Dave Wain’s essential breakdown of this week’s cavalcade of straight-to-disc treats. Step inside the DTV Junkyard…

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the final part of Rob Getz’s excellently written review for GHOSTS, or Haunted as it was originally known, for HorrorNews.net.

It isn’t until the final five minutes when the running and screaming and dying occur, which is just as incoherent as expected.  Also, there might be a twist at the end, it was hard to tell through the amateur hour camera work and my building nausea.  By then, if you have the slightest rat’s ass of a concern about what happens, you must be an investor in this movie.  That being the case, I hope you didn’t put all your eggs into the basket of incompetence that is “Haunted.”

Consider yourselves warned, friends.”

Pretty brutal huh? But wait, here’s the thing. If you’ve picked up 101 Films’ release of this, you may have spotted some glowing words on the sleeve…

I know this is hardly a new practice, but in the internet age, with such easy access to a whole database of reviews, I’m still surprised to see something so fist-chewingly shameful. In fact it’s so lame, I just had to open this week’s DTV Junkyard with it.

Do I echo Rob’s thoughts? Well, after watching the movie it’d be hard not to. I’ll admit, the notion of it coming from the director of Hooligans at War: North vs South and Essex Boys: Laws of Survival, didn’t fill me with a rabid enthusiasm, as I’d rather deep fry my nuts than watch any of the never-ending conveyor belt of no budget cockney gangster trash. However, as an arbiter of a balanced opinion and one who’s determined not to pre-empt the quality of any feature, I did set out with good intentions, only to see them scuppered fairly early on.

In the film, six contestants win a competition to appear on a live reality TV show in a secret location in England. With a tip of the hat to the UK’s Most Haunted, as well as every other paranormal investigation programme, proceedings are led by a medium, here played by Jon-Paul Gates, a long-time collaborator of the director, Steven M. Smith. It’s impossible to take him remotely seriously, as he’s just Alan Partridge lite, frequently seguing into hammy moments of scene-chewing cringe. Presenting duties meanwhile fall to Vivian Creegor, the former Sky News anchor, who at least does offer one redeeming performance of straight-faced authenticity. The contestants are both bland and forgettable, with the handheld footage not helping matters due to the poor quality of the production.

Seventeen years since The Blair Witch Project, I’m still a passionate proponent of found footage movies, which seems an opinion that’s gradually becoming passé. As with any sub-genre, there will always be bad mixed in with the good, so to shrug off this niche with a cursory yawn, is to deny the greatness of recent films like The Visit, Unfriended, Digging Up the Marrow and The Borderlands. As for Ghosts, I have to admit it’s not doing my argument any favours. It’s a cash-in pure and simple, made to be picked up by a dumb distro that is fast losing their eye for a good movie. Worst of all though, it’s just interminably dull.

2005

Oh Carol J. Clover, when you coined the term Final Girl in your book Men, Women and Chainsaws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film, I wonder if you could have forecast such an obsession with the concept. In recent years, the fascination with the concept seems to have hit a peak, resulting in largely mixed results. Todd Strauss-Schulson’s The Final Girls certainly belongs at the top end of this preoccupation, while Tyler Shields’ Final Girl is distinctly in the lower reaches of the paradigm.

With Benjamin R. Moody’s LAST GIRL STANDING hitting DVD in the UK this week, I really hoped for a touch of originality, and by asking the very simple question of “What happens to the final girl after the credits roll?”, it delivers on that wish in a very impressive manner. After seeing her friends brutally murdered by a masked serial killer, Camryn (Akasha Villalobos) attempts to rebuild her shattered life. Wracked with guilt and experiencing terrible bouts of paranoia, Camryn struggles to move on from her troubled past. Things begin to look up when she meets Nick (Brian Villalobos), a new co-worker who welcomes her into his circle of friends. However, just as Camryn begins to move on with her life, terrible memories come rushing back to haunt her once again.

Villalobos is undoubtedly the best thing about Moody’s film; she portrays Camryn to nuanced perfection – introverted, monosyllabic and socially awkward, it’s a performance that succeeds in enveloping you in her formidable world. I really liked the pronounced indie flavour to this picture as well, as despite being bookended by two moments of horror, the bulk of the film concerns itself as a character study attempting to get inside Camryn’s head. Gorehounds can rest assured though, when the movie builds to its inevitable crescendo, we’re treated to gut-busting practical FX of the highest order. Yes, aspects of the finale are a little telegraphed, not to mention very conveniently choreographed, but such minor quibbles aren’t enough to detract from what is another recommendable release under the FrightFest Presents banner.

2006


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