Brain Damage: 6 Horror DVDs

Saturday, 12 September 2009 08:24

Out now from new indie DVD label Brain Damage Films are six fresh horror films. The range is priced at the very pocket-friendly price of £2.99 each, a shockingly good deal we’re sure you’ll agree!

The first six releases are as follows: “Death of a Ghost Hunter”, “Silent Bloodnight”, “Serum”, “Prey for the Beast”, “Secrets of the Clown” and finally “Torture Me No More”. Genre fans can expect all the gore, mutants, mad scientists, beasts, serial killers, scares and frights they know and love – and much more besides!

 

Brain Damage DVD Horror Collection

 

You could have had the chance to enter our competition to win copies of all six movies, all you needed to do was answer the following question: Complete the title of one of Brain Damage Films’ DVDs: “Secrets of the ...”. The answer was 'Clown', and the lucky winner was Jacqueline Govan of Portsmouth.

So, what could you have won? These six movies are all Certificate “18”, and priced £2.99 each. Regrettably, they include no special features other than some trailers.

 

Prey For The Beast (2007)

A bunch of sad, chauvinistic men and a group of sexy, independent women bump into each other deep in the woods, and unfortunately for everyone they collectively stumble into an enormous and terrifying beast with a thirst for human blood! Armed with just one pistol with limited ammo, and a bow with a quiver of arrows, they stand little chance against the fearsome, ravenous predator.

This is a simple tale that has been told a thousand times, and yet it succeeds on the basis of not taking itself very seriously, and by taking the risky but refreshing stance of staging virtually all of the action during the daytime. So many creature features fall down by relying on overly dark footage that basically makes it difficult to tell what is going on, all for the sake of masking how terrible the special effects are. Here, the werewolf-eque beast is quickly revealed in bright sunlight, and whilst it is not very convincing, it does at least mean that the director, Brett Kelly, can get on with making his low-budget picture without worrying about sophisticated lighting that he cannot afford.

One wonders whether the title “Pray For The Beast” would not have suited the film better, as the creature actually has quite a lot of character and I found myself rooting for it rather than most of the lame, cardboard cut-out protagonists. The movie veers very close to being an outright comedy, intentional or otherwise, as there are countless moments that raise a chuckle. For example when the hulking, lumbering beast somehow sneaks up on our fresh-faced victims time and time again, even from up in the trees. As is standard practice in these films, the holiday makers also find every conceivable excuse to split up and go off alone, displaying all the common sense of a bewildered mole! I found myself shouting at the screen in amazement at how people can be so dumb, and then willing the beast to cleanse the gene pool of their sorry carcases!

“Prey” is a very short film (67 minutes) and it rattles along nicely, providing plenty of fun moments for fans of the genre. Yes, it is predictable nonsense, but right from the outset as the foreboding theme music starts to play, you know you are in for a ride.

 

Serum (2006)

Dr Edward Kanopolus (David H Hickey) is a physician seeking the Holy Grail of medicine – a cure for all known diseases and disabilities. The doctor is close to perfecting his miracle serum, but time is running out as his financial backers provide him with a difficult ultimatum. Under pressure, Kanopolus feels compelled to accelerate his trials, and inadvertently unleashes a flesh-eating mutant. To make matters worse, the final test subject is his nephew Eddie (Derek Phillips), a young man formerly on the brink of death following a terrible road traffic accident.

“Serum” is a surprisingly well-made movie. The script concentrates more on the characters and their lives than the horror, and it is much better for it. Director Steve Franke successfully builds up sympathy for the key players, leading to genuine fear for their safety when Eddie transforms into the blood-thirsty berserker. He is supported by a cast who, without exception, do their best to breathe life into their parts and interact with each other realistically rather than spending the entire film running about screaming their heads off. These are characters who in some cases already have scars deep beneath the surface before the slaughter begins.

When the deaths do start mounting up, they are handled intelligently, with the camera typically cutting away or fading out to let the viewer’s imagination take over instead of allowing the film to shame itself through over exposure. What is seen of the mutant Eddie is well done; his pulsating, bulbous head brings back memories of Michael Ironside in David Cronenberg’s classic, “Scanners”.

