Movie Review: Ava’s Possession (2015)

Synopsis: Ava has spent the last month possessed by a demon and must now start rebuilding her life: her relationships with friends and family, her job and her apartment whilst also trying to understand why she was possessed

Director: Jordan Galland (also written by)

Starring: Louisa Krause

Review: I’m not sure why ‘Ava’s Possessions’ isn’t getting more love during ‘Women in Horror Month‘. It’s a comedy, mystery, horror which follows the titular ‘Ava’ as she tries to rebuild her life following a demon possession.

We enter Ava’s world, briefly seeing her exorcism during the opening credits, then as she faces her family. It’s a world where things like demon possessions and having to go to ‘Spiritual Possessions Anonymous’ is almost normal and doesn’t carry any stigma.

I really liked the colour palette used by Galland. The mix of neon colours against dark backgrounds works well and gives the movie a slightly surreal quality. I also liked the mix of tight shots which made you feel part of the conversation against the wider shots which gave the actors room to move. In some respects, it reminded me of the movie ‘Amelie‘ although I couldn’t say exactly why.

Ava’s Possessions is listed on IMDB as a comedy, mystery and horror and certainly, the ‘who done it’ aspect of how Ava became possessed and exactly what her family knows kept me gripped throughout and the ending was not quite what I had expected, although it did tie all the ends up nicely.

The acting throughout is solid with no overly weak performances (perhaps one or two characters needed further development, but that doesn’t take away from the story). Certainly, Krause does very well as the struggling Ava, trying to battle a very real demon whilst navigating a world she doesn’t remember. How Ava’s friends treated her post-possession contrasted well with her new friends from ‘SPA’ who understood what she had been through. Ava’s insecurity and rejection by her ‘before possession’ friends clearly plays out in her interactions with her ‘after possession’ friends, leading to some poor choices but it’s these character flaws which make Ava relatable and likeable.

It’s a very self-aware movie which plays certain aspects firmly tongue-in-cheek – a nice counter to other ‘demon possession’ movies and TV shows but does doff it’s cap to those movies and one reason I’ll definitely be watching Ava get possessed again.

And a bit of geek Easter egg, if you ever wondered what happened to Carol Kane‘s witch after ‘The Princess Bride‘ keep an eye out for her here…….

Movie review: Mythica series (2014-2016

Synopsis: The adventures of necromancer Marek and her band as they battle to save the world from darkness.

Director: Anne K Black (first two movies) then A Todd Smith (Necromancer), and John Lyde (Iron Crown and Godslayer)

Starring: Melanie Stone, Jake Stormoen, Adam Johnson and Nicola Posener

Review: I said at the beginning of ‘Women in Horror Month‘ that I was going to include science fiction and fantasy because, well it’s my daily challenge and I love all genre movies, books etc. Plus I find that many horror movies including elements of fantasy or science fiction.

One of the things I love about the assorted streaming services is you have access to loads of different movies and TV shows, many independently made which wouldn’t necessarily have wide exposure. There’s a downside in that there is a lot of tripe on there, but as you’ll know if you read my over-excited review of ‘Ink‘ I love discovering a good, independently made movie.

The Mythica series was funded through a Kickstarter fund, which is very impressive. It follows a standard ‘D&D’ idea where a group comprising of a Wizard, Thief, Healer and Warrior must go on a quest, in this instance to collect the shards of ‘Darkspore’ to avoid the end of the world. I’m not going to lie, there’s little originality in the idea and the inspirations behind it, including Lord of the Rings, are obvious.

Don’t let that it’s an independent movie, D&D  movie put you off. Whilst the concept may not be unique, the production is. Given this is a Kickstarter project, the passion the team has is obvious, from the costumes to the score, it’s made with care. As seen with other franchises who have changed director after the first movie, the series is a little uneven and turns strangely steampunk under Lyde’s guidance whilst Smith was a little lighter in tone. However, we’re discussing female directors and in this respect, Black proves competent and with a good eye for making the most of a restrained budget in the first two films. Having viewed the full series, I’d say the first two movies are my favourite, both for the story and direction. Black knows when to go for a tight shot and when to showcase the scenery. The editing is good and I liked the music. There are obvious budget constraints which mean some of the CGI isn’t great but it’s not used to excess, and I did prefer the use of costumes and prosthetics but that is a personal preference and didn’t diminish my enjoyment.

