Mark of the Devil -review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: When a teacher takes an ancient manuscript home to study over the weekend, her daughters get interested in it and unleash an ancient spirit that ends up possessing one of them.

Is it any good?: No. It is terrible. Mercifully it is short. Nonetheless, it is terrible. It starts promisingly but quickly descends into farce and nonsense. With an incomprehensible story and no central premise, Mark of the Devil or La Marca del Demonio, to give it its original Mexican title, is utter garbage.

Spoiler territory: A priest is performing an exorcism on a young boy. The boy dies during the exorcism. The family do not want to bury the body so the priest takes the boy and throws it down a hill off of the road whilst driving away. The book he used for the exorcism is left under the bed.

Thirty years later, a high school teacher, Cecilia de la Cueva (Lumi Cavazos), is told about the book. She decides to take it home so as she can take a look at it over the weekend. One of her daughters, Camila (Arantza Ruiz), wants to go out with her boyfriend, Diego (Oliver Nava). Cecilla tells that the family are all having dinner together and that she can meet him afterwards.

Camila asks if she can invite Diego. Her mother tells her that is okay. Returning home from work, Cecilla asks her husband, Luis Miranda (Omar Fierra), if dinner is ready. He says it is. Cecilia goes to put away the book and bumps into their other daughter, Fernanda (Nicolasa Ortíz Monasterio). Fernanda is curious about the book but Cecilla tells her to leave it alone.

Fernanda finds the book and interrupts her amorous sister and Diego, to tell her about the book her mother brought home. Diego suggests they read the book. He looks at the book but says he cannot read it because it is in Latin. Camila takes the book from him and starts reading. The window shutters fly open, freaking the three young adults out. They leave the book.

A family are waiting for an exorcist. A man dressed in black, Karl (Eivaut Rischen), turns up at the house. The woman who meets him greets him as a priest. He tells her he is not a priest. He asks where the woman is. He is there for the mother of the household. He goes into the room the old woman is in and exorcises the demon in her. The family pay him.

Karl buys heroin with the money and takes it to the priest who raised him, Tomas (Eduardo Noriega). Tomas is the town priest and a heroin addict. Camila, Fernanda and Diego go out clubbing. Camila, even though she is only drinking water, feels ill so Fernanda takes her to the bathroom. A girl in the queue argues with Fernanda. Camila suddenly springs to life and slams the girl against the wall.

Back home, Camila sleeps right through Sunday. Her father wakes her on Monday. Camila is utterly confused. She goes to the bathroom and a pendant she is wearing is fused to her body. She bleeds as she peels it off and then begins to gag, her eyes going totally black. She staggers out of the bathroom and collapses.

Her parents take her to the doctor (Enrique Singer). The doctor tells them it is stress and she needs to rest. Fernanda feels there is something very wrong with her sister. She thinks it might be something to do with the old book. Karl is somehow connected to the book and shows signs of demonic possession.

He remembers going to the church as a young boy. He was the boy that had been flung off the roadside, thought dead by the priest. As a young boy (Diego Escalona Zaragoza), he had killed the priest. Tomas had found him in the church, with the old priest who had initially exorcised Karl, nailed to a crucifix and the lower half of his body missing.

An increasingly worried Fernanda searches for an exorcist online. She goes to see Tomas the next day. He does not take her seriously until she tells him about the book. Tomas goes with Fernanda to see Camila. Tomas talks to Camila and the demon comes out in front of him, Diego and Fernanda. Before anything else can happen, Luis and Cecilla return home. The demon retreats into Camila.

The awaking of the demon impacts on Karl. His demon seems to be fighting to get out as well. Tomas tries to explain the dangers of the book to Cecilla. She thinks he is silly as she is a woman of science and does not believe in demons. Tomas tells Karl about the book. He took a picture of it and shows him. Karl remembers the book from his own exorcism. He wants to know where the book is but Tomas wants heroin. Karl attacks Tomas and chokes him unconscious.

Camila is taken for more test by her parents. There is nothing that can be found wrong with her and the doctor repeats that he feels it must be stress. Fernanda wants to go back to the priest. Tomas searches desperately for a fix. Fernanda reads from a book, Necronomicon – book of the dead, and the reading affects Camila.

Tomas finds Karl in the street. He takes him to Camila. Karl and Camila face one another and the demons come out. They begin to fight. Their parents return home. Tomas and Fernanda try to stop them from going into the house but they ignore them and rush in. Karl tries to warn them. Fernanda takes Camila to her bedroom and lies down next to her. Tomas tries to explain to the parents that Camila is possessed by an ancient demon. Camila wakes up and attacks Karl. Cecilia tries to stop her daughter and gets flung across the room and killed. The demon retreats again. Fernanda emerges and bashes her father’s head into a door killing him. She is also possessed.

She grabs Tomas and throws him into Karl. Diego turns up to visit and is killed. Karl is back on his feet and tackles the possessed Fernanda and Camila. Tomas knocks Camila off of him and runs. Fernanda goes after him. Karl slams Camila into a wall and absorbs the demon out of her into himself. He comes after Fernanda and does the same. He tells Tomas to kill him. Tomas shoots him in the head.

The girls leave the town. Tomas cleans up Karl, wraps him in a sheet and leaves him in a cave. Karl returns a day later. Tomas had been waiting for him. The end.

Mark of the Devil is awful. It is entirely down to the story and a little bit of overacting from Rischen as Karl. Mostly it is the awful, incoherent story. As I always freely admit, I do not expect high concept from a horror film. Basic competency would be nice though. The film opens with some nice visuals and has the bluish, cold tinge that is perfect for horror of this sort. The actors are mostly competent and engaging enough.

It is just the damn story. It is literally explained in a couple of lines of exposition ten minutes from the end and still makes no sense and does not explain the preceding seventy minutes. Why Noriega’s priest was a heroin addict is anybody’s guess as it did not add to the story at all and served no purpose other than to allow the actor to audition for drug addict roles in other shows.

The music, though a little overwhelming, is good for the premise and the cast looks very natural, with Ruiz and Monasterio working really well as the sisters. It is just the story that totally wrecks this film. Written by Ruben Escalante Mendez, the film has no natural build-up, with symbolism and artefacts thrown in desperately to inject some sense into proceedings.

Directed by Diego Cohen, the film does have some good editorial flourishes. Unfortunately, the actors are left to flounder, at times seeming to be in different films. At eighty-two minutes long, Mark of the Devil is not a long film but it does feel long. Its is not the worse film or horror I have seen on Netflix but it does promise far less than it delivers. Scoring a paltry three point four on IMDB, Mark of the Devil is not going to be on anybody’s favourite horror films list. Avoid.

Polaroid – review

Brief synopsis: When Tyler (Davi Santos) finds an old Polaroid Instamatic camera whilst clearing a house for the antique store at, he gives it to Bird (Kathryn Prescott) who also works at the same store and is an avid photographer. A shy loner, Bird is persuaded to go a party by her friend Kasey (Samantha Logan), because one of the high school boys who Bird fancies, Connor (Tyler Young) will be there.

Bird takes the old camera along to the party and takes photos with it. Shortly after the party, students start dying.

Is it any good?: Afforded a measly five-point one on IMDB, Polaroid is actually better than the opening of the film promises. It starts off with a pretty pointless scene that has very little bearing on the rest of the film but once that is out of the way, the film builds nicely to a satisfying conclusion and, thankfully, leaves no room for an unnecessary sequel. Better the usual fare on Netflix and worth a look.

Spoiler territory: Sarah (Madeline Petsch) is with a friend, Linda (Erika Prevost) looking through her late mother’s belongings. She finds an old Polaroid camera. Linda receives a ‘like’ on a picture she has posted to social media from ‘Craig’. She is mildly apologetic towards Sarah but also points out that she might have received the same response if she was more relaxed and took pictures.

Sarah tells her she wants to send him a picture but wants it to be more personal. She has Linda take a photo of her with the Polaroid camera. As they wait for the photo to develop, Linda receives a text and says she has to go.

Alone in the house, Sarah hears noises. The camera starts buzzing and humming. She searches around the house and hears breathing. A frightened Sarah keeps looking around. She gets grabbed by an unseen entity and is killed.

Sometime later, it is high-school photo day at Locust Harbour high school. A less than enthused Bird has her photo taken for the yearbook. The photographer asks if she wants to remove her scarf, Bird declines. The other students call her scarf girl. Bird leaves the school and spots Connor talking to friends as she goes to get on her bike. She takes out a digital camera to take a photo of him but gets nervous and decides not to when he looks her way.

