It’s rare that I’m left speechless or lost for words after a horror film but perhaps the only way to describe Art of the Dead is to say that it defies any definition! Brimming with influences that range from Velvet Buzzsaw (2019) to American Horror Story and Dario Argento, this offering from director Rolfe Kanevsky (who has a prolific output) is a visceral feast for the eyes. It’s fair to say that this is a horror based in spectacle, shock and sensory overload rather than it being a deep and searching exploration of fear. If this film were a painting itself, it could be described as schlocky, daring and off the hook.
In White Zombie, death feels inescapably omnipresent with images of crosses, cemeteries and headstones filling every scene. In one of the most unnerving shots of early horror cinema, we see a pair of pervasive eyes peering across the landscape. What’s so discomforting about the eyes is their vacancy and the troubling inevitability that they are undoubtedly watching us. Recognising these eyes from the film’s iconic poster we are instantly pulled in by the power and symbolism they represent.
“WITH THESE ZOMBIE EYES he rendered her powerless. WITH THIS ZOMBIE GRIP he made her perform his every desire!”
Christmas time approaches, snow is falling and the once opulent and lively Butler House has now stood abandoned for many years following the mysterious death of its proprietor. Jeffrey Butler, grandson to the property’s namesake is in town to sell his inheritance but just why he has appeared after so long and what dark secrets lie within the Butler family history are a puzzle to the locals. An entertaining piece that often has a charm in its roughness, Silent Night, Bloody Night gives us some memorable kills complete with the help of that old favourite Kensington Gore.
“The mansion… the madness… the maniac… no escape.”
The Ingress Tapes and Dead Celebrities are both witty, engaging and at times disturbing pieces and are effective for their conciseness. With their tight running times and often dream-like, art house aesthetic, Michael Fausti’s works act like a short sharp adrenaline shot.
“Real life can be truly horrific and a script always needs a strong foundation. Rooting a narrative in real life events or happenings is a good starting point.”
Take a group of six friends, add five courses of sumptuous food and sprinkle a generous amount of suspicion and motive before garnishing with a generous slice of debauchery and you have Murder Made Easy! As the opening titles roll against a jazz infused score I’m put in mind of both Woody Allen’s Annie Hall and Hitchcock’s suspenseful one-shot masterpiece, Rope. Directed by David Palamoro, Murder Made Easy is also (as the title insinuates) rooted in the playroom drama of Agatha Christie’s great murder mysteries.
“Dinner will be killer.”
‘There’s a few things I’d like to get off my mind before I go’ confesses the deep voice of an unseen man with a South London accent. Before us is a desk with three objects laid out on its surface; a reel to reel tape recorder, a telephone and an ashtray. In The Ingress Tapes we will hear the detailed and confessional musings of an unidentified criminal but intriguingly neither they nor their interviewer are ever identified, a detail which adds to the film’s overall atmosphere of ambiguity. It would appear that the tapes are first-hand accounts of a catalogue of brutal and shocking crimes.
“Fantasy, confession or evidence?”
The Oxford online dictionary defines Clickbait as: ‘material put on the internet in order to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page’. The 2019 film directed by Sophia Cacciola and Michael J. Epstein of the same name is probably best defined as a comedy peppered with elements of horror; a parable that serves to warn us against the dangers of the dark web. The premise is clear enough- college student Bailey has been topping the ranks on a social media platform called Streaker with her video uploads.
“You only die once. Make sure it’s live!”
The Corinth Baptist Church has hit some troubling times, its congregation is diminishing and funds in the collection box are low. However, this is the least of its problems. For Pastor James, the future of his family legacy is looking grim. This is The Church, directed by Dom Frank whose principal setting also happens to be the place of worship that his own family have attended for decades. Although pressured to sell the church for reasons ranging from reaching the community to big screens that will deliver the message of God to 2,000 people, Pastor James appears to have reservations.
“Vengeance is His.”
The most gratuitous violence we witness is at the hands of those positioned in the role of victim. Clem leaves Lucas to look for a way out and is chased by one of the assailants through an unfinished room containing a number of hanging plastic sheets, another metaphor for the social divisions and obstacles that exist between the couple and the youngsters. This culminates in her being pursued through an attic space; so far, no physical violence has been directed from the youngsters towards the couple.
“They wouldn’t play with us…”
For Clem and Lucas, their house represents not only their success and status in society but it functions as a place where they can relax and feel assured that they are protected. The home they have chosen reveals a lot about how they perceive themselves and perhaps most importantly, how they’d like to be perceived by others. Originating from France, a country widely known for upholding its values and traditions, it’s telling that their house is the embodiment of these things. Grand and spacious, it reflects the opulence of eighteenth-century France with its vast corridors and period detail.
“This can’t be happening…”
Stradling the sub genres of the new French extremity, home invasion and the controversial, oftentimes topical subject of the young and alienated working classes, Ils offers up a set of complex questions that are juxtaposed with its very simple and fast paced framework. We can all recall a time when we have been alone in our homes at night and felt under threat for some reason, even if that threat transpires to be nothing more than a creaking door or a loose floor board…