JUMPSCARECUT: Rosemary’s Baby (1968)

Directed by: Roman Polanski
Cast: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon

Written by Jakob Lewis Barnes

My final review of the JUMPSCARECUT season is a film I’ve been dying to watch for a very long time and one of my biggest cinema sins. Another highly-regarded classic, Rosemary’s Baby is actually a film I knew very little about going in – which helped massively – although I had a distinctly bad feeling about this pregnancy.

The titular Rosemary and her hubby Guy Woodhouse find a lovely new home in the city, ignoring the warnings that the apartment building has a dark history (of course they do, it’s a horror film). Soon after moving in, their oddball elderly neighbours, Roman and Minnie Castevet, insert themselves into the Woodhouse’s lives and take a peculiar joy in learning Rosemary has fallen pregnant. Now, I’ve heard of “love thy neighbour” but these folks take it way too far, implementing a very hands-on approach to caring for the needs of Rosemary and her baby – you see where this is going, right?

In my previous review, I commented on the slow-burning horror of The Exorcist, but that is nothing compared to the way the unnerving tone of this film shifts from gear to gear. The narrative ticks along, creeping closer and closer to the inevitable, malevolent midnight hour, where everything we feared explodes and comes to a horrifying head. Huge credit must go to Mia Farrow for carrying this intensity and brooding terror on her delicate shoulders in what must have been a gruelling role to bring to life. We the audience empathise with Rosemary every step of the way; we see the nightmare unfold through her eyes, we feel the despair and helplessness in her bones.

It’s a horror which is masterfully brought to the screen by Roman Polanski, adapted faithfully from the novel by Ira Levin. The way Polanski frames his characters in their domestic settings, captures body language and facial expressions, and the dynamic chemistry he draws from the ensemble cast is just exquisitely done, and really drives home the notion that this is very much a horror on a human level, invading the sanctity of the home and torturing us out of our comfort zone.

I am so glad I’ve finally ticked this off my watchlist, and I urge anyone else who was waiting for the right time, to just sink into this devilishly dark tale as soon as they can. Rosemary’s Baby is not just a great horror film, it is a masterclass in the art of filmmaking, and a film which firmly stands the test of time fifty years after its release.

Jakob’s Verdict

4-5

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JUMPSCARECUT: The Exorcist (1973)

Directed by: William Friedkin
Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Linda Blair

Written by Jakob Lewis Barnes

After surviving the zombie apocalypse of Dawn of the Dead, I decided to ramp things up a notch for my next JUMPSCARECUT review and take on the ultimate horror movie – The Exorcist. Truth be told, I was shit-scared all day in the lead up to watching this, but also weirdly excited to finally check out what is regarded as one of the cornerstones of the genre.

I’m sure that pretty much everyone knows what goes down in The Exorcist by now, right? Sweet, young girl gets possessed by an evil, messed up spirit, causing her to spit green shit and violent obscenities at people. In an attempt to heal her daughter, her mother seeks the help of various doctors, to no avail, and eventually resorts to religious aid in the form of an exorcism. You know, the usual trials and tribulations of raising a child.

Whilst some of the make-up and prop work leaves much to be desired, you can forgive this in a 70s horror flick, and actually, many of the practical effects (such as levitation and crab-walking down a flight of stairs) are done really cleverly. The whole thing almost plays out as a period piece, with superb set design and some fantastic visuals, including THAT classic image of the priest under the streetlight, which is just the perfect establishing shot before he embarks on the horror within.

Which leads me to the crux of the matter – just how scary is The Exorcist? Well, I haven’t had any nightmares about demonic girls telling me to “shove it up my ass”, so thankfully it hasn’t had a lasting effect on me. But it is an intensely uncomfortable, unsettling, fucked-up film, whose influence on the genre is clear to see. William Friedkin masterfully creates an experience where the viewer is forced to endure a slow-burning journey, which gradually allows fear to seep in, before completely consuming you by the end.

Whilst The Exorcist was certainly not as scary as I feared, it completely exceeded everything I anticipated in terms of its narrative and visual craft. This was right up my street when it comes to horror; give me a sharp, twisted, brooding tale over ridiculous, jumpy slashers any day.

