Hello there, and welcome to The Stricken Land! Here I indulge my life-long love of genre movies, trash cinema and tv, the product of an 80's childhood inhabiting dingy video shops in the gloom of northern England. I'll be adding reviews, retrospectives and downright opinionated missives on all things cinematic in an irregular and haphazard fashion as and when the vicissitudes of modern life grant me the all too precious commodity of spare time. Enjoy!

A Quiet Place (2018) US Dir: John Krasinski
Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds

Several months after the world’s human population has been decimated by blind extra terrestrial creatures that hunt by sound, the Abbott family continue to survive on their isolated farm.
When their youngest son Beau is killed by one of the creatures, their congenitally deaf daughter Regan blames herself. Meanwhile their engineer father Lee (Krasinski) continues to try and upgrade a cochlear implant for Regan and figure out the creatures weakness, while making fruitless attempts to contact any survivors in the outside world. Lee’s heavily pregnant wife Evelyn (Blunt) concentrates on continuing the children’s education whilst making preparations to give birth to their fourth child…
A QUIET PLACE is a terrific achievement and has gone some way to restoring my faith that the major Hollywood studios can still produce engaging multi layered storytelling, and not just endless paint by numbers superhero franchise entries.
Developed from a spec script by Scott Woods and Bryan Fuller, that originally featured only one line of dialogue, writer/director Krasinski sensibly opts for a restrained ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’ approach to what is essentially a creature feature overlaid with familial angst, the film wisely opts for a slow reveal of the creatures, and not just of their appearance but also their abilities and weaknesses. This is a firmly character driven piece that doesn’t drown the audience in flashy cgi or clunky exposition, and is all the better for it. It says a lot about how the cgi revolution has resulted in too many films prioritising spectacle over narrative that A QUIET PLACE’s old school approach to storytelling feels so refreshing.
One of the best examples of this comes from how the backstory of the aliens arrival on our planet and the subsequent breakdown of society is told subtly through glimpsed newspaper cuttings in Lee’s workshop and snippets of deftly crafted dialogue in what has to be a textbook example of world building in a film.
The performances are uniformly excellent, with real life husband and wife Krasinski and Blunt exuding a mixture of fortitude and quiet desperation in the face of their grief and their unspoken fears of what the future may hold for the family. Special mention must go to the sound design by Erik Aadahl and Ethan Van Der Ryn along with the score by Marco Beltrami taking on more significance than usual given the film’s central premise and the attendant sparseness of dialogue for extended periods of the run time.
Stripped of its sci fi trappings, the theme that lies at the heart of the film is the fear of every parent of not being able to protect their children from outside forces beyond their control. The horror genre functions best when putting our repressed fears and anxieties under the microscope, forcing them to the surface through a fantastical narrative device (in this case blind alien predators.)
A QUIET PLACE is a welcome return to old school sci-fi horror in the tradition of ALIEN and THE THING where concept, characterisation and narrative take precedence over empty spectacle (not that the film is deficient in the FX department but Krasinski as writer/director wisely keeps the creatures full reveal for the climax.) Hopefully the film’s healthy box office returns (US$332,583,447 on a bufget ofUS$17,000,00) will bode well for more thoughtful and narrative driven genre cinema of this quality.

Now in its tenth year, Grimmfest is the premier horror film festival in the north of England, and the organisers were kind enough to grant press passes to The Stricken Land so we could report back on the many delights the festival had to offer. Held at the Odeon Great Northern the centre of Manchester, we were only able to cover the Saturday and Sunday of the festival this year, and due to time constraints we weren’t able to make every single screening, but I’ve compiled all my reviews of the festival highlights for your reading pleasure below. Let’s dive in…

Piercing (2018) US Dir: Nicholas Pesce
Christopher Abbott, Mia Wasikowska, Laia Costa

A married father of one goes on what he tells his wife is a short business trip, instead booking a hotel room with the intention of hiring an escort girl and murdering her.
Grimmfest’s press for Nicholas Pesce’s twisted relationship drama calls it a ‘date movie for psychopaths,’ a succinct description that’s hard to top.
Based on controversial Japanese novelist’s Ryu Murakami’s eponymous 1994 novel, this is a complete oddball of a film that nevertheless engages you through the portrayals of its two neurotic leads even if it’s impossible to feel comfortable at any point during its running time. Quickly turning into a black as night comedy of errors as proceedings fail to go according to the meticulous plan laid out by Christopher Abbott’s emotionally constipated protagonist, Pesce’s film veers off into Lynchian style surrealism, mixing in Cronenbergian body horror, explorations of BDSM etiquette and urban alienation all set  against its retro-eighties style neverworld and a score plucked from Patrick Bateman’s record collection.
A brave, interesting and acutely observed character study with excellent performance from its two leads. No one for a first date though, unless you’re both psychopaths of course.

The Witch in the Window (2018) US Dir: Andy Mitton
Adam Draper, Charlie Tacker, Carol Stanzione

A familial drama wrapped in a haunted house flick, Andy Mitton’s debut plays out like a Spielbergian take on a CONJURING movie with a sliver of ice replacing the sugary sentimentality.
Divorced Dad Simon (Draper) buys an old farmhouse in rural Vermont as a renovation project, hoping to use it as some bonding time with his son Finn. After an ambiguous warning from their neighbour about the house’s dark past, father and son soon encounter Lydia, the malicious spirit of the previous owner. Unbowed, Adam determines to continue the project, but with every repair he makes, Lydia becomes stronger…


Less a full blown horror flick than an affecting observation of father son relationship dynamics, this is acutely well observed with two deft performances by Draper and Tacker.But make no mistake, when Mitton wants to inject unease and then outright terror into the lives of his protagonists then he is a true pro, particularly in the scene when Simon takes a phone call from Finn (you’ll have to watch the movie to get the full import of this sequence.)
The nature of Lydia and the history of the house is wisely kept ambiguous and in the background, allowing the relationship between Simon and Finn to come to form the emotional core of the film. A timely lesson that horror can be so much more than jump scares and splatter. THE WITCH IN THE WINDOW serves as a textbook example why budgetary constraints are no barrier when you have well crafted narrative combined with great performances and direction. One to put at the top of your watchlist.

