Directed by Claudio Fah
Distributed by Entertainment One
On their way to go a-plundering in Lindisfarne, a group of exiled Viking warriors led by would-be ruler Asbjorn (Hopper) find themselves off course and stranded on the coast of Scotland when their longboat is destroyed in a vicious storm. Trapped behind enemy lines, the group decides that their only hope is to reach the friendly settlement of Danelaw – but it isn’t very long before they’re spotted by hostile forces and a battle ensues.
In the wake of the fighting, the Vikings carry with them the princess Inghean (Murphy), daughter of the ruthless King Dunchaid. Hoping to use her as leverage for safe passage and ransom, the gang press forward on their journey. Unfortunately for them, however, King Dunchaid is a bit more of a bastard than they expected, and he unleashes the Wolf Pack – a group of highly trained Carpathian mercenaries – with orders to kill not only his Viking adversaries, but his daughter as well.
Along the way, Asbjorn and crew happen upon hermitic druid Conall (Kwanten), a Christian monk who also happens to be extremely adept when it comes to kicking the living shit out of people with athletic style. Following an encounter with the ruthless Wolf Pack, Conall agrees to aid the Vikings and princess in their quest to reach Danelaw – and so begins the chase across picturesque landscapes and rocky mountains as swords clash, arrows fly and numbers dwindle.
Claudio Fah’s Northmen is a film that, on the surface, offers little new to the ‘chase movie’ game beyond its Viking theme (it feels very similar to Roar Uthuag’s 2012 film Escape), but that’s actually rarely an issue given the swift pacing, enjoyable characters and engaging aesthetic of the flick. Shooting locations in South Africa actually stand in very well for the Scottish coast, and some breathtaking vistas, crisp woodland and impressive settings for the action (for example a rope bridge over a massive gorge) create a sense of scale that the humble sensibilities of the core story lack. It’s a great-looking flick, feeling just a few steps away from a grandiose epic in the same manner that Michael J. Bassett’s Solomon Kane adaptation did.
The action is well choreographed and fluidly shot, and there’s enough blood spatter and sword-on-flesh action to keep those who can’t stand bloodless medieval action happy, though Northmen also has a real sense of weirdness about it. Very central elements of the story feel strangely out of place and under-explained – for example, Inghean is revealed to have soothsaying abilities, receiving visual and auditory messages from the earth itself to warn her and her new protectors of the impending arrival of a threat. This magical/supernatural element is thrown in alongside the more grounded stance that the film establishes early on with nary an eyebrow raised.
Next to that is Kwanten’s character, Conall, who shoots straight off the weirdness scale with his realisation as a Christian monk who seems entirely styled on Buddhism and trained in Eastern martial arts. On the face of it, it’s all over the place – but it’s perhaps testament to Fah’s storytelling skills that it doesn’t see Northmen come completely undone by any means.
Besides, there’s little point in complaining about any of it when the return of the Viking group’s Berzerker from a particular feat of battle fury comes as a welcome stretch of believability simply because the character is so much fun to have around.
Performances across the board are perfectly fine, even if Ed Skrein’s turn as lead villain Hjorr is more pantomime-y and less interesting on a character level than his second-in-command, Anatole Taubman as Bovarr. There’s the requisite amount of in-fighting amongst the Vikings, with the morally steadfast Asbjorn butting heads with some of the others over their more repugnant intentions for their captive lady, but things rarely push very hard in that direction – mostly ending with a short verbal burst or waving of a weapon as means of keeping in check. In short – nothing far beyond what you’d expect.
And that’s pretty much what sums up Northmen – it isn’t ground-breaking, it isn’t a highly original take on the chase film. But it’s a very entertaining one. Filled with enough testosterone-fuelled action, punchy set-pieces, humorous touches, scowling and eye candy to keep itself standing even if the more off-kilter elements threaten to drag it down.
If you’re looking for a fun popcorn flick to fill an evening with grunting, punching and bloody swordplay at an exciting pace (and Ryan Kwanten in quite possibly the strangest role you’ll ever see him take on) then you really can’t go wrong.
Entertainment One brings Northmen to UK DVD sporting a selection of behind the scenes featurettes that explore the locations, characters and action sequences and scoring of the film while offering interview snippets with various members of the cast and crew. Each segment is short and light, coming in all together at a total of around 11 minutes, but it does feel like just enough material to satisfy. Fans of legendary Viking metal band ‘Amon Amarth’ will likely feel some disappointment for lead singer Johan Hegg, who makes his film debut here and spends some time in the extras talking about his positive experiences on set and shooting his scenes, only to end up in the finished film for all of five minutes, with one line of dialogue, before meeting his end.
- Behind the Scenes
- Don’t Mess With the Northmen
- Northmen in Action
- Tune up the Northmen
- Vikings vs. Wolves
Victor Crowley Blu-ray Review – Killer Special Features Make This a Must-Own
Directed by Adam Green
Distributed by Dark Sky Films
Like many of you horror fans out there, I was surprised as hell when Adam Green announced that there was not only going to be the fourth entry in his famed Hatchet series but that the movie had already been filmed and was going to be screening across the country.
Of course, I wanted to get to one of those screenings as soon as possible, but unfortunately, there were no events in my neck of the woods here in Gainesville, Fl., and so I had to bide my time and await the Blu-ray.
