Friday, 13 March 2015


The tried and trusted slasher formula may have peaks and troughs in popularity, but it will never truly die.
It works and, when done well, there is still plenty of life left in horror's most maligned sub-genre.
The teens in the woods premise of such films is still popular and, it is one of these that I viewed last night — Brandon Tobatto's Loon.
Could it do enough to stand out from the masked-murderer crowd?
Read on...

LOON (2014)

Dir: Brandon Tobatto
Starring: Trevor Moates, Tara Moates, Ryan Gray, John Niemen, Anne Tuck, Jadyne Dimond, Michael Lester, Kyle Clark, Randy Porter, Kerissa Porter, 

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: The film is not yet available on home release, so I'll try to keep this vague but read on at your own risk.

Young siblings Aaliyah (Kerissa Porter) and Jeremy (Randy Porter) have heard stories about an abandoned Haunted House attraction and, as teens are wont to do, decide to cycle out to the old site.
When they get there they discover all manner of creepy props... and a hulking, clown mask-wearing, baseball bat-wielding lunatic. After a frantic chase, in which Jeremy snaps a quick photograph of their assailant, the pair flee to safety.
Years later, with the pair now at college, Jeremy (now played by Trevor Moates) and Aaliyah (now played by Tara Moates) return home following the death of their mother.
The pair reacquaint themselves with friends — fun-loving Tommy (Lester), sassy Meghan (Dimond) and sharp-tongued stoner Cort (Clark) — and, upon discovering the photos from that fateful afternoon, Jeremy suggests that the group go back to the Haunted House.
Despite warnings about doing so from dotty neighbour Ms Kettlewell (Tuck), the youngsters head out into the woods.
Suspecting that they will do as much, Kettlewell calls the local police station and ends up speaking to disinterested Detective Ryan (Gray).
Will Ryan take the story seriously? Is the local legend of the insane Charlie Graves true? And will Jeremy come to rue his obsession?

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): In a lot of ways, Loon feels like a classic low-budget backwoods slasher of yesteryear.
Its grainy, gritty look adds a certain authenticity to the film and the on-location work adds even more realism. One thing that I was extremely pleased to see was the use of talented young actors who actually look as if they could be of college age, not unconvincing 28-year-olds pretending to still be teens.
It may seem like a simple thing but it's a real bugbear of mine. Youth doesn't mean untalented, if a character is a teenager then cast a damn actor in their teens!
But beyond the casting the authenticity is apparent in the practical effects and the real world locations. It is this old-school slasher feel that really helps Loon it's a throwback and it knows it.
Its deceptively simple story gives us some nice character moments and actually caught me unawares by squeezing a couple of films worth of plot into the one tight runtime.
A lot of lazier movies would have just played out events up to and including the youngsters visiting the old haunted house, padding the runtime with lame false jumpscares , but Loon extends long beyond that and adds a cool twist to the tale. As Tobatto's cleverly plotted story unfolds, it seems to be heading toward a familiar and hasty conclusion before it zigs and then zags, adding more relevance to earlier scenes and characters.
However, arguably the film's strongest point is its murderous antagonist. Now, I may catch some flak for saying this, but I'm going to anyway: Charlie Graves — a horror icon is born.
With flashes of Kane Hodder's Jason Voorhees (whose influence is recognised in the scene in which THAT hockey mask has a cameo), particularly in his heavy breathing and abrupt, sudden movements, Graves feels like a bona fide cinematic boogeyman. A hulking beast of a man in mucky dungarees sporting a gore-soaked baseball bat and a clown mask straight out of a coulrophobe’s nightmare, Graves is a monster.
His attacks are brutal, violent and frenzied, his rage all too apparent as skull-shattering blows rain down on his victims. The character is given some brilliant moments: the incandescent, shivering fury at seeing somebody take that which belongs to him; the silent and gory treatment of his own bullet-wounds; the oddly tender moment with a hen and the ingenious way he responds to a fleeing teen’s taunts.
In a cute twist, the end credits say Charlie Graves is played by 'Himself' and the character is an immensely well-rounded, fully formed and utterly terrifying modern day equivalent of the likes of The Burning’s Cropsy or Madman’s Marz. This Loon is not to be trifled with.
However, Graves wasn’t the only one to impress me. I thought both of the young Porters were excellent (a relief as child actors can be hit and miss) and I thought Moates's performance as Aaliyah was one of the standouts. Great work. I was also a big fan of Lester's Tommy. It was a capable, natural performance with fantastic comic timing. But it may well be the wonderful Ms Tuck's turn as Ms Kettlewell that stole the movie for me. She is a wonderful actress, bringing warmth, humour and a dark edge to a complicated role. I thought she was brilliant and would love to see more of her.
These well-realised, likeable and believable characters, combined with the terrifying nature of Graves' brutal attacks meant that this was a horror film that didn't forget to bring the horror when it mattered. Each and every bloody, splattery and bone crunching attack hit hard. The film didn't show too much in the way of gore, instead relying on some cringe-inducing sound effects and suggestion to allow the audience to conjure up some suitably appalling mental images.
Finally, credits go to whoever scored Boo Clan’s awesome Just A Loon as the theme for the movie. The score throughout was pretty great, but this track completely suits the throwback slasher/twisted carnival feel of the flick. This really is an inspired combination.