Jakob’s Verdict:

4

GRIMMFEST 2018: Anna and the Apocalypse

Year: 2018
Directed by: John McPhail
Cast: Ella Hunt, Malcolm Cumming, Sarah Swire, Marli Siu, Christopher Leveaux, Ben Wiggins

Written by Sasha Hornby

“What if High School Musical had zombies?” When Anna and the Apocalypse was first conceived, this was the pitch. 8 years later, this zom-com Christmas musical is taking the film festival world by storm – and met with uproarious laughter and applause as the Grimmfest closing film. Set in the peaceful British town of Little Haven, a global pandemic threatens to derail Christmas. Anna (Ella Hunt), and her friends, John (Malcolm Cumming), Steph (Sarah Swire), Chris (Christopher Leveaux), Lisa (Marli Siu), plus ex-boyfriend Nick (Ben Wiggins), must fight and sing their way to survival.

The film opens (after a wonderfully animated opening credits has run) with Anna, and best friend John, getting a lift to school from her dad, Tony (Mark Benton). Some minimal exposition occurs during this journey; as the trio discuss Anna and John’s plans for post-school – Anna wants to travel the world, John wants to go to art school – the radio plays a news bulletin detailing the flu-like disease doing the deadly rounds.

Even those uninitiated in zombie lore know the story from here. The infected die, and their still-animated corpses single-mindedly seek out living humans for sustenance. Meanwhile, our hapless heroes have to traverse their sleepy town, now teeming with the living dead, to reunite with each other. In this respect, Anna and the Apocalypse has little new to add to the undead canon. The same rules apply – don’t get bit, avoid the hordes, aim for the brain. There is a quaint social-commentary attempted as the zombies are easily distracted by flashing lights, glittering tinsel and vlog-style videos made on a phone. For the most part though, the evolution of living to undead is familiar.

What does stand out is the way the kids navigate the end of the world. We all remember being 17, and thinking we’re all grown up and know everything we need to know. The titular Anna is no exception. She’s tough, and practical. And stubborn. She believes she can still go globetrotting, even in the face of Armageddon. Ella Hunt is the perfect choice for Anna, as she exudes effortless cool in every frame. It’s easy to root for her. She also manages to look bad-ass while wielding a novelty candy cane as a weapon. John is Anna’s polar opposite. He’s a little geeky, unashamedly wears a light-up festive jumper, and definitely doesn’t keep his cool. Malcolm Cumming has impeccable comedy timing, playing bumbling yet adorable fool with aplomb. If he doesn’t go on to become a top talent in British comedy, I will be very surprised.

If you thought the only antagonist in Anna and the Apocalypse was the zombies, you’d be dead wrong. John’s nemesis Nick is the school bad boy, played with delicious delight by Ben Wiggins. Wiggins walks with an unrivalled swagger, clearly relishing his big moment crooning about his zombie-killing skills. The real big bad though is acting head-teacher Savage (Paul Kaye), who so clearly hates children, you have to wonder why he ever became a teacher at all! He is utterly demented, void of any compassion, finding the zombie apocalypse a massive inconvenience to his plans for school domination. Kaye is a scene-stealer, delivering each line with a harsh wit. His descent into nihilism is hammed up to 11, with one particular song standing out for hilariously painting Savage as a cartoon villain.

The soundtrack is chocked full of absolute bangers. It has been 3 days since I saw the film, and I am still humming “Hollywood Endings”. To categorise Anna and the Apocalypse is an impossible task. It has been called “La La Land meets Shaun of the Dead.” I say think Glee, but set in Grange Hill, with more blood. Every song is delightful, many laugh out loud. An entirely inappropriate Christmas serenade, sung like a wicked version of the “Jingle Bells Rock” performance in Mean Girls, had me weeping. Everyone commits so fully to the musical trope of bursting into explanative ditties, or emotion-laden refrains, singing and dancing their hearts out for us on screen, they earn your buy-in.

Anna and the Apocalypse is an absurdly good time, dripping in laconic Scottish humour, with a cast of misfits you can’t help but care about. I recommend everybody make this their festive film treat when it’s released in cinemas on November 30.

Sasha’s Verdict

4-5

COMPETITION: Win A Copy Of ‘Day Of The Dead: Bloodline’ On DVD!

Fear goes viral in this terrifying retelling of George A. Romero’s zombie horror classic. Five years after an epidemic nearly wiped out the world’s population, Dr. Zoe Parker lives in an underground bunker among a small group of military personnel and survivalists, working on a cure while fighting armies of the undead. When a dangerous patient from Zoe’s past infiltrates the bunker, Zoe discovers he just might hold the key to saving humanity … or ending it.

Ramping up the action and bloodshed, and with plenty of nods to the 1985 classic, prepare yourselves for the next bloody chapter in one of horror’s most beloved franchises. Day of the Dead: Bloodline is the debut English language feature from acclaimed Spanish director Hèctor Hernández Vicens (The Corpse of Anna Fritz), a long-time fan of George A. Romero’s original ‘Dead’ series. Starring Johnathon Schaech (Legends of Tomorrow), Sophie Skelton (Outlander), Jeff Gum (New Girl) and Mark ‘Rhino’ Smith (UK Gladiators).

