Neighbor


Director: Robert A. Masciantonio (2009)
Starring: America Olivo, Christian Campbell, Lauren Rooney
Find it: IMDB

The title is something of a misnomer, since The Girl (Olivo) is nobody's neighbour; she wanders from street to street massacring whole households seemingly without cause. One fateful day she arrives on Don Carpenter's (Campbell) doorstep, ties the poor chump up and sets about violently torturing the guy. That's almost as far as Neighbor goes with plot, spending the rest of its time torturing Don and murdering his friends. There's a brief interlude in the middle that shoots forward in time - although it wasn't until afterwards that I realised this - I'd assumed that Neighbor had gone all avant-garde and just run off in a different direction.

At times the movie veers towards comedy horror, with the filthy script ("go eat a bowl of dicks") and madcap performance from America Olivo preventing it from being too serious. Even victim Don doesn't seem to be taking his situation too seriously. The torture scenes however, are anything but funny. While not all of the effects work (Don's plastic feet are terrible) enough of them do to make one think twice about bringing a mid-movie snack into Neighbor.

Thankfully, the decent effects are backed up by a funny script, a likeable set of characters and a mean performance from Olivo; channeling Freddy Krueger by way of Penny from off've Big Bang Theory. Young foul-mouthed male characters are usually the worst kind of characters, but Don and his friends are affable enough for their camaraderie to shine through. You really want to see them survive the onslaught of The Girl and her craziness. It's good that they're so nice. After all, everybody needs good neighbours.


Alas, Neighbor does drag towards the end, and never quite recovers from its own confusing midsection. The ending is predictable. Like every annoying neighbour, this one can't help but outstay its welcome.

Retreat


Director: Carl Tibbetts (2011)
Starring: Thandie Newton, Cillian Murphy, Jamie Bell
Find it: IMDB

Locked away with their own misery at an island writers' retreat, Kate (Newton) and Martin (Murphy) find disturbed wounded soldier Jack (Bell) on their doorstep. He tells the pair that there's a murderous virus on the loose, and proceeds to forcibly lock down the cottage. But is there really a contagious disease in the air, or is Jack insane? All I know is that Jamie Bell is not a menacing figure, no matter how hard he tries to harass Thandie Newton.

Retreat is like Dead Calm set in a cottage. This low-budget psychological thriller has many familiar elements; the bickering couple grieving a dead child; the grim deserted windswept environment; the very British violin score. Martin's rise from weak husband to hardened hero feels too much like it did when Dustin Hoffman went through exactly the same motions in Straw Dogs. Even the ending is a complete rip-off of one of the greatest horror endings of all time.

Despite the over familiarity and air of predictability, Retreat is well-acted, its characters' plight sympathetic and the story interesting. There's a nice element of is-there-isn't-there to the plot, and even Jamie Bell does okay despite being terribly miscast and not at all scary or tough.

Resist the urge to Retreat; this is a movie that eventually proves itself worth watching.

L1, R2, Freddy's Coming For You...


The only good thing Jackie Earle Haley has contributed to A Nightmare On Elm Street. And I'm pretty sure most fans will be pretending that they're playing as the Robert Englund Freddy anyway. I never thought I'd be writing this, but I'm glad I am: Freddy Krueger is available as DLC in the latest Mortal Kombat game. And as if that wasn't awesome enough (it is) God Of War's Kratos has come out to play too.

So the first thing I did after downloading Freddy was to fire up 'ladder mode' (a series of fights without any of that pesky cut-scene business) and commence slicing the shit out of the Earth Realms or whatever with Freddy's gloves. Yes, gloves. He's brought two, because he's serious about winning this Mortal Kombat malarky. There are about 12 rungs on the ladder mode, and I got Freddy's arse handed to me a bunch of times, but not once did I change character. Playing as Freddy Krueger in a Mortal Kombat game is even better than playing as Batman in a Mortal Kombat game. In fact, the only way it could have been better is if Mortal Kombat were to bring the Justice League back into the fold. I think I could probably die happy seeing Batman stomping Freddy Krueger's head unto Heroic Brutality. Once I wrote a fanfic comic book in which Batman fought Freddy. See, Freddy is bothering Robin's dreams, and the Dark Knight has to sort out the Dream Demon before it's too late. In the end, the Sandman turns up and banishes Freddy to nightmare hell. My own crappy fanfic is probably the closest I will ever come to seeing Batman fight Freddy Krueger. Whatever however, meanwhile, Kratos.


