REVIEW: The Game of The Clock (2019) & Director Interview

tgoc1

As premiered at FrightFest 2019, The Game of The Clock is a new horror short-film directed by London based Italian director Michele Olivieri about a teenage girl called Alice who visits a friend late at night who is not responding to her calls or text messages. Heightened with worry, the girl decides to investigate further and finds herself entering an empty flat as she tries to unravel the mystery around her friends disappearance. What entails is a frightening game of survival where she must last 5 minutes without looking at an unknown monster. Written notes are scattered across the house which warn Alice and gave her hints on how to survive but she soon finds out that its hard to think straight when you don’t actually know what is going on.

tgoc3

The Game of The Clock may weigh in at only 7 minutes but it delivers an unnerving experience of claustrophobia and eeriness. From the deafening sound of the alarm clock going off to the tight camera angles, this short film is shot to put you very much at unease and create agitation. Sound plays a big part in carrying the mood of this film and building sustained tension and helps to create a dark atmosphere which raises fear. The soundtrack is dark and spooky and the soundscapes complement the lighting. The clever use of black screens and look-away segments helps to keep you intrigued but also anxious about what is around the corner. When watching The Game of The Clock, I felt tense and excited in equal measure due to its technical finesse at creating very effective scares on a shoe-string budget. While the plot may appear to be fairly thin at first, it is by no means linear or predictable. There are enough twists and turns to keep you guessing what will happen next and how it will end. It is impressive to watch a film which is mainly based in a small single location but has such a vast atmosphere and suspense surrounding it.

The Game of The Clock is a highly original and impressive short film which is scary, thrilling and alluring. It is refreshing to see a low budget indie short-film which not only gets the basics right, but shows so much heart and potential to be expanded.

★★★★★


Exclusive Interview with The Game of The Clock Director Michele Olivieri :

togc6

1) The Game of the Clock is a very original concept, where did you get the idea from?
MO – Thank you so much. The concept came out of my desire to create something that was both compelling but also budget-friendly. In 2016 I was very much a beginner and therefore had no access to funding. So I came up with the idea to have the protagonist running from something that can’t be seen and developed it with the help of my co-writer Ian Reeds.

2) There are several moments during tense scenes where the camera looks away or blacks out. This added more tension to the scenes as viewer has to imagine what is happening next, was this intentional?
MO – Blacking out the screen was intentional. It is in line with the theme of the unseen which is present in the whole picture. It also helps the audience empathize with the vulnerability and frustration of the Victim – you want to see more, you need to see more, but you can’t.

3) The film uses sound and words to set the lead character uneasy and build fear, how important was sound when you were filming this short and did you come across any issues?
MO – From the beginning on it was clear that the emphasis on sound would be very important due to the theme and screen black outs. We wanted to compensate with a rich and complex soundscape, especially for the monster, which is never entirely seen. It took us a couple of tries to get it right but now the sound design is definitely one of the strengths of the film in my opinion. Bravo to Jack Cox, Robert Brown and Sophie Marchant who worked their magic on sound design, ADR and sound recording respectively.

4) The Game of the Clock was selected for FrightFest 2019 and was screened infront of large audiences, how did you enjoy your time at the festival and what was the reaction from audiences?
MO – FrightFest was a dream. Cheesy, but I have no other words to describe it. I was in disbelief the whole time and loved every minute of it. I never thought I would premiere my second short at the Prince Charles Cinema in the heart of London and I am beyond grateful. The audience seems to have responded well to it so far, which made me proud. I hope the reaction will be as positive after the official release.

5) Are there any plans to expand The Game of the Clock into a longer film or further develop its concept in future short films?

MO – I would love to make The Game of the Clock into a feature film and have loads of ideas for it. I’m currently in talks with production companies from overseas who have shown interest in this sense. It’s a very exciting possibility, but nothing is decided yet so I’m trying to keep my feet firmly on the ground.


Thanks to Michele Oliviere for kindly participating in this interview.

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.

REVIEW: LARVA MENTAL (2021, TetroVideo)

Larva Mental is a 61 minute extreme horror film directed by and starring Mikel Balerdi (Vore Gore). A couple who seem normal enough at first, begin to show their dark side when an interest in disturbing imagery starts to chip away at their minds causing them to cross into the ‘unknown’. A man heads out to work and comes back to find his girlfriend has taken her own life, causing him to lose his grip on reality and his faith begins to slip as nightmares become reality. Sounds like a simple tale doesn’t it? Trust me, it isn’t and that barely scratches the surface. Go in blind.

