Wednesday, 30 September 2015


I'm proud of the fact that I'm a British guy, so I love to see what fellow Brits get up to with our beloved genre. In fact, my reviews for the likes of Curse of the Witching Tree and The Cutting Room are among the most popular I've ever posted here at the House, so I know there are plenty of people out there who share my affection for horror flicks from the UK.
Which leads me to one of my most anticipated films from the recent Film4 FrightFest — Isabel Coixet's Another Me, based on Cathy MacPhail's novel of the same name.
With a host of top British acting talent in the cast, including Game of Thrones' Sophie Turner, I thought this looked like a film that would be tough to replicate. But would I have another think coming?
Read on…


Dir: Isabel Coixet
Starring: Sophie Turner, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Claire Forlani, Rhys Ifans, Gregg Sulkin, Charlotte Vega, Geraldine Chaplin, Leonor Watling, Ivana Baquero

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I'll try not to spoil too much here but continue at your own risk. 

Fay (Turner) was a fun-loving teen, right up until her father Don (Ifans) was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Devastated as she watches his condition deteriorate, her relationship with her mother Ann (Forlani) has suffered.
Struggling to cope, nevertheless Fay continues to attend school and auditions for the role of Lady MacBeth under the encouraging tutelage of drama teacher Don (Meyers). Things seem to be looking up a little when her crush Drew (Sulkin) is cast opposite her and bitchy rival Monica (Vega) is made her understudy.
However, a dark sequence of events unfolds as Fay comes to realise that her mother is conducting an extramarital affair. In emotional turmoil, Fay finds herself under even more pressure when first her elderly neighbour Mrs Brennan (Chaplin), then her school friends and teachers claim to have seen her at times and locations where she wasn't present.
As Fay starts to see signs of a shadowy stalker she begins to unravel. What is going on? Who is this mysterious doppelgänger — and what does she want?

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): Needless to say with a cast of this caliber, the acting in Another Me is absolutely top notch. A couple of the youngsters aside, everybody nails their role. Much is asked of Turner and, odd plummy accent in a couple of scenes aside, she is excellent. 
At times it actually becomes uncomfortable to watch her because it feels as if you really are witnessing a young woman experiencing a genuine mental breakdown. She was actually cast in this role before landing the part of GoT's Sansa Stark but she shows no inexperience here.
Elsewhere Ifans gives a tremendously powerful performance of a man staring his own mortality in the face. It's very restrained by his standards and all the more captivating for it.
Meyers and Forlani also impress with their roles, although perhaps the pair could have done with a little more screentime.
Young Vega provides some strong support work as Fay's nemesis, wisely playing it down so as not to drift into Mean Girls territory.
That the actors are given characters so well-rounded and fleshed-out is all the better, a pleasant bonus when dealing with many book adaptations. 
The very talented Coixet has built up a reputation for dense, character-driven, beautiful films with the likes of Elegy, Paris, Je T'aime and My Life Without Me. Another Me shares plenty with the Spanish-born director's previous works, focusing on character interaction, drama and romance. It's a very restrained and controlled take on terror, with a few gentle jolts along the way as it slowly builds towards a truly horrifying finale. There's very little blood, no preposterous bodycount and instead relies on good-old fashioned spooky concepts and the natural feeling reactions of the stellar cast. Coixet deserves credit for trying to bring her higher-brow artistic storytelling sensibilities to a genre which is all too often prepared to insult the intelligence of its fans.
These sensibilities are carried over into the gloriously gritty but still starkly beautiful cinematography by Jean-Claude Larrieau. Each shot is wonderfully framed by Croixet and looks entrancing. The colour palette is muted with emphasis drawn to certain motifs, including Turner's striking red hair. The grimy greys accurately reflect the urban environment in which the story takes place, as well as echoing Fay's miserable, depressed emotional state. It really is quite tremendous.

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): There's no polite way to say this, so I'll just come out with it — Another Me is pretty boring. It focuses so much on delivering an intelligent, character-driven take on horror that it utterly forgets to include the scares. It's a crying shame because the aesthetics are perfect to instil an atmosphere of dread, it's just that nothing particularly frightening happens in this atmosphere.
This could perhaps be forgiven if the film was especially witty or clever — unfortunately the plot is not anywhere near as intelligent as it seems to think it is. ********SPOILERS******** The unborn twin thing has been seen in plenty of other genre films and Another Me does nothing new with the idea either. ********SPOILERS END******** 
What's more it unfolds at a snail's pace, layering on foreshadowing so thickly that it gives viewers a good 10 minutes notice to work out what's coming next.
Even the finale, a legitimately terrible concept, is spoiled by the fact that we're given so much time to suss out what the big reveal will be, effectively robbing it of so much of its potential impact.
Also, while I've praised the cast assembled for the film, another cardinal sin committed by Another Me is in focusing more on the young, weaker cast members than the impressive experienced heads such as Forlani, Meyer and Chaplin. Ifans is given more to do than most of the other 'grown-up' cast members but even his appearances feel sporadic. I know it's set in a school but it just feels like a waste of some considerable talent.