She heads to the local antique store where she works part-time. Tyler, who also works there, brings in a box of items from a house clearance he has done. He tells Bird that he has something for her. He shows her the Polaroid camera. An excited Bird starts to mess about with the camera and takes a picture of Tyler. He tries to kiss her but Bird does not feel the same way and rejects his advances.

Bird heads home. At home, her mother (Shauna MacDonald) is getting ready to go to work. She leaves her daughter and Bird goes back to meeting about with the camera. Bird talks to her dog as she plays with the camera, wanting to take a picture of the mutt but the dog is wary of the camera and backs away.

Before Bird can take a picture, she is interrupted by Kasey. Kasey and Bird discuss their college decisions, with Bird determined to follow her late father’s footsteps into journalism and Kasey going away to college to get away from her family narrow-minded view on her sexual preferences.

Kasey persuades a somewhat reluctant Bird to attend Avery’s (Katie Stevens) end of year costume party. She tells her Connor will be there. Bird agrees to go. Later, Kasey and Bird join the playfully bickering couple, Mina (Priscilla Quintana) and Devin (Keenan Tracey) and head to the party.

In the antique store, Tyler is looking at an old slide projector. As he goes through the pictures he sees a strange, humanoid shadow. It disappears when he checks back but then reappears as he looks again. A weary Tyler picks up a hammer, certain that there is someone behind the projector screen.

There is nothing there. He checks the projector again. Hearing a noise behind him, he turns to see the entity (Javier Botet). Tyler screams. At the party, Kasey implores Bird not to be her normal loner self and to mix with people. Bird reverts to type and stands alone watching the party happen around her.

Connor approaches Bird at the party. As they are chatting, he asks her about the camera, noticing it in her bag. Mina and Devin come up as they are chatting. They want to take a photo together but Bird does not want to be in the photo and says she will take the photo with her Polaroid. As she is about to take the photo, Kasey jumps into the photo.

Avery comes up just after the photo op and notes that she had not been invited to the photo opportunity. She takes a picture of herself with the Polaroid. As the picture is developing, there is a knock at the door. The police have come. They are looking for Bird. She goes down to the police station and meets sheriff Pembroke (Mitch Pileggi). He tells her that Tyler is dead.

Back home, a mourning Bird looks at the photographs taken by the Polaroid camera. She sees a worrying shadow, the entity, in the photo of Avery. Avery, home alone, hears noises around her house. Avery gets killed by the entity.

The next morning, Bird gets a call from Kasey telling her that Avery is dead. Bird goes back to the photographs. The entity is no longer in the photo of Avery. It has moved into the group photo. She tries to break the camera but it repels her. Bird is sure that the camera is the cause.

She sees Devin, Mina and Kasey and goes to explain her theory to them, showing them the group photo with the entity in it. Connor comes over to the table as she is talking to them. She tells them she saw the shadow in Tyler’s photo and then in Avery’s. Mina is sceptical. Devin too shows scepticism. Bird is convinced that they are in danger.

Devin says if she is that worried they should get rid of the photo. He sets the picture on fire. As the photo burns, the fire gets to Mina’s arm in the photo first. In the canteen, Mina’s arm catches fire. As Devin tries to put out the fire on his girlfriend, Bird realises that she has to put out the fire on the photograph.

They take Mina to hospital. Bird and Connor go to the antique store. Bird wants to find the case that the camera was in. Whilst in the store retrieving the case, she is chased by the entity but it is deterred when it comes into contact with a heat source. Meanwhile, Connor, who had been waiting outside the store, notices that Bird is actually in the photograph as well, having been caught a reflection.

At the hospital, a recovering Mina is told by Devin that her parents are travelling back to see her. He leaves her to go and get a nurse. Mina gets killed by the entity. Devin blames Bird. A guilty Bird leaves the group and goes off crying. Connor finds Bird. She tells him that she feels responsible for her father’s death because he had an accident when she didn’t want to go on a trip with him.

Connor and Bird investigate the camera’s origins. They find out that it belonged to a notorious child murderer, Roland Joseph Sable (Rhys Bevan John). He killed three high school children all of who went to Locust Harbour. They go and see Devin and Kasey and tell them about their findings. A still-grieving Devin gets into an altercation with Connor when he accidentally takes a photo of him with the camera.

Devin gets arrested for assault when he hits a policeman trying to calm the situation down, at the sheriff’s office, Bird and Connor try to explain the situation to Pembroke. They tell him about the camera’s history and the old Sable murders. Pembroke shuts them down, warning them not to pursue the matter. Devin remains locked up in a cell.

Connor and Bird find out that Sable’s wife, Lena (Grace Zabriskie), is still living in the town and go and see her. She tells them that he only killed the children because they had bullied his, their, daughter, Rebecca (Emily Power), and that had made her commit suicide. He has wanted to make the children suffer how his daughter had.

Devin gets killed in the sheriff’s office. Conner and Bird keep investigating. Sable’s widow had said there were four children but only three had been killed. They go back to their high school and look through high school yearbooks from the time and find out that Pembroke was the four children he was after. Kasey comes to the school to meet them. Pembroke finds them all at the school.

Bird threatens to take a picture of him, saying it is the only way to end the killings. She does not go through with it. Connor grabs the camera and takes a photo as Pembroke slaps the camera out of his hands. He tells them that it was actually Sable who tormented his daughter, taking inappropriate photos of her. They found out and he wanted them dead so as they would not expose him.

The photo of Pembroke develops. The entity appears, picking up the photo. Pembroke shoots at him but the entity tears the photo in half ripping Pembroke apart and killing him. The tree teens run. Connor gets separated from the girls and the entity goes after them. Kasey gets stabbed through the leg by the entity but manages to escape. Bird takes them both to the showers and puts them on full heat.

Connor finds them. Bird realises she needs to get to the camera. She and Connor go for the camera. Connor gets grabbed by the entity as they get to the camera. Bird takes a picture of herself to force the entity to come after her. The entity grabs her. She takes a picture of the entity and tries crushing it. It seems to work but as soon as she opens the photo, the entity uncurls, stalking her once more. She sets the photo on fire, killing the entity.

They take Kasey to the hospital. Bird throws the camera into the river. The end.

Polaroid is not a bad horror film at all. It takes a little while to get going and the opening scene, featuring perhaps the most recognisable face in the film in Riverdales’ Petsch, is utterly pointless. Prescott is great as the ridiculously monikered, shy loner, Bird and is brilliantly contrasted by Logan’s Kasey.

The idea of voodoo-like photos is a good one and, though not used in the extreme, works really well for the story. Once Bird makes the connection between the photographs and her friends’ deaths, the film gathers pace and finds some urgency.

With a competent screenplay by Blair Butler and ably helmed by Lars Klevberg, the only real complaint from a horror perspective is that the film does not commit to the horror, visually, enough. There is very little blood in Polaroid and the lighting for the film is so dark that one can barely see what is going on.

At eighty-eight minutes long, Polaroid is around the standard length of an inexpensive, teen, horror and, with a 15 rating here in the UK, goes for jump scares over gore. A better film than its IMDB score would have one think, Polaroid is worth a watch if you like a horror film.

