Amsterdamned (1988) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Amsterdamned (1988)

Shameless Screen Entertainment’s DVD release of Amsterdamned

Film: Shameless Screen Entertainment (henceforth referred to as SSE) are very clever when it comes to the way they release films. As a collector, I am nutty about getting every disc in a numbered collection, and to have the spines make up the company name any various images just makes my brain absolutely freak out if I am missing just one.

SSE have made a few mistakes with their layout of the collection which has caused double ups and other criticisms, but mostly I have been happy with the films they have released, in this case, and number 37 in the collection, we have the Dutch action/ giallo Amsterdamned.

A killer is stalking the streets of Amsterdam… well, not the streets: he travels from victim to victim via the canals, dressed in a diving suit. Our hero, tough guy police officer Eric Vissel (Huub Stapel) is on the case after the discovery of a victim, a prostitute, who was left hanging from a bridge by her feet over a canal.

Amsterdamned: police work at work.

As the body count increases, the pressure on Vissel to capture him does too, but will he and his 80s mullet have the police skills to do so?

So is this a giallo or an action film? Personally I’m not sure, but knowing that director Dick Maas is such a fan of American films, I’d say the latter. The movie is steeped in 80s fashion and there are mullets as far as the eye can see, but the one thing that is omnipresent is the attempt to replicate the bombasticity of the 80s action film which isn’t quite 100% pulled off as there is still a reserved Northern European-ness to it.

Here lies the problem. The film is confused by its identity and doesn’t quite pull off the inherent nastiness and sleaze of a giallo, nor is its machismo fully in place enough for it to feel like a proper action film.

The motorcycle chase scene has to be singled out and identified as pretty amazing. The stunt driver on the bike looks like he’s going to stack it on more than one occasion and has DNA entrenched in The Italian Job… OK, that might be overselling it somewhat, but it’s a pretty cool 3 minute chase. The real winner in this film is the boat chase. Some truly outstanding manipulation of speedboats in the canal make for an epically cool, almost James Bond-y sequence.

Unfortunately the dubbing is occasionally laughable. Not the dialogue itself (though at times it is a bit hokey), but certainly the execution of it. The accents of the characters are… actually I don’t know WHAT they are! I have known several Dutch people over the years and this isn’t quite what their accent sounds like!

If I’m totally honest with this review, and I am always honest, this is about the eighth time I have attempted to watch this film. Why so many? Well, I have fallen asleep during it every single time.

Amsterdamned: dead hooker on a canal boat

That’s not generally a glowing recommendation and it’s not that this is any worse a story than many second string giallos, it’s just paced quite oddly and that makes it feel longer than it is.

Score: **

Shameless Screen Entertainment’s Amsterdamned DVD menu

Format: Amsterdamned was reviewed on the SSE UK DVD which runs for approximately 109 minutes and is presented in a slightly above average 16×9 letterboxed image with an apparently remastered, and quite clear, Dolby 2.0 audio. It’s not digital perfection, but it’s ok.

Score: ***

Extras: The disc opens with trailers for other SSE movies The House With Laughing Windows, Dellamorte Dellamore and 4 Flies on Grey Velvet, before we get to the menu screen.

Other extras on this disc though, include Amsterdamned: the City – the Film – the Makers is a dubbed making-of documentary that is actually pretty interesting even though its quality is not the sharpest, which isn’t a criticism of the doco, but just a reflection of the video of the time. 

There’s an image gallery, which I hate!! Not this one in particular though as it shows promo pics and advertising rather than just movie stills.

In addition to the aforementioned trailers, we also have trailers for The Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh, Almost Human, The New York Ripper, Don’t Torture a Duckling, Cannibal Holocaust and House on the Edge of the Park. The is also a ‘still’ trailer advertising a company called ‘Argent’.

There is also a Dutch, English and American trailer for the film.

SSE have also given us a reversible cover for this release.

Score: ***1/2

WISIA: I probably won’t watch it again, just because it took me so long to get through it once!

Amsterdamned: getting a little head on a boat

Harley Quinn’s Greatest Hits Review

There is no doubt in my mind that DC Comics do female superheroes better than Marvel. Of my top five favourite super heroines, 4 of them are DC: Supergirl, Power Girl, Batgirl, and Harley Quinn. (For full disclosure’s sake, the Marvel heroine is She-Hulk).

