Devil’s Mile (2014): Deja Vu All Over Again (Review)

Poster for Devil's Mile

In his first feature-length film Joseph O’Brien  wears a number of hats. He wrote, directed, produced (and worked as visual effect supervisor) on “Devil’s Mile” a film that was all about deja vu and where a single decision leads a protagonist to make the day run its course all over again.  This film a slightly reminiscent of  the 2009 Melissa George film  “Triangle” and owes quite a lot to the 2003 horror film  “Dead End” as well.

It also appears that O’Brien was influenced by the Yambito in the PS2 survival horror video game “Forbidden Siren 2.” There is also a nod to “Ju-on The Grudge.”

In fact the tale of three dysfunctional kidnappers who take two Japanese girls, one of whom is the wrong target, and how their long night heads straight downhill, borrows from a number of other films in the genre.

Maria del Mar and Casey Hudecki are cellmates Cally and Jacinta respectively, along with David Hayter (who used to voice Solid Snake in the video game “Metal Gear Solid”)  and all three argue, bicker and annoy the literal hell out of one another at the start of the film setting themselves up for failure from the word go. 

While there are some truly scary moments in the film, that Japanese ghost girl is pretty horrific in a CG Ju-on/Ringu sort of way, and Hayter is good for a couple of scares later on.

There are plot-holes. The van is never really explained and the mumbo-jumbo being spouted on the video tape playing in the vehicle just sounds rambling and nonsensical.  There are flashbacks, or flash-forwards, that only make sense later and (back to that van again) the “driver” that Cally and Jacinta encounter is illogical and never explained.

(Granted the scene where the two women meet the scary driver, is one of the funniest, and perhaps most real, in the entire film. When Cally discharges her weapon that second time, it is a really laugh out loud moment.

Hudecki (who has done almost as many stunts as she has acting jobs) stands out in her performance of kidnapper with a secret. Veteran actress del Mar is spot on as the older cellmate who developed “mama hen” feelings for Jacinta.

Another veteran performer Frank Moore is Mr. Arkadi; the scary crime boss who is world weary and ruthless with it. The only let down is, somewhat surprisingly, Hayter. The actor has a slew of credits to his name as voice over actor in the video game world and yet his performance lacks something in this film.

“Devil’s Mile” will not win any awards but it does entertain.  There are some surprising moments a couple of twists and despite a somewhat verbal false ending, it  is not a bad film at all.

The FX are a bit uneven but the blood looks very convincing and that Japanese dead girl is pretty impressive in a Playstation 2 sort of way.

Overall this is a 3.5 star out of 5.  It tries to be a bit too clever and loses something in translation as a result.  Had Hayter not been so annoying as the tough nut leader the film might have worked better, but to be honest, the actor has moments that do work pretty well.

Available on Amazon Prime to stream it is worth a look. It is, however, nothing to get too excited about.

The Abandoned (2015): Dreamy Horror (Review)

Louisa Krause in The Abandoned

“The Abandoned,” co-written and directed by Eytan Rockaway (His first feature length film.), feels a little too much like the 2001 film “Soul Survivors” to be blazingly original but, it does have something.  The storyline also seems to borrow some storyline from “The Orphanage,” “Fragile” and a bit from “The Devil’s Backbone” while this all seems like a case of points off for lack of originality, the film is entertaining and not a little nerve wracking. 

Jason Patric (currently playing a disgruntled surgeon on the FOX mystery/thriller “Wayward Pines” and who played Michael in the iconic  horror film “The Lost Boys“) is teamed up with Louisa Krause (Billions, Ava’s Possessions) to work security in an enormous building full of rooms and horrible secrets. 

Streak (Krause) is the new guard who needs to make this job work as it is her last chance. The young woman and single mother has mental issues and may lose her daughter if she cannot succeed at this one. Cooper (Patric) is the man who runs the CCTV system and has seen more guards come and go than Carter has little pills.

The two form an uneasy alliance and then Streak lets a homeless man in (played by Mark Margolis) to shelter for the night. This is against the rules and Cooper worries that they will both lose their jobs. 

Streak develops a fixation on a room that Cooper says does not exist and when she goes to investigate, and finds a door, she hears sounds from behind it.  Later she opens the door and enters a part of the massive building that houses a dreadful secret. Soon she and Cooper are caught up in events that theater to kill them both.

There are a few problems with the tale. Krause is too up and down to be a security guard and Cooper goes from being downright aggressive to heroic in a very short space of time (one night) and the “reveal” when it arrives, throws us right into “Soul Survivors” territory, sans Elisha Dushku and Wes Bentley.

(Actually there  are a number of these “while dying” films on the market: “Dead End” – where Ray Wise and Lin Shaye travel an eternal road after a hit and run, “Devil’s Mile” – where a trio of kidnappers are trapped on an endless road trip, “Reeker”  – a group of college students end up on the road trip to Hell (This is a personal favorite with a young Arielle Kebbel,  who proves that no-one can scream it better than she can in “The Grudge 2,”  and Michael Ironside)

(“Reeker” also had an pretty unique plot dealing with smell and a clever script, made in 2005 on a shoe-string budget it is a brilliant little film and has a couple of surprising twists in it. Check it out if you can.)

Back to “The Abandoned,”  Patric does manage to make his character more likable as the film progresses (he is a major douche at the start) and Krause, despite the need to strip to a tank-top for the latter part of the film, moves from annoying to someone  we support.

The final twist is a “good ‘un” but there is no real logic in the events that lead up to it.  The “damaged” children in the building are the only real connection and everything else is a stretch.

