Maya (2022)

A BLOODY ASYLUM SPOILER FREE REVIEW AND FILMMAKER INTERVIEW

A supernatural horror based on folk tales and true stories of Jinn possession from British film-maker K/XI (K. Pervaiz), who I also talked with about her inspiration and the process of her filmmaking.

MAYA is K/XI’s impressive, strikingly compelling, memorable, and now award-winning, feature film which she funded herself. Set in Pakistan, with dialogue in Urdu, it demonstrates her myriad talents. Writing, producing, editing, and directing the film under her label BAD WOLF FILMS, and also starring as a key character. Like her previous work, MAYA focuses on themes including cultural and social issues, religion, mental health, and the supernatural, with a strong focus on the representation of women in Pakistan.

K/XI was born in London in the 1980s and comes from a Pakistani background. She grew up watching horror movies and reading horror literature, with a particular interest in death rituals; discovering THE SHINING at the age of 10, and THE EXORCIST in the first year of high school. Her uncle in Pakistan owned a video store, so she spent most summers there watching as much as she could and loved hearing local stories about jinn possession, churails (witches), and other superstitions.

Using this as inspiration, since 2007, she has written, produced, and directed over 10 short films, and the feature film BLACK LAKE, which was an official selection at CINE-EXCESS 2020 and is available on the CINE-EXCESS Amazon Video channel. MAYA was in fact her debut feature back in 2014, a cut that ran to almost 2 hours. K/XI says of this decision to instead release BLACK LAKE first “it was a bad time at festivals because of Islamophobia and politics I felt.” Eventually MAYA was trimmed to this finally released 90 minute version, adding “The first cut was self-financed, but this cut was mostly self financed with some private investment.”

K/XI flew out to Pakistan in 2013 and filmed a concept trailer based on some initial ideas and the most common jinn story she was told as a child. Around this time, she started a PhD, but decided to use all the money to make the film instead because of believing so strongly in the story, and that it needed to happen as soon as possible. In a Bloody Asylum interview with K/XI she said, “I was really excited by my initial trailer and later in the year I raised some money through crowdfunding, only making enough money to cover a plane ticket to Pakistan, where I went to find cast, crew, and get filming early 2014, self-financing the entire rest of the film. Despite the conservative nature of the country and the dangers of being a female filmmaker, I ran around markets, climbed up rooftops, and pulled other crazy stunts to get MAYA made, without a crew for most of the time. Any crew I did have were young women in the community who wanted to help with lighting on set or help assist with equipment.”

After a gruesome incident leaves protagonist Maya without any memories of her childhood, she is adopted by an elderly couple along with another orphan, Kalika, who she forms a sisterly bond with. Years later, as a teenager, through feverish nightmares and unsettling events, she travels back to Karachi and unearths truths of her traumatic childhood, which was fraught with demonic possession…

From the opening it is abundantly clear MAYA is going to be a grounded horror in the vein of THE EXORCIST. No surprise as William Friedkin’s seminal genre defining masterpiece is one of K/XI’s favourite movies. “I love classic horror films and narrative, so my go to film for reference was THE EXORCIST, which also opens with the sound of the call to prayer. I wanted to pay homage and retain that 70’s vibe with the story and colour palette.”

And she does so beautifully, with a rumbling under the surface of dread and a feeling that something terrifying will happen at any given moment throughout. However, this is no popcorn ghost train ride horror movie. Instead it takes cues from THE EXORCIST, channelling them in a similar far more restrained, economical manner, with nothing superfluous to unnecessarily slow the tight and perfectly flowing paced narrative. The story plays out via measured character focus and horror undertones that slowly edge in an ever mounting crescendo of subtle rising fear to an unforgettable denouement and final images that are affectively disturbing in their simplicity.

“When I decided to make the shift from short films to feature-length,” K/XI explained “I wanted to make sure my debut feature was personal and was also a unique cinematic offering, after all, the films I grew up enjoying the most were one of a kind. As a British-Pakistani, young woman, who was infamous for scaring family members with horror stories, I knew my first feature film had to be about jinn. Not only had I never seen a film about jinn at the time, I also was fed up of seeing modern demonic possession films that I felt were over the top. Knowing that jinn possession was still very much alive in Pakistan today, I wanted to show some level of truth, grounded in at times, a documentary style of filmmaking to show audiences what life in Pakistan was like.”

