Dave Wain’s essential breakdown of this week’s cavalcade of straight-to-disc treats. Step inside the DTV Junkyard…
After last weeks’ sordid orgy of DTV goodness that satisfied a winter of virtual celibacy, this week represents more of a post-coital worrisome look under the duvet towards what lies beneath. That’s not to say it’s a weary trudge, but with two of these bordering on found footage, it’s a cynical eye that I cast.
Now for a Scottish oddity that premiered – but only just – at the Sci-Fi London Festival last May. Joseph Baker and Tom Large’s BEYOND was questioned as to whether it actually qualified as a science fiction picture, and after watching you can see the contentiousness regarding its genre identification. Set in both the present and past, we first meet Cole (Richard J. Danum) and Maya (Gillian MacGregor) when they’re introduced for the first time – a time when an asteroid intent on total destruction is heading towards earth. In the post-apocalyptic present day however, we learn what became of this climactic moment, and also the story of Cole and Maya’s journey.
BEYOND is a viewer polarising dialogue driven fusion of Gareth Edwards’ MONSTERS and the Brit Marling scripted ANOTHER EARTH. At its core it’s a relationship drama, but the background apocalypse never strays from your eyeline. It’s gorgeously shot by C.A Cooper and Dino Kazamia, and nestles quite comfortably in the sparsely populated bracket of Scottish post-apocalyptic drama that needs to be seen alongside underrated features like Kerry Anne Mullaney’s THE DEAD OUTSIDE.
With SLEEPLESS NIGHT Frederic Jardin seems to have mastered the art of taught, tight, suspenseful storytelling, all of which presumably impressed the producers of superlative French drama shows BRAQUO and SPIRAL where he’s been plying his trade in the years since this 2011 feature. In it we discover Vincent – a cop – but a bent one at that, who along with his partner steal a batch of cocaine from a powerful drug baron. Unfortunately for Vincent he’s spotted doing so, and by way of revenge the aforementioned kingpin kidnaps Vincent’s son until the drugs are back where they belong.
French action thrillers always pique your interest as they tend to leave you gasping for breath from the get go, and with its opening pulse pounding POV car chase and shotgun wielding shootout, SLEEPLESS NIGHT sets its stall early on. Compared lazily to 24, DIE HARD and TAKEN on the box art, this Gallic potboiler with its fast cuts that drag us by our lapels from scene to scene is relentless in its pacing. Question marks may remain over the credibility of the direction the narrative takes, but disregarding common sense it’s an exciting chunk of disposable entertainment.
The After Dark branded line of movies seemed to have dried up on these shores before the release of SANATORIUM. We had the first wave back in ’06 which featured such amazing titles as Mike Mendez’ THE GRAVEDANCERS, Nacho Cerda’s THE ABANDONED, and Jason Todd Ipson’s UNREST. The following year saw a slight dip in quality but it still yielded Rolfe Kanefsky’s NIGHTMARE MAN and Jim Mickle’s MULBERRY STREET. In 2011 After Dark Originals was hatched as a way of producing original features, but so far so ‘meh’ with the range of films being distinctly sub-par – SCREAM OF THE BANSHEE, THE TASK, 51…
Anyway, to the SANATORIUM we go, and forgive me if you’ve heard this before – Ghost Trackers is a popular reality TV show, and for their 100th episode they decide to visit the notorious Hillcrest Sanatorium, the scene of a violent massacre many years ago. Needless to say, what they discover is far worse than they ever imagined, so predictably panic and terror ensues.
Contemporary sanatorium based horror for me will always live in the shadow of SESSION 9, so it’s with little surprise that SANATORIUM comes up short. For a reality crew on the verge of their centenary episode they’re an annoyingly lacklustre bunch devoid of the credibility you’d expect from them. The first half hour fails to build the necessary level of unease for the main body of the film to work, and while there’s plenty of bangs, jolts, claps and shouts, there’s little to lift the movie from the doldrums of found footage mediocrity.
Found footage round two takes us to the UK for Lance Patrick’s directorial debut where we find young film-maker Rob Davies (Alex Rendall) having found the perfect location for his Exorcism orientated film. A desolate house is the place he’s found with a history of a young girl who was possessed having lived there. With his cast and crew assembled Rob calls action on this feature, but shortly into the shoot sinister things begin to happen.
I’m the glad the folks behind EXORCISM were sensible enough to throw a ‘Viewer Discretion Advised’ caveat on proceedings, as hopefully most people may see that as an opportunity to press the eject button before they venture any further. This shoddy piece of filmmaking was originally classified by the BBFC with a 62 minute running time, yet comes to DVD via 101 Films at 73 minutes. The only reason for this difference must surely be these relentless, laboured and over-descriptive intertitles that are woefully misjudged and illiterately spelt – e.g mean’t. All of which thankfully diverts from the disjointed narrative and a cast which would test the endurance of the most hardened horror aficionado.