Halloween (USA 2018) Dir: David Gordon Green

Jamie Lee Curtis, Judy Greer, Andi Matichak, James Jude Courtney, Nick Castle

The 1980’s saw saw the horror genre dominated by the slasher movie; cheaply produced, formulaic shockers revolving around gormless American teenagers being despatched by mysterious masked killers using inventive but increasingly contrived methods of dealing death.

John Carpenter’s seminal 1978 independent horror flick HALLOWEEN was the film that really kicked off enthusiasm for the sub genre, despite coming four years after Bob Clark’s proto slasher BLACK CHRISTMAS, the tale of an all female sorority house terrorised by a mysterious killer. Carpenter’s efficient, stripped down chiller perfected the formula in the tale of escaped mental patient Michael Myers who returns to his home town fifteen years after murdering his sister on Halloween night, intent on reliving his crime. It quickly became the most financially successful independent film on record at the time, and led to a slew of imitations as well as a series of inferior sequels, both direct and retconned, the last of which, HALLOWEEN: RESURRECTION (2002)  saw the series surely reach its nadir in the scene featuring rapper Busta Rhymes karate kicking Myers through a window.

Thankfully no such incongruous nonsense intrudes on David Gordon Green’s retconned sequel for production outfit Blumhouse. Picking up the story in real time, forty years after Myers’ rampage in the first movie, the script by Green, Danny McBride and Jeff Fradley wisely ignores the convoluted sequels. Which means no familial connection with Laurie Strode (Curtis), who hasn’t perished in a car accident, no Jamie Lloyd and no Thorn cult thank goodness, (the point in the series where it really jumped the proverbial shark in this reviewer’s humble opinion.)

With all that baggage out of the way (I like to think of the previous sequels as different timelines) the film is free to forge its own path, which, with a few caveats I think it does successfully. The story picks up with Michael incarcerated back in the Smiths Grove Mental Institute where he has been under close observation by the shifty looking Dr Sartain (Haluk Bilginer), a protege of the now deceased Dr Loomis. Frustrated that Sartain has made no progress with his studies of Myers, the authorities order that he be transferred to a much less ‘comfortable’ institution. In a last ditch attempt to reach Michael, Sartain allows access to two investigative journalists (Rhian Rees and Jefferson Hall) putting together a podcast (how 2018!) about the 1978 murders, but they too are unable to penetrate Myers’ wall of silence.

Meanwhile, original final girl Laurie Strode lives a solitary life in a fortified compound, two failed marriages behind her and an estranged daughter and granddaughter testament to the PTSD she has suffered since her fateful encounter with ‘the Shape’ four decades earlier. When the bus transporting Myers mysteriously crashes, Laurie’s warnings are dismissed as paranoid ravings by her family, and the stage is set for history to repeat itself on Halloween night…

The essential problem with the HALLOWEEN series is the same one that bedevils all slasher movies, and that is the in built limitation of the central idea; a madman stalking a bunch of luckless victims is essentially a one film deal. If you’ve seen one, you’ve seen them all. But money talks, and inevitable sequels follow put together by luckless directors for hire in which the only real way they can try and put a spin on the story is to explore the character and motives of the mad killer protagonist, which only serves to demystify them, thus diluting their scare factor (the recent ALIEN prequels are also guilty of this with the xenomorph.)

The new film sensibly avoids going down this route, leaving Michael as the enigmatic, relentless force of pure evil that Carpenter originally envisaged. He doesn’t want to rape, or torture. He doesn’t want money and can’t be bought off in any way. Michael Myers doesn’t seem to have or need a motive and that’s what makes him truly frightening. He’s a flesh and blood version of THE TERMINATOR.

Leaving alone any exploration of Myers’s character means that the film’s focus is instead on Curtis’ Laurie Strode and the long lasting psychological scars left on her and her family from her ordeal all those years ago. Pretty much from the first moment she is on screen, it’s clear that this is going to be Curtis’ show and she clearly relishes Laurie’s transformation into a paranoid backwoods gun lady reminiscent of T2 era Sarah Connor.