MAYA really does capture realism and 1970s horror cinema aesthetic beautifully. Harmonised by an impressively effective use of visuals, sound, and minimal music to create an ambience and tone that nuancedly channels THE EXORCIST and THE SHINING into a distinctive vision of horror. Likewise making for a more realistic and disturbing experience. However, K/XI cuts a unique path, giving MAYA its own singular aesthetic. There are some wonderful references to THE EXORCIST and THE SHINING that possibly only fans would pick up on. Yet all are there in service of the story and characters rather than just for the sake of pop culture nods and winks.

The strong cast, most noticeably leads MADIHA HIDAYA as Maya and RAMSHA SHAIK as Kalika are remarkable given that MAYA is their screen debuts. Their relationship and connection feel as if the two actors developed a genuine friendship while filming, and enhances the bond between their characters. Of her cast K/XI has justifiably high praise, “I was lucky to find a cast who had not previously acted before but were truly exceptional in portraying the emotions of the story, after all, for me the core story of ’Maya’ was about love despite the horror.”

With MAYA K/XI marks herself out an exciting, talented filmmaker who, in full command of the filmic medium, intends to bring something different to cinema. I really cannot wait to see where she takes the genre in the years to come.

Our very own, and Cine-Excess co-director, Amy Harris was as equally impressed, “I adore MAYA, particularly because it focuses on jinn possession which I know very little about. K/XI works amazingly with the sound design team. I felt the same way about BLACK LAKE too. She is an amazing independent director, making waves in British horror cinema.”

MAYA is unlike anything I have seen in my decades as a horror and genre movie lover. A film of substantial experience and depth that having now watched three times as of writing improves and each a different experience. I really cannot recommend it highly enough, especially for horror fans looking for something genuinely original outside of generic mainstream fare.

Quite simply one of the best films of 2022.

MAYA will have its Pacific North West Premiere at Portland Horror Film Festival – June 29th to July 3rd and is screening on the festival circuit.

CHECK OUT THE TRAILER:

Follow K/XI & BAD WOLF FILMS here:

https://www.badwolffilms.co.uk

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She Made A Monster! (2022)

A GLEEFULLY ENTERTAINING COMEDIC CREATURE FEATURE

A BLOODY ASYLUM SPOILER FREE REVIEW

A new short film written, directed, and edited by Jay Reel whose previous short film I reviewed a couple of years ago.

DAWN: YEAR SEVEN is an highly original take on the vampire movie, itself a prequel to Reel’s 2003 feature DAWN. However, SHE MADE A MONSTER! is an altogether different beast, pun intended! Again lo-fi micro-budget, but this time a whole lot of fun comedy monster movie.

From beginning to end I had a grin on my face. IT’S AN ABSOLUTE BLAST!

She’s a little girl. She’s a genius. She’s also a bit of a mad scientist. Dottie tries out her home-made teleportation device on her family’s TV and accidentally transports a movie monster into the real world! What to do now?…

SHE MADE A MONSTER! is a complete tonal shift from DAWN YEAR SEVEN, with themselves aim being to create a live action cartoon. Reel says “The whole idea was to have fun, particularly with a raging pandemic going on during production, and my hope was that sense of fun would translate to folks watching it.” Adding “I guess my biggest concern was that cartoon spirit wouldn’t translate. Like props, a laptop, board with stars on it, hand puppets, that just appear out of nowhere without explanation. I wanted to convey the spirit of a cartoon, where anything could happen, and hoped that spirit was obvious from the beginning.”

And boy what he set out to realise was achieved, and in a length of only a mere 20 minutes. Quite understandably rough around the edges due to budgetary constraints, but this is where much of the charm lays. In a very good way reminding me of The Asylum movies such as SHARKNADO, which I really enjoy. Obviously SHE MADE A MONSTER! has nowhere near the resources of those million dollar movies, yet this adds to the enjoyment factor. Along the way the limitations this created led to further replicating the joy and entertainment of lower budget 1930s thru 1970s monster movies. Truthfully unlike the watch once only The Asylum movies I definitely want to, and will watch, SHE MADE A MONSTER! many more times.

