The Dead 2: India (2014)

TD2.8You know, after eating the cinematic equivalent of undercooked crap like it seems I’ve done the last few weeks, at least to judge from my reviews, it’s good to settle down for something well-made and nourishing. Nothing fancy or new, you understand, but well-prepared and using ingredients I like.

And on a quiet Sunday morning, when I’m back from taking the dog to the park where she scampers about eating rabbit poo and ignoring my calls to chase after other dogs, it’s good to sit down with a bowl of cereal and watch a good-looking zombie movie. And The Ford Brother’s latest film, THE DEAD 2: INDIA certainly fits that bill. As the title suggests, this is a sequel to a 2010 movie from the same sibling team of film-makers, which Scott reviewed here. Scott, like myself, considered it an above-average zombie movie, which didn’t skimp on either the zombies (the shambling kind) or the gore and suspense. The Ford Brothers had filmed in Africa, and in doing so eschewed setting their movie in an enclosed place under siege, taking full advantage of the wide open, exotic landscapes, and the inherent threats they hold even without the dangers from revenants.

Look behind you...
Look behind you…

The sequel, subtitled simply INDIA, should give you a clue as to where it’s set, with the sequel taking place at the same time as the first one, as we see shots of Mumbai and an African freighter in dock, while a radio exposits about the outbreak of violence on the nearby continent. Before long we settle on one man, wandering through the streets seemingly in a daze, his vision blurry and watery; if you guessed that he’s suffering from more than heatstroke, move to the head of the class.Eventually he makes his way back home, where his family has been mourning him, so they’ll surely be glad to see his return…

Walk across the vast graveyard... what could go wrong?
Yeah, walk across the vast graveyard… what could go wrong?

We then cut to American electrical engineer Nicholas Burton (Joseph Millson, CASINO ROYALE), halfway up a wind turbine (in an impressive tracking shot typical of the Brothers), as he stops his repair work to call his girlfriend Ishani (Meenu Mishra) back in Mumbai, 300 miles away. Ishani is in a doctor’s office, distracted by the growing number of bite victims being brought in and the unrest on the streets, but still managing to inform Nicholas that he’s going to be a father.

Been out in the sun too long, methinks...
Been out in the sun too long, methinks…

Nicholas seems more stunned than pleased, but quickly recovers, though another call to his home office exposits that something is happening throughout the country, and that foreigners are being airlifted out of the country. However, his attempts to call back Ishani and warn her to barricade herself inside her home until he can return are thwarted by Ishani’s father (Sandip Datta Gupta), who freaks out when he learns that his darling daughter has gotten herself knocked up. Still, as he sees people being attacked in the streets, even he is smart enough to lock his doors and keep his daughter and himself safe – though not before revealing that Ishani’s mother (Poonam Mathur) was bit. Yeah, that’ll end well, I’m sure.

Everyone wants a turn on the paraglider!
Everyone wants a turn on the paraglider!

Nicholas is desperate to return to Mumbai, but his car is on empty, and the only shop for miles has got a gun, some paragliding equipment, and a hoard of zombies surrounding him. Nicholas barely manages to escape, starting off on the road back to Mumbai. Along the way he encounters a young orphan, Javed (Anand Krishna Goyal), who asks to accompany Nicholas, given that his whole village has been wiped out and all that. Nicholas is reluctant, but Javed demonstrates how useful he can be, not just by translating for him but directing him through the mountains and finding local food. But will their combined skills be enough to survive the ubiquitous dead?

This won't end well. I promise.
This won’t end well. I promise.

There’s a lot to recommend THE DEAD 2, much of it identical to the first movie: superlative use of outside locations and cinematography, forgoing the usual claustrophobic siege scenario (though with the sequel we do get that as well, albeit to a lesser degree, as the film keeps returning to Ishani and her family in Mumbai. If anything, the Indian setting makes the threat more tangible, being a more populated area than the African veldt.

The zombie make-up is superior, along with the gore, nearly all of it non-CGI, and I’ll get behind anyone who prefers their zombies non-fast. The Ford Brothers put together some remarkably tense scenes, including a narrow escape by paraglider, and a harrowing scene involving a pair of car crash victims and an approaching hoard of the undead.

Mother Theresa, this ain't!
Mother Theresa, this ain’t!

The lead actor here, Joseph Millson, makes a better impression than the leads in the first movie, portraying Nicholas as an ordinary guy who doesn’t instantly turn into Mr Badass Zombie Killer, and still feels the emotional anguish of what’s going on (and what he has to do). Although it might have been more interesting (and appear less Anglophilic) to have written a protagonist native to the setting, as Nicholas seems like the only white guy on the whole subcontinent, and the only one able to cope (somewhat) with what’s going on around him. Think SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE meets DAWN OF THE DEAD, have some young poor kid leading a ragtag bunch of orphans out of the ghetto and to safety, something like that – but what do I know? The other actors in comparison do what they can with their limited roles (and at least the little orphan kid isn’t some wisecracking Short Round type).

They're coming to get you, Bharava...
They’re coming to get you, Bharava…

The movie also suffers from some of the faults you tend to find in many of these movies: zombies who are effectively lethal threats against anyone but the hero, a hero with a gun that never is seen being reloaded, people who seem incapable of defending themselves… and as I said before, there’s nothing new to the zombies, except for a scene where Ishani and her father provide an Eastern perspective on the typical “why is this happening to us?” conversation.

Maybe it was just the bad movies I watched prior to this, but this is definitely entering my Top Ten Horror for 2014. The movie is available on VOD and will come out on DVD on September 16 2014.

Deggsy’s Summary:

Directors: The Ford Brothers (also screenplay)

Plot: 4 out of 5 stars

Gore: 8 out of 10 skulls

Zombie Mayhem: 5 out of 5 brains

Reviewed by Deggsy

The Hospital (2013)

TH0

Samuel Johnson once famously wrote, “A man with an opinion is like a dog with a flintlock: almost always a waste of both items. Now where’s my bloody absinthe?”

People seem fully conscious of their right to an opinion on anything, especially in the Internet Age, but they’re less willing to admit how little anyone else actually values it. Oh, your friends will support you, usually because they agree with you. Or if you’re a celebrity, because obviously fame grants you automatic legitimacy in the eyes of Yahoos who crack one off to your movie nude scenes in their bedrooms. Personally, as much as Sandra Bullock might turn me on in the small dark hours of the night, her opinions on politics means less to me than the chewing gum on my shoe.