Deadcon – review (Netflix)

It is twenty-twenty and a new decade. My reviewing output has slowed of late due to a few factors – working a lot more. Christmas. Not visiting the cinema that much and, considering I generally review Netflix output, a paucity of anything that I found remotely interesting over the festive period on the streaming service.
I have watched a few things this year. The entire second season of Titans dropped and I blasted through that in a few days. Excellent. Also, the riveting Don’t F*** With Cats, a compelling three-part documentary about ordinary people tracking a psychopath after he films himself killing a cat. Though I occasionally review a season of a show, I tend to stick to films.
So, as we pass the halfway point of January, I am attempting to get back into suffering – sorry, watching – films on Netflix. To this end, I found myself watching a film that had garnered a very generous two point eight on IMDB. Deadcon is an abomination. It is seventy-eight minutes of staggering mediocrity.
The story, such as it is, begins with some god-awful scene set in 1984. John Althaus (Aaron Hendry) is holed up in his hotel room, begging his employers not to close down his computer project. He gets short shrift. He has come up with, pre-social media, a program to connect people through messaging, LinkRabbit. When a message from someone called Bobby (Judah Mackey) flashes up on his screen, John replies.
Fast forward to the present and several social media influencers are descending on ViewCon, a social media fan weekend. Ashley (Lauren Elisabeth) is a popular influencer at the event, as is Megan (Claudia Sulewski) and Mark Dohner, who plays himself. I am obviously in the wrong demographic for this film as I have no idea who Mark Dohner is. Think he is a real ‘social media influencer’.
Anyway, after a hotel room mix up, Ashley gets put in into room 2210a by the hotel manager, even as the reception staff tries to protest. The manager shoos him away. The room is refrigerator cold and looks as though it has not been redecorated since the eighties.
In the same hotel, Megan is having a clandestine meeting with another social media star, Dave, (Keith Machekanyanga), who comes to see if she has broken up with her boyfriend, Ricky. She leaves him alone in the room as she has to go to an event. At the event, Ashley is meeting and greeting her fans and taking pictures with them.
When she returns to her room, it is completely wrecked. Ashley confesses to a friend that she is seeing Dave. Ashley’s lights go out in the room. She calls reception to get the bulbs changed. The reception guy does not want to change the lights, refusing to enter the room. He gives her the bulbs. Ashley gets attacked by some invisible force.
Dave goes to see Megan again and ask her if he can film them getting amorous. She says no. He secretly films them anyway. The next day, a weird Ashley joins the convention. Her manager, Kara (Mimi Gianopulos) thinks she has been partying too much. Ashley does not have shoes on.
Megan is surprised by her boyfriend, Ricky (Lukas Gage). She immediately informs Dave that he has turned up. She leaves him in the hotel room and goes to a party. Dave is reviewing his secret filming and sees Bobby on the tape. He tries to contact Megan but her phone is in her bag.
Ricky, who is getting ready for the party, gets killed by a balloon cord. Dave investigates the little boy Bobby and finds out about John Althaus. He was suspected of kidnapping and killing several children back in 1984. He tries to contact Megan but she tells him they will talk tomorrow.
Dave goes to the hotel and tries to show Megan the film but the phone screen breaks. Megan is angry that he filmed them and refuses to leave with him. Megan falls asleep and Dave falls asleep in a chair, not wanting to leave her alone. They are both awakened by a sound. Bobby returns and they both see him. Megan gets snatched by an invisible force. Dave goes after her and is attacked by Ashley. Sometime later, the manager lets Lauren (Jordyn Yarker), another social media star into the suite. The end.
Deadcon is awful and I am being kind. The story is nonsense, it is unoriginal in both execution and premise, the acting is bad, the script is bad, it is all bad. Nothing in the film works with the complete vagueness of the story not helping at all. Bobby, who started as a name on a computer, turning out to be some random little homicidal child was stupid.
The film is seventy-eight minutes long but nobody dies until minute fifty-five and it is the completely pointless Ricky. His death also turns out to be the most gruesome in the film, the cord of a balloon garrotting him. That is as horrific as this ‘horror’ film gets. The rest of the ‘horror’ comprises of dark rooms and shadows and the damned kid appearing randomly.
Deadcon, written by Scotty Landes and directed by Caryn Waechter, is a project that I cannot understand how it got made. There is no way anyone reads the script for this and thinks it is going to work.

Somehow, one hundred thousand dollars was wasted on this tripe. Everything in this film is poor. The script is poor, the directing is poor, the sets are poor, the acting…you get my drift.
Do not watch this film. It is the first film I have watched this year and I already think it has made my top ten worst films of twenty-twenty. You have been warned.

Rattlesnake – review (Netflix)

Brief Synopsis: A single mother, Katrina, takes her young daughter, Clara, to start a new life across America. As she is driving, she gets a puncture and is forced to stop and try and change the tyre. Whilst Katrina struggles to change the tyre, Clara goes playing in the dusty lands. Clara gets bitten by a rattlesnake, her screams causing Katrina to come running. Katrina seeks assistance in a nearby motorhome.

In the motorhome, a strange woman takes Clara and tells Katrina that she needs to change her tyre, they will work out payment later. When Katrina returns her daughter is fine and the woman has disappeared. Katrina takes her to the local hospital where the doctor says she just needs rest. Whilst in the hospital, Katrina is visited by a man who tells her she needs to take a soul or her daughter will be dead by sundown.

Is It Any Good?: Meh. Rattlesnake is a ponderous film, with relentlessly foreboding music and pseudo tension that never goes anywhere. British actress Carmen Ejogo, who plays Katrina, slips in and out of her American accent. An interesting premise is made a painful watch by the pace-free execution of the film.

Spoiler territory: After breaking up with her husband, Katrina Ridgeway (Carmen Ejogo), takes her young daughter, Clara (Apollonia Pratt), and is driving across the country to start a new life. Coming across traffic due to an accident up ahead, she takes a detour driving through Tulia. While out on the back road she gets a puncture and is forced to stop to change it.

Clara goes playing in the desert as her Katrina struggles with the tyre. A rattlesnake bites Clara. Clara’s screaming alerts Katrina to the fact that something has happened. She goes rushing towards her daughter’s screams and finds her on the ground. Katrina scoops her up and looks around for help. She sees a motorhome and runs to it. Going inside, she calls out for help but there does not seem to be anyone around even though there is food cooking on the stove.

A woman appears (Debrianna Mansini) and takes Clara from Katrina. She tells Katrina to go and fix her tyre and that they will discuss payment later. Katrina changes the tyre and returns to the motorhome. The woman has disappeared but Clara, who had been feverish and sweating and had two large puncture marks on her leg, seems fine.

Katrina takes her to the local hospital and doctor Hayes (Sean Dillingham) tells her that she is just a little dehydrated and needs some rest. There is no evidence of a snakebite on Clara’s leg. The doctor takes a look at Katrina and recommends that she also rest. Katrina returns to the room and finds a strange man (Bruce Davis) sitting in the room where Clara is resting.

He tells Katrina that her debt needs to be paid, a soul for a soul. Katrina thinks he is joking. The man tells her the debt is to be paid by sundown and shows Katrina what the consequences will be if the debt is not paid with Clara suddenly becoming feverish, sweaty and the bite marks reappearing on her legs. As the man tells she has until sundown, a bloodstain is seen spreading on his shirt.

Katrina screams for help and the nurses come running to the room. Back in the room, the man has disappeared and Clara is quietly resting. Katrina goes back to the spot where she broke down. As she looks at the old tyre a truck stops by her car. She sees the driver (Rio Alexander) get out and comes towards her. Katrina, thinking that the man is coming to help her, tells him she is okay. He keeps coming.

He takes a tyre iron from his pocket and Katrina realises he is not there to help. He shouts at her that Clara is going to die and she knows what she has to do. Gunshot wounds appear on the man, one in the eye and two in the chest. As Katrina falls to the ground in a panic, she grabs a rock to defend herself. The man begins laughing then he and the truck disappear.

A scared Katrina returns to the motel she is staying at opposite the hospital and researches the truck driver. She sees that he was shot dead. Back in the hospital, Katrina sees a man dying the room near her daughter’s. She befriends the man’s daughter. The daughter is Lorraine (Joy Jacobson) and she sits and talks to her in the canteen.

Katrina says to her that she just wants to sit with her. Lorraine takes her into the room with her father. Lorraine gets a call from her sister and so leaves the room to speak with her. Alone in the room, Katrina tries to get up the courage to suffocate Lorraine’s father. She is interrupted by people returning to the room. It is the family. The man dies shortly afterwards.

She leaves the hospital. As she sits in her car a young boy(Spencer Mabrey) comes up to the passenger side window and taps on it. He indicates that she is running out of time. He then beginnings to bash his head on the window until it is bleeding and then it smashes. Katrina falls out of her car and is nearly killed. When she returns to the car there is no sign of glass or the boy.

Katrina goes to a bar. As she sits drinking, a young woman, Abbie (Emma Greenwell), comes into the bar. She is a bit beat up and Francine (Arianna Ortiz) the bartender, who obviously knows her, asks what lie she is going to attribute her injuries to this time. Katrina looks at her and sees she has been assaulted. Abbie snaps at her a little.

Abbie has barely had a gulp of the beer she ordered when her abusive partner, Billy (Theo Rossi), comes in and tells her that they are leaving. Francine tries to intervene but is quickly shut down by Billy. Abbie does as she is told and gets up to leave. Katrina follows the couple out of the bar. She follows them home so as to get their address.

