Movies

Don't Look Back Review

Reviewed by Mike Macabre

Don’t Look Back Review – If you ever encountered an attack in broad daylight, what would you do? Would you rush to help the victim? Watch from a distance to avoid getting hurt? Or would you scramble for your phone to record it? It seems that whenever such an event does happen in real life, all of these reactions tend to occur. In Don’t Look Back, Director Jeffrey Reddick explores the consequences of such actions.

Synopsis

When a young woman overcoming her traumatic past is among several witnesses who see a man fatally assaulted and don’t intervene, they find themselves targeted by someone, or something, out for revenge.

Starring Kourtney Bell, Will Stout, Skyler Hart, Jeremy Holm, Jaqueline Fleming, Amanda Grace Benitez, Damon Lipari and Han Soto.

Don't Look Back Review

Don’t Look Back Review

Caitlin (Bell) is a young woman with a traumatic past. On the day of her birthday, her father was killed by home invaders, and she almost suffered a similar fate. Initially pronounced dead herself, Caitlin was revived and nine months later is still receiving therapy following her harrowing ordeal. However, with the support of her boyfriend (Hart) Caitlin is making great progress. That is, until she witnesses a brutal assault whilst jogging in the park. One of many witnesses to the attack, Caitlin is frozen in fear, whilst others stand and watch, record the incident on their phone and generally do nothing.

What follows is a backlash from the media. The victim was a seemingly upstanding member of society, involved in charity work and providing shelters for the homeless. Despite the assailant still being at large, its the witnesses of the attack who bear the brunt of the public’s rage. To make matters worse, Caitlin is also tormented by visions and hallucinations of the dead guy. Things go from bad to worse for our stricken lead as one by one the witnesses of the attack start to die.

Don't Look Back Review

So how did it do?

Jeffrey Reddick is best known as the creator of Final Destination. With a solid storyline, creative deaths and a terrific cast the movie was a hit with horror fans worldwide. But, whilst that sounds great, it can also be a curse for the writer-turned-director making his directorial debut. There were BIG expectations with this one and, unfortunately, it’s nowhere near on par with his best known work.

That being said, if we disregard his notable connections, the movie is pretty good for a debut. The roles have been cast perfectly with a solid, stand out performance from Kourtney Bell. Her believable portrayal keeps the movie flowing from scene to scene and from the outset her character is one we can all get behind. There are some pretty good effects courtesy of the makeup department and overall its a pretty good storyline.

There are one or two flaws, with the tempo of the movie never really being established. For instance there are some exciting moments followed by prolonged periods of slow burn story development. Whilst this does serve to build tension and suspense at times, it also takes away the immersiveness of the movie to a degree. That being said, once we get into the finale it’s all systems go with a dramatic conclusion and a satisfying twist at the end.

Overall

Overall, the movie is definitely worth a watch. However, despite the unique selling point of linking it to Final Destination, the movie pales in comparison. But, if you go in on the basis of watching a directorial debut from an upcoming filmmaker, you should be in for a pleasant surprise.

From Kamikaze Dogfight and Gravitas Ventures, the movie is scheduled to hit Theatres and On Demand on 16th October.

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The Last Laugh

Reviewed by Mike Macabre

When you think about it, Slashers have been around for more than half a century! Influences of Slasher movies like the giallo films, 60’s classics Psycho and Peeping Tom etc. paved the way for the subgenre we know today. In that time, we’ve seen it all; wide varieties of masks/disguises, every motive imaginable, the twists and turns and urban legends brought to life. It’s pretty much impossible to make a Slasher these days without incorporating one or more countless stereotypes that we’ve come to know and love. Fortunately, this doesn’t deter new, upcoming filmmakers. Jeremy Berg is the latest director to give us a Slasher offering with his latest flick The Last Laugh.

Synopsis

A stand-up comedian on the verge of breakout success must make a terrible choice when he discovers a murderer on the loose in the theatre where he’s about to perform his biggest show

Starring Steve Vanderzee, Eric Stone, Lowell Deo, Angela DiMarco and Meranda Long.

The Last Laugh

Review

The movie started out fairly well. Myles (Vanderzee) is clearly a struggling comedian. Stood on stage, he goes through his repertoire to a near-empty venue with barely a snigger from the audience. His manager then informs him of a make or break gig in the Pantages Theare. His act will be the undercard to popular comedian Reggie Ray (Deo). Throughout the movie we see flashbacks of Myles’ wife who has died; a strong indicator of his poor, recent performance. However, before Myles takes to the stage, people start getting murdered by a masked killer. With the bodies piling up, will the hapless comedian live to see the curtain rise? You’ll have to watch to find out!