 

Pledge (2018) US Dir: Daniel Robbins
Zachery Byrd, Aaron Dalla Villa, Zack Weiner, Erica Boozer

A group of nerdy misfit freshmen get invited to a secretive frat house for a wild sex, drugs and booze fuelled party, and the next morning are offered admittance if they will pledge to undergo a series of initiation rituals…
Riffing off the time honoured American campus culture that brought a slew of mostly forgettable frat house comedies to 80’s video stores, Pledge is a tense thriller and a razor sharp commentary on just how far human beings will go to gain acceptance from their peer group.


Director Robbins’ and writer/star Zack Weiner mix in conspiracy theories about real life fraternities like the Skull and Bones society and urban legends around arcane hazing rituals, and then crank everything up to insane levels of malice and cruelty.
The tight pacing and twisting storyline keeps us guessing as to what the outcome will be right up until the brutal denouement. This is a masterful blend of the stalk and slash and survival horror sub genres underpinned by great naturalistic performance by its cast of newcomers. University never looked less appealing.

 

Alive (2018) Can Dir: Rob Grant
Angus MacFadyen, Thomas Cocquerel, Camille Stopps

A ferociously original take on a source material that to reveal in this review would surely spoil the experience of Rob Grant’s viscera spattered thrill ride.
Two strangers, a man and woman  (Cocquerel and Stopps) awake in a derelict abandoned hospital, inhabited by a seemingly unbalanced doctor (a splendidly manic performance by MacFadyen). Nursed back to health after apparently suffering physical traumas, and with no memories of their pasts, the pair realise that the doctor intends that they should never leave…
What follows is essentially an ‘on the run’ escape movie, although we are never quite clear what or where the pair are escaping from (apart from MacFadyen’s psycho surgeon), or where an eventual sanctuary may be. This makes for a deliberately  disorienting experience for the audience and Grant’s assured direction, sense of quiet menace and frenetic pacing keep us guessing right up until the slam dunk denouement. File under essential viewing.

We also managed to cram in horror anthology NIGHTMARE CINEMA, gross out comedy horror throwback PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH and the period found footage chiller THE DEVIL’S DOORWAY while we were there, but I’ll be giving these a second viewing at Nottingham’s Mayhem Film Festival by the time this gets posted, so look out for my review of these in the coming week.

A big thanks to the Grimmfest organisers who were kind enough to grant us press passes for the festival, and to guest of honour and PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH star Barbara Crampton (gutted we missed the showing of REANIMATOR!) who was kind enough to chat and sign stuff. Her Q & A with the audience was a joy to behold, and her tales of working with legendary genre filmmaker Charles Band sent this writer in particular into paroxsms of fanboyness!  We love you Barbara, come back soon! The Stricken Land crew will definitely be making the trip north next year and plan to extend or coverage of this fine event. Keep an eye on the Grimmfest website people, and get this one in your for your calendars for 2019!

Good morning film fiends, on this the first day of October, everything horror fan’s favourite month of the year! I’ve got a couple of new releases to impart to you this week, but first I’ll get in a quick plug for the Mayhem Film Festival that takes place at the Broadway cinema in Nottingham over  11th – 14th October.

Sponsored by Shudder and Last Exit to Nowhere, the festival covers horror, science fiction and cult cinema so is right up my street as you can probably well imagine. I’ve managed to book some time of from dad duties to go see new horror anthology NIGHTMARE CINEMA, bad taste splatter fest PUPPETMASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH, Nic Cage weirdfest MANDY and found footage period horror THE DEVIL’S DOORWAY. Needless to say I’ll be providing full reviews after my eyeballs have recovered.

November 1st sees the UK release (US 2nd October) of legendary cut filmmaker Don Coscarelli’s memoir True Indie: Life and Death in Filmmaking. The director of classics such as PHANTASM, THE BEASTMASTER and BUBBA HO-TEP takes us on a wild ride through his four decades of independent filmmaking in the Hollywood sharkpool in what promises to be a highly entertaining read for all cult movie fans and indeed, for any interested in the art and process of filmmaking in general. If you can’t wait till next month the audiobook version read by Mr Coscarelli himself releases through Audible on 9th October. Here’s the link to buy it through Amazon in the UK and for US readers here.

Now on to this week’s new flicks –

“In the classic tradition of the 1980’s slasher film” (Horror News), Wild Eye Releasing deliver Blessed are the Children, a Reagan-era slasher throwback that’s part HALLOWEEN, part BLACK CHRISTMAS, and all frights, premiering on DVD and VOD October 23.

Something sinister is following Traci and her friends – who are behind the masks!?
Traci Patterson (Kaley Ball), an adrift 20-something who’s still reeling from the death of her father and her breakup with an abusive fiancé (Jordan Boyd), discovers that she’s pregnant. With the help of her friends, Erin and Mandy (Arian Thigpen, Keni Bounds), she decides to terminate her pregnancy, but quickly after leaving the clinic, she begins seeing and hearing things – shapes in the corner of her eye, strange noises in the middle of the night, and ghoulish figures stalking her every move. Is it guilt or are Traci and her friends in grave danger?
Kaley Ball, Keni Bounds, and Arian Thigpen star in a Chris Moore (PERVERSION, TRIGGERED) film, premiering on DVD and VOD this October.

 

On her 60th birthday, Mary (Rosemary Hochschild) finds her past coming back to haunt her, as a 25-year-old debt means the mob is ready to collect with interest, their sights set on the strip club she has run all her life. There’s only one thing she can do: Mount her defenses and stand her ground in a spiral of violence and revenge that will leave no one in her life untouched…

Dark Star Pictures has acquired North American rights to Orson Oblowitz’s Tarantino-esque crime-drama THE QUEEN OF HOLLYWOOD BLVD.
Dark Star has set an October theatrical (LA) and VOD release for the film, a dark L.A-set noir exploring the one-day odyssey of a woman’s reckoning. Veteran actress Rosemary Hochschild (SUPERGIRL, DESPERATELY SEEKING SUSAN) plays the lead.
The film, starring Rothschild as a strip club owner who finds herself over her head when a twenty-five-year-old debt to the mob comes back to haunt her, premiered at the Boston Underground Film Festival earlier this year.