I’ve been a fan of Harley Quinn since her first comic appearance in The Batman Adventures issue #12, but I really liked what I saw in the Bruce Timm/ Paul Dini story Mad Love, though they came at a time when I was drifting out of comics because of how awful they had become in the early 90s so I missed out on a whole pile of her adventures until I became re-united with her when her own comic became a part of the New 52 Universe that DC started several years ago. She wasn’t one of the 52 launch titles, but once her comic started, I was well and truly into it. Harley’s actual first appearance was actually in an episode of Batman: The Animated Series as a sidekick of the Joker.

Who is Harley Quinn, I hear you ask? Harley’s origin sees her as a psychologist Harleen Quinzel who was manipulated by the Joker whilst treating him in Arkham Asylum to fall in love with him. The Joker has a firm ‘treat ‘me mean and keep ‘me keen’ ethos and that really works on Harley.

The Joker decided at one point that she cramped his style, so he attempted to kill her but she was rescued by Poison Ivy (another Batman villain) who assisted in her recovery by giving her various plant potions which also made her more limber, and increased her strength and endurance. She is also resistant to most toxins, including the Joker’s laughing gas.

Harley’s popularity also rose from her appearance in the amazing ‘Arkham’ video game series and she has been a cosplay favourite for a while too. Her appearance in the TV show Birds of Prey went by with just a blip, but her portrayal by Margot Robbie in 2016’s film Suicide Squad nailed her look into people’s regular day-to-day wear,

This collection is a series of 8 stories taken from various comics which show the evolution of the character from throwaway gun moll to superhero in her own right (if you have read the Harley Quinn/ Power Girl 6 issue mini series written by Amanda Conner, Jimmy Palmiotti, with art by Palmiotti, St├ęphan Roux and Justin Gray). Her character goes from flat out villain to crazy fun-loving within a few pages that represent many years, so it’s funny to see just how much the character has evolved to suit the affection the comic loving populace have for her. Some of the stories are only a few pages long and serves as character vignettes, but others really display the character is all her crazy lights!

Story: This being a historical collection, there is a variety of writes who have worked on it: Scott Beatty, Kelly Puckett, Jeph Loeb, Paul Dini, Adam Glass, Scott Snyder & James Tynion IV, Amanda Conner & Jimmy Palmiotti and Rob Williams, and the stories are presented in historical order. The Rob Williams story is the most recent and clearly sees the film version of the Suicide Squad become a more comic related group and is an interesting look at where Harley’s mind is as far as wanting to be a superhero is concerned, but for me, the Kicked in the Teeth, from 2011’s Suicide Squad #1 by Adam Glass is the most effective story. The least effective story is Jeph Loeb’s The Opera but only because it was a past of a bigger story that was presented over 12 issues, and there are minor subplots unresolved. It’s not a criticism of Loeb’s writing, but more it’s appearance here is a misstep as it is only a snippet of an entire Batman story.

All in all it’s an uneven story collection, but as a character evolution and dissection, it almost works!

Score: ***1/2

Art: As with the story, the art is of varying quality, but is mostly representative of the story it is presenting. Modern comics art legend Jim Lee makes two appearances here, his better art featuring in the The Opera story, but for me, the fun, cartoony are of Mike Parobeck, whose art lends itself to both an animated or a traditional comic style, in the Batgirl: Day One.

Overall though, I really liked all of the art in this collection.

Score: ****

WIRIA: Am I gonna read a collection of one of my favourite characters more than once? Of course I am.

Lights Out (2016) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Lights Out (2016)

Lights Out Australian bluray cover

Film: In 2013, a short film called ‘Lights Out’ was shared over and over by various groups of horror fans I belong to on Facebook and other social media sources. This film, made by David F. Sandberg, was submitted to several horror movie competitions, and won Best Director at the Who’s There Film Challenge and Best Short at FANT Bilbao in 2014.

To date this film has had about 3.3 million views on YouTube, and even IMDB gives it a rating of 7.8/10: that’s a whole point MORE than Insidious. I suppose I’d better share the video here: Lights Out short film!