Then a few days ago, the Blu-ray for Victor Crowley landed on my doorstep and I jumped right into watching the film. Short story, I loved it. But we’ll get into all of that more in-depth below. For now, let’s do a quick rundown on the film for those two or three horror fans out there who aren’t familiar with the film and its premise.
Victor Crowley is the fourth entry in the Hatchet series, a franchise that follows the tale of a deformed man that accidentally met the wrong end of his father’s hatchet long ago and now roams the Louisiana swamp each night as a “Repeater”, aka a ghost that doesn’t know it is dead and thus cannot be killed. Ever. Well, maybe not ever. After all, Victor was supposedly killed at the end of Hatchet III by a combination of Danielle Harris, his father’s ashes, and a grenade launcher. Dead to rights, right? Not so much.
In this fourth entry/reboot, a group of indie horror filmmakers, lead by the adorable Katie Booth, accidentally resurrect Crowley just as the original trilogy’s lone survivor (Parry Shen) is visiting the swamp one final time in the name of cold hard cash. Long story short, Shen’s plane crashes with his agent (Felissa Rose), his ex-wife (Krystal Joy Brown), and her film crew in tow. Some survive the initial crash, some don’t. As you can imagine, the lucky ones died first.
Victor Crowley is a true return to form for Adam Green, who sat out of the director’s chair on the third film. As always, Green doesn’t shy away from the over-the-top comedy and gore the franchise is well known for. The blood rages and the sight-gags hit fast and unexpectedly. And, speaking of the sight-gags, there’s evidently a shot in this Blu-ray version of the film that was cut from the “Unrated” version released on VOD. The shot is one I won’t spoil here, but for the sake of viewing Green’s initial vision alone, the Blu-ray for Victor Crowley is really the only way to own this film. Don’t get me wrong, there are (many) more reasons to shell out the cash for this Blu-ray, but I’ll get into those soon.
Back to the film itself, what makes this fourth entry in the series one of the very best Hatchet films (if not THE best) is Adam Green’s honesty. Not only does he conquer a few demons with the ex-wife subplot, but he gives us a truly tragic moment via Tiffany Shepis’ character that had me in stunned silence. Her death is not an easy kill to pull off in a notoriously over-the-top slasher series, but it earned mucho respect from this guy.
Basically, if you loved the original trilogy, you will love this one as well. If you mildly enjoyed the other films, this one will surely make you a fan. Slow clap, Adam Green.
Let it be known that I’m a massive fan of fly-on-the-wall filmmaking documentaries. Like many of you out there, I find film production to be utterly fascinating and thus have grown a little tired of the typical making-of featurettes we get on Blu-rays. You know the ones. The director talks about his vision for the film, the cast say how much fun they had on-set with the other actors and crew, and we get cutaways to people dancing and trying to kiss the behind-the-scenes camera – all usually set to upbeat music.
While I’ll take what I can get, these kinds of behind-the-scenes features have grown to be little more than tiresome and superficial. But no worries here my friends as Adam Green has pulled out all the BS and given us a full-length, 90-minute behind-the-scenes feature called “Fly on the Wall” that shows it how it really is on the set.
Highlights include new Hatchet D.P. Jan-Michael Losada, who took over for Will Barratt this time around, who is little less than a f*cking hilarious rockstar, a front row seat to the making of Felissa Rose’s death scene, a creepy-cool train ghost story prank by Green, a clever impromptu song via Krystal Joy Brown (Sabrina), and a fun bit towards the end where Green and the SFX crew create the “gore inserts” in (basically) the backyard after filming. Good times all around.
The documentary then ends with the Facebook Live video of Adam Green announcing Victor Crowley‘s surprise premiere at that Hatchet 10th Anniversary screening. A great way to end a killer making-of documentary making his disc a must-own for this special feature alone.
But wait, it gets better. On top of the film itself and the above-mentioned “Fly on the Wall” documentary, the disc features an extensive interview with Adam Green called “Raising the Dead… Again.” This interview is basically Green going over the same speech he gave to the crowd at the surprise unveiling shown at the end of the “Fly on the Wall” doc, but that said, it’s great to hear Green tells his inspiring story to us directly.
So while this feature treads water all of us have been through below (especially fans of Green’s podcast The Movie Crypt), Green is always so charming and brutally honest that we never get tired of him telling us the truth about the ins-and-outs of crafting horror films in this day and age. Again, good stuff.
Additionally, the disc also boasts two audio commentaries, one with Adam Green and actors Parry Shen, Laura Ortiz, and Dave Sheridan, and another “technical” commentary with Adam Green, cinematographer Jan-Michael Losada, editor Matt Latham, and make-up effects artist Robert Pendergraft.
Add in the film’s teaser and trailer, and Victor Crowley is a must-own on Blu-ray.
- Audio commentary with writer/director Adam Green and actors Parry Shen, Laura Ortiz, and Dave Sheridan
- Audio commentary with writer/director Adam Green, cinematographer Jan-Michael Losada, editor Matt Latham, and make-up effects artist Robert Pendergraft
- Raising the Dead… Again – Extensive interview with writer/director Adam Green
- Behind the Scenes – Hour-long making-of featurette
One of the best, if not THE best, entries in the Hatchet series, with special features that are in-depth and a blast (and considering all other versions of the film have been castrated for content), this Blu-ray is really the only way to own Adam Green’s Victor Crowley.
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.
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