Obviously, it's hilarious watching Freddy slice the shit out of Kratos (and vice versa) but the most fun to be had in the game is in teaming the two together. A Freddy and Kratos sandwich, with some unfortunate soul in the middle. There's a 'tag team' mode, identical to the sort found in Marvel vs Capcom. It's better than Marvel vs Capcom in that the fighting is more visceral; every punch actually feeling like a punch. The best bit is in seeing Freddy take a beating and then, just as he's about to die, swapping him for Kratos. Like that bit in Freddy vs Jason where Kelly Rowland gets slammed into a tree.


Even if you're not going to play as Freddy or Kratos, Mortal Kombat is an enjoyable game. It's violent, addictive and incredibly gory. Following their disappearance from Mortal Kombat vs DC Universe (not even Mortal Kombat can convince stickler Batman to break his One Rule) the fatalities are back. And babalities too. I didn't even know there was such a thing as a 'babality' until now, but I LOL'd when Kratos did one. Although you might wanna keep an eye on Freddy if you're gonna have kids around. He's got skin like that for a reason, y'know.

The story mode is a load of cock though, full of unskippable cut scenes and people fighting for the flimsiest reasons. Play the Ladder instead; Mortal Kombat's story is dull, stupid and a chore to wade through. Neither Freddy or Kratos appear either. Shao Kahn is the final boss and says things like "it's official: you suck" and variations therein. With the apparent lexicon of an amateur blogosphere critic, I'm guessing that Shao Khan was in charge of deciding the title. "IT'S SPELLED COMBAT WITH A K, NOOBS. THAT MAKES IT SOUND EXTREME." Indeed. Otherwise, Mortal Kombat is extremely good.

Quarantine 2: Terminal


Director: John Pogue (2011)
Starring: Mercedes Masohn, Josh Cook, Mattie Liptak
Find it: IMDB

Never work with children or animals, goes the old adage. And don't allow them anywhere near your zombie movie either. Children render Quarantine 2 nearly unwatchable, whilst animals make it ridiculous. Terminally so. Get it, because terminal means 'fatal' as well as being a place where you wait for your flight. Quarantine 2: Terminal is about a terminal illness (in a manner of speaking) and is set in an airport terminal. That title is the hardest work anyone put into writing Quarantine 2.

An aeroplane full of dipshits takes off from LA (where the first Quarantine was set) with a hold full of rage-infected gerbils in tow. One of the gerbils gets free and bites a passenger, unleashing human rabies upon the aeroplane. Panicked, the pilot lands the plane, whereupon the action spreads out onto a quarantined airport terminal. Quarantine 2 is a Die Hard 2 kind of sequel, except Die Hard 2 actually did its predecessor justice. Quarantine 2 does nobody any justice. Except for the [REC] films, which it makes look even better by comparison.

Unimpeded by the constraints of remaking [REC], this sequel is very much its own thing. Where [REC] 2 stayed within the confines of the zombie-ridden apartment complex, Quarantine 2 flees elsewhere and disposes of the handheld cameras. The former sequel explained the zombie virus in a fascinating, original way. The latter takes the cheapest, laziest route available. Human rabies indeed.

It also has you rooting for the zombies thanks to a collection of horrible, annoying characters. Choice of lead character is between a useless air hostess, the idiot who caused it all and a kid called George who looks like a chubby Justin Bieber. I actually had to watch the last ten minutes with the volume turned down, so bad was the acting. Quarantine 2 loses a Screaming Scream Queen thanks to the continued presence of George (Liptak) alone. Little fucker effectively ruins the film. [REC] wasn't afraid to eviscerate a child or two. Quarantine 2 take note; little fucking George should have been eviscerated as soon as the zombie apocalypse began.