That’s not to say it’s a perfect set of movies. Other reviewers have commented on the uneven acting and certainly, some are weaker than others. As I mentioned above, the different directors bring their own styles, some of which aren’t my personal favourites but that didn’t make the films unwatchable for me. I also found some of the story-telling a little muddled, specifically the relationship between Merek and Teela which didn’t ring true for me. I disliked the distrust and enmity that they held for each other which was never fully explained.

I didn’t fall instantly in love as I did with ‘Ink’, but I enjoyed the premise and I will return to the world of Mythica to give it a rewatch.

The movies are: Mythica: A Quest for Heroes, Mythica: The Darkspore, Mythica: The Necromancer, Mythica: The Iron Crown and finally Mythica: The Godslayer, an extraordinary feat in two years. You can find out more on the Mythica Website.

Bit of fan-girl trivia, keep an eye out for ‘Hodor’ from Game of Thrones in the last movie.  Oh, and Kevin Sorbo from, well, just look at his IMDB profile and you’ll see at least one of your favourite shows that he’s been in.

Movie review: Valentine (2001)

Valentine 2001

Synopsis: A group of school friends find themselves hunted by a Valentine-sending, masked killer.

Director: Bruce McDonald

Starring: David Boreanez, Denise Richards, Marley Shelton

Review: I originally watched this as a huge fan of Boreanez (I was massively into Buffy the Vampire Slayer at the time). It was part of a glut of similar movies (including Urban Legend, the ‘I Know What You Did Last Summer series, and Scream to name a few) starring semi-well-know actors who were all murdered in various ways by mysterious killers.

The premise is much the same for all these movies: a group of friends has a shared history, during which they caused harm to someone, in this instance the group of girls were rude to a young boy ‘Jeremy Melton’, who comes back years later to exact his revenge.

There’s little to make this movie stand out (unless you’re a fan of Boreanez). The performances are fairly standard, with Richards playing the over-sexed vixen she seems to have been type-cast as, Broeanez playing it pretty similar to his Angel character and Shelton seeming to be permanently annoyed (possibly for agreeing to do this movie). None of the characters are particularly nice, especially the assorted males who hit on the girls – they’re overtly lechy, rude and unprofessional that it’s unbelievable and you sort of wish the killer would do us all a favour and ‘off’ them so save us their performances. As for the girl, it’s hard to see why their friendship as survived, as aside from attending parties together, they don’t have any camaraderie, so really it’s just a matter of waiting to see what way they’ll be murdered. Valentine is sadly not a gift for your loved one, but like a bad date, once it’s over, you never need to see it again.

Movie Review: Hollow Creek (2016)

Hollow Creek 2016 cover

Hollow Creek 2016 cover

Synopsis: A horror novelist and his lover escape to a remote cabin in Hollow Creek whilst he works on his latest novel but it’s not long before spooky occurrences put a strain on the lovebirds

Director: Guisela Moro

Starring: Guilsela Moro, Steve Daron, Burt Reynolds

Review: I’ll be honest, the reason I watched ‘Hollow Creek‘ was that I was curious to see what Burt Reynolds was up to nowadays. Given the low score on IMDB I wasn’t overly hopeful but I was pleasantly surprised.

As well as directing and starring, Moro also wrote the screenplay (with Daron collaborating). There’s a lot going on in the movie, with the relationship challenges between Moro and Daron, Daron’s writer’s block, missing children and more. In some respects, having so much backstory for the characters makes for a slightly muddled and unevenly paced movie but I understand the writer’s choices for including it. It’s said that an author’s work contains elements of themselves and I think this is true of this movie, with certain comments reflecting a conservative, Catholic upbringing.

I liked the colour palate Moro used and it definitely added to the atmosphere of the movie in my opinion: hues of blue for Daron, Green for Moro and darker greys when there are supernatural occurrences or danger. Moro proves herself an adept director, especially given this is only her second directorial feature and there are few of the unnecessary or wasted shots more experienced directors are guilty of. I would say that I found the ending a little cliche and silly, but given the build-up, I’m unsure of how else they could have ended the film.