Go and watch it, I’ll be here when you come back.


So you’ve finally returned: watched the ‘ten best horror shorts’ parts 1 and 2 and a few funny cat videos did you?

Anyway, Sandberg has been given the occasion to turn his short into a feature film… and what a feature film it is! If this is an example of the quality of what he’ll be putting out, I’ll be watching every film he makes… though it’s been announced that he’ll be directing the sequel to the awful Annabelle, so maybe not EVERYTHING.

Our films starts with the horrible death of Paul (Billy Burke) whose wife, Sophie (Maria Bello) goes into a spiral of depression, a spiral she has encountered previously in her life on several occasions, which includes talking to herself, quite animatedly.

Lights Out: Gabriel Bateman and Maria Bello

Her son, Martin (Gabriel Bateman) is experiencing a few anomalies as well, including nocturnal visits from ‘Diana’, a spectre who can only be exposed in complete darkness, and disappears when the lights come on. 

Being kept awake at night in fear of ‘Diana’, Martin keeps falling asleep in class, and Child Protection Services are called. When his mother can’t be reached, his estranged half-sister, Rebecca (Teresa Palmer), is called to help, and when she sees Martin going through something very similar to a situation when her father left her mother, she decides to step in.

Lights Out: Teresa Palmer as Rebecca

It appears, though, that maybe ‘Diana’ is more than a fantasy, and her history intertwined with Sophie’s, but can the family survive her interference?

This movie is an excellent film, well acted and beautifully shot, and those who are regularly effected by Lewton’s Bus will spend their viewing attempting to avoid sharting. The appearance of Australian Teresa Palmer and a favourite of mine, Maria Bello (who played a similar role in the film The Dark) made me happy as well.

I also liked the fact that Sandberg was able to take his short and develop it into a cohesive, feature length (albeit only 80 minutes) film. This was done well by screenplay writer, Eric Heisserer, whose work I usual have little appreciation for as previous efforts by him that I am aware of are the Nightmare on Elm Street remake, and The Thing remake, prequel, sequel or whatever the hell that thing was. He also did Final Destination 5, so not a complete loss, but he has certainly redeemed himself with this script. It’s not a perfect script, and honestly the appearance of Diana in the main character’s lives is certainly steeped in Freddy Krueger’s lore. A non-horror fan may no see it, but a fan definitely will!

A special mention also has to go to the direction for the least annoying kid ever submitted to film!

All in all, even though I am not a fan of ghost/ demonic type films, I found this to be entertaining and well executed. 

Score: ***1/2

Australian bluray Lights Out menu screen

Format: This review was performed on the Australian, region B Bluray of the film which runs for about 80 minutes. It is presented in an equally amazing 2.40:1 image and DTS-HD Master Audio.

Score: *****

Extras: Deleted scenes which, honestly, the film is better off without!

Score: *

WISIA: I’m sure the jump scares will have lost their power, but the film was well acted, and well scary, so yeah, I’d give it another go.

Lights Out: crazy writing is never a good sign!

Viral (2016) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Viral (2016)

Viral Australian bluray

Film: I love it when a film that you have no prior knowledge of makes an impression. I don’t even know why I bought this. I was in JB Hifi looking to get rid of the money burning a hole in my pocket, and I liked the cover of this, and the back made it sound OK too. 

In general I like body horror films, the work of David Cronenberg being of a particular high point, for me Shivers or Rabid being my favourites, and this film has trappings of his films, but with a more accessible story to appeal to a greater mass market. Imagine if Cronenberg directed a John Hughes movie in a post-mainstream zombie movie world!

Viral: Sofia Black-D’Elia

Emma (Sofia Black-D’Elia), her sister Stacy (Analeigh Tipton) and their father (Michael Kelly… who is used to virus infected people after his jaunt in the Dawn of the Dead remake) have moved to a new small town after a traumatic family event, which temporarily is keeping their mother away. The girls are typical teenagers, and their father has taken a position as a science teacher at a local high school… but something awful is happening… a horrible new parasite has emerged: first a hunger, then a sore throat, the fitting, then the vomiting of blood…

Viral: a bloody mouthful

As their parents are stuck out of the now quarantined town, Emma and Stacy have to fend for themselves, and defend themselves from those whose bodies are now possessed by these creatures… but what would happen if one of THEM became infected?