“Director Orson Oblowitz’s feature debut is a wild ride through the underbelly of Los Angeles, blending genres in a shocking fashion and firmly establishing himself as a new promising talent” said Dark Star Pictures President Michael Repsch. “Playing like a love child of John Waters and Quentin Tarantino, THE QUEEN OF HOLLYWOOD BLVD. will resonate with audiences for years to come.”
“We are really excited to have found a home at Dark Star Pictures for THE QUEEN OF HOLLYWOOD BLVD.”, says writer/director Orson Oblowitz. “Michael Repsch is a true lover of film, devoted to getting great cinema to the masses and we knew with our movie it needed a distributor that was going to nurture it, as well as help set it apart in a saturated market place, Dark Star is that company.”
Playing over the film’s entrancing visuals of L.A is an electric soundtrack featuring such artists as Jimmy Lee, Lee Williams & The Cymbals, The Lovettes and Arlando King & The Earthquakes.
The film, also starring Ana Mulvoy Ten, Roger Guenveur Smith and the late Michael Parks (‘’Kill Bill’’, ‘’Red State’’) in his final film appearance, has its L.A premiere this week at Beyond Fest.
THE QUEEN OF HOLLYWOOD BLVD theatrical release begins October 12 in Los Angeles; the film will be available On Demand October 16.

On a final note –  to any aspiring independent filmmakers, podcasters or film related writers out there out there reading this, let me know if you’d like me to publicize and/or review your projects, The Stricken Land is always happy to promote new talent and ideas! And as ever, please feel free to share this post and any others on here that you like, far and wide.

Spread the Word!
Ian

 

Don’t Breathe (2016) US Dir: Fede Alverez
Stephen Lang, Jane Levy

One of a crop of home invasion horrors that inverts its premise by having the occupants of said home far more terrifying than the intruders, DON’T BREATHE is a fairly efficient crime horror that mixes in themes of grief, loss and PTSD to come up with a ninety minute knuckle whitener that has enough points of  interest to make it stand alongside peers like THE STRANGERS and INTRUDERS.
As usual with the home invasion trope, the plot is basic; girl from the wrong side of the tracks Rocky (Levy), and her two partners Alex and Money make their living turning over well to do properties courtesy of Alex being the son of the man whose company installs their home security systems.
Rocky’s long term game plan is to get enough money from selling the stolen goods to move to California with her younger sister and start afresh, escaping their alcoholic white trash mother and her lowlife boyfriend.
When Money receives a tip that a blind special forces veteran (Lang) living in a deserted neighbourhood has $30,000 stashed in his house from compensation received over his daughter’s death in a road accident, the trio hatch what seems to be the perfect break and enter in order to steal the cash. Things go awry almost immediately of course with the blind man (Lang) not nearly as helpless as the house breakers imagined. He also harbours a dark secret in the basement…

From here on in, Alvarez’s film follows a cat and mouse narrative before taking a sharp turn with a genuinely surprising curveball which ups the stakes even further for Rocky.
If you can get past the film’s blatant emotional manipulation of its audience, DON’T BREATHE is a deft and well acted thriller, with enough dark turns to earn its spurs as a horror. Levy plays Rocky as the bad girl with her heart in the right place trope. She is the only one of the gang whose home life we get a glimpse of, and Alvarez telegraphs the audience that her criminality has been ‘forced’ upon her by circumstance, (and it’s for a good cause, even if it means robbing a blind war veteran.) Needless to say her male accomplices are entirely expendable. Their portrayal means that we have little sympathy for them anyway, and given the aforementioned plot revelation, the viewer quickly transfers their  initial sympathy for the bereaved war vet over to the imperilled Rocky in good time ready for the climactic confrontation.
If you can get past the film’s questionable morality, then there is an enjoyable ninety minutes to be had here, especially whenever the superb Lang is on screen, exuding a grizzled physical presence and utterly dominating proceedings. A solid entry in the home invasion horror sub genre.

Good morning film fiends! Feast your eyes on these upcoming offerings –

Ojala Productions announces a limited theatrical release of September 22 (Los Angeles) for new horror feature STRANGE NATURE.

This September, It’s man versus nature when wrestling superstar John Hennigan and acclaimed actor Stephen Tobolowsky (SILICON VALLEY, DEADWOOD) play ‘leapfrog’ with mutated amphibians in Ojala Productions’ highly-anticipated eco-thriller Strange Nature.
By moving in with her estranged hermit father in the backwoods of a small town, Kim (Lisa Sheridan, THE 4400) and son Brody find themselves in the middle of a horrendous phenomenon where deadly offspring mutations spread from animals to humans.


Based on true unsolved outbreaks of wildlife mutations, fall fright-fest STRANGE NATURE marks the directorial debut of fx maestro James Ojala (HELLBOY II: THE GOLDEN ARMY, THOR, TRON: LEGACY, BUFFY THE VAMPIRE SLAYER) and stars Lisa Sheridan INVASION), Stephen Tobolowsky (MEMENTO), John Hennigan (MINUTES TO MIDNIGHT), Tiffany Shepis (VICTOR CROWLEY), and Carlos Alazraqui (THE FUNHOUSE MASSACRE).
STRANGE NATURE leaps into theaters from Sep 22 (Los Angeles with other cities to follow).

A fairy tale classic goes under the frightening sea this September with MERMAID’S SONG, premiering on digital from Wild Eye Releasing.

A dark homage to Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid, and starring  Iwan Rheon (GAME OF THRONES), the film is set during the 1930s depression and tells of young Charlotte, who is struggling to keep the family business afloat. When gangster Randall offers to pay off the family debt – he demands some illegal changes to the business. But Charlotte, like her mother before her, is a mermaid capable of controlling humans with nothing but her voice, which creates a battle between all of those who want Charlotte’s magical powers for themselves.

From director Nicholas Humphries, and starring Iwan Rheon, Katelyn Mager, and Brendan Taylor, Mermaid’s Song arrives on digital September 18.

Uncork’d Entertainment announces a digital/VOD release date of October 2nd for new action-vigilante feature DEATH KISS.