Thanks to our friends over at Lionsgate, we have a DVD copy of Day of the Dead: Bloodline to give away to one lucky winner! Just be sure to follow us on Twitter and retweet the below tweet!

Chilling New Trailer For Chase Michael Pallante’s Award-Winning Horror Short ‘Defarious’ Released

We’re excited to share the latest trailer for R&F Entertainment‘s latest horror short, Defarious, which is directed by Chase Michael Pallante. The short has been hugely popular during its festival run, picking up multiple awards in the process.

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“DEFARIOUS A multi award winning short horror film from award winning director and sound designer Chase Michael Pallante and the multi award winning entertainment production company R&F Entertainment. A young woman is tormented by her nightmares and they are beginning to manifest so strongly she becomes disillusioned between the world of her imagination and what is truly reality. An inspiration from childhood fears, this 80’s tone short horror film brings back the old feel and the new sound of what scares you the most.”

This festival hit is released later this month, and we’ve been lucky enough to be offered to opportunity to review the film – so keep your eyes peeled on our social feeds for when it’s up!

FRIGHTFEST: F.U.B.A.R

Year: 2018
Directed by: Ben Kent
Starring: Mark Heap, Sean Verey, Danny Kirrane, David Mumeni, Timothy
Renouf, Ewen MacIntosh

WRITTEN BY MEGAN WILLIAMS

Picture this: A weekend spent at a zombie-themed survival adventure with your best friends (and your Father-in-law) for your Stag do. Sounds great right? Nothing is going to go wrong at all…well, in Ben Kent’s new horror-comedy F.U.B.A.R (a military acronym for ‘F*cked Up Beyond All Recognition/Repair’), everything goes wrong!

This British film was fantastic and very funny; it has the humour and tone of Shaun of the Dead, which blends perfectly with the film’s premise. The cast were all great and they had fantastic on-screen chemistry. They also all had their own personalities and story arcs, making the film consistently entertaining and interesting, as we watched each character react and deal with the quickly unravelling situation differently. Mark Heap, who plays the straight-faced Father-in-Law and supposed ex-Navy veteran Gerald, was a standout, as well as Sean Verey, who plays the slightly awkward Groom-to-be Sam.

This scenario did unravel in a fairly fast-paced and humorous fashion, which worked to the film’s advantage, as it matched the crazy and on-going problems that the main characters faced.

The final act was where it started to falter a little, as the scenario became a little unbelievable, and the running time could’ve been cut by about 10-20 minutes. However, this film overall was a fun and hilarious ride into complete mayhem that echoes an Edgar Wright film. Make sure to check this one out when it is released.

MEGAN’S RATING:

4.5

Miss Leslie’s Dolls (1973)

Year: 1973
Directed by: Joseph G. Prieto
Cast: Salvador Ugarte, Terri Juston, Marcelle Bichette, Kitty Lewis, Charles Pitts

Written by Tom Sheffield

It’s likely Miss Leslie’s Dolls doesn’t ring a bell for a lot of our readers, and in fact, this ‘grindhouse classic’ was thought to be lost until a few years ago when the original print was found. Network is re-releasing an HD restoration of this almost forgotten film next month that will be available on Blu-ray, DVD and VOD. Miss Leslie’s Dolls has been newly scanned from one of the few surviving prints in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The restoration carried out involved careful grain management, both automated and manual removal of film dirt and damage, and correction of major instability, warping and density fluctuations.

Three university students and their teacher find themselves stranded in the middle of the woods in the midst of a thunderstorm. Refusing to just sit and do nothing, the group seek shelter in a nearby house where they meet Miss Leslie – a lonely, middle-aged spinster who allows them to stay the night. It soon becomes apparent that Miss Leslie is a dangerous psychopath who is seeking to liberate his spirit from his ageing body and take possession of a young, healthy female body. Now there’s three of them under Miss Leslie’s roof for him to try to possess, he seizes his opportunity!

With a runtime of just 85 minutes, the film suffers from a surprisingly slow start, even though a major discovery is made fairly early on. The stranded group’s reaction to said discovery is somewhat unbelievable and definitely has no feeling of authenticity to it – it’s something that would make any sane person run a mile instantly, but instead, they’re just kind of little taken aback by it. It’s also a plot point that really should have got things moving a little faster, but unfortunately, it didn’t.

