The Lesson (2015)

The Lesson offers an intellectual horror based on what many teachers must feel; a complete frustration at their uninterested and mediocre students. Director and Writer Ruth Platt has created a clever story filled with suspense and gore. Who said torture can’t be educational?

The film opens in a small English town filled, and the first half an hour presents its depressive atmosphere and the lonely life of our main character, Fin (Evan Bendall). After the death of his mother, Fin is acting out in delinquency with his hooligan friend, Joel (Rort Coltart), and lives with his borderline abusive brother Jake (Tom Cox), and his Polish ­girlfriend Mia (Michaela Prchalová), who acts as a stand in mother and is lusted over. His grim life is one to be pitied. Whilst all this is happening, his thwarted teacher Mr Gale (Robert Hands) is at his wits end with his students. Remember in school when there would be those kids who just wouldn’t shut up and listen, and sometimes a teacher would even cry because of it? This is Mr Gales life. It’s not surprising that one night he clubs them over the head with a hammer and teaches them a lesson they must pass to survive.

Mr Gale has strapped the boys to a table, in what looks like his shed, and gives them the lesson he has been dying to teach students for a lfetime. In this very demanding and gruel lesson, even the audience will learn something about English literature. Using methods of torture to motivate his students, such as nailing their hands to the desk, The Lesson is highly disturbing and perverts the sense of guardianship in a teacher-student relationship.

At the films climax, a worried Mia is out looking for Fin when she wanders upon Mr Gale’s car and is also imprisoned by the deranged teacher. A crucial character to the film, Mia offers a refreshing stance of women in horror. Rather than being saved, she is the one who saves Fin by killing Mr Gale when her hand restraints are untied. Not only filling the role of a mother, she is also a hero. After Mr Gale has been killed, Platt has created a wonderful scene of a blood covered and exhausted Mia and Fin on the sofa watching the TV with dead eyes.

Although The Lesson may not offer a traditional hack-and-slash gory experience, Platt has created a horror with a brighter plot than most horror films are capable of. With disturbing characters and a manic performance from Robert Hands, The Lesson creates a good amount of suspense with some very sophisticated dialogue. Ruth Platt is one of the few female directors to venture into horror and I applaud her for what she has created, and hope she pursues the genre in the future.

Let me know what you thought of this film below!

Check out the trailer here.



The Funhouse Massacre (2015)

This film is great. Not a cult classic, gonna win Oscars way, but in a way that will make you laugh and thoroughly entertain you.  The sets were uncommonly colourful, the characters were funny (but not sophisticated) and there was plenty of good ol’ gore to go around. Director Andy Palmer has created a truly unique horror film with Funhouse Massacre.

The film focuses on six psychopaths who each have their own backstory and personalities, and have escaped from a mental facility and taken over a funhouse on the day of its opening. With inspiration coming from real life serial killers, we have ‘Animal the Cannibal’ (E.E. Bell), ‘Dr Suave’ (Sebastian Siegel), ‘The Taxidermist’ (Clint Howard), ‘Rocco the Clown’ (Mars Crain), ‘Mental Manny’ (Jere Burns), and ‘Dollface’ (Candice De Visser). Each with their own area of speciality, the gore factor is really raised in this film with some creative and disgusting deaths, it’s like something out of your worst nightmare.

Don’t expect serious acting here, a little bit rigid and with clumsy dialogue, but this is easily overlooked by some great comedic moments. My favourite was when the killers were examining their new playground, complaining about how everything is wrong compared to the real environments they had killed in. The Taxidermist claims ‘these aren’t even taxidermy tools!’ at one point, just proving how ridiculous this film is. With a dim-witted cop (Ben Begley), who dismisses 911 calls that night due to the amount of prank callers from the Funhouse he was getting, people start dying. Everyone assumes it’s all part of the act and carry on, some even filming the murder to post on Instagram. Whether this is making a point of how gullible people are (or how stupid), the dramatic irony created was so intense it had me shouting at the screen.