The acting can be patchy, including from the leads and this is highlighted by Reynold’s restrained performance. The scenes with the police officers, in particular, I found annoying and wishing they were over. I’m not sure if this was due to the acting or the cliched writing, but they did slow the pace of the movie. The scenes involving Daron’s editor also slow the pace and I don’t feel add anything to the film. Despite the uneven acting, it was still watchable and viewers should not be put off.

I can understand why there are a number of people for whom this movie didn’t work: there’s no gore, limited violence and much of the supernatural aspects are kept to a minimum, although they do provide a ‘jump’ when they happen. It’s also a real mixture of relationship drama, supernatural horror, crime and mystery. I feel the low score it’s been given on IMDB is unfair, as there are higher rated movies which do not have the care that Hollow Creek does. As I said above, there’s a lot to cram into a movie just shy of two hours. However, it definitely worth a visit to Hollow Creek.

Movie review: Savageland

Director: Phil Guidry, Simon Herbert and David Whelan

Starring: Patrick Pedraza, Monica Davis, Edward L. Green

Review: I’m not normally a fan of ‘found footage’ movies, as they frequently seem an excuse for poor quality filmmaking but I enjoyed Savageland and have watched it a few times now. The film is a ‘documentary’ assessing the evidence around the trial of a Mexican immigrant, accused of going on a rampage and killing everyone in an Arizona town. People are convinced of his guilt until a roll of photographic film which seems to correspond with the strange tale told by ‘Diego’ (Pedraza) of a wave of crazed, zombie-style monsters sweeping through the town.

The movie cuts between interviews with family, the sheriff and a photojournalist, footage of Diego in jail and analysis of the photographs. It’s well edited with no lingering shots and has a strong ‘made for TV’ supernatural documentary feel. But that shouldn’t put viewers off because whilst there is no CGI or loud action sequences the story is allowed to unfold at its own pace, introducing characters and monsters at a pace you can feel sympathy for Diego, whilst also wondering, did he do it?

Because none of the scenes lingers for too long on any one character, and most people are playing survivors being interviewed, there are no real ‘weak’ performances, nor are there any characters you feel particular dislike for. Our sympathy for Diego fluctuates as we learn more and see footage of him in jail. The movie is good because it raises the issue of illegal immigrants, which is timely given the current climate but doesn’t really provide any answers or dissuade people from their prejudices.

The idea of monsters being caught on film has been used in the film for years but I like the twist that these grainy images form the defence of a man accused of murder. However, it also left me somewhat dissatisfied because there was no clear explanation as to what the creatures were or even a clear shot of them – were they aliens, zombies, something unclassified in cryptozoology?

However, I found this a fresh take on a genre which I have long avoided and would recommend others to grab their cameras for a night out if you dare!

Movie review: Lost Creek (2016)

Director: Colin Adams-Toomey

Starring: Oliver Stockman, Henry Stockman, Brynna Bartoo and Lisa Coruzzi

Review: I always like to give independent movies a try because you do frequently find a hidden gem with original stories and genuine jumps. Sadly, that’s not quite the case with Lost Creek. That’s not to say it’s a bad movie, just a bit, well, Lost.

Stockman plays ‘Peter’, the new boy in town, struggling to make friends and deal with the fall out of his parents divorce with his only friend ‘Bill’ played by Stockman. One night he goes for a walk by the creek and meets ‘Maggie’ played by Bartoo who warns him about creatures in the woods. It’s not long before the creatures are no longer confined to the woods and people around town begin to disappear.

Elements of ‘Stranger Things’ and Stephen King novels have obviously influenced the writers but unfortunately a number of factors mean ‘Lost Creek’ does not live up to expectations. The young cast do pretty well but do not have the polish of other child actors (it should be noted that this is their first feature film and I hope they all go on to great things as all show good potential which is sadly not achieved here). However, it’s the adult actors who let the movie down and I actually cringed when Peter’s mother, played by Coruzzi was on screen.

The story itself is a little all over the place and I think this is due to the number of ‘monsters’ they want to use – from school bullies, ghosts, monsters in the woods, who are the audience supposed to be afraid of? It’s this lack of unfocus, along with lingering on shots for too long, plus the ‘twist’ being obvious from the beginning which leaves Lost Creek wallowing in a damp bog. There is good stuff here, which with some tighter editing, the removal of Coruzzi and more focus on the ‘monster’ it could be a classic, but as it is, it’s sadly easy to get lost in the muddled stories of Lost Creek.