The first thing I have to say about this film is how beautifully shot it is. The film is directed by Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman, responsible for directing both Paranormal Activity 2 and 3, but don’t let that turn you off. This film was written by the writer of those two films as well, Christopher Landon, who also gave us Scout’s Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, a film I enjoyed, and adapted to a screenplay by Barbara Marshall. 

There a some scenes that are just shot almost as a travelogue, or as if a static piece of art was being created. The scenery possibly has a lot to do with that as well as this town the film is set in seems to have mountains all around it and it’s just breathtaking.

The script is witty, with an amusing jibe about zombies aimed at Michael Kelly’s science teacher, and the female lead is delightfully refreshing in her realistic practicality, and her quiet, non-Hollywood beauty. If I am to criticise the script at all, it is to the characters that surround her: her sister is TOO much of a rebel, her sister’s boyfriends is TOO much of an idiot and of course, parents are amped up to be obnoxious jerks, but the movie is told from the point-of-view of a teen/ younger sister so that’s expected. At least in her eyes, the father is seen as a wholly good person and when she finds out that even he is flawed, the way she sees the world changes.

It really is a great take on the body horror sub-genre, with just a little zombie thrown, in (not enough for it to be classed as a ‘zombie’ film, but just enough to point it out) and it’s young cast make it a pretty cool entry level, Z for Zachariah styled horror film. See it!

Score: ****

Viral bluray title screen

Format: This region B, Australian release bluray of Viral runs for just over 85 minutes and is presented in an immaculate 2.40:1 image with a matching DTS HD 5.1 audio. This image is so sharp that it reveals every single hair, zit and pock mark on the actor’s faces. 

Score: *****

Extras: Not a sausage! Nothing!

Score: 0

WISIA: Thoroughly enjoyed this film so yes, definitely will get watched again.

Viral: peekaboo!

Death of a Ghost Hunter (2007) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Death of a Ghost Hunter (2007)

Death of a Ghost Hunter Australian DVD cover

Film: As a collector of stuff, occasionally I am captured by that thing called ‘The Bargain’. We have all seen them: buy two get one free (even when we only want two), ten DVDs for 20 dollars at a closing video store (you can find seven you want but force yourself up to the ten for the ‘value’)… Hell, even as I write this I just bought an extra vinyl record from an eBay store as the price of postage for 2 records was the same as 3!

I am as easily manipulated as everyone else!

This film made its way to my collection via one of those ‘buy ten’ at a closing video store, which is why you may have noticed the ‘horror’ and ‘$3 weekly’ stickers on the photo above.

This film was directed and co-written by Sean Tretta, who also directed The Prometheus Project and The Great American Snuff Film which was co-written by Tretta’s co-writer here, Mike Marsh. 

Our film starts with a backstory of a family who were killed in 1982, and how a paranormal investigator, Carter Simms (Patti Tindall) 20 years later met her final destination at whilst investigating the haunting that had been reported over the former 20 years.

Death of a Ghost Hunter: Patti Tindall as Carter

Carter has been employed by the nephew of the murdered couple, Seth (Gordon Clark) to find out what is going in the house, and accompanying Carter is a videographer, Colin (Mike Marsh), journalist Yvette (Davina Joy) and local church representative Mary (Lindsay Page). The four of them need to spend three nights in the house and perform a full investigation, but will they all get out alive? I mean, obviously the title suggests that at least Carter doesn’t but… will the rest of them?!?

This film won best screenplay at the New York City Horror Film Festival and mostly, except for a few dumb jokes and some dumb lines (whilst looking through a window into a structure, one of the characters declares ‘there’s a room in there’… yeah, there WOULD be), it is an interesting story. The problem is the execution.

First, those ‘jokes’ I mentioned are delivered so terribly that they fall totally flat. The reason the jokes are delivered so badly is that other than Patti Tindall, most of the cast are at best, of a high school drama club video standard. Even though lines are ‘delivered’, it’s not supposed to be like a pizza. A little passion or effort could go into it!

