Thursday, 26 March 2015


How long has it been since a movie starring Hickey's House of Horrors fave Bill Oberst Jr. has popped up here on this blog?
The answer, dear reader, is TOO LONG.
What better place to break the barren spell than with a film that combines the wonderful cosmic horror of one of the finest genre writers of all time, H. P. Lovecraft, with the modern horror staples of found footage and sinister backwoods cults.
This is a combination of ingredients that couldn't possibly disappoint, right?
Read on…


Dir: John Holt
Starring: Austin Madding, Abby Murphy, Josh Cornelius, William Ryan Watson, Wendy Keeling, Alan Walters, Steve Crowley, Bill Oberst Jr., Joshua Mark Robinson

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I’ll try not to spoil too much here, but read on at your own risk.

Kyle Cole (Madding) is a young man with a traumatic past. Forever in the shadow of his handsome All-American brother Ryan (Watson) as a boy, tragedy struck when an accident horrifically took Ryan's life. After the town's folk of sleepy rural Kaler Mills viewed a leaked videotape  of the incident (made by Kyle who was slacking off when he should have been helping his brother) they blamed him for Ryan's death, making his existence a living hell until his grief-stricken parents (Keeling and Walters) sent him away.
Now a grown man, a filmmaker has tracked Kyle down after the video of Ryan's death has gone viral and has decided to make a documentary about him. The subject? Kyle's return to the town that ostracised him so badly. 
Along with his equally damaged girlfriend Mandy (Murphy), the group head back into Kaler Mills where Kyle is reunited with childhood friend Henry (Cornelius).
However, not all of the locals greet him with open arms and seething Samuel (Robinson) is quick to remind Kyle of the dark bond he has with a secretive cult lead by the enigmatic Jordan (Oberst).
What is the nature of Kyle's relationship with Jordan's clan? Will he ever be able to lay his demons to rest? And what manner of beast stalks the surrounding woodland, howling into the night sky?

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): I love a good backwoods horror and the decision to combine this subgenre with Lovecraftian horror is inspired. The Dooms Chapel Horror is a movie that drips with a menacing, oppressive atmosphere. Jason Turner's writing is sharp and sinks its hooks into the viewer long before the references to Lovecraft's Old Ones appear.
Yes, this does become a creature feature, but it is the moments of more personal horror that linger in the mind after the end credits have rolled. The video of Ryan's death is truly horrifying, despite the fact that nothing is shown, instead relying on Watson's agonised screams, the reactions of the other actors in the scene and a sudden gout of spilled blood to suggest the gravest of injuries. Likewise, the heart-wrenching tale of the bullying that the juvenile Kyle experienced during a High School football match is likely to haunt audiences even though it is never actually shown.
For at its core, despite the supernatural premise, this is a film in which the focus is on the characters and their plight.
Of course the vital component in bringing characters to life is to ensure that the cast are all on top of their game. In Madding and Murphy we have a pair of leads who absolutely deliver. The inner turmoil that has left both Kyle and Mandy so scarred is palpable, the chemistry  between the actors realistic. Madding is truly wonderful in the role, showing a real range in his performance. I can't wait to see more of him.
Murphy shares most of her screentime with Madding and totally hangs with him, scene for scene. Impressive work.
I was also impressed by the likeable Cornelius. He actually seemed like he could be Henry off camera as well as on, he was so natural in the role. Well done sir!
Among the townsfolk it was Steve Crowley's Sheriff McManus that stood out from the crowd. He was great as the small town guy that is doomed to end up embroiled in something far beyond his comprehension and added some real gravitas to key scenes in the film.
Of course, a lot of the attention in this movie will go towards Oberst's Jordan. I'm an unabashed fan of Oberst and his work here is as sterling as ever. I've conversed with Oberst online and he is a pleasant, witty and articulate chap, but when he is onscreen he really is one seriously creepy fella. His intensity makes Jordan mesmerising and combined with his soft-spoken and almost caring air, he becomes a darkly seductive figure, one that you can easily imagine the lost and broken souls among us would be drawn towards. This is some superb casting and makes me even more intrigued to see his turn as serial killer Manson in the upcoming Charlie Lives.
While Oberst is frightening in a still, seething and otherworldly way, Robinson's work as Jordan's disciple Samuel is the exact opposite, yet every bit as spine-chilling. His character practically bristles with barely restrained, venomous rage. Robinson's unblinking and psychotic stare burns with hatred. This really is a performance to take notice of.
Now, I know what a lot of you creature feature fans are going to be thinking: 'Well, that's all well and good, Hickey, but tell us about the fricking monster!'
The monster, like the moments I mentioned earlier, works so well because a lot of it relies on the power of suggestion. The awesome sound effects of the beast's roar are truly frightening and the fleeting glimpses we do get of the beast (realised through a combination of stop-motion and practical effects) are enough to send shivers down the spine.
This is just one of the tricks that director Holt uses as he weaves a story big on atmosphere and emotion and less on flashbang trickery. As always, the use of first person camerawork puts us in the characters' boots while the odd use of cctv and surveillance footage makes it all feel a little more real while neatly addressing the problem of the unrealistic cameraman who shoots everything when the shit hits the fan.
It is often easy to overlook the directing when a movie is shot as naturally as possible but this is a talent in itself and one to be applauded.
Finally, my description thus far may make it seem that this is a slower, more cerebral horror flick. Rest assured that while this is indeed a deeper, smarter film, it still brings the blood, guts and visceral frights when it matters. The Dooms Chapel Horror takes its time building up to it, but when it reaches the climactic monster rampage sequence in which the true extent of the creature's brutality is shown, it's no holds barred!
This is a hard hitting, bloody scene and, like so many others in this film masterfully presented by Holt and cinematographer James Houk, it completely delivers.
Finally, I loved the Old God's psalm in the movie — that was a superbly creepy ditty!