I think the fact that this is a funhouse has tapped into a very natural and understandable fear people experience in them. If you’ve ever been in a funhouse, you can’t deny that at some point you’ve been genuinely terrified of dying, or jumped so many times you lost count (or is that just me?). Next time I’m in one, I’m probably gonna remember this film and shit myself. What’s also clever about the funhouse setting is the variety of themes and stories it can touch upon, from a murdering dentist to crazy clowns, this offers a diverse range of ideas and can also become unsettling as you go from one room to the next never knowing what to expect.

Whilst this may not be the best indie horror out there, it certainly does well creating its own subgenre as ludicrously colourful yet imaginative film. Everything in this film has been crafted expertly, from the sets to the amazing SFX makeup (done by Robert Kurtzman), that it deserves recognition in its own right. This film is great for people who don’t like gore, because even though it is gory it doesn’t dwell on this like some films such as Hostel or Saw, or will quickly change to the next scene or you’ll be distracted by neon paint. A perfect Halloween film.

Check out the the trailer here, if you’ve seen this film comment your thoughts below!

The Bye Bye Man (2017)

Strictly following a long list of conventions and clichés, The Bye Bye Man does little else than leave you empty pocketed and disappointed. With a lack of imagination and a boring plot, The Bye Bye Man has worked its way to the 2017’s first generic and run of the mill horror. Settling for cheap tricks and thrills rather than properly creeping you out, I don’t think this film will have a long shelf life.

Let’s start with our trio of students, Elliot (Douglas Smith, Sasha (Cressida Bonas) and John (Lucien Laviscount) rent an unnecessarily big house off campus from the University of Wisconsin. The Bye Bye Man is a bogeyman type character who finds you when you say his name, easy, no ones heard it since the 60’s apparantley. Only, the house contains the nightstand of the last victim, a journalist who went crazy writing ‘don’t say it, don’t think it’ (the films ongoing mantra) inside this thing with the words ‘The Bye Bye Man’ under it. Very helpful. This film takes no shame it setting up this ridiculous plot, who wouldn’t think about a creepy name written under a mad man’s instructions? We don’t even know if the Bye Bye Man is a demon, a ghost or what. It’s never explained or even made as obvious as you might’ve hoped.

The film has cleverly tried to place us inside the character’s mind through hallucinations brought on by the Bye Bye Man, such as maggots coming out of eyes, being run over by a train and watching your girlfriend screw your best friend. Oh, and Faye Dunway being set on fire. This is the only attempt this film has made to lure us in, but it hasn’t worked. These are big clichés in horror, all seen before, making it run of the mill and boring. Resorting to the usual haunted house tricks, you’ll be lucky to get a decent scare from this.

This film just felt lazy, there was very little blood despite the several murders that take place which is just bizarre, it’s got a rating of 15 after all. It’s almost as if everything is too ridiculous to be true, even the greenhouse owning landlord is called Mr Daisy. The only sweet relief you’ll find in this film is a scene with Faye Dunway, stealing the limelight which wasn’t hard to be honest.

Taking no liberties to cut corners, the dialogue is clumsy and the acting is no better. Other that stating the obvious such as ‘I’m going to brush my teeth’,’ ‘I have time’, etc, most of the dialogue is taken up by either, not speaking about the Bye Bye Man or telling someone not to talk about the Bye Bye Man.

The Bye Bye Man is probably one of the worst demon/spirit/ghosts I have ever seen. With a waxy white face and completely random costume consisting of jeans and a black hoodie (seriously, where is the imagination?), his sidekick ghoul dog is no better and comprised of awful CGI matter. If this film really wanted to stand out, then why has it made no obvious effort to create something truly scary? No one wants to see outdated CGI and crap monsters, especially not in this day and age when we’re accustomed to so much better.

Honestly, save yourself the money and see something else at the cinema this weekend. Let me know what you thought of the film in the comments!

The Other Side of the Door (2016)

The Other Side of the Door is British-Indian film directed by Johannes Roberts, known for his previous titles such ‘Storage 24’, ‘F’, and ‘Hellbreeder’. Set in the charming yet chaotic city of Mumbai, we follow the character of Maria (Sarah Wayne Callies), dealing with the traumatic loss of her son and her desperate attempt to move on from this tragedy. Dealing with West-meets-East ideals, this film follows the typical format of a paranormal film with the added twist of Indian rituals and a karmic system.