You get a sense of how worthless opinions can be when you read some of the user reviews of a low-budget independent horror movie on IMDb. Glowing to a degree that would be lethal if it was gamma radiation instead of bullshit, these reviews from the obvious families and friends of the filmmakers are so sycophantic that they could be replacement parts for a Human Centipede. The way they go on, you’d think that they’d just watched STAR WARS IN CASABLANCA WITH THE GODFATHER AND CITIZEN KANE. Such unrealistic praise inevitably invites a chorus of disapproval.

I don't care if it isn't really an exit... GO OUT THAT DOOR!
I don’t care if it isn’t really an exit… GO OUT THAT DOOR!

This is what happened with the subject of my latest review, THE HOSPITAL (2013), directed by Tommy Golden and Daniel Emery Taylor (who also co-wrote and starred in it). In response to some user reviews overly praising this movie, there was a slew of people out for critical blood, condemning it as the worst piece of celluloid ever, cinematic excrement and morally-depraved garbage with no redeeming values whatsoever.

I’m leaning in that direction, though perhaps not to such extremes.

The movie has gained some notoriety on my side of the Atlantic, when the British supermarket chain Tescos withdrew the DVD from sale following a complaint about the contents, and when the Bulgarian government banned it outright from their country. Really? Bulgaria? Wasn’t that the country where Baron Bomburst and the Child Catcher lived? Is it still a badge of honour if you can get a country to ban your movie in this day and age?

Ladies and gentlemen, our co-director, co=writer and star, Daniel Emery Taylor...
Ladies and gentlemen, our co-director, co-writer and star, Daniel Emery Taylor…

Anyway, the movie opens with some nobody girls pulling up to an abandoned hospital in the middle of nowhere, unable to get a signal on their phones, and decide to have a look around, one of them literally asking, “What’s the worst that can happen?”

They and we find out as we cut to them stripped to their panties, cuffed, bloodied, and being raped by a portly guy in coveralls and a definite inbred expression (Taylor). One of the women escapes, but gets stabbed with a grappling hook for her troubles. The credits role, and we helpfully get clips of the actors to go with their names, so we remember them later (Spoiler Alert: it doesn’t work).

With today's technology, FX can look shitty for less money than ever...
With today’s technology, FX can look shitty for less money than ever…

After the credits (which include ‘Guest Stars’, something I didn’t think was applicable for a movie) we look in on a small town diner, where paranormal student Beth (Constance Medrano) makes everyone drop their cups and cutlery when she announces that as part of her studies she’s visiting… St Leopold’s Hospital! Dum Dum DUM! Some Crazy Old Fart warns her not to go, but Beth doesn’t look too bright. My assumptions are confirmed as she goes up alone and encounters caretaker Stanley Creech (Taylor), the previously-seen rapist and killer. He exudes Creepy Vibes like a teenager drenched in Right Guard, but this does not make an impression on Beth.

We then fade to later, when she’s bent over a table, leather strap in her mouth while Stanley rapes her from behind.

Seriously, if you aren't alarmed by the creepy guy MOPPING UP BLOOD IN FRONT OF YOU, maybe you deserve what you get?
Seriously, if you aren’t alarmed by the creepy guy MOPPING UP BLOOD IN FRONT OF YOU, maybe you deserve what you get?

Now, let’s talk about nudity for a moment. I don’t care how much you’re getting paid to do it, it takes more guts than I’ll ever have to take off your clothes in front of other people, and be captured like that on video for all eternity, and that’s even before having to portray being a victim of vile acts. So I applaud those willing and able to go through with it, not just Constance Medrano but all the other women in this film.

I just wish they had a better movie in which to do it.

Later on, we meet two sleazebags running a supposed production company filming a paranormal reality show in the old hospital, though why anyone would fall for their shitty webpage ad is beyond me; those fake tunnels Wile E Coyote used to paint on the sides of mountains were more convincing. But they do attract a number of young women, including one of those Purity Ring virgin types. And Stanley, who’s keeping Beth tied up as a pet, is helping these sleazebags capture, rape, torture and kill these women, so they can sell the videos to Eastern Europe’s snuff market.

Is that Eminem under that?
Oh the things you do to cover those embarrassing zits…

That sounds horrible. No wait, not horrible – bullshit. They’re exporting snuff films to the Third World? That’s like selling kaiju movies to the Japanese. Human life isn’t exactly at a premium in the Third World. They use their children as firewood, severed heads are a legal currency in at least three countries, and the mass graves in Vukova are known locally as Disneyland Croatia. Unless there’s a market for pasty talent-free American girls being raped, cut, having their teeth pulled out and their nipples cut off… and all done either off camera or ineptly. About the only thing we see in explicit detail are the nude women, all hairless from the scalp down. Seriously, does nobody appreciate the lady garden anymore?

The acting ranges from Keanu Wooden to Cage Whackjob, without anyone settling comfortably in the middle. There’s a twist offered by a cameo from an alumnus of the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE franchise, who ends up dying in a very undignified way. The kills we see are CGI, and as crap as you’d expect (I’d rather see shit practical effects than shit computer ones). I don’t think this would even satisfy people who get off on this sort of thing; you can get better examples online.

Thank Bela he's around to keep us family-friendly...
Thank Bela for keeping us family-friendly…

Are there any redeeming qualities? Sure. The DVD cover looks cool, even if it’s filled with fake quotes from non-existent sources. It has a theme song (“Stanley’s Gonna Getchya!”) that reminded me of those Freddy Krueger songs they put out in the 1980s NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET movies. Taylor has a menacing presence onscreen. There was a twist in the film I wasn’t expecting.

So… “Not the Worst Movie Ever Made” . You can use that on the cover if the movie gets reissued, Mr Taylor.

THE HOSPITAL is out there, waiting for the unsuspecting. The trailer is below, with the aforementioned theme song.

Deggsy’s Summary:
Director: Tommy Golden and Daniel Emery Taylor
Plot: 2 out of 5 stars
Gore: 2 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Deggsy. So you don’t have to watch it. You’re welcome.

Dario Argento’s Dracula 3-D (2012)

Dracula posterMy earliest memory of Dario Argento came not from seeing a movie, but seeing a commercial for one of his movies: SUSPIRIA. I was eleven, and there was this television ad with a woman (seen from behind) brushing her hair and putting a flower in it while singing, “Roses are red, violets are blue, the iris is a flower… THAT WILL BE THE END OF YOU!” as the ‘woman’ turns around to reveal a skeleton.

That freaked me out.

And that was the last time I was ever freaked out by anything Argento has ever done.

