Movie Review: The Seasoning House (2012)

Horror, Movie Reviews, Thriller

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Despite the subject matter being about young girls being held captive against their will for sex trafficking, Paul Hyett’s debut The Seasoning House is a movie which takes no prisoners.  It’s cinema at its boldest and most unflinching; but where other movies would be content to torture its victims into the realms of exploitation fodder, this revenge thriller handles the material with honesty, style and class to provide a thought provoking piece which highlights a criminal underbelly that exists to this very day in the real world.

Angel (Rosie Day) is a deaf-mute who gets taken from her home after watching her family and neighbours being gunned down by soldiers.  She’s taken to a brothel with other young girls, where they are subjected to rape and abuse at the hands of mercenaries and owner Viktor (Kevin Howarth).  Due to a scar on her face and some surprising pity, Angel is not prostituted like the other girls; her duty is to make sure they’re doped up for the vile pieces of human waste who purchase their services.  One day, Angel befriends one of the girls and murders the man who raped her death later on, which leads to a higher body count and daring escape.

The Seasoning House is not a fun movie.  It’s depressing and ugly and not for the squeamish; there is no bright colours in the house for a start; the brothel is dirty and rotten, plagued by rats and humanities worst atrocities. The villains are the worst human beings imaginable and the girls are always frightened and defenseless.  The violence is uncompromising and you get the sense that there is no escape for any of the girls.  So, what raises it above your typical torture porn shocker?  For a start, it’s set in a time period where underground sex houses were used in Balkan countries to fund wars.  Many torture porn movies have claimed to guise their exploitation as reflections of real world tragedies, but here the strong themes of soldier brutality, the effect of war and a brutally honest depiction of child abuse; not to mention excellent performances from the cast (which includes the always marvelous Sean Pertwee), it manages to rise above the gutter and soar.

The cinematography is exquisite: ugly has never looked so astonishingly beautiful.  The Seasoning House is an exceptionally well made tour de force in cinematic nihilism that’s sure to give sleeping horror binge watchers a kick up the arse.  A reminder that there’s evil in the world we live in at its most unforgiving, this is a must see if you can handle it.  Why not double bill it with Martyrs (2008) for a cold, dark nights viewing.  9/10

Directed By:

Paul Hyett

Written By:

Paul Hyett, Conal Palmer, Adrian Rigelsford

Starring:

Rosie Day, Sean Pertwee, Kevin Howarth

Genre:

Horror, Thriller

Running Time:

90 mins

Movie Review: A Lonely Place To Die (2011)

Action, Movie Review, Thriller

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A Lonely Place To Die is proof that you should never judge a book by its cover; at first glance, it could easily be mistaken for another backwoods survival horror – only set in the Scottish Highlands: a group of city slickers on a hiking expedition find a young girl trapped in a hole in the woods and must escape the wilderness to get her to safety as they’re pursued by the men who put her there.  Sounds like a fairly standard cat-and-mouse horror fare, doesn’t it?  Well I’m happy to report that it’s so much more.  It starts off like our assumptions would assume, only to unfold into a more complex crime thriller involving various parties looking for the girl.  It accelerates at cheetah pace, shifting gears like a Formula One car, to make for one hell of a suspenseful ride.

Fun story: When director Julien Gilbey set out to find funding for A Lonely Place To Die, he was given 3 million pounds to make anything, as long as it was set in the Scottish Highlands and showed lots of scenery.  Basically, he could have handed in any old piece of crap as long as it had shots of mountains and forests.  The scenery is certainly seductive; if this comprised solely of shots of Munro’s it’d still be amazing due to how stunning the North of Scotland is.  However, thankfully there’s a story to it – a very original crime story.  The scenery is used as an antagonist to give a sense of isolation and danger; mountain ridges and rapid rivers prove to be as dangerous a foe as military trained assailants with guns.  It gives off the impression that sudden death could lurk behind every rock and tree, while making it a priority to avoid the majority of genre cliches.

