Sunday, 17 August 2014

Short Film Revew: INK (2014) Directed by Andy Stewart

A few months back, I reviewed Split - a short film by Andy Stewart, and was incredibly impressed. Now, he has completed his planned trilogy of body-horror, The Reflections Trilogy, with Ink
In Ink, we meet The Man (Sam Hayman), an oddball loner with a tattoo obsession. There's nothing particularly strange about that in this day and age. However, he is also clearly disturbed. He satisfies his compulsion by removing body art from other people's bodies; crudely stitching the pieces into his own derma. Naturally, like any addiction, it's hard to stop...
Like Stewart's earlier shorts, Dysmorphia (2012) and Split (2014), Ink deals with an individual suffering from an extreme form of mental illness. The characters are not monsters; but they do monstrous things. Ink is the first in which this manifests in harming others, however. Nevertheless, like those earlier films, the feelings, emotions, and struggles are all very relatable. Naturally, not to the extremes of the characters in the films, but there's certainly an element of coveting that may be familiar to some. 
Hayman is simply stunning as 'The Man'; creepy, disturbed looking (think Jame Gumb crossed with Jason Mewes), and particularly when in physical pain, very believable. There's very little dialogue, but you are drawn into this man's world easily, and the use of a very unconventional sound design is intentionally disorientating and even confusing at first, but becomes fully immersive, and often nearly as disturbing as the visuals. 
Once again, we're faced with some graphic body horror. It's an immense compliment to Stewart and his effects team, Grant Mason, Deirdre Flanigan and Lizz Wayt, that I will admit to squirming at least once (and maybe even twice) during the course of the twenty-minute film. The work that they did on such a small budget is amazing, and is certainly painful to watch! Naturally, it would be wrong for me to reveal too much about it, it certainly benefits from being seen cold, but it's a stunning, if disturbing, piece of art.
There's a large portion of the film based in The Man's flat, lit only by the beams of sunlight streaming through the ragged curtains, and as such is rather dark in places. It's a testament to the cinematographer, Alan McLaughlin, that it looks as good as it does with such a difficult shooting situation; the natural light is used brilliantly. I imagine it would certainly look even better seeing this on the big screen. Which hopefully, you'll get a chance to do come the next round of film festivals. If it's playing somewhere you are at, do not hesitate to check it out. 

9 out of 10

Sunday, 10 August 2014

DVD Review: THE CABIN (2013, aka BLOODLINE)

Brett Ethos (Matt Thompson) is about to be ordained in his church, but is having second thoughts, not helped by recurring nightmares. His friends convince him to go for a weekend away in a remote cabin that his recently deceased grandfather left him. 

His friends, Kevin (Jesse Kristofferson) and Davy (Christopher Frontiero) - along with Kevin's girlfriend Chelsi (Gina Comparetto) - decide to make his last weekend as a 'free man' even more awkward by inviting his ex, Katie (Kimberly Alexander), whom he hasn't seen for several years. Things begin to go wrong when it turns out Brett is a descendent of one of the original settlers who murdered a Native American tribesman some 250 years earlier. A curse placed by the tribe's Shaman, evoked when he arrived at the cabin wearing a talisman heirloom puts him and all his friends in danger.

Originally entitled Bloodline, The Cabin is an entertaining, if unmemorable shocker.  
There's jump scares aplenty, and while the situation and characterisation is very two dimensional, it at least doesn't take the predictable 'cabin in the woods' type scenario.
Thompson does well as writer, director and star, but one gets the feeling he should have took a step back or brought someone in to give the story a little more polish.
As such, it does contain some uninspired dialogue, but it's an engaging and acceptable way to pass the time.

There's the usual array of obnoxious youths, with adequate if not spectacular acting from the young leads. It's interesting to see Jesse Kristofferson, son of the legendary actor/songwriter Kris, and he certainly has his father's looks, and Christopher Frontiero plays the wise-cracking annoying hanger-on of the group well (he essentially is Franklin from The Texas Chain Saw Massacre). However, sSome viewers may be wishing for more bloodshed and thrills when the story meanders on through the redemption theme, while not delving too deep to derail the story.
It's certainly worth having a look at, but nothing spectacular unfortunately.

7 out of 10

Thursday, 7 August 2014

DVD Review: YOU ARE NOT ALONE (2010) Directed by Mark Ezra

You Are Not Alone, 101 Films
It's very easy to groan when faced with yet another found footage film, but thankfully, You Are Not Alone (previously known as House Swap) manages to be absorbing enough to overcome the shortcomings and annoyances of the format. 
As one would expect from the original title, our main characters, Matt (Nathan Nolan) and Ginny (Evie Brodie/Bicker) have swapped their luxurious Los Angeles home with a British couple, in order for them both to draw inspiration for the work; Matt being a writer and Ginny a musician. With the book that he's writing being about King Arthur, it's only natural they choose to swap for a house near Glastonbury in Somerset. The place is a gorgeous, sprawling, if a little untidy, mansion. It is full of wood panelled walls, creaky stairs, and a resident stalker who won't leave them alone.
A very simple premise that works really well at building tension and despite stretching credibility a tad when Matt (and later Ginny) insists on picking the camcorder up whenever they hear a noise, the result is mostly a success.
From the very early scenes there's a presence in their videos which they don't seem to notice (it's very clear to the viewer though, almost to the point of obviousness), and although this is a tired trick to spook the audience, some of the occurrences work rather well, and there are some genuine scares. It succeeds in preying on that perfectly normal fear of your home - or holiday home - privacy and safely being violated. That sense is always heightened in a strange place, and the film manages to tap into that almost straight away without resorting to using clich├ęd stereotypes of we don't like outsider-type villagers.There's also a cinematic taboo broken when the pair discover a rogue bowel movement on the downstairs toilet floor. Yuk, indeed.
Aside from the moody and tense interior scenes, we do get some lovely views around Glastonbury, particularly the famous Tor, which dominates the skyline.
The villain of the piece, despite being given a little back-story, is never really fleshed out as it keeps strictly to the found footage formula, and the brief glimpses we get are merely of a hooded man.
Additional cameras are set up around the house as surveillance, which at least allows for a different perspective to the events. While deftly made by director Mark Ezra (one of the writer/directors behind the '80s slasher classic Slaughter High), the familiarity of the formula prevents it going that extra step into being fully immersive. Who knows how effective it would have been as a more conventional narrative feature with a full, atmospheric score to compliment the shocks and moody visuals. 
Note that although the packaging states the film is rated 18, the BBFC website has the certificate as 15, so don't go expecting anything too extreme in it, other than bad language and anxiety/fear. There's little or no gore, just well-handled scares - and that's not a bad thing. 
It appears the film has been gathering dust since it was made in 2010, and one can't help but feel it would have gone down better had it come out then, rather than after years of the same type of film essentially stealing its thunder. As mentioned, it's a notch above the usual attempt at the format, with some genuinely effective shocks and a brooding, gripping atmosphere; certainly worth checking out.

7 out of 10