The building’s interior is sumptuous, the main bits at any rate, but little time is spent there as the film focusses on what is happening in the basement.  The goings on there are spooky and there are a few jump scares on offer.  Sadly the ghost children thing has been a little overdone.

Regardless of the whole-sale borrowing from other films, “The Abandoned” is a solid 3 out of 5 stars for watchability and that is down mainly to Patric and Krause. Streaming on Netflix at the moment and at just under an hour and a half it is worth a watch but not necessarily two.

Uncle John (2015): Slo-Mo Murder (Review)

John Ashton in Uncle John

“Uncle John” stars character actor John Ashton who is perhaps best remembered from “Beverly Hills Cop” (as John Taggart)  as the title character whose murder of a local bully who has gotten religion consumes his time. The pacing is almost slow motion compared to fast paced thrillers but the film is impossible to stop watching. 

Directed by Steven Piet (who co-wrote the feature with Erik Crary) “Uncle John” is his fledgling effort in the chair.  The film starts with an old fashioned preacher teaching his flock about Hell fire with shots of a wounded bald man staggering to a body of water next to a small boat. 

John follows with an oar in his hands and when the injured man stops moving, face-down in the water,  John gets busy.

Throughout the course of the film we learn that the dead man is named Dutch and he was the terror of the community until he had a religious conversion because of a vision. The town bully burned down barns, stole money and was having an affair with Dede, John’s wife.

Confession may be good for the soul, but Dutch’s almost frantic  attempt to make amends with those he mistreated leads to his death.

Danny, the dead man’s brother suspects John of having something to do with his sibling’s  disappearance and he shadows the carpenter looking for clues.  Meanwhile, John’s nephew Ben (who he raised when the boy’s father deserted him) meets Kate his new boss and the  two slowly move into a relationship.

Slow the film certainly is, but uninteresting it is not. The dialogue has a ring of truth and a natural feel that moves things along steadily.  The characters all seem like people we have known or worked with before and this adds to the feeling of truth that the film imparts.

Lack of a fast pace allows the audience time to connect with the characters.  John, the older man moves at a relaxed speed, even when destroying evidence, and later in the film we see that he has patience to spare.

Newcomer Alex Moffat plays Ben,  the nephew who takes the long way around while romancing new boss Kate (Jenna Lyng), and the actor  is reminiscent of Nicholas Brendon in his “Buffy” days. Moffat has a natural delivery that makes his courtship with Kate work. His is a likable character, as is Lyng’s, and these two young people with their separate storyline dovetails nicely with the main plot. 

Ronnie Gene Belvins as Danny, Dutch’s  brother, is all creepy determination and he is fixated on John, quite rightly, as the main suspect for the murder of his brother Dutch.

It is Ashton however that moves the film resolutely forward as his character grimly takes the next step and the next to cover his crime.  John’s stoic and matter-of-fact movements where he obliterates evidence  speaks volumes about the man and when he rests, looking tired from his exertions, the look in his eyes is spot on.

(Reading between the lines, and filling in the gaps from information gleaned later, Uncle John snapped when the newly converted Christian Dutch confesses what happened with John’s wife.)

This rage induced act starts the man on a journey of maintaining normal appearances while destroying evidence and later committing another crime.

(Sidenote: It has to be noted that each time John destroys evidence he wears gloves, except when he moved all the fishing tackle on to Dutch’s boat. Apparently the local cops never dusted any of the missing man’s effects for prints. Of course local law enforcement also believed that Dutch fell in the lake and drowned…)

“Uncle John” was shot in Wisconsin and the scenery along with the use of local actors makes for a brilliant looking and sounding film. (Those accents.)

The film is an easy 4.5 stars out of 5.  For anyone expecting car chases, buckets of gore or a pace that that is adrenaline fueled, give this one a miss.  Fans of films that offer real sounding dialogue and characters that keep your interest will adore this one.  Streaming on Netflix at the moment, and available on Amazon, this is one to watch.

 

The Taking (2013) BAPartists Update

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Since I posted my review of BAPartists first feature length film The Taking and interviewed the extremely talented duo of Lydelle Jackson and Cezil Reed I’ve gotten an update from Lydelle about how their Sidney World Premiere of the movie went.

The Taking premiered on the 13th of April at the A Night of Horror International Film Festival being held at the Dendy cinemas in Newtown in Victoria, Australia and  their screening was sold out!

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In Lydelle’s own words, here’s how the night went:

“The audience reaction was very very positive. We held a Q&A after the screening and I would say that about 90% of the audience stuck round for it, Which is good because usually the majority of the audience walks out after a film.

We were one of two films that sold out. The other was a film called cockneys versus zombies [sic] which had a few cast members from Snatch and Lock Stock and two Smoking Barrels. It’s a film that had a budget of 4mil pounds or 8mil US dollars approx, So it’s astonishing that our film out of all the others was the only other one to sell out and we had no stars!!”

Lydelle and Cezil are now getting lots of inquiries from potential distributors and we’ll let you know as soon as the film becomes available for viewing.

Cezil Reed
Cezil Reed

To keep updated with what this creative partnership is up to you can visit their website bapartfilms.com.

I am excited and pleased to learn that their film received such a positive reaction and can’t wait to hear when it will be available for distribution. I will post new information as and when I hear from Lydelle about the next stage of their film.

All that’s left for me to say now is, “Congratulations guys!”

Lydelle Jackosn
Lydelle Jackosn