Death of a Ghost Hunter: Lindsay Page as Mary

Secondly, it commits a crime that I can’t forgive. I hate ‘found footage’, shaky cam rubbish, and some of this is done in such a style. The scenes done in this way are awkward and hokey, and even part of the script pulls the piss out of The Blair Witch Project, which doesn’t sit well with the rest of the story. Weirdly, memories and flashbacks are also told in weird ‘old film’ Robert Rodriguez Grindhouse styled, but the memories weren’t films… so why are they made to look like old film stock? If it were like Sinister where the crimes were filmed I’d get it, but this makes no sense at all.

The final issue is the way it was filmed. I mentioned ‘high school drama club’ and the direction/ editing is mostly of a similar level. At times I can’t figure out if some of the photographic decisions were made for artistic reasons or were accidents that they decided to leave in. The mastering of the DVD doesn’t do any of the cinematography any favours either.

All in all it’s a great story, executed poorly, which is a shame.

Score: *1/2

Death of a Ghost Hunter Menu Screen

Format: This review was performed whilst watching the Australian, region 4 PAL DVD which runs for approximately 105 minutes… though it does at times feel like 21,005 minutes (the first 20 minutes feel like they go for an hour themselves). The film is presented in 16×9 widescreen image which is of a fairly average quality, not artefact laden, just grainy and not very sharp. The soundtrack, presented in Dolby Digital 2.0 is fine though.

Score: **1/2

Extras: Only two extras on this disc: a few deleted scenes, which are introduced by the director and the trailer. As usual, the film is better without the scenes shown here and the addition of the director’s comments are interesting (there’s always a reason why these things get cut), and the trailer does the job.

Score: **

WISIA: Nup, and actually, i wish I hadn’t seen it once!

Death of a Ghost Hunter: a G-G-G-Ghost!!

Justice League Dark Volume 1: In The Dark Review

Justice League Dark Volume 1: In The Dark

As far as I am concerned, the state of mainstream comics, that is Marvel and DC, is in somewhat of a state of horrible flux at the moment. When I was a kid (yes, it’s going to be one of THOSE stories), comics were up to high numbers in their issue count, but those high numbers don’t count anymore as the companies seem to think that high numbers deter new readers from buying the product, but in a world where the movies and TV shows seem to be more popular than the reading matter, I find that that doesn’t really matter anymore.

DC make attempts to reinvent itself every couple of years, and the New 52 was a (now aborted) idea which took everything in the DC universe and completely rebooted it after the events in a company crossover called ‘Flashpoint’. Funnily enough, I was booted from a comic forum as I dared to suggest that seeing as how DC were focused on the number ’52’ that it would only last a little over 4 years (52 months).

I was right, and Convergence, another company crossover, cleaned the slate again, except for the stuff the fans accepted, so basically the DC universe is now built around popularity rather than creativity.

Anyway, enough of my old comic fan whinging, and onto the review of Justice League Dark Volume 1: In The Dark!

Justice League Dark went for about 40 issues and looked at the heroes who are responsible for the darker, more magical villains that may attack the DC universe. This collection contains the first 6 issues of the regular comic collected into one softcover volume. It also contains character sketches by artist Mikel Janin.

The interesting thing about this comic is the abandonment of the Vertigo adult imprint that DC once championed to return these characters back into the regular DC Universe, and as far as this collection is concerned, the name Justice League Dark is the name of the comic, not the actual group.

The group, in this book, contains Zatanna, Deadman, Shade the Changing Man, John Constantine and Madame Xanadu. There is also special appearances by Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman and Dove.

Story: This first book is written by Peter Milligan who is responsible for one of my favourite 2000AD comics of all time, Bad Company. Over his career he has worked for many comic companies, including Eclipse and Marvel, where he did the insane and awesome X-statix with Madman’s Mike Allred. Over the years I have read much of his stuff and been in awe of it… but not this time.

This collection of Justice League Dark really tells of the origin of the JLD, and how their formation is caused by the insanity of June Moon, who has been separated from her Enchantress alter-ego. The regular Justice League attempt to intervene in her threats, but Zatanna brings a stop to that as she knows the forces of magic are above that of the JLA.

