Starring Steve Rimpici, Haley Madison, Se Marie
Directed by Steve Rudzinski
2016 has saw several excellent releases in genre cinema; from the mainstream to the underground and everything in between, releases which have catered to a variety of moods and tastes have been strong this year. However, underground releases have flown by under the radar because they just don’t receive much coverage. The epitome of independent film in its purest form, underground horror is rife with creative DIY filmmakers bringing their art to life with style on shoestring budgets, and this year has saw impressive releases unlike anything else out there, due in no part to creators working with creative freedom.
Take Jimmy Screamerclauz’s Where Black Birds Fly for example, a disturbing and surreal exploration of authoritarian rule presented in the form of a mind warping religious allegory. For more lighter fare, Dustin Mills and Dave Parker gave audiences the family-friendly Halloween Spookies, which further showcased their knack for diverse storytelling. Across the pond in the UK, Scottish director unleashed the ambitious horror fantasy The Unkindness of Ravens to the acclaim of respected genre critics like Kim Newman, and it was one of the highlights of FrightFest London despite being among strong competition. Underground horror is thriving, and it deserves your attention.
Despite their unsung status, underground film is home to many auteurs motivated solely by a love for the genre, their craft and a compulsive need to create. These guys are often working full-time jobs just to finance movies on their own dime, and the few who do get to make movies as their main profession are dependent on our support. And when you see the amount of heart, creativity and outlandish brilliant in something like Steve Rudzinski’s CarousHELL, it makes you want to support the underdog.
Rudzinski has made quite a name for himself among aficionados of the scene due to his diverse, highly original offerings. These range from horror like Everyone Must Die (2012) and Red Christmas (2014), to Tokusatsu homages like Super Task Force One (2013), to time-travelling pirate adventures like Captain Z and the Power of the Leviathan (2014) – and more. This is the type of brain future genre fans will want to keep in a jar and milk for all its creativity long after we’re all dead, and CarousHELL is another reason why.
Co-written with Aleen Isley and starring indie queen Haley Madison, CarousHELL’s magic lies in its ability to provide pure entertainment at its most silly, fun and gloriously demented. It tells the story of Duke (voiced by Steve Rimpici), a carousel horse who, after being disrespected by a bratty kid at the fairground for the last, decides to go on the murder rampage and track him down so he can teach the little punk a bloody lesson. But how does a fairground horse kill people, you might ask? Well with his horn, ninja throwing stars and other unpredictable ways – THAT’S HOW!
Until I saw Steve Rudzinski’s CarousHELL, the concept of sex between a woman and a carousel unicorn had never crossed my mind before. Every so often you witness something so bizarre and out of the blue you can’t believe what you’re seeing, but at the same time you realize it’s everything you ever wanted. Make no mistake about it – CarousHELL is a silly, self-aware movie, and laugh out loud funny for its entirety as it has jokes for days, strange characters (the best being Joe the Pizza Guy played by Rudzinski himself) and wonderfully pokes fun at slasher tropes. It also provides some hilarious satire about our society’s current obsession with social media, and at its heart it boasts the age-adage more people should adhere to – don’t be a dick. Because being a dick, like the little snot nose bastard who sets the unicorn on his bloody course for vengeance in this movie, isn’t good for you or anyone else.
CarousHELL is the funniest horror comedy of 2016, as well as most brilliantly bizarre – and it is further proof that underground horror is well worth scouring, for it is there you shall unearth many hidden gems, some of which might even have unicorn sex. You can pick it up HERE.
Who Goes There Podcast: Ep 152 – Cloverfield Paradox & The Ritual
Last week Netflix shocked the world by not only releasing a new trailer for Cloverfield Paradox during the Superbowl, but announcing the film would be available to stream right after the game. In a move no one saw coming, Netflix shook the film industry to it’s very core. A few days later, Netflix quietly released horror festival darling: The Ritual.
Hold on to your Higgs Boson, because this week we’ve got a double header for ya, and we’re not talking about that “world’s largest gummy worm” in your mom’s nightstand. Why was one film marketed during the biggest sporting event of the year, and why was one quietly snuck in like a pinky in your pooper? Tune in a find out!
Meet me at the waterfront after the social for the Who Goes There Podcast episode 152!
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The Housemaid Review – Love Makes the Ghost Grow Stronger
Written and directed by Derek Nguyen
Vietnamese horror films are something of a rarity due largely to pressure from the country’s law enforcement agencies that have warned filmmakers to steer clear of the genre in recent years. The country’s exposure to the industry is limited, but that doesn’t mean that there aren’t a handful of filmmakers out there that are passionate and determined to get their art out into the world. IFC Midnight has stepped up to the plate to shepherd writer/director Derek Nguyen’s period ghost thriller The Housemaid in hopes of getting it in front of American horror fans.
Aside from a few moments that delve into soap opera territory, Nguyen’s film is full of well-crafted scares and some surprisingly memorable scenes that sneak up at just the right times. For history buffs there’s also a lot of material to sink your teeth into dealing with French Colonial rule and mistreatment of the Vietnamese during the 1950’s. Abuse that, if you’re not careful, could lead to a vengeful spirit seeking atonement.
