Saturday, 10 October 2009


The Escapist

Directed: Rupert Wyatt

Starring: Brian Cox, Liam Cunningham, Joseph Fiennes and Seu George

If you follow my reviews you will already know that I try my best never to give away any of the plot. In fact I try not to mention the actual story arc at all. I do this so you hopefully walk into the viewing experience with no pre-conception of what to expect. I also do it because I want you to only know that I enjoyed the film… This is a review not a synopsis.

This style of review, I believe, is perfectly suited for a film such as THE ESCAPIST. It is such an amazing piece of cinema that any reviewer who gives away even the smallest of plot devices should have his testicles removed with a serrated blade. This is a film that is not to be watched, but to be experienced… a personal journey between, director, writer, cast and audience.

I had never heard of the film THE ESCAPIST before I came across it on the previously viewed shelve in Blockbuster Video and I’ll be honest with you… the only reason I bought it was because it starred Liam Cunningham, an actor my lovely wife has a soft spot for.

Having now sat and watched it I can say that I’m more than happy for her to have a soft spot for him if it means I continue to purchase such outstanding movies.

At the start you may be tempted to turn away, thinking the style and form of the editing to be a little confusing. Well push those thoughts aside and allow yourself to fall into the way that WYATT has decided to showcase this multi-levelled tale. If you do you will not be disappointed.

It is very rare that the independent movie scene throws out such a polished gem of celluloid genius, utilising everything they have to create something that sits well alongside anything being produced by the big movie companies. THE ESCAPIST is one of those rarities.

I’ll start with the visual style and look of the film… It is gritty, grimy and so real that you can almost smell the sweat, the blood and the damp that oozes out of the walls. The washed out colour scheme adds to the hopelessness of the characters situation and, before even a word is uttered, you know that times are desperate indeed.

Nothing is wasted here, even the score is important, the pace of the simple music increasing in tempo as the story progresses, highlighting the sense of importance.

Then we have the characters, the first of which is the location. This place, in my opinion, has a personality all of its own, an oppressive nature that comes from its very being. It walks the line between reality and nightmare, placing the viewer in a very uncomfortable situation… This must be an intentional decision and it works on every level, complementing the visual style that WYATT has adopted.

The living characters live up to the surroundings they find themselves in, lead by Brian Cox in a performance that betters any he has done before. His character, Frank Perry, is one you truly feel for and, regardless of his past, you want to see him succeed.

**As a side note it must be said that this role was written from the start with Brian in mind**

The supporting cast are all as good, filling the story with sound, believable characters. We never know why any of them are here and it doesn’t matter. As only the great scripts can do we have no wasted time on histories… the characterisation is done purely through dialogue and actions. From these points alone the audience quickly realise who they should hate and who they should root for.

Everything about THE ESCAPIST is so well crafted and it is obvious that it was created by a group of people with a dedication and love to the industry. These are the people who will make the UK film industry strong again. I applaud them and wish them all the luck in the world and can’t wait to see what they deliver next time.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Punisher: War Zone


Director: Lexi Alexander

Starring: Ray Stevenson, Dominic West, Julie Benz and Colin Salmon

I was already an eager film fan when they tried to bring The Punisher to the big screen with Dolph Lundgren playing the role of Frank Castle. At the time I was instantly hooked by this ultra violent vigilante… a hero so dark he was almost as bad as those he punished.

More recently they tried again with Thomas Jane and the result was off centre, unable to secure a happy balance between the dark story arc and the humour it attempted to inject to lighten affairs. This Punisher I didn’t like at… it left me cold.

With Punisher: War Zone has once again made me fall in love with the concept of Frank Castle and everything he stands for. This wasn’t an easy task, but with a solid screenplay, a good director and a cast that seem tailor made for the material they have succeeded.

This time it appears that the creative team have embraced the comic book origins of The Punisher’s world, lifted the unbelievable from the printed page and made it flesh and blood. But this wouldn’t have been possible (in my honest opinion) without Ray Stevenson in the part of Frank Castle.

Stevenson makes The Punisher what he is; he gives the character a multi-layered depth that deserves a round of applause. As the story moves along it is easy to believe that this death dealing angel of justice is also a real man, that beneath the body armour and the scowl he has a soul… a tortured one.