The rest of the characters are a dull collection of stereotypes and assorted flavours of cannon fodder. There's the sweet old lady, the guy who just wants to get home to his kid, the asshole, the guy on his way to a job interview, the holidaying foreign couple and an old guy in a wheelchair. To be fair, it was funny when the rat jumped on the old guy's head. Talking of funny: the illness is passed on by a cat eating an infected person's vomit off've the floor. Also, there's an obese guy on the aeroplane who gets really really angry and starts foaming at the mouth:

Spoiler: he goes home and writes a really angry blog about it.

Quarantine 2 would be good if it wasn't for the horrible child and the stupid animals. There's some fun gore, a couple of decent shocks and some nice zombie effects, but you'd be better off by simply watching the [REC] films again. Quarantine 2 is bad. Terminally so.

Memory Lane


Director: Shawn Holmes (2011)
Starring: Michael Guy Allen, Meg Barrick, Julian Curi

It's a low budget version of The Butterfly Effect crossed with Flatliners crossed with that bit of Constantine where Keanu Reeves drownes Rachel Weisz in a bathtub. Ex-soldier Nick (Allen) vows to avenge the death of girlfriend Kayla (Barrick) when he finds her dead. Also in a bathtub. Bathtubs are very important to Memory Lane. Costing a mere $300 to make, Memory Lane is as independent as cinema gets - but is far better than that low budget might suggest.

Returning home from the wars, soldier Nick meets and falls for Kayla, who handcuffs herself to him and steals his car the next day. Faced with such a catch, Nick is instantly smitten, and asks her to marry him, despite not even knowing her surname. Heartbreak and even more confusion is in store when Nick finds her dead in the bath, wrists slashed. When he attempts to take his own life as a result (again, in the bath) Nick visits a magical memory afterlife where he can relive past encounters with dear dead Kayla. There he learns that her death might not have been as self-inflicted as one would think. Upon his friends finding and resuscitating his lifeless body, Nick vows to piece together the clues and solve the mystery of Kayla's death. The problem being that he needs to repeatedly die in order to do so.

With a little help from his friends, Nick builds a bathtub TARDIS which he uses to kill himself. Again. And again. And again. And again, revisiting past events to look for signs he might not have noticed before. Can he piece together the clues to find Kayla's killer before he kills himself one time too many? Surely the after-effects of repeatedly stopping one's own heart can't be too pleasant. That recurring nosebleed would suggest as much. If we learned nothing else from The Butterfly Effect, it's that screwing around in one's own memories causes a nasty hangover. In Ashton Kutcher's case; that bit where all his arms and legs got blown up and he married Demi Moore.

For a movie that cost $300 to make, Memory Lane is nothing short of astonishing. It surpasses the limitations of its (ultra) low budget with good old fashioned writing and storytelling. It's a bit on the melodramatic side and the acting won't win any Oscars, but the story is gripping and the pace taut. Unlike most low budget thrillers, Memory Lane has ambition and heart - and times, more than the very moves which inspired it. It's refreshing to see an independent movie that's not about zombies or serial killers.

Memory Lane puts paid to the argument that a movie needs a large budget and expensive special effects in order to succeed. This is one Lane well worth visiting.

Who Can Kill A Child


The second (We Are What We Are being the first) of my articles as published in Golf Sale magazine (available from all good retailers. And if they don't sell it then they're obviously not a good retailer, eh). This one is about paedophobia. Which is not what you think it is. I would urge you to buy a copy, but in lieu of that, you can read it here.

This August, England erupted with madness. A nation of prepubescents suddenly decided to re-enact the plot of The Crazies using their own streets as a stage. No bag of Basmati rice was left unturned and suddenly the library was the only safe place to be. Panic on the streets of London, panic on the streets of Birmingham. Dublin, Dundee and Humberside seemed okay though. Sorry, that was both lazy and (given that Mr. Morrissey is hardly in vogue nowadays) in bad taste. But at least I didn't predict a riot, unlike half of facebook.