Filmed in Northern California, the film stars Robert Kovacs (who has gained attention for his uncanny resemblance to a certain well-known action star), Daniel Baldwin (JOHN CARPENTER’S VAMPIRES), Richard Tyson (KINDERGARTEN COP, TWO MOON JUNCTION), Eva Hamilton (horror fest fave RUIN ME), Stormi Maya, Leia Perez, Reese Austyn, and Sam Story.
DEATH KISS concerns a vigilante with a mysterious past who goes to a crime-infested city and takes the law into his own hands, at the same time protecting a young mother and her child.

Writer-director is Rene Perez (PLAYING WITH DOLLS: HAVOC).  Producer is Jeff Miller (THE TOYBOX, OUIJA HOUSE), through his company Millman Productions.  Gary Jones helped executive produce through his company Mosquito Entertainment. Zach Carter served as Supervising Producer.
“Rene’s movie is very cool and stylish.  It feels like a throwback to the Cannon films of the ’80s,” says Miller.  “After an enthusiastic response at Texas Frightmare Weekend in May, we’re excited to show the film to the general public.”
The DVD, with special features such as director’s commentary and the trailer, will be released December 4th.

In the tradition of Tucker and Dale Vs. Evil, What We Do in the Shadows, James Gunn’s Slither, and Sy Fy’s Sharknado franchise, the demented creature feature RETURN OF THE KILLER SHREWS splatters its way onto VOD platforms this Halloween season!
Fans of pop culture and gonzo gorefests will eat up this tasty treat, as it hearkens back to the grindhouse drive-in era with sexy babes, carnivorous creatures and bloody mayhem, and does it with a smile.

In 1959, the original KILLER SHREWS exploded onto drive-in screens, as a charter boat Captain and a bevy of hapless scientists were besieged by a horde of mutant beasts on a remote, storm-swept island. This classic mad doctor-meets-monster movie mashup featured edgy character actor James Best (Dukes of Hazzard, Rolling Thunder) as Captain Thorne Sherman and famously low-fi special effects, giving birth to one of the most revered genre entries of its era.
Now, more than five decades later, the snarling, blood hungry monsters are back in RETURN OF THE KILLER SHREWS.  Captain Thorne Sherman returns to Shrew Island with a boatload of cargo for a TV crew filming a reality television show.  As the cameras roll, cast and crewmembers start falling prey to strange bloodthirsty creatures, and Thorne Sherman comes face to face with the toothy terrors that have haunted his dreams for so many years. What, or who, could be behind the bloody rampage of the insatiable giant killer shrews?

Best, making history in his repeat performance as Sherman, is joined by fellow Hazzard alumni John Schneider (SUPER SHARK, SMALLVILLE, GLEE, IT’S HOT IN CLEVELAND) and Rick Hurst (THE GUARDIAN, VENOMOUS). Also aboard for the doomed voyage are Bruce Davison (BLINDSPOT, INSIDIOUS: THE LAST KEY, X-MEN), Jennifer Lyons (HITTING THE BREAKS, THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN), Christopher Goodman (JANE THE VIRGIN), Holly Weber (VALLEY PEAKS, FAST & FURIOUS), Patrick Moran (JACK-O), Jason Shane Scott (THE BAY, GREY’S ANATOMY, SNIPER: SPECIAL OPS), Katherine Randolph (JARHEAD), Jeneta St. Clair (AFTER MIDNIGHT) and Sean Flynn (DEVIOUS MAIDS, LAST OF ROBIN HOOD, ZOEY 101).
RETURN OF THE KILLER SHREWS comes barking onto VOD for the first time with a hearty dose of chills and laughs. It’s a retro homage to the low budget drive-in films of yore, a shock ‘til you drop monster movie extravaganza that’ll make your blood vessels burst with suspense and laughter, RETURN OF THE KILLER SHREWS is just what the mad doctor ordered!   

iTunes Presales – 10/12
iTunes Exclusive Launch (Digital Premier) – 10/26
Amazon and Google Launch – 11/9

On a final note –  to any aspiring independent filmmakers, podcasters or film related writers out there out there reading this, let me know if you’d like me to publicize and/or review your projects, The Stricken Land is always happy to promote new talent and ideas! And as ever, please feel free to share this post and any others on here that you like, far and wide.

Spread the Word!

Ian

Dogged (2017) UK Dir: Richard Rowntree
Sam Saunders,Toby Wynn-Davies, Tony Manders, Debra Leigh-Taylor

Sam (Saunders), a university student returns to his middle class parents home, a remote tidal island called Farthing to attend the funeral of Megan Lancaster (Abigail Rylance-Sneddon), the 11 year old daughter of family friends who has mysteriously perished from a cliff top fall.
Soon after attending the funeral service given by local vicar Father David Jones (a superbly menacing Wynn Davies), Sam re-encounters Jones’ disturbed son Daniel (a superbly off kilter and menacing Nick Stopien) and hooks up with his old flame, Jones’ rebellious daughter Rachel (Ayisha Jebali). Realising that Jones appears to exert some kind of hold over the town’s menfolk, including his outwardly authoritarian, but weak willed father Alan (a fantastically twitchy performance by Philip Ridout) and the local Doctor Donald Goodman (Manders), Sam and Rachel are drawn to a hippie commune whose inhabitants are despised by the island’s more ‘well to do’ natives. Suspecting that there is more to Megan’s death than just a tragic accident, they team up with one of the hippies, Sparrow (Nadia Lamin) to investigate further.


Revealing any more will mean plot spoilers, so I’ll refrain and instead, highly recommend that you seek out DOGGED for yourself. The film is the debut from writer/director Richard Rowntree’s Ash Mountain Films outfit, co-written with Matthew Davies from an original short film of the same name co-written and directed by Richard and Christina Rowntree, that was entered into BBC Three’s The Fear, a competition to find up and coming filmmakers in the horror genre.
Considering that DOGGED is a mini budget affair (it became the fourth most successful UK based horror feature film to receive funding from Kickstarter on 24 March 2016), Rowntree works wonders with fifteen grand, delivering a bleak slice of very British folk horror that bodes well for future output from Ash Mountain and for a renaissance in British horror in general.