Now don’t get me wrong, I admire the huge influence Argento has had on the horror genre: John Carpenter has repeatedly named him as a major inspiration, he worked with George Romero on the original DAWN OF THE DEAD, and he wrote the script for Lamberto Bava’s DEMONS (1985), one of my personal favourites from that decade. He has an impressive body of work (SUSPIRIA, TENEBRAE, INFERNO, OPERA, TRAUMA, TWO EVIL EYES) and his work, while perhaps not as coherent as one might like, has often been beautiful and lyrical, evoking emotion rather than intellect.

Nekkid lady. Still a bad movie.
Nekkid lady. Still a bad movie.

But that can’t only take you so far. I’ve always found Argento to be on the Charlie Sheen side of sanity, and while he produced some nightmarish sequences in his movies, trying to view them as a whole is like trying to follow a monologue by Gary Busey while he’s eating a McRib sandwich. Argento certainly wouldn’t be the first horror filmmaker of his generation to go into decline. But at least many of those contemporaries of his have had the good sense to shift their attentions into other work, or at least for not tarnishing their reputations with later failures. I suppose it’s like when you hear about a veteran heavyweight boxer coming back from retirement after many years to have another shot at glory; you admire them, you’d love for them to have a taste of victory again, but you feel that dread in the pit of your stomach that they’re gonna end up on their asses on the floor of the ring looking like they just finished watching INCEPTION…

And I see that I’ve been putting off talking about Argento’s latest work, DRACULA 3D. That’s because the word ‘shit’ can only be typed so many times before you start to feel like you’re writing a Rob Schneider script. Francis Ford Coppolla’s adaptation of the Dracula story back in 1992 had its detractors, but for many it remained the definitive depiction of the Count, his love for Mina, and Dracula’s Nemesis Van Helsing. Many would question a need for another telling of the tale. Especially in 3-D. And from Dario Argento. And they’d be right.

So I like Kool Aid! So what?
So I like Kool Aid! So what?

And I didn’t have to wait long to have this confirmed. The movie opens with some of the cheapest looking credit sequences I have seen in a long time. I don’t mean minimalist, I mean cheap, and with that weird whistle music that will remind you of bad old horror and science fiction movies from the 50s. Is it intentional on Argento’s part? To evoke that nostalgia? I doubt it. What’s more ludicrous is that this appears after an opening title card that declares that the movie had received partial government funding, and identifies DRACULA 3D as “a film of national cultural interest.”

Yeah, right.

Hah! Got him!
Hah! Got him!

The movie opens like a thousand other Dracula movies open, in some Transylvanian village where a young couple sneak out to have sex in a stable, and after a contrived and idiotic argument (three writers worked with Argento on the script, proof enough that More can be Less) she walks off alone, only to be pursued and attacked by what appears to be an owl, but obviously isn’t…

Oh hell, I can’t proceed with a detailed synopsis of this. You know the story, though one of Argento’s liberties taken is keeping the story completely within Transylvania. Maybe I should just give you the highlights?

We have a Dracula (Thomas Kretschmann, who played the steamship captain in Peter Jackson’s 55-hour-long KING KONG) who kept reminding me more of an airbrushed Liam Neeson than a creature of the night, and comes across with all the majesty of a man booking his next haircut.

We have a Jonathan Harker (Unax Ugalde, LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA) who looks like Keanu Reeves, and acts just as well.

Ouch.
Ouch.

We have Jonathan’s wife Mina (Marta Gastini, THE RITE), who has the screen presence of a bag of fertilizer and reacts to the news of the apparent death of her husband with all the anguish of a woman losing a game of Suduko.

We have Mina’s flirty girlfriend Lucy (Argento’s daughter Asia, LAND OF THE DEAD), and admittedly Asia looks quite alluring in her nude scenes, though I suspect for many the erotic factor dips when you realise it’s her 72 year old father filming her.

We have a mix of crappy practical effects like an axe to the head, and crappy CGI when we see Dracula become Manimal and turn into wolves, flies, owls and, in one WTF? Moment, a giant praying mantis. Can I write that again, please? Dracula turns it into a giant fucking praying mantis. I don’t know if the eponymous vampire does that in the original book, but really…

Rutger should have done HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN 2 instead
Rutger should have done HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN 2 instead

We have a Van Helsing in Rutger Hauer (HOBO WITH A SHOTGUN) looking like he just arrived on set after a 19 hour flight, and aware too late that he’s helping bring a dog into the cinematic world, especially as he walks around sets that couldn’t look more like sets if they’d left the paintbrushes sitting around. That it takes more than an hour for him to appear, and only sticks around for ten minutes, doesn’t help.

There is one scene, though, that almost made me sit up and take notice: when Dracula invades a room where his human collaborators are planning to betray him, and proceeds to open a massive can of undead whoop-ass on them. But then, like an old man’s boner when his hot daughter in law walks by, it vanishes quickly.

I suppose the nicest thing I can say about it is that it is pretty much what I would expect a Dario Argento adaptation of Dracula would be like. I didn’t watch this in 3-D, because frankly the craptitude was enough in two dimensions. The trailer follows, watch it and employ the ninety minutes you’ve saved watching the full movie doing something better:

Deggsy’s Summary:
Director: Dario Argento
Plot: 1 out of 5 stars
Gore: 3 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains

Reviewed by Derek “Deggsy” O’Brien. The D is silent. And has one of those umlauts hanging over it. Bitches love diacritical marks.

Zombie Walks: A Sign of the Times?

London Zombie WalkHave you been on a zombie walk, or watched one? Last October I was lucky to have witnessed what is now an annual event, the Manchester Zombie Walk, where a thousand people assembled to shamble and moan and rattle chains through the city centre, and all to help raise money for a number of charities including The Big issue and Cash for Kids.

I thought I was lucky, because I wasn’t aware of how prevalent zombie walks have become, all over the world. Though many are spontaneous flash mob events or limited performance arts, most are organised well in advance, involving hundreds or more folk. For the uninitiated, the sight of participants in bloody, often gruesome (but often also impressive-looking) makeup shuffling and groaning, or calling for “brains”.

The earliest zombie walk on record was put together almost impulsively at the Gencon Gaming Convention in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in August of 2000. The event was organised to poke good-natured fun at the Vampire LARPers that were taking over large portions of the convention, and disrupt their games. While it was rumoured that the organisers were arrested and thrown out of the convention for their activities, they were simply questioned by security before being told to disband.

