Arrow Video Frightfest 2019 Round Up- Day Five

WORLD  PREMIERE –  A GOOD WOMAN IS HARD TO FIND      Crime    Thriller

Director: Abner Pastoll. With: Sarah Bolger, Edward Hogg, Andrew Simpson, Jane Brennan. UK 2019. 98 mins.

Sweet-natured Sarah is struggling with her young family in the wake of her husbands’ murder. Not only is she dealing with a traumatised son, who witnessed the vicious stabbing, but financial strains and a judgemental mother too.  When she crosses paths with a rabidly passive-aggressive drug dealer, her plight takes an even more turbulent swerve towards total instability.  However, what seems like a hopeless situation will also offer up a blood-soaked opportunity for closure.

A Good Woman is Hard to Find is a bleak, hard-edged thriller with a gritty agenda and the courage of conviction to pursue its desolate narrative to the bitter and bloody end. Part home invasion, part violent horror movie and part revenge flick, Pastoll’s movie is so deftly structured that it emanates a cohesive resonance, rather than a sloppy genre mishmash.

There is a tangible whiff of the work of Shane Meadows and Andrea Arnold(Fish Tank), that pervades both Ronan Blaney’s intellectually seasoned script and the films overall texture. Indeed, one scene, in particular, is such a clear call back to the famous confrontation moment in Dead Man’s Shoes, it can be considered nothing other than a pure homage.

Whatever the film’s roots or influences, it pilots its grainy course with a more than sufficient sense of self-identity and solid purpose. There are even granules of wit and irony sparkling amongst the granite. The continued influence of a sex toy on the plot is inventive and sly. The way it features in two areas, one social commentary, one dynamically, typifies the films flexibility and thematic eloquence.

The brutal violence that routinely punctures the kitchen-sink realism could easily have derailed its earthly dramatic trajectory. Yet, although it is exceptionally gruesome at times, the credible motivations that kindle the carnage keep the picture grounded in plausibility.

There are some seriously accomplished performances in  A Good Woman is Hard to Find that further enhance its artistic integrity. Edward Hogg’s grammar police gangster Leo is given meaty screen time, and he responds with a disturbing blend of relish and icy restraint. Andrew Simpson shines as the disenfranchised and desperate Tito who trespasses into Sarah’s home and head. He is a genuinely nasty individual who encapsulates the disastrous misjudgement between actions and consequences born of overentitlement.

But make no mistake, this is lead actress Sarah Bolger’s gig.  Her emotive range and silky delivery is unadulterated class, in a portrayal worthy of top tier nominations. It is a crying shame that she is destined to join Toni Collette(Hereditary) and Florence Pugh(Midsommer) on the same scandalous chopping block that deprived Ellen Burstyn of her Oscar for A Requiem for a Dream. Work of immense power overlooked because of shamefully elitist genre prejudice.

A Good Woman is Hard to Find is such an easy film to get wrapped up in, even if it is a challenging experience to stomach. In terms of a seedy and distressing thriller, it grips like an alligator. As an impassioned think piece about the boundaries of parental conservation, it cauterises the wound with sweet catharsis.

Signature Entertainment presents A Good Woman is Hard to Find in Cinemas and Digital HD
25th October 2019

 

EUROPEAN  PREMIERE –  THE WRETCHED     Witchcraft    Horror   Thriller

Director: Brett Pierce & Drew T. Pierce. With: John-Paul Howard, Kevin Bigley, Gabriela Quezada Bloomgarden, Piper Curda. USA 2019. 95 mins.

Young Ben decamps to the care of his father at his small marina, after a botched Vicadol theft leaves him with a broken arm. Before Ben can gain a foothold in the local community, he notices the suspicious happenings of the family next door.  However, when he goes full Rear Window on them, he wins the attention of an ancient, child scoffing, memory wiping witch. Can he convince those around him of the evil hags existence, before she literally gets under his skin?

The pierce brothers return to the horror fold with a pacy and likeable body jacking chiller, that knows its audience, if not its own limitations.

After the seemingly obligatory, and grim, flashback opening scene, The Wretched settles into an entertaining stride of character development and creepy imagery. The protagonists are well written and economically fleshed out with Ben’s new love interest, and fearless bear poker, Mallory, the strongest among them. The nightmarish creature is a shadowy, spindly fingered fucker, that will certainly put the willies up you more than once, and the industrious sound design is top tier. These accomplished building blocks form the solid foundations on which the impending terror is built.