Where the movie is less successful is in its general lack of humour – perhaps it takes itself a little too seriously, and more light/dark contrast might have improved the overall result. The ending, too is a little sudden for my liking, especially as the film builds up so nicely before the experiments go so horribly wrong. Lastly, the movie is presented in letterbox format with fairly large black borders on all sides. It is not anywhere near as obvious as with “Torture Me No More”, but still requires some mental adjustment on the part of the viewer before they can settle into the film. These flaws by no means cripple the film, though, and as a consequence it is well worth a look.

 

Silent Bloodnight (2006)

Buxom and vivacious TV reporter Sabrina Myers (Vanessa Vee) is investigating a case of suspected murder at the local lake. She has some circumstantial evidence, but everywhere she turns she is greeted by derision by her friends at the local summer camp, and the local authorities – including her father who is the Chief of Police! They think she is cooking up a story to gain publicity and better viewing figures for her TV show. However, it is not long before further, more compelling and very fresh evidence turns up in the form of several victims’ bodies. As the stakes are raised, can Sabrina get to the bottom of the case before the killers get to her?

Made in Austria by native directors (Stefan Peczelt and Elmar Weihsmann) and featuring local actors, “Silent Bloodnight” has a very European feel to it, despite its efforts to replicate the all-American “Friday the 13th” template. Whilst the actors deliver their lines in clear English, their delivery is somewhat stilted by their thick accents (imagine a room full of slightly more fluent Arnold Schwarzeneggers). The result is that they sometimes unwittingly place strange emphasis on the words that can makes a serious sentence sound like a joke, and vice versa! Once you get over this quirk, the film is actually very endearing, thanks largely to Vee’s overwhelming enthusiasm for the role of the deliciously spunky Sabrina. She spends half the film in a revealing bikini, and her personality is as bouncy as her ample cleavage. Despite the fact that she is dealing with a dangerous serial killer, she bounds from crime scene to crime scene with barely any sign of fear or apprehension. She is not alone, as the rest of the cast are suitably charismatic and light-hearted, too.

The lightness of touch is mirrored by some superbly tense moments later in the film, as the killer stalks our intrepid reporter and friend through the corridors of the deserted summer hostel. Some of the earlier murders are admittedly a bit limp, but on the other hand there is occasionally a playful level of inventiveness to the deaths, including the use of a jar of angry hornets and a very sharp spade – the weapon of choice for this movie’s killer, a strange bearded man in filthy farm worker’s clothing.

“Silent Bloodnight” is definitely a film in the category of “guilty pleasure”, and is worth hunting down for its refreshing Euro-wackiness.

 

Torture Me No More (2005)

Ex-convict Sal (Jason Liebig) finds himself the subject of a manhunt when his brother Chancey (Chris Carr) is murdered by an elusive killer who could be Sal’s doppelganger. To clear his name, Sal begins his own hunt for the real killer and encounters a seedy and very warped world surrounding a mysterious S&M club, going by the odd name of “The Crappy Hour”. During his investigation, Sal is joined by Delilah (Kristen Doran), someone who shares his desire for justice and revenge. Together they must also outwit a pair of loopy and dangerous cops who are hot on their trail, and have questionable motives.

Let us cut to the chase with this film. It is truly pitiful! £2.99 is not a lot to ask for a new film on DVD, but when so many classics can be picked up for a similar price, it is no excuse for shoddy film making! “Torture” has so many flaws. In production and presentation quality terms, the picture takes up barely half the screen, surrounded as it is by massive black borders on all sides; even then, the video resembles the shaky, washed-out, low-fidelity footage one associates with mobile phones, not even coming close to mid-level consumer video cameras. The sound is tinny. As for the quality of the film itself, the acting and dialogue are derisible, the direction and plot are incoherent and stodgy, and the moments of horror are unconvincing and ineffective. A few comedy moments do just about fall into the “so bad it is good” category, but they come nowhere near to compensating for the rest of this miserable film. The true mystery surrounding this film is how it ever got released commercially!

 

Death of a Ghost Hunter (2007)

It is twenty years since Minister James Masterson and his family were slaughtered in their own home; mystery surrounds the precise nature of their demise, and expert ghost hunter Carter Simms (Patti Tindall) is hired by the current property owner to discover if the house is haunted, and if so what evidence she can capture. Simms, a sceptic herself, is joined by the highly cynical duo of cameraman Colin (Mike Marsh) and journalist Yvette (Davina Joy). Just when the group are about to begin their three-day investigation, a fourth, unexpected member of the team turns up – Mary Young (Lindsay Page), a religious zealot with questionable motives. As the none-too-subtle title of the movie suggests, Simms will not be making it out of the house alive, so the primary goals of the film are to explain what they discover, and why it goes so drastically wrong for our intrepid hunter. Will anybody make it out of the house alive?