From opening to finale it revived memories of growing up in the 70s and some of my favourite monster movies, both at the cinema and on TV. The likes of KING KONG (1933 & 1976), ONE MILLION YEARS BC, VALLEY OF THE GWANGI, THE LAND THAT TIME FORGOT, AT THE EARTH’S CORE, and WARLORDS OF ATLANTIS, to name but a few. Along the way capturing the wacky cartoon and Disney mad scientist movie spirit beautifully. Underpinned by Reel’s writing, showing a clear love of the genre, and an understanding of what makes these movies so entertaining. The editing is tight and snappy, giving a nice flow. Throughout the perfectly pitched score from Jeff Pilcher plays into the cartoon aesthetic. Rounded off in the closing credits with a fitting rock track MONSTER by Bruce Fitch. At times the cinematography was lacking, with certain scenes filmed at different times, noticeable when cutting between some exterior shots. This again was due to budgetary constraints, particularly with what appears to be the post-production, but that is minor quibble when SHE MADE A MONSTER! was so damn enjoyable.

Not surprisingly from a production such as this the cast are are fairly inexperienced. That being said, they were all engaging and threw themselves into their roles, playing it suitably tongue in cheek, bouncing off each other to delightful comedic effect, particularly the three leads. Faith Kester and Payton Botelho, as bickering sisters Dottie and Kay, who steal the movie with their chemistry and comedic timing that conveys a relatable, authentic sibling relationship. Kester especially was terrifically laugh out loud sassy. They have good support in the form of Andrew Billingsley as Dad, Troy, trying to navigate the madness of a monster on the loose and two daughters through the ensuing carnage.

The entire cast so obviously had fun filming, and that translates on screen, but most of all a love of monsters movies can be felt in every frame. Like DAWN: YEAR SEVEN there is heart and soul at its core, and was made with obvious passion for genre cinema.

Due to the micro-budget nature it may well not be to all tastes but those, like me, who enjoy lovingly made productions such as this will have a monster amount of fun!

Ultimately SHE MADE A MONSTER! was as rib-ticklingly, gleefully enchanting as genre films can be.

Each and everyone involved did their bit to give us an enormously entertaining, monster movie homage. A joyfully, charming creature feature that will leave a smile on the face.

And to round off I’ll shamelessly steal from genius mad scientist Dottie:

PING!

SHE MADE A MONSTER is currently screening on the festival circuit.

CHECK OUT THE TRAILER:

DAWN: YEAR SEVEN spoiler free review:

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Happy Birthday Norma Jean

A PIECE IN HONOUR OF MARILYN MONROE ON HER BIRTHDAY

Born 1st June 1926

She was walking through the park with Susan, one of her best friends, who was more like a younger sister – the family she so craved and longed for all through her life. Most passers by took little notice of this blonde haired, fair skinned young woman. Turning to Susan she asks if she wants to see her. In an imperceptible instant the ethereal beauty appears. Instantly many passers-by now recognise her and congregate around for pictures and autographs.

Marilyn and Susan in 1955

This story Susan Strasberg recalled in her biography of the time Marilyn spent with her family. Revealing a very different person. Who she really was beneath the image she could switch off and on at will. This is far and away one of the very best and most illuminating books I have ever read about Marilyn Monroe.

She was Norma Jean Baker and Marilyn Monroe was a character, the icon, the myth. MARILYN AND ME reveals the reality of someone who just wanted a family, and to be accepted and loved for who she was beneath the image.

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Keeley (2022)

THE MOST CONTROVERSIAL FILM OF 2022 IS SO MUCH MORE

A SPOILER FREE REVIEW

British independent film-maker M W Daniels has over the last few years produced a slew of impressive short movies that have garnered acclaim and awards on the festival circuit. Most notably a personal favourite EVERYONE LAUGH AT LEANNE starring Kerry Newton, EMILY’S HANDS, and HOUSE OF LEXI. All of which I have reviewed.