The film opens with a young couple, Maria and Michael (Jeremy Sisto), who decide to stay in Mumbai to bring up their unborn child. Flash forward six years, and we learn the devastating trauma behind this film. Maria is plagued by chronic nightmares reliving the death of her son Oliver; her car had gone off road and was sinking, as his leg was trapped Maria was left with no alterative otehr than leave him behind to save his younger sister, Lucy. Maria has since fallen into a deep depression, cursing her decision to leave him, and makes and attempt on her life. Waking up after this attempt in hospital, her housekeeper Piki (Suchitra Pillai-Malik), who has coincidentally also lost a child to drowning, offers her help. She tells Maria of a temple in the South of India, where you can speak to your loved ones one more time before they are lost in the Karmic system. Her only warning: do not open the door.

Obviously, a grief-stricken Maria decides to do this. She arrives at the temple, follows the instructions and waits. Then she hears Oliver. Maria holds up her promise to not open the door, only until she hears Oliver saying ‘She’s coming for me…’, upon which she panics, opens the door, and sees nothing (and anyone who knows anything about horror films will know this is the beginning of the end for Maria).

Oliver’s soul has returned and begins to turn evil, leading to some pretty bad behaviour from the lad. Starting out seemingly harmless, such as throwing toys around and presenting the Jungle Book to his mother to read, he quickly turns violent as we see when he is standing present next to his sister and bites her on the shoulder. This is the least of the trouble from Oliver; he drowns Piki, possesses Lucy, and gets her to stab their father and their poor, sweet dog Winston (who attempted to alert the family of the spirit but went unnoticed, seriously, never ignore a dog, they know).

Not only is Maria dealing with the unexpected return of Oliver’s spirt, she is fighting off the six-armed gatekeeper Myrtu (played by Javier Botet, a creature specialist that you might recognise from ‘Mama’) who has come to collect Oliver and return him to the dead, as well as a bunch of half-naked Shamans that look like they’ve lost their way to Glastonbury. Meanwhile, husband Michael is conforming to the traditional role of dad-at-work-while-mum-cleans-up-the-mess that is apparent in too many horror films.

Whilst you may feel you’ve seen the possessed child trick many times (i.e. The Omen, Carrie), this shouldn’t put you off this film. Yes, it strictly conforms to conventions of horror and paranormal behaviours, but this film engages you through character building and some decent scares (even I jumped a few times myself, embarrassingly enough). What makes this film stand out for me is the inclusion of Indian deities and belief systems, a much-welcomed break from the never-ending cycle of films about demons and spirits that can only be defeated by the Christian God.

Check out the trailer here.


All Hallows’ Eve (2013)

A typical B list horror movie, I wasn’t expecting much from Damien Leone’s ‘All Hallows’ Eve’ but I was pleasantly surprised by the stylistic direction and one of the most terrifying clowns I have ever seen. Seriously, if you’re afraid of clowns, don’t watch this. I’m not normally afraid of them, but I am now.

The film begins with a babysitter looking after two kids on Halloween, and upon looking through the bags of sweets with them they discover a mysterious looking VHS and after a lot of asking she lets them watch it to see what is on it, and behold, the juicy part begins.

Now the acting in this film isn’t amazing, it’s what you would expect from a B lister, but it’s nothing to complain about either. What really makes this film impressive is the craftsmanship; the sets, the makeup, the costumes These things have been created by a team of real people, and for me this is massively favoured over CGI. Albeit, the prosthetics do look very fake; overly fake mannequin-esque body parts and bright red blood. But in a way, I think this works. It reminded me of some early horror films from the 1970’s, where a lot of the gore was over dramatized and we see the iconic cherry red blood.

Whilst this film could have rivalled similar anthology films such as ‘V/H/S’, it didn’t quite fit the bill. However, what makes this film stand out for me is the recycling of Damien Leone’s short films ‘The 9th Circle’ and ‘Terrifier’, taking place in two of the three anthological films.

The first short wasn’t particularly scary for me. Reminding me of a lot of low budget horrors from the 2000’s, it’s possible this was shot through a potato. But this is where this film excels; with each film, Leone has a chance to showcase his direction styles and if you find yourself not enjoying one segment, the next might just surprise you. And for me this was just the case. I was ready to give up after the first short, deeming it as trashy and unlikely to scare me. Unimpressed, I felt like I had seen this so many times before. Despite my doubts, I pursued. And I’m glad I did because the following films proved to be both eerie and original in their diversity.

