The Editor (2014)

Once upon a time Rey Ciso (Adam Brooks) was the greatest editor the world had ever seen. He had the skills. He had the women. He had everything. But now, after nearly losing his mind and actually losing some of his fingers, he’s reduced to working on schlocky exploitation thrillers, and being ridiculed by the cast and crew. Life takes a further turn for the worse when he becomes the prime suspect to a series of gruesome murders. As he fights to prove his innocence, he’ll encounter tenacious detectives, nudity, alternate dimensions, nudity, black gloved killers, and more nudity. Welcome to the world of Astron 6’s The Editor.

Those familiar with Astron 6’s previous work, such as Father’s Day and Manborg will already know what they’re in for with this bloody slab of Giallo inspired lunacy. Directed by Adam Brooks and Matthew Kennedy – who also wrote it along with star Conor Sweeney – The Editor ticks off all the tropes we’ve come to expect from 70s European horror. Bad hair, sexy women, rocking soundtracks, overdubbing and sometimes woeful translations. This is a slick looking film that reminded us of Berberian Sound Studio as much as it did The Bird with The Crystal Plumage.

However, as we’ve mentioned before, you can’t just ape a genre, dust your hands off and say you’re done – Death Proof we’re looking at you – there’s got to be some sort of heart behind. And thankfully, with The Editor it’s the little things that make it fun, such as the running joke that this all-American tale is actually nearer to Italy and the overblown red herrings that point the finger at everyone. Like a blood splattered Naked Gun, you don’t have to have an encyclopedia sixed knowledge of the genre to get the joke.

With each new film, the boys at Astron 6 prove their love for filmmaking and storytelling. Here, The Editor shows what they can do with a big(ish) budget. It’s bold, it’s confident and we can’t wait to see what else they come up with.

The Babadook (2014)

The Babadook is masterpiece. There, we said it. ‘Pull-quote baiting hyperbole,’ we here you cry, but we honestly mean it.

Directed and written by Jennifer Kent, The Bababdook focuses on a widowed mother, Amelia (Essie Davis), and her young son Samuel (Noah Wiseman). Sam is a troubled soul who is need of constant attention from Amelia. He fears the monsters who live under his bed and closet, constructing gadgets to ward off the evil creatures. To Amelia and us, they are simply products of an overactive imagination. Amelia, meanwhile, struggles from horrifically losing her husband in a car accident. She daydreams through life, moving from home to work to home again. When Sam is removed from his school, Amelia struggles to cope with his demands and in an effort to appease him one night, she allows him to choose a book for bedtime. He chooses The Babadook, a pop-up book that warns of a creature that stalks the night. Once you know of its existence, it refuses to go away. And from there things, as to be expected, go awry.

Kent’s film is a beautifully played ghost story that in part is also a gut-wrenching allegory about loss and depression. Essie Davis gives a nuanced performance that believably intensifies as The Babadook seeks to take control of their lives. In her hands, Amelia is fragile, not because movie conventions dictate that women must be so when they face the boogedyman, but because her life has made her so. She is someone very close to the edge and the slightest wind will push her into the abyss.

The Babadook didn’t get the greatest of releases in Australia so it’s good to see the response it’s getting outside of its home country. Halloween might have gone for the year, but there is no excuse not to see this great piece of art. Simply fantastic.

Trifecta of Horror: Killer Barbys, Simon Says and I, Frankenstein

Killer Barbys (1996)

Jess Franco (Oasis of Zombies) directed this musical/giallo/horror comedy back in 1996 and this is your first time being exposed to his work, then we’re sorry. Starring real life band, The Killer Barbies as The Killer Barbies, a fictional band who get caught up all Scooby Doo like in a mystery involving something, something, zombie, something, gore, something, and something. Oh, it’s very hard to raise even a stink up about this film. It’s a total mess, whose deliberate shabby charms fail to keep your attention past the half hour mark. Franco has a large fan base, but it’ll be hard to find anyone who would willfully cheer this one on from the sidelines.

Simon Says (2006)

Crispin Glover plays twin brothers in this surprisingly entertaining horror from William Dear (Harry and the Hendersons). Finding an idyllic place to camp, a group of horny teens, plus the obligatory final girl, find themselves being hunted down after visiting the shop of Simon and Riff, both played by the aforementioned Glover. It’s a story we’ve seen a thousand times before, but Glover’s insistence on jumping with both feet when performing means it’s hard not to get swept up in it all. Invite some friends over this Halloween and have some fun.