THE VERDICT: I really wanted to like Another Me. The last thing I wanted was to sound like an ADD-addled teen bemoaning a slow pace, a lack of blood and guts and 'lik wheres all the jumps?!?!? lol'. I really appreciate the look of the look of the film and Coixet's brave and admirable decision to focus on character, but unfortunately it moves like molasses and tells a story that is ultimately quite clichéd. 
Perhaps if it had instead been marketed as a thriller rather than an out and out horror title this would have gone down a little better?
As a drama with some spooky elements, it delivers (albeit slowly). As a horror movie, I'm afraid it comes up short. Bear this in mind should you decide to give it a go.
Read my previous Film4 Frightfest special reviews for Suspension hereThe Nightmare hereWind Walkers hereStung hereNight of the Slasher hereInvaders hereCrow Hand!!! hereWe Are Still Here hereDemonic hereThe Lazarus Effect here and Turbo Kid here.

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.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015


The mid-Eighties through to the early Nineties was pretty much a golden era for sci-if/action flicks. With the post-apocalyptic genre defining Mad Max trilogy, bizarre fantasy of Highlander and cool techno-action in the form of Terminator and Robocop, not to mention daft, campy cult classics such as Jean-Claude Van Damme's Cyborg, it was THE time for leather, chrome, smoke and plenty of practical effect violence.
Now, much like the Grindhouse resurgence of the last few years, directors whose formative years included a heady mishmash of these titles are reaching an age at which they can properly pay homage to the titles that influenced them.
A few months ago we were treated to the frankly magnificent Kung Fury and, more recently, attendees at the Film4 FrightFest got to watch François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell's much-anticipated Turbo Kid, an expansion on their own T is for Turbo entry for The ABC's of Death competition. 
So is this a movie all set to give you a rush? Or is this one that'll stall?
Read on...

TURBO KID (2015)

Dir: François Simard, Anouk Whissell and Yoann-Karl Whissell
Starring: Munro Chambers, Laurence Leboeuf, Michael Ironside, Aaron Jeffery, Edwin Wright, Romano Orzari

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I'll try not to spoil too much here but continue at your own risk. 
The earth has been decimated by a war between man and machines, now it a place in which crops cannot grow, the water is all spoiled and acid rain lashes the earth. A cataclysmic fuel shortage leaves everybody forced to travel using bicycles. It is a dark and desolate future. It is 1997.
In this toxic wasteland we meet The Kid (Chambers) as he ekes out a living scavenging from the ruins trying to discover goods that he can barter for fresh water from Bagu (Orzari), a barkeeper in the nearby shanty town. Under the protection of arm-wrestling Aussie tough guy Frederick (Jeffery), this scrappy little settlement is just about scraping by.
However things are all set to change for The Kid when he stops for a while read his treasured Turbo Rider comic and encounters the irrepressibly cheery Apple (Leboeuf). Unable to ditch his irrepressible love interest, The Kid makes a fortuitous discovery when he chances across the body of his hero and decides to don the Turbo armour, complete with an energy-projectile shooting gauntlet.
However, this soon brings him to the attention of the tyrannical Zeus (Ironside), the one-eyed despot who controls what little water there is and enforces his will through his army of violent thugs, led by skull-masked, saw-blade slinging chief henchman, Skeletron (Wright).
Can the unlikely pair survive in a world without rules? Will the town and its folk survive Zeus's attentions? And where can I buy that awesome power ballad theme tune?

