THE BLOOD LANDS (2014)
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Also known as The White Settlers, flick is well directed by Simeon Halligan but, serves up a very routine story of city folk moving into the country and not finding themselves welcome. Film has English couple Sarah (Pollyanna McIntosh) and Ed (Lee Williams) moving into an old farmhouse in the Scottish countryside. The first night there they begin to hear strange things and are soon laid siege upon by a group of individuals wearing pig masks. As Ed is captured, Sarah is forced to flee into the unfamiliar woodlands with the gang of masked invaders in pursuit. What do they want and why are they doing this?
…and that’s a couple of questions that, sadly, have very mundane answers.
As stated, director Simeon Halligan guides this story well and builds some chills and suspense even before our villains arrive. The film moves quickly and is kept to a tight 80 minutes. The problem is that Ian Fenton’s politically tinged script is a very routine locals vs city folk story that doesn’t have the guts to take the story to a more effective finale. Without giving away details, we basically get an ending that evokes a very ‘that’s it?’ reaction. The scenes of our couple being hunted thorough their old creepy farmhouse and then in the surrounding woods are quite well done but, far from anything new. We’ve seen the whole masked invaders thing many times before as we have the whole outsiders vs locals storyline. Halligan gives us some chills and suspense but, is ultimately defeated by this very routine plot and a final that does make it’s point but, again…evokes a ‘that’s it?’ from the audience. At least the film looks good as Halligan has a nice eye for the visuals evoked by the old farmhouse and surrounding countryside. Cinematographer James Swift captures it well and it does add atmosphere to the less than original proceedings. Be interesting to see what Halligan can do with a more original script.
As our couple, Lee Williams is likable as the handy Ed, a man obviously talked into this moving venture by his wife. As Sarah, Pollyanna McIntosh is also very likable. A sexy young woman who starts out being afraid of her own shadow, now in that she’s in the rural countryside, but, grows into a resilient fighter over the course of a night of horrors. Their adversaries remain masked and don’t say much so, they remain cliché and all too familiar boogeymen and nothing more. We never really get any personality assigned to them. They are completely generic. When you find out the simple motives for their attack, it makes them even less threatening.
Overall this is an OK film if you take it for what it is and enjoy the hunt and chase aspects of it. The story is very routine and the motives are even more ho-hum, but, at least we get some suspense, chills and a bit of nasty violence. For a film meant to be a metaphor of the relations between Scotland and England, you’d think it would require a stronger statement from those trying to make that statement. At least Simeon Halligan shows potential as a director and hopefully we’ll get to see him show us more in a better and more original film.
2 and 1/2 flashlights.
APRIL APOCALYPSE (2013)
I try to champion the indie filmmaker whenever possible but found very little to like about this incredibly derivative little movie. In a plot we’ve seen countless times, a dork (a bland Reece Thompson who also produced) falls in love with the hot girl next door (Rebekah Brandes from Midnight Movie) but, is too afraid to let her know how he feels. A horrific event…in this case a zombie outbreak…gives him the opportunity to find the courage to find and rescue her and be a hero. The film is just so familiar and is trying way too hard to emulate so many better movies, it’s annoying…and not to mention a bit smug. It’s like the makers saw Zombieland one too many times, as that’s the film it blatantly copies in it’s style most of the time. I wouldn’t mind the familiarity, though, if it was done inventively or in a refreshing way but, it’s not. And even at barely over 80 minutes the film stops dead…pun intended… for long dialogue scenes that go nowhere and don’t further the story. As directed by Jarret Tarnol and written by Brent Tarnol (who also stars as the stereotypical stoner Stevenson) this flick is sadly a chore to sit through, even though well under 90 minutes. At least Brandes is cute to watch as April. A disappointing effort that somehow got Aliens’ Mark Rolston and comedian George Lopez involved in small roles.
DRACULA UNTOLD (2014)
It’s not that Dracula Untold is a badly made movie, it’s just that it’s a ridiculous one. Director Gary Shore movies things along well enough and the film looks good but, the story by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless is just plain silly. Tale takes the true-life character of Vlad Tepes (Luke Evans) and thus the fictional vampire that is based on him and turns him into a superhero. Vlad’s kingdom is threated by the Turks who demand a thousand of his people’s children, including his own son. He seeks help from an old vampire (Charles Dance) living in a mountain cave to bestow him with his power so, he can save his people. He has three days with this power but, if he gives in to the blood thirst, he will remain a vampire forever. Vlad then goes up against thousands of soldiers like a gothic X-Man with the powers of bat control. It’s ridiculous. It takes one of literature and film’s greatest villains and turns him into Batman…literally. As an action movie it passes the time but, as a telling of the story of Dracula, it’s a silly movie that sadly had an interesting concept at it’s core with it’s origin of the legendary count.
PARANORMAL DIARIES: CLOPHILL (2013)
On one hand, Kevin Gates and Michael Bartlett’s found footage film is inventive in using a real life location suspected of occult and paranormal activity, the ruins of St. Mary’s Church in Clophill, England and real interviews from witnesses. On the other hand though, they forget to make the film the least bit scary. The flick comes across as some random episode of some random ghost hunting show and as in those shows, very little actually happens amidst all the talk and conjecture. The film is only 88 minutes long and it isn’t until the 1 hr 17 min mark that something that could be considered even remotely scary happens. Seriously! Then the film climaxes ominously and quite open for a sequel. It’s a long-winded build-up with no real pay-off. Technically an 80 minute wait for the last 8 minutes which seems to only exist to set-up another movie to come. For the most part, an interesting idea squandered on a boring movie. Too bad. The mix of real-life history and paranormal thriller could have been fun if the makers knew what to do with it.