Movie review: Siren (2013)

Director: Jesse Peyronel

Starring: Vinessa Shaw, Robert Kazinsky

Review: There’s something familiar yet distinct about about ‘Siren’.’Leigh’ (Shaw) was born with an over-abundance of pheromones, to the extent that any man who smells her imagines her to be his perfect woman and falls in love with her. This leads to assorted problems involving stalking, threats and physical attacks when their romantic overtures are rejected. After an issue with a particularly amorous neighbour, Leigh meets ‘Guy’, a man who has lost his sense of smell and is therefore unaffected by her pheromones. One thing leads to another and she invites him to stay with her so help with different projects around her large, rambling house. The story of ‘boy meets girl’ followed by betrayal, confrontation and ultimately forgiveness and reconciliation has been told countless times and this movie does little to add anything new to this trope.Â

Released the same year which saw Kazinsky in ‘Pacific Rim’ it has been overlooked which is a shame as it does have its charm and makes a very intimate counter to the large and brash Pacific Rim. Shaw plays the lonely Leigh, desperate for human contact but fearful of the effects her pheromones have on others, with delicacy but perhaps a little too much meet woman-in-need-of-rescuing for my tastes. I would have hoped after a lifetime of dealing with unwanted attention from men she would have learned something better than whimpering when they meet her. The rest of the cast put in a rather standard performance.

Directer Peyronel uses the house and sets well with everything bathed in hues of yellows and gold until the scenes featuring Leigh either extracting her pheromones or the climax which worked well and I liked the subtle use of music. They elevate an otherwise standard movie.

It seems strange to recommend a film which in many ways is so standard but I’ve fallen under the Siren spell and I’m sure you will too.

Movie Review: Ink (2009)

Synopsis: As we sleep the Storyteller and Incubi battle for our dreams, and in the case of little Emma, for her very soul. Her father, John must journey to save her. Will he be able to save her from the strange creature ‘Ink‘?

Director: Jamin Winans

Starring: Christopher Soren Kelly, Quinn Hunchar and Jessica Duffy

Review: I watch a LOT of movies and have had a run of very bad films (check out my Reviews) so it was such a joy to discover ‘Ink’ (and the other film by Wimins, ‘Frame’ but more on that next week). I really, REALLY enjoyed it so prepare for gushing.

Where to start? The soundtrack, cinematography, originality of story and (the majority of the) acting is sublime.

The story: father John (Kelly) works too hard and doesn’t spend them with his daughter Emma (Hunchar). During a battle with the ‘Storytellers’ and the ‘Incubi’ Emma’s soul is stolen by ‘Ink’ who’s determined to use it to pay his way into the Incubi. Cue Storyteller Liev (Duffy) who vows to protect her while other Storytellers battle to safe them. Ok, so it doesn’t sound that original But Winans visual and style raise this above the usual fair. The opening battle between the Storytellers. And Incubi may not have the slick punches of a Hollywood blockbuster but it’s well choreographed and makes good use of the space. My favourite character is the blind man but Duffy emits an inner grace I can only aspire to.

The difference in colours between the real world, land of dreams and world of nightmares was a treat and I didn’t feel the changes pulled you out of the story. There’s also an interesting use of lighting, especially in the world of nightmares which I won’t spoil for you but which were very clever.

The sets and costumes were mixed, but didn’t suggest a lack of design or care in their creation. Again, this isn’t a big-budget film but I was extremely impressed with what was created using their budget. This is helped by the director’s use of different colour filters for each ‘land’.

The soundtrack is beautiful, a mix of haunting piano and some other arrangements. It fits perfectly with the director’s visuals and is my new favourite writing music.

But there have to be some negatives. A few of the actors give uneven performances, including Kelly which does make the movie feel disjointed. Other reviewers have complained about the visuals which they found jarring or too unusual to accept, or the lack of classification for this film – is it fantasy? A horror? Sci fi? But for me, it didn’t need classification, it was a beautiful movie which defied classification and was the stronger for it because it emcompassed so much.

So, there are a huge number of independent film makers out there, many of whom are doing (in my opinion!) amazing work and need our support. Winans visuals may not appeal to all but his beautiful storytelling and the haunting music means you’ll be thinking of ‘Ink’ long after the credits have finished.