If you're gonna have a zombie walk, Pittsburgh is the place...
If you’re gonna have a zombie walk, Pittsburgh is the place…

The first event actually listed as a Zombie Walk was in October 2003 in Toronto, Ontario, organised by a local horror movie fan and consisted of only six participants. But like a zombie plague in the movies, the popularity grew, no doubt given momentum by the success of zombie movies in the public consciousness in the 2010s: SHAUN OF THE DEAD, the RESIDENT EVIL movies, the DAWN OF THE DEAD remake, ZOMBIELAND and others. The handful of participants became scores, and then hundreds. And not just in North America, either: here in the UK, Argentina, Singapore, Russia… sometimes these are just harmless bits of fun, some highlight spoof political goals such as Zombie Rights, but others are for charity, such as the aforementioned Manchester Zombie Walk, as well as ways of shining lights on issues such as world hunger (and if you have to have a monster representing hunger, zombies are the way to go!). The largest gathering drew more than 4,000 participants at the New Jersey Zombie Walk in Asbury Park, in October 2010, according to Guinness World Records.

Ride 'em, Dead Cowgirl!
Ride ’em, Dead Cowgirl!

But is there something more to zombie walks than just a bit of fun and maybe charity? To English Professor Sarah Lauro of Clemson University, South Carolina, the phenomenon goes beyond being just a fad, and could reflect a rising societal dissatisfaction with the state of the world.

Though Professor Lauro is a self-described “chicken” and not a horror fan, she still participated, in an attempt to work out the various motivations driving people who took part.

She believes that the popularity of zombie walks is a reaction not only to the concurrent popularity of the undead in the media, but in a rise in dissatisfaction with the war in Iraq.

“It was a way that the population was getting to exercise the fact that they felt like they hadn’t been listened to by the Bush administration,” Lauro has said. “Nobody really wanted that war, and yet we were going to war anyway.”

Get em when they're young!
Get em when they’re young!

“We are more interested in the zombie at times when as a culture we feel disempowered. And the facts are there that, when we are experiencing economic crises, the vast population is feeling disempowered. … Either playing dead themselves, or watching a show like THE WALKING DEAD provides a great variety of outlets for people.”

But, as Lauro has pointed out, the display of dissatisfaction isn’t always a conscious expression of that feeling of frustration. “If you were to ask the participants, I don’t think that all of them are very cognisant of what they’re saying when they put on the zombie makeup and participate,” she said. “To me, it’s such an obvious allegory. We feel like, in one way, we’re dead.”

So, what do you think, True Believers?

Article written by Derek “Deggsy” O’Brien

The Possession (2012)

possession_xlgNow here’s yet another reminder not to judge a movie by its reviews. Unless it’s an Asylum film, of course, but that’s a stinking inbred horse of a different colour. The critics have not been kind to Danish director Ole Bornedal’s supernatural exorcism movie THE POSSESSION, calling it derivative, old-fashioned, hackneyed. I was prepared to join them, but [SPOILER ALERT!] I ended up pleasantly surprised.

The movie opens with the announcement that this is Based On True Events. Okay, okay, I know, that’s up there with all the great lines of bullshit like You Can’t Get Pregnant Doing It Standing Up and Saturday Night Live Is Still Funny, but get past this and let’s continue. The movie opens with an old woman in a suburban home, staring with intent at an old wooden box sitting on the mantelpiece in her living room – a box that seems to whisper to her. Putting on some classical music, she removes the neighbouring knick-knacks from the vicinity of the box, before picking up some holy water and a hammer in an attempt to open it. In seeming response, the old woman undergoes what appears to be a stroke, before being flung about and contorted like a doll in the hands of a spoiled child.

Even demons get the munchies...
Even demons get the munchies…

After the credits, we’re introduced to high school basketball coach Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan, WATCHMEN) and Stephanie brenek (Kyra Sedgwick, from TV’s THE CLOSER). They are divorced, Clyde has obtained a new house, and shares custody with their two children, Em (Natasha Calis, from the TV adaptation of THE FIRM) and Hannah (Madison Davenport, PARASOMNIA). Though we don’t know the circumstances of the break-up, the relationship between the children and the adults, and between the adults, is as strained as you would expect, especially with Stephanie now seeing another man, creepy orthodontist Brett (Grant Show, THE GIRL NEXT DOOR).

During one of the girls’ weekend stayovers with Clyde, they stop at a yard sale, and Em finds the wooden box, encouraging her father to buy it for her, though they can’t seem to find a way to open it (Clyde’s workaholic habits don’t help). Nevertheless, that night it opens for Em when she’s alone with it, and finds a few strange items within, including a tooth, a ring and an exotic dead moth. She also hears the whispers from it.

What's eating you, kid?
What’s eating you, kid?

Over subsequent visits, more incidents occur: an unseen creature is heard in Clyde’s kitchen, leaving half-eaten food on the floor; moths appear here and there. And Em becomes more solitary and withdrawn, spending more time with the box, talking secretly with it, and eating voraciously and aggressively (stabbing her father in the hand with her fork when he scolds her). Her change in behaviour is not constant; one evening while in the bathroom, she begins to feel the urge to vomit, and when she points a flashlight into her mouth and looks down her throat via her reflection in the mirror… she sees a hand trying to crawl up from within…

I need an old priest and a young- no, wait...
I need an old priest and a young- no, wait…

Her behaviour, noticed by Clyde but dismissed by Stephanie as an expected symptom of the divorce (with the bitter implication that it’s mostly Clyde’s fault, when Stephanie learns of his plans to possibly obtain a job in another state). But Em’s deterioration continues; when she takes the box to school, and a classmate steals the box and refuses to return it, Em viciously assaults him. The box is kept at school overnight, resulting in the death of Em’s teacher when she becomes curious, a death dismissed as accidental. When Clyde tries to dispose of the box, Em is slapped around by an unseen force, making it appear as if he had struck her, leading to police and social worker involvement.

Undaunted, Clyde seeks out academic aid to identify the box, learning that it is a dybbuk box that dates back to the Polish ghettoes of the 1920s, a box designed to contain a dybbuk, an ancient Hebrew demon. Travelling to a Hasidic community in Brooklyn and meeting scholar Tzadok (American reggae and alternative rock musician Matisyahu), who agrees to assist Clyde in exorcising the demon attempting to fully possess Em. But will their efforts be too little, too late?

Her name's Em. Em for Murder!

