Author: Steven West

DEAD AND BURIED **** USA 1981 Dir: Gary Sherman. 94 mins Like Royston Vasey in the BBC’s later THE LEAGUE OF GENTLEMEN TV series, Potter’s Bluff is a place where the prospects are grim for anyone who isn’t local. This eerily beautiful coastal town provides a startling backdrop for a disturbing prologue in which a visiting photographer is seduced by a comely local lass (Lisa Blount) before a swiftly gathering mob bludgeon him with spades, tie him to a tree and cover him in gasoline. Local Sheriff James Farentino is back to his small-town roots after some time in the…

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BALLET OF BLOOD ** USA 2015 Dir: Jared Masters. 98 mins Writer-actor-director Jared Masters, founder of Frolic Pictures, is a prolific filmmaker whose work channels everyone from Doris Wishman and Russ Meyer to John Waters, veering from the knowingly disposable CLIMB IT, TARZAN to the thoughtful, strange AGALMATOPHILIA. BALLET OF BLOOD trades in some of his familiar themes, feeds on slasher / giallo tropes like the asylum escapee and vengeful killer – and appears equally influenced by Argento (notably, SUSPIRIA and TENEBRAE), Aronofsky (BLACK SWAN) and Ken Russell (everything). It’s set in Hollywood and opens with a dramatically under-powered scene-setter…

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THE RETALIATORS **** USA 2021 Dir: Samuel Gonzalez Jr, Bridget Smith. 97 mins Precision-tooled to play like gangbusters at full capacity, suitably lubricated midnight horror festival screenings, this high-energy rock-video-styled festive splatter movie has been marketing its roster of musical guest stars, appearing both on screen and on the soundtrack. Among them: Tommy Lee, Papa Roach’s Jacoby Shaddix, Escape the Fate and Ice Nine Kills. It’s the kind of movie in which the dashing Pastor hero has Five Finger Death Punch playing in the middle of his sermon and no one bats an eyelid. It also opens as it means…

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DEMONIC * Canada 2021 Dir: Neill Blomkamp. 104 mins Writer-director Neill Blomkamp’s feature debut DISTRICT 9 (2009) showed immense promise unfulfilled by his bigger-budgeted (though not uninteresting) Hollywood follow-ups ELYSIUM and CHAPPIE. This oddly uncinematic, tedious venture into possession horror manages at least one remarkable achievement: it’s far worse than the last terrible film named DEMONIC (the James Wan-produced yawnfest of 2015). One-note, miserable leading lady Carly Pope has recurring nightmares of her incarcerated mother (Nathalie Boltt) engulfed by fire. An estranged pal (Chris William Martin) gets in touch to tell her that self-harming Mom is now a comatose, paralysed…

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KNOCKING **** Sweden 2021 Dir: Frida Kempff. 78 mins Shot in a suitably confined screen ratio (1.66:1) for maximum claustrophobia, this is an inventively executed, intense entry in the “is-she-or-isn’t-she-going-mental” sub-genre. Molly (a superb, empathetic performance by Cecilia Milocco) feels the time is right to return to “normality” after a year in psychiatric care. Her adjustment back to sunlight, public transport and a new apartment (via an elevator sporting ‘Help’ in bright red on the walls) melds with fragments of the woman she loved: Facebook-documented memories, oblique hints of something occurring on a picturesque beach. Almost immediately, she is disturbed…

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