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.

100Days of Happiness: Day Eleven 

Day eleven of our 100 Days of Happiness say the Lamb and I head to one of our favourite places, Killerton House. We met her bestie and I got to catch up with her mum (and my dear friend) which always lifts the spirits. The girls had a lot of fun belting around the gardens, I shared a delicious Victoria Sponge with the Lamb, then we all went on a ‘mouse hunt’ around the house. As always, we left very impressed at the volunteers who help run these National Trust houses and the assorted activities they have to keep little people entertained.

Here’s a bonus shot of one of the flowers still in bloom. So pretty, even on a rather cold, damp day!


As always, once the Lamb was in bed, it was time for me to get to work. I’m prepping a new novel, with elements of fantasy, horror, supernatural and adventure. It’s my first ‘big’ writing project since having the Lamb so I’m hoping to get back into it, and make a start on it during National Novel Writing Month in November. There’s lots to prepare for it, with character bios, locations and multiple fantasy worlds to create. I’ve been struggling to get back into writing for a while so I’m hoping this preparation will help and I’ll be blogging more about my experience so pop back to find out more.

What made you happy today?

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: Jamie 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) worksto 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 directors 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 directors 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.

Movie review: The Reaping (2007)

Director: Stephen Hopkins

Starring: Hillary Swank, David Morrissey, Idris Elba

Synopsis: A grieving widow and mother debunks miracles until she’s called to a town experiencing the great plagues

Review: Way back in 2007, I’d not really heard of Idris Elba, with David Morrissey yet to terrorise survivors in The Walking Dead and Hillary Swank was the big name draw for this movie. So it was  a pleasant surprise to see so many recognisable faces during a recent rewatch.

Swank plays ‘Catherine’ who has a convoluted back story relating to being a minister who lost her family while acting as a missionary in Sudan. Her story is very contrived and for me pulls the movie down. The constant flash-backs to her time there pull you out of the movie and in my opinion do not add to her story or explain her actions. I would have found her a stronger character had she have been firmly a scientist, seeking to disprove ‘miracles’ like Sigourney Weaver in ‘Red Lights’. Elba is slightly misused throughout, although his devotion to Swank is clear, although it’s never explained why. Morrissey is restrained, with flashes of his character from Walking Dead seen.

Some scenes seem overly long while others are drenched in colours which make it difficult to clearly see following scenes which are too dark. It’s not particularly original and the twist is fairly obvious from the beginning but that doesn’t make it unwatchable.

This movie has a low score on IMDB and I think it’s slightly undeserved. Many people will be put off by the religious storyline – a town is experiencing the Biblical plagues – but that’s doing a disservice to the film. It’s a solid thriller, with good performances from the cast, albeit with some interesting director and editing decisions.

Throwback Thursday: Interview for SFF

Last year I was interviewed with Adele for SFF World as part of our launch of Fennec Books, the imprint of Fox Spirit Books, for whom I’m commissioning editor. Our first book, Ghoulsome Graveyard (written by me) is already available, and our next book, which I commissioned, will be out soon. It was such an interesting and exciting project to read submissions and choose the novel I really enjoyed and to work with such a gifted writer. I can’t wait for you to read more about what were doing. In the meantime, check out our interview here.

Inspiration for Weird Wild

Weird-Wild

My collection of short stories, Weird Wild, was published on 20 March 2014. The first story I wrote for it was called ‘The Lake’ and was written as part of an online writing challenge. I didn’t know then what it would grow into!

My book babies, out in the wild!

I’ve always loved the woods. There’s nothing more relaxing than walking through forests, unless you’re being chased by a werewolf! We’ve visited forests in the UK, including ‘Wistman’s Wood’ in Dartmoor, as well as rainforests in Latin America and Asia and all helped inspire ‘Weird Wild’, with creepy mists, crooked trees and hidden dens.

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Wistman’s Wood, Dartmoor

The Stone Circle in Weird Wild is definitely inspired by my love of archaeology. I love Stonehenge and have been fascinated by stone circles, both in terms of what they tell us about our ancestors, but also the more mystical elements. My logical, scientific brain (and a number of my tutors!) debunked the idea of ley lines but there’s still something magical about these stones. Who’s to say they aren’t portals to the fairy realm?

Stonehenge. I visited it while studying and the image of the stones rising from the earth has stayed with me. Magical

How pretty are bluebells? It was an annual tradition growing up to visit ‘Bluebell Woods’ and see them when they bloomed each spring. I was fascinated to learn some of the more nefarious uses of this beautiful, if deadly, bell. I’d also never claim to be a poet, but the poem for Weird Wild was written fairly quickly, the voices and the bells ringing clearly.

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Bluebells near where I grew up.

 

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Dartmoor, UK

So many beautiful lakes inspired ‘The Lake’. Whilst Lago Roja in Bolivia isn’t surrounded by trees like the lake in Weird Wild, the stillness and sense of isolation crept into the story.

Lago Roja, Bolivia. It was so peaceful and ethereal here

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Out in the wild!

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As always, any sticky plot points were worked out during long walks. There’s something about being outside which definitely clears the fog and helps the writing process.

Check out those wild flowers!

 

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You can get your copy of Weird Wild from Amazon, or contact me below for a signed copy!