Horror

Recovery (2016)

We’ve all become quite dependent on smartphones, haven’t we? Look at the anger recoverythe public is willing to hurl at Apple after their recent decision to go cold turkey with headphone jacks; there’s probably still someone crying about it now. Smartphones are our gatekeepers to our social lives. If they don’t work then how are we supposed to get on Facebook and twitter, let alone make a simple phonecall to tell people we’re alive! The aforementioned life drainers play an uncredited part in Recovery, a new horror film by Darrall Wheat (Slumber).

On the eve before her high school graduation, Jessie (Kirby Bliss Blanton) discovers through Facebook that her boyfriend is cheating on her. Looking to get over him, she plans a night on the town with smooth dude Logan (Samuel Larsen), irritant little brother Miles (Alex Shaffer) and brand new friend Kim (Rachel DiPillo). When Kim goes missing with Jessie’s phone, the use of a ‘find my phone’ app helps the remaining friends track her down. Unfortunately, it also puts them in the crosshairs of a murderous family intent on doing incredibly nasty things to each of them.

Recovery has that 90s teen sheen to it that will appeal to fans of the Scream franchise. Whilst the plot is pretty straight forward – hunt, find kill, repeat – it still manages to tear you rug from under you. Perhaps it’s because we think we’re all so knowing when it comes to slashers, when one tries a something a little old school we don’t end up seeing the wood for the trees. We expect there to be a grandiose revelation where the killer’s motives are exposed for all to see! Either way, this critic didn’t see the twist until the last second.

And yes, whilst it certainly might not be the most revolutionary film in the horror genre, there’s enough here to guarantee that  is liable to be a staple of midnight screenings at sleepovers. After all, what’s a little screaming amongst friends?

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Evil Dead (2013)

Sam Raimi’s 1981 The Evil Dead is, to some, the definitive cult classic. Its tale of kids being stalked in the woods by demons, whilst not perfect, has a place in many a horror-phile’s heart. It would be a foolhardy person to want to take on board a 21st Century remake. Cue Fede Álvarez, a first time director, who has been backed by Raimi and original star Bruce Campbell as executive producers.

Australia has had to wait a while for Evil Dead to get a release, and even now we’re only getting a limited one. So, is the Book of the Dead worth opening one more time?

Álvarez is obviously a massive fan of the original and has said as much in interviews. He laces the film with numerous nudges and winks to it through dialogue, sound effects and set pieces. The problem is that for a long time it just feels like a checklist of things fans would want to see. As such, it all starts to feel a bit samey; as if we’ve trundled through this corpse-strewn path before.

When the film does manage to throw off the shackles of familiarity towards the second half, it really finds its purchase and very rarely lets up. It becomes a cacophony of chaos and cartilage. Álvarez throws everything at the screen from nail guns to shotguns to blood to vomit in an effort to make us jump; which he succeeds on doing at several points. Once the screen becomes awash with a literal rain of blood, it’s extremely hard not to be swept up in the moment.

Evil Dead recalls a time when horror movies were less about getting you onto a cinema seat and more about making you jump out of it. It was a brave move to remake such a beloved film, but they just about pull it off.

Excess Flesh (2016)

Jill (Bethany Orr) is average in every way from her height, her looks to her weight. There’s a chance that Jill could live a fairly average life, free from drama, if it wasn’t for her flatmate Jennifer (Mary Loveless). Jennifer works in the fashion industry; she’s hot, she’s sexy and she can eat whatever she wants without putting on weight. Jill idolises her and she knows it, calling out Jennifer on the slightest things and immediately apologising and bending the frumpy flatmate to her will. When Jennifer’s putdowns become too much, Jill snaps and holds the model hostage, putting her through a series of humiliating exercises centred around her eating and good looks.

This feature length debut from Patrick Kennelly follows in the same footprints of Jimmy Webber’s Eat; being a body horror that hangs its narrative off eating disorders and the people who develop them through trying to establish some sort of control. Jill gorges on pop tarts and corn chips, much like Jennifer. Both women purge themselves of their ‘sins’ through vomiting, and yet it is Jill who always comes out the worst. Jennifer gets the men she wants, she gets the clothes she wants, she has the friends she wants. Jill’s trophy cabinet includes a nosey neighbour, and a potential lover who scurries off between Jennifer’s legs eventually.

It’s a common complaint that women are bombarded with perfection on a daily/weekly/minute-to-minute basis by images hawking the ‘perfect’ look. Jennifer is a personification of this trend, screaming and spitting in Jill’s face constantly to fornicate off but also be her friend. The metaphor is obvious but Kennelly doesn’t seem to want to hide behind symbolism. He wants you to understand in simple terms where he’s coming from and his eventual destination. At least, he does at the beginning. After a deliberately slow start that allows the viewer to settle down into the world of Jill and Jennifer, with it’s parties, sex and burritos filled with corn chips, Kennelly leads them into a room where food is god and the believer’s flesh is weak.

This is a very angry film that vomits flames at society. Through stylised camerawork and lighting, Kennelly’s paints a world where consumption of all kinds is the key to happiness. Witness Jill vomiting in slow motion before ending in a moment of orgasmic pleasure. Listen as Kennelly ramps up the sound so you hear every bite of red velvet cake. It’s a horrific blend of sight and sound. And yet, at times, the film gets too caught up in its own vitriol and the narrative drag at times. It’s a minor complaint, but Excess Flesh could do with losing the occasional dream sequence to speed things along.

Excess Flesh is a fetid example of body horror; whose message is obvious but it’s intentions are good. It’s squalid and vicious and guaranteed to make you feel nauseous. If you’ve ever watched Girls and prayed there would be an episode when Hannah finally snapped, this is that episode.