The steady progression of the picture is very well handled, mixing just the right amount of escalation, with frustration inducing, “who will believe me?” shenanigans. That being said, if you are laying down necromantic defence lines with winter salt, it’s probably time to make your suppositions a wider concern.

There are other issues that hamper the film as a totally effective fright flick. The concept is a tad derivative, without being plagiaristic, and some of the tropes are, quite frankly, oversubscribed in the genre. Can we please cease the trend of scratched out faces on photographs as a plot signifier? It was cliched enough before digitisation, now it’s just a lazy crowbarring device. There are also a few missed opportunities spawned by the excellent establishing process. I for one would have liked to see the town’s serial penis size insulter and multi-purpose douche adapter get his comeuppance.

Despite these flaws, the film’s sense of fun and the sheer panache of its realisation carry it through thus far. Credit should also be given to the visionary way in which the malignant interloper initiates her infiltration. It really is quite brilliant, both in its simplicity and delivery.

The Wretched reaches a defining moment just before the final straight. This will either prove an immovable narrative roadblock or a revelatory game changer, depending on your predisposition to frenetic information dumps.  It is indeed a lot to take in, and it fires a scattergun point-blank at the fabric of the narrative. Yet, I found the resulting smoking plot holes a small price to pay for such an audacious rug pull.

This is a lovingly made midnight flick, with impeccable technical credentials, that will find a worthy home in many a horror addicts collection. It cares far more about being entertaining than standing up to the scrutiny of logic, and to that end, it will please genre fans.

 

 

ENGLISH  PREMIERE –  HERE COMES HELL      Comedy   Possession Horror

Director: Jack McHenry. With: Tom Bailey, Margaret Clunie, Jasper Britton, Timothy Renouf. UK 2019. 73 mins.

A disparate crew of 1930s socialites assemble in a dilapidated country manor, once owned by the narcotically prolific occultist Ichabod Quinn,  intent on booze laced frivolities. However, cracks in the etiquette soon compromise the veneer of politeness and the social sniping starts. Things escalate way, way beyond gnarly posho bitching, when a medium arrives to open an extra-large can of demonic worms.

Constantly surprising and rigorously entertaining, Here Comes Hell harks back to the early works of James Whale, whilst simultaneously embracing the frenetic demonology of early Sam Rami.

The 1930s style of haunted house pictures is conjured beautifully, with a dazzling repertoire of genre-savvy idiosyncrasies.  Glorious black and white photography and close up to POV quick cuts, green screen driving sequences and soft-edged fade-ins combine in nostalgic symbiosis. The string-heavy dramatic score and clipped, well-enunciated dialogue complete the pitch-perfect ambience.

A dryly witty script ensures the setup process flys by in a masterclass of exposition as entertainment. It is a sheer joy to watch the hokey, murder mystery weekend, backstories of the characters unfold. There is even time to explore the gender politics of the era, both alpha male and dutiful female, as the protagonists canter towards catastrophe under the whip of peer pressure.

Once the forces of hades are unleashed, the 12 kings and dukes of hell no less, the flick shifts into a different gear set, precision-engineered for the transmission of chaos. Gory carnage, the psychological manipulation of fear and guilt, maggoty eye sockets and homicidal possesions splatter onto the carefully primed canvas. In a clever touch of class, the music also deviates into an imposing electro soundscape that would have made Lucio Fulci cock an ear in appreciation.

The effects are mostly practical and ripe in their juicy execution, losing nothing in terms of the monotone palette. Imaginative and mischevious the violence is tempered by slapstick overtones and well timed one-liners, maintaining the film’s identity and tone.

For once, The Evil Dead comparisons are fully justified. Kinetic camera tricks, backhand haymakers from frothing demons, dead by dawn deadlines and swirling portals to hell are all present and correct. Thankfully, the exquisitely rendered period setting and warm characterisations pluck Here Comes Hell from the fawning jaws of pure homage. A fantastic example of this is the obligatory tooling up montage. Here, it manages to be both heavily referential and hysterically original due to the impeccably curated texture and impish spirit of the film.

Despite its hammy persona and penchant for farce, Here Comes Hell is also creepy and ferociously violent. Its main intentions may well be to regale and amuse, but it also has no qualms at all being a full-blooded horror flick along the way.

Signature Entertainment presents Here Comes Hell on Digital HD 11th November 2019

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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