Once the proverbial hits the fan the film’s real horror elements come in to play. There are a lot of familiar ingredients to this horror that I’m sure many fans of the genre will really love. Because all the juicy stuff really only takes place in the third act it’s hard to delve deeper into the film without going into spoiler territory, and because there’s a genuine twist in this tale that I really liked, I will refrain from spoilers and instead encourage you to seek this film out when you can, if only for the third act alone.

Salvador Ugarte’s performance as Miss Leslie was the only act I bought in this film. His mannerisms, facial expressions and gestures were bone-chilling, even if the dubbed female voice was a little off-putting at times. Miss Leslie is rather unpredictable and Ugarte is excellent at keeping the audience guessing what he’ll do next. Terri Juston gives a convincing performance as the responsible teacher, Alma Frost, even if some of her character’s actions and dialogue are rather questionable. The rest of the cast are fine and play their part, the three students weren’t really given much to do outside of making little quips and also making questionable decisions.

I can only imagine the time and effort that went into the restoration of this film, but I was incredibly impressed by the colours and the quality of the film thanks to the hard work that went on behind the scenes. Having not seen the original, and the fact its pretty difficult to find much about this film online, I can’t really compare the two. Given its age and the fact the print would have been sat gathering dust for years and therefore likely damaged, Network’s effort is commendable and they’ve delivered an excellent restoration.

Miss Leslie’s Dolls is released on Blu-ray and DVD on September 3rd and VOD October 1st, and I would definitely recommend a viewing from you horror fans out there who haven’t seen it before. It clearly pays homage to horrors that came before it, most noticeably there’s a strong likeness to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho, but I’m certain there’s plenty of likeness to other horrors in it that I won’t have picked up on. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but it’s an enjoyable horror that deserves a watch, especially following the hard work that will have gone in to restoring it.

Tom’s Rating:

3-5

 

Revenge

Year: 2018
Directed by: Coralie Fargeat
Starring: Matilda Anna Ingrid Lutz, Kevin Janssens

WRITTEN BY FIONA UNDERHILL

‘Revenge’ is a blood-soaked, violent and gory revenge thriller (surprise!) written and directed by French woman Coralie Fargeat. Within the last year or so we’ve had; ‘Raw’ (dir. Julia Ducournau), ‘The Lure’ (dir. Agnieszka Smoczynska), ‘Prevenge’ (dir. Alice Lowe), ‘The Bad Batch’ (dir. Ana Lily Amirpour), ‘You Were Never Really Here’ (dir. Lynne Ramsay), ‘Evolution’ (dir. Lucile Hadzihalilovic) and ‘Blue My Mind’ (dir. Lisa Bruhlmann) – which goes to show that European women are directing some of the best and most exciting genre cinema around at the moment.

Revenge‘ manages to feel simultaneously American, French and African. The landscape looks extremely American, but is in fact Morocco. The main actress is Italian, I have discovered (but speaks with an American accent), the main actor is Belgian, but speaks French to his two friends in the film. The film definitely has an American feel, through an outsider’s eyes, but this works well as the main character Jen (Matilda Lutz) constantly talks about moving to LA and aspiring to make something of herself over there. It is unnecessarily confusing that the film does not have a strong sense of location or a sense of where the characters are from/who they are. However, I believe this was a deliberate choice by Fargeat to make the film seem more universal and also less grounded in reality. The style of the film is definitely paying homage to the American grindhouse genre and the setting has a very ‘Breaking Bad’ feel.

Jen does not appear to be the main character at the start of the film. She is just a bimbo/hanger-on to Richard, a rich man who is having a weekend away, hunting with two of his friends (Stan and Dimitri). However, once shizz starts to hit the fan, Jen very much comes into her own as the protagonist that we, the audience, are rooting for. The film has a pretty naturalistic feel to begin with, albeit in a highly privileged setting. Jen is helicoptered into a palatial modern pad with Richard, who has conveniently left his wife and kids at home. Stan and Dimitri arrive and although they are slightly creepy, Jen fulfills her role as ‘entertainment’, including giving them a poolside dance. The next morning, while Richard is away, Stan rapes Jen, while Dimitri is aware but turns a blind eye. Richard returns and upon discovering the attack, he offers Jen money for her silence. Jen wants to leave immediately and Richard refuses, so she tries to escape. An even more shocking act of violence takes place here and this is when the tone and style of the film changes significantly. This is when the full grindhouse feel kicks in; from the cinematography and editing, to the sound design. As I said earlier, this is also when Jen fully takes the reigns of the film and things are turned on their head.