The rest of the cast portray characters that essentially exist either as inevitable victims, or to give us an insight into either of the two main protagonists. Through daughter Karen (Judy Greer) we get a glimpse of growing up under the care of the helicopter mum from hell, while exposure to Myers seems to have unbalanced Dr Sartain (in the same way as was hinted in Donald Pleasance’s manic portrayal of Dr Loomis.) Granddaughter Allyson (Matichak)  has little to do other than fend off teenage suitors and run around a lot. As a character she lacks any real depth, so it’s difficult to empathise with her, and unlike the girls in the original it never feels like she is in any real peril. This is a minor quibble though, and Matichak at least gives her all to an underwritten role that ultimately has to play second fiddle to Curtis.

Inevitably a prisoner of the constraints of its own sub genre, HALLOWEEN is part sequel, part remake and part tribute movie to the original with a plethora of nods to the 1978 film, and even a little Easter egg for fans of the underrated HALLOWEEN III SEASON OF THE WITCH in the form of the Silver Shamrock masks. But that said, this is still a solid addition to the franchise that both looks and feels like a ‘true’ sequel to John Carpenter’s original low budget masterwork, while managing to tread the fine line between celebrating its source material and wallowing in nostalgia.

As is traditional for the smasher movie, the end leaves the story wide open for a sequel, and given its more than healthy box office take, the temptation for Blumhouse will likely prove irresistible.

Let’s just hope they resist the urge to cast any rap stars in it.

https://youtu.be/ek1ePFp-nBI

The Final Girls (2015) US Dir: Todd Strauss Schulson
Taissa Farmiga, Malin Akerman, Alia Shawkat

Teenager Max Cartwright (Farmiga) lives with her free spirited but down on her luck actress mother Amanda (Akerman). One night after driving home from yet another failed audition, they are involved in a horrific car accident. Amanda is killed but Max manages to survive without serious physical injury.

Cut to three years later and Max is finally beginning to put her life back together. Her best friend Gertie’s (Shawkat) brother, horror film geek Duncan (Thomas Middleditch)  bribes her to attend a screening of Camp Bloodbath, a 1980’s stalk and slash horror flick, as a guest of honour, the film being her late mother’s most well known film role, playing the virginal Nancy.

When a fire rips through the auditorium, Max and her friends tear open the projector screen to escape, and inexplicably find themselves transported into the film itself. Max immediately forms a bond with her dead mothers character, but the friends presence soon begins to alter the events of the movie, and with the original ‘final girl’ killed off in a freak accident, Max has to try and save Nancy from the movie’s disfigured psycho Billy Murphy (Daniel Norris), while taking on the mantle of final girl herself, and getting herself and her friends back to reality in one piece!

THE FINAL GIRLS is the ultimate meta horror comedy and an absolute blast from start to finish. Fans of the 80’s slasher cycle will find much to love here, from the obvious nods to the FRIDAY THE 13th series to the well observed culture clash between the generations (the past being a foreign country – the fictional film within a film is set in 1986).

Screenwriter Joshua John Miller co wrote the script as a coping mechanism after the death of his father Jason Miller (Father Karras in THE EXORCIST), and the sense of grief and loss that plays out between Max and Amanda/Nancy lends a poignancy to what could otherwise have been a fun but shallow piece of comedy horror fluff.

The film also avoids the repetitious irony and knowing superiority that marred so many films and tv shows that jumped on the meta horror bandwagon started by SCREAM and which became very tedious very quickly soon afterwards. Director Schulson along with Miller and fellow scribe M A Fortin thankfully play their film for bittersweet laughs, shot through with just the right amount of nostalgia for a genre they clearly have a lot of affection for.

I’m short, THE FINAL GIRLS is a feel good horror homage that will raise a smile from even the most hardened gorehound, and will especially appeal to those who lived through the 80’s slasher era it so affectionately spoofs.

Good morning film fiends!