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): A fantastic pastiche of a genre of film that has sadly fallen by the wayside, Turbo Kid's biggest strength is that it remembers to bring the fun of the movies it apes. With an absolutely gonzo plot and gleefully dire dialogue, it isn't a film that takes itself too seriously, nor is it afraid to embrace excess.
And boy, do we get excess!
From some wonderfully daft character designs (Skeletron!!!!) to a metric tonne of practical splatter effects onscreen, the directors utterly row the boat out.
With elements of movies such as Waterworld and Mad Max, combined with a real Nineties video game sensibility (something like Two Crude Dudes/Crude Busters meets Megaman) it utterly encapsulates the feel of yesteryear's very distinctive vision of tomorrow. Children of the era (such as myself) will be unable to refrain from BEAMING at the screen. Jean-Philippe Bernier's cinematography even ensures that the film looks just like the efforts of the time, while production designer Sylvain Lemaitre includes plenty of lovely little touches in the props and sets that help beam you back to the period too.
Of course, there's more to the movie than nostalgia. The story (written by Simard and the two Whissells) incorporates plenty of humour — not least through acknowledging and running with its own ridiculousness — and also gives us some nice character beats.
Chambers' The Kid is the sort of underdog hero that it's impossible not to root for, and the talented young actor shows some real skill as he gives The Kid plenty of facets along his arc.
However, as great as Chambers is, it's the very cute Leboeuf who steals the film. In a role that could easily have become an irritating, one-note flat joke, Leboeuf instead portrays Apple as adorably likeable. She gets some wonderful scenes throughout the film (including a very cool reveal along the way) and nails every one of them. I can't wait to see more of her.
In support the always brilliant Ironside delivers one of his trademark scenery-chewing, villainous roles. This is the sort of thing he could do in his sleep and he looks like he's having plenty of fun along the way.
Elsewhere the cool Jeffery provides a memorable performance as the bad-ass hero — in fact, my only complaint would be that there wasn't enough of him —while Wright delivers the goods as an iconic and suitably creepy deranged baddy. In a role without any lines that's no mean feat!
However, this is not the sort of film that people watch for compelling personal and emotional dilemmas or complex interpersonal interactions — no, what most of you will be asking is 'How much action is there? And how bloody does it get?'
The answers are 'Lots and very'.
From amusing BMX chases to extremely visceral blood-letting, by way of the awesome 'gnomestick', Turbo Kid delivers. I particularly enjoyed the devastating effect that Turbo Kid's gauntlet had on his hapless cyberpunk adversaries, while the flesh-rending final battle is certain to land a place on many on gore-fan's end-of-year highlight lists.
Finally the film's score totally connects on the level it should. Put together by cinematographer Bernier, plus Jean-Nicolas Leupi and Le Matos, it ticks every box that you'd expect a late Eighties/early Nineties actioner to provide. Synth-heavy, soft rock with a few power ballads and ludicrously jarring schmaltzy themes, then some pulse pounding simple action ditties just add to the ludicrous fun of the movie and make it as much a feast for the ears as it is for the eyes.

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): Turbo Kid is very much pitched at fans of a certain age who knew and loved the films that it so lovingly emulates. However, if you aren't somebody that loved the likes of Highlander, Replicant and Robocop, this movie may just feel like one big WTF? In fact, if you actively dislike titles such as those I've just mentioned, you're going to dislike this too. It's full of daft technobabble, very poorly explained plot points and ludicrous violence. Nobody has a conversation, they all just take turns to deliver bad-ass one liners — just like our heroes did at the tail-end of the Eighties.
If that isn't to your taste, steer clear.
However, that doesn't mean it's flawless to us fanboys either. One aspect that surprised me was how it never quite went full-on crazy with its concept, reining it in a little at times. Whether this was due to budgetary constraints or a deliberate ploy to echo a more Spielbergian vibe (bizarrely, this kiddy friendly characterisation is rife in the film — right up until said characters explode), it lacks the sheer insanity of Kung Fury or the visceral, grisly nastiness of Hobo With A Shotgun, both films with which it shares DNA. In fact, you might even be able to refer to Turbo Kid as Hobo's friendlier cousin. This might seem a strange complaint to level against a film this barking, but I really wish it had gone as full-on, balls-out barmy as something like Manborg toward the end. The final confrontation boasts gallons of red stuff but in terms of spectacle something is missing. Perhaps a more extravagant set would have helped?
Finally, I mentioned budgetary constraints earlier and it's worth revisiting these. It's worth reiterating that Turbo Kid's effects are definitely a little patchy compared to the likes of Mad Max: Fury Road, which should be expected considering the difference in budget. The sets and locations often looked cheap (quarries... lots and lots of quarries) and the actors were definitely not up to the standards of Tom Hardy and Charlize Theron. Personally, I liked this as it more effectively echoed the films of the era, but those of you used to big budget Hollywood blockbusters may need to adjust your expectations accordingly.

