Film review: Red Sands

July 20, 2009 by · 1 Comment
Filed under: Film reviews 

redsands2dRed Sands is Alex Turner’s follow-up to the undeniably eerie Dead Birds, an American civil war period piece, involving a squad of soldiers coming across a terrifying house situated in a field of corn, haunted by vaguely Lovecraftian horrors. In Red Sands Turner takes the same set-up and updates it to Afghanistan, placing a unit of American soldiers in an isolated location and spooking them out with a series of strange phenomena and bloody deaths; except, this time it doesn’t work.

Charged with seizing and then monitoring an important road the soldiers get lost due to some random artillery fire, come across some ruins and out of boredom (regardless of the fact they’ve just been attacked) set about shooting up the statues carved in the sides of the red sandstone hills. This act of ignorance unleashes a Djinn which then takes its revenge on the soldiers.  We know it’s a Djinn because there’s a plaque in the stone that says so.

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Film review: Dead Wood

July 11, 2009 by · 1 Comment
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dead_woodA small budget movie with relatively big aspirations, Dead Wood was given a highly-rated review in DVD World recently – the same magazine that recommended Dead Birds a couple of years ago. I picked up Dead Wood hoping to repeat the satisfying experience of discovering a little known horror gem. Alas, ‘twas not to be…

There’s a strong if fairly unoriginal plot forming the foundations of Dead Wood. A brief prologue shows us a man running through the woods, pursued by something unseen, the woods alive with movement. He comes to a small river and hesitates and that proves his undoing. His girlfriend is left shouting his name as the woods darken around her. We then jump to a couple playing matchmakers for a weekend, taking their shy but mutually attracted friends camping. On the way they run over a deer and as it lays there in convulsions, they make what they consider to be the correct and humane decision, and finish it off.

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Interview: Johnny Kevorkian, Director of The Disappeared

June 24, 2009 by · 1 Comment
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Johnny-1_imagelargeBack in August 2008 I managed to get in to the UK premiere of Johnny Kevorkian’s excellent and chilling urban ghost story The Disappeared at the Frightfest in London. (Review here and film website here – from whence I purloined some of these images). The film went down a treat and was a highlight of the festival, IMHO.

A few weeks later I managed to catch a busy,  somewhat relieved and very amiable Mr. Kevorkian, (no relation), for a coffee and a chat to discuss this very British film, which is currently enjoying a well-deserved run at the ICA cinema throughout June and July. Read more

Film review: The Dark Hour

April 25, 2009 by · 1 Comment
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darkhourI picked the claustrophobic The Dark Hour up from a bargain bin in HMV, based on user comments on the Quiet Earth website – a wonderful source of all things apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic – comments suggesting it was an undiscovered gem from Spain, a country that’s been at the forefront of fantastic films over the last few years. How right those comments are.

Nine survivors of what might have been a biological and/or nuclear holocaust are locked up inside the ruined planet. Their lives run like clockwork, ruled by restricted movement, rationing of food, power, and hope.  Hazardous missions to forage for new supplies of food and medication form part of the survivalist routine. Outside the sealed sanctuary toxic ghouls (possibly zombies and referred to as Strangers) roam myriad corridors dripping in filth and disease. But there’s more to the subterranean inhabitants than slow decaying remnants of society – for one hour every day, ‘the cold hour’, the Invisibles roam the shadowy environment. Freezing air, wood and metal as they travel the length and breadth of the sanctuary, the survivors lock themselves into their rooms for fear of encountering these ethereal predators.

Terrorised by two types of evil and imprisoned beneath the surface by the fallout, the nine survivors convincingly play out strained relationships, their quirks and bigotries manifesting in treachery and a desperate fight for survival. The youngest survivor, a boy named Jesus records a video diary showing us a child’s fears of this awful world he has been born into, and through this young voice, debut director Quiroga manages to successfully create, maintain and manipulate a tense atmosphere of dread and anticipation, of love and hate, innocence and strength that is gripping from the first minute to the last.

And that last scene! A truly surprise ending, and you can’t say that of many a film. Maybe you’ll love it or hate it. I thought it was perfect. Either way, this single awesome scene provides answers to what’s gone before and takes the story into new realms even as it ends.  An emotional, savage, and wholly original sf/horror hybrid, The Dark Hour is recommended without reservation.

The Dark Hour, 2006

Director: Elio Quiroga; Writer: Elio Quiroga

[This review was originally published in the Easter 09 edition of Prism, the Newsletter of the British Fantasy Society]

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