Last week saw the the release of the the long awaited trailer for THE MEG, the long in gestation adaptation of Steve Alten’s pulptastic potboiler about a prehistoric Megalodon shark. Needless to say this has me agog with excitement, especially as it stars Brit action god The Stath headlining the proceedings. For those who somehow missed the trailer, here it is. Don’t say I never think of you…

While we’re on the subject of finned monstrosities, my old pal at The Painted Dragon found this little z-movie bottom shelfer that looks like it has potential to be great fun. A diseased shark that spits acid at it victims as well as chomping down on them? I’m in.

 

 

The latest screener to drop in to my inbox from High Octane Pictures is DEAD LIST –

A struggling actor conjures a dark force in order to win a movie role in a terrifying new movie experience from filmmakers Holden Andrews, Ivan Asen and Victor Mathieu.
High Octane Pictures unveils the DEAD LIST on VOD this May.

Calvin is competing with five other actors — Zander, Scott, Kush, Jason and Bob — for a major movie role. Stopping at nothing to win the role of a lifetime, he uses a demonic book to curse his fellow actors, with each actor being killed off in their own separate unique and terrifying chapter.

DEAD LIST available 1/5/18 on VOD, DVD 3/7/18 on DVD, and SVOD 4/9/18 (US release dates, I’ll try and find out if there are UK and RoW dates and include them when I post a review.)

Finally, TSL is proud to announce that I’m backing two great looking new horror flicks on Kickstarter. The first is Brit production NEFARIOUS, billed as ‘a home invasion horror/thriller, from the Ash Mountain Films, the studio that brought us DOGGEDCheck the details out here

Second we have REVIVING CAMP BLOOD, a Friday the 13th fan film (and oh, how I am a fan of Mr Voorhees.) This project is being put together by Nic Christian and Riley Lorden of the Slash ‘n’ Cast horror podcast. Check their Kickstarter page here.

Both these projects have lots of talent behind them along with a treasure trove of goodies for backers, so take a look if you’re so minded, and show these indie producers some love (and money!)

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

The slasher film is a well worn sub genre of the horror movie, but with last week’s release of 4/20 MASSACRE (dubbed ‘the first stoner-slasher’) indie director Dylan Reynolds and his team have managed to put a fresh spin on the concept and delivered a tightly paced character driven entry into the horror pantheon that has already received much praise in the genre press (you can read The Stricken Land’s review here.) To celebrate the movie’s release, I sent a bunch of questions to director Dylan Reynolds, who was only too happy to wax lyrical about filmmaking, the state of the industry and his love of movies in general. Let’s kick it off! –

TSL: Growing up I remember the ‘video nasties’ furore in the 80’s that gave the genre even more of an aura of ‘forbidden fruit’ Did you enjoy watching horror movies growing up?

DR: For sure- I would say I have a particular fondness for horror and exploitation cinema of the 70s and 80s. I knew I wanted to direct a horror film for my third feature and I gravitated towards the slasher sub-genre because some of my fondest “movie watching” memories from childhood came from late night viewings and VHS rentals of FRIDAY THE 13TH and NIGHTMARE ON ELM STREET sequels.

TSL: What movies would you say were your formative influences as a filmmaker?

DR: I love cinema in general- so it’s always tough to pick one movie because my tastes and “obsessions” change from month to month. I was born in 1980- so I grew up on Spielberg and Lucas movies as a kid and then in the late 80s/early 90s came the big wave of Sundance indies- and like many filmmakers of my generation I assume we’re all in one way or another inspired by Richard Linklater, Kevin Smith, Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino.  I’m also a big fan of “maverick auteur” filmmakers like John Cassavetes and John Carpenter. But if I had to pick “my favorite movie of all time” I usually go with MONSTER SQUAD.

TSL: I’ve long been of the view that the communications revolution heralded by the internet will enable the next generation of filmmakers and weaken the big studios hold over creatives. The proliferation of YouTube and other VOD sites means they can bypass traditional means of distribution to get their visions out there. As an indie filmmaker yourself, what are your thoughts on this?

DR: I would say that’s partially true- but also not totally accurate.  On one hand- yes there are more platforms/ outlets where one can distribute your movie and more and more you don’t necessarily need a rep/ sales agent, or distributor to secure placement.