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For any survival thriller to be effective, the characters must have some substance, in my opinion.  The reason Eden Lake surpasses mediocrity like Preservation et al, is because the heroes are people we can empathize with.  A Lonely Place To Die’s characters aren’t perfect human beings; there are even moments where they discuss ditching the little girl to save their own keisters – like most normal people would.  The people we’re supposed to root for are far from a group of saints: Ed (played by Ed Speleers) is a selfish insensitive twat who becomes a heavily flawed anti-hero.  The lead villain, Mr. Kidd (Sean Harris, at his slimy best), is well fleshed out and not just you’re typical one dimensional gunner.  We spend quite a bit of time with every party involved, which elevates it above and beyond a formulaic thriller.  Melissa George is a likable enough lead with a good heart who shows bravery throughout.  It’s a very physical role and she nails it.

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The less you know about A Lonely Place To Die the better; it’s better if you go in knowing as little as possible and allow it to take you by surprise.  It’s on Netflix US currently, so if you have it drop everything you’re doing and watch it.  For me, it’s up there with Kill List as the best British film of the 21st century that isn’t part of Edgar Wright’s Cornetto Trilogy.  A smart crime story with the suspense and tension of the best horror films, you’d be foolish not to give it a whirl.  10/10.

Directed By:

Julian Gilbey

Written By:

Julian Gilbey & Will Gilbey

Starring:

Melissa George, Sean Harris, Ed Speleers, Alec Newman

Genre:

Thriller

Running Time:

99 mins

Movie Review: Holy Ghost People (2013)

Holy Ghost People (2013), Movie Reviews, Thriller

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If you’ve followed the career of The Butcher Brothers (Mitchell Altieri & Phil Flores) up until now, then you’ve no doubt come to expect the unexpected:  Not content to ever play it safe, they have become polarizing directors in the horror community.  The less said about the April Fool’s Day (2008) remake the better; but it is the better than the boring original (sorry purists) at least.  However, 2006’s The Hamilton’s was a critical success; by incorporating dysfunctional family and coming-of-age melodrama with a fresh take on vampire mythology, they certainly made a statement.  Their next feature, The Violent Kind (2010), pushed the envelope even further by splashing splurges of crime, horror, sci-fi, drama, surrealism and comedy on the canvas to create a polarising genre-bending masterpiece that just needs to be seen to be believed.  Love them or hate them, you can’t fault their ambition, and Holy Ghost People is another change in direction.

Holy Ghost People is a wonderful Southern Gothic suspense thriller that explores the concept of faith and religion: on one level, religion is portrayed as being a dangerous tool that breeds fanatics; but, it also explores religions ability to heal those who suffer from addiction, social rejection and sickness.  In the movie we’re introduced to two lost souls: Charlotte (Emma Greenwell) and Wayne (Brendan McCarthy).  Charlotte is on a mission to find her missing sister after receiving a letter informing her she was residing in a religious mountain community known as the Church of One Accord.  She enlists the help of Wayne, an alcoholic ex-marine who’s struggling with demons of his own.  The community is run by the charismatic Brother Billy (Joe Egender), a snake-handling preacher who isn’t shy of causing harm when necessary.  However, Charlotte and Wayne’s search for Charlotte’s missing sister reveals some sinister truths about themselves, as well as the Church of One Accord.

Holy Ghost People lies somewhere between The Sacrament (2013) and Martha Marcy May Marlene (2011); but it stands out on its own is by having more conflicted, fleshed out characters.  Furthermore, while criticising the stronghold religion can have in the form of extremity, it does not negate its power to comfort those in need:  Charlotte and Wayne go into the community as 2 people in need of help and guidance, and one can’t help but think they might have found it there if they allowed themselves to be a part of it.  However, the community is very much still a cult who are prepared to die and kill for their extreme viewpoints.  Did I mention that this movie is conflicting already?

This is the most cohesive Butcher Brother’s movie to-date: Unlike their previous efforts which shift gear more than the Fast & Furious franchise. Holy Ghost People is a formulaic thriller.  But the performances from the actors and thought provoking content lift it beyond the populated realm of generic action/suspense capers.