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): Okay, I'm going to jump straight into my biggest bugbear here. At several points during the film (mainly during the more exciting and action-oriented moments) we are given some stirring POV shots from characters. This is cool, except I don't remember seeing several of them carrying cameras. It's annoying because it feels like a cheat and could just have easily have been explained away with a throwaway scene or line of dialogue.
Now if you can get past that (and you really should try, there's plenty to dig here) the film does still suffer from plenty of the problems that the Found Footage subgenre contains. A lot of people are burnt out when it comes to 'shaky-cam-in-the-woods' movies so this may have to work a little harder to overcome audience apathy. Personally, I'll watch any kind of movie (provided it's done well) and there are still plenty of great found-footagers out there. This is one of them and manages to avoid a lot of the pitfalls inherent in this type of flick.
Finally, as much as I like the power of suggestion in a movie, it would have been nice to see a little more of the monster. Its scenes are mainly of the blink and you'll miss them variety and the shaky cam nature of those appearances mean that they are pretty damn difficult to work out. It's a shame because it is pretty obvious that a lot of hard work went into the monster shots so it would have been nice to really celebrate them. 
On a similar note, I wish there had been a little more of Jordan, Samuel and the cult in the movie. Of course, I think plenty of films could do with more Bill Oberst Jr.!
Finally, the pace seems to escalate pretty darn quickly towards the end, leading towards a rather abrupt and out of left-field finish to the movie. It feels that given a little more breathing space the ending could have flowed along a little more naturally. It's not a bad ending by any stretch, but I do feel it could have been executed a little better.

THE VERDICT: Part Pumpkinhead, part The Sacrament, part Cloverfield and with all that extra Cthulhu goodness, The Dooms Chapel Horror is a great little movie. It's atmospheric, compelling, creepy as hell and has some wonderful performances. It's not perfect, but it is very, very good indeed. Come for Bill Oberst Jr and monster attacks, stay for a surprisingly poignant character examination of guilt and revenge. I loved this film and I really think a lot of you will too. Plus did I mention Cthulhu?
Check out the official Facebook page for more news on how you can watch the movie. Give it a Like while you're there too, these guys deserve your support!

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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.


  1. Thank you for taking the time to review our film Steve. DCH was a blast to make and we hope everyone will get the chance to enjoy it!....soon....soon

  2. Steven,

    Thank you for taking the time and trouble to review Dooms Chapel Horror, and for your kind comments. I, too, enjoyed the Lovecraft-ian elements of this script; they made my own role interesting to me because of my love of all things Cthulhu!

    always delighted to be mentioned in The House,

    Bill Oberst Jr.

  3. Thank you both for taking the time to read it! Best of luck with the movie!