However- the revenue continues to shrink with these outlets- most recently Amazon cut down how much they were paying out for Prime by nearly half.  Places like iTunes, Amazon etc may take an indie title- but they aren’t going to put that title “up front and center” like a studio movie or one of their originals- thereby effectively “burying” your little indie film and thus making it more difficult to find an audience.

Also going back to Amazon (YouTube has done something similar) where they basically “censor” indie horror movies because it broadly doesn’t “fit their standards” (whether it be violence, nudity etc) but ironically they don’t apply the same criteria to the studio or their original productions.

I guess my point is that for every perceived opportunity- the actual trend is that media corporations are getting bigger, merging, and becoming more influential/ controlling.  And usually that means the true indies will be squeezed out or marginalized more.

TSL: Back to the movie itself; what was the location shoot like? Did you have a continuous shooting schedule or was it done mainly at weekends?

DR: We shot the film in a town outside of Big Bear, CA like a true “low budget indie horror movie” in 10 days straight.  People like Roger Corman and Charles Band have been known to make movies with tight schedules like that- for us it was a necessity based upon our budget and resources… but it was also kind of perfectly fitting I think.

TSL: As a director, I think you managed to coax very naturalistic performances from the very talented actresses which contrasted nicely with the larger than life performance by Jim Storm as Ranger Rick. Did you intend this in the script? How much input did the cast give to the characters?

DR: Thank you for saying that…  I’m not sure what works for other filmmakers but the method that I find works (as far as getting believable/ naturalistic performances) is number one- cast good actors that are open to exploring and being creative.  Then I try to have conversations with each individual actor prior to filming- i.e. talking about their characters and sharing ideas/ questions etc. Then we have some readings/ rehearsals- but I find it’s best not to overdo those because you want to capture the “real magic” on set.

Then when we get out to set I try to create the atmosphere and freedom for the actors to have fun and be creative.  That means allowing some room for improvisation- either “between the lines” or doing extended takes and letting the opening and ending of scenes play out.  I also encourage the actors to “give me some options” from take-to-take… and then in editing I just go through and “cherry pick” the moments.

With Jim Storm- he was in my first film Chain Link and I basically wrote the role of Ranger Rick with him in mind.  So I definitely wrote the character as a “scenery chewing monologuing bad guy” and just had fun with it. But when it came to the other characters I tried to ground them and make them “characters that you would care about before they die”.  So in many ways 4/20 MASSACRE can be described as an “indie drama… and then a slasher shows up”.

TSL: The film is lucky to have such a talented cast. You are married to Vanessa Rose Parker who plays Aubrey, was she instrumental in casting the other parts? What attracted the other cast members to the project?

DR: Yes- Vanessa also produced the film and was instrumental in crafting the whole project… from script to casting.  She was friends and worked at a restaurant with Stacey Danger- who played the “stoner chick” Donna- and she did a reading early on and really brought a cool angle to the character- so we knew we had to have her in the film.  Stacey helped attract Justine Wachsberger (who played “Rachel”) to audition for the role and we found Marissa Pistone during the casting process… I think having the whole “strong female characters in a genre film” made the film a little unique- therefore we attracted some very nice talent.  

TSL: John Carpenter said that horror movies were always the most fun type of films to make. I always imagined playing ‘the masked killer’ role to be the best bit of making a horror film. How was it working with James Gregory who plays ‘The Shape’ (nice nod to HALLOWEEN by the way!)

DR: James I’ve known for a number of years and he was one of the first people I approached when 4/20 MASSACRE was going into production.  As well as playing “The Shape” he was also the Stunt/ Fight Coordinator on the film and he even designed the cool gillie suit/ costume.  He’s a super talented dude and I consider him to be an asset that can elevate any film set he steps onto.

TSL: The movie features some great kills and gore effects. How easy/expensive is this sort of thing to stage? I remember reading an interview with the great Tom Savini where he said in the early days you had to get the whole thing done in one take or the effect would be ruined and they’d have to start again, and the director would be on his back!

