brought back to our homes in abundance.

Grab a beer and buckle up for a crazy ride into the land of pure low budget trashy horror. Starring George Stover as outlaw leader Rizzo, we are taken on a journey into insanity with many twists and turns. Blood Massacre is a crazy mix of influences and styles resulting in an unpredictable and very exciting 73 minutes of B movie fun.

Without giving too much away, this is very much a story of the hunter becoming the hunted but with some very original and well timed plot twists. The film crams in so much that you are well and truly spoiled. It is like Cannibal Apocalypse (1980) mixed with Demons (1985) and Don’t Go In The Woods (1981) with even a sprinkle of First Blood (1972) too. Simply put, it is an insane combination of so many influences that it works a treat.

The bad acting and poorly choreographed fight scenes add to the films character and it never takes itself seriously enough for it to be an issue. The film has a killer soundtrack which carries the atmosphere and keeps the fun flowing throughout. The real star of the show is the awesome practical effects which are used sparingly at the start then milked during key moments to great effect.

Blood Massacre is a bloody frenzy which deserves a late night viewing in your home. It is trashy, bonkers and bloody brilliant.

Score: 5/5

Blood Massacre is due to be released on DVD by TetroVideo. Pre-order due to launch in November 2021.


Melancholie der Engel is a German independent experimental horror film from 2009 from the twisted mind of notorious filmmaker Marian Dora. The film is a marathon spanning over 164 minutes and is sure to give seasoned horror fans a much needed shock to the system.

Two male friends meet again and assemble a group including young women they met at a carnival to share their last days in an old rural house. This isn’t no party, things turn bad very quickly and the disastrous turn of events reveals the horrifying depths of humanity.

Melancholie der Angel pulls out all the stops to ramp up its production values. The incredible score is composed by exploitation legend David Hess, famous for his roles in The Last House on the Left (1972) and The House on the Edge of the Park (1980). This is hands down one of the greatest soundtracks I’ve ever heard (and I’m not exaggerating). The music plays an important part in the film as it carries the mood and gives it an otherworldly dimension.

The film has beautifully shot dreamy visuals with nightmarish themes. Infact, the film plays out like a long winded nightmare which is likely to shock you multiple times but the stunning cinematography makes it as pleasant as it can be to watch.

Melancholie Der Engel is like a swear word to most people in the horror community but also a badge of honour for those who can sit through it in its entirety. The subject matters dealt with in the film will no doubt push alot of peoples buttons and it is by nature very triggering at times. In the opening scene we are shown a brutal assault of a pregnant woman with clips of black caterpillars circumnavigating bark. This acts as an early warning and tests its audience before it takes things much further and much darker…

At times, the film is totally savage and other times it is tranquil. This is where most people will struggle to last the distance, the continuous dread of something bad happening looms over every moment in the film and it never gives you a chance to breathe. This is where the film really strikes a chord with its bleak outlook and dangerous intentions. Many critics may criticise the film for delivering shock purely for the sake of being edgy, but this is far from the case. Bad stuff is always waiting around the corner, you just don’t know when.

The controversy surrounding the film stems from its very realistic and uncompromising scenes which deal with sexual violence, self mutilation and strong drug use but it just tried to keep things as real as possible and not dilute its content for the sake of giving people a solemn experience. If you are familiar with Dora’s work, nothing will come as a surprise but if you are not you are in for a shock.

Expect to see things which make you feel sick. Dead animals, sacrilegious themes, very graphic sexual violence and abuse. But there is also a ton of nonsense thrown in to lighten the tone from cracking open an ostrich egg to make breakfast to creepy dolls to eating insects. It is safe to say, Melancholie der Engel crams in so much as it can from an extreme perspective that after a while you become numb to it.

It is a journey through cruelty and suffering spanning nearly three hours and it is not supposed to be an easy ride. Melancholie der Engel is an extreme art house film with no subtlety or filter; a piece of provocative cinema which tests boundaries. It’s long run time will test the patience of most viewers but it is worth sticking around for.

It is worth mentioning, its not all smooth running for its entirety. The overstretched run time feels more than a tad too long at times and the animal cruelty is needless at times. Apparently not all of the scenes involving animals are real but I really can’t tell. The film paddles in very pretentious waters at times and the subtext becomes lost in its convoluted plot but this is common ground for a Dora film so you just have to let it runs its course.

On a psychological level, Melancholie der Engel had a very strong emotional impact on me due to its prolonged scenes of bleakness which are very depressing. You are exposed to so much that it can build a numbing affect after a while but the variety of extreme content prevents the film from becoming too overwhelming or tedious. The most distressing scenes in my opinion were those involving a disabled woman in a wheelchair being abused, her ear piercing screams will haunt me for the rest of my life.

This film is a quintessential piece of extreme cinema which stands as one of the most disturbing and grotesque. Melancholie der Engel is Marian Dora’s calling card, if you want to dive into his challenging filmography then this is the best place to start. It doesn’t smell of roses, it reeks of death.

Score: 5/5

Melancholie der Engel is available to purchase from TetroVideo on DVD.