His latest KEELEY is controversial, but this is no incendiary, exploitative movie. In fact it is a non-sensationalistic exploration of extremism and radicalisation, and the terrible consequences. It really cannot be stressed enough that the subject and themes are tackled in an intelligent, thought-provoking, sensitive manner. Produced, written, directed, and scored by Daniels, this is his most accomplished film to date and again stars Newton.

After her brother is killed Keeley Banks (Newton) is grief-stricken, struggling against society, her father, and the feeling of being an outcast. She chooses to rebel in the most shocking way possible. A way that no one could expect that propels her into a world of violence.

KEELEY in it’s grounded realism brings to mind Chris Morris’ FOUR LIONS, albeit minus the comedic elements, instead with Ken Loach dramatic social commentary leanings. Similarly to both Daniels takes challenging subject matter and gives it a character-centric, very human depth, coupled with the psychological focus he is known for.

The acting is solid throughout, but not unexpectedly for a micro-budget production such as this, is occasionally slightly uneven. Nevertheless the entire cast, depicting non-stereotypical, very human characters, is engaging enough to be convincing, with Newton delivering a particularly strong performance. The film stands or falls on her and she confidently roots the narrative. Given the less than 20 minute runtime, she creates a believable, rounded, relatable character. While KEELEY is effective within the limitations of its length, a few extra scenes to flesh out other characters would have added extra weight so as to further develop motivations and heighten the empathic and emotional impact.

Music plays a important part in underscoring the psychological aspects in all of Daniels’ films, and here this is no different. As ever collaborator Nicolai Kornum complements and accentuates this perfectly with the cinematography and editing.

An outstanding, powerful, disturbing, short film that understandably has been controversial due to the subject matter, but ultimately is an important, insightful, humanistic work.

KEELEY is currently screening on the festival circuit.

Stills and poster by Nicolai Kornum

WATCH THE TRAILER:

EVERYONE LAUGH AT LEANNE, HOUSE OF LEXI, and EMILY’S HANDS spoiler free reviews:

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The Blacklight (2022)

SUPERNATURAL COMEDIC HORROR NOIR IS A STEAL

A BLOODY ASYLUM SPOILER REVIEW

A new release from Dashford Media, Porter Pictures, & Samera entertainment

THE BLACKLIGHT is a very entertaining, award winning, cross-genre mash-up of horror and comedy crime movies.

Despite trying to leave behind a life of crime, Danny reluctantly teams up with naïve, spoilt rich kid Liam and wildcard drug dealer Kit Viper for a robbery that leaves them in possession of a mysterious supernatural artefact with immense power.

The opening points to what will follow is a full-blown horror, but instead settles more into noir territory. Mirroring the slow burn approach of From Dusk Till Dawn, with humorous aspects that wouldn’t be out of place in a Guy Ritchie crime movie. While for the most part it is successful, the 2 hour runtime would have profited from trimming and tightening for a far more kinetic punch to counterbalance the occasional languid pacing. Some aspects feel a little overdone than need be, particularly with some characters who have more focus than is maybe narratively required.

Nevertheless, the entire ensemble cast does stellar work, particularly leads Grant Lancaster (Danny), Brooks Russell (Liam), and Corey Scott Rutledge (outstanding as Kit the psychotic yet inept muscle), playing off each other to great effect. Characters seem not surprisingly to be inspired by Ritchie’s movies and work effectively, with laugh out loud moments.

The artefact hunt brings to mind the Indiana Jones films, without the huge action set-pieces, in that it is a plot driving MacGuffin of a mysterious supernatural kind. Wonderful melding of music (Ryan McTear) and sound (Matthew Gelzer, Keith Nolan, Michael R. Turner), combined with cinematography (Luis Alarcon & Nick Snow) tops off the whole, intensifying events as they motor-on unpredictably, yet by the finale not in unexpected fashion.