Hillbilly Horror Show Vol.1 (2014)

‘Nuttier than a squirrel fart’ runs the tagline of Hillbilly Horror Show Vol. 1, hinting at the kind of humour you can expect in this horror anthology. If you find the smell of rodent methane funny that is. However, despite a title that suggests copious amounts of sons of the earth gory humour a la Redneck Zombies, Hillbilly Horror Show is actually a platform for independent filmmakers to show off their talent through various shorts.

Host Bo has salacious feelings towards his ‘sister-cousin’, whilst Cephus is a tongue-tied type whose indecipherable mutterings can only be translated by cousin kisser Bo. They

deal out the kind of puns that would make the Crypt Keeper sigh as they make their way through a collection of DVDs they’ve purportedly found on the side of the road.

What of the shorts themselves? Well, as anthology aficionados will understand, you take the rough with the smooth if you’re going to get to the end. With Hillbilly Horror Show, despite there only being four shorts on offer, the rough outweighs the smooth.

First up is Frankie and the Ant, a two-hander between two shady types on their way to a hit. The strongest of the four, it also suffers from being derivative, feeling like one of those Tarantino rip-offs in the 90s, and a ripping a joke wholesale from Fargo. That said, I could have stayed in this world for longer than it allowed me to. As soon as it gets going, it comes to an abrupt end.

An animated short about two skeletons entering a form of duel entitled Doppelganger is our next film. Whilst technically rather brilliant, it unfortunately just left me feeling cold. In addition, when you stack it up against the other shorts, it feels out-of-place, like it shouldn’t be introduced by two grown men and a woman in a bikini.

Amused is a wordless chase through the woods, as murderous men sporting rictus grins vehemently pursue a woman. Despite it’s musical score that suggests otherwise, very little happens as our heroine moves from one set piece to another. On a positive note, the scenery looks lovely.

The Nest is a love note to the eco-horrors of yesteryear, such as The Swarm, Dogs and others. In the middle of Nowheresville, USA, a diner owner is selling her own brand of highly addictive honey. Meanwhile, the town’s bovines are being chewed up and spat out by something not human. Are the two things connected? Of course. Will it enthrall, surprise and astound you? Maybe. Taking up the majority of Hillbilly Horror Show’s running time, The Nest looks great, but is dampened by questionable performances and special effects. It could be argued that this is deliberate to fit in with the tone of the films it acknowledges, but even so, it’s not worth the run time.

A problem that runs across all four shorts, regardless of quality, is that they each keep their end credits within the ‘horror show’, as opposed to being left till the end. As such, the whole caboodle comes across as the patchy result of someone throwing a bunch of YouTube movies onto iMovie and hoping no one will notice. We’re not saying the filmmakers don’t deserve their dues, but think about how long you’d last with ABCs of Death if each letter was followed by its production credits, instead of being rounded up for the end. Would it make Ti West’s M section any more tolerable? Didn’t think so.

Hillbilly Horror Show VOL. 1 will certainly appeal to some (but not many). Perhaps those who are willing to negate quality horror for bikinied bosoms may wish to take the plunge.

Just One Drink (2016)

Barbara Nedeljáková is perhaps best known to Eli Roth purists as one half of the seductive duo in Roth’s Hostel. In Just One Drink, a short psychological thriller from Andrew de Burgh, she applies herself to a different kind of seduction.

Two recent college graduates, Steve (de Burgh) and Derek (Isaac Urden), seem to content getting stoned and waxing lyrical about the evolution of man. When Steve is invited to to a Hollywood New Year’s Eve party by a woman called Tamara (Nedeljáková), they decide to chance it. After all, who wouldn’t want to get messy in Hollywood, right? Does it matter that Steve has no recollection of Tamara, despite her insistence they’ve met before? Well, not to these guys. Things get even stranger when they arrive at Tamara’s and she offers them a drink laced with more than alcohol.

From this point onwards, Just One Drink mutates from a potential Dear Penthouse letter into a sort of Hostel-lite situation as the two men discover what Tamara is really up to. De Burgh has a firm grasp of tension, allowing it to simmer as the story progresses. Equally, he manages to pull off a few twist and turns along the way that don’t overstuff the film’s short running time. Given time and a budget, it’ll be interesting to see what else he has up his sleeve.

If you want to see the full film, you can check it out here.

The Nightmare (2015)

One part horror film to two parts documentary, The Nightmare is the sophomore effort of filmmaker Rodney Ascher. Looking at the subject of sleep paralysis, he interviews several sufferers from the US and UK. Each of them has a tale to tale that interestingly contain similar elements including shadow men, tingling experiences and other hallucinations.

Not content to merely have them recollect their experiences, Ascher performs reconstructions of these events to provide a shared experience for the audience. And this is where The Nightmare lets itself down. Have you ever had to explain a nightmare to a loved one? You try and capture the fear and anxiety you felt. Whilst your friends will nod and tut in an emphatic fashion, you’re never sure they truly understand. That’s what it’s like watching The Nightmare.

We can sit there and go ‘oh I see’ and ‘that’s a shame’, but it means naught. We are no better to understanding these people and what they’re going through. The reconstructions themselves are, unfortunately, rather cheap and so moments of tension sometimes end up being unintentionally amusing.

As a result, The Nightmare is an interesting premise let down considerably by its execution.

Competition Time – Win Human Centipede 3 on iTunes

  
The Human Centipede 3: Final Sequence is out to buy this week on Blu-Ray, DVD and *drum roll* iTunes!

To celebrate the lovely gals and ghouls at Monster Pictures have given us five digital download codes to give away!

All you have to do is like us on Twitter @earlybirdfilms and send us a direct message with your email address. This is a first come first served situation, so don’t be the crappy end of the centipede… Get tweeting!
Please note this is an Australia only competition.