The UK’s finest fright film festival continues and I’m at the frontline for The People’s Movies to bring genre fans news of the very latest in cutting-edge horror entertainment.
Get ready for even more horror highlights, including exclusive world premieres, as we move into DAY THREE.
HERETIKS – WORLD PREMIERE – Historical horror
Director: Paul Hyett. With: Hannah Arterton, Clare Higgins, Michael Ironside, Rosie Day,
Ania Marson. UK 2018. 86mins
It’s 1659 in rural England and fallen woman Persephone is sentenced to death for witchcraft. she is given a seeming reprieve by the steely hand of the Reverend Mother of a reclusive order dedicated to the rehabilitation of lost souls. Not long after her arrival, she becomes aware of a malevolent presence that far outstrips the harsh admonishments of the cruel nuns.
Paul Hyett’s latest genre entry is a spiritedly violent Gothic bloodbath that nods appreciatively in the direction of vintage Hammer Horror.
Rather than a meditation on how human nature can be tempered by the fear of religious retribution Heretiks prefers to play out as balls to the wall possession flick.
The opening sequence sees genre legends Micheal Ironside(Scanners) and Claire Higgins(Hellraiser) verbally sparring and horror fans will relish this knowing encounter. Initially, the film appears to be a slow-burning affair that will touch on social issues but soon pushes the unleash the murderous demons button, the centrepiece of which is a deliciously brutal flashback massacre.
The period dialogue is lyrical on the ear and the location, a castle in Wales, is the perfect place for the metaphysical mayhem to unfold. The cast is ridiculously uniformly attractive and clearly had a ball with the schlocky material. Every character in the film is hysterically rubbish at being sneaky although to be fair the Nuns do tend to spring from the woodwork like habit-clad Ninjas. The male love interest is brilliantly superfluous, spending the majority of the runtime flouncing earnestly around town or cocking about in the local forest.
There is a super effective jump scare and the atmosphere is suitably broody and it is refreshing to watch a film that is not afraid to be nothing more than an entertaining romp.
Heretiks is a bloody period possession drama that will delight fans of both extreme nun on nun violence and habitual eyeball harvesting.
THE DEVIL’S DOORWAY – UK PREMIERE – Horror thriller drama
Director: Aislinn Clarke. With: Lalor Roddy, Ciaran Flynn, Helena Bereen. UK 2018. 76 mins
It’s 1960 and Fathers Thomas and John are on a Vatican sanctioned mission to a Magdelene Laundry with a remit to test the authenticity of a weeping statue. They soon become embroiled in the cruel machinations of what was essentially a concentration camp for sexually promiscuous women. Uncovering a rapidly blossoming stain of abuse the two men soon realise there is something even more sinister lurking in the claustrophobic asylum.
This confident feature debut from Aislinn Clarke uses the simplistic found footage genre as a plinth from which to fire a warning shot against the persecutory tendencies of religious faith.
Deceptively rudimentary this theological pant shitter grapples with a swathe of deeply complex themes and issues not least the evils of Catholicism. On the surface, the film works beautifully as a masterful horror flick but the anger that bubbles beneath is palpable adding a thick stratum of authentic bile to the escalating chills.
This indignation is more relevant and timely than you might think. The last of these disgracefully hypocritical institutions, where babies were left alone to die, closed only an astonishing 22 years ago in Ireland. The current Pope spends the majority of his tenure sweeping up the fallout dust from Christian hypocrisy. Absurdly, if you played Buckeroo or Mousetrap in the 80’s the chances are they were constructed by these girls under slave labour conditions empowered by the church.
No other genre can channel disdainful anger with the same ferocity as horror and in harnessing this for the feminist cause Clarke has imprinted a brutally honest and fucking terrifying calling card.
We were lucky enough to be shown a hefty clip, amid tight security, of the upcoming supernatural nazi flick Overlord from Bad Robot. It looked fabulous on the huge Cineworld super-screen and does not hold back on the gore, with some awesome effects work. If this section is indicative of the rest of the movie then it will be a must see for any zombie aficionado.
WHAT KEEPS YOU ALIVE – UK PREMIERE – Horror thriller
Director: Colin Minihan. With Brittany Allen, Hannah Emily Anderson, Martha MacIsaac, Joey Klein, Charlotte Lindsay Marron. Canada 2018. 98 mins.
Cute couple Jules and Jackie arrive at a woodland cabin to celebrate their first year of marriage. The pairs idyllic life is shattered beyond repair when a ghastly turn of events tests their relationship to unthinkable limits.
Say it with me……. never, ever, ever go to a cabin in the woods to do anything, what so ever, at all with anyone….. ever. These secluded structures are voracious magnets for all things nefarious and nothing good comes of visiting one.
The talented Colin Minihan follows up his cult zombie flick It Stains the Sands Red with a much more mature minimalist shocker that throws stone cold curveballs for fun. No more of the plot will be discussed here as much of the film’s potency derives from an epic rug pull and an elegantly serpentine narrative.
Edited with a shrewd economy and swathed in a diverse, and seriously loud, soundtrack the movie retains its sense of focus even when the protagonists do not.
The cast is committed and capable and does much to keep the picture tonally consistent. Hannah Emily Anderson (Jigsaw) is particularly memorable as Jackie showcasing remarkable range and control.
What Keeps You Alive is the perfect twisty thriller for a late night viewing with friends. Make sure you see it before someone spoils it for you.
UPGRADE – SPECIAL PREVIEW– Sci-fi action thriller
Director: Leigh Whannell. With: Logan Marshall-Green, Richard Anastasios, Melanie Vallejo, Richard Cawthorne, Harrison Gilbertson. USA 2018. 100 mins.
In the not too distant future technology will control everything and phones will be the size of earbuds. However, technophobe Grey Trace is having none of it preferring a more personal jurisdiction his existence.
After a totally life-changing encounter with some murderous self-driving car hijackers, his world lies in tatters. Devastated by loss and struggling to come to terms with his quadriplegic state he meets the enigmatic Eron Keen. He offers Grey a stem-based lifeline that opens the stop gates for a beefy dose of retribution.
Leigh Whannell’s message from the future feels both like a dystopian warning against over-reliance on gadgets and a hi-tech excuse to smash some faces in. Whilst it is a clear distillation of various sci-fi influences Upgrade does not feel that derivative. With classy cityscapes, lush visuals and kinetic camera work it manages to fabricate a believable universe without overreaching in terms of ideas and budget.
Upgrade serves up a decent amount of heart along with its explosive violence. Thanks to sensitive performances and an erudite script it manages to be both emotionally affecting and thematically intriguing. Managing to cram stem cell research, perceptions of disability and the moral limitations of autonomy into the gaps between bouts of mega-violence is impressive.
When Upgrade does get off the leash it heads straight for the jugular with some of the most succulent sci-fi action movies screen deaths since John Hyam’s brutalist Universal Soldier entry.
The most pivotal character interaction should remain a mystery, stay away from trailers before watching the film because the reveal is a hilarious WTF moment.
Pockets of wry dark humour oil the narrative cogs allowing the film to surge forward at a pleasingly brisk pace making the journey to the expected conclusion an entertaining one.
This Midnight movie punches above its weight on many fronts and is destined to win fans over a cross-section of various genres.
Powered by Sidelines