Meanwhile, Madame Xanadu keeps having visions of the deaths of those who will become the JLD unless they join together, but all the future members resist… as the Enchantress’s insanity continues…

Like I said, I normally love Milligan’s quirky ideas and writing, and whilst the script in this story is good, I found the story to be lacking something me the character combination to be lacking any cohesion. Was that the point? Maybe, but for me it made for awkward storytelling.

Score: **1/2

Art: The art in this collection is done by Mikel Janin, a Spanish former-architect who has been in comics since 2010. His artwork is of a very European style, me all the characters, male and female are beautiful examples of physical excellence. His layouts are clear and tell the story with some visual excellence. I find his artwork to be reminiscent of Milo Manara’s, but with less genitalia.

The cover by Ryan Sook is cool too, though I find his art occasionally to be derivative of Adam Hughes or Terry Dodson. That means it pretty awesome though.

Score: ****

WIRIA: I probably won’t read this again, but I certainly will revisit the artwork as I found Janin’s style compelling.

Holidays (2016) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Holidays (2016)

Film: There’s two things that horror movies do better than other genres of films: anthologies, and films commemorating special holidays… yes, New Years Evil is much better than News Year’s Day, by about a million times.

This is very much a modern anthology tale though, and sits more amongst the V/H/S and ABCs of Death-styled films rather than something like Creepshow or John Carpenter’s Bodybags. The difference, to me, being that older anthologies have a sense of fun, and are far more in tune with comics like Tales of the Crypt, and have an almost ironic comical resolution to each tale. These newer ones can have endings like that, but they are far darker, and the resolutions far more horrible and the irony rarely amusing.

There’s a great mix of creators in this movie though: Anthony Scott Burns ( who worked on visual effects on The Last Exorcism Part II), Kevin Kolsch (director of Starry Eyes), Nicholas McCarthy (director of The Pact), Adam Egypt Mortimer (director of Some Kind of Hate), composer Ellen Reid, Gary Shore (director of Dracula Untold), Kevin Smith (c’mon, you know who Kevin Smith is!), Sarah Adina Smith (writer of The Midnight Swim), Scott Stewart (director of Priest) and Dennis Widmyer (writer of Starry Eyes).

Holidays asks us to celebrate 8 occasions with it:

The Valentine’s Day story tells of a teenage girl with self-harm issues who seems to be entering into a relationship with her coach, and who has been a victim of bullying, and maybe self-harm is no longer her objective…

St Patrick’s Day explores a young school girl who is encountering difficulties in starting at a new school, and her teacher who is experiencing a strange pregnancy that the young girl seems to be aware of…

The Easter tale looks at the confusion a child can experience with the celebration, which incorporates Jesus’ resurrection and the legend of the Easter Bunny, but maybe it’s not her that’s confused.. maybe it’s the rest of us… maybe the story of Christ and that if the Easter Bunny and horribly intertwined…

Mother’s Day explores the life of a woman who gets pregnant every time she has sex, and how a doctor advises her to meet her sister, who runs a weekend retreat for women who can’t get pregnant… but maybe the women have more serious intentions for her…

Father’s Day has a young woman receive a tape recorder which contains a message from her estranged father, who asks her to meet her at a place they once went together. The woman is upset as her mother had previously told her that her father was dead… was she lying..?

Halloween tells the tale of three girls who work for a ‘girly’ webcam site who decide maybe this isn’t where there future lies…

Christmas sees a man desperate to get a particular gift for his child, and goes to deadly extremes to get it. The gift, a VR headset, may know the man’s dirtiest secrets though…

New Years Eve is the culmination of the tales, and we visit a murderer who has a thing for teeth, and wants to meet a new girl to kiss at midnight, but the girl he meets is much more than she seems…

Having a variety of writers and directors obviously makes for a somewhat uneven mix of story quality, but they do all entertain. Each story has a very small pool of talent but they are mostly fully engaged in the story which makes them even more unsettling. The poorest of the stories is Kevin Smith’s as even when being dark, it’s still sophomoric, and the acting in it is clearly less than the rest of the tales. That’s not to say it’s awful, it’s just the lesser of all the shorts on this disc.

The more I muse on this film, the more I am impressed with the variety of writers and directors managing to make a film cohesive even above and beyond the similar theme. Best thing is, you don’t have to wait until Halloween or Friday the 13th or Valentine’s Day to watch it!

