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

A couple of years ago, Michael and Gerald Crum succeeded in irritating the life out of me with their debut movie. A Haunting at Cypress Creek (2014), formerly Lake Fear elicited this venomous analysis:

“Maybe three or four times a year, there’s a film that offers no hope at all; an abortion of a movie, devoid of any worth whatsoever, and a blight upon all bottom shelves across the nation.”

It really was that bad. Shoddy, amateurish and somewhat embarrassing for all concerned, and it got worse when I read their website and they stated how Lake Fear “pays homeage [sic] to many movies” which they go on to name, with “Evil dead remake and Itchy [sic] the Killer” among them!

Well they’re back, and their sophomore effort is very much theme du jour: a possessed doll. James Wan has a great deal of explaining to do for making The Conjuring (2013) and Annabelle (2014) such seminal films, thus encouraging a litany of murderous marionette movies. Back in the day, we’d get the occasional trip into the world of the demonic dummy with Magic (1978), Child’s Play (1987) and Dead Silence (2007), not to mention most Charlie Band films, but now every man and his doll are wanting a piece of the pie.

In ANNA (do you see what they did there), we meet two brothers, Jacob (Justin Duncan) and Shawn (Gerald Crum), who are planning to host a YouTube series based on their experience of spending one week with a possessed doll in a haunted location. The doll is something they’ve swiped from their local Paranormal Museum (we all have one, right?) where we meet the hard-of-thinking curator Larry (Alan Gunter), who manages to trip up over more lines in his five minute cameo than you would have thought possible.

We’re firmly in one-take territory here which is the films biggest handicap, as it initially does little to show any level of care or competence by the filmmakers. Such sloppy work is everywhere in the first half of the picture; the dialogue is virtually unintelligible in a bar scene where the boys try to pick up a volunteer to assist them in their experiment.

However, it would be remiss of me not to at least praise the Crum’s for some signs of progress. As the film heads into its second act there are enough redeeming features in the form of cool creatures and practical effects to at least save it from the ignominy of being dubbed as a total failure. I’d still struggle to recommend it, even to the hardcore DTV aficionados among you, while as for the Horror Society blogger who called it ‘One of the Best Indie Horror-Comedies of 2017’ – go home sir, you’re drunk.

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“You’ll jump out of your skin” predicts Creature Feature Corner about THE OCCUPANTS, the new film from fifty-six year old Illinoisian Todd Alcott, and they weren’t wrong. The only thing is, it could have benefitted from the caveat that it’ll only happen once, and then the film meanders to a somewhat anaemic resolution.

Negativity aside, it’s clear that Alcott’s passion lies in the script. With a Hollywood career that over the last twenty years has seen him do uncredited re-writes on films as varied as Th13teenGhosts (2001), Valentine (2001) and Unchanted (2007), the premise of The Occupants is a fascinating one. Lucy (Cristin Milioti) has just moved into a new home with her husband Wade (Michael Rady) and baby Jack (Callum Kelleher). Spending her working life helping people to get out of abusive relationships, it comes as a shock to find her own abode inhabited by the spirits of a family that befell a scenario that Lucy is all too familiar with.

I’ll admit that as soon as you cast your eyes upon the household’s ghostly incumbents, particularly their fleshed-out human form, it’ll be a make or break moment. For me, I felt it gave a tangible spin on the tired CGI-style apparition, which in turn made the threat far more credible. Add to that the fact that Lucy and Wade could both see their unwanted squatters, meant the predictable plot line of whether it was just the mind playing tricks on a single person was swiftly eradicated, thus enabling the bulk of the narrative to be spent dealing with the problem in hand.

However, once the initial jump scare is done with and the situation is established, The Occupants swiftly loses momentum and spends much of the running time appearing to go round in circles. It’s a short film too, barely exceeding seventy minutes less credits, and though thanks to a fine lead performance by Cristin Milioti it’s always compelling, I just don’t think you would ever want to go back to it.

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All this weeks films were released to UK DVD on the 9th October 2017


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