The use of colour is a big plus in this film; from the claret red blood against the dusty desert to Jen’s neon pink earrings. Sound design is another positive feature, a particular standout was drops of blood falling onto an ant sounding like gunshots. The cinematography and editing are interesting, particularly when Jen takes peyote in an attempt to dull her pain. The levels of violence, blood, and gore go into overdrive here, to the point that they lose their impact because you become desensitized (particularly to the amount of blood). I was not as squeamish about it as I thought I would be, so don’t be put off by this.

Matilda Lutz is clearly the standout here and the whole film would fall down if she were not up to the task. Kevin Janssens is also excellent as the charmingly menacing Richard. His hairy and sweaty chums are the more obvious bumbling villain types, but Richard’s evil is much more insidious. I am excited to see where writer/director Fargeat goes after this. As I said at the start, European women are making some really exciting genre cinema at the moment and (as the kids say), I am here for it. ‘Revenge’ isn’t as successful as some of my favourites from last year (‘The Lure’ and ‘Raw’ being particular standouts), but it is an exciting twist on a well-worn genre. It pulls the rug out from under you more than once and subverts audience’s expectations. It is well worth checking out.

FIONA’S RATING:

3.5

 

 

Ghost Stories

Year: 2018
Directed by: Andy Nyman and Jeremy Dyson
Starring: Andy Nyman, Martin Freeman, Paul Whitehouse, Alex Lawther

Written by Lucy Buglass

For years, mankind has pondered over the existence of ghosts, demons and the paranormal. Many have claimed to have experienced it firsthand, while others dedicate their lives and careers to debunking those experiences. It seems to be a question that no one has been able to answer or prove one way or the other, and this fear of the unknown has been the basis of a number of popular horror stories.

Based on the stage play of the same name, ‘Ghost Stories’ follows skeptic Professor Phillip Goodman’s (Nyman) investigation of three unsolved cases, each one detailing a different haunting. After meeting with his idol and fellow skeptic Charles Cameron, and feeling deflated when he begins to question his lifelong skepticism, Goodman meets with former night watchman Tony Matthews (Whitehouse), teenager Simon Rifkind (Lawther), and businessman Mike Priddle (Freeman) to learn about their firsthand experiences with the supernatural. The film is split into three segments, allowing each character to explain their case through the use of flashbacks where we get to see exactly what happened to the characters.

Throughout these flashbacks, Nyman and Dyson have utilised a number of popular horror techniques that will make you jump out of your seat, or hide behind your hands.  There’s a serious feeling of unease throughout the entire film, and you have no idea what’s going to happen next. Even as an avid fan of the genre, I found myself genuinely terrified during a large portion of the film. ‘Ghost Stories’ knows exactly how to pace a horror film, and how to leave an audience uncomfortable yet unable to look away from the screen. Whilst the jump scare is inevitable, the film doesn’t overuse these and instead finds ways to build tension and fear, which actually heightens the experience because you find yourself trying to predict when something’s going to pop out at you. It leaves you on edge for the entire ninety minutes, which in my mind, is exactly what a horror film should do.

The stories told by each of the men are gripping, and the actors all do exceptional jobs of portraying their characters. Each of the men interviewed by Goodman are very different in their class backgrounds, beliefs and personalities, but are united in their adamancy that they did experience hauntings and that they left them completely shaken up afterwards. This reinforces the idea that the supernatural can target anyone, and leave anyone feeling helpless. Particular praise has to be given to Alex Lawther; after seeing him in season 3 of ‘Black Mirror’ I had high hopes, and he delivered. He’s certainly one to watch and I look forward to seeing what he gets up to next.

‘Ghost Stories’ is incredibly British in nature, mixing the right amount of dry humour and satire into what is an utterly terrifying experience overall. Other critics have said it’s the best British horror film in years, and I couldn’t agree more. It’s an incredibly gripping story that has a lot of twists and turns, and tugs at all of your heartstrings. Alongside the characters, I went through a number of emotions and felt fully invested in their lives. These are all characters that feel familiar, they’re your average human, which throws realism into the mix. Being able to identify with characters in a horror film makes your fear 100 times worse.

This film is best experienced with as little context as possible, if you walk into it completely blind, I believe you’ll get maximum enjoyment out of it. The trailers have done a great job at keeping it as vague as possible, which was a bonus. There’s nothing worse than trailers giving everything away in a few seconds. ‘Ghost Stories’ does have a twist ending, but I thought this was done brilliantly and I personally was unable to predict it. Nyman and Dyson have put so much effort into crafting an intense, thrilling, mysterious story and it’s seriously paid off. I’m now hoping ‘Ghost Stories’ will be returning to the stage soon, because I’ll be first in line for a ticket!

Lucy’s Rating: 8.0/10