Katrina goes to buy a gun but because she is not a Texas resident is not allowed to purchase one legally. The gun shop owner gives her a contact that he has for her to get a gun. Katrina goes to see the contact, Earl (William Sterchi), he sells her a gun. He tells he knows that she wants to kill someone. She goes into the desert and has a few practice shots. Moderately confident, she goes to Billy and Abbie’s place.

Katrina kidnaps Billy and takes him to Palo Duro Canyon. When they get there Billy begins to beg for his life. When Katrina hesitates he attacks her, seeing a chance. They wrestle and he runs into the desert, hiding in the rocks. Katrina goes after him but cannot find him. She sees another vision, a young woman (Alexandra Nell), who says to her to pose as she takes a photo. As the sun begins to go down, the woman tells Katrina that she knows what she has to do.

Katrina asks the woman that if she does what they ask will her daughter be safe. The woman agrees and her neck breaks. The sun is going down. Katrina records a video for her daughter as she is planning to kill herself to save her daughter. Billy hits her with a rock. When she wakes up shortly, he is pointing the gun at her. She pulls a knife from her sock and begins to push it into her neck. Billy, surprised by her actions, does not notice the rattlesnake and gets bitten, falling to the ground.

Katrina sees he is still alive. She climbs down to him and slits his throat. The debt is paid. She goes and picks up her daughter and they drive out of Tulia. As they leave the town both mother and daughter see a hitchhiker. It is Billy. The end.

Rattlesnake is a pedestrian horror hokum from the pen of Zak Hilditch, who also directs. It is not a terrible film but, considering the premise and the built-in timeframe, before sundown, the film lacks urgency. Ejogo is believable as a frantic single mother, even if her American accent does falter in places. She emotes as well as one would expect and young Apollonia Pratt as Clara is cute enough without being irritating.

Ejogo’s Katrina conscience is the only thing offered up as an obstacle to her completing the necessary task of killing someone so as her daughter might survive. Hilditch takes the easy way out and gives her/us an easy character in Rossi’s Billy to dislike. Killing him is, in the context of the film and its stakes, wholly acceptable.

Once he had been introduced it was just a matter of whether or not Katrina would have the nerve to kill him. Even killing him is made more palatable by the fact that he is dying—from a rattlesnake bite—before she finishes him off. Before that point, except for her not being a Texan resident, there were no impediments to her killing some random unknown.

She got the gun she was after with no real trouble, only having to deal with a creepy guy. Her victim was selected for her by fate. He just happened to be a spousal abuser which, as we all know, makes him ripe for murdering.

The rest of the film is pretty lazy—foreboding music? Check. Dodgy creepy guy? Check. A tough decision thwarted by fate? Check. Scary stuff that only the protagonist can see? You get my drift. Another cheat Hilditch goes with, though it is more forgivable and works, for the most part, is not having a proper antagonist.

The woman who heals Clara is only seen in that one scene and is then only referenced as silhouettes in various photos as Katrina researches stuff online, hence the antagonist becomes somewhat ethereal, taking various guises as people who had met their demise before, it is intimated, under similar circumstances.

As I said, Rattlesnake is not terrible but it is not good either. At only eighty-five minutes long it feels horribly slow for most of its runtime and at no point is the pace issue overcome. You can watch Rattlesnake if the premise makes you curious but beyond that, you can probably give it a miss.

A.M.I – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: After suffering brain trauma in a car accident that killed her mother, high school student Cassie obsesses over her American football playing boyfriend, Liam. Lonely and missing her mother, she finds a phone with an AI that replicates her mother’s voice. Cassie’s tenuous grasp on reality is tested further as the AI pushes her to homicidal heights.

Is it any good?: Entertainingly awful. A patchy, unnatural sounding script, ropey acting and an obsession with handheld camerawork are a few of the things that are wrong with this film. The premise and sheer ludicrous nature of it, however, is worth a viewing for its comedic value.

Spoiler territory: Roxy (Roxanne Fernandes) is walking home through the woods when she drops her phone. As she searches for it among the autumnal leaves, she sees a red light that seems to be watching her. Her phone beeps, a message flashing up on her screen. She shines her phone’s torch into the darkness, looking to see if anybody is there. She is attacked by an unseen assailant.

It is daytime and Liam (Sam Muik) comes to see Cassie (Debs Howard) who is with a couple of friends, Sarah (Veronica Hampson) and Ruby (Havana Guppy). Cassie asks Liam if she is going to see him later. Liam says he cannot as he has football practice. The next day is ‘leg day,’ he can see her after that? Cassie agrees.

Later, Cassie and Ruby are sitting in the stands watching Liam and the team practice. On the field, the coach, Carl (Michael Matic), ends the practice but tells Liam he is not finished. He is staying back for kicking practice. In the stands, Ruby is talking to her phone. The phone talks back, much to Cassie’s amusement. She tells Cassie about AMI, the voice on her phone.

Ruby leaves Cassie alone watching Liam practice. As he finishes he runs past her with a teammate but totally ignores her. An embarrassed Cassie leaves. The next day she goes for a long run, going to the spot where her mother died in a car accident when she was driving. In the same accident, Cassie suffered some brain trauma and takes medication to control bipolar and anger issues.

When she returns to her car after the run, she comes across a phone. She places it on a fence by the road. The phone asks her if she needs a friend. A spooked Cassie gets into her car and drives away. Back at home her father, Greg (Philip Granger), is entertaining some young women and a man by the pool. Cassie does not interrupt them.

In the evening, Ruby and Sarah have come over to the house. Sarah is drunk and lays down on the floor. Cassie asks Ruby about AMI. She tells her it is like Siri but much more modifiable. Cassie’s father comes into the room with a young woman, oblivious to the girls there.

He belatedly notices them. Cassie leaves, going for a walk, Ruby leaving shortly afterwards. A drunken Sarah mockingly admonishes him for his taste in women as the girl he brought with him leaves as well.

Sarah gives Greg her phone number and then leaves after telling him to call her. Cassie is out walking and comes across a stray cat. She picks up the cat and almost chokes it to death before realising what she is doing and releasing it.

She returns home and goes through items that remind her of her mother and remembers the night of the accident. She goes back to the spot where she left the phone. It is still there.

She returns home with the phone. The phone tells her she can customise the voice to make it sound how she wants. She makes it sound like her mother (Bonnie Hay). She gets the phone to read her Alice in Wonderland.

AMI researches her digital life and what a mother’s role is. Cassie wakes up happy the next day. She goes for a run talking to the phone as she runs. Cassie begins to bond with AMI, talking about her life and woes.

Cassie goes to the site of the crash again. She goes to take a pill and the phone sees the medication. AMI advises her not to take it. Cassie drops the pill. She continues to confide in AMI. The next day, Cassie is cooking a meal hoping to invite Liam over.

She calls him up. Liam, who is simultaneously texting with another girl, tells her he is busy, having accepted an invitation from the girl texting him. Cassie tells AMI that she is going to hang out with Sarah. AMI says she should go and see Sarah. At Sarah’s house, Liam has gone to see her.

She was the one texting him. She performs a sexual act on him. Cassie goes to Sarah’s house and sees Liam’s car outside. She sees Liam leaving. Sarah receives a phone call from Cassie’s dad. He is worried about Cassie. She tells him he should come and see her.

An angry Cassie gets out of her car, heading to Sarah’s house. Inside, Sarah is making a video boasting about the fact that she has seduced all of Cassie’s past boyfriend’s and how her father will be the ultimate conquest.

Cassie pushes her way into Sarah’s place. Sarah slaps her telling her she never had to work for anything because she is rich. Cassie starts to strangle her, telling her that she is supposed to be her friend. Sarah tells her she hates her. AMI encourages Cassie to kill her.

Cassie begins to suffocate Sarah with a pillow, stopping when her body goes limp. She takes the pillow of off her, thinking she has killed her. She apologises to the prostrate Sarah. A grinning Sarah spooks her saying “hello.” Cassie smashes her in the head with a laptop, repeatedly hitting her and killing her.

AMI tells Cassie to take the body to Liam’s house and bury it on the grounds there. As she is burying the body, Roxy comes across her. She kills Roxy. Cassie returns home. AMI is proud of her. The next day, Cassie sees Liam flirting with Ruby at school. She leaves. AMI hatches a plan to punish Liam.