DR: Our Special FX Make Up Artist was Brennan Jones… going into the project we didn’t have a big budget so I went around to some fx make up schools and asked for some referrals.  Brennan was one of the people I interviewed who was young/ hungry and got all the references I had (yes- Tom Savini’s name/ work was definitely discussed). I think we both wish we gave him more time to craft the “gags” and get them right- but as often is the case with low budget/ indie stuff Brennan would ask for 30 minutes and we’d tell him he had 10.  Considering the circumstances/ schedule I think he did an awesome job and came up with some cool/ unique stuff.

TSL: I read that Steven Soderbergh shot his latest film UNSANE solely using iPhones. If you were to give any advice to a kid with a video camera/phone wanting to make his own movie what would it be?

DR: I’d say “screw it- don’t listen to any naysayers… in the words of Lloyd Kaufman- just make your own damn movie”.

TSL: Finally, are there any plans for a 4/20 MASSACRE sequel?

DR: I have some ideas- it would be real fun if we could do a sequel…  my plan is to do a different “slasher sub-genre” with each instalment.  Part 1 was more of a “backwoods slasher”- part 2 would be an urban-set “Giallo- influenced” mystery… a ‘who- done-it?” with slasher overtones.

TSL: A big thank you for speaking with me, all the best for the future!

DR: You too- and thanks for the time and opportunity!

NB – At the time of writing 420 MASSACRE is only available in the US market. I’ll post an update when the movie will be availale in other territories –  TSL

4/20 Massacre (USA 2018) Dir: Dylan Reynolds
Jamie Bernadette, Vanessa Rose Parker, Jim Storm, James Gregory

For lovers of Mary Jane, the twentieth day of April has become the one day of the year marked for activities involving a certain plant related substance. Legend has it that the date was picked due to numerous malign events occurring on the 20th April, including the birthday of Adolf Hitler and the Columbine School massacre. Allegedly, the idea of making the date synonymous with marijuana culture was to associate it with the passive effects of smoking cannabis, thus supposedly restoring some measure of karmic balance to the world (or some such new age hippie nonsense!).

With his fourth feature 4/20 Massacre, director Dylan Reynolds has exploited these ideas behind the stoner holiday, and combined it with the phenomenon of ‘guerrilla growers’ to come up with a splendidly entertaining take on the well worn stalk and slash horror sub genre.

Part homage, part reinvention of those beloved VHS bottom shelfers of the 1980’s, 4/20 Massacre tells the story of five young women who set off to the California hills on the titular weekend to camp out and get stoned. They are warned by the local Park Ranger, Rick, not to stray too far from the trail due to reports of illegal cannabis farms operating. The women later encounter a seemingly crazed young man who warns them of a bloodthirsty killer who is pursuing him after he stumbled across just such a farm whilst hiking. The intrepid bunch of course ignore such ravings and proceed to set up camp, soon after which, said killer (James Gregory) begins to make his presence known.

So far, so slasher. But what really sets 4/20 Massacre apart are the performances by the actresses (Jamie Bernadette, Vanessa Rose Parker, Stacey Danger, Justine Wachsberger and Maria Pistone), which lend real depth and pathos to their relationships in what could so easily have been cookie cutter victim roles. Kudos is also due here to Dylan Reynolds who also wrote the script that gave the cast such rounded characters to work with. Jim Storm also seems to be having a whale of a time in his scenery chewing turn as Ranger Rick.

The quality of the cinematography is also striking, not least given that it is not an element usually associated with this genre, and the audience really gets a sense of place due to the level of attention given to it.

But what about the horror? Well, gore fans needn’t worry, there are several inventive kills here to satisfy afficionados. My favourites being the bong through the brain and the stogie in the eyeball, along with the de rigeur disembowellings and decapitations, all leading to a suitably grand guignol finale. Although the film features some elements of black comedy it wisely steers clear of the self referential approach that was much popularised by Scream and its many imitators. This may be a cut above your usual stalk ‘n’ slash but it’s still a balls out horror when the chips are down, and it’s clear that Reynolds has a love and reverence for the genre.