“Ghost Hunter” is filmed in a “true to life” documentary style similar to “The Blair Witch Project” (which is jokily re-enacted at one point, along with “The Exorcist”) and the “Most Haunted” TV series. Over the course of the three days, much of the information is presented to us as matter-of-fact audio-visual log entries by Simms, interspersed with Colin’s first-person video camera footage and also third-person shots composed by a non-existent film crew. Considerable effort has been spent making the film feel realistic, down to the naturalistic acting, lighting and variable quality video. As the hours tick by, and day turns to night, the group’s scepticism gradually progresses to curiosity, then to mild apprehension and – by day three – fear and ultimately terror. Director and co-writer Sean Tretta paces the film brilliantly for the most part, and keeps it visually interesting by cutting together the various feeds.

The movie opens with a medium–level spoiler, showing a flashback of Mrs Masterson killing her family before taking her own life. The hunter gang do not know this information when they begin, and it does not really spoil the movie for the audience because it is fun watching them piece the evidence together, and also because there are sufficient extra twists and surprises to keep us on the edge of our seats, too. Suffice to say that the subject matter is strong stuff, and if you are able to immerse yourself in this kind of movie then you are in for a treat. Unlike other horror sub-genres like slasher or monster movies, pseudo-realistic films – if well made – can really draw their audience in, and make them feel much closer to the action. That is certainly the case here.

My only criticisms are that – yet again – Brain Damage have presented the film in a letterbox format with big black borders all around (which take time to adjust to), and that the film has too many endings. It does not finish with Simms’ death, for even though by that stage the audience will have been able to piece most of the Masterson plot together, it then has to be replayed in its entirety just in case anyone is still scratching their heads! Still, “Ghost Hunter” is scary, unnerving stuff that will see your fingernails chewed to destruction.

 

Secrets of the Clown (2007)

Bobbie (Paul Pierro) and Val (Kelli Clevenger) find their relationship is strained after the death of Bobbie’s mate Jim (Jay O’Connor). They are both experiencing terrifying but different visions or nightmares concerning his death and possible future events, intermingled with flashes of demonic clowns. They need answers before they are pulled apart, but when Bobbie decides to take up a friend’s advice and hires a psychic to help him resolve the matter, Val does not approve and leaves. With the psychic (Michael Kott) onboard, rather than fixing everything, events seem to spiral dangerously out of control. Doubts creep in about the involvement of Val in Jim’s murder, and Bobbie no longer knows who he can trust. What is the link between Jim, Val and the deadly clown lurking in the shadows?

“Secrets” is a slickly-made movie boasting some decent special effects and production values. The plot is intriguing and unravels in all sorts of directions, always leaving you guessing as to who is good, who is bad, and who is going to be the clown’s next victim. The acting is pretty decent on the whole, though the tone does veer into thickly laid-on sentimentality a few too many times. The film has a nice line in humour to help contrast with the horror, with John Blick and Thomas Perez as comedy duo Jon and Louie leading the way.

There is plenty of supernatural horror to keep fans happy, and some of the gore is cringingly good. A key example is the scene where one unfortunate character has numerous shards of glass picked out of his bloody face. The film delights in keeping its cast and the audience off-guard and on-edge, not least because - with the house under siege - some of the characters become possessed by evil spirits á la “Evil Dead”. The titular clown is genuinely frightening, at first seen emerging out of the darkness into candlelight, then later witnessed in all his muscle-bound glory, like a cross between Skeletor from He-Man and Mumm-Ra from Thundercats, with burning eyes and remnants of bandages about his person. People always say that clowns creep them out; this one certainly will!

Minor negative points are the DVD’s letterbox format, and that the dialog often sounds too clean and dubbed for its own good, though the synching is good. Overall, though, it is an entertaining movie with a supernatural plot that will keep you guessing right to the end.

 

 

Last modified on Thursday, 10 May 2012 16:37

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