Cassie invites Liam over. She puts lotion on the steps leading to the hot tub and lures him down the steps, causing him to fall, breaking his leg. She goes to see Liam after he comes out of the hospital and is greeted by his father, Ted (Andrew Coghlan), who is suitably boorish, making no attempt to hide the fact that his son has little regard for women.

Cassie goes to see Liam. She gives him a phone with AMI’s voice on it. Liam is not overly enamoured with the gift. Greg goes to see Sarah. He finds her phone with the recordings of her boasting about her conquest of Cassie’s boyfriends. The phone also recorded her murder. Greg returns home to confront Cassie. AMI tells her to run.

She runs to the garage and is pursued by her father. AMI tells her to grab an aerosol and a lighter. She tries to attack Greg, but he knocks her unconscious. Cassie wakes up restrained in the backseat of the car. Greg tells her he is taking her to the police. They will say it was the brain injury that caused her to kill Sarah.

AMI tells her to cover her ears and sends an ear-piercing noise through the car’s speakers. Greg stops the car and Cassie jumps out. Greg gets out to find her but Cassie doubles back to the car. AMI tells her to reverse. She knocks Greg over. She takes him to where she buried Sarah and Roxy. He is still alive. She pours acid on him, killing him.

Ruby contacts Cassie. She wants to know if she has seen Sarah. She says she hasn’t. AMI tells Cassie to contact Liam using Sarah’s phone. Liam deletes AMI off of his phone causing AMI to temporarily disappear off of Cassie’s phone. Liam puts his coach’s voice on his phone. Cassie gets her mother’s voice back.

She calls Liam. He tells her that he deleted the AMI she put on the phone. She tells him that he should not have done that. Liam ends the call. Cassie grabs an axe from her garden. Ruby goes to see Cassie. She finds Sarah’s phone and sees the video of Cassie killing her.

AMI tells her to kill her. Ruby grabs a kitchen knife to try and defend herself but is quickly killed. She pours petrol on Ruby’s body and burns the house down.

Cassie goes over to Liam’s house. He sees her approaching and tries to tell his father not to let her in. He is too late. Cassie kills Liam’s father. Cassie comes after Liam. He hides under his bed to escape from her. When she leaves, he tries to get out of the room but is caught again by her. Liam kicks her, injuring enough for him to get down the stairs.

Cassie catches up with him in the kitchen. Liam fools her and knocks her to the ground, taking the axe off of her and chopping her in the leg. He calls the police and ambulance services but collapses after his exertions. Cassie crawls from the kitchen and kills him.

Sometime later, Cassie is recounting her story to a therapist. In her version, Liam is the mass murderer, her killing him having stopped his killing spree. Nine months later, Cassie has a family of AMIs. The original phone is mother, she has one as a father and another as a baby. The end.

Written and directed by Rusty Nixon, with a story by Nixon, James Clayton and Evan Tylor, A.M.I. is a silly, somewhat entertaining, chiller. The AI as a conscience or driving force is hardly a new one in film. The disembodied voice that tells a protagonist or antagonist to act in a certain way is a popular idea in fiction. It feeds into the human desire of absolving oneself of responsibility.

That A.M.I. should be a phone makes sense in the present day, with most of us attached to our phones constantly. In truth, the script for this film is pretty poor and flat. Most of the characters are caricatures at best, and with the exception of Cassie, no one has any motivation to do anything. Not that it matters. Once Howard’s Cassie becomes attached to AMI, the film gathered pace and the poor script became secondary.

The acting seems quite poor initially but, as the story sped up, the actors overcame the deficiencies in the script. Howard is great as the crazy Cassie and Hampson is perfectly cast as the jealous Sarah.

It is only Havana as Ruby—possibly the only person who looked anywhere near high school age—who is not utilised particularly well, only in the film for exposition. Muik’s Liam is handsome enough and surly enough to believe that he would be such a cad, even if it is a lazy stereotype.

As I mentioned earlier, there is a real obsession with handheld camera work, even when, in some instances, a tripod would have gotten a much better shot. That being said, the directing is not noticeably awful or haphazard, though there are some unnecessary shots—the opening sequence—in the film.

A.M.I. is not a long film at only seventy-seven minutes long, but the first half-hour is a bit of a laborious watch. A.M.I. is watchable though not a must-watch. If you enjoy silly horror films with not too much horror, you could do worse.

Hell Fest – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: Natalie goes to meet up with her best friend from high school, Brooke, having been away at college. Another old high school colleague, Taylor, is living with Brooke. The three young women, plus their partners and would-be partners, go to Hell Fest, a horror-themed amusement park.

At the park, Natalie sees one of the patrons get killed by a masked man, who she and the rest of the group thought was one of the park’s actors. When the same masked man begins to stalk them, the group realise that their lives are in danger.

Is it any good?: It is not bad, though neither is it good. Not really for horror aficionados, but for those who enjoy a mild scare with a straightforward, madman-after-frightened-teens vibe, reminiscent of the early nineties, one could definitely do worse than Hell Fest.

Spoiler territory: A travelling theme park, Hell Fest, moves around North America during the Halloween season. When visiting Orange Grove, a group of three young women visits one of the attractions. When one of the women gets separated from the group, she finds herself confronted by a masked man known as The Other (Stephen Conroy).

She recognises him from earlier in the evening. He had been following her. He stabs her to death and hangs her up amongst the fake corpses in the house of horrors.

Some years have passed and Natalie (Amy Forsyth), is visiting her best friend from high school, Brooke (Reign Edwards). Living with Brooke is Taylor (Bex Taylor-Klaus). Taylor, an old classmate of both the girls, is not someone who Natalie is overly excited to see.

Taylor ribs Natalie for being so uptight. Natalie points out that, as she is on a scholarship, she needs to maintain her grades. Taylor insists that October, the month they are in, is for fun and that they are going to have fun that coming night, especially as Gavin (Roby Attal), a young man who has a crush on Natalie, is coming out with them.

Brooke tells Natalie about Hell Fest, the travelling theme park, and how Gavin has gotten them all VIP tickets for it. Natalie is not sure. Brooke tells her that Gavin is itching to see her. Brooke’s boyfriend, Quinn (Christian James), comes into the room. He ready to go to Hell Fest.

The girls, along with Quinn, go to Hell Fest. Inside the park, they meet up with Gavin and Asher (Matt Mercurio), Taylor’s boyfriend. Gavin and Natalie quickly get together. The group starts drinking and decides to go to the Deadlands, a part of the theme park that is meant to be one of the scarier parts because the actors can and do touch people.

To get to the scariest part, Hell, they have to go through Deadlands. The group persuades Natalie to go into the Deadlands. The Other comes into the theme park. He spots a girl and decides that she is going to be his first victim. He steals an ice pick from one of the vendors in the park and follows her.

The group make their way to the Deadlands, getting scared witless by actors along the way. They go into one of the many haunted houses that populate the park. The girls and the boys split into two groups. As the girls walk through the house, Natalie works out the timings of the scares. The girl that The Other decided to pursue comes running into the house.

She is petrified and hides under a table. The girls think that it is all an act, Natalie even pointing out where the girl is hiding when The Other stands in front of her with the ice pick. He goes and grabs the girl. Taylor and Brooke leave, not liking the act. Natalie watches the girl struggling and, still believing it all to be part of the show, tells The Other to hurry up and kill her.

He stabs the girl killing her. Natalie is unsure of what she has witnessed and leaves the house. Outside, back with the other girls, The Other watches her. He indicates to her not to tell anyone.

They meet up with the boys again. Natalie sees The Other watching from another part of the park. She says that he is following them, but the rest of the group assures her it is just an actor being over-zealous.

Gavin tries to win a toy for Natalie but is absolutely terrible at every game, failing miserably. Gavin and Natalie hang out together, chatting and bonding over a pretzel. They go into a photo booth and take photos and kiss. Whilst they are in the booth, The Other comes and steals the photos. Brooke sees him and tries to stop him, chasing after him but he disappears.

The group is now determined to head into Deadlands. Gavin tells them to go ahead. Natalie is reluctant, but he assures her that he will catch up. He tells Quinn he wants to get her a toy. He goes back to the vendor where he tried to win the toy, but the guy working there does not want to help him as it would jeopardise his job.

Back at the entrance to Deadlands, the rest of the group are signing waivers. Natalie asks why they have to sign a waiver. Taylor explains it is because the actors can touch people. Gavin, still trying to get a toy for Natalie, sees an employee leaving a room laden with the toys. He sneaks into the room to get a toy. In the room, he is confronted by The Other.