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): Unfortunately there was one flaw that leapt out at me throughout Loon — the audio track was just not quite up to scratch. There was substantial dubbing and, unfortunately, the recording was a little too echoey. It's a shame, but these things do happen.

Earlier I likened the film to those flicks that flooded video stores when slashermania (how's THAT for the name of a horror movie?) was at its heights in the Eighties. While that is very much one of Loon's biggest strengths, it is something of a double-edged sword. It means that Loon is prone to all of the problems that popped up in those movies.
If a lack of polish turns you off, then Loon may not be for you. It contains several clunky lines, some decidedly awkward delivery at times, erratic editing and, if we're honest, a couple of sketchy plot holes, particularly towards the film's (albeit very fun) climax.
But like I said before, this is all a part of the fun of enjoying a slasher flick. There are a tiny handful that stand as legitimately great examples of film-making (I still say Halloween is a pretty much flawless picture), but the genre has plenty of fans and the movies have their own low-fi charm. A lavish, four-course Cordon Bleu meal is undoubtedly a work of culinary art, but sometimes I want a cheeseburger! That Loon so closely mirrors those films that it seeks to emulate just adds to the fun.
Finally, as much as I loved Charlie (and got a real kick out of seeing that he was played by 'himself'), this is spoiled somewhat by the fact that the man behind the mask (Niemen) is featured prominently throughout the film in the dual role of Captain Hill. I'm not faulting Niemen's performance in either part — I have already raved about his wonderful Graves and his outbursts as the permanently pissed-off Captain were superb. It's just that you can CLEARLY see it's the same fella (especially during a poorly judged unmasking during the otherwise excellent 'bullet-removal' scene). I know we're not meant to REALLY think that Graves is a genuine psycho who wandered onto a film set, but even so the character does end up losing some of his mystery and menace as a result. However, I think it speaks volumes about the quality of Niemen's unhinged performance that Charlie is still a shit-your-pants-scary antagonist.

THE VERDICT: Loon was made for old-school slasher fans. It is a modern-day entry into the teens, trees and terror genre, that effectively encompasses the spirit of its celebrated (and less celebrated) forebears, warts and all.
It brings fun, blood and a nightmarish new boogeyman, along with a kickass soundtrack and some modern twists to the tale to keep you on your toes. 
Does the mere mention of Madman, Prowler or Happy Birthday To Me leave you misty eyed with nostalgia? If so, you really should check Loon out. You'll have a blast.
While you're at it, visit the film's official Facebook page. Give it a Like while you're there!

If you haven’t already, do please check out and Like the Hickey’s House of Horrors Facebook page, which you can find here. It gives you a nice quick link to any new posts on this blog, plus regular news updates from around the web. I check the Internet so you don’t have to! Alternatively, follow me on twitter: The House@HickeysHorrors

Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

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