Straight off the bat, Larva Mental is very much as extreme as it gets. There is a high liklihood that the majority of those brave enough to watch this will turn it off within a matter of minutes. This isn’t something you can prepare yourself mentally for, you have to sit through it and ‘stick with it’. This is a true test of what you can endure but who doesn’t like being challenged to the extreme?

As far as trigger warnings go, there are red flags all over the playing field for this one. Enter at your own risk and proceed with caution. To put it bluntly, the film deals with a cluster of strong subject matter including suicide, self-harm, depression and drug abuse. It doesn’t do half measures here, so be ready for it if you want to take the ride as it hits hard.

Larva Mental doesn’t do the things you want to see, it does exactly the opposite.  When you are hoping for a scene to end and allow you to go back into a ‘safe space’ mentally, it simply doesn’t let you. There is honesty in the conviction here, it doesn’t just do things for the sake of doing them. The film certainly pushes your buttons and tries to break you. Masturbation, necrophilia, self-mutilation, defecation; these are just words but in Larva Mental they are used to attack your nervous system like never before. If this film was just all about self torture it would get boring very quickly. Thankfully, there is technical prowess to be found here and more symbolism than your mind can digest. There is alot of exploration into ‘faith’ and enough blasphemy to give priests nightmares.

Larva Mental is a dangerous concoction of art house and extreme horror. Visually it is stunning with well shot scenes and nauseating trickery used to unnerve you. The film is designed to make you squirm and run for the exit door (or somewhere to vomit) but the visuals keep your eyes locked to the screen even when your brain is telling you to look away. The audio is also so well done that when things on-screen start to cross the line and push beyond your limits, it drags you back in. With a subtle, well orchestrated (and almost tribal), musical score which reminded me of Der Todesking (1990) it made the challenging task of watching someone push their body beyond their limits strangely satisfying. The film walks a fine line between ‘real’ and ‘practical effects’ but it certainly is body-horror in its purest form.

“No animals were harmed during the making of this film. Only people.” Never has a statement been more true for a film like this. It will batter your self conscious mind but if you can survive the full 61 minutes you’ll come back stronger. You will see things you simply can’t un-see, you’ll witness brutality like never before.

Larva Mental is one of the most grim and disturbing films we are likely to see for years to come. This is a film everybody will be talking about in the extreme horror community when it is unveiled to the world. If you can sit through this, you can sit through anything. If you can reach until the end, you will appreciate that this is more than life; this is extreme. Larva Mental is a dance in the flames if you give it the time.

Score: 5/5

REVIEW: BLOOD FOR FLESH (2019, TetroVideo)

A strange family relationship is tested when a group of cannibals stalks the only woman in the family causing them to re-evaluate their moral compass.

Blood For Flesh is a low budget long-short extreme horror film by Mexican filmmaker Alex Hernández. With a run time of 57 minutes, the film is split into 6 distinctive chapters which follow the trials and tribulations of a family on the brink of destruction (and madness).

Despite its short run time and low budget, Blood For Flesh is not lacking in violence and gore. The film kicks off with the beating of a severed pigs head and ramps up the torture and brutality as it progresses its way through 6 unrelentless pounding chapters. If there was a check-list for what should be included in an extreme horror movie to achieve shock value; this film would pass with distinction. There is simply no filter to be found as it bashes through nearly an hour of brutality. From incest to male & female rape, to abortion and cannibalism… Blood For Flesh will undoubtedly be a hard ride for the majority of viewers but it does it in a way that doesn’t become tiresome or forced.

With its extreme subject matters and harsh on-screen visuals, it wouldn’t take much for this film to fall off the beaten track if it lacked presentation and execution. Remarkably, Blood For Flesh is impressive in its delivery. The lighting controls the mood of the film, occasionally switching to red when the tension overspills into pure violence and torture. The lighting is the ‘heart’ of this film as it beats and controls the pacing of the events. This is predominantly a ‘dark’ movie with the majority of the set-pieces taking place at night or in low-lit areas but the lighting is done so well that you know exactly what is happening at all times. Then there is the sound design, this is another area where the film is spot on. From the screams and yells of the victims to the obscure instrumental soundtrack and soundscapes, the film sounds incredible. Then we have the ‘spine ‘ of the film, the practical effects. For such a small budget (reportedly 5,000 USD), the quality of the practical effects and gore is breathtaking and would certainly give big budget productions a run for their money.