The writer/director has stated that he does have a sequel in mind, and The Stricken Land fervently hopes his labour of love gets a follow up!

You can get more on 4/20 Massacre from our friends over at the Horror of the Remake podcast where they also have an interview with Dylan Reynolds. Check it out here –

https://www.spreaker.com/user/hotrpod/hotrpod-ep6-420-massacre

(Horror of the Remake is also available on iTunes and all good podcast apps).

We also hope to publish our own interview with the writer/director very soon, so watch this space!

4/20 Massacre is released on DVD, Blu-Ray and VOD on 3rd April 2018.

 

Good morning film fiends! I hope you are all enjoying the Easter break and finding time to indulge in a bit of film watching amidst all the chocolate munching.

And what delights, pray tell, have emerged from the celluloid wastes of The Stricken Land this week?

Worth checking out are Dark Temple Motion Pictures (darktemple.co.uk), a new independent outfit dedicated to making retro science fiction and horror flicks, headed up by director Charlie Steeds. And their output looks right up our street. The studio’s big horror opus Escape from Cannibal Farm is due for DVD release on 16th July 2018. You can check the trailer out here –

But it’s the feature planned for late 2018 -early 2019 that really caught my attention. Check out the poster and trailer for The Barge People, this looks completely incredible!

 

Both films star Kate Davies Speak, a British actress is who is busy carving out a career for herself as a bona fide Brit horror icon. Check out the interview with her on Dark Temple’s website. Both Kate and Dark Temple can be followed on Twitter at respectively; @KateDaviesSpeak and @DarkTempleFilms. I really am liking the cut of this company’s jib, even their logo reminds me of 80’s exploitation film labels! Onwards and upwards as they say, and be sure to lend these good people your support by buying their movies! Escape from Cannibal Farm is already on my pre-orders!

Next up we have the dark fantasy Knights of the Damned (also starring Ms Davies-Speak and martial artist/action star Silvio Simac.) Look out for my review coming soon!

Back to the horror genre we’ve got two upcoming features fo review. Firstly we have Hell’s Kitty. Here’s the press release to give us the lowdown –

Doug Jones (The Shape of Water), Dale Midkiff (Pet Sematary), Michael Berryman (The Hills Have Eyes), Courtney Gains (The Children of The Corn), Lynn Lowry (Cat People), Kelli Maroni (Night of The Comet), Ashley C. Williams (The Human Centipede), Barbara Nedeljakova (Hostel), Adrienne Barbeau (The Fog), John Franklin (The Addams Family) and a ‘Killer Klown’ team up for some Pawplay this March!

Based on the web series and comic book of the same name, and inspired by writer-director Nicholas Tana’s experiences living with a professedly possessed cat, Hell’s Kitty tells of a covetous feline that acts possessed and possessive of his owner around women. The results are as funny as they are frightening!

Nick (Tana), a Hollywood screenwriter, discovers his cat has become murderously possessed, and will stop at nothing to rid him of any women in his life. As his life unravels out of control, Nick must find a way to have his kitty exorcised of the demonic spirit haunting her and creating a body count.

With characters named after classic horror movie characters (Jones plays Father Damien, Berryman is Detective Pluto, Nina Kate is Dr. Laurie Strodes, Barbeau is Mrs Carrie), and a tone reminiscent of some of the ‘80s greatest horror-comedies, Hell’s Kitty is undoubtedly the horror hiss of March!
Hell’s Kitty is written and directed by Nicholas Tana and produced by Denise Acosta.

Need more? How about At Granny’s House

Bill Oberst Jr and Rachel Alig are At Granny’s House in writer-director Les Mahoney’s award-winning indie horror, now available worldwide on VOD.

A Hitchcockian thriller with twists and turns, made for the YouTube generation with it’s depictions of the ubiquity and downside of cellphone usage and connectivity thru social media, At Granny’s House is the story of a young caregiver with a dark agenda moves into an elderly woman’s house. Soon, Granny’s house becomes a macabre place of death – and love.

