Exciting day today. Interviewing Dyatlov’s star, Gemma Atkinson, yesterday morning got me excited for that one, and it’ll be interesting to see what Renny Harlin brings to the found footage table. Next is either Daylight or Dementamania, dependent on whether I get into the little Discovery Screen. Then it’s gore galore time in Hatchet 3, spooks in Haunter and what could possibly be the film of the fest for me: V/H/S 2. So let’s get stuck in.
THE DYATLOV PASS INCIDENT
In 1959 a group of Russian mountaineers were discovered dead in mysterious circumstances. Named after the leader of the group, the Dyatlov Pass remains shrouded in mystery and protected by a touchy-about-it Russian government.
A group of American film students who haven’t seen The Blair Witch Project decide to get out to Russia, up the mountain, and see if they can solve the mystery of the Dyatlov Pass. Obviously, this is a very bad idea.
Renny Harlin brings some class and production value to proceedings, keeping the shaky cam mostly steady, the performances high calibre and the group dynamic interesting and real. The first two thirds are really good. Nothing is rushed and the mystery is genuinely interesting. As things slowly go to shit, loads of theories are bandied around: conspiracies, aliens, Bigfoot, half the fun of the film is trying to guess what the big reveal will be.
It’s a shame then that the ending is a big mess. Any suspense is smothered by scenes that are too dark, too drowned out in night vision, and camera work that could induce motion sickness. The ideas are big, but the execution is fudged and the “things” themselves are terribly undetailed CGI wastes of space.
2 stars out of 5
The Dyatlov Pass Incident is available on DVD and Blu-Ray on the 26th of August.
In the sleepy small town of Daylight, a team for Child Protection Services investigate some suspectedly abused kids, but get a lot more than they bargain for.
More found footage, and this time it’s potentially migraine inducing. The main camera takes a lot of punishment, and as it does, the picture quality deteriorates to at times barely watchable levels. The first hour of Daylight is alright, the investigation keeps the attention, it’s a bit spooky, there’s lots of suspects, and no obvious answer to what’s going on. But after one punishingly long and drawn out scene, all the mystery, and coherence, gets flushed in favour of some weird Silent Hill-y, time warpy nonsense that goes on for what feels like forever and doesn’t make a lick of sense.
1 star out of 5
Daylight does not currently have a release date.
80’s style slasher schlock is the Hatchet franchises game and the third, and possibly final, instalment cranks it up to 11.
We open where we last left Marybeth (Danielle Harris) – chainsawing the hatchet wielding hulk Victor Crowley (Kane Hodder) in half. Stumbling out of the swamp and into a police station, covered in blood and raving about how “everyone’s dead” and that she “killed him” she is swiftly banged up by the Sheriff, who is played by Billy from Gremlins. Yes, he still looks nineteen even though he’s pushing fifty.
The Sheriff, forensics and SWAT set off for the swamp to see what happened, and never one to pass up on people willingly offering themselves up for limb removal, Crowley rises from the dead again. Meanwhile, Marybeth, a reporter and a deputy go off to look for Crowley’s dad’s ashes, in the hope that they can use them to kill off Crowley for good.
A gorehound’s dream, Hatchet 3 is all out, all the time. Crazy and disgusting kills, cameos from a barrage of horror stars past and present and a fitting end for a modern horror icon: Hatchet 3 rocks.
4 stars out of 5
Hatchet 3 does not currently have a UK release date, but is already available/importable from the states.
Vincenzo Natali’s Splice was terrific sci-fi and he again applies his off-kilter point of view to a staple genre tale in Haunter. Whereas Splice was a reworking of Frankenstein, Haunter is like a reverse ghost story crossed with Groundhog Day. It’s eerie, strange, creepy and quite, quite brilliant.
Abigail Breslin (Signs and Zombieland) is Lisa, a mopey teenage girl who has good reason to mope – she’s dead. The rest of her family is dead and they repeat the same day over and over again, but Lisa is the only one aware of the Groundhogging. While trying to find a way to snap the loop, she comes across Pontypool’s Stephen McHattie – a serial killer spirit who takes over the dad of whatever family moves into his old house and then makes him kill the rest of his family.
By haunting the young girl of the family that McHattie’s character, The Pale Man, has lined up next, Lisa hopes to save them from her family’s fate and put The Pale Man out of business for good. It sounds strange, but that’s why it’s so damn good – Haunter starts so far off the map that everything is up for grabs and there’s no solid ground for the audience to steady themselves on.
Breslin and the brilliantly craggy McHattie are both excellent, the direction is faultless and Haunter is like nothing you’ve seen before. A true original and a haunting thing of beauty.
5 stars out of 5
Haunter does not currently have a UK release date.
V/H/S 2 is awesome. Innovative and insane it spins out four stories from four different directors, who all manage to find their own wacky take on the found footage genre. Adam Wingard (You’re Next) returns and is joined by the likes of The Raid’s Gareth Evans and Jason “Hobo With A Shotgun” Eisener.
The framing device was my main issue with V/H/S, but it’s miles better here. A private investigator and his assistant break into a spooky house, trying to find a missing student. What they instead find is the kid’s extensive collection of videotapes. As the P.I. searches the house, his assistant watches the videos looking for clues and instead finds herself viewing a series of increasingly mad and terrifying short films.
There’s a guy with a fresh robot eye transplant that is feeding him terrifying glitches, a day in the life of a zombie filmed from a helmet cam, a documentary crew running afoul of a Thai religious cult in their labyrinthine compound and an alien attack on a group of teens filmed by the pet dog.
The segments are all innovative and completely insane. The glitchy robot eye one is full of big jump scares, zombie helmet cam is very funny, but also poignant and sad, Thai cult is an express train to hell that will not stop or let you off until it’s sure your pants have been scared off and your spine is electrified, and slumber party alien abduction is heart-stopping, hair-whitening and brain-melting.
V/H/S 2 is so good that you’ll wish it was on long play so you could see some more. And if you’d taped it off telly, you’d snap that little tab off so no-one would record over it.
5 stars out of 5
V/H/S 2 does not yet have a UK release date.
Next time on Blog of the Dead: Day 3 – Saturday. It’s a day that I haven’t got a handle on yet – it could go either way. I don’t know much about The Hypnotist, Frankenstein’s Army looks bananas, but will it be awesome bananas or terrible, bright green, rock hard bananas? Then I’m hopefully seeing the videotape doco Rewind This! but, as it’s on the Discovery Screen, I might not get in. As my Main Screen alternative is No One Lives, which I’ve seen and didn’t like at all, I might be taking a chance in Discovery Screen 2 on The Desert. Tying up the day with a potentially terrible bow is RIPD 3D. I know how awful it’s supposed to be, but it’s Dead Men in Black. With The Dude. So it can’t be that bad… See ya tomorrow.