There are really only two locations in The Last Laugh (the bar and the theatre) but Berg makes it work. The theatre is more like a labyrinth with twists, turns and dead ends. The perfect location if you want to start slicing and dicing folk. The whole theatrical concept isn’t lost either. Despite the same method of murder (for the majority), the humble knife doesn’t get old with some creative kills along the way.

The Last Laugh

Acting

The characters are hit and miss. Vanderzee does a good job portraying the struggling comedian and his afflictions with mental health. Yet, the character isn’t really likeable. In fact, besides Bethany (Long) and Andy (Marcus Leppard) most of the characters aren’t likeable at all! This kind of takes away the fun of a Slasher. You’re not really rooting for anyone, just waiting for them all to die. However, having said that, there are a fair few kills so you won’t be disappointed on that front.

Speaking of kills, the acting could’ve been a bit better with those. I mean, when you get stabbed it HURTS! Yet, there seems to be a reluctance with some of the actors to scream, cry out or even whimper. Not all of them, but enough to raise eyebrows. We also don’t get much character development, which is a shame as there’s potential there for pretty much every role.

The entire movie has a bit of a Scooby Doo feel. The whole ‘whodunnit’ theme starts from the outset and as more and more people are killed, the list of suspects starts to dwindle. I was half expecting the killer to be caught in an elaborate trap, then being demasked to reveal the butler or something. However, the ending doesn’t quite play out that way…

Check out the trailer for The Last Laugh below

Conclusion

Overall, it’s not a bad flick. There are a lot of stabby murders, some decent effects and a sinister score that’s played throughout. Perhaps the deaths could have been a bit more convincing and maybe the character storylines explored a bit more. But, in my opinion, the big issue is the Marmite ending. You’re either going to love it or hate it. For me, I wasn’t a fan. But then again I was waiting for the butler to be demasked…

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Redwood Massacre: Annihilation

Redwood Massacre: Annihilation is the highly anticipated horror flick due for release later this month.

Horror icon Danielle Harris (Halloween, Camp Cold Brook, Once Upon A Time… in Hollywood) comes up against the axe-wielding maniac of Redwood in writer/director David Ryan Keith’s highly-anticipated sequel to The Redwood Massacre!

With the release only a few weeks away, a new trailer has surfaced which is sure to excite horror fans everywhere.

Check it out here

Synopsis

A stranger obsessed with the unsolved Redwood murders, convinces a group of bereaved family members to venture into the wilderness in hope of proving the existence of the infamous killer. Their quest for truth sees a sinister turn of events, as the hunters become the hunted. A blood-soaked fight for survival ensues when they find that the tales of the axe-wielding maniac are very real.

Redwood Massacre: Annihilation is available On Demand and DVD October 20, 2020

Fans of the original are definitely in for a treat with this one. Check out our review here

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The Last Exorcist

Reviewed by Killer Kelly

Synopsis

Internationally-recognized action and horror superstar Danny Trejo (Machete, From Dusk Till Dawn,3 From Hell) stars in The Last Exorcist, scaring up spites this October on DVD and Digital.
 
After every priest trained in exorcisms die in a terrorist attack, Joan Campbell must battle a demon from her past that, this time, possesses her sister.  
 
From writer/director Robin Bain, and starring Terri Ivens (“The Bay”), Danny Trejo, Rachele Brooke Smith (Cold Moon) and Cate Jones (Camp Cold Brook), The Last Exorcist is available on DVD and Digital October 13 from Uncork’d Entertainment.

The Last Exorcist

So, how did it do?

I gotta admit I was surprised by this one. Uncork’d Entertainment are usually the best distributors of indie horror movies (in my opinion). Mainly because they only seem to be involved in the best movies. But this one must’ve got through the net somehow.

There are a few good things about The Last Exorcist, but a whole lot of bad. So much so, that I genuinely don’t know where to start. I guess the beginning is the best bet.

The entire storyline from start to finish was so farfetched that I just couldn’t get on board. A lone bomber blows himself up in a place that just happens to have every single person trained in exorcisms present. I mean, okay, I’ll try roll with it. But then to have our main character try to save her sister by first of all becoming a priest (which I’m sure goes against the Christian faith). Then, perform an exorcism. Neither of which she has any experience of. All the while, Danny Trejo’s character (who is already a priest and seems to know his exorcism stuff quite well) guides her. Really? Then to end up with a martial arts fight scene involving the random dude who keeps popping up everywhere? By that time I was literally shouting at the TV. Where the hell did she learn Kung Fu?!

Acting

The Last Exorcist

The acting was hit and miss. Ivens is becoming more active on the horror scene, recently appearing in Coven (check out our review here). Her role in The Last Exorcist was even more prominent and she did a fairly good job. Similarly, Rachele Brooke Smith did a pretty good job too. There were a few up and down moments but to be honest I’d put that down to the script. Some of the dialogue was cringey as hell and if I did a shot every time they called each other ‘sister’ I wouldn’t be alive writing this! Trejo did an exceptional job in his role. Swapping his macho, action man style for the divine, man of God approach. And it worked! Yet, some of the acting from the supporting cast was atrocious. I’m just gonna leave it there on that note.