I can’t get across how much the third film disturbed me; just when you think you’re safe, he’s there. The most gruesome of the three, the film ends with a panning out shot of Art’s handiwork: the amputated and disfigured body of his victim. This was what I had been waiting for in this film, a scene that would finally send shivers down my spine and question my life choices in how I came about watching something this utterly vile on a rainy Tuesday afternoon. Kudos Leone.

Art the Clown is a truly terrifying character. Think Twisty the Clown from American Horror Story; this guy is in the shadow of Art in comparison. With that menacing personality and matching outfit, Art deserves a franchise of films dedicated to his psychotic imagination and dedication to the job. Luckily, Damien Leone produced ‘Terrifier’ in 2016, a full-length film showcasing the talent of Art the Clown and his maniacal hobby. Featuring in all three films, Art is the connecting link, becoming more realistic as each segment unfolds (literally as we find out at the end of the film), deepening his disturbing ability to get inside your head.

All in all, this film is fun. It has just the right amount of scares to entertain as well as disgust. Not everyone will like this film and I wouldn’t expect them to, but given the chance it might surprise you in its unique direction and ability to creep you out.

And my final thought, who still uses VHS players?

Check out the trailer here.


Green Room (2016)

Green Room is a fresh new take on horror that surprised me with its simplicity and adrenaline fuelled plot. Centring on the ‘Ain’t Rights’, a band of young punk musicians, we watch them fight for their lives after being trapped in a backstage room by a terrifying group of Neo Nazis following the discovery of the murder of a young girl at a gig they were never meant to be at.

I loved the opening to this film, it presented some forthcomings of what was to come. Having arrived at Tad’s house (a student who offers to take in the band in return for a radio interview) in Oregon at the end of their tour, he asks each of them what their ‘desert island’ band would be. As they come forth with their answers (albeit, not honest as we later find out) they establish their punk identity and hard nut appearances. Pat (played by the late Anton Yelchin) was the only member who hesitated in his answer, which to me proved he wasn’t compulsive or rash in his decision, which he would later come to thank, affirming him as the survivor.

Facing a group of weapon brandishing Neo Nazis will always be terrifying, but dealing with Patrick Stewart as the leader of the group of weapon brandishing Neo Nazis is just so much worse. Bringing life to the role of Darcy, the club owner, Patrick Stewart relishes in the opportunity to play evil. Remaining calm and negotiable throughout, Darcy is a chilling character who has taken over from the stereotypical monster role usually preserved for the supernatural or clinically insane. Yet, as with most monsters, once they lose their power and we see them in daylight, they’re not so scary.

My favourite part of this film was obviously when Pat and Amber (another witness of the murder portrayed by Imogen Poots) escape. Having heard the end of Pat’s ‘pep talk’ about a similar experience (yet less fatal) paintballing against a group of Iraq veterans, we see their final attempt of escaping the clutches of Darcy. Deciding to take it less seriously, there are some great comedic overtones here in the most unlikely of situations.

What’s so great about this film? It’s simple. There is no complicated back story or overlying themes that take attention away from it. It’s precise, gritty, and stripped-down of conventions, unlike so many other films today. It isn’t trying to make you work anything out, or think deeply into the meaning of it, it is what it is. The characters are daring, (if not suicidal when they cover the Dead Kennedy’s ‘Nazi Punks Fuck off’ to a group of actual Nazi Punks) taking risks to escape and even take out some Nazis with them.

Director Jeremy Sauliner has created a glorious yet disturbing indie horror here with just a $5 million budget. He said in an interview with online publication site ‘Indie Wire’ that he hopes to ‘build a library of films that have a long life’, and in my eyes, I think this film will, and I hope he continues to create more films like this one that grab my attention.

This film is perfect for those new to the genre, or those who can’t handle the intensity of most horror films. Despite boasting an 18 rating, the gore is minimal yet there is an abundance of violence and suspense to keep you on your toes.

Check out the trailer here.