Watching the news, you'd be forgiven for thinking you'd accidentally switched onto 28 Days Later or the Dawn Of The Dead remake, with various sources crying “Armageddon” and demanding that the military rock up and start shooting. There were a lot of people of diverse ethnic and social backgrounds, but one couldn't help but notice a lot of children and youngsters. 22% of the rioters weren't even old enough to drink. I suppose that would explain why Birmingham looters hoofed the window of a sweet shop in. A whopping 52.1% were aged 18 – 24 (thanks, The Telegraph, for turning this into 8 Out Of 10 Cats). Suddenly, a whole slew of movies proved themselves remarkably relevant and prescient. Hug these hoodies, Cameron.

Cinema has always enjoyed turning our children against us. It's a disturbing concept; your own children coming for you, bloody garden trowel in hand. And as anyone who has ever witnessed a child at play can attest, the young mind has a great potential for cruelty. When I was a child, I threw a Pepsi can at a swan's head. Just because.

Amongst the earliest kiddy horror flicks are The Bad Seed and Village of the Damned. Neither are particularly scary, certainly not nowadays, but the Village people presented us with classic blonde hair blue eyes movie imagery, and Bad Seed has its diminutive killer told that there are special pink electric chairs for little girls like her. Supernanny's naughty step, eat your heart out.

There's a little girl zombie in Night Of The Living Dead, who trowels her mother to death, and a little boy zombie in Pet Semetary. That little sod dispatches the great Herman Munster (Fred Gwynne) with a scalpel and an equally horrid cat. The idea is chilling, turning diseased child against devoted parent. Could you kill your own child come zombification? Not unless you go for Burial Ground: Nights Of Terror. The “child” in that film is played by a middle-aged dwarf and is infinitely more horrifying than any ruddy zombie.

The most famous bits of supernatural brat horror are classics like The Omen and The Exorcist. In both cases, it's the Devil's fault, with Damien being The Antichrist and Regan possessed by some sweary manner of entity. Both stand the test of time with genuinely unsettling scenes and potfuls of pea soup to pass around. Rosemary's Baby follows suit, with poor Rosemary giving birth to Satan's seed. Iffy eyes, apparently. It's easier, I suppose, to blame the Devil or Pacman or Child's Play for your horrible children than it is your own bad parenting.

Doing what it says on the tin is The Children, a gritty Brit flick in which holidaying adults find their toddlers suddenly turn against them. There's stomach churning violence involving a sledge, and surprisingly good acting from not only the children but a girl from Hollyoaks too. A virus might be responsible, but the film shows enough crap parenting and videogaming to cast doubt in our minds.

There's no sign of viruses, zombies or Satan in A Clockwork Orange, Eden Lake, Cherry Tree Lane or Ils, just horrible children. I would use Eden Lake to advertise condoms. It has Kelly Reilly and Michael Fassbender as a lovely young couple terrorised by a gang of truly horrible children – including a slimy Jack O' Connell and Thomas Turgoose. It emerges that the parents are as nasty as their children, and leaves you feeling sad and dirty inside. Ils is essentially the same, but more French and less cruel. Cherry Tree Lane takes the battle onto the adults' turf, being a home invasion movie in which the yobs steal Rachael Blake's duct tape, thieve her biscuits and critique her bourgeois DVD collection. They're waiting to give her son a kicking, only he takes ages to arrive. It's almost existential, like Waiting For Godot with hoodies. It's a thoroughly depressing movie, and makes me never want to answer my front door again.

F turns its hoodies into ninjas, silently dispatching the movie's ineffectual adults in increasingly violent and cruel ways. It's not very original or scary, although it does show how scared us Brits have become of our own young. I've seen all of these movies and more, but I find myself far more troubled by the likes of Kidulthood and those who would attempt to glamourise not speaking properly.

And you certainly don't want to go adopting anyone else's spawn, if Case 39 and Orphan are anything to go by. In the former, Rene Zellweger picks up a spooky child who ends up having Ian McShane murdered by animals. All she wants though, is to be loved, so I wound up sympathising with her. The latter is a thoroughly unpleasant movie in which the adoptee winds up being a thirty-year-old Russian crone. Both demonic daughters end up in the bottom of a lake, rejected by a mother they aggressively loved too much. Be they your own children or someone else's, cinema has taught us that children are horrible little fuckers who are not to be trusted.