I, Frankenstein (2013)

Aaron Eckhart plays Adam, the immortal creation of Dr Frankenstein, who finds himself caught in the no man’s land of a battle between Heaven and Hell. Bill Nighy pops up as Adam’s antagonist to phone in a performance that gives the film and screenplay all the respect it deserves. It’s not eh outlandish concept that’s a problem. Frankenstein’s Monster as a martial arts expert and demon killer sounds like rollicking idea on paper. However, it’s played so dry, you wonder what film Eckhart et al convinced themselves they were really in. Drowning in CGI, I Frankenstein is like watching your mate play XBOX over his shoulder.

Trifecta of Horror: Hotel Inferno, Blood From the Mummy’s Tomb, Jurassic Shark

Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb (1972)

Also known as Boobs from the Mummy’s Tomb. Also known as Boobs from the Booby’s Boob. Childish banter aside, this 1972 entry in the Hammer canon seems to owe more to the Carry On series than anything else. Somewhat adapted from a story by Bram Stoker, Margaret Fuchs (Valeire Leon) is given a ring by her archeologist father which, through the magic of something or other, possesses her with the spirit of an evil Egyptian Princess. When Hammer get it right, they really get it right. At other times, they give us this. Yes, there were troubles behind the scenes (Director Seth Holt sadly passed away before filming was complete), but the film has to be taken for what it is. A rather boring affair that no manner of camp or irony will save. Carry On Screaming is literally better and scarier than this.

Jurassic Shark (2012)

Another entry in the ‘Big Shark is Bigger Than is Expected! Ooh Scary!’ genre is Jurassic Shark. Reminiscent of Roger Corman’s school of filming, i.e. take a heist script and stick a monster in it, the film sees a group of ker-razy kids getting caught up in the playful shenanigans of a bunch of art thieves. Oh, and a Shark from the Jurassic period, because history. After losing their booty in the middle of a Jurassic Shark infested lake, the group of art thieves try to formulate plans to get it back. Nearly 90% of these involve wading into the water and being killed instantly. Whilst it’s painful to admit, there are much better Giant Shark movies to be found.

Hotel Inferno (2013)

Ever thought to yourself, ‘Wow! I sure do love video games, but I wish there was a way for me to enjoy my favourite violent FPS without the need to use a controller, my hands, my console and was actually a film.’ Well, you pernickety little bugger, there is such a thing. It’s called Hotel Inferno; a bloody action horror filmed entirely in first person. In short; a hitman is hired to take out some people in a hotel, but when the hit goes wrong – Bet you weren’t expecting that! – he has to fight his way past legions of the undead. And by legions,  we mean 5… Tops. Hotel Inferno is a monument to patience enduring barrages of noise and puke. And that’s not a good thing. It’s really not. Adding to the misery is some of the worst dubbing seen since Resident Evil appeared on the PlayStation. A nightmare from beginning to end.

Doctor Who: Deep Breath (2014)

Warning: The following contains spoilers.

Once again, the BBC have graced us with the opportunity to see Doctor Who on the big screen. Last time, it was all chins, old faces and Zygons for the show’s 50th anniversary and now it’s regenerations, steampunk and dinosaurs in this, the series 8 opening.

Bursting onto our screens literally like a belch from a T-Rex, Deep Breath hit the ground running acting as a reboot, relaunch and continuation all in one feature length portion. The Doctor may look older, but the show appears to have undergone a bit of a renaissance.

After the baddy stuffed, exposition overload that was last year’s Christmas special, showrunner Steven Moffat has wiped the table clean of all his timey wimey, Silence Will FALL, ‘I can’t go back for Amy. No, really I can’t. I’m not listening, lalalala.’ bag of tricks, to focus on a lean plot that still manages to sow the seeds for future plot lines in a manner reminiscent of the Davies era. Ben Wheatley (A Field in England) took over directing duties in this season opener, which certainly gave the whole bit of oomph; a meaningless word and one which doesn’t do his work justice, but it’s done now. There were some glorious set pieces, from a T-Rex on fire, Peter Capaldi riding a horse through London in his jim-jams and, let us not forget, the spine-tingling and tense scene of Clara holding her breath. It’s great to see Doctor Who experimenting with people at the helm, and it’ll be fascinating to see what Rachel Talalay (Tank Girl) does with her pieces later this year.

Having been painted into a corner (in the nicest possible way) last season, Jenna Coleman has had her role beefed up. Not that the Impossible Girl wasn’t beefy last year. She was just more beef flavoured. Oxo cubes; the role was the equivalent Oxo cubes. Yes, let’s stick with that.

