Tuesday, 18 August 2015


Slasher flicks are an odd phenomenon. Most people who scorn horror as a genre list slasher films and their tropes and shortcomings (of which, if I'm being entirely honest, there are plenty) as the primary cause of their disdain. However, ask genre fans about their favourite flicks during their fledgling years with scary movies and I guarantee that the vast majority will list slashers from the Seventies and Eighties.
If only somebody could create a smart, artistic film for the more discerning viewer while still delivering the blood, gore and grim humour us slasher fans have come to appreciate.
Allow me to introduce you to Jeffrey Scott Lando's Suspension.


Dir: Jeffrey Scott Lando
Starring: Ellen MacNevin, Taylor Russell, Steve Richmond, Rustin Gresiuk, Courtney Paige Theroux, Johannah Newmarch, Connor Fielding, Owen Fielding, Duncan Ollerenshaw, Sage Brocklebank, Barry Nerling, Lisa Ovies

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: l'll try not to spoil too much here but read on at your own risk.

Young and vulnerable Emily (MacNevin) has a terrible and tragic past — her father (Nerling) is a deranged and violent psychopath whose killing spree saw him incarcerated some time ago. Left psychologically damaged by these traumatic events, Emily is also the victim of relentless and spiteful bullying from classmates who feel that she belongs in an institution too.
Chief among these is the catty Theresa (Theroux) who is also envious of Emily's long lasting friendship with her boyfriend Jason (Richmond).
After a particularly harrowing ordeal at the hands of these bullies Emily is left humiliated. When cool kid Frank (Gresiuk) throws a huge party, the distraught Emily ignores the overtures of her one geeky friend Carrie (Russell), instead staying at home to babysit her mute younger brother Jeremy (the Fielding siblings). Here we are given an insight into her damaged mind as she tells terrifying, violent tales and draws graphic, gory pictures featuring a hulking serial killer.
However, it soon becomes apparent that these grisly images may not be fantasy with the revelation that her murderous father has escaped from the confines of his cell and is now cutting a bloody swathe towards his old home to pick up where he left off. As local lawmen Sheriff Mitchum (Ollerenshaw) and Deputy Jacobs (Brocklebank) investigate, a number of parties converge on Emily's home. What does the murderer want? Who will survive the night? And what exactly is the link between Emily's art and the actions of her father?

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): I'll be honest — I see a lot of low-budget slasher flicks here at Hickey's House of Horrors (behind Found Footage, it's the second most prevalent genre I come across) and I've come to lower my expectations whenever one comes my way. Suspension slapped me round the face and told me that this genre is still going very strong indeed.
This is a movie that exudes quality and imagination, a difficult balancing act for many indie flicks. Director Lando has real flare behind the camera, as evidenced in the polished work he has created for the SyFy Channel such as haunted house flick House of Bones and Goblin. Suspension is a visually arresting film — from the bright crimson farmhouse motif to Emily's ghoulishly gory artwork, the eye is always stimulated, the screen constantly providing new spectacle to admire. Director Lando and his cinematographer Shawn Seifert make for a strong team which produces impressive results. Even the costumes are unique and interesting, with Emily's fantasy killer of killers, Paula (played with aplomb by Ovies in a role I'd love to see expanded upon in the future), and Nerling's masked, hooded, prison jumpsuit clad killer as the highlights.
The character design feels straight out of the pages of a horror comic book such as Tim Seeley's awesome Hack/Slash, adding a fresh feel to the picture.
These aesthetics very much tie into the  dreamlike teen fantasy theme at the heart of the film. I'm not going to spoil the twists and turns of Kevin Mosley's story, but rest assured there is as much intelligence and imagination in evidence there as present in the visuals.
The central story alone, with its weighty themes of survivor's guilt and victimisation and mindbending twist, is impressive but this wit is also evident in the characterisation. The script does a superb job of giving us hyperreal caricatures and stereotypical character archetypes, then twisting this just enough to give us realistic characters about whom we care. This is down to some fine writing, but it is undoubtedly bolstered by a superb cast.
I don't imagine any reviews of this movie will overlook the fantastic work of star MacNevin — for that is exactly what she is, a star. Sympathetic and likeable, yet decidedly odd and unnerving, she channels the fragile and fractured work of Sissy Spacek in Brian Depalma's seminal Carrie. MacNevin is given a lot to work with and she pulls it off effortlessly. With a less talented lead than MacNevin Suspension could have collapsed spectacularly, instead she is one of the best things in the film. Bravo.Another standout was the magnificently malicious Theroux as queen bitch Theresa. Hers is a hateful performance with just enough self-aware humour as to keep her entertaining. Great stuff.
Equally hilarious was the awesome Brocklebank whose comic timing is impeccable. 
On the other side of the coin, Nerling is as imposing and intimidating a slasher villain as you're likely to see and he owned the part. Now THAT's a horror villain.
Elsewhere, Gresiuk, Richmond and Russell all lend fine support to the leads, but it is the work of the young Fieldings that I was most surprised by. Child actors tend to be the weak point of many a genre effort, but not so here. Congratulations to you both.
This review so far may have lead you to believe that Suspension is an entirely cerebral exercise — not at all. This is a slasher flick with some serious gore to back up its brains. The kills in this flick are wonderfully bloody, and there's plenty of them to boot. With all manner of sadistic splatter scenes on display, with plenty of suspenseful cat-and-mouse stalking scenes to heighten the tension, this is a slasher movie done properly.

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): Ever since M Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense cleaned up at the box office, showing that there is a real demand for smart storytelling in genre films, there have been a deluge of twist endings in horror. This isn't so bad in itself but one of the negative side effects is that it is now extremely tough to come up with a new twist. This means that many seasoned film fans have now become highly adept at spotting twists from a distance. I'm afraid I saw Suspension's big reveal coming from some way off and I'm pretty sure most of you will too.
Of course, telling a story is as much about the journey as the destination, so if, like me, you see a twist ending as the cherry on the cake, there's no harm done. However, if you're the sort of viewer who only cares about that big reveal, this could become an issue.
Equally, if you need each and every last little detail wrapped up in a neat little bow, the more ambiguous elements of the conclusion to the film may leave you  scratching your head or frustrated. Personally I like a film that encourages me to engage my brain and in a genre that is all too often reluctant to provoke thought, this makes for a very refreshing change.
Finally, while I have praised the visuals and style of the movie, it does bear repeating that this is a comparatively low budget effort. It is certainly a little tougher around the edges than big studio horror movies and if you are more accustomed to Michael Bay-esque blockbusters you may need to alter your expectations accordingly. Thankfully it has enough artistry and imagination to conceal the bulk of its budgetary restraints.

THE VERDICT: Suspension is one of those indie gems that crop up when you least expect them and totally and utterly restore your faith in the genre. I've reviewed a lot of very cool films here at Hickey's House of Horrors and Lando's smart, fun and bloody imaginative slasher is among the finest of them. It's cool and clever with a kickass cast and plenty of blood and gore. This is one you have to see.
To find out how you can check it out, head over to Suspension's official Facebook page for information on an official release.

UK readers planning to attend the Film4 FrightFest will be delighted to hear that the film will playing on Discovery Screen 2 on Monday 31st August. 

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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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