Snow, who also co-wrote the screenplay alongside Brooks Russell, is a director who shows promise with this his debut feature. I look forward to what he does next because for it’s minor flaws THE BLACKLIGHT is an extremely enjoyable Saturday evening B-movie, and not a bad way to spend two hours.

COMING SOON ON VOD

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IF I CAN’T HAVE YOU… (2022)

SCREAM STYLE THRILLER THROWBACK PUTS THE PSYCHO BACK INTO PSYCHOLOGY

A BLOODY ASYLUM SPOILER FREE REVIEW

A new release from Midnight Releasing, Samera Entertainment, Tennille T. Productions, and ThirtyFour26

To be perfectly honest for the first 15 minutes or so this entertaining B-movie threw me a bit as I was expecting a horror of sorts, but gradually came to realise it was in fact a quirky spoof homage of stalker and 80s/90s erotic thriller movies.

A highly skilled psychiatrist’s life is turned upside down by a diverse collection of stalkers. Executive producer Tennille Taraszkiewicz, with “a wink in her eye,” convincingly plays Diane who is having trouble living by the advice she gives her patients.

Everything goes wrong all at once when her son River (Todd Calvin De Pew) is released from prison. Terrifically parodying the opening scenes of Scorsese’s CAPE FEAR. This coincides with a blurring of professional boundaries with an unhinged patient named Austin (Brian Boynton). Which in turn ruffles the feathers of Greg (Harley Wallen), an ex-patient who’s been stalking Diane for a while. Added to this is her overprotective sister (a standout Mandy Logsdon) who is causing her own problems. With all these chaotic elements in constant flux, a storm is brewing the likes of which Diane can not even fathom. Once all is said and done, she will face a deadly choice that will change things forever…

First and foremost IF I CAN’T HAVE YOU… from opening to ending is an absolute blast! Wes Craven’s seminal SCREAM is embodied throughout in a similarly knowing, stylised approach. With references and nods a plenty, including DePalma-esque stylisms, slasher, and numerous other movies. All of which work in service of an engrossing, purposely convoluted storyline, adding immensely to the fun, and never for a second becoming tiresome. More importantly complementing and enhancing both narrative and characters.

Perfectly balancing the nods and winks humour with seriousness in the well written script is a solid cast who translate the fun they obviously had filming to the finished movie. Rounding out the ensemble is scene stealing Matt Santia as Diane’s notoriously unreliable assistant Oliver, and Allyson L. Smith. Santia also served as co-director alongside Peter Poulos, and co-wrote the sharp script with Pew.

Throughout many unexpected curveballs are thrown up in a full to the brim storyline that is bursting at the seems of the less than 90 minutes, and really to its advantage could have been 10 or 15 minutes longer. Nevertheless it rattles along and is an entertaining, fun ride that never take itself seriously. Made by film-makers and a cast who clearly have a lot of love for the cinematic inspirations that they poke good natured fun at.

Co-director Peter Poulos said “We want the audience to experience a strong sense of nostalgia for some of the more heavy hitting films of the stalker genre like Fatal Attraction and Single White Female.”

Ultimately IF I CAN’T HAVE YOU… is a whole lot of fun, enough different, its own thing to feel fresh and vibrant, and will really appeal to fans of B-movies, stalker and slasher films, and 80s/90s erotic thrillers.

IF I CAN’T HAVE YOU… in all its meta-heavy spoofery, is now available on VOD. Links can be found here:

CHECK OUT THE TRAILER:

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Cine Excess 2022 – Distinctive Visions: New Disruptive Visions Of Cinema

A BLOODY ASYLUM SPOILER FREE REVIEWS ARTICLE

Cine-Excess, the international film festival that casts a critical eye over cult cinema traditions, returned during March 2022 for its online Distinctive Visions mini-festival. Like the annual festival, the online mini event continues to champion cinema’s diverse voices and highlights work by talented filmmakers worldwide.

Distinctive Visions ran from 25th to 27th March and featured a strand devoted to New Disruptive Visions of Cinema alongside a range of Cult Classics of Cinema, curated in collaboration with Arrow Films. Complementing cult film releases from the USA, UK, Mexico, and Argentina, the programme also featured exclusive interviews with some of the filmmakers themselves.