As I wrote at the start of this review, many critics were unkind about THE POSSESSION when it was first released, and though I understood one or two of their points, I disagree about the rest. One of the strongest points about THE POSSESSION for me was the fact that it was a “genuine” movie, as opposed to an amateurish Found Footage movie. Director Bornedal (NIGHTWATCH, THE SUBSTITUTE) has stated that he was influenced in the making of this by THE EXORCIST, which becomes obvious, though if you’re gonna be influenced, better THE EXORCIST than AREA 407. So it was really refreshing to watch a spooky, well-paced, professionally-made film (featuring some truly creepy and successful music from composer Anton Sanko) with genuine actors. Speaking of which, the cast is uniformly excellent (and another refreshing change to the plethora of “young smartass documentary film crews out investigating a haunted hospital or looking for a creature in the woods”). And as a middle-aged man with a daughter of my own it was also nice to see the father as the sympathetic hero rather than the mother.

I also liked the mythology, including the symbolic importance of the moth, behind the dybbuk (allegedly based on a real box that its owner, Jason Haxton, offered to send to THE POSSESSION’s producer, a certain Sam Raimi, though Raimi allegedly declined, his own Jewish heritage making him too afraid of it). I’m less receptive to the expected talk about the strange things that apparently occurred during the production of the movie, but hey, that’s part of a long tradition of scary movies. There are faults to it, such as a lack of gore for those expecting it, some scenes that might devolve into unintentional laughs, and, as the critics have pointed out, elements that you will have seen before in other movies.

But for me the strengths outweigh the weaknesses. THE POSSESSION is available on DVD in the US and the UK, and the trailer is below. Judge for yourself…

Deggsy’s Summary:
Director: Ole Bornedal
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars
Gore: 3 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains

Reviewed by Derek “Deggsy” O’Brien. The D is silent. Like the majority of my brain cells.

Stitches (2012)

Stitches has had a bad day...Clowns.

You don’t really need me to tell you about their scare potential, do I? Those pasty faces and red noses and garish clothes and how they all fit into those tiny cars. In my last clown-themed KLOWN KAMP MASSACRE, I already went into detail about how there are no nice clowns out there (a No-Prize to anyone who can disprove it).

And British/Irish movie horror-comedy STITCHES, directed by Conor McMahon (DEAD MEAT), is not going to buck the trend. McMahon started work on STITCHES after receiving a grant from The Irish Film Board, where he did his filming, and the movie marks the movie debut of British stand-up comedian Ross Noble, a veteran comedian famous for his surreal, stream-of-consciousness routines. The list of comedians turned actors is as long as the list of bad performances from Rob Schneider, but not many I think would venture outside their comfort zones to play a murderous clown come back from the dead (though Jerry Lewis did make a movie THE DAY THE CLOWN CRIED, a Holocaust drama that was never publicly released), even if STITCHES is meant to be a horror-comedy…

Tell us about the rabbits, Stitches...
Tell us about the rabbits, Stitches…

The opening titles appear over the extreme close up of red and white colours, but as the camera pulls back, we find we are looking at a painted egg in a glass jar, observed by a woman being screwed from behind by a fully-made up clown, Richard Grindle, aka “Stitches” (Ross Noble), who explains that “they” made him do it when he became a clown. Before he can explain further, or for that matter finish his business, he pulls out – literally – as he remembers “I’ve gotta do some little bastard’s party.”

The little bastard is 10-year-old Tommy, who seems like the type of clean-cut kid who would tell you off for swearing. His friends, however, prove to be walking, talking advertisements for birth control, being profane, disrespectful and disruptive little shits. They respond to Stitches’ crap attempts at party tricks and balloon animals by tying his clown shoes together and hitting him with a ball. Stitches falls back onto a dishwasher tray full of sharp utensils… ouch. Tommy is drenched in copious amounts of blood as he witnesses the death of the clown, and one can expect lots of expensive therapy later.

One clown = scary. Many clowns =  crap your pants time!
One clown = scary. Many clowns = crap your pants time!

Stitches is buried in full clown gear in a cemetery near Tommy’s home (wow, bet that pushes the real estate values up)  and the night after the funeral, a guilt-ridden Tommy rides out to leave a squirting flower, one of Stitches’ props, onto his grave. But once there he finds a gaggle of clowns (or is the collective noun for clowns a giggle?) there, performing some sort of ritual involving the egg. They catch Tommy, and warn him that a clown who doesn’t finish a party can never rest… and the joke is never as funny the second time around…

Six years later, the teenage Tommy (Tommy Knight, DOCTOR WHO) is a tense little scarecrow, on medication, and haunted by visions of red noses, huge shows, and his biology teacher becoming a clown who rips his friend’s genitals off and sends them flying through the air on a balloon…

He's not giving this guy noogies...
He’s not giving this guy noogies…

STITCHES is billed as a horror-comedy, though the comedy here stems more from the creative deaths Stitches inflicts on his victims: pulling rabbits out of people via their mouths, scooping out brains with ice cream scoops, balloon animals made from intestines, death by umbrella (don’t ask), balloon pumps… the kills are predictable, but explicit, and done with pace and panache – and gallons and gallons of blood. In a nice if silly touch reminiscent of something they’d do in KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE, Stitches sends his red rubber nose off to sniff around the house for his next victims!

Stitches' cure for masturbation...
Stitches’ cure for masturbation…

The rest of the humour falls flat. Ross Noble makes for an effective psychotic killer, which is surprising if you’ve only ever known him for his stand-up routines (the American equivalent might be if Patton Oswalt remade AMERICAN PSYCHO), but the other attempts at jokes fail, and such is Noble’s success in the role in comparison is such that I wished the director had gone even darker and more serious than he did with the movie. There are moments when McMahon shows he could have done something really intense with this, such as the Stitches resurrection scene, and I liked the hints at clown mythology. Another criticism is that I missed much of the dialogue because of the heavy Irish accents – and I lived in the Emerald Isle for over ten years!

But really, you’re gonna watch STITCHES for the kill scenes, and gruesome tastelessness, and there is certainly that in abundance here. Clowns are all evil, so it’s always good to have more evidence to it. The DVD has already been released in the UK, and will be available in America from 2 April. Watch the trailer below and judge for yourself.

Deggsy’s Summary:
Director: Conor McMahon
Plot: 2 out of 5 stars
Gore: 9 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 1 out of 5 brains (if you count a dead clown. I do)
Reviewed by Derek “Deggsy” O’Brien. The D is silent. Unlike your girlfriend when I was with her last night (SNAP!)

New BBC Zombie Drama: In the Flesh

In the Flesh1What would happen if the dead did come back to life and attacked the living? What if a “cure” could be found? How would the un-undead readjust to their former lives? How would they deal with their actions? How would their families and friends accept them? Their neighbours?

These questions are addressed in a new BBC Three drama, IN THE FLESH. Writer/creator Dominic Mitchell was discovered by Drama North through Northern Voices, a BBC Writers Room scheme. Dominic was one of four writers who was selected and received training and script development – his intriguing script took a novel angle on the zombie genre and as a result was developed, commissioned and produced by BBC Drama North.