Desperate and exhausted after walking for miles, an orphaned woman named Linh (Kate) seeks refuge and employment as a housemaid at a large rubber plantation in 1953 French Indochina. Once hired, she learns of the dark history surrounding the property and how her mere presence has awakened an accursed spirit that wanders the surrounding woods and dark corners of the estate. Injured in battle, French officer Sebastien Laurent (Richaud) returns to preside over the manor and, unexpectedly, begins a dangerous love affair with Linh that stirs up an even darker evil.
Told in flashbacks, the abuse of workers reveals a long history of mistreatment that enshrouds the surrounding land in darkness and despair, providing ripe ground for a sinister spirit that continues to grow stronger. Once it’s revealed that the ghost has a long history with Laurent before her death, the reasons she begins to kill become more and more obvious as the death toll piles up. Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle among Laurent, Linh, and the specter of Laurent’s dead wife.
Powered by desire to avenge tortured workers of the past and the anger fueled by seeing her husband in the embrace of a peasant girl, the apparition is frightening and eerily beautiful as she stalks her victims. One scene in particular showing her wielding an axe is the most indelible image to take away from the film, and other moments like it are what make The Housemaid a standout. The twisted sense of romance found in a suffering spirit scorned in death is the heart of the story even if the romance between the two living lovers winds up having more screen time.
The melodrama and underwhelming love scenes between Linh and Laurent are the least effective part of The Housemaid, revealing some of Nguyen’s limitations in providing dialogue and character moments that make us connect with these two characters as much as we do when the ghost is lurking around the frame. What does help to save the story is a well kept secret revealing a connection with the housemaid and the apparition.
Honestly, if this was an American genre film, the limitations seen in The Housemaid might cause more criticism, but seeing an emerging artist and his team out of Vietnam turn out a solid product like this leads me to highlight the good and champion the effort in hopes of encouraging more filmmakers to carry the flag. Ironically, the film is set for a U.S. remake in the near future.
The Housemaid hits select theaters, VOD, and digital platforms TODAY, February 16th.
Using the real life history of indentured servants during Colonial rule, The Housemaid becomes more than just a self-contained ghost story, adding a good deal of depth to a story that could have just centered around a love triangle.
Scorched Earth Review – Gina Carano Making Motherf**kers Pay In The Apocalypse
Starring Gina Carano, John Hannah, Ryan Robbins
Written by Bobby Mort and Kevin Leeson
Directed by Peter Howitt
Let me preface this review by stating right off the bat that I’m a huge Gina Carano fan, and will pretty much accept her in any role that she’s put in (are you going to tell her no), regardless of the structure and plausibility behind it, and while that might make me a tad-bit biased in my opinions, just accept it as that and nothing more. Now that I’ve professed my cinematic devotion to the woman, let’s dive headlong into her latest film, Scorched Earth.
Directed by Peter Howitt, the backdrop is an apocalyptic world brought on by the imminent disaster known as global warming, and the air has become toxic to intake, generally leaving inhabitants yacking up blood and other viscous liquids after a prolonged exposure, unless you’re one of the privileged that possesses a filter lined with powdered silver. Filters of water and the precious metal are in high demand, and only true offenders in this world still drive automobiles, effectively speeding up the destruction of what’s left of the planet. Carano plays Atticus Gage, a seriously stoic and tough-as-nails bounty hunter who is responsible for taking these “criminals” down, and her travels lead her to a compound jam-packed with bounties that will have her collecting riches until the end of time…but aren’t we at the end of time already? Anyway, Gage’s main opponent here is a man by the name of Thomas Jackson (Robbins) – acting as the leader of sorts to these futuristic baddies, the situation of Gage just stepping in and taking him out becomes a bit complicated when…oh, I’m not going to pork this one up for you all – you’ve got to invest the time into it just as I did, and trust me when I tell you that the film is pretty entertaining to peep.
While Carano’s acting still needs some refining, let there be no ever-loving mistake that this woman knows how to beat the shit out of people, and for all intents and purposes this will be the thing that carries her through many a picture. There are much larger roles in the future for Gina, and she’ll more than likely take over as a very big player in the industry – hey, I’m a gambling man, and I’ve done pretty well with my powers of prognostication. With that being said, the thing that does hold this picture back is the plot itself- it’s a bit stale and not overly showy, and when I look for a villain to oppose the hero, I’m wanting someone with at least a shred of a magnetic iota, and I just couldn’t latch onto anything with Robbins’ performance – his character desperately needed an injection of “bad-assness” and it hurt in that particular instance.
In the end of it all, I’d recommend Scorched Earth to fans of directionless, slam-bang wasteland pics with a touch of unrestrained violence…plus, Gina Carano is in it, so you can’t go wrong. If you’re not a fan of any of the above, feel free to skate on along to another piece of barren territory.
Looking to get your butt kicked in the apocalypse with extreme prejudice? Drive on up, and allow me to introduce you to someone who’ll be more than happy to oblige.
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