On first viewing DOGGED appears to owe a very large debt to Robin Hardy and Anthony Schaffer’s 1973 folk horror classic THE WICKER MAN, with it’s tale of an alienated outsider in an isolated close knit community, a missing/dead little girl and strange cultish goings on. But it also has traces in its DNA of two other classic British folk horrors of that era; namely WITCHFINDER GENERAL and BLOOD ON SATAN’S CLAW. The film’s themes of religious mania, malevolent authority figures and outward hypocrisy masking a cold hearted evil seem particularly suited to british horror, drawing on the class system and our shared history of puritanism and sectarian conflict.The class commentary aspect is represented by the antagonism between the middle class, slightly incestuous villagers and the hippie community, featuring a scene stealing turn by Tony Parkin as Woodsman Jim, the town derelict driven mad by a long ago trauma connected to the island’s dark secret.
But rather than seeking to ape the style or look of the aforementioned films, Rowntree wisely treads his own path to give DOGGED its own identity, the cinematography drenching the film in bleak, windswept greys, browns and creams, and staying just the right side of making the film look like ITV drafted in Eli Roth to direct one of it’s kitchen sink misery-dramas.
Grounding the horror in a real world setting sans any supernatural elements is another aspect of 70’s horror that runs through the film’s bloodstream. Back then indie filmmakers were reacting against the stylised gothic melodramas of Hammer which by then were looking increasingly irrelevant in the era of Vietnam and Watergate. In our own time a film like DOGGED seems like a return to basics after all the derivative jump horror, bloated franchise sequels and tiresome paranormal  found footage cheapies.
As a writer, Rowntree understands that the most terrifying monster is the fallen nature of the human condition itself, where monsters look just like you or I, and hide in plain sight among us. The script is confident enough to leave just the right amount of ambiguity about just how far knowledge of the island’s secret extends, and the direction is assured enough to make certain that Ash Mountain’s feature debut stands on its own alongside its influences. The creative passion and energy of both the cast and behind the scenes creative team really shine through, an once again prove that you don’t need a massive budget to produce something special on screen.
Based on this outing, both Richard Rowntree and Ash Mountain Films have a great future ahead of them, and indeed are filming their second feature NEFARIOUS (also crowdfunded through Kickstarter) as of this writing.

Of course the best way to support indie filmmakers like Ash Mountain is to buy the fruits of their labours, and I hope this review may go some way to persuading you to part with your hard earned and add a contemporary Brit horror gem like DOGGED to your collection.Let me know what you think of the film in the comments below, or alternatively you can find me on Twitter @thestrickenland or in my Facebook discussion group Movie Babylon.

You can also follow Richard and Ash Mountain Films on Twitter at @r_rowntree and @AshMountainFilm respectively.

Good morning and fine fettle to you, my celluloid loving brethren! The 25th day of this September sees the unleashing of Brit backwoods horror ESCAPE FROM CANNIBAL FARM (CANNIBAL FARM in the US) on to the home viewing market. This is a title I’ve been anticipating for a while now, ever since it came to my attention from following its leading lady Kate Davies Speak on Twitter. Produced by writer/director Charlie Steeds’ Dark Temple Motion Pictures, the film promises to be an all out retro styled splatter festival that looks a cut above the relentless slew of slick but soulless jump scare horror infesting Netflix, and I’m more than intrigued to see the TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE style mayhem transplanted to the bucolic English shires. From the look of the trailer, Mr Steeds won’t be getting a gig scripting The Archers any time soon, though I’m sure his input might liven Radio 4 up a bit.
Dark Temple have a boatload of fun looking horror flicks slated for release in the near future, including the wonderful looking THE BARGE PEOPLE, backwoods survival horror WINTERSKIN and the gothic looking THE HOUSE OF VIOLENT DESIRE. Wonderful titles alone!
Staying on these shores, I’m currently writing up my long delayed review of DOGGED, writer/director Richard Rowntree’s folk horror released a couple of months back. Richard’s Ash Mountain Films outfit is currently filming their second feature NEFARIOUS, an urban crime horror flick that promises to continue the bleak and contemporary style established in their debut feature, and of which this little site is a proud backer through Kickstarter!
Dark Temple and  Ash Mountain Films are both exciting new ventures flying the flag for British horror and I strongly recommend you check them out.
You can follow them on Facebook, Twitter, where they tweet as @DarkTempleFilms and @AshMountainFilm respectively, and also on Instagram where they are darktemplemotionpictures and richard.rowntree

Scream Magazine
I’ve finally bitten the bullet and taken out a subscription to Scream Magazine, something I’ve been promising myself to do since I first came across it in early summer. The mag has just reached its 50th issue, so it seemed an appropriate time to jump on.
The mag’s format is a mixture of features on current releases and retrospectives with the usual review columns and regulars  (VHS Ate My Brain, and the Behind The Screams gossip feature being my favourites.)
The fiftieth issue features a great and now poignant interview with the late BLACK CHRISTMAS and THE AMITYVILLE HORROR star Margot Kidder (you’ll always be my Lois Lane, Margot.) Jamie Lee Curtis and David Gordon Green talk the new HALLOWEEN flick coming next month from Blumhouse, along with part one of a look back at the forty year history of the franchise. Other highlights include retrospectives on ROSEMARY’S BABY and Lucio Fulci’s classic undead exploitation epic ZOMBIE FLESHEATERS, and an interview with Corin Hardy, director of the upcoming THE NUN, the next instalment in the ever widening THE CONJURING universe.
However, my absolute stand out favourite feature in the issue is Paperbacks from Hell, an interview with author Grady Hendrix about his eponymous new book detailing the schlocky paperback shockers that festooned supermarket bookshelves back in the 80’s. Reading through the article brought back memories of thumbing through these titles in Morrisons (a northern english supermarket chain, for those not in the know). Although they were never going to win any literary prizes, the sheer amount of imagination featured in the lurid illustrations that adorned their covers was enough to sear them into the collective memories of any impressionable youth that encountered them. Something they had in common with a lot of the titles down the local video rental shop! Guy N Smith anyone?
Published on a bi-monthly basis, the mag is a steal at twenty uid for a years sub and I’d highly recommend it to film geeks as well as gorehounds and VHS era relics like myself! Check out how to subscribe here.