Gavin thinks it is just the actor trying to scare him again. He asks him for the photos. The Other stays silent. Gavin goes to walk away and is tripped up by him. The Other hits him with a mallet. As Gavin tries to get his breath, The Other smashes his head with the mallet, killing him.

The rest of the group go into the Deadlands. The way into the Deadlands is by a train ride through another haunted house. In the house they stop the cars, making the patrons believe there is a fault.

An actor with the same mask as The Other gets into Natalie’s car. She is freaking out, screaming, and then they exit the house. They are in the Deadlands. Natalie sees several actors in the same mask as The Other.

Natalie wants to wait for Gavin. Asher tells her that he went to try and get her a toy but as he is so awful at all the games, he would probably be a while. The boys and girls split up again, going into different houses. The boys get separated and Asher is left in the house. Natalie sees The Other watching her behind plexiglass.

Asher tries to find his way out of the house and is caught by The Other. He gets stabbed through the eye and killed. Natalie goes to the bathroom and texts Gavin. She hears the message ping in the bathroom. Underneath the stall, she sees The Other’s boots. She escapes from the bathroom and calls security but cannot convince them that there is an issue.

Brooke and Natalie go to Quinn. Brooke tells him that they have to leave. He tells her that Taylor has decided to volunteer for one of the acts. Up on the stage, Taylor is sentenced to death for committing sins.

Natalie notices that the executioner has on the same shoes as The Other and tries to stop the act. She is restrained by security. The act goes ahead, Taylor pretending to lose her head.

The curtain closes and Taylor asks the executioner to release her. He makes the restraints tighter and tries to cut her head off with the guillotine. It does not work properly. As he tries to fix it, Taylor escapes.

The Other comes after her. He catches up with her and stabs her to death. Quinn sees what is happening and is immediately killed, stabbed, as he tries to intervene.

Brooke and Natalie see their friends die and the whole park is panicking now. The Other decides to go after the two girls. They run into the Hell house. The Other follows them in there. He finds an axe.

As the girls try to escape, Brooke starts to panic and is calmed by Natalie. She tells her where the room’s triggers are and they avoid them as they try to get out of the house.

The Other locks the entrance and the girls are forced to arm themselves when they realise they cannot get out the way they came in. The Other comes out of the shadows and injures Brooke with the axe. Natalie hits him and they escape, going and hiding in another room.

The Other goes looking for them and is distracted in a room of masks. Natalie attacks, allowing Brooke to escape. The Other knocks Natalie to the floor and goes after Brooke. A frightened Brooke forgets about the house’s triggers and tries to get out of the house. The Other finds her but is stabbed by Natalie before he can kill her.

The police come into the house and rescue the girls. The Other disappears. The Other returns home and removes his mask, putting it into a cupboard full of various masks. He is greeted by his young daughter. The end.

Hell Fest, with a screenplay by Seth M. Sherwood and Blair Butler from a story by William Penick, Christopher Sey and Stephen Susco, with an additional screenplay credit for Akela Cooper and directed by Gregory Plotkin, is a horror film by numbers, ticking boxes whilst not really pushing any boundaries horror-wise.

The horror is, to be honest, quite tame, the death of Mercurio’s Asher being the only truly horrible death in the film. Even so, it is not exactly a new or even inventive death. For a horror film, there is also very little blood.

The jump-scares, a staple of at least ninety-nine per cent of horror films, are weakened considerably because the film is set in a horror theme park where jump-scares are de rigueur, happening almost every thirty seconds. The acting is passable rather than good or bad, the story or script not really giving the cast a great deal to work with.

Because of the film’s setting and the makers’ misguided decision to have multiple horror rooms, in a seemingly vast theme park, the film has a spread out feeling that does not help the tension.

Conroy’s The Other’s decision to randomly kill in a busy theme park does not really work, especially as the fest is supposedly very popular, attracting thousands of people.

That he had already killed someone at exactly the same travelling theme park a few years before did not, unbelievably, deter the revellers. Obviously, park licenses are easier to come by in the States.

At eighty-nine minutes long, Hell Fest is not a long film, it is just a slightly underwhelming one. Plotkin’s directing is okay, nothing of note, but not horrible either. That the film has six writing credits is a little odd as there really is not six persons worth of creativity in the story or script.

Hell Fest is not terrible, but it is not good either, it is just sort of ‘meh.’ Watch it if you have run out of horror films to watch.

Office Uprising – Review (Netflix)

Office Uprising is a comedy-horror written by Peter Gamble and Ian Shorr and directed by Lin Oeding. It scores a respectable six point two on IMDB with a great cast led by Brenton Thwaites, who is in the dark and highly entertaining Netflix series DC’s Titans as Nightwing/Dick Grayson. Jane Levy, best known for her turn as Tessa in Suburgatory, also stars, along with Karan Soni, who is recognisable from the Deadpool films as well as many other roles.

A darling of the Comic-Con circuits and self-confessed television geek, Zachery Levi, is also in the film. Office Uprising has attracted some good names for this project and, truthfully, it is not very good. It is passably enjoyable, thoroughly silly and inoffensive but it is not good. Let me explain.

Ammotech is a weapons manufacturing company run by Franklin Gantt (Gregg Henry), a redneck whose only concern is making money. Desmond (Thwaites) works in accounting at the company headquarters. Desmond is a bit of a wastrel, late for work regularly and lackadaisical in approach to his job. His boss, Adam Nusbaum (Levi), calls him to his office.

Nusbaum wants to know how the project he is supposed to be writing up is going. Desmond lies and tells him it is going well. Nusbaum tells him that the company is merging with another weapons company and jobs will be lost. Desmond returns to his desk. Lentworth (Kurt Fuller) gets Desmond’s attention. He asks him if he has been fired. He tells him he has not.

Lentworth tells him that half of the accounting department has been laid off. Mourad (Soni) joins in the conversation, he tells them that one of the ladies in their department has cleared her desk out. Desmond tells them not to panic.

Marcus Gantt (Sam Daly), the nephew of Franklin, comes and interrupts the discussion, goading and ridiculing the three men, confident that he will not be getting laid off any time soon.

Desmond gets called down to the research and development department by Nicholas Frohm (Ian Harding), one of the company’s scientist. Frohm treats him with disdain. Desmond, who he needs to write a document so as to push through a new project, deliberately slows the project down.

Desmond returns to his desk. He prank calls Mourad, pretending to be Nusbaum. Mourad is momentarily worried but then realises that it is Desmond. Mourad tells him that the only reason he stays in his job is because of Samantha (Levy).

Everyone in the company is called for a motivational seminar, where they are addressed by Gantt. Desmond leaves early, going home to write a report.

We just want to talk…

 

He sees some workmen unpacking a pallet of energy drinks, Zolt, but thinks nothing of it. His plan to be more productive and responsible is quickly derailed by his flatmates, pulling him into juvenile antics outside. Sometime later, Desmond wakes up at his computer, the project only on its first draft. He rushes to work. He does not notice that there are dead bodies strewn around the office, quickly rushing to his cubicle.

Desmond is summoned to Nusbaum’s office. Nusbaum is acting very strangely, obsessed with a pencil. Desmond watches him warily, listening to his crazy monologue. He notices an office worker dead on the floor, killed with several hundred pencils. Nusbaum tells Desmond that, because he spelt his name incorrectly, he will have to go. Permanently.

Nusbaum throws Desmond through the wall, into the open-plan office area. In the office area, Desmond sees that everybody is now afflicted by the same strange affliction that Nusbaum has. Everyone in the office seems to have turned into a zombie, with uncontrollable rage and bloodlust.

Desmond goes to find Samantha. She seems normal but shows moments of being affected. Desmond realises it is the energy drink, Zolt, that has caused the transformation. Samantha has only drunk a small amount. After she attacks him, he realises that he has to restrain her if he wants to save her.

I won’t bite you… much!

 

Desmond tapes Samantha to a trolley. He tries to take her down the stairs but finds Nusbaum and an army of zombies are roaming the building. He hides in a cupboard with Samantha. Mourad is already hiding in the cupboard.

Out in the office area, Nusbaum and his crew from accounting, come across Bob (Alan Ritchson—who also appears in Titans), manager of the advertising division. Nusbaum wants them to join him. Bob does not want to give up control. Nusbaum cuts his head off and absorbs advertising into his horde.