That’s all for this week folks. Look out for my review of the soon to be release ‘stoner slasher’ horror 4/20 Massacre posting later this morning. 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

Chopping Mall (USA 1986) Dir: Jim Wynorski

Kelli Maroney, Barbara Cranston, John Terlesky

Straight out of the Roger Corman film factory, this strange hybrid of the slasher horror, sci-fi and fantasy genres has a great idea at the centre of it, that of security robots running amok after hours in a giant shopping mall. Unfortunately the leaden script fails to capitalise on this great exploitation set up, instead presenting the audience with a deeply average, by the numbers horror devoid of any trace of wit or imagination to lift it above its many peers. Even b-movie stalwarts Barbara Crampton, Dick Miller and Paul Bartel can’t breathe life into what soon turns into an extended corridor chase with the identikit teens menaced by the one of the least terrifying protagonists in horror film history. The trailer however does have its charms (see below).

A remake of Chopping Mall has been slated, although no release date has been announced. Interestingly (or bizarrely depending on your point of view), the remake will not feature the killer robot element, instead going for a supernatural twist. Writer director Robert Hall explains:

“My version of CHOPPING MALL that I wrote is totally supernatural…It’s more The Fog set in an abandoned mall than it is robots. Instead of killer robots, they are these mannequins that are possessed by the souls of dead slaves that worked at the plantation that the mall was built over.”

The word around the campfire is that Corman himself has given his seal of approval to proceedings. Whatever the result, The Stricken Land will be sure to give you the lowdown. Watch this space.

Interesting facts:

  • The film was shot in the Sherman Oaks mall in California, the same mall used as a location in the Schwarznegger camp action classic Commando (1985).
  • Dick Miller was a regular in Roger Corman b-movies from the 1950’s onwards. He also starred as the gun shop owner killed by the eponymous killer cyborg in The Terminator (1984).
  • Director Wynorski and star John Terlesky teamed up again to make the far superior Deathstalker II (1987).

Good morning film fiends!
I have a quadruple whammy of glorious upcoming movie goodness this week –

First up is 4/20 Massacre from director Dylan Reynolds. Billed as the first ‘stoner slasher movie’ Here’s the official press release to tell us more –

‘420’ has become synonymous with marijuana culture, with April 20th now dedicated as ‘The Official Holiday’ for weed enthusiasts. And now, this new holiday gets its very first themed slasher, with the gore filled 4/20 MASSACRE.  Over 4/20 weekend, five young women decide to celebrate their friend’s birthday by taking a camping trip to a secluded part of a nearby national park. However, their fun is quickly snubbed out when they stumble upon an illegal marijuana grow operation hidden in the greenery and protected by a bloodthirsty maniac. Will they survive or will they perish in search of the ultimate high?

Starring Jamie Bernadette (I Spit On Your Grave), Stacey Danger (Neon Demon), Justine Wachsberger (Divergent) and Jim Storm (Trilogy of Terror, Dark Shadows), 4/20 MASSACRE is a high octane comedy thriller which mixes gore, suspense, and humor, and is the perfect film to accompany your next joint…or maybe you’ll want to think twice before lighting up.

Sounds good to me. Yours truly has previewed the movie and will be providing a full spoiler free review just ahead of the film’s release date (DVD and VoD) of 3rd April 2018

Next up is the incredibly fun looking Bus Party to Hell –  

A party bus en route to Burning Man breaks down in the middle of the desert among a satanic cult. A massacre leaves survivors trapped on the bus, fighting for their lives and panicked that someone is not what he seems.

I mean who doesn’t enjoy watching comely American teens being hunted down by desert dwelling satanists?  I don’t know about you peeps, but that poster alone is selling it to me. I have no idea if it’s intentional but the design looks alot like a homage to the poster art for A Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985). The movie’s publicists have kindly sent me a screener, so expect a review soon!

Thirdly we have the supernatural action flick Killing Joan

Joan Butler is an implacable spirit out to bring down the mobsters that left her for dead in writer/director Todd Bartoo’s highly-anticipated and unique unification of The Crow and Death Wish, Killing Joan – released this April from Uncork’d Entertainment.