Score: ****

Format: This region B, Australian bluray of this film runs for approximately 105 minutes. The film is presented in 2.35:1 and with a Dolby DTS-HD 5.1 audio, both of which are great

Score: *****

Extras: Not a brass razoo.

Score: 0

WISIA: It’s a fun mix of shorts, yeah it’ll be watched again.

Robert Vaughn R. I. P.

The To Watch Pile was saddened to learn of the death of actor Robert Vaughn yesterday, aged 83, after a brief battle with leukaemia.

Vaughn was in many films, including The Magnificent Seven and Bullitt, but for me he will always be the guy from The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Battle Beyond the Stars!

The To Watch Pile would like to pass on our condolences to Mr. Vaughn’s family.

Haunt (2014) Review

One from the to watch pile…
Haunt (2014)

Film: On occasion, I’ll pick up a scary movie based on just name in the credits. Honestly, it rarely is a good choice, and I have been burnt by several latter-day Argento flicks, for example. I’ll pretty much well grab anything with any of the 80s Scream Queens in it and, well, rarely are they anything but a little titilation.

This movie was picked up due to the presence of a single Australian actress amongst a bunch of American ones who I either had never heard of, or I had only seen in bit parts of other films.

In this case the actress is Jackie Weaver.

Haunt: Jacki Weaver as Doctor Morello

Haunt is written by Andrew Barrer, who is current working on Ant-man and the Wasp for Marvel (though I imagine more will eventually be credited) and directed by Mac Carter, who wrote and directed one of my favourite documentaries about comics, Secret Origin: The Story of DC Comics.

Haunt tells of a reserved young man, Evan Asher (Harrison Gilbertson) who has moved into a strange old house with his family. Whilst on a walk in the woods, Evan meets a neighbour, a girl of about his own age Samantha (Liana Liberato) who appears to be somewhat of a loner herself, and the two of them start exploring the house.

Now this strange old house has a secret: the family that lived there, the Morellos, are all deceased except for the mother, Janet Morello (Jacki Weaver) and it looks like our two potential new young lovers have accidentally opened a door to the spirit world by activating a ‘spirit radio’ they found in a hidden room, which can be tuned into the dead.

Haunt: Harrison Gilbertson as Evan

Will they survive though, when the dead start transmitting back?

I think I can see what they were hoping to do with this film. They were hoping to take the post millennial ghost story and put a twist on it, and at the same time, push Jacki Weaver’s character into a point where she is the linchpin for a series of tales, maybe a future franchise but there are a few problems.

The first is the two leads are boring and generic. It’s not they act badly, they just don’t seem to be given too much to do and when the ghostly happening do start to occur, the story doesn’t seem to know quite what to do with them.

The next problem is the ghost radio thing doesn’t really seem to be given much of a story. It’s there and then it’s not, and then it’s back, and it seems it supposed to be this epic device to get to speak to the afterlife, and it has a cool design, but it doesn’t feel like it gets the reverence it’s probably should.

The last issue is Jacki Weaver. She takes command of every scene she is in, but doesn’t really have any one to act with. She is given a couple of really great scenes but it’s just not enough.

I’m not saying it doesn’t lend itself to a sequel, it really does as there is a skeleton of an interesting story starring Weaver and the ghost radio, but it just needs to be a little more horrific, and maybe a ghost redesign as The Conjuring styled ghosts, with their j-horror influences are old hat now… surely there is still an art designer out there with a fresh idea!

Score: **

Format: The film was reviewed on the Australian region B Bluray, which runs for approximately 85 minutes. Both the 2.40:1 image and DTS Master Audio 5.1 track are excellent.

Score: *****

Extras: This disc entertains a complete lack of extras except for three trailers that show before the movie starts, which are for Two Men in Town, Poker Night and The Devil’s Hand.

Score: 1/2

WISIA: A well acted and finely directed but at the end wholly unsatisfying movie. I doubt if I’ll ever watch it again. I would suggest though that it’s one of those films where a lot of dialogue may hint at the ‘secret’ ending, so a second watch may be full of ‘ooooooooooh’ moments.

Haunt: ghostly manifestations!