The two most soul destroying books you'll ever read feature young children as villains. Mendal Johnson's Let's Go Play At The Adams' sees a gang of brats hold their babysitter hostage and keep her that way for the forseeable future. It's a visceral, miserable book. These children can't be reasoned with, and nor can those in Jack Ketchum's The Girl Next Door (subject to an equally depressing adaptation). The children are amoral and alien, with no thoughts other than childish destructiveness. Like they would wings off a fly, the children tear the victims of Adams' and Girl Next Door to shreds. Adams' Barbara hasn't a hope of escaping because she doesn't have that childish amorality. I'd recommend both books, especially if you enjoy crying and feeling sad.

In the worst case scenario, we'll end up with Children Of The Corn, where not even Linda Hamilton stands a chance against a society of ill-behaved little bastards. Who Could Kill A Child? Visit the Mediterranean and you'll find a small island where the kids have murdered their parents. Travel into space, and you'll find a planet populated only by children. This was one of the best episodes of Star Trek, with the crew of the Enterprise trapped on a planet full of hostile children. Captain Kirk saves the day by flirting his way out of trouble.

With their Sith hoodies, disgusting trainers and horrible taste in music, our kids have become the great 'other' – inspiration to horror writers and filmmakers everywhere. HP Lovecraft was scared of black people. We're terrified by our own offspring. The Daily Mail doesn't like either. Maybe it's because you're not allowed to punch your kids anymore. There's a feeling (mostly from The Daily Mail and those who read it) that since smacking and national service were aborted, children have grown out of control and become a completely different entity. Maybe that's true and maybe it's not. But all I know is, some of the most disturbing films I've seen have starred children.

To be fair, have you seen Justin Bieber? Children are far weirder than anything Cthulu. Never mind looting or rioting, I've seen Never Say Never.* Who could kill a child? Well, maybe that one...

* Statement made for comedic purposes. I have NEVER seen Never Say Never, and in this case I certainly can.

Missing


Director: Sung-Hong Kim (2009)
Starring: Chu Ja-Hyeon, Mun Seong-Kun, Jeon Se-Hong
Find it: IMDB

Cruel Korean kidnapping with Missing, in which a girl goes on the hunt for her disappeared sister. She lies in the hands of crazy old farmer Pan-kon (Seong-Kun). Hyeon-jeong (Ja-Hyeon) manages to track her sister down to Pan-kon's village. When the kidnapping serial killer takes a shine to Hyeon-jeong it looks like she too is headed for trouble.

It's a more conventional thriller than those spoiled by such Korean gems as Oldboy, The Chaser and the seminal Man From Nowhere might maybe expect. It's based on the true story of a 70-year-old fisherman who killed four women over the course of two months in 2007. That these are apparently the "ingredients of a Friday The 13th" makes elements of Missing seem exploitative and uncomfortable to watch. Also, Missing is in no way like Friday The 13th. It has none of the ingredients of Friday The 13th. I hope they kept the receipt, because their Friday The 13th cookbook sucks.

'True crime' aspect aside, Missing has a very rapey vibe to it. Heavily modelled on such films as Wolf Creek, its heroines are abused and tortured in uncomfortable detail. A birthday cake is shoved up a poor girl's arse and then her teeth are extracted after she bites his knob during a bout of non-consensual oral sex.

This aside, Missing is tense, gripping and taut with a horrible villain, a pair of sympathetic heroines and some interesting side characters. The film makes use of a very nice yellow sticky tape in its choice of gag. There are elements of Hannibal in Pan-kon's feeding victims to farm animals. There are far better kidnap films out there (Missing isn't even the best kidnap film to be called Missing). If you decide to skip this one, you really aren't Missing much.

Porn Shoot Massacre


Director: Corbin Timbrook (2009)
Starring: Robert Ambrose, Naomi Cruz, Shelly Martinez
Find it: IMDB

Sure, a movie called Porn Shoot Massacre was never going to win any Oscars, but that doesn't excuse the fact that no-one tried to make it even watchable. But then, I don't enjoy pornography, so perhaps it was lost on me from the start. In a bunch of barely connected scenes, director Malfini (Ambrose) tries to make a pornographic film whilst some sort of Jason Voorhees slash Leatherface rip-off wanders around offing his 'actresses' in the background. Twist: Malfini is in on the scam and is actually making a snuff movie rather than a porno. Which doesn't explain why half of the kills happen offscreen and without a camera present.