The only real weakness the film is its plot and structure. It nails the key event sequences so well that I barely gave the plot much attention but the story does feel ‘chopped’ due to the use of chapters and this causes a disjointed flow when watching it. It is very much a ‘stop and start’ film and this prevents a natural build up of tension. Also, from watching the film a couple of times there are clearly alot of metaphors hidden but I wasn’t able to distinguish what these actually were but maybe some of the hints were lost in translation. With all this said, this by no means takes away anything from the enjoyment aspect as the film has high production values which punch above its budget.

Blood For Flesh has alot of style and substance and is very impressive for its low budget. Rarely does a film hit so hard in short bursts and this film is certainly a ‘top shelf’ extreme horror which deserves recognition. Prepare to be shocked and amazed by its brutality and beauty.

Score: 4/5

REVIEW: NIGHTMARE SYMPHONY (2021, TetroVideo)

Nightmare Symphony is a homage to the infamous ‘Cat In The Brain’ ( ‘Nightmare Concert’ ) and is written by Lucio Fulci’s screenwriter Antonio Tentori and directed by Domiziano Cristopharo (Red Krokodil, Doll Syndrome, Xpiation) & Daniele Trani (Across the River, Daitona).

An American director travels to Italy to add the finishing touches to his latest film but nothing runs smoothly as he encounters a series of setbacks. Furthermore, in addition to the building frustrations around completing the film, there are a number of unexplained brutal murders happening…

Nightmare Symphony is in essence a well structured modern giallo which pays tribute to the works of Lucio Fulfi but also does its own thing. The groundwork is laid with a fantastic musical score by Antony Coia and a superb main theme writen by Horror soundtrack legend Fabio Frizzi (The Beyond, Manhattan Baby, City of the Living Dead et al). In all good giallos, the music is the glue which ties the suspense together and it nails that aspect perfectly.

We are introduced to several characters during the film and all of them them have their own distinctive quirks and charms. The characters are interesting and likeable, as the film is a slow burner for the most part we are invested in the characters in the story due to a strong script written by Antonio Tentori (Dracula 3D, Demonia). Nothing is ever too straight laced or serious, there is plenty of humour to be found in the dialogue to keep it entertaining.

Nightmare Symphony uses key locations but also adds alot of variety with street filming and some very well executed driving scenes. The film may not be fast paced but we never get bored viewing the beautiful Italian scenery and bumping into key characters along the way.

It wouldn’t be a giallo movie without kills and Nightmare Symphony focuses on quantity over quality. There are several exciting death scenes spread across its short run time from the ‘Chelsea Grin’ at the beginning to the stabbing, strangling and suffocation to follow. The kills are convincing and are a flashback to the classic Italian Thrillers and Horror films of the 80s.

The ‘Peacock’ killer is designed to perfection with eccentric attire and white gloves to complete the ‘giallo’ look. There is alot of mystique around the chatscter and leaving a feather as a ‘calling card’ was a nice touch. Everything adds up here to pull together nostalgia and finesse…

Nightmare Symphony is not linear or one dimensional in its story telling and delivery, it weaves between fiction and reality and the film is refreshing. Heightened with paranoia, strong atmosphere and suspense, there is alot to love here.

As a tribute to the legend Lucio Fulci, Cristopharo and Trani have created a beautiful throwback giallo movie with alot of heart.

Score: 5/5

Nightmare Symphony is due to be released in 2021 via TetroVideo (on Blu-ray and DVD).

REVIEW: VORE GORE (2021, The Enchanted Architect/ TetroVideo)

Vore, shortened for Voreaphilia and Vorarephilia, is characterised by the erotic desire to be consumed by another person or personally consumed. The love of being eaten alive…

Vore Gore is a new disturbing horror anthology consisting of 9 short stories each directed by some of the most ambitious and creative extreme filmmakers. A super-group is assembled to deliver a shocking offering of mind melting extreme horror…

Each story is introduced by ‘The Lips’, influenced by The Rocky Horror Picture Show (1975) but with its own creative twist. It is exciting waiting for the next introduction to follow as the style of the lips change and artistically it gives the film its own charm.

Vore Gore kicks off with a bang, opening with the stunning “Mouth” (M. Balerdi) which has stunning visuals and a pulsating dark heavy synth soundtrack setting the tone for things to come.

This sets the pace and intriguing premise for “Sweet As Honey” (E. Marchetti) which follows a bee keeper handling a bee farm with a “wasp” in a jar. Sounds tame? Far from it, wait for the self cannibalism to commence.