Joan (Jamie Bernadette, All Girl’s Weekend, I Spit on Your Grave: Deja Vu) is an enforcer known for her ruthless tactics and wild abandon. After she is double crossed by her boss and left for dead, she becomes a vengeful spirit and is doomed to wander the Earth until she is able to take down the men that attacked her.

With eye-popping visual effects by Paul Lada (Prometheus, Harry Potter, Pacific Rim 2: Uprising) and a superlative support cast including Teo Celigo, Erik Aude, David Carey Foster, Katarina Leigh Waters, Erin O’Brien and Daniel Gardner,Killing Joan is available on VoD 3rd April 2018 and on DVD 10th July 2018.

I must say this looks like great fun. Keep your eyes peeled for my review!

Last but not least we have sci fi thriller Forbidden Power from director Paul Kyriazi. Here’s the buzz from the press release I received last week –
Films such as Lucy, Limitless, and The Wolfman have featured story lines where the heroes have received transmitted powers via drugs or animal bites, but now comes a fresh take on that idea … sexually transmitted power in the soon-to-be-released science fiction action thriller Forbidden Power

Young businessman George (Lincoln Bevers) has a one-night affair with a mysterious Native American woman (played by Nasanin Nuri). When he wakes up the next morning, she’s vanished, but leaves him empowered with abilities that far exceed his own, and with a cryptic message. George embarks on a dangerous quest to find her and the meaning of her message and the extraordinary superhuman gift developing within him.

Forbidden Power, the 7th feature film from director Paul Kyriazi (cult classics Death Machines and Ninja Busters), will be released on Amazon On Demand. Kyriazi is a graduate of San Francisco State University’s film department and spent four years in the movie department of the US Air Force.

Forbidden Power is coming soon to Amazon’s Prime Video streaming service.

Coffin Hill
This week I’d like to give a shout out to Coffin Hill, a YouTube channel dedicated, in their own words, ‘to offering weekly original scary stories submitted by our viewers.’ They got in touch via Instagram, and seen as I’m a sucker for scary stories I’ve subscribed to get a weekly dose of chills. Check them out here:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCq69GDYpQ5aECLbBSSt0C-w

And finally –  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.

Watch the Skies,
Ian

Dark Forest (Canada 2017) Dir: Roger Boyer

Dark Forest is an ultra low budget Canadian horror flick that riffs of those well worn staples of 80’s stalk and slash pictures, namely woods, twentysomething girls and a mad killer. Playing of these tropes, the first half of the film is a very slow burning affair that takes its time introducing the four main female protagonists, who are planning a ‘get away from it all’  weekend camping trip. Concentrating on character and dialogue is unusual enough for this kind of fayre, but the film also takes an unexpected turn when revealing that one of the girls, Emily, is feeling trapped in an abusive relationship with her controlling boyfriend Peter. After a confrontation between Peter and her friends, Emily and the girls head off into the country.

Brooding, and feeling humiliated that Emily has disobeyed his wishes, Peter sets off in pursuit, determined to exact revenge…

What at times seems to verge on becoming a run of the mill slasher is saved by strong performances, particularly from Laurel McArthur as Emily and Weronika Sokalska as her plucky mate Jolene. Dennis Scullard puts in a strong performance as the controlling psychopath Peter, even managing to lend the monster a hint of pathos in the climactic stages.

It’s also refreshing to see the female leads fighting back, and not merely being required to do the cliched scream queen thing of running through the dark in their smalls before meeting their inevitable demise. The domestic violence angle also lends the film relevance, reminding us that the horrific often occurs in everyday life, often behind closed doors and thus going unnoticed.

While the male characters are all universally unlikeable and are somewhat stock archetypes, this doesn’t much detract from proceedings as it’s pretty clear from the start that the film is the girls show. All in all then, a decent first feature from director and writer Roger Boyer, with a likeable ensemble with the four main protagonists, naturalistic dialogue, and some well done and restrained gore effects on what was clearly a tight budget.

Dark Forest is currently available to buy on DVD, Blu-Ray, or can be streamed via Amazon Prime.