I was cheering as The Punisher blew away every villain he came across, but every now and then there would be a look in his eye that reminded me of why he was doing what he does. In those moments Stevenson gave the character a sense of emptiness that was heartfelt and poignant.

Dominic West also deserves two thumbs up for his comic book performance of Jigsaw, a once handsome criminal now disfigured because of The Punisher. West goes from vain gangster to psychotic super villain with vigour, eating up the screen as he falls deeper and deeper into insanity.

What else can I say?

I could go on all night about this film… I loved every minute of it and I hope that Stevenson returns soon… wearing that faded white skull on his chest for all to fear.

If you haven’t seen this one yet run out and get it now and prepare yourself to be punished.



Starring: Chris R. Wright, Dan Palmer, Warwick Davis, Hannah Flint

Director: Peter Stanley-Ward

Run Time: 88 mins

Every generation there comes along a film that you know will find cult status – it’s just a sensation, a twinge in your water that can’t be denied – well, SMALL TOWN FOLK is one of those movies.

On what amounted to a very tight budget the team involved created a masterpiece of independent film making, giving the viewer the type of experience not seen since the early days of PETER JACKSON (when he was making films worth watching).

On first glance you may think “Nothing new here…just another people in the woods film…what makes this stand out from the rest of the drivel on the open market?” All I can say in response is sit down and you’ll find out. You won’t be disappointed….Oh no. The writers and director have melded together horror, comedy and a touch of road movie in such a way that the effect is seamless and you will soon forget at which point your toes stop curling and the tears of laughter started.

The look of SMALL TOWN FOLK is another important aspect of why it works so well, the entire feel of the make believe world of Grockleton heightened by the clever use of GCI skylines. This stroke of artistic trickery is such an added bonus and gives the opening scene of the movie a feel of a TIM BURTON flick.

So, we have a great script and a high gloss/low cost look, but what else could be said to entice you to visit Grockleton?

Oh, I know…The cast.

Movies usually only have one iconic character in them, be it the good guy or the blood swilling crazy. SMALL TOWN FOLK out does all of those with – let me count them up – 1…2…3…4…5…6, well you get the point. SMALL TOWN FOLK is littered with them, from major players, such as the LANDLORD, his family of strange brothers and cousins, and all the way through to a cameo from WARWICK DAVIES.

But, for me personally it is the LANDLORD who steals the show, with his bowler hat, walk stick sword and teeth as black as his heart. I’m quite sure he will soon be found on T-Shirts across the UK brandishing his trademark greeting “Hello, Mush.”

All in all SMALL TOWN FOLK is the best horror/comedy to come out of the UK in years, hell the best full stop. These guys have shown that it is still possible to produce a highly watchable movie on an independent budget.

Get to the bank, take out some cash and get yourself stocked up on popcorn and lager, because you’re going to want to watch this one again and again.

The Next Fix - Book Review

The Next Fix

Matt Wallace

Apex Publications

ISBN: 9780981639017

I picked up this review copy with a little trepidation. From the blurb on the back it appeared to be more of a sci-fi collection than anything else and I have never been a huge fan of this genre.

Well, Matt Wallace has converted me with THE NEXT FIX, a cool collection of twelve short stories. And what a collection it is. Out of the twelve tales I found it hard to find one that didn’t hit the spot. Even the story I found to be out of place – THE LOSTING CORRIDOR – was still surreal enough to hook me in.

It would be even harder to judge which story was the best, but I have to admit to rereading several of them so they must have nestled in close to my heart. AKROPOLIS is just excellent, taking alien invasion to entirely new level (something Matt excels in whatever the story). I also have a fond spot for DELVE, ANOTHER MAN’S RUN and A PLACE OF SNOW ANGELS.

These and every other story are so visual I could almost imagine being within each tale as a casual bystander.

The final tale in the collection, THE END OF FLESH, carries a promise of one day being a film…well I can’t wait.

A superb effort from a very talented imagination.



Director: Andy Hurst

Starring: Carlee Avers, Brad Ashten, Soren Bowie

The movie world has, over the last few years attempted to play on our fears of reality shows with mixed success. Well this year someone has attempted it and done a damn fine job.

ANDY HURST may have worked his way slowly up the ladder, working as writer on direct to DVD sequels such as SINGLE WHITE FEMALE 2, but that work has finally paid off big time and sees him now in the director’s chair of this little corker of a movie.

