Monday, 20 April 2015

The Herd

Dir. Melanie Light

The Herd is an unshirkingly brutal, vegan-minded short which serves as a chilling metaphor for the inhumane treatment of cattle at the hands of the dairy industry.

Hundreds of millions of these sentient creatures suffer and die every year as their bodies are treated like machines. Forcefully impregnated so they produce milk, they are pumped full of growth hormones to produce unnaturally large quantities of milk, and antibiotics to combat constant mastitis infections. When they are no longer able to lactate, they are destroyed.

The Herd substitutes women for cattle and subjects them to the same horrendous processes as the average dairy cow as it delves into the everyday horrors of the dairy industry…

Head over to Exquisite Terror to read my full review.

Sunday, 19 April 2015

See No Evil 2

Dirs. Jen & Sylvia Soska

Slasher films are infamous for instigating a seemingly unending chain of sequels. Cynically speaking, slasher sequels are generally inferior titles that simply rehash the plot of the original in a desperate bid to capitalise on its success. Speaking as the owner of various slasher franchise boxsets, a few sequels can surpass expectations and actually enhance the impact of the original, fleshing out characters, exploring back stories and expanding mythos.

Of all the slasher films you’d expect to spawn a sequel - and a rather belated one at that - See No Evil (2006) probably wouldn’t be high on your list. A conventional, if rather unremarkable affair, it featured WWE star Kane (Glen Jacobs) as a reclusive psychopath brutally murdering a group of delinquents who, as part of their community service, are sent to clean up the old abandoned hotel he resides in. While commercially successful, it was essentially a re-run of old slasher conventions, grimed up with an urban setting, juvenile delinquents and Kane making a bid to become a new slasher icon. While it didn’t particularly warrant a sequel, it got one. And a pretty decent one at that, with a surprisingly good cast (Katherine Isabelle! Kaj Erik-Erikson! Danielle Harris!) and effective direction courtesy of the Soska sisters.

See No Evil 2 might stick closely to the slasher formula, as its pretty teens are violently dispatched by a hulking psychopath in a sprawling underground morgue staffed by a graveyard shift skeleton crew (Erik-Erikson and Harris), but with the Soska sisters at the helm, at least it has fun while doing so. Sadly, the Soskas weren’t responsible for writing the script - which lacks their unique panache - but they were able to revise it and convince the producers to let them tweak a few aspects. As such, they play around with conventional gender roles, throw in a few twists - adding some oddball charm and dark humour - and lead us to a surprisingly bleak denouement with unexpected pathos. While things are fairly lighthearted to begin with - cheeky references to American Mary and grim foreshadowing abound as the camera lingers on various medical instruments throughout the opening credits - as soon as the stalking and slashing commences, the Soskas prove utterly astute in ratcheting up tension, particularly during a number of taut chase sequences, and maintaining a suitably stark and creepy atmosphere.

Unlike many of its kind, See No Evil 2 is a slasher sequel with a group of rather likeable characters the audience is inclined to root for, particularly Kaj Erik-Erikson as Seth, the aforementioned Katherine Isabelle, who delivers a particularly gonzo, highly strung performance and is one of best things about the film, and the ever reliable Danielle Harris, who can by now do this sort of thing without even thinking. As Jacob Goodnight, Kane proves to be a formidable antagonist with all the makings of a classic slasher villain, right down to his stiflingly religious upbringing (explored through various flashbacks) - which taps into that old moral conservatism slashers are famed for - and his startlingly violent crusade to cleanse society of the ‘morally corrupt’ who, in this case, are a group of friends gathered at a morgue for a surprise birthday party.

With echoes of Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers and Friday the 13th Part IV: The Final Chapter, See No Evil 2 picks up immediately after the events of the previous film, the same night in fact, and its murderous villain is similarly revived in a morgue, setting the scene for a brutal killing spree. Unlike the aforementioned slasher sequels however, the remainder of See No Evil 2 actually plays out in this creepy setting and it doesn’t just serve as a prelude to the villain making his way back to a favoured stomping ground, a la Haddonfield or Crystal Lake. It’s a seriously creepy backdrop and, with its shadowy, labyrinthine hallways, is milked for all it's worth to enhance the atmosphere.

As a Soska sisters' film it’s not quite in the same league as their previous titles, particularly American Mary, but its an interesting slasher sequel that’s a cut above its predecessor and further evidence (if any was needed) that the Soskas are emerging as two of genre cinema's most interesting filmmakers. 

Monday, 13 April 2015

What We Do in the Shadows

Dirs. Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement

A documentary crew follows the bemusing exploits of a group of house-sharing vampires in this charming, oddly heart-warming comedy-horror from New Zealanders Taika Waititi and Jemaine Clement.

From arguing over the cleaning rota and attempting to gain entry to the most hip and happening nightspots, to deciding what should be done about the dead vampire hunter in the basement, the utter banality of the situations the misfits find themselves in, renders their attempts to integrate with the outside world infectiously humorous.

Head over to Exquisite Terror to read my full review.

And remember, "We're werewolves, not swearwolves!"