A few minutes into the opening sequence on this one and the brutality is exceptional. Les the Ghoul (Brant McCrea) is an alleged cannibalistic psychopathic serial killer who escapes being executed during a Prison transfer and goes on the run. The opening titles are interesting, with a girl singing and playing the piano on the back of a pickup truck. Unusual, which I think is setting the tone nicely for a film in which the ordinary definitely does not apply.
The Ghoul is seemingly indestructible; he’s on a mission to get his soul back. It’s a very quirky film, one which has a lot of lingering shots, surreal sequences and a bit of a ‘Sucker Punch’ vibe to it in the imaginative style but lacking the overall gloss of that particular film it descends into something more akin to Accion Mutante in that there’s little cohesion in the chaos.
I found the music during parts of the film such as the barbarian segment to be far too loud and thrashing, we’re talking headache-inducing here. I’ll forgive it that as some people like that; I’m just not one of them.
If your taste is in the more extreme horror then this could very well be worth your while, the gore is stylish and plentiful as well as imaginative. The scene with the black dildo in particular is something I hadn’t seen done before. There are so many bizarre elements to this film that it’s not exactly easy viewing and to be fair I think it’s a victim of its own style as it appears to be trying too hard to be remarkable.
Did I enjoy it? Not really no. I can see the merit of it, appreciate that it was reaching out with a different concept, and who knows, it may become a cult classic. There’s a 1984 film called ‘Ragewar’ aka ‘The Dungeonmaster’ which this reminds me of heavily. I loved Ragewar back in the day, but Chicago Rot isn’t Ragewar.
Raw (2016) Dir. Julia Ducournau, France/Belgium, 99 mins
French horror has always had rather a special place in my heart – regular readers of my Film Gutter series will have seen me rave about brilliant movies such as Martyrs and Irreversible, both of which remain top ten all-time movies for me. There are plenty of other pieces from the New French Extremity well worthy of mention – honestly too many to list here – so when whispers of Raw started to reach my ears, I was pretty excited about this one. With a trailer that looked extremely stylish, and a burgeoning reputation as very visceral and shocking – apparently one screening in Sweden lost thirty viewers throughout the running time, including two people who fainted – this was a movie I was buzzing to see.
In UK cinemas 31 March and On Demand & DVD 3 April
Don't Knock Twice hits the big screen today and on demand on Monday, to celebrate the launch of this British film we have two reviews for your reading pleasure. One from regular Ginger Nuts of Horror contributor Joe X Young, and one from Daniel Marc Chant one half of the fantastic Sinister Horror Company, one of the finest publishers of horror in the UK. You can check out Dan's books here.
Read on to find out what they they thought of the film.
When it comes to quality filmmaking, the SyFy channel is not normally a production company that you associate with films containing an iota of artistic merit.
The home of Sharknado, and countless Shark ( gene spliced with some other animal) V's an even more stupid gene-spliced animal, you know hat you are getting into when you watch this sort of film. And while they can never be accused of being high art, hell you need a lot of balls to even describe them a low art, they at least have a sense of fun. Not so much popcorn films, more like "Christ I'm really drunk and find the remote to change the channel film.", you at least could watch them with a sort of post-ironic glee.
Day of Reckoning breaks the trend of these low budget, low brow films and attempts a more serious take on their unique brand of horror film. What a huge pity that Day of Reckoning is such a complete and utter failure.
Amy Crowdis and Robin Lord Taylor star in a slow burning yet powerful tale about the escalation of grief into madness.
Melanie Crow is a teenager attempting to come to terms with the suicide of her mother, which followed on from her father’s death in an accident, so now Melanie is left alone with nothing but a large partly home-made doll for company. There is a tangible and natural sense of mental isolation working here, with Crowdis providing a character that at no time dips below believable even when she is talking to the creepy doll of the title.
This isn’t a film with jump scares, spooky soundtracks, flashy camera work or even artificially glamorous actors, but is a rather more subdued film in overall tone. It has a very thin plot, which is actually one of the better aspects of this film as it is not relying on the usual crash bang wallop we too often get subjected to. At most basic we are being shown a slice of life, the tragic one that Melanie is currently enduring will no doubt ring true with many of the viewers who have suffered similar losses. There are questions arising from her situation with no obvious answers, these are largely along the lines of “Is Melanie insane?” and “Is the Doll her dead mother controlling her?” Or is it simply that the grief is just too much?