Next up is one of the strongest entries in the anthology, “Finger Lickin Good” which pushes the eroticism and ramps up the gore to Fulci levels. We see a man dismantle and mutilate himself and feed his body parts to the sink drain, this is one of the most impressive practical effects ahowcases I’ve seen in a very long time. Poison Rouge follows up with ” Please, Not In My Mouth” which is a brutal, bloody short story which aims to unsettle with its harsh visuals and harsh noise audio and certainly hits hard. Next up, “Italian Ladies Do It Better” (Irene Jones Barruffeti) brings a nice change of pace with ideas hinting on “In Fabric” (P. Strickland, 2019) mixed with Ed Gein!. This short introduces some humour to the gore boufet but it still goes to dark places when you least expect it.

We then see Braindead levels of gore and vulgarity with “Infernal Gluttony 2” (P. Fortin) which goes full blown Anthropophagus (1980, D’Amato) as a greedy man eats himself alive. This is stunning and brutal.

Next up is “Yummy Fur” (Valient, Nevin, Gardenia) which switches to ‘real’ as a woman attempts to eat herself, this is in my opinion the weakest segment of the anthology as it doesn’t fit the mold of the rest but given the Vore ‘theme’ of the anthology I can see what it was included. Following up with “Stretching”, a very original and intriguing entry by Domiziano Cristopharo as we watch a man fit into small spaces and explore his inner and outer being, this one definitely resurrected the flow of the anthology. Last but by no means least, “The Egg” (D. Almerighi) brings the film to a close with beautiful lighting , grimness and incredible soundscapes.

Vore Gore is not your average anthology, it strives to be its own beast and unique and achieves this impressively. It delivers a masterclass in lighting, practical effects and story telling which is to be admired. There is an equal balance of ‘vore’ and ‘gore’, and unlike most extreme horror anthologies it focuses on story telling over cheap tricks and sleaze. Vore Gore is an eye opener, it is as much chilling as it is thrilling. It is dark and unsettling, but also beautiful and inviting. Hopefully this is the start of something special, it left me wanting more Vore and more Gore.

Score: 5/5

REVIEW: A Little More Flesh II (2021)

A Little More Flesh II is the sequel to last years dark horror cursed-film mockumentary ‘A Little More Flesh’ (2020) by acclaimed director Sam Ashurst (Frankenstein’s Creature and co-writer of Vampire Virus).

Director Sam pitches a new project to two new actors, Sean Mahoney & Harley Dee), asking them each to record 10 minutes of footage every week for 12 weeks, which will form the backbone for an experimental film. The parameters are set in vague terms at first but the true sinister purpose gradually becomes apparent. A tri-screen approach is used to split the footage and the use of these screens alternates throughout the duration of the film to signify key events and control the focus of the viewer. Every day footage may seem innocent enough at first glance but beauty and brutality lies in the eyes of the beholder.

A Little More Flesh film (2020) had a unique framework but rather than following the same blueprint, the sequel switches things up. Special effects are stripped away and the supernatural is replaced with the dangers of reality. Similar to the works of Charlie Brooker, Sam Ashurst clearly has a keen interest in the human mind and the behavioural responses to bad situations as his latest film deals with strong psychology. A Little More Flesh II may at first appear to be stripped back cosmetically but its connection to reality is deeply frightening. The film dabbles with elements of exploitation and fake snuff but never over steps the mark. There are films which go too far and those which don’t go far enough, A Little More Flesh II takes things as far as they should go.

We see the lead character Harley as naive and fame-hungry at first but then we see her struggle and despair grow frame by frame as she is locked into a contract of torment. As the director gains control over her actions through blackmail, the depths of exploitation and abuse become deeper and deeper into unsettling territory. There are strong undertones beneath the films plot in the subtext of domestic abuse and it is meant to shock. Harley is bullied into following the insane commands given to her and this can be disturbing to watch as she is humiliated and mentally broken down. The film shows an honest portrayal which really hits home due its refusal to sugar coat on its message. There is no doubt this may be triggering to some viewers but warnings are made at the beginning.

There are periods where there is little happening compared to its predecessor but this is a slow burner with a completely different structure. Ironically, there are occasions where very little activity happening actually ramps up the scare factor, particularly the ‘milk’ scene which is nothing short of nightmare fuel. Minimalism is at the heart of the first two ‘A Little More Flesh’ films and the formula works a treat.

A Little More Flesh II is crawling with seediness and bad intentions and it opens discussions and wounds which should be explored. Sam Ashurst has found his own niche through reality-horror. Comfort zones are battered profusely and the experience is unique.

A Little More Flesh II premieres digitally at Soho Horror Fest on 17th April.

Score: 4/5