Here’s bbc.co.uk’s synopsis of the three-part drama:

“After his death four years ago, his friends and family thought they’d never see Kieren (Luke Newberry) again. But then, shortly after his funeral, thousands of the dead were re-animated; and now, after months of re-habilitation and medication, the zombies are gradually being returned to their homes.

In the Flesh3Now known as PDS sufferers (Partially Deceased Syndrome) – and since the passing of the PDS Protection act – the government have set an agenda of acceptance and tolerance, one that is at odds with the communities abandoned at the time of the rising, and the bloody battle between zombies and humans that ensued.

A cauldron of brutal anti-zombie sentiment and the source of the ‘rotter’ hating Human Volunteer Force (HVF), Kieren returns to his home in the rural village of Roarton. Here he is forced to confront his family, the community that rejected him and the flashbacks that continue to haunt him of what he did in his untreated state.

Kieren’s parents, Steve (Steve Cooper) and Sue (Marie Critchley), are undoubtedly pleased to see him, but his sister, Jem (Harriet Cains), isn’t so ready to pick up where they left off.

Meanwhile, the HVF, led by violent Bill Macy (Steve Evets) and backed by local churchman Vicar Oddie (Kenneth Cranham), are ready to take action against any PDS Sufferer reintegrated on their patch.”

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IN THE FLESH will start on BBC3 on Sunday, March 17 at 10pm, and I expect it will reach BBC America before long. Watch the trailer and see it it’ll be worth watching:

Stay Bloody!!!

Article written by Derek “Deggsy” O’Brien

The Undead Teds

Some more of Phillip's remarkable work...Are you a horror fan (and if not, why are you here?) and you want that extra special gift for that extra special person, but you’re of the opinion that the Hallmark people can go kiss the fattest part of your ass before you dish out any money for a stupid card? Well then the Undead Teds might be just what you’re looking for!

The Undead Teds are the creation of artist Phillip Blackman. 45-year-old Phillip, from Suffolk, England, had long been a fan of film director George A Romero, creator of some zombie movies you might have heard about, and he combined this love with training in theatrical and special effects make-up, and a moment of inspiration, to make teddy bears – with a difference. When I first heard about them, I went to www.undeadteds.com and contacted Phillip for a quick interview.

Phillip with one of his cute creations. Aww...
Phillip with one of his cute creations. Aww…

“About three years ago, I hit on the idea of making zombie teddy-bears,” Phillip told me in an interview. “The inspiration came from a rather obscure in-joke between my partner and I. She had a terrible cold at the time and we’d been talking about a gift for a friend’s baby. With a very stuffy nose “teddy-bear” kept coming out as “deady-bear” and we joked about zombie teddies that creep from under your bed at night to feast on your brains while you sleep. Being an artist and illustrator (See www.biro-art.com) I couldn’t just leave it at that so after a few false starts and I produced my first Undead Ted.”

Awww, he got a boo boo...
Awww, he got a boo boo…

Phillip initially tried sewing bones and organs out of felt, but felt his sewing skills weren’t up to it. So to properly transform the kids’ toys into Undead Teds, Phillip sculpts the bones, teeth and other organs by hand, from polymer clay or latex, then opens the bear’s carcass, takes out some of the stuffing and fixes the gory details in place with glue. Finally, he paints on the blood and adds a layer of varnish for a wet effect. Some designs, including the Valentine Undead Ted, have a strong wire frame retrofitted to ensure they keep their pose and don’t fall over.

“I’m getting faster now,” Phillip assured me, “But each Undead Ted still represents something upwards of six hour’s work. They used to take me days to make!” He prices them individually depending on size, complexity, materials used and time taken.

A Don't Care Anymore Bear
A Don’t Care Anymore Bear

And the Undead Teds, with their mix of the cute and cuddly and the gory and gruesome, were an immediate hit. “People’s reaction from the start has been variations along the lines of ‘That’s Horrible! I want one!’ The demand has been phenomenal and took me entirely by surprise. I simply cannot make them fast enough. As soon as I list a batch of six to eight in my store they sell out in under a minute. People set alarm clocks and take time off work so they can get online at the right time to try and snag one. I’m humbled by people’s enthusiasm for my work and hugely thankful to them.”

Phillip’s typical customer is in the late twenties the early thirties range, according to his Facebook stats. “People don’t buy them for their kids of course, they’re not toys after all, but they do buy them for their partners and significant others. The majority are either bought by women or bought by men as gifts for women, a fact I was quite surprised to discover!”

Don't worry, he's 'armless enough...
Don’t worry, he’s ‘armless enough…

And they definitely aren’t for little children, though not so much because of how they look as because they contain small toxic parts and aren’t suitable for rough handling (if they get a little dirty, a gentle pat with a wet cloth will suffice rather than a trip in the washing machine).

“I can and do ship to pretty much anywhere,” Philip assured me. “A large percentage of Undead Teds have gone to the States and Canada and a few as far afield as Australia.” He has also had customers send him teddy bears to be customised, though this arrangement isn’t viable for overseas jobs in case the Customs people have some unreasonable

Though he’d love to set up his own shop it’s not possible with him doing the work himself. Until then Undead Teds are available through his Etsy store (http://www.etsy.com/shop/undeadteds) and occasionally through Ebay, and though demand remains high people who follow him in various Social Media platforms are alerted when new Undead Teds are available.

My amazement for the level of detail and craftsmanship Phillip puts into his work remains high, and I wish him continued success in the work! I’d get one myself now, but I’m afraid my cat might get jealous… or eaten…

MISSING: One bear. And the child who owned it.
MISSING: One bear. And the child who owned it. And some campers nearby.

Written by Derek “Deggsy” O’Brien

Warm Bodies (2013)

Warm_Bodies_Theatrical_PosterTWILIGHT. The books. The movies. The lunchboxes. The phenomenon. Like the bubonic plague, Stalin and Rob Schneider, they have a lot to answer for, and none of it is pretty. I remain gobsmacked that a dimwit like Stephanie Meyer, whose writing style suggests the squirrel working the controls in her head is a meth addict, could take her execrably bad tryst between an undead paedophile and his dullard underage receptacle, could influence so many. While there are undoubtedly some decent paranormal romances out there, TWILIGHT is like a drunken tattoo on an unignorable part of your body that constantly reminds you that maybe monsters should inspire fear, not desire.