But then, Malfini sucks as a director. I doubt he's ever seen a pornography in his life, since what he does manage to film is softcore at best. And his snuff movie isn't much better. He's desperately ill informed as to the intricacies of adult cinema, dubbing his stars "Fetish Queen" and "Fetish princess", despite the fact they don't do anything remotely fetish-y. I didn't spot a single bare foot, mashed potato, gas mask or whatever it is people fetishize these days. He then hires a dominatrix to have her tied up and menaced. The dominatrix seems fine with it though, so I guess neither of them know what a dominatrix actually does.

The atmosphere is impressively cheerful, making Porn Shoot Massacre a hard film to truly dislike, despite its screamingly obvious flaws. By which I mean everything else. The acting is atrocious, the script consists entirely of clunkers, the music annoying and obtrusive, the special effects shonky and the nudity tiresome. Tiresome nudity is the worst kind of nudity. I did manage a cheap laugh at the midget with the dildo, though.

I watched Porn Shoot Massacre hoping for something as fun as One Eyed Monster (the Ron Jeremy comedy-horror) but instead got something as bad as real pornography itself.

The Ruins


Direction: Carter Smith (2008)
Starring: Jonathan Tucker, Jena Malone, Shawn Ashmore, Laura Ramsey
Find it: IMDB

"Four Americans on vacation don't just disappear." How sweetly naive. Here in the movies, you rarely do anything but. Four Americans plus a German and a Greek are holidaying in Mexico. On their last day, they decide to leave the resort and visit the ruins of a remote Mayan temple. But once the kids reach the spot, they're surrounded by angry locals who kill one of their number and force the rest to climb the pyramid. They're left there until they either die of thirst of die of plants. The latter being a more likely prospect than you might think.

But first, Mathias (Joe Anderson) falls down a hole and breaks his back. From inside the temple, they hear a mobile phone ringing. Or at least that's what they think it is. It's actually the plants making mobile phone noises. I'd like to see a plant copy my ringtone. It's the Star Trek: Original Series overture. As the remaining youngsters panic about Mathias's shattered spine, they find themselves unprepared for the attack of some really nasty plants. Even worse than stinging nettles.

As the stupid tourists cut, bash, bludgeon and stab their own various body parts, they begin to notice vines moving around beneath their skin. Mathias's legs become completely overrun with flowers, like a dead old grandmother's unattended garden. They are pretty flowers though. Red, a bit like roses. Stacy (Ramsey) starts to lose her mind. Doctor Jeff (Tucker) insists that they need to do something horrible to save Mathias's legs. Amy (Malone) is really annoying.

The Ruins is far better than one might expect a movie about flowers to be. It's certainly a lot gorier and crueler than I'd anticipated. The Ruins is grim character-driven horror. It'll certainly make you look twice at those dastardly dandelions sitting at the side of the road.

Rubber


Director: Quentin Dupiex (2010)
Starring: A tyre. Stephen Spinella, Wings Hauser
Find it: IMDB

A rubber tyre develops sentience and takes to rolling around the desert, squashing anything that gets in its way. Also, it has psychic powers and can make people's heads explode, like the only bit anyone remembers from Scanners. Rubber is an art-house rebuttal to those who say that films should always make sense and have things happening for a reason. We know that Rubber is such a rebuttal because one of the characters looks straight into the camera, addresses the audience and tells us as such. I did have to watch that sequence several times, with a subtitle track on though, because all I heard was "smug smug smug smug smug. Smug smuggity smug."

Rubber is a film of two halves; an entertaining half about a sentient tyre killing people with its mind bullets, and a smartarse half in which people say things like "it's only a special effect" and "time to go home now. The movie's over." One character digs the script out of his pocket and starts reading it like that. Just because you can have a character constantly breaking the fourth wall and talking about how crappy the movie is, doesn't mean you should.

Like so many movies these days, Rubber is a cute little concept that struggles at feature length. It makes for a far better trailer than it does a film. After the first ten minutes and despite some good head explosions and jokes, Rubber wheely is quite tyresome.