CURVE **** USA 2015 Dir: Iain Softley. 86 mins

En route to Denver, Julianne Hough breaks down in the middle of nowhere, but the handsome stranger (Teddy Sears) coming to her rescue turns out to be an unwelcome combination of mechanically-handy and mentally-unstable.
A trim, unpretentious two-handed thriller, CURVE initially echoes THE HITCHER (still the king of pared-down on-the-road psycho-killer movies) before turning into a suspenseful survivalist piece in which Hough battles both Sears and the elements while trapped in an overturned car. Hough’s credible, sympathetic performance and Sears’ effective turn as a convincingly banal, buff All-American psycho hold your interest, and there’s something very satisfying about the film’s straight-forward, efficient approach.

EMELIE *** USA 2015 Dir: Michael Thelin. 80 mins

Its slow-burning creepy tone set by a HALLOWEEN-style autumnal long-shot of a daylight abduction, EMELIE is a tense, non-sensationalistic take on the babysitter-from-hell theme. Randi Langdon sits three kids while someone spies on their parents enjoying an anniversary meal; her sinister agenda slowly becomes apparent via increasingly strange behaviour, including a tendency to change her tampon in front of an adolescent boy and screen home videos of Mum and Dad fucking to the youngest kids. Langdon’s effectively controlled performance and naturalistic work by the three juvenile actors help to sustain this film’s sense of escalating menace, though the script builds in a persuasive fashion to a seriously disappointing wrap-up.

NIGHT FARE **** France 2015 Dir: Julien Seri. 80 mins

Conceived as an outright slasher movie before evolving into something more ambitious, NIGHT FARE appropriates the neon-menace of DRIVE and MANIAC, accompanied by a hugely evocative electronic soundscape echoing John Carpenter and Rob. In a suitably imposing vision of nocturnal contemporary Paris, British dude Jonathan Howard finds his French girlfriend cheating on him with his buddy (Jonathan Demurger) but the two nonetheless bond prior to pissing off an ominously silent taxi driver who spends the rest of the movie in psychotic pursuit. Despite the hulking physique and obscured face of the antagonist and a stand-out apartment massacre set piece, NIGHT FARE veers from an apparent Gallic echo of MANIAC COP into a bolder, more thoughtful tale of vigilantism in a morally bankrupt city. Beautifully shot and intense, its successful tonal juggling is best reflected by a strikingly well realised, unexpected animation interlude.

NINA FOREVER **** UK 2015 Dir: Ben Blaine, Chris Blaine. 98 mins

Supermarket drone Abigail Hardingham is dumped by her boyfriend for being too “vanilla” and explores her dark side by hooking up with suicidal co-worker Cian Barry. Things get a little complicated when his recently deceased previous girlfriend (Fiona O’Shaughnessy) rises from the mattress as they fuck. On the surface, this appears to be another entry in the zombie romantic comedy sub-genre, following Joe Dante’s BURYING THE EX in its portrait of a male protagonist’s first post-bereavement relationship intruded upon by an abrasive, dead former lover. It also echoes grungier necro-flicks of the 80’s like NEKROMANTIK and LIVING DOLL, though does not share their fascination with decomposition and taboo-busting. Frequently funny and straddling genres and tones with skill, the film turns into its own distinctive beast, showing a boldness in exploring more subversive territory via striking sequences like the erotic sort-of-threesome in which the eager to please Hardingham strives to make her bloke’s dead girlfriend “happy” too. O’Shaughnessy is particularly funny as the “ex” whose post-mortem jealousy and fabulously witty dialogue (“Basically you’re Florence Nightingale job-sharing with Linda Lovelace!”) steal the show. Never committing to being either a full-blown horror film or a downbeat indie drama, it finds moments of understated dramatic power and truth within its outlandish scenario, offering a perceptive portrayal of the enduring grief of O’Shaughnessy’s parents: “You can find somebody else…but we can’t.”

TALES OF HALLOWEEN **** USA 2015 Dir: Darren Lynn Bousman, Axelle Carolyn, Adam Gierasch, Andrew Kasch, Neil Marshall, Lucky McKee, Mike Mendez, Dave Parker, Ryan Schifrin, John Skipp, Paul Solet. 111 mins

This union of established horror directors / actors capitalises on the current horror anthology trend, offering an atmospheric evocation of Halloween in the vein of TRICK R TREAT while achieving stronger consistency than any of the V/H/S movies. The loose framework for ten tales of Halloween-based horror involves the distinctive voiceover work of Adrienne Barbeau, ostensibly playing her DJ character from THE FOG, and accompanied by a marvellous main theme by Lalo Schifrin, coaxed out of retirement for this gig thanks to the involvement of his director-son Ryan. Vengeful trick or treaters, Halloween decoration wars between neighbours and post-party ghostly torment are among the catalysts for horror and the tone veers from the genuinely scary (Axelle Carolyn’s “The Grim Grinning Ghost”, with Lin Shaye spinning spooky tales to Mick Garris and Stuart Gordon) to something approximating the feel of those old, goofy comic episodes of THE TWILIGHT ZONE (Darren Lynn Bousman’s “The Night Billy Raised Hell”, with Barry Bostwick in an enthusiastic star turn). Inevitably, some are weaker and more inconsequential than others, but the majority are a lot of fun and worthy of future repeat Halloween viewings. Woman of the match is Pollyanna Mackintosh for her astonishing, hilarious star turn in Lucky McKee’s flamboyant Hansel And Gretel-inspired “Ding Dong”, while Mike Mendez’s knowing slasher pastiche “Friday the 31st” is engagingly loopy. Neil Marshall’s “Bad Seed” ends the proceedings on a high with its deliciously straight-faced tale of a malevolent, child-eating pumpkin. Cameos abound throughout, and the overall feel is akin to that of HBO’s TALES FROM THE CRYPT in its prime.

Reviews by Steven West

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