Desmond, Mourad and a restrained Samantha, go to the stairwell. On the stairs, zombies are ripping one another apart. They go to take the lift but that too proves to be an option they do not have. Finding themselves in an office, Desmond has another plan. He picks up a printer to throw through the window, even as the other two try to stop him.

The printer bounces off of the window and triggers a building shutdown, with shutters covering the whole building, locking them in. The only way to get the shutters opened is to get to the executive offices and Gantt.

They get near the offices but have to get past his elderly, zombied assistant, Helen (Chesta Drake). Desmond hits her with a pot plant. She then attacks Mourad. He panics and runs her into an exit sign, killing her. They then have to navigate their way through the HR department.

The whole department is women and they are all rabid. Lentworth goes to pick up his final cheque having been laid off. Desmond and the others see him and try to warn him.

The entire department converges on Lentworth. Desmond makes an announcement, pretending to be Nusbaum. One of the girls twigs that it is not Nusbaum and they turn their attention back to Lentworth.

Samantha gets their attention and tells the department that the head of the department, Lisa (Ashton DeGroot) has been spreading rumours about the other girls and saving money at their expense. The girl all turn on Lisa. Desmond, Samantha and Mourad, along with Lentworth, escape.

They have to fight their way across the sales floor, the whole floor turned zombies by Zolt. They fight their way to the offices of Gantt. Samantha falls ill as the Zolt is having an adverse effect on her. They get to Gantt’s but he refuses to let them in. A janitor exits the office and they get in.

Gantt tells them that the Zolt was meant to be for soldiers, to increase their alertness. But the first batch was not right, a disgruntled ex-employee delivered it to the building and that is what was turning everybody crazy. Gantt says they have no antidote for Zolt.

Nusbaum comes to the office. He wants Gantt to open up the building so as to take Zolt worldwide. Gantt goads him, telling him that the doors are impregnable. Nusbaum asks if the walls are as well. They break in through the walls. Lentworth decides to drink Zolt and join the zombies. They immediately kill him.

Never felt better. Why do you ask?

 

Nusbaum’s men swarm the office, killing his cronies and taking control of the office. Gantt retreats to a smaller office, armed with a shotgun, Samantha, Desmond and Mourad with him. Gantt kills a few zombies but then Nusbaum cuts his hand off, needing his thumbprint to open the building. He tells a few of his minions to kill Desmond and the others.

Desmond kills the zombie minions. Samantha is getting worse. They take her down to the science division where Frohm is still alive, having not drunk any of the Zolt as he helped to create it and knows about its properties.

He tells Desmond that they need to get a particular compound held in the warehouse. The only problem is, the zombie horde is in the warehouse carrying out Nusbaum’s plan.

Nusbaum sees them trying to sneak into the warehouse and sends everybody after them. Desmond and Mourad kill tens of zombies as they try to get to the compound. Meanwhile, Nusbaum has got into a weapons robot and is now hunting them. Desmond gives Mourad the compound and goes to divert Nusbaum’s attention.

Samantha gets cured and comes to help Desmond. They run from the building pursued by Nusbaum. Desmond throws a mine at him. Nusbaum steps on the mine as they escape the building and it blows the building up. Desmond and Samantha kiss. The end.

Now, when I say the film is not very good, that does not mean it is bad. It is just a very niche film, for those who love a silly, horror-comedy. It is, I would say, deliberately bad in some aspects, with the ludicrous storyline and the likes of Levi enjoying being the baddie with added cheese.

What makes the film work is the cast play it completely straight as if their entirely ridiculous situation is just something they have found themselves in and have to deal with. In this regard, it embraces the spirit of Sharknado the true standard-bearer when it comes to accepting a wholly incredulous premise.

Unlike Girls With BallsOffice Uprising has a tenuous story that, if the writer had wanted to, could have been worked into a serious, darker horror. Admittedly, even though I have watched a fair few of them, I am not a big fan of horror-comedies, not the deliberate ones.

I just feel that, unless a horror film is a serious affair, horror has inherent comedic qualities, especially as it tends to be extreme in a visual sense.

Office Uprising, at ninety-two minutes long, bumps along nicely, all its silliness on display and the performances from all ably contribute to a film that, if you are into horror-comedy, does exactly what you expect. Office Uprising is an easy, humorous viewing experience for a relaxing evening or afternoon.

White Chamber – Review (Netflix)

Paul Raschid grew up around filmmaking. His father, Neville, a producer, obviously had young Paul around the good and the great of British film from a young age. Perhaps he was even around international film, who knows, I am speculating, guessing. According to his IMDB profile, he studied film, along with English literature, at King’s College. If only he had decided to write a book instead of making films. Let me explain.

Written and directed by Raschid, and produced by his father, White Chamber is another woeful addition to the slew of tripe available to watch on Netflix. For some reason, Netflix is desperate to get into the film business. The fact that it is series that have been their strength seems to have been ignored, and they are going full throttle into film and film production.

As a person who watches a lot—a whole lot—of Netflix’s lesser-known films, English speaking and foreign, I can confidently say Netflix is not about to trouble the likes of Disney, Twentieth Century Fox, or Lionsgate. Onto the film.

The United Kingdom is in anarchy. Civil war has broken out and Zakarian (Oded Fehr) is the leader of a revolution vying to overthrow the government. A woman (Shauna MacDonald) wakes from unconsciousness. She is in a bright white chamber. A voice talks to her, asking who she is. She tells him her name is Ruth.

The voice asks her what she was doing. She claims to be nothing more than an administrative assistant. He tortures her, burning her, freezing her, electrocuting her. She asks to see who is taunting her. It is Zakarian. She recognises him.

Clean the stench of this film off of me…

 

Five days earlier, it had all been very different. A young woman, Ruth (Amrita Acharia) is an administrative assistant who has been recruited to a clandestine job within the government. She is to help with a secret experiment in which they test various drugs on a live subject within a white chamber. There are four people in the team; Dr Edgar Chrysler (Nicholas Farrell), Sandra (Sharon Maughan), Ruth, and the leader of the project, Dr Elena Chrysler (MacDonald), Edgar’s daughter.

In the white chamber is Zakarian. Ruth does not know what the project is, and Elena gives her questions short shrift, telling her she only needs to follow orders. Via food, they feed Zakarian various experimental drugs, and then test the effects of those drugs on his physiology through the chamber, increasing the temperature, lowering the temperature, electric shocks, nothing seems to faze Zakarian in his drug-induced haze.

The experiments continue over a couple of days. Ruth is uncomfortable with what she is seeing, Elena is seemingly taking a macabre pleasure in torturing Zakarian. She talks to Edgar. He tells her that Elena lost both her brother and husband in the war, her husband having joined Zakarian’s revolution.

Elena introduces another element. A woman. The woman is Anya (Candis Nergaard), she is in a chamber adjacent to Zakarian, separated by a glass partition. Elena lets him see her. They talk, Zakarian tells her that they will escape. Elena floods Anya’s chamber with gas. The gas is drugged causing Anya to act crazy. Elena drips acid onto Anya as Zakarian watches. Anya does not feel it.

I’m crazy, CRAZY….!

 

Zakarian is hooked on the drug they have been feeding him, but Elena does not want to give him anymore. She relishes torturing him. The four have a meeting, and Elena informs them that the experiment is finished, and they have decided on the drug. Ruth realises it was a drug compound they had found days before.

Ruth and Elena argue. Ruth tells her she should have spoken up and that the experiment was unethical. Elena stabs Ruth with a scalpel. Edgar tries to stem the blood from the wound as Elena begins to panic. Sandra takes the scalpel off of Elena and takes her bloody tunic. She disposes of the clothing and scalpel and presses an alarm.

A dying Ruth releases Zakarian. A still high Zakarian attacks Elena, knocking her to the ground. He kills Edgar, biting into his neck and face, but is stabbed in the neck by Edgar during their altercation. Sandra opens the section to military personnel, believing they are there to help and is immediately killed.

The militia storm the complex. They come and find the bodies and a semi-conscious Elena. Zakarian has a twin brother who is the leader of the revolution. He puts Elena in the chamber. After he takes her out, he tasks her with creating a drug to help end the war. The end.