THE VERDICT: Not quite the stone-cold cult classic that it could have been with a little more madness, Turbo Kid is still fantastic fun. It has a likeable and talented young cast plus a genre legend in the ever-reliable Ironside, never shies away from hitting the audience with tonnes of gore and makes sure that it never ever forgets to entertain. Fans of Mad Max, Cyborg and the recent retro-Grindhouse resurgence will find more than enough to love here — that it's been delivered by first time directors makes this all the more exciting.

Here's hoping for Turbo Kid Rides Again!

Turbo Kid is already out on digital release while the DVD/Blu-ray is out on 5th October. You can preorder it at Amazon here.

Read my previous Film4 Frightfest special reviews for Suspension hereThe Nightmare hereWind Walkers hereStung hereNight of the Slasher hereInvaders hereCrow Hand!!! hereWe Are Still Here hereDemonic here and The Lazarus Effect here.

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.

Monday, 28 September 2015


Not got time to trawl the web for all the top horror news of the last week? Well allow me to give you a bite-size breakdown of the all biggest nightmarish news!


Horror legend Clive Barker (the man whose fiction brought us the stories behind Hellraiser and Candyman to name but two) is producing his epic dark fantasy novel Weaveworld for TV station the CW (home of Supernatural and Arrow). 
It's an awesome book, so I can't wait to see what comes of this.


Ridley Scott has revealed that there could be as many as THREE sequels to Prometheus!
Asked by German site FilmFutter whether he would answer the hanging questions from Alien, Scott said:
“Yes, but it won’t be in the next one. It will be in the one after this one or maybe even a fourth film before we get back into the ‘Alien’ franchise… The whole point of it is to explain the Alien franchise and to explain the how and why of the creation of the Alien itself. I always thought of the Alien as kind of a piece of bacterial warfare. I always thought that that original ship, which I call the Croissant, was a battleship, holding these biomechanoid creatures that were all about destruction."
Oh, and the next film has been officially titled Alien: Paradise Lost!


UK readers, heard good things about Ryan Murphy's Scream Queens and want to know how you can catch it?
Wonder no longer, as E4 has issued a press release stating that it'll be airing the series this Autumn!


On October 19th Icon Film Distribution and FrightFest team up to launch FRIGHTFEST PRESENTS, an 'all-new expert driven social community-building label ready to deliver true shocks and scares straight into your home just in time for Halloween and beyond...' FrightFest Presents offers viewers a selection of films from the festival; hand-picked by FrightFest directors Alan Jones and Paul McEvoy. 
The first phase of six films from FRIGHTFEST PRESENTS will be available to download from October 19 and are: The Sand, Estranged, After Death, Aaaaaaaaah!, Night of the Living Deb and Some Kind of Hate.
Expect reviews soon...


How many of you remember my review for awesome short film Doll Boy last year?
You know, this one
Well the very kind 'Bloody' Bill Pon (director of Doll Boy and the long-awaited Circus of the Dead — stay tuned for more on that!) has been generous enough to put the entire film online for your pleasure! What a guy!


The BIG one this week for those who missed it — season five of arguably the biggest genre show of the past decade, The Walking Dead. It's good. VERY good.
Buy it at Amazon here.

Also out this week, we have Speak No Evil, an intriguing looking 'spooky kids' flick.
Buy it at Amazon here.

This week also sees the release of long awaited, campy cult-classic, Nail Gun Massacre. It's... well, you'd best see for yourself!
Buy it at Amazon here.

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.

Friday, 25 September 2015


Despite the somewhat confrontational nature of the subject us horror fans enjoy, I've found it to be an extremely welcoming and friendly online community. I've made plenty of good friends through this genre, been invited to plenty of groups and found nothing but encouragement and support from fellow fans and those who produce the movies that we love.
You go, Internet Horror Community! You're alright in my book.
Recently one such friendly filmmaker, the very talented Doug Roos contacted me about taking a look at his movie, The Sky Has Fallen.
With a cool trailer and a promise to offer 'All practical effects. No CGI. No shaky cam', I was EXTREMELY interested in watching his work.
Is this a film where's the sky's the limit? Or was I setting myself up for a fall?
Read on…


Dir: Doug Roos
Starring: Carey MacLaren, Laurel Kemper, Cory Knisely, Grant Anstine, Kevin Keppy, Nathan Shelton, Arianne Goddard, Ryan Chick, Doug Steward, Amanda Russell, Amanda Ianelli, Natalie LaTurno

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I'll try not spoil too much here but continue at your own risk.