This time around, relating it back to the Davies era, here was a companion ready to think on her feet and fend for herself. Admittedly, the opportunity arose because she was left with her backside in the breeze by a still-percolating Doctor. ‘We can’t risk both getting caught.’ The Doctor said, skirting ever so close to his time during the Twin Dilemma.

Speaking of the Doctor, Peter Capaldi looks set to be one of the more iconic interpretations. He was rude, impertinent, insulting, confused, loving, unable to do hugs and prone to throwing people onto church steeples (or did he?). In short: brilliant. If his previous incarnation could be seen as a midlife crisis wrapped in a new face and tweed, then here was a teenager in middle age clothing. Sensing that an old Doctor might put off the kids – sorry folks, we need to remember, this show is always about the kids first and foremost – time was taken to ease the nippers into this new fierce face. All of which was topped off by a cameo by Matt Smith lovingly telling Clara (ie us) that he is he, and he is he and we are altogether.

Let’s not forget the return of the Paternoster Gang, clockwork baddies and new potential baddy, Missy played by the always brilliant Michelle Gomez. Deep Breath was bursting with fun. Here’s to keeping our fingers crossed that the momentum can be kept up. Here’s hoping.

Deep breath everyone.

Rigor Mortis (2013)

Move over James Franco, it looks like there’s another artistic polymath in town!

Okay, we’ll put the E! news hyperbole to one side. However, it doesn’t change the fact that Juno Mak is a man for all seasons. An actor, singer, model and record producer, this Hong Kong ghost story is his first foray under the job title of Director with Rigor Mortis. A failed actor (Chin Siu-Ho) moves into a rundown tenement building and after putting his foot over the threshold, decides to end his life. From that point on, he becomes embroiled in a supernatural adventure involving the living dead and vampires.

This is Juno Mak’s tribute to the Mr Vampire films that ran from the 80s-90s. Indeed, Rigor Mortis features a number of cast members from those films, with Chin Siu-Ho having appeared in the original. For fans of Hong Kong cinema, the film provides an opportunity to play a game of Where’s Wally, without alienating the casual viewer.

Juno Mak has not walked into this venture sheepishly, having clearly gone for an all or nothing approach to directing. Rigor Mortis is a slick piece of work that provides some exhilarating set pieces. However, despite the potential for some scares, it seems to have trouble pressing all the right buttons. Sadly, from vengeful spirits to old ladies wanting their deceased husbands back, there’s nothing here that we haven’t seen before.

Where it does work though, is through its superbly choreographed fight scenes that bristle with energy. In addition, Anthony Chan as the disgruntled, eternally smoking vampire hunter Yau, provides the majority of the film’s enjoyment by stealing every scene he’s in. Remove these two factors however, and you’re left with a something that flails around too much to keep the interest bubbling.

The film even loses track of its protagonist, as Chin Siu-Ho disappears for a large chunk of the film. If the energy levels encapsulated in its fight scenes were maintained throughout, then Rigor Mortis would certainly engage more than it does. It would certainly justify the ending that comes out of nowhere like a kick to the shins.

Afflicted (2014)

Another film festival, another found footage film. We can hear the deep sigh from the backroom. But hold on there young Bucky! Before you join the other detractors to stroke your chins and cry, ‘what is to be done with this world?’, we want to introduce you to Afflicted. We think you may like it.

Written, starring and directed by Cliff Prowse and Derek Lee, Afflicted pitches it stall as a series of video blogs presented by two best friends, Cliff and Derek (yes, they use their own names as well). Derek suffers from a cerebral arteriovenous malformation, suggesting that each day may be his last. Refusing to sit down and take, he and Cliff embark on a yearlong around the world trip. When the boys set up digs in Paris, and after picking up in a bar, Derek is found unconscious in his hotel room. Over the next few days, he begins to exhibit feats of super strength and speed. Unfortunately, he also displays signs of being deeply unwell. And from this point on, the film finds its reason to not ‘put the camera down man’. Cliff, worried about his friend, continues to upload videos to their blog in the hopes that friends and family can encourage him to seek medical help.

Those with a common understanding of supernatural lore will twig to what’s happening to Derek long before our heroes do. But then, the filmmakers probably know you will and, like the Sci-Fi Chronicle, they’re happy to lounge around playing with Derek’s new found powers. Once the situation becomes serious, the film takes the viewer down a dark alley and Derek begins to struggle with what he’s becoming. At times, the film can be unbearably tense as Derek’s nighttime shenanigans begin to encroach on Cliff’s safety.