This was the second Cine-Excess film festival The Bloody Asylum has covered. The selections for Distinctive Visions were an intriguing, diverse, and eclectic mix that showcased the horror genre in its myriad forms.

So, without further delay, here are my spoiler free reviews of the standout films I viewed across the three days, some of which were exclusive and world premieres that are awaiting a wider release soon.

WILD BONES (UK, 2021)

Jack James’ second directorial feature is an affectingly powerful, disturbing, immersive journey into the depths and horrors of a fractured mind.

WILD BONES focuses on Fay (played by Roxy Bugler), who reconnects with her stepsister while trying to piece together the cause of her father’s mysterious disappearance.

Bugler is impressive as Fay. She has a commanding screen presence, drawing the audience in and convincing us of her confusion over what might be real and what is her disturbed memories. First-rate support comes in the shape of Mary Roubos as her step-sister Alice. The pair create an authentic sibling relationship.

From the haunting opening to the shocking ending, via grounded avant-garde surrealism, its taut grip tightens from first to last, never loosening.

RONDO AND BOB (USA, 2020)

Robert A. Burns, art director on the original TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, was obsessed with actor Rondo Hatton, aka the Creeper. Burns was average looking but brimming with odd creativity. Hatton, who suffered from acromegaly, and due to this had a strangely unique appearance, but was a regular guy.

In RONDO AND BOB their two stories intersect.

An illuminating, touching documentary that explores Burns’ obsession with Hatton, an actor from the 1940s. Many horror fans may not immediately be aware of the former’s work, but without a doubt will know of his genius from THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE on which he was production designer, and even less so Hatton who appeared in a slew of 1940s B-movies.

A compelling combination of interviews with those who knew both men, combined with dramatic recreations, reveals the lives and careers of both. At times some of the acting is self conscious, but that tends to be the case with many a documentary that employs this technique and is not particularly distracting. Nevertheless, the few scenes with Hatton and his wife beautifully fleshes out their relationship. Interestingly and emotively was the juxtaposition of the two men and their connection over the decades long after Hatton had sadly passed away due to his condition.

RONDO AND BOB is very highly recommended for THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE, horror, and B-movie fans, or those that favour biographical documentaries.

A fascinating, heartfelt documentary, and one that I will happily re-watch.

WEDDING ’93 (USA, 2021)

Paul Zagaris’ grounded found footage film horrifyingly recounts the bizarre events that unfolded in 1993 during a traditional Cambodian wedding. A future bride suffered the symptoms of demonic possession, as captured on the wedding video tape that forms the film’s unsettling basis. This is the first time the dramatic story has been told to the public.

Being a huge found footage fan WEDDING ’93 was highly anticipated and exceeded expectations, and then some. One of the most convincing and realistic bar the grand-daddy of the genre CANNIBAL HOLOCAUST. Convincingly rooting the realism in rediscovered 30-year-old VHS tapes intercut with talking head interviews with witnesses to the events.

A horror movie like no other. So persuasive in fact that I am still certain it was real even though I know it wasn’t, or was it…

THE PARKER SESSIONS (USA, 2021)

Stephen King Simmons’ (no relation to the famed author) powerful new film explores the complex and contradictory relationship between an analyst and patient. A troubled young woman with a disturbing past goes to see a counsellor with unexpected results.

THE PARKER SESSIONS is a gruelling psychological horror that takes many unexpected, shocking twists and turns.

A two-hander anchored by a superb performance from Rachell Sean as the patient, backed up solidly by Danny James as the counsellor. Simmons expertly pulls us in, creating a movie of a very real kind of horror, exploring themes based in part on his own experiences.

This impressive monochrome nightmare of the effects of past trauma, which made a lasting impression, is without a doubt my festival favourite.

PLEASE DON’T ABANDON ME (Mexico, 2021)

Adding to the recent wave of cult Mexican horror productions, writer/director Antonio Rotunno’s second feature is an examination of a relationship gone very bad.

