HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: THE BLOOD LANDS (2014)

MZNJ_New_HYMHM_2

now playing

Blood Lands Poster

bars

THE BLOOD LANDS (2014)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

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.

-MonsterZero NJ

2 and 1/2 flashlights.

nightlight rating

bars
Advertisements

HORROR YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED: LET US PREY (2014)

MZNJ_New_HYMHM_2

now playing

Let-Us-Prey-2014

bars

LET US PREY (2015)

(Clicking the highlighted links brings you to corresponding reviews and articles here at The Movie Madhouse!)

Irish made horror takes place in a small Scottish police station where newly assigned Constable Rachel Haggie (Pollyanna McIntosh) is starting her night with a bang. On her way to work she arrests a youth (Brian Vernel) for a hit and run where the victim mysteriously disappears. Once at the station, she finds the cells slowly filling up and some not so welcoming behavior from her fellow and commanding officers. Things get even more tense as the mysterious stranger from the hit and run (Liam Cunningham) arrives at the station and appears to have intimate knowledge of everyone’s darkest secrets. Now, as the evening crawls toward the midnight hour, a reckoning comes to this place and there is bloody hell to pay…literally.

As directed by Brian O’Malley this is a spooky, intense and, sometimes, brutally violent horror/thriller about bad people getting what’s coming to them. We know from the moment we see Cunningham’s “Six” (so named for the cell he’s put in, as he has the fingerprints of a deadman) apparently rise from the sea, that a man followed by blackbirds, and with a little black book of names, is not here on vacation. We’ve seen David Cairns’ and Fiona Watson’s story before, from Twilight Zone episodes to High Plains Drifter, but, it’s the way O’Malley tells the story, though, with stark visuals and a brooding atmosphere that makes it work very well, despite the familiar story of the lone stranger coming to exact otherworldly justice. “Six” gets into peoples heads and we get to see the dark deeds of both cop and detainee alike and soon the walls of the small police station are spattered in blood and there may be no one left to tell what has happened in the backwater town. Sure, it gets a little borderline over-the-top in the last act, but, O’Malley keeps it intense and fast moving and keeps the blood and gore flowing and thus, keeps us fairly riveted till his dark tale is over. The last scene does oversell, with some talky dialogue, what we’ve already figured out, but, after a tense and spooky 90 minutes we can cut the filmmakers some slack. There is also some lush and atmospheric cinematography by Piers Mc Grail and a very moody and appropriately spooky score by Steve Lynch to add to the film’s overall effectiveness.

As for O’Malley’s cast…Game Of Thrones and Dog Soldiers vet Cunningham cuts a dark and mysterious figure. His “Six” has a quite intensity and a calm demeanor that makes him far more effective than had he played it over-the-top. McIntosh is a strong heroine and while we do guess where things are headed for her, she’s still a solid character to get behind. In support there is Douglas Russell as the station Sergeant with his own hidden sins. We have Hanna Stanbridge and Bryan Larkin as two officers who are having an affair with each other and with abusing suspects. Brian Vernal, Niall Greig Fulton and Jonathan Watson round out, as the cell occupants who may have committed far darker crimes than the officers realize. A solid cast that makes things work well.

I liked this movie. It was intense and bloody and kept moving at a quick enough pace to keep one from thinking too much about the familiar story. There was a spooky score and some great visuals to assist with the film’s atmosphere. Sure, we’ve seen the whole avenging dark angel thing in countless other films but, the film knows it and doesn’t insult us by trying to pretend we haven’t. It’s not perfect. We can easily figure out what’s coming but, there are still some surprises and some effectively shocking moments to keep things darkly afloat. An entertaining and chilling Irish horror that shows director O’Malley has some skills worth keeping an eye on.

-MonsterZero NJ

3 blackbirds.

crow-coa rating

Be warned…trailer is a bit gruesome…

bars