Robin Lord Taylor in a pre-Gotham role provides the perfect degree of balance as “Dukken” an “Emo” Melanie meets in a library. They strike up an awkward friendship, with Dukken proving to be somewhat likeable and patient as he attempts to gain a greater understanding of Melanie. There is definite warmth in his portrayal which perfectly counters Melanie’s stand-offishness.
There are slight hints towards the supernatural here, yet no neon signposts for it as is the norm for other doll-related movies, and I couldn’t even say that it’s a conventional horror film even though there are very real horrors abound. What it actually is, to my way of thinking at least, is a beautifully constructed dark drama.
Agatha is a short ten-minute horror film that packs in more creepiness, and insidious dread than most movies manage these days. A simple tale of an 1800's street urchin paid to bring food to a room each day, with the strict instruction, do no venture past the dresser in the in the room. As she brings the food tot eh room, her interest and curiosity are magnified with each delivery. Who is the mysterious occupant of the room, and why do they like to eat raw meat.
This is a simple yet highly effective ten-minute film. Apart from the brief discussion at the start of the film where the owner of the house sets out her instructions to the street urchin, there is no more dialogue in the film. A clever move as the viewer becomes wrapped up in the sense of wondrous, curious fear that the urchin feels as she goes about her duties. Why is the person chained, why is room in such disrepair, and why do they only eat raw meat.
The film cleverly utilises and almost Groundhog day narrative, where we repeatedly are shown a shot of her bring the food in, picking up the used the plate from the day before and then getting paid in pocket change by the owner of the house. But with each repeat of the shot, we are teased with a little bit more information as to what is going on.
The film is helped by some excellent cinematography and a great lighting of the set both of which add to the claustrophobic feel of the movie. Despite not having any lines the young actress gives a strong performance and carries the film admirably.
The final reveal, while might be apparent to some seasoned horror films is nevertheless satisfying and handled well. Overall this an effective chiller, that shows a lot of promise for future films from the writer / director.
A full length version of Agatha should be coming your way later this year, in the meantime keep an eye out for it on the Festival circuits.
I apologise for the lateness of this review, every year I forget just how busy and messed up my life can get during the festive period. However, bare with me, for Brian Keene's The Naughty List , is a film worth watching at any time of the year.
Based on the excellent short story The Siqquism Who Stole Christmas featuring two of Keene's most enduring characters Vince and Tony, who are like a sort of bizarro / antimatter version of Hap and Leonard and their memorable encounter with the man in red, is everything a short horror film should be.
High production values and tight direction from Paul Campion, the man behindDevil's Rock (the very first film I ever reviewed) fight with three excellent performances for the star of the show. Vincenzo Nicoli is perfect as the world weary Tony Genova, a no-nonsense hard nose gangster, is a perfect counterfoil to the wide-eyed almost innocent portrayal of Vince by Sebastian Knapp, the weird offspring of Steve Buscemi and Elijah Wood. The chemistry between the two is electric, and hopefully, with any luck, we will see further adventures from this hapless duo.
Mac Elsey's Santa Clause mixes ho ho ho charm with a lovely dark streak, you want a Bad Santa, then this is the original bad Santa.
The Naughty List is a short but captivating watch, ideal for those new to Brian's work, and perfect for those of us who are long-term fans with the nods and winks to some of his other work; I raised a wry smile when the names of gangsters were rolled off.
Until watching this A Wish For Wings that Work was my favourite festive movie, sorry Bill and Opus, you have been usurped, The Naughty List now sits at the top of my list.
Not a review. Not really a critique. More a brain vomit. Spoilers will abound, so if you have yet to see it, go no further - not least because I’ll be writing in the assumption that you have, and this probably won’t make a whole heap of sense otherwise.
And I mean, I enjoyed it, so let’s start with that. I get that there will be Star Wars fans who prefer this to The Force Awakens, and I get why that’s the case. Like TFA, if feels palpably like a film made by Star Wars fans who are love with the original trilogy and desperate to play with those toys that have captivated them since childhood. And unlike some other sci-fi franchises, it doesn’t feel like the new creators are obsessed with remaking the whole thing in their image (yeah, that’s a swipe at Moffat’s Who, I guess, which I enjoy, but blimey, mate, leave some mystery on the table for the rest of us, eh?).
2016 was a year that proved beyond a doubt that Hollywood had no clue when it came to making great horror movies. Insipid, and regurgitated plot ideas and franchises, if you wanted a horror that challenged or dared to explore new avenues, then you had to keep to the smaller independent movie companies.