Whilst both Lee and Prowse give strong performances playing themselves, it’s the set pieces that will stay with you long after you walk away. The film doesn’t try to con you by having things happening off camera, which tends to be a shorthand technique used in the usual found footage fare. The characters of Derek and Cliff want to get literally everything on tape. As they do, the POV will fully immerse you in the action. Without giving much away, a shoot out in a Parisian apartment is a particular highlight.

A nerve rattling popcorn muncher, Afflicted is a fantastic example that there is still fresh blood to be found in the most tired of genres. We can’t help but look forward to seeing what this filmmaking duo give us next.

What We Do in The Shadows (2014)

What do you think when we say New Zealand? Maoris? Lamb? Chups? Hobbits? Kiwi comedy, What We Do in The Shadows would like to draw your attention to its undead quota. Namely Vampires. In this faux-documentary written by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi, four bloodsuckers form a house share in Wellington. Rising everyday at 6pm, they’re bogged down in the same politics all houses shares have; fighting about housework, going on a lads night out and tidying away spinal columns left on the floor. We’ve all been there. When a freshly turned vampire moves in with his human friend, they are forced to adapt to a new way of life.

The joy of What We Do in The Shadows is watching how the macabre is turned down to mundane. Yes, you can live forever, but how do you get into the hottest nightclub in Wellington when vampire lore states explicitly that you have to be invited into any building? And for that matter, how do you dress if you can’t see yourself in the mirror? Clement and Waititi’s film develops some novel twists on the stereotypes we’ve come to expect from Nosferatu. Want to know why Dracula always drank virgin blood? Well, Vlad has a rather astute analogy involving sandwiches, if you care to hear. And it doesn’t just stop with digs at the supernatural, the film is equally at home exposing the tropes of the documentary genre.

From beginning to end, the laughs come thick and fast and a cameo from Rhys Darby will readdress any support you had for Team Jacob during the Twilight’s heyday. Occasionally, to the film’s credit, the merriment takes a backseat to allow the film to pump some pathos through its veins. Either through Viago, the lovestruck, foppish member of the house (played brilliantly by Waititi) pining for love, or party-vamp Deacon lamenting the loss of friends to swans.

It’s all so deliciously funny and if What We Do in The Shadows doesn’t raise at least a titter from you, then you might want to check you’re not one of the undead yourself.

Antisocial (2013)

Facebook owns us. Even when it’s doing incredibly dodgy things like messing with our newsfeeds to prove that people sometimes people feel sad, we curl up next to it during our evenings at home; mindful that it may do it again. Facebook is the Christian Grey of our little lives. In Cody Calahan’s Antisocial, social media’s cold embrace may be connected to a string of violent episodes happening across the world, which are updated by the victims and perpetrators via statuses on Social Redroom: the film’s thinly veild equivalent of Facebook.

Over the course of this night of violence a group of college kids will fend for their lives the world around them melts into rivers of blood. Like most things in the long fart that is modern life, our heros get their updates via tumblr posts, YouYube videos and people trying to kick down their door so they can do the same to their faces. Antisocial wears its social commentary like a badge of honour, but, the idea doesn’t fully stretch out to a 90 minute feature. Which leaves us with long passages of time dedicated to the discussion of feelings and a pregnancy storyline that goes the way of the breast cancer plot in The Room.

Antisocial isn’t a bad film. It does on occasion have the power to shock (death by fairy lights anyone?), but ultimately it’s a missed opportunity.

Creature (2011)

Ever watched a film and thought, ‘Hang on! This is one of them blue movies where people wriggle on top of each other.’ Well, at times during your viewing of Creature, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d inadvertently picked up a porno.

The premise is simple: A bunch of twentysomthings go camping in the woods and get themselves in a bit of a pickle with a half man/half crocodile beast named Lockjaw. When the gang arrive at their campsite, after what seems like a criminal amount of time spent to exposition and crazy rednecks, rather then get themselves all chewed up and spat out like any god fearing horror would let them, they split off into groups to indulge in some heavy petting, drunk girls being free and easy in tents and  couples masturbating whilst they watch others have sex. We wish we were joking. There’s so much flesh on show, we tutted to the point we realised we felt ridiculously old. Surely kids want more from horror, than this…

After everyone has wiped themselves down, a plot twist is thrown into the arena for good measure and it’s only then the film begins in earnest with less than minimal scares, ridiculous prosthetics and dialogue best forgotten. Those who like a lot of breasts with their undercooked horror may have a fun time, but for everyone else you’re best off letting this sink to the bottom of the bay.