HURST has taken a variety of elements from the likes of MY LITTLE EYE, THE CUBE and mixed them with a hint of SAW. The result is a satisfying, hour and a half of blood stained fun. And, in my opinion, this is what elevates ARE YOU SCARED above the rest. One word…FUN!!!

ARE YOU SCARED is bound to be compared to the SAW films and this is just unfair. The two films may have a thin common thread, but AYS is clearly the more enjoyable of the two. Don’t get me wrong, I loved the SAW films, but they lacked one important ingredient. They just weren’t fun to watch.

AYS has the blood, it also has the tension and the terror, but it’s done in such a way that, as a viewer, it’s not a harrowing experience. It does have its toe curling moments and some of the ‘games’ the contestants have to play are down right nasty. The scene with the twins is a truly emotional thrill ride as they play to save each other from the spinning tip of the electric drill (a true high point of 2007 horror).

What also helps this idea work is the killer and his reasons for doing so. The JIGSAW character just wasn’t scary and his motive is so weak it beggars belief. With AYS we are given a killer who has a justified motive and conveys menace when seen in the shadowy confines of the game zone.

On first viewing I found the police subplot slightly unneeded, but when the punch line to ‘Police, you’re safe now,” hit it was well worth the build up. It’s an expertly set up, gory joke that made me jump and laugh at the same time.

So, in conclusion, what can I say?

ARE YOU SCARED is the film SAW III should have been…’nuff said.


Gods in Spandex - Book Review



ISBN: 9789529224098

I hate to admit it but I’m now of an age where I can remember the Golden age of the Video. I have clear memories of the battle between VHS and Beta Max.

God, I’m getting fucking old.

But I wouldn’t change being there for the world because, for one reason alone, it made reading GODS IN SPANDEX so much fun. This book is probably one of the most fun reference tomes ever released, a series of essays (of varying length) about some of the more obscure films to hit the screens in the 80’s.

These essays are given depth and feeling by being written by the people who where there, a fine mixture of actors and directors have all given freely their memories. Not all the films here are horror, but I was amazed at how many I remembered owning. 

Some of the essays are a little short and I’m sure some films weren’t that well remembered by the stars, probably due to the drug taking etc… but on the whole this is a great collection of tales.
Roll on the next issue.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

The Devil's Chair

Hey Guys and Gals...

Seeing as everyone has mentioned the fact that they miss my film and book reviews since the website was updated I thought it would be a good idea to enter the world of blogging.

For the most part I'll only use this venue for reviews, maybe the odd interview and now and then to impart details of projects I am involved in.

To get the ball rolling I thought I'd review the following...

The Devil's Chair

Directed: Adam Mason

Starring: Andrew Howard, Elize Du Toit and Matt Berry

I was first introduced to Adam Mason's work when I watched BROKEN... a film that many reviewers found too harsh. I, on the other hand, saw something there, a promise if you will.

And it seems that the feeling in my water was right on the money and THE DEVIL'S CHAIR goes to prove it.

The synopsis for this one, when first heard, will remind you of a dozen other horror films... don't be put off by the group of people stuck in an old insane asylum... stick with it and you won't be disappointed.

Mason and his co-writer, Simon Boyes have managed to breathe new life into a tired storyline. I mean, I'm one jaded horror fan and this one just worked so well for me. 

THE DEVIL'S CHAIR cleverly takes you by the hand and leads you down a path you think is familiar yet, at the same time, is slightly off. It does this by using the lead characters inner thoughts (done in a voice over style) to give the entire story a secondary element that would be missing otherwise.

This voice over almost points accusingly at what is taking place on the screen, takes the piss out of its own origins with a sly nod and wink... It knows that it walks the thin line of cliche and embraces the fact with gutso...

I won't give anything away here, but this voice over is there for a reason, a fucking good one... its there to make the twist... to pull the rug from under your feet and make you realise that modern horror treats its audience as a joke.

As I listened to that final voice over I wanted to fly to LA and pat Mason on the back, buy him a drink and get to know the guy.

Mason's next venture is BLOOD RIVER and, I for one, can't wait.

PS: I don't usually go for extra features but the making of on this one is worth the price of the DVD alone. It is probably the most insightful and honest making of I have watched in a long time.