What else?

So let’s talk about some of the action scenes. I’ve already mentioned how gobsmacked I was when the movie turned into Enter the Dragon at the end. So we won’t say anything else on that matter. But there were some parts which worked well and others which didn’t. A stabbing scene was painful to watch and I don’t mean due to the graphic nature. It was reminiscent of a sloth trying to crack a walnut. There was no ferocity, no drive and, despite the character being possessed, just looked like a tentative actor scared of hurting her co-star.

Later, an altercation in a bar worked pretty well. Irvine successfully portrayed a character with debilitating mental health and it was a pretty effective scene. So it’s not all doom and gloom. The movie did have its good points. It’s just a shame that these are overshadowed by the greater number of negatives.

The Last Exorcist

Storyline

The storyline confused the hell out of me. Yes, every exorcist being killed at once did put me on the backfoot. But, there was never any real explanation about… anything. I get that the two were orphaned after their crazy mother killed the father and then killed herself. No idea how they ended up in the care of the church and under the guide of a priest (is that a thing?) I have no idea who the random bad guy is that keeps popping up, and I have no idea what the ending is trying to imply.

I mean I could try watching it again to see if it makes sense the second time round. But, honestly, I can’t bring myself to do it any time soon.

Overall, the acting wasn’t bad from the three I’ve mentioned but there was some terrible performances from supporting cast. Storyline was confusing as hell (no pun intended) and it just felt rushed and incomplete. I think if writer/director Bain went back to the drawing board with this one, tightened the storyline, recast some of the lesser parts and did it again, it would be a lot better.

Check out the trailer here

 The Last Exorcist is available on DVD and Digital on October 13th from Uncork’d Entertainment.

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Written by Inkubus

I’ve often reflected how the influence of Art is a key component missing from Modern Horror. The Xenomorph we all know and fear came from the painted nightmares of Swedish surrealist H.R. Giger, the Screamer is said to have influenced the Ghostface Killer mask.  For a further rundown of art’s musings over the genre, I would highly recommend 2017’s Tableaux Vivants for a look at 60 such portraits and the films they inspired.

In the summer of 2020, The Medium video game appears to correct that oversight with the recent trailer dropping, adapting Polish painter, Zdzislaw Beksinski’s frightening paintings.  In the same season of the same year is when The Cell celebrates 20 years (8/17/2020).  This film appeared to feature as many artistic influences as possible into its near two hour runtime.

The sight of chains freaked me out upon watching my first Hellraiser movie, so the sexual perversion of their use in this film did little to alleviate such apprehension, especially as they pulled so tightly to suspend human flesh in the air. Despite a previous scene showing the villain having drowned his victim, this was the true introduction to his villainy – the former showed what he did, that latter why he did it.  Even re-watching this film so many years later, I had to look away from the screen, recoiling from such a grisly display.

Typically, in Horror or any film that assumes a particular aesthetic, it is color that makes the impression to set mood.  Instead, the use of white in this film, from the K9 to the bleached state of the victims is used to ghoulishly haunting effect.

I remember critics remarking that because of Vince Vaughn’s comedic history they couldn’t take him seriously in this role and relegated his involvement to stunt casting. I take the opposite stance since, for me, every role after this film simply serves as a reminder that he starred in The Cell.  I’ve always felt that comedy actors do well in dramas – see Robin Williams in “Good Will Hunting” – and I thought that Vaughn did a serviceable job in this film, never distracting from either tone or plot.

I was happy that they just dove into the mechanics behind entering one’s mind as an accepted reality, that they didn’t get bogged down in techno babble or exposition of the technology.  There is a time and place for the virtual journey into the cerebral frontier, such as The Matrix or a good adaptation of the Lawnmower Man, but for the Cell, I’m happy that they focused more on the story and not so much the science.  The suits do look like Twizzlers, but it was made by Eioka Ishioka (who passed away in 2012), the same costume designer as Vlad Tepes’ suit from Bram Stoker’s Dracula.  I do like that the two participators are suspended in the air while their minds are linked.  It’s an eerie callback to the killer’s suspension from chains for sexual release. Also, it does give the technology that space age feel as though they are in a weightless environment.