PLEASE DON’T ABANDON ME follows Helena, who has been living a happy life with her boyfriend Jesus until she discovers something that makes her think their relationship will end. An avalanche of insecurities, anxiety, and mental instability provokes a violent outburst that changes everything. Regular life at home and at work does not seem so easy once a crime has occurred…

This horror is a relationship and character study, with a striking Hitchcockian infused set up. Darkly humorous undertones underpin this dramatic horror that is laugh out loud at times (although the dark tone makes us not entirely sure we should be laughing!)

A wonderful central performance by Valentina Sumavsky grounds the narrative from opening to end, generating much subtle humour. Resulting in a rounded and hyper-realistic yet grounded character piece.

Be sure to not miss the mid-credits denouement!

THE UNSETTLING (USA, 2021)

Harry Owens’ first feature film is an unsettling, creepy, dread infused exploration of grief and its impact on a relationship.

THE UNSETTLING follows an African couple who travel to Los Angeles to recover from a devastating tragedy, only to find themselves terrorised by demons both real and supernatural.

Zephani Idoko‘s powerhouse, dominating performance of subtle depth is the movie’s heart. Inspired audio-visual utilisation, particularly the widescreen image, emphasises the couple’s disconnection from each other, heightening the bubbling under the surface horror.

Refreshingly with this seemingly generic horror movie Owens is not afraid of ambiguity or spoon feeding the audience everything, leading to a wholly unexpected conclusion.

THE UNSETTLING is released in April 2022 on the Cine-Excess Digital Film Channel in the UK.

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Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin (2021)

DIVISIVE FRANCHISE RETURNS WITH BEST ENTRY SINCE THE ORIGINAL

A BLOODY ASYLUM SPOILER FREE REVIEW

Released worldwide in 2009, Oren Peli’s award winning, low budget directorial debut feature PARANORMAL ACTIVITY became a box office sensation. Breathing new life into and heralding a new era of mainstream horror, laying the foundation for Blumhouse to become the powerhouse studio it is today.

Without a doubt it is the most brilliantly constructed and realised of found footage movies, and among the best cinematic experiences I have ever had. Quite simply one of my favourite films. However, the commercial success led to what felt an unnecessary continuation of the story, and beginning of a franchise that held no appeal as I much prefer the mystery and ambiguity PARANORMAL ACTIVITY left me with. To be perfectly honest I do understand why the follow up movies have a huge fan base. The third film, a prequel, only became of interest when I was convinced to watch a couple of years ago and was pleasantly surprised it added depth to the original.

2021 finally saw the release of the latest entry in the saga. However, it should be stressed that PARANORMAL ACTIVITY: NEXT OF KIN is a completely new story with no connection whatsoever to any of the other films. Herein lies it’s biggest strength, in that there is no constraint by the established canon mythos. Yet calling it PARANORMAL ACTIVITY does it a disservice and sets up misplaced expectations, which is maybe why some found it disappointing.

NEXT OF KIN is directed by visionary film-maker William Eubank (LOVE, THE SIGNAL, UNDERWATER), one of the most exciting talents in genre cinema over the last decade. So upon hearing he would be helming it became a must watch movie.

The story follows Margot who travels to a secluded Amish community with a documentary film crew seeking answers about her family and birth mother.

As with his previous feature UNDERWATER, Eubank was again a director for hire, but brings his inimitable stylings to bear. Notwithstanding derivative elements, he elevates what could have been a generic found footage film with skilfully realised atmosphere, haunting and startling imagery, and sequences that linger in the mind; much like his first three features.

An effective cast is backed up by a decent screenplay that throws up some unexpected curveballs. Logic and credibility is stretched at times, but to be fair many other horror films, particularly found footage, are guilty of this.

Although the characters are slightly one dimensional, each actor brings enough to make them engaging, giving some investment in their fate. As with the very best found footage movies events build very slowly to a crescendo that delivers the creepy, horrifying, and scary as only Eubank could. Helped in no small part by a cast that makes the implausible believable.

While not Eubank’s best, NEXT OF KIN is still among one of the standout horror films of the last few years.

Fans of the found footage genre will find plenty to get their teeth into.

CHECK OUT THE TRAILER:

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