Mankind has been devastated by a plague like no other. Victims find themselves agonised and enraged, bleeding from their extremities before succumbing to the disease, at which point terrifying, black-clad entities tear their way out of the infected body. As if this was not bad enough, the otherworldly visitors then stitch their victims' ravaged bodies back together, resurrecting them and deploying them as zombie-like foot soldiers in their ongoing war on humanity.
Lance (MacLaren) is one of the few survivors of the outbreak and now he is roaming the woods, armed with a katana and handguns. Lance is a man totally and utterly consumed with his desire to catch and kill a bizarre white-clad figure, the Leader (Knisely/Keppy), to avenge those he has lost and hopefully end the epidemic for good.
This quest sees Lance plunged deeper into the forest where a chance encounter brings him into contact with the desperate Rachel (Kemper). Despite his initial misgivings for bringing anybody into his care (for reasons that become apparent later on in the film), Lance allows Rachel to tag along with him while he continues his pursuit.
As the pair plunge deeper into the woods they encounter survivors and undead enemies, are forced to overcome the psychological warfare of the shadowy invaders and, against all odds, form a bond in the face of adversity.
Will this bond be enough to save them... and humanity?

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): Director Roos raised the funds for this movie by working late night shifts. As such you'd think the production values would be pretty low. Ok, they're not exactly a James Cameron movie, but it still looks bloody good.
And the bloodiest and best of it is in the absolutely magnificent practical effects. The Sky Has Fallen has won plenty of praise for its gruesome special effects, and for good reason. The mangled, splattery undead bad guys roaming around are fantastically realised and their violent assaults are truly stomach-churning to behold. With a spectacular array of gruesome wounds and an impressive bodycount for a movie with so few major characters, this is an old school Eighties gorehound's dream come true.
What's more Roos clearly has an eye for the camera, ensuring that each shot is competently and strikingly framed. The woodland setting is very atmospheric while the haunting flashbacks and dream/hallucination sequences use deep shadows and moody lighting to really crank up the otherworldly feel. Elsewhere, the black-cloaked invaders are genuinely frightening, even before you witness the atrocities they commit against their screaming victims.
Obviously, a film can be full of impressive gore and eye-catching visuals but still fall short if there's no wit or imagination to the plot. Thankfully the story (written by Roos) shows plenty of both.
It's no mean feat to come up with a new and interesting take on zombie flicks, but Roos manages it with his intimidating, shadowy sentient viruses and their shambling, witless followers. The premise alone is excellent and combining that with the tried and trusted 'avenging lone wolf rediscovering his humanity' story arc gives a strong framework for compelling story-telling. We have some clear and well-established motivations and the dialogue between the leads helps to establish their characters further. What's more we are given some important backstory via a series of radio broadcasts a la The War of the Worlds, a handy narrative tool that handles exposition without forcing awkward dialogue to get the audience up to date. This is basic storytelling, but so many low-budgeters fail to even achieve this so it's refreshing to see Roos hit all his marks.
His leads are obviously quite inexperienced but they make a game go of it, plus both are obviously rather easy on the eye. Kemper in particular could certainly do well in the genre in the future.
Finally the original score by James Sizemore really is quite excellent. It's haunting and really encapsulates the desolate, desperate mood of the film. My compliments to you, sir.

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): I've a lot of respect for the way in which Roos got himself out there and scraped together the funds to make his very first feature-length film. However, as well as he did, The Sky Has Fallen is still a low-budget offering and those financial constraints are apparent at times. The visuals are ok for the most part with only minor blips here and there, but at times the audio does get a little patchy.
What's more while the action is more than splattery enough to entertain, some of the choreography is a bit lacklustre. It's not terrible by any stretch, but it doesn't quite match up to the awesome blood and guts on display.
Also, while I praised the leads for being mostly pretty good in their roles, every now and then some inexperience shows among the cast. Of course with a low-budget genre film it's unrealistic to expect a cast packed with Meryl Streeps, Robert DeNiros and Tom Hankses, but every now and then we do get the odd clunky delivery.
I do feel that the cast probably weren't helped by some awkward lines in the script. Writing natural sounding dialogue is really tough and Roos does a pretty good job throughout, so when a less believable line is delivered it really jars with the rest.
Finally, the dialogue isn't the only issue I had with the writing. After establishing a really great premise, I do feel that the story then boils down to a pretty simplistic, linear plot. Some scenes do feel a little repetitive (sit by fire, dialogue to reveal that Lance is haunted and driven, wake up, kill zombies, follow Leader, lose him, make camp, sit by fire, rinse and repeat...) but the film manages to remain compelling by upping the ante both in terms of Lance's nightmarish tales and the violence/intensity of the blood-soaked fight scenes. Personally I'd love to see a sequel so we can be given a few more answers and the world that Roos establishes so well expanded upon.