Grimmfest 2018
I’m pleased to announce that The Stricken Land will be attending this year’s Grimmfest festival held over the 4-7th October 2018 at the Odeon Manchester Great Northern. This is our first time at an event where we have bona fide press accreditation, so rest assured we’ll be scouring the event for all the upcoming news and releases in horror and cult cinema, and posting a full report along with select reviews of the festival’s cinematic offerings. Keep your eyes peeled for on the spot updates via our Facebook page and on Twitter and Instagram.
You can pick up tickets to the event here. Hope to see you there!

Mayhem Horror Festival 2018
While we are on the subject of Festivals, Nottingham’s Broadway cinema is once again hosting the Mayhem Film Festival from 14th to 18th October. This year’s line up includes such delights as the bonkers looking Nicholas Cage led MANDY, dystopian sci-fi PROSPECT, THE WITCH IN THE WINDOW, PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH, screening of classics such as Lamberto Bava’s DEMONS and Romero’s original NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD along with a whole boatload more horror, sci-fi and cult movies from around the globe. Mayhem is always a great little festival in which to discover new films and the talent behind them that will likely bypass the multiplexes (for the time being anyway!)
To check out the full line up and to bag yourself early bird tickets to screenings, check out their page here.

On a final note –  to any aspiring independent filmmakers, podcasters or film related writers out there out there reading this, let me know if you’d like me to publicize and/or review your projects, The Stricken Land is always happy to promote new talent and ideas! And as ever, please feel free to share this post and any others on here that you like, far and wide.

Spread the Word!
Ian

 

GRIMMFEST 10TH ANNIVERSARY LINE-UP ANNOUNCED

“I WANT MY CAKE!”
This year, GRIMMFEST, Manchester’s Festival of Horror, Cult and Fantastic Film, celebrates its 10th anniversary. Get ready for decimation, with the darkest, deadliest line-up yet of wild, weird, witty, thrilling, chilling, blood-spilling movies, every one of them a premiere or cult classic of one kind or another, many with cast and crew in attendance.

But Grimmfest will also be looking back, a little nervously over its shoulder, perhaps, at a decade spent delivering top-quality cinematic carnage to the movie-goers of Manchester, and beyond. Beginning with a return to its bloodsoaked origins, and an anticipation of the future, in a special Festival Preview show on Monday 1st October…

IT’S (STILL) GRIMM UP NORTH!
Originally, the festival was known as “Grimm Up North”, in sardonic acknowledgement of its location, and as a declaration of support for filmmaking in the region. So what could be more appropriate as an anniversary celebration than a special North-West programme, featuring three new shorts and a retrospective screening of the film without which the festival would not even exist… Festival Directors Simeon Halligan and Rachel Richardson-Jones’s debut feature, the dark psychological horror fable, SPLINTERED, fully remastered, and in a razor-sharp new cut. From Once Upon A Time… to …Happily Ever After? Only time will tell. For now though, a chance to reacquaint yourselves with this truly Grimm Fairy Tale.

This celebration of North-West talent will also feature a special family-friendly screening of CBBC and DHX’s horror anthology CREEPED OUT. Co-creators and showrunners Bede Blake and Robert Butler will present their favourite UK and favourite Canadian episode from Season One and, if we are lucky, share an insight into what’s in store for the new series.

SOMETIMES THEY COME BACK…
Which might be why this year’s classic screening, opening the main body of the festival, is RE-ANIMATOR, presented and introduced by Grimmfest’s guest of honour Barbara Crampton, who will also be in attendance for 2 brand new films making their regional debuts: PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH and DEAD NIGHT. Barbara will also be receiving the first Grimmfest Lifetime Achievement Award, sponsored by Horror Channel.

The Grimmfest Team are not ones to indulge too much in nostalgia, however. The past is dead and gone. Except when it refuses to die, of course. Or returns to haunt you. In an attempt to lay to rest any unquiet spirits, therefore, the festival is delighted to be welcoming back many of the fearsome filmmakers who have been such a major part of its bloody history over the past decade. Rob Grant (FAKE BLOOD, MON AMI) presents the UK Premiere of the truly outrageous ALIVE. Johnny Kevorkian whose THE DISAPPEARED screened at the very first festival, returns with the Northern Premiere of the claustrophobic sci-fi horror AWAIT FURTHER INSTRUCTIONS. There’s the UK Premiere of Gothic noir I’LL TAKE YOUR DEAD from Chad Archibald (ANTISOCIAL) and the Northern Premiere of SUMMER OF ’84, a bitter little antidote to all of the current nostalgia for the Eighties, from the talented trio behind Grimmfest favourite TURBO KID.

In keeping with the theme of welcome returns, the festival also presents a couple of startling cinematic reboots – or revenants if you will. Indonesian maestro Joko Anwar (MODUS ANOMALI) makes a Grimmfest comeback, with his unsettling reimagining of obscure cult oddity SATAN’S SLAVES, already a huge box office smash all over South East Asia, and now receiving its UK Premiere; while Scandinavian shock-auteurs Sonny Laguna and Tommy Wiklund (WITHER) resurrect Charles Band’s cult classic series for a new generation with the mischievous PUPPET MASTER: THE LITTLEST REICH, a Northern Premiere (and Barbara Crampton’s second film of the festival), and also treat festival goers to the World Premiere of their latest short, MYSTERY BOX.

Alejandro Brugués, director of another Grimmfest favourite, the riotous JUAN OF THE DEAD, joins fellow masters of the macabre, Joe Dante, Mick Garris, Ryûhei Kitamura, and David Slade for the much-anticipated all-star horror anthology NIGHTMARE CINEMA, another UK Premiere, and Lora Burke, powerhouse star of POOR AGNES returns in the Greater Manchester Premiere of Justin McConnell’s emotive body-horror love story LIFECHANGER.

NEW FACES IN HELL…
But just in case you thought this year’s Grimmfest was simply one big reunion party, there are also some Grimmfest first timers…

The festival is delighted to host the European premieres of Daniel Robbins’ nail-biting PLEDGE and Olivier Afonso’s outrageous GIRLS WITH BALLS. Also screening are UK Premieres of the hilariously twisted BROTHERS’ NEST from Australia’s Clayton Jacobson, the gruesome FRAMED from Spain’s Marc Martínez Jordán and Lin Oeding’s savagely satirical OFFICE UPRISING.