Thankfully the flip side of this was 2016 being a glorious year for inventive, thought provoking and entertaining horror movies. For every Satanic, and Conjuring 2, we had films such as Baskin, The Green Room, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, The Eyes of My Mother, and the list goes on and on.
Which makes this, the first film review of 2107 on Ginger Nuts of Horror, something that hopefully keeps the great work of 2106 flowing into 2017. Will I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER maintain the trend for great indie horror films, or will it prove to be the first stumbling block of the year?....
Welcome to the seventh installment of a weekly column where Gingernutters Kayleigh Edwards and Kit Power take to a shared Google Doc to discuss this week’s Walking Dead broadcast episode in a conversational exchange. Enjoy!
Warning: The following conversation contains SPOILERS for The Walking Dead, up to and including the events of Season 7, Episode 7. If you don’t want to be spoiled, please turn away now. For those of you who have seen S7 E7, please join in with the conversation in the comments section.
Kit Power: Well now. You wanted more Carl. You surely got more Carl. Happy? :D
Kayleigh Edwards: I certainly am! I’ve been keeping my ‘eye’ out for him...
KP: Well, hell, let’s start with that - Holy Facial injuries, Batman! I know we talk about the zombie makeup a lot, but how gross/awesome was that eye socket?!?
KE: Yeah we know that they’re fantastic with the zombie special effects on this show, but the extent of their skill with wounds was quite… eye opening...
KP: That’s a word! Bloody hell, so much going on in this episode. We got Gabriel and Spencer getting all intense, Rick off on a scavenge, Michonne being the very baddest ass, Daryl looking increasingly close to breaking point and sat right at the centre of it all, scene after scene with Negan and Carl, in the buddy movie from hell.
Should we start with Carl’s ‘genius’ plan? What did you think about how effortlessly he outsmarted Jesus on the road in? And why in the name of all that’s zombie didn’t he just shoot Negan?!?
KE: His interactions with Jesus are hilarious - it’s just the look on Jesus’ face when Carl waves goodbye to him.
I think that he’d just thought of his plan in terms of practicality, but when faced with gunning down live people, it was different. I reckon if Negan had been the first person to step in front of him, he would have shot him, but he killed those two others first and then maybe he lost his nerve or something? I don’t think he expected to come out of there alive anyway, and will probably kick himself forever for not shooting Negan when he had the chance.
KP: Loved that wave, and Jesus’s reaction.
Well, yeah, not as hard as I wanted to kick him! I found myself thinking a lot about Negan this time - his fearlessness looking down the barrel of an automatic rifle was… something. Though I did enjoy how he kind of used one of his own men as partial cover - sociopathic, but not stupid. Still, I have to say the ‘good guy has baddie bang to rights and doesn’t shoot’ is a personal bugbear of mine in fiction, so it was a bit of a groan out loud moment for me.
That said, it’s not the first time the show’s asked me to swallow something a bit dumb/off in the name of furthering the plot, and holy hell we got a ton going on in this episode. Starting with Carl’s grand tour of Negan Central. What did you think about the wider glimpse into the world The Saviours are building?
KE: Well if we didn’t know it before, we know for sure now that Negan rules with fear. And it’s been reiterated that there are ‘classes’ of people in Negan’s world, and the lower classes really are living the crap life, even for people in a zombie apocalypse.
I was quite interested in his many wives and the set up there. I’ve got to say… I just can’t stand Sherry. I’m sure we’re meant to like her but I just can’t!
KP: Yeah, we’re back to the slavery/serfdom model, aren’t we? As to the wives thing, I think I found that scene almost more disturbing than the branding scene, purely because of how it played out up there. It seemed like Negan’s offer for the wife to go back to her man was sincere, so I wonder just how bad that life is that she’s willing to accept enforced prostitution (and the punishment for her former man) to avoid going back. I gotta say, that squicked me the fuck out - especially when she started crying as she told Negan that she loved him. I mean, newsflash: something’s rotten in Saviourland. Still, yuck.
I found something exceptionally chilling about Carl being present the whole time, too. Obviously there was a performativity to it from Negan’s perspective - in fact, that’s a really interesting facet of Negan, he’s ALWAYS performing for someone - but at the same time, it created a level of implied threat and an extra layer of squick throughout, for me. What did you think of that? And what the hell do you think Negan’s game with Carl is all about, anyway? Surrogate father figure? Cat and mouse? Something else?