The cinematography just happens to be exquisite, boasting the mountains, rivers, roads and landscapes of Tennessee with texture and aplomb.  It also provides a fitting backdrop to the hopelessness and desolation of the characters by placing them in an isolated environment away from the regular society that’s shunned them.

Holy Ghost People is an outstanding thriller which questions universal views on faith and religion, as well as exploring human themes such as addiction and alienation.  There’s enough thrills and chills in store for a casual adrenaline rush, but beyond the surface is a smart, intelligent movie that will leave a lasting impression if you let yourself invest in the characters demons.

Directed By:

Mitchell Altieri

Written By:

Mitchell Altieri, Phil Flores, Joe Egender & Kevin Artigue

Starring:

Emma Greenwell, Joe Egender & Brendan McCarthy

Genre:

Thriller

Running Time:

88 min

Movie Review: Everly (2015)

Action, Movie Reviews, Thriller

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Joe Lynch has always been a fan first and a filmmaker second, which is why he’s such a popular figure among us genre nerds.  He’s one of us, and he makes movies that cater to our tastes because he shares them.  His latest effort Everly is a claustrophobic action thriller which doesn’t offer much in terms of uniqueness; but what it lacks in originality it makes up for in fun, violence and Salma Hayek’s cleavage.

Everly, in name and titular character, stars Salma Hayek as a prostitute holed up in an apartment after agreeing to co-operate with the authorities.  Unhappy with her betrayal, her old pimp puts a bounty on her head, which sends many cartoonish assailants her way.  Convinced that death is inevitable, Everly must survive long enough to get money to her mother and daughter before her time is up.

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Everly takes place in an apartment during the course of one night.  Christmas Eve to be exact.  Right away, Die Hard springs to mind; and rightly so because it wears the influence of the 1988 classic on its sleeve, along with John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 (1976) and Takeshi Miike’s Ichi The Killer (2001). Joe Lynch himself has admitted that it’s his love letter to such movies; thus making it a dream come true for a guy who grew up wanting to emulate his heroes.

Homages aside, Everly, is more than just a potion of favourite films concocted in the cauldron of a fanboy wizard; with innovative action sequences and an awkward action heroine who adds emotional depth to a character that could have worked as a generic bad ass, Everly manages to carve its own niche in action cinema.

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The villains of the film comprise mostly of gangsters and prostitutes, but it’s a man named Sadist and his goon, The Masochist, who leave an impression. When they show up, Everly takes a diversion into the realms of Takashi Miike inspired torture porn: it’s an unexpected shift in tone and makes for an unsettling few minutes, showing that Joe Lynch isn’t prepared to abandon his horror sensibilities quite yet.

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Everly takes place in one room for its entirety, only leaving to stray into the corridor for a couple of scenes.  To avoid staleness, Lynch provides us with a wide array of colourful characters, differing action scenes and various camera shots to ensure nothing is ever repeated.

Salma Hayek is as excellent as ever, bringing emotional depth to a character who could have been one dimensional and still delivered.  The core theme of Everly is a mother fighting for a better life for her family, and that’s what gives it an emotional centre amidst the guns, swords, assailants and chaos.

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Everly is the first true Joe Lynch movie: Wrong Turn 2 (2007) and Knights of Badassdom (2013) were director-for-hire jobs full of enthusiasm, but this is the first film he can call his baby. Co-written with Yale Hannon, Lynch has finally made a full feature that’s completely his, and it’s a winner.  Everly is a film with a simple premise which delivers everything a good R rated action movie requires.  If you want a gun toting bad ass who’s easier on the eyes than John McClane, then Everly could be your new Christmas action heroine. 8/10

Directed By:

Joe Lynch

Written By:

Yale Hannon & Joe Lynch

Starring:

Salma Hayek

Jennifer Blanc

Uros Sertic

Togo Igawa

Genre:

Action, Thriller

Running Time:

92 min