The line-up also features a raft of regional Premieres, including the Northern Premieres of Jon Knautz’s unsettling THE CLEANING LADY, Aislinn Clarke’s chilling THE DEVIL’S DOORWAY, Andy Mitton’s eerie THE WITCH IN THE WINDOW, and Issa López’s magical TIGERS ARE NOT AFRAID. Also screening are the Greater Manchester Premieres of Nicolas Pesce’s perverse and discomforting anti-Rom-Com, PIERCING and Bradford Baruh’s demented DEAD NIGHT, again starring Grimmfest’s very special guest Barbara Crampton.

All this plus a brutal brace of short film programmes, which sees a focus on female creators and the return to Grimmfest of Faye Jackson, director of STRIGOI, another classic film from the festival’s opening year, with her new short THE WOMAN WHO HID HER FEAR UNDER THE STAIRS. 

And to close… Christmas comes early, with the Greater Manchester Premiere of zombie high school musical extravaganza, ANNA AND THE APOCALYPSE, guaranteed to send you dancing off into the night…

All selected films are in the running for the previously announced GRIMMFEST AWARDS. Grimmfest recently revealed that it is partnering with film financing group BCL to offer £40,000s worth of post-production services to each of the winners of the BEST FILM and BEST DIRECTOR awards categories.

Grimmfest’s 10th edition will take place from the 4th to the 7th October at the ODEON Manchester Great Northern, UK, with a Preview Night taking place on 1st October at the Plaza Cinema, Stockport.

The full line-up can be accessed via grimmfest.com, where full festival passes, day passes and individual film tickets can also be purchased.

Good evening film fiends! Hopefully this unseasonably warm September day finds you all in fine fettle and ready to explore the celluloid wonders winging their way on to our screens soon…


Running tire marks around Ghost Rider…
More vengeful than the Crow…
Johnny Gruesome grants y’all a death wish this fall.
This October, Johnny Grissom returns for revenge.

High school students Eric Carter and Johnny Grissom are best friends. Johnny is a heavy metal rebel nicknamed “Johnny Gruesome” by his classmates. When Johnny is murdered while on a drunken joyride, his killer persuades Eric and Johnny’s girlfriend to help him make the murder look like an accidental death. Johnny returns from the grave as a murderous, wisecracking zombie hell bent on revenge. Based on the award-winning novel by Gregory Lamberson (Slime City, Killer Rack), who also directs, JOHNNY GRUESOME stars Anthony De La Torre, Byron Brown II and Michael DeLorenzo. From Uncork’d Entertainment, JOHNNY GRUESOME on VOD 10/16 and DVD 1/1/2019.

 

Starring international action star Alexander Nevsky  (SHOWDOWN IN MANILA) MAXIMUM IMPACT won Best Action Film of the Year Award at the 14th annual Action on Film International Festival in Las Vegas. MAXIMUM IMPACT also won in Best Action Sequence and Best Special Effects categories. Mr. Nevsky was honoured with the festival’s 2018 Breakout Action Star Award and his co-star Matthias Hues received an Icon Award.
Written by Ross LaManna (RUSH HOUR) and directed by Andrzej Bartkowiak (ROMEO MUST DIE), the MAXIMUM IMPACT cast includes Kelly Hu (THE SCORPION KING), William Baldwin (THE PURGE: THE TV SERIES), Tom Arnold (TRUE LIES), Mark Dacascos (JOHN WICK 3: PARABELLUM), and Danny Trejo (MACHETE).
MAXIMUM IMPACT will be released in North America in theaters on September 28, 2018, and On Demand, DVD, Blu-ray and Digital Video on October 2, 2018. Distributors are Unified Pictures and Sony.
When the granddaughter of the US Secretary of the State is kidnapped in Moscow, an agent of the Federal Security Service of Russia (Alexander Nevsky) and the US Secret Service are forced to put aside their differences and work together to prevent a full-scale international crisis.
MAXIMUM IMPACT is produced by Nevsky through his Los Angeles-based production company Hollywood Storm.  Nevsky is a former Mr. Universe and is an established movie star in Russia. His credits include MOSCOW HEAT, UNDISPUTED, TREASURE RAIDERS, SOMEWHERE and BLACK ROSE, for which he also directed. Nevsky represents Russia as a member of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association and votes for the Golden Globes.


Nevsky says, “MAXIMUM IMPACT is the biggest film in my career and I’m so glad it was recognized in such a great way at the Action on Film Festival! I’m also happy to receive the ‘Breakout Action Star Award’ and would like to thank ‘Action on Film International Film Festival’ and it’s president Mr. Del Weston for this honor! But I couldn’t be here without my idols Arnold Schwarzenegger, Ralf Moeller and Matthias Hues so I would like to thank them as well for all the inspiration and support over the years!”

 

From filmmaker and film historian Chris Espenan comes THE COOLEST GUY MOVIE EVER — a fascinating forensic documentary about the making of the classic World War II adventure film THE GREAT ESCAPE — to DVD and digital HD from Virgil Films available now, after a special screening earlier this year at Marché du film in Cannes.
Before Evans, Hemsworth, and Downey Jr. there was McQueen, Garner, and Bronson. These men represented what it meant to be tough guys in the 1960s, and they had the acting chops to play the toughest characters around – including the real life airmen who pulled off one of the most improbable escapes in war history.
The filming locations of the enormously popular World War II adventure THE GREAT ESCAPE have become enshrined over the years by film buffs and historians alike, forever changing the landscape of the small German towns that once played host to these Hollywood heavyweights. Now for the first time, filmmaker Chris Espenan set out to visit all of the locations in Germany where the 1963 film was made, while compiling facts, behind-the-scenes stories, and inside information on how the film was produced.
From visiting Geisel Gastag Studios in Munich to the Bavarian town of Füssen, Espenan assembled a unique team of cameramen, historians, film buffs, and local experts who painstakingly found the exact spots where actors Steve McQueen, James Garner, Richard Attenborough, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, David McCallum, and others toiled in the summer of 1962.
Uncovering treasures such as footage from a German television news shoot — which included a rare interview on the set with Steve McQueen — to getting first person interviews from the locals who were there during filming, THE COOLEST GUY MOVIE EVER is a true labor of love, fashioned by filmmakers who exult THE GREAT ESCAPE as one of the most memorable World War II movies ever made, featuring one of the greatest casts ever assembled, and for many, indeed, THE COOLEST GUY MOVIE EVER.


