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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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.

Trifecta of Horror: Wyrmwood (2015), VHS Viral (2014) and Drive Angry (2011)

Wyrmwood

Those looking for a Mad Max hit whilst they wait for Fury Road’s home release, could do themselves a massive favour by throwing their peepers in the direction of Wyrmwood. Directed by Kiah Roache-Turner, the film follows Barry and Brooke; siblings caught up in a zombie apocalypse. Brooke has been captured by a mysterious dancing doctor in a biohazard suit , whilst Barry hooks up with a bunch of blokes who have found a new use for zombie blood. Exhilarating, violent and with a decent splash of claret, action and horror fans will lap this up.

VHS Viral

After two solid entries in the franchise, Viral struggles to match the pace of its predecessors. Entries hardly engage, with one even giving up the the whole premise of being found footage. That’s never a good sign is it? Equally frustrating is the film’s desire to eat itself with a nonsensical segment wraparound that sees a man chasing after a haunted ice cream van. Pointless to the extreme, let’s hope things improve if there’s a fourth entry.

Drive Angry

Nicholas Cage stars in this 2011 supernatural road movie about a convict busting out Hell to rescue his granddaughter. Cage is that convict and along the way he’ll drink hard, enlist the help of Amber Heard, and kill seven men whilst having sex with a stripper. Yes, this overblown movie is transmitted directly from the brain of a teenage child, but by Christ, it’s a lot of fun.

The Human Centipede 3: Final Sequence (2015)

After the euro-gloss of Human Centipede: First Sequence and the exploitation arthouse of Human Centipede 2: Full Sequence, director provocateur Tom Six returns with the much threatened Human Centipede 3: Final Sequence. And boy howdy, it’s hard to decide what to make of it.

The stars of Six’s last two films, Dieter Laser (First Sequence) and Laurence R Harvey, (Full Sequence), returning roles that are polar opposite to those they made famous. Laser’s calm and calculated Dr. Heiter is replaced by Bill Boss; a ranting, racist, raping prison governor looking for order by any means necessary. Harvey’s childlike Martin is swapped for Dwight Butler, Bill’s overly patient and brow beaten assistant who may just have the solution he needs

A squishy stew of castration, shouting, sexual violence and Eric Roberts, Human Centipede 3 is liable to offend pretty much everyone. Stacked up against the first two, it’s perhaps not as technically brilliant. Nor is the ‘centipede’ the main focus of this third entry. Bill’s experimentation in castration and arm-breaking to quench his prisoners’ wrath remains at the forefront for the majority of the film’s narrative. Accusations then that the film is boring seem to be a little misguided. Like Tom Green’s Freddy Got Fingered, Human Centipede 3 is deliberately polarising. There are long periods of nothing happening, which are punctuated with waves of deplorable behaviour. Laser screams at the camera for what seems like hours on end. There are some extremely uncomfortable scenes with Bree Olsen. And then, from seemingly nowhere, we’re in slapstick territory. You’re not leaving the film feeling bored. No no. You’re feeling polarised with yourself.

If it sounds like we’re like we’re sitting on the fence, then we are. Tom Six is definitely trying to get a reaction and he’s not bothered how you respond. We’re flummoxed but we think that’s the point.

See No Evil 2 (2014)

The last full feature effort of Jen and Sylvia Soska – aka the Twisted Twins – was the sublime American Mary; a film which managed to be both horrific and beautiful in equal measure. With that and Dead Hooker in a Trunk displaying a sense of pride in their female protagonists, it came as a bit of surprise to some when the two obtained directing duties on the sequel to See No Evil. Whilst there is a place in society for slashers, See No Evil wasn’t that well lauded and, some argued, was a bit beneath the joint directors.

However, when all is said and done, the Soska sisters have managed to pull off a slasher that quashes those concerns and manages to be a rollicking ride. With scripting duties going to Nathan Brookes and Bobby Lee Darby, the sisters focus solely on the job of directing Jacob Goodnight (WWE’s Kane) as he hacks through the mortuary where he’s been left for dead after the events of the first film.

Danielle Harris – no stranger to the cinematic serial killers – plays the lead alongside Kaj-Erik Eriksen as two co-workers having a very bad time during Goodnight’s resurrection. Whilst the tropes of the slasher are there for everyone to see, See No Evil 2 remains fresh due its genre defying and genderbent attitude that sees the boys take a back seat this time around. This is some good old fashioned mayhem that pays homage to the 80s slasher, whilst pushing the genre to the next logical step. Fingers crossed that someone doesn’t ruin all that goodwork in the inevitable sequel.

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.