KE: I think he’s trying to win Carl’s respect and sort of bond with him as another way to get to Rick. There’s obviously something in Carl that Negan respects (if we believe what the Oceanside residents said about the Saviours killing all the boys over 10, then Negan doesn’t have a policy about murdering teenagers). My favourite moment in the whole episode was when Negan realised he hurt Carl’s feelings and apologised. I kept waiting for a punchline, or for him to make it known that his apology was insincere, but when it turned out that it was genuine I was like ‘ermergerd, dude does have a conscience’.
KP: Yeah, that was super weird. Especially when he followed it up by making him sing a damn song under pain of extreme death. Apparently, in Neganworld, terrifying the snot out of a kid is okay (as is murder and mutilation and what have you) but making him cry is a no-no. To add to the confusion, it really did feel like the first time we’ve ever seen Neegan be sincere - that performativity I spoke about, which is absolutely in force at all other times, just… dropped.
And I guess this is a good time to talk about Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Chandler Riggs. Because they had a lot of time together in this one, and I was amazed at how well Riggs held his own against that monster of charisma. What did you think of those scenes? And especially the moment where Carl finally snapped and told Negan to jump out of the window?
KE: The thing I’ve found most interesting about Carl is that Negan hasn’t broken him, even though he broke Rick almost immediately. Part of that is obviously because Carl isn’t the one who feels the responsibility of everyone else’s lives on his shoulders, so he has the luxury of only really worrying about himself in this situation. I think it’s also to do with him really being a product of the environment he’s grown up in. He’s spent barely any time with anyone his own age, but has spent a lot of time around adults who are constantly killing each other. I wonder if he mouths off to Negan because he doesn’t attach the same value to life as everyone else around him does?
KP: Yeah, we talked about that before - this violence is just life to Carl, isn’t it? I mean, I get all that, but at the same time, it’s not too bright, because what he should also realise is that the way Negan operates, it won’t be him, Carl, that pays. Or not just him. I feel like that’s the calculation I don’t get that he isn’t making. But then I flash back on him calmly telling his dad to just cut his hand off. So maybe he does get it.
Talking of that calculation, can we talk about Rosita and Eugene? Because our second would-be Negan assassin got her bullet this week, in what was for me another superbly acted scene...
KE: Yeah, I think he does get it, but he’s not the only one who doesn’t seem to want to go along with serving The Saviours, regardless of the risk to others? Michonne is on her way to Negan now, surely she also knows that if she effs up whatever she’s doing, someone’s in for a skull bashing? And Rosita knows that too, so I guess she’s not intending to fail. She seems to be thinking her plan through more than the other two.
The scene between Rosita and Eugene was brilliant. I like her more and more, I must say! Although I am starting to feel really sorry for Eugene!
KP: Michonne isn’t planning on failing, either, I don’t think. And I actually felt Eugene made good points in that conversation - in fact, he was making the arguments I wanted to see being made (the arguments I wish Rick was making, if you want the truth, but there it is). It’s not that you don’t take him out - it’s that you do it right, with and by the numbers, and for all time. This lone wolf bullshit is not going to get it cut.
On that, I wonder if that is what Michonne has in mind. She’s clearly furious, and all about doing something extreme, but maybe that extreme thing is not to kill Negan, but make some kind of offer/deal? I dunno, I just have so much respect for that character and her intelligence, I think something else might be going on.
And we didn’t talk about Gabriel and Spencer yet. How about that scene? I have to say Gabriel has been a desperately ‘nothing’ character for me, much as I enjoy the actor playing him, but man he got some zingers this time...
KE: Yeah, he and Spencer are polar opposites, especially in the way they view Rick, and themselves. Spencer is a selfish little asshole who spends all his time whining about Rick, but he’s probably too weak to lead Alexandria himself. Gabrielle is becoming a brilliant character though! I’m hoping that there are more interactions between the two of them later on!
Just quickly, about the ‘lone wolf’ plan that the few in the group seem to have, I agree with you. I don’t think any of them are intending to fail with whatever they’re intending to do, but I do think that they’re not thinking of the logistics - as Rick and Eugene are. They seem to be running on emotion, and some unintended arrogance based on their history of overcoming whatever problem faces them, and getting what they want.
What do you think about the difference between the women we’ve seen in Rick’s group, and those in Camp Negan?