Good god, this film is awful! Ten minutes into proceedings, watching Shauna Macdonald writhing around in that bloody cube, as though it was some shitty, abstract stage show, I had to check how much longer was left in the film. The opening, with a montage of riot footage, bombings, some CGI-ed carnage, and Zakarian spouting bollocks about taking back the country, I knew I had made a mistake to start watching this film.

I am not one to hammer actors, however, the acting in this film is poor. The wretched script and story do not help, but the acting is still horrible. Acharia is the only actor who puts in the only passable performance. Nergaard’s Anya is so bad it is almost painful to watch, and the camera shots do not help at all.

Truthfully, it boggles the mind to think that Raschid grew up around filmmaking. Did he even watch films? His shot selection in this is just bad, with overuse of close-ups, and very little camera movement.

I like a tripod as much as the next filmmaker, but the occasional zoom would not have gone amiss. Besides the lacklustre execution of the story, there is no sense of the story actually going anywhere. Because one is only told about war and unrest across the land, and is not really given a character to empathise with—or is given the wrong character in Ruth to empathise with—one has no vested interest in proceedings.

White Chamber is the kind of film that reinforces the cynic in me, making me believe it is not what you know, but who you know that helps you to get ahead in life. How a project as god-awful as this could not only get made but find itself on Netflix is proof positive that nepotism is alive and well in the film industry. White Chamber is a turd. Avoid.

Girls With Balls – review (Netflix)

Um, okay. I was not searching for it, though I always suspected it was out there. Up until this point, Alien Warfare had edged it as the worse film on Netflix.

There had been some worthy challengers; Handsomea laugh-free comedy. Peelersan inept horror/comedy not even saved by liberal nudity. Day of the Dead: Bloodlinea zombie “horror,” really came close to taking the crown. Still, I felt that Alien Warfare remained, by virtue of the truly awful story and acting, not to mention the cheapness of production, the true holder of the title for the worst film. Until now.

Today, in the year of our lord 2019, on Saturday, the 27th of July, I endured one of the worst excuses for a film I have ever had the misfortune of seeing. Written and directed by Olivier Afonso, a quick peruse of his IMDB page shows that he is predominantly a special effects person. On this evidence, he should and must not give up his day job. Let me explain.

Ladies volleyball team, the Falcons, a disparate rabble, beat the Vipers in a final. One of their team, Morgane (Manon Azem), aggravates one of the Vipers players before the game. Morgane also ignores the team captain’s, Hazuki (Anne-Solenne Hatte), gameplay orders, deciding to execute her own plan, pushing Jeanne (Tiphaine Daviot) to the floor and stepping on M.A (Louise Blachére) to hit the winning shot.

As the girls celebrate, Serge (Joffery Verbruggen), the team physio, comes over to celebrate with Jeanne in particular. Coach (Victor Artus Solaro), who is celebrating with the rest of the team, notes that he did not know Jeanne and Serge were together. Serge goes to look after another girl. Jeanne is approached by a scout. He gives her his card, as he thinks she is a talented player.

The Vipers are not happy about the result and chase the team out of the building. The Falcons jump on the team bus and drive off. On the bus, Lise (Camille Razat), lets it slip that Jeanne was scouted at the game, much to Morgane’s disgust. Tatiana (Margot Dufrene) and Dany (Dany Verissimo-Petit) are an item.

Nice artwork. better than the film…

The bus breaks down and the ladies take a toilet break as Dany fixes it. Somebody is watching the ladies. They keep on driving. They take a detour, as the road they were travelling on is closed. They end up going to a very odd bar. The bar is full of misfits, all of whom are men. They stare at the women as they come in.

The barman (Denis Lavant) does not say anything as they speak to him, giving the coach a drink and staring at Tatiana. Morgane, ever the attention seeker, starts dancing on a table. A young teen boy approaches the table. The barman licks Dany’s face, so Tatiana slaps him. Morgane slaps the boy and the team is forced to flee the bar.

The team stops for the night, sleeping on the bus. The next day they are confronted by the Barman and various miscreants from the bar. The Barman shoots Dany in the hand. Coach runs off, and the girls flee into the forest. The girls separate into two groups; Jeanne, Tatiana, Dany and Lise in one group and Morgane, M.A and Hazuki in the other.

As Dany tries to tell the girls how to survive in the forest, she is shot and killed. The rest of the girls run. In the other group, M.A and Morgane bicker, and Hazuki tries to control them as she goes to scope out their situation.

Tatiana decides she wants to go back for Dany, leaving Lise and Jeanne. Coach is reproaching himself for running off and leaving the girls. Lise confesses to Jeanne she slept with Serge. Jeanne is understandably furious.

Hazuki, Morgane, and M.A come across one of their pursuers. Hazuki has a plan of attack, but when it comes to it, Morgane proves to be a real coward. As the pursuer is beating on Hazuki and is about to kill her, M.A shoots him.

Lise, feeling guilty about sleeping with Serge and tells Jeanne that she will draw the pursuers away. She goes off in a different direction. The pursuers follow her. Jeanne comes across a scout troupe singing in the forest and tries to tell them of the danger. They do not take her seriously.

The pursuers come across the scout troupe. the scout leader grins at them and indicates the direction that Jeanne has gone in. The pursuers nod acknowledgment and then blow his head off.

Two of the pursuers catch up with Lise. She dances to prevent them from killing her. They knock her unconscious. Hazuki, Morgane, and M.A come to a lake and get attacked again. M.A is knocked out and Hazuki is being drowned by the assailant. Morgane cuts his head off. She then accidentally stabs Hazuki. Realising she cannot save her, she deliberately stabs and kills her.

She tells M.A that the assailant killed her. Tatiana has returned to the bar and sees the Barman putting body parts through a grinder. She almost gets caught in the garage but fights her way out. She immediately crashes the car.

We don’t get many women folk in here…

M.A, Morgane, and Jeanne find one another. They go back to their bus. They attack the pursuers with volleyballs, taking them out. The pursuers get up and chase them. They catch Morgane. M.A and Jeanne are left to try and rescue everyone.

In the bar, the Barman has Morgane, Tatiana and Lise tied up and is deciding who to kill first. Jeanne finds a gun and sneaks into the bar. The Barman picks Morgane to kill first. Morgane, never a team player, begs him to kill Tatiana first.

The Barman goes to kill Tatiana but is interrupted by Jeanne blowing the head off one of the other bar miscreants. The Barman flees. Tatiana breaks out of her restraints and pursues the Barman. M.A, Jeanne and a freed Lise fight the men in the bar. Morgane is still restrained. Coach crashes into the bar. Coach starts beating all of the men up. Morgane is free and grabs a knife.

Morgane tries to escape but is stopped by Lise. She stabs Lise. Morgane is grabbed by one of the bar miscreants as Jeanne goes to tend to a dying Lise. Tatiana catches up with the Barman and kills him.

Jeanne and Morgane fight and Jeanne bests her. Coach tells the girls to get out of the bar. He blows up the bar. Tatiana, Jeanne, and M.A go and see Serge. Jeanne kicks him in the groin. The end.

Girls With Balls—I know, I know, it is a title that screams “terrible film!”—is utter tripe. I am not sure I can convey just how utterly rubbish this film is. The film is seventy-seven minutes long and feels about three hours long.

Even in the runtime, the film was padded with a god-awful “cowboy,” played by Orelsan—never heard of him, will not be checking him out either—who sang “amusing” ditties about the Falcons and their story. That took up about ten minutes of runtime.

The story I relate above makes more sense than watching the damn film. It is billed as a horror-comedy, but it has neither. No part of the film is funny and the horror is early-eighties style lazy, with just an over-reliance on blood splatter and severed heads.

Let’s talk about the story. There isn’t one. In a sentence, a team of women drive into a forest and are hunted and killed for fun. That is it. Not that a horror film needs a great story, but a little structure would not go amiss.

The acting in the film is actually not too bad. Given the material and the shocking filming, the actors are actually a credit to their profession. They should though, all find new agents. No one should be subject to this kind of tripe to make a living.

Girls With Balls has an attractive cast who gamely commit to Afonso’s ludicrous script. The script and the directing prove too much of a burden, their unwavering commitment to the cause unable to save or inject any sort of life into the film.

Girls With Balls is a truly terrible film. Even with everyone trying to make it work and the acting a definite cut above the laborious efforts in Alien Warfare, Girls With Balls is, nonetheless an awful, mind-numbingly, painful viewing experience.

Do not watch this film, there really is not enough alcohol to get through it. You have been warned.