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Since the 90’s, special effects have been criticized as dominating films to the point Stephen King is quoted as remarking that “story supports effects instead of effects supporting story”. Similarly, an argument can be made that at times The Cell becomes too indulgent with its usage of famous art that serve no plot function, e.g. the Horse Split, the Three Women of Odd Nerdrum’s Dawn painting, Mother Theresa and her Hallmark card, etc.  As the director is quoted as saying “The thing about this film is it’s an opera, and there is no such thing as a subtle opera.”  I don’t believe that the script was penned as an excuse to pack in as much gallery portraits as possible or is an hour and fifty minutes of a music video.  I just wish the director would’ve used each art piece he seeks influence from to develop the story or the character.  The imagery doesn’t always portray the killer’s psychology or the psychologist’s therapeutic technique.  If he wasn’t going to utilize subtlety, he should have implored restraint.  He later added “Anyway, I missed the whole plot, just been talking visual all along, ah, where are we?”

Once in the killer’s mind, his depiction as the master of his domain is a hauntingly accurate depiction considering the previous scenes of suspension rings in the back of his body, which unwittingly foreshadowed to the audience his royal appearance to come.  Even the name, King Stargher, is a daunting title for a movie monster.  When rising and descending from his throne, the violet robes receding from the walls and tracing along the room is hypnotically unnerving.

As tiresome as the “we’re still in the dreamworld” trope can become (The Matrix, DS9 Season 7 episode 23 “Extreme Measures”), this film not only flips it when the psychologist realizes that she’s “already in”, but does so in a cleverly visual way.

  • King Stargher
  • Horned Stargher
  • Court Jester/Vatican Clown  
  • Serpent Stargher

It is interesting to think that a single actor would assume many distinct monstrous characters.  Unlike a Freddy Kreuger or a Pennywise that turn into manifestations of their victims’ fears, the figures that Stargher assumes are all avatars of his own warped psyche, his own inner turmoil.  Vincent D’Onofrio really does put in his all with this role.  He’s soft spoken and understated when he needs to be and malicious and heartless when the scene demands it.  Along with the visuals of the film, D’Onofrio’s performance is worth the price of admission.  It’s a shame that his acting as well as the movie’s stunning artistry are what have gone overlooked all these years.  Speaking of…

One invalid criticism that has been levied against the film is its attempts to persuade the audience to sympathize with the killer.  My intention with the following statement is neither to flaunt my Horror insight nor to divide the lines between fans within Horror and those without.  Having said that, even as an adolescent seeing this movie in theaters, I at no point felt remorse for the serial murderer and I chalk up this long-held misconception to a bad read on the film.

So off-base is this “critical analysis” that it can’t even be regarded as a Jekyll & Hyde dynamic.  The villain is not split down the middle between binary good and evil, where both halves are at war over his soul, or the repressed impulses of his Dark Passenger are manifesting in a heartless butcher.  If there is any distinction, it is between who the antagonist was when a victim as a boy and what the man became as an adult victimizer.  If anything it is the good that is repressed, not the evil.  Furthermore, along with using the film’s plot to force Alice down the rabbit hole of the Mad Hatter’s mind, this film does address the nature of evil.  When referring to Stargher, even Jennifer Lopez’s character remarks “The Dominant side is still this horrible thing”.  The Vince Vaughn detective states “I believe a child can experience 100 times worse the abuse than what Gish (a different killer) went through, and still grow up to be somebody that would never, ever, ever hurt another living being.”  Thus, these serve as acknowledgement that the abducted criminal is firmly in the driver’s seat to the point of its reference as a “thing” and a condemnation of what the killer has become, respectively.

Along with exploring the psychology of the killer, the film does not qualify the villain’s innocence, it questions it.

The critics probably missed that pesky detail that would’ve debunked their headline before they pressed a single word of their denunciation.

These same professional critics wouldn’t give a second’s hesitation towards throwing Horror under the bus and condemning Scary Movies for inspiring violence if it meant their jobs were on the line, yet they would balk at the notion that continued mental trauma and physical abuse can cause psychopathic behavior.

There are classics and icons worth praising for their plot and performances, respectively, and then there are some Scary Films that Horror Fans view with the understanding of their heavy material and without your typical fanfare because they’re a hard watch.  I can see where people would be fans of Hannibal Lecter not because they or the film glamorizes cannibalism, but because of Anthony Hopkins’ acting chops (excuse the pun).  Conversely, John Doe, the serial killer of Se7en, has and will likely never enjoy such admiration because of the cold purity of his calculated evil.  The 2 decade critique of The Cell’s villain portrayal is a dark cloud that has unjustly hung over its head.

The motif of “the eyes of a killer” was something applauded in Rob Zombie’s Halloween 2, yet ridiculed in The Cell 9 years prior?

This film’s premise and the fact that it wasn’t fully effectively executed makes it primed for a remake.  Hollywood needs to be issued a Cease and Desist order of such wholesale dependence on Remakes in general, let alone in the Horror genre.  When you consider that so many remakes can’t outdo the original and even tarnish the films they attempt to emulate, why not fix the problems of a film that went wrong and take the credit when you get it right?

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