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

I actually remember Benjamin Cooper’s directorial debut quite vividly, in all its Film 2000 big box VHS glory. Set against the backdrop of a nuclear war, The Omega Diary was a cool little indie made for chump change that really made the best of its scant locations. Fast forward seventeen years and you might say Cooper’s output has been somewhat Malickian with only three movies of which his latest, THE LIGHTHOUSE KEEPER, is released in the UK by New Horizon Films this week.

Injured and suffering from amnesia, a young man (Matt O’Neill) seeks the help of Walsh (Vernon Wells), the enigmatic lighthouse keeper. Walsh informs him they are stranded until the next ferry arrives in two weeks, and insists they are the sole inhabitants of the peninsula. Our befuddled friend however is haunted by fleeting glimpses of a beautiful young woman, and plagued by visions of hideous phantoms reaching out from the depths, which leads him to question the eerie mystery of this outcrop.

Tenuous would best describe the films relationship with Edgar Allan Poe whose name precedes the title of the picture. The Light-House was the unofficial title given to Poe’s last written work, to which he not only died before its completion, but it could be said that he had barely begun scribing it. Not that such trivial minutiae should diminish from this movie, as it is after all another very recommendable DTV’er in a remarkably tasty January.

The casting of both O’Neill and Wells is incredibly on-point, with a delicious grating of personalities between the former’s skittish nervousness and rat-tat-tat delivery of dialogue, to the laconic doom-mongering of the latter. As with most genre movies with a thinly-spread kitty, there’s a call for patience as the narrative gathers pace, but come the final third there’s a marked shift in tone which should satisfy all horror hounds. With the sound of the howling wind and crashing waves coupled with the dimly-lit lantern illuminated hallways and staircases, Cooper lays on the atmosphere thick. It pays off too, raising the hairs on the back of your neck to combine with a genuinely intriguing storyline to deliver an effective chiller.

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As Apple hint at adding ‘Cinema Mode’ to their forthcoming iOS 10.3 upgrade, it seems ironic to welcome the release of PANZER or Panzer Chocolate to the UK. It’s been a long ride for the English language Spanish production having been shot way back in 2012, and seemingly emerging from the American Film Market the year after with little interest. Structured around a group of students who discover a Nazi bunker in their search for stolen art, I have to admit it was a film I didn’t enjoy at all. Hokey exposition along with clichéd evil Nazis and strange creatures that look like rejects from the set of The Monster from Piedras Blancas (1959) all made for a tiresome experience, but wait… perhaps if I played along with the app?

Indeed (deep sigh), Panzer is marketed with the ‘added bonus’ of being compatible with an app that we’re told will “Enrich your experience”. How the inclusion of something that diverts your attention away from the screen can possibly be billed as something that benefits you defies belief; and, after paying seventy-six pence for the privilege, it was a completely unwelcome distraction that added nothing.

To save you from hitting Google Play in your droves to pick it up, let me tell you that it’s a series of thirteen moments spaced sporadically throughout the movie, with an estimated guide in minutes of when to pay attention to your phone. The first two pieces of interactivity are Wiki pages that give you the history of a couple of aspects of the feature, but what do you do? Do you pause it? Do you eject for a few minutes while you convey the information to your assembled movie-watching guests? It’s such an unfathomable creation. It continues with a variety of alternate angles for scenes, some brief CCTV footage and a mini-flashback, all of which I thought were irrelevant. A bad film is one thing, but a bad film with an annoying gimmick is intolerable.

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Here’s an interesting one; PRESIDENT DOWN or W.M.D as it’s known in America, certainly attracted its fair share of haters upon release. “Something Hitler might enjoy with a small male child” wrote one, while another mused that “Propaganda best describes this trash”. The storyline is a little fanciful, but peppered with biting political discourse that spills over into venomous aggression, it’s a feature that really does demand discovery.

The Iraq war has turned from ‘Mission Accomplished’ into a hellhole with an unsure outcome. There are no WMD’s. No links to Al Qaeda. No imminent threat as promised by the government. A group of angry and disgruntled U.S soldiers set out on a suicide mission to uncover the truth. Doing the unthinkable, they kidnap the Commander in Chief and interrogate hi using the same techniques they were trained to inflict upon the people whose country they invaded.

Set in Baghdad during the Thanksgiving of 2007, President Down is swift to establish the premise and also the location, as much of the films running time is spent in the claustrophobic confines of a military kitchen that doubles for a makeshift bunker. It’s wincingly brutal in nature, and the treasonous soldiers don’t hold back in their desire to take out their justifiable frustration on their Texan President. “Sorry sir, no medics available. Casualty of your cutbacks” comes the response following a mild gunshot wound to POTUS’s leg.

Admittedly anyone who voted for the current incumbent will likely shrug this off with sneering disdain at the disloyalty shown, but if you hang a little to the left then Mike Le and Ian Truitner’s script is bursting with facts that rarely make it into any type of feature other than a Michael Moore Documentary. Vehemently anti-war, and dare I say the most accurate depiction of ‘the way things are’ since Brian de Palma’s Redacted, Richard Hapern’s film is guilty of occasionally going off track with a little too much satire. That’s a minor quibble though on a film that three days later, I’m still struggling to get out of my head.

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All of this week’s discs were released in the UK on 9th January 2017


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