MELANCHOLIE DER ENGEL – 250 limited edition


REVIEW: JACK THE ST.RIPPER (2021, The Enchanted Architect)

Jack The St. Ripper is the latest indie horror project directed by George Nevada (Scarecrowd) and is written by Domiziano Cristopharo (Red Krokodil, House of Flesh Mannequins). A dance group of male strippers are brutally murdered one by one by a masked killer wearing iconic black leather gloves synonymous of the giallo genre.

Jack The St.Ripper (or Jack The Stripper) is a brave and ambitious stab at the giallo genre and flips the blueprint on its head (for all the right reasons). Most people associate giallo films with murder mysteries where young attractive women are victims. Jack The St.Ripper focuses predominantly on men being chased and killed in brutal ways.

It is refreshing that the horror genre is maturing, dropping cliches and moving forward in a new exciting direction. Having already watched and enjoyed the excellent Torment (2017, Dir. Adam Ford) & Scott Philip Goergens groundbreaking masterpiece 29 Needles (2019). I’m fully behind the new movement which strays away from the generic and overused heterosexual horror template and we are now seeing films which really break down walls and barriers.

Jack The St.Ripper begins like a euro sleaze movie but it isn’t. Infact, it actually takes a light hearted parodical stance with its overacted performances before it plays out a very well written and unpredictable giallo plot. The key fundamentals for a successful giallo are; solid production values, suspense, bold close-ups, eye catching visuals and a memorable score. Jack The St.Ripper tries its own thing but stays true to what we want from a giallo. The film makes effective use of 80’s VHS visuals to give it a nostalgic look and feel while the camera work is elaborate and meticulous at bringing out the best of the environment lighting and facial features of the actors. Then we have an incredible and mesmerising soundtrack consisting of piano and synth which lifts the mood of the proceedings.

The film is an enjoyable and entertaining giallo which doesn’t take itself too seriously and deserves your undivided attention. The film knows what horror fans want and delivers when it needs to. The kill scenes are incredibly brutal (and beautiful) as the film showcases great practical effects at times. There are so many nice references thrown back to classic slasher films, from the first person point of view for the heavy breathing mysterious killer akin to Halloween (1978) to an amazing recreation of a iconic scene from A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) but with a new spin!

The acting is done light heartedly for the most part but undoubtedly the star of the show is Chiara Pavoni (Xpiation, XXX Dark Web, III: Final Contagium) who yet again raises the bar and shines with another incredible performance. Pavoni has very much become a stamp of quality and class for independent horror films and this is no exception.

Jack The St.Ripper is an elaborate giallo film with plenty of twists and turns. It breaks away from linearity and gives the horror genre a much needed change of direction.

Score: 4/5

REVIEW: SCARECROWD (2015, Melting Pictures)

Released in 2015, director George Nevada’s debut feature film Scarecrowd (aka The Musk) sees a poor farmer, Tony Maio (Farbrizio Occhipinti), head out to investigate a meteorite which has landed on his farm. Much like Men In Black (1997), curiosity kills the cat as the farmer approaches the meteorite without caution and is contaminated by the radioactive released by the spores turning him into a mutant maniac with a desire to kill.

At first glance you wouldn’t be wrong to think Scarecrowd is a straight-up slasher, but it is actually an interesting combination of different genres with unexpected results. The film occasionally treads down the path of cosmic horror (Lovecraftian), a heavy dose of sci-fi and body-horror but also occasionally throws in some erotic Euro sleaze a la Emmanuelle. However, at the heart of everything is a nostalgic throwback to 70’s & 80’s B-movie horror films with slow moving cat & mouse chase sequences and pulsating music.

Tony Maio disguises himself as a scarecrow to hide his deformities caused by Meteorite exposure and he embarks on a crazy killing rampage to satisfy his growing bloodlust. Scarecrowd turns into a killer scarecrow movie, ramping up the gore and serving an enjoyable throwback to 80’s slashers such as Scarecrows (1988) & Dark Night of the Scarecrow (1981). There are plenty of inventive and original killing methods on display, some which are downright hilarious and popcorn worthy.

Much like the 80’s films it takes influence from, Scarecrowd is deliberately over the top and over-acted throughout. I guess this is the part which many critics will have the biggest gripe with but it is intentional and ensures the film doesn’t take itself too seriously. This is a fun movie and it strives to be entertaining. With Comic book style presentation similar to Creepshow (1982) and graphic violence in the tone of Don’t Go In The Woods (1981), there are some very interesting and well portrayed themes in amongst all the blood squirting and screaming. Vanity and outcast themes are very well written and portrayed.

Scarecrowd is an ambitious film which tries something different and hits the spot. The camera work is superb throughout with great lighting and visuals, switching between neon and Infrared for a trippy viewing experience. The practical effects are brilliant with plenty of moments which will cause your jaw to drop to the floor. The catchy synth soundtrack by Antony Coia is hook driven and holds the atmosphere well for the whole journey.

As a fan of 80’s cult horror I really enjoyed Scarecrowd for its ambition and slapstick style. It managed to tick all the boxes for what makes a throwback film work and it left me wanting to see more.

Score: 4/5

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 – 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

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


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 &

The official soundtrack is available digitally and in physical CD format via


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


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.