“THE GREAT ESCAPE is my favorite film of all time,” said Producer Steve Rubin.   “It is the first film I started researching for my book Combat Films 1945-2010, the subject of my 1993 documentary Return to The Great Escape, and the reason I was nominated for Best Classic Commentary in 2004 for The Great Escape: Special Edition. When filmmaker Chris Espenan came to me with the idea for THE COOLEST GUY MOVIE EVER, I literally dropped everything to help him.”
Executive Producer and Virgil Films CEO Joe Amodei echoed Rubin’s sentiments when he said “As a young boy exploring the big wide world of motion pictures for the first time THE GREAT ESCAPE excited me, thrilled me and cemented a love for movies that has stayed with me forever. This is the film that started it all.”

About Virgil Films – Virgil Films & Entertainment was founded in 2003 by Joe Amodei to acquire, market and distribute DVD, TV and Digital Product in the feature film, documentary, special interest and sports categories. The company has built partnerships with OWN, Sundance Channel Home Entertainment, National Geographic Cinema Ventures, Pure Flix Entertainment, Major League Baseball Productions, Morgan Spurlock’s Warrior Poets and other high-profile entertainment brands since their inception. Releases from Virgil Films include the Oscar-nominated documentary Glen Campbell…I’ll Be Me; the award-winning documentary Miss Representation; the critically acclaimed, timeless, best-selling Forks Over Knives; and the Oscar-nominated documentary Restrepo and its sequel Korengal. They have also released the compelling Facing Darkness, I Am Chris Farley, I Am Heath Ledger, Blood on the Mountain, Legends of the Knight, The Winding Stream and others. Follow them on Twitter @virgilfilms
www.VirgilFilms.com

On a final note –  to any aspiring independent filmmakers, podcasters or film related writers out there out there reading this, let me know if you’d like me to publicize and/or review your projects, The Stricken Land is always happy to promote new talent and ideas! And as ever, please feel free to share this post and any others on here that you like, far and wide.

Spread the Word!
Ian

 

Good morning film fiends! And a very merry bank holiday wherever you are (hope that sun is shining!) Straight down to business; I’ve got three splendid looking indie releases coming up, so let’s check out the previews below –

First up is e-DEMON from director Jeremy Wechter. The story centres on an  escaped demon on a dark and twisted mission that manipulates a group of friends hanging out on a video-chat. The film is craftily structured – it takes place completely on a computer screen via the webcams being shown.

Kendra, AJ, Mar and Dwayne are old college friends who find themselves growing apart. Attempting to hang on to their good old Ohio State days, the gang gets together online for a night of stories, pranks and drinking via web-cam. As the evening progresses, they unknowingly release a deviously clever demon that had been trapped for centuries in Salem, Massachusetts. Since the demon can possess multiple people at once, the group of friends must determine who they can still trust in order to survive the demon’s dark and twisted mission.
e-DEMON gets its US theatrical and digital release on September 14 2018.

AFI Winner David Field (THE INBETWEENERS 2, THE ROVER, CHOPPER) “goes brilliantly against type”* in Kosta Nikas’ critically acclaimed SACRED HEART, out from Gravitas Ventures.

SACRED HEART chronicles the journey of a religious man, who rejects God and his faith, after the tragic death of his pregnant wife and then challenges the Devil. He receives a visit from his priest, who pushes him to question his own beliefs. The Priest turns out to be a mirror of his own insanity, pushing the boundaries between heaven and hell.

David Field, Kipan Rothbury (WATER RATS) and Lizzie Schebesta (SLEEPING BEAUTY) star in a Kosta Nikas film.
“A hard-hitting journey of revenge and redemption”**, SACRED HEART is available now on VOD/DVD and BluRay from Gravitas Ventures.
*FilmInk **FilmInk

Sometimes the blood just won’t wash away. This summer, Wild Eye Releasing makes hearts bleed when Colin Floom and Greg Nemer’s highly anticipated horror DEAD LOVE premieres on VOD.  

Brandon is a young train engineer whose world is upended when his mother suddenly takes her own life. At the funeral home, he meets Fiona, a beautiful and mysterious mortician who takes a strong interest in him. Soon they discover they share a passion for music. And when Fiona serenades him with an ancient folk song, their lives become entwined for eternity.

Acclaimed actress Kate Linder (THE YOUND AND THE RESTLESS, MISS MEADOWS) features alongside Nicole Elizabeth Olson, Grayson Low, Bob Buckley, Elias Harger, and Deborah Curtis in a classy, haunting and effective festival favorite available now on VOD, followed by a DVD release this October.

Unrelated to new film releases, but should be of interest to comicbook fans; The Stricken Land has become the proud backer of the independent graphic novel Minding Mama via Kickstarter –

Minding Mama is a comic book series written by Elaine Jackson, Illustrated by Dan Schaefer and colored by Grant Kempster.
Mama, her infant son and Cyril the Farmbot live on Earth several hundred years into our future. Decades of intense solar flare activity have left the surface uninhabitable. Only robots such as Farmbots Cyril and Celia can spend any time on the surface, where they attempt to cultivate UV-resistant crops. But the Farmbots are old, and starting to break down…
The project has some wonderful and evocative art reminiscent of the more ‘european style’ found in publications like Metal Hurlant and our own much loved 2000AD. Check out their page (with a great live action short starring the wonderful and very talented Kate Davies Speak) and website and see if you can’t throw a few quid their way, God knows British comics need all the help they can get!

On a final note –  to any aspiring independent filmmakers, podcasters or film related writers out there out there reading this, let me know if you’d like me to publicize and/or review your projects, The Stricken Land is always happy to promote new talent and ideas! And as ever, please feel free to share this post and any others on here that you like, far and wide.

Spread the Word!

Ian