KP: See, I think that read is correct for Rosita, but not Michonne. I think she’s got something super smart up her sleeve. Though there will be the slight wrinkle that she’s currently being taken to where Negan isn’t, because he’s back at Alexandria (!!!).
As to the women, I think those in camp Negan are doing what they have to to survive. I think that subjugation, humiliation, and the constant day-to-day threat/reality of sexual assault have just battered them - physically and emotionally. Negan’s ‘hareem’ is instructive in this regard - the women are austensably in a state of luxury, but of course they have to dress a certain way, act a certain way - and give Negan whatever he wants sexually, I assume. I mean, Negan’s society is basically my idea of hell, anyway - authoritarian psychopath in charge, with violence and willingness to hurt others pretty well deciding the rest of the pecking order. But to be a woman in that world… yeah, no thanks.
Whereas the women of Alexandria have agency, passion. They’ve earned their seat at the table, by their contributions to the group, and they haven’t had to deal with the constant threat of abuse on top of the constant threat of zombies and violence from outside. So basically, they get to be functioning human beings in a way the slaves of Negan are prevented from being. It’s one of the things that have made this season of TWD such hard viewing for me personally - this stuff really does push all my buttons, and I’m faintly nauseous whenever Camp Negan is on screen for any length of time.
Hmm. That got a bit long. Sorry. Hey what do you think? :)
KE: I agree - I just can’t imagine being a woman in Negan’s world - however, I’m still a bit confused about it. He’s got these ‘wives’ and apparently doesn’t want anyone there that doesn’t want to be there, but he knows damn well that the alternative must be worse than these women having to sacrifice being with the men they actually love. He told Dwight that he could have a night with one of the wives but only so long as she was willing, but then he kisses Sherry while she’s having a go at him and giving him the evil eye. Though this is why I don’t like her very much. She called him an asshole or something, and he replied that she liked him anyway. And that seems to be true….
KP: Yeah, I really don’t know about that. I think any notion of consent that Negan is holding on to, for whatever reason he’s holding onto it, is pretty meaningless in practise. It’s clearly the most brutal kind of coercion. In that regard, Negan is a pretty brilliantly realised personification of a specific ‘type’ of toxic masculinity - the Alpha Male. He believes he’s so damned attractive in his male brutality that all women want him really, and then generates a state of coercion that bends reality (and the people in it) to fit that self image. I think it ties back into the performativity of him, and that gross self-regarding way he talks, carries himself… I don’t think for a second Sherry really likes him - but I do think she’s figured out that he needs to believe she does in order to survive. I hope that read is right, and I damn well hope the writers do something with it.
And as we’ve got the mid-season break hurtling towards us, I guess we should talk about that ending. Negan - babysitter of the year?!?
KE: Oh my god, I don’t even know what to make of him with Judith! I think that Rick is going to lose his shit when he gets back and sees him sitting there on his porch holding his baby though! Maybe that will be the turning point for Rick to start hatching a plan to defeat him? I have no idea what the ending for the mid-season finale may be!
KP: Thoughts, in no real order - Michonne is heading for the wrong place. Jesus is in the wind, but could provide the location of Negan central. Rick… yeah, bad times ahead for Rick. There will be blood for the blood Carl spilled - or should be, by Negan’s past declarations. Rosita’s bullet may well be present. And Daryl could be on the way home - maybe with Jesus.
That’s a shitload of objects in motion! Thoughts? Predictions?
KE: Ooh I do hope that Jesus gets Daryl out! Maybe he’s the one who posted the note under Daryl’s door? You’re probably right about Negan spilling some blood in return for the two Carl killed, I didn’t even think of that!
KP: That was my thought, but Sherry could be in the frame for the note, also. Or her ex, I guess. And will Daryl take it? And if he does, will he get out? How far is Negan HQ from Alexandria? And, oh, hey, isn’t Carole still technically in this show???
Shit. It’s going to be a long week.
KE: As much as I love Carol.. If they dare end this part of the season in The Kingdom, I will have to murder someone.
KP: Ha! Yeah, I don’t think they’ll be doing that, though I’m sure it’ll feature. And of course we’ll be left hanging, brutally, at some vile Negan centred climax, no doubt. Think Carl is going to die? Judith, even?
KE: I really really hope not, but I wouldn’t rule anything out on this show!
KP: That’s what keeps us on the hook. Just think, this time next week, we’ll have all new trauma to talk about...