When I first heard about the movie adaptation of Isaac Marion’s 2010 “zombie romance” Warm Bodies, I forced my cheeseburger back down my throat. The notion of human/vampire love was insane enough for me – you can love your dinner, but you can’t love your dinner – but the thought of human/zombie love gave me an attack of the cringes. We’re talking about dead, rotting flesh and a mind dominated by a reptilian urge to consume! I’ve had the dubious pleasure of watching a zombie-based porn movie called DAWNA OF THE DEAD (see my review here) and it was so bad that any children conceived while their parents were watching it will eat their way out of the womb.

Warm Bodies, however, promised a romance between a young girl and a young zombie. I haven’t read the book. But the movie screamed RUN WHILE YOU STILL CAN at me.

Then, days after it was released in UK cinemas, I read word that suggested it might not have been as bad as I first feared. And seeing as I had an afternoon free and the early tickets were cheaper, I went to see for myself, hoping I wasn’t surrounded by tweenies or mistaken for a pervert (at least, the wrong kind of pervert). Was my risk worthwhile?

R. Or a sulky pale teenager. Can't tell which.
A zombie. Or a pale sulky teenager. Can’t tell which.

We open on a post-apocalyptic scene, an airport busy… with the dead. One young dead, in particular, and in an internal monologue we are introduced to R (Nicholas Hoult, who played The Beast in X-MEN: FIRST CLASS). He shuffles about with his fellow revenants, talking about the collapse of human civilisation years ago and how he and his ‘friend’ M (Rob Corddry, HOT TUB TIME MACHINE) spend their days wandering about, looking to have a bite with the few remaining human survivors, and avoiding the ‘Bonies’: skeletal, purely feral creatures who remind me too much of those monstrosities from I AM LEGEND (including their computer-generated appearance). At night, R (so-called because his sparse memory could only recall the first letter of his name) spends his time in his ‘home’, an abandoned passenger jet where he has collected LP albums and knick-knacks.

Meanwhile, in a survivor’s fortress which reminded me of the human settlement in LAND OF THE DEAD, ruled by Colonel Grigio (John Malkovich, RED), a group of teenagers including Grigio’s daughter Julie (Teresa Palmer, THE GRUDGE 2) and her boyfriend Perry (Dave Franco, FRIGHT NIGHT) are sent on a mission to collect medicines, just as R and M and several other zombies converge, drawn by the scent of warm bodies. In the subsequent melee, Perry is killed, and R begins munching on his brains.

Kate Moss has put on weight...
Kate Moss has put on weight…

But when final survivor Julie is threatened by the others, R comes to her aid, leading her back to his plane, where his humanity, speech and intelligence appears to be returning. It seems that in eating Perry’s brains, R also obtains his memories of love and devotion to Julie – and is the closest thing he has to dreaming now – and gradually Julie learns to trust and even like him (though R hides the fact that he ate her boyfriend’s brains, which is probably a wise move), though she reluctantly returns to her father and the settlement. But the course of true undead love never did run smooth, and as R seeks out Julie, and other zombies begin regaining their humanity, the Bonies begin to see new sources of food among them…

Okay, and I can’t believe I’m gonna write this, but WARM BODIES… isn’t as shit as it could have been. Hang on while I check to see if my meds have been switched.

R and Julie. In deep...
R and Julie. In deep…

Nope. It wasn’t the worst movie I have seen. The look of the post-zombie apocalypse world by director Jonathan Levine (ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE) is detailed and convincing, as is the zombie makeup (though the zombie behaviour is inconsistent, with most doing the Romero Shuffle, others running, they at least try something new). The acting is fine enough, with Malkovich a solid actor able to easily sell the character, and the rest acquitting themselves with varying success. The movie deliberately alludes to Romeo and Juliet, down to the idea of young lovers between feuding ‘families’, the similar names among the characters, and there’s even a balcony scene! Zombie movies are traditionally examined for metaphors; here, it could simply be that love brings us to life.

There’s thankfully no actual sex (necrophilia won’t get you the coveted teen demographic), just an innocent kiss (though in one scene where they’re hiding out in a house and Julie undresses chastely to her underwear, her back to the camera, before going to bed while R sleeps on the floor, the impression is given that his blood is still flowing, if you know what I mean, and I bet you do). There are even some bits of dialogue and scenes which made me smile and chuckle, like when he has to teach her to act dead to get past his fellow zombies (“More groans… No, too much…”). There’s also some good chemistry between R and his buddy M, as M helps R find Julie again, and helps him avoid her zombie-hating father.

"Bros before living hoes, dude!"
“Bros before living hoes, dude!”

But at the same time, WARM BODIES bugged me on several levels. I hated the constant inner monologue from R, pure unnecessary exposition designed for an audience even more brain dead than the revenants on the screen. More could have been done with less dialogue, even no dialogue – ever see WALL-E? The first 45 minutes of it had no human speech, but still got its points across quite well.

Then there’s the lack of gore. The UK certificate is 12A, the US certificate PG-13. You’ll see more explicitness on THE WALKING DEAD. Hell, you’ll probably see more on SCOOBY DOO. There’s a nice shot at the start of a Boney peeling some skin off its face, but otherwise the blood and guts are minimal.

Which is fine, because it feels like these are zombies in name only. I want to applaud the author (and film maker) for trying something different, but really – zombies, whether they mumble like Bub or jabber like the ones in RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD, are still brain-damaged, feral, flesh-eating ghouls made of rotting (and presumably stinking) flesh. As the zombies in WARM BODIES return to ‘life’, we get quick flashes of their hearts beginning to beat again. Which is cute if you’re watching it happen to Bugs Bunny after he catches sight of a good-looking rabbit, but not in a zombie movie.

Hhmmm ... I think I'm actually insulted with this still!!
Hhmmm … I think I’m actually insulted with this still!!

It’s obviously marketed for the pre-teen market, and scares are not really factored into it. That’s not to say there isn’t room for a movie like this. In a way it reminded me of the time I watched SCOTT PILGRIM VERSUS THE WORLD. Everyone told me it would be great, but I was bored crapless by the repetitious fights and the central ‘crisis’ of a young douchebag having to choose between two hotties. My teenage daughter dug it, though, and that told me that it wasn’t made for me. I had become old. My life clock had started flashing red, and I was ready for Carousel. And if you get those references, congratulations, you’ll probably join me on it.

The trailer follows below:

Deggsy’s Summary:
Director: Jonathan Levine
Plot: 3 out of 5 stars
Gore: 2 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 3 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Derek “Deggsy” O’Brien. The D is silent. Like my farts.

