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 the nature of the beast means it’s a cynical eye that I cast.
‘From a producer of Sinister and the executive producer of Insidious’ screams the cover, and while these two horror hits have certainly reaped a tidy bit of income, the other credits that litter Brian Kavanaugh-Jones’ and Bailey Conway’s CV appease our apprehension somewhat with their notability. The suits behind Lords of Salem, Afflicted and 13 Sins have enough credibility in the tank to make each new venture an event of pensive excitement, and with Grace: The Possession such sober enthusiasm is almost realised.
Grace (Alexia Fast)is heading to college away from the clutches of her domineering bible obsessed Grandmother, but after a short time an unknown entity begins to take control of her body, and the only course of action is to bring in the church.
The unavoidable spoiler of GRACE: THE POSSESSION is the fact that the story is told purely through the eyes of Grace herself. It’s a ploy that works well, after all, it was one of the features of Franck Khalfoun’s Maniac remake that really brought something new to the table. Alexia Fast portrays Grace with a frustrated innocence; we see her naively Google masturbation techniques after she’s left embarrassed in a discussion with a group of friends. Admittedly all the clichéd possession aspects are here – church based anxiety, marks on her body, the occasional tooth falling out – BUT, shot from Grace’s POV such stale afflictions feel fresh and invigorated. The final third edges into predictability, but on the whole this journey into demonic territory is worth a go.
Chad Archibald has achieved a modicum of success in his first few years in the film industry. I caught Kill, one of his early flicks last year when it made its home entertainment bow courtesy of Troma. The retro vibe of The Drownsman which followed received a mixture of notices, but Chad has also been able to turn his hand to scripting duties too – Antisocial for example, the social media based horror that Monster Pics distributed in the UK. His latest feature EJECTA sees him switch genres over to sci-fi in a flick conceived by Pontypool screenwriter Tony Burgess.
On the night before a historic solar storm, two men are forced to flee from an unknown life form whose intention is to hunt them down. In the wake of this terrifying experience an anonymous militia group demand to know precisely what happened to them, and will stop at nothing to prove to the world that we are not alone in the universe.
One of the success stories of 2014 in the UK home entertainment market was Signature Entertainment. To date they’ve sold in the region of two million units, and though for every great genre picture like Treehouse, there’s also a Smiley – on the whole their product has been intriguing. This year they’ve promised a release slate of 65 titles, and if they invest on distributing cool little indie movies like Ejecta, they’ll be a label to watch. With Julian Richings mesmerising in the lead role, Archibald’s film is an indie gem thanks largely to the dependable screenwriting of Burgess. Indeed, it’s hard not to see parallel’s with Pontypool with this minimal location scenario and the lead role being played by a 50-something grizzled character actor. Broad appeal will no doubt be limited owing to the slow build, dialogue heavy construction of Ejecta, but genre fans will no doubt appreciate just what this micro-budget Canadian film achieves.
Leonard Lake, an American serial killer who along with his friend Charles Ng are thought to have killed somewhere in the region of 11-25 individuals in the early to mid-eighties. He’s the subject here of a low budget re-enactment from director Jeff Frentzen who has previous in such territory with the woefully reviewed Killer Pickton (2005) and Black Dahlia (2006), both of which he scripted for Ulli Lommel (The Boogeyman). Granted, there have been a variety of serial killer themed films which have tastefully explored the case in hand, but too often some filmmakers seem intent on venturing into deeply unpleasant territory, exploiting the heinous behaviour of an individual under the dubious banner of entertainment.
Admittedly, checking out the rather lurid sleeve with its prominent ‘Warning: Explicit Content’ label didn’t fill me with a sense of balanced true crime enthusiasm, then a trip to the BBFC to discover this low budget sleaze-fest had been cut by seven minutes to secure an ‘18’ certificate lower my expectations to zero. Authentic Lake footage peppers the onscreen narrative here without actually adding anything to Frentzen’s movie. The film itself manages to neglect any exposition to look at why Lake became the nefarious character he did, while teetering on the brink of becoming a Zach Galifianakis Funny or Die sketch owing to the stilted acting and Stephen Day’s uncanny resemblance to The Hangover actor. A misjudged score and seedy abduction sequences all combine with the above to make for an unpleasant seventy minutes, with an appreciative nod towards the BBFC for making this mess shorter than it could have been.
One room movies – they’re my Kryptonite with regard to genre movies. Hated by many though loved by a few, we’ve seen some real classics in the last few years such as Simon Brand’s Unknown (2006) and Stuart Hazeldine’s Exam (2009). Finally making its way to the UK through Warwick Films is IRON DOORS. Shot nearly five years ago now by Dubliner Stephen Manual on the back of a spree of German funded pictures it’s scripted by first-timer Peter Arneson.
After a long night out on the town, a nameless banker (Axel Wedekind) awakes in a locked room with absolutely no recollection of how he came to be there. Realising there’s no escape, and that there’s an unnamed woman (Rungano Nyoni) sharing this confined space, they must work together – albeit with no food or water – to try to find a way out, or even just attempt to understand why they’re there at all.
The notion of a banker locked helplessly in a vault pleases me, and I’m pretty sure that’s the intention of the filmmakers as we watch this suited city type urinate into his shoe then drink it for much needed hydration. It would be easy to write Iron Doors off as a Cube wannabe, but Manual’s film is far more concerned with the psychology of Wedekind’s character as it is any puzzle that may be surrounding him. Again, as with Ejecta, many might reach for the stop button after 26 minutes with this one character muttering to himself and walking around a small concrete room – but stay with it, think laterally, and you may well be tempted to watch it again soon after.