Would You Rather (2012)

WouldYouRather_ONESHEET_FM2%5b1%5dNow, here was a pleasant little surprise, not only a movie that I hadn’t heard of before I saw it in the Newly to VOD list, but one which exceeded my initial expectations after reading about it. I don’t say it facetiously when I say that in this business, after one has seen scores of movies, one can get jaded – often all it takes is reading the synopsis, and already you’re forming opinions about the cast, production, storyline, etc. So thank you, Gods and Goddesses of Luck, now can you do something about those lottery numbers I keep asking for, please? Thanks.

It’s no lie to say that Life deals us with some shitty hands. It does to all of us, some more than others, though we’re usually unable to appreciate the level of shitness we’re in compared to others. Take Iris (Brittany Snow, PITCH PERFECT, HARRY’S LAW) for instance. Stuck in a small town, left with debt following the deaths of her parents, having to quit school and take care of her seriously-ill brother Raleigh (Logan Miller, GHOSTS OF GIRLFRIENDS PAST) and unable to find work, to say she’s desperate is like saying Kim Kardashian is a bit of an attention whore. So when Raleigh’s physician Dr Barden (Lawrence Gilliard Jr, THE MACHINIST) introduces her to millionaire Shepard Lambrick (genre favourite Jeffrey Combs), who offers to help Iris’ brother with finding a bone marrow donor, as well as the other financial problems, she gladly, gratefully accepts – not even questioning his invitation to his mansion to participate in a dinner and an unusual game. After she leaves, Lambrick and Dr Barden engage in an ominous conversation about how ‘suitable’ she is for the proceedings, Lambrick swaying the reluctant-seeming Barden to continue to collude.

On the night of the dinner and game, Lily is picked up and driven out to the isolated estate, where she finds she’s not alone: there’s ten of them, including recovering alcoholic Conway (John Heard, Macauley Culkin’s dad in the HOME ALONE movies, but I won’t hold it against him), wheelchair-bound Linda (June Squibb, GHOST WHISPERER), haunted Iraqi war vet Travis (Charlie Hofheimer, BLACK HAWK DOWN) and professional bitch Amy (ex-porn star Sasha Grey, which explains the resume which includes BUTT SEX BONANZA and SEINFELD: A XXX PARODY, which sounds like a lot more happens in that than in the TV show it parodies). Lambrick joins them for dinner, as does his smarmy decadent son Julian (Robin Taylor, ANOTHER EARTH), and through the course of the evening, Lambrick gives them a taste of things to come: he offers a stack of money to vegetarian Iris to eat some steak and foie gras, and then a bigger stack of money to Conway to break his abstinence and drink whiskey. Both eventually comply, to Lambrick’s cynical amusement.

Jeffrey is a bad boy even without Reanimator fluid!
Jeffrey is a bad boy even without Reanimator fluid!

Then, once the dinner plates have been cleared and the guests are given a final chance to leave, Lambrick has the doors locked as he fully explains that in order for the guests to have a chance to get the money they all so desperately need for various reasons, he intends them to play a game of Would You Rather with each other. But instead of the puerile choices we might have faced when we played this as children (“Would you rather kiss a girl, or eat a worm?”), the choices given to Lambrick’s guests are decidedly more deadly. And participation now becomes very, very mandatory, as Conway finds when he’s shot dead by Lambrick’s chief butler Bevans (Jonny Coyne, who played the Warden in TV’s short-lived series ALCATRAZ).

Now Lambrick gleefully enjoys watching the “guests” sitting around the dinner table, wired up to electroshock devices or given icepicks or whipping sticks and given excruciating choices to make, all under a very short timeframe governed by Lambrick’s old-fashioned timer. Most are like Lily, shocked and horrified as they’re pushed into ever-increasingly horrific choices, though others, like Amy, immediately seize the opportunity and play the game all too well. Who will survive, and what will become of them, as some old horror movie tagline went?

Who farted?
Who farted?

Reading the synopsis, you might be mistaken for thinking that WOULD YOU RATHER is some cheap SAW torture porn knock-off. In fact I think fans of those movies might be disappointed by this. Director David Guy Levy and screenwriter Steffen Schachtenhaufen give us a subdued, almost civilised version of those movies, reminding me of something Hitchcock might have tried back in the Fifties or Sixties if he was adapting something particularly twisted from the library of Agatha Christie (it did remind of me some drawing-room murder mystery), and though the level of actual gore we get is small, the emotional brutality and creepy atmosphere throughout compensates, at least for me. It’s a low-budget movie, most of it taking place around Lambrick’s dinner table, and we only get glimpses of what drives those besides Lily to being where they are now (though even the mercenary and seemingly unsympathetic Amy gets some redeeming backstory). The cast, a mix of movie and TV personalities, work quite well, and their characters are given chances to reveal, some nobly taking punishments rather than inflicting them on the rest, others more selfish and even cruel, wanting to survive and win at all costs.

Ah that Jeffrey Combs ... always the gracious host!!
Ah that Jeffrey Combs … always the gracious host!!

Jeffrey Combs excels as the baddie (which is pleasing to me, given the last thing I saw him in what the supremely shit NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD 3D: RE-ANIMATION, a movie so bad that children born on the day it was released have a 60% greater chance of becoming serial killers), making a role which could have gone over the top believable. Likewise, Brittany Snow gives a believable performance, effectively going from desperation to shock to terror as the threat escalates and the numbers around her dwindle. I didn’t think she had it in her, and I don’t mean that as an insult; some performers are quite good in the lightweight roles they’re given, and not every actor has to be proficient at sturm und drang.

It’s not perfect by any means. Apart from the general lack of gore, and the way that some of the characters so quickly and easily died from the injuries inflicted on them, horrible as many of them were (almost as if we wanted to keep things moving, hmmm…) I kept wondering why none of them questioned how Lambrick could let the theoretical winner leave alive at the end of the night knowing what they had gone through (but then admittedly they didn’t have much time to ponder such notions, and even less choice to do anything about it if they did). And it seemed incredulous to me while watching that none of them had asked for more details about the nature of the game they would be participated in.

But perhaps that was the point, that people are often driven to desperate measures to find quick, easy fixes in life, whether it’s gambling or God, crime or loan sharks, and we become blind to the possible consequences.

WOULD YOU RATHER ends up an intense, disturbing movie. It’s not big and flashy and probably will never get the attention it deserves. The trailer follows. Have a look, you could do worse than watch it:

Deggsy’s Summary:
Director: David Guy Levy
Plot: 4 out of 5 stars
Gore: 2 out of 10 skulls
Zombie Mayhem: 0 out of 5 brains
Reviewed by Derek “Deggsy” O’Brien. The D is silent.