THE VERDICT: The lengthy list of flaws I've just pointed out may make it seem as if I think The Sky Has Fallen is a bad film. This is definitely not the case. It's simply my opinion of the few areas that a very good first feature could be expanded upon to become excellent.
That Roos achieved such a compelling tale with so little experience and funds is an absolute miracle and suggests that he will become a major genre force in the years to come.
The Sky Has Fallen is well worth checking out, with some marvellous effects work and a highly original story, complete with some hauntingly personal character beats, this is a bloody good indie horror flick. Sure it has some first-time hiccups, but these rarely get in the way, instead hinting that when Roos has a couple more movies under his belt he will be a brilliant director. I can't wait to witness his development.

If you want to find out more about the movie, head over to The Sky Has Fallen's official Facebook page here. Give it a Like while you're there too, these hard-working guys will appreciate it.
If you want to take the plunge and purchase the DVD (and I do recommend it), you can buy it right here.

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.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015


In recent years film makers haven't been able to avoid referencing the very real financial crunch that has affected people all around the world. 
With some people facing a real-life situation that is every bit as frightening as cinematic boogeymen, it comes as no surprise that it has slowly crept into our beloved horror genre.
Nicholas Bushman's Union Furnace is one such effort and it's a film I've been looking forward to sitting down with for some time.
Is this one a game that I'll want to play? Or a film that I'll be all set to burn?
Read on…


Dir: Nicholas Bushman
Starring: Mike Dwyer, Seth Hammond, Katie Keene, Keith David, Kevin Crowley, Tara Bellando, Lyle Kanouse, Louie Lawless, John W. Lawson, Ben Wallace, David Hayward, Ed Fisher, John Lawson, Wade Graham

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I'll try not to spoil too much here but continue at your own risk.

Cody (Dwyer) is a down-on-his-luck smalltime car thief in a Southern Ohio town trying to pay back the substantial debt he owes to the wrong kind of people.
After ripping off his latest car he makes a terrible error of judgement and crashes the vehicle. However, a blonde Southern gentleman (Hammond) is onhand and assists him. He seems to know a lot about Cody and offers to help him out, handing him a substantial wad of bank notes and saying that there's plenty more what that came from.
Cody is intrigued and arranges to meet the man that night at a remote location. Upon arrival he's offered the opportunity of a lifetime, play some games and, if he wins, he'll be set for life.
Cody agrees, dons a hood and is driven to a new location deep in the forest and prepares to play… unaware just how deep he is in.
Watched by a crowd of wealthy masked individuals who bet on the outcome of the games, while the blonde man in a shiny lion mask acting as master of ceremonies, Cody finds himself competing with seven other individuals including an uptight businessman (David), a desperate young woman (Keene) and amiable Jim from Kentucky (Kanouse).
However, at the end of each round the losing member is removed and each of the players is returned to a saferoom where they each have a box that slowly fills with money. As the games become more sinister and disturbing under the Lion's watchful gaze, Cody starts to realise that there can only be one winner — and no losers will ever get to their tale...

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): Union Furnace has a real wealth of assets, but chief among them must be its sterling cast. 
Dwyer is fantastic, reminding me a little of Ryan Gosling with his intensity. He starts off as a real anti-hero, a 'No fucks given, no shit taken' kind of guy who is totally willing to cut down his rivals to ensure that he reaps the rewards of their failure. He has some fantastic interplay with Hammond and there's even the sense of a burgeoning bromance between these two ruthless individuals. Later on, when Cody's shell is knocked by the terrible things he witnesses and is forced to do, Dwyer is utterly able to portray the vulnerability behind the facade. He's an extremely talented guy and I can't wait to see more from him.
Although Dwyer's character is the most complex, the cool as hell Lion, as brought to life by an icy Hammond is the most memorable. Strutting his stuff with some of the sweetest dance moves this side of John Travolta in Pulp Fiction, his swaggering, preening compere is utterly captivating. With good looks that remind me of Alexander Skarsgård, I can see Hammond going a long way too. 
The supporting cast are equally impressive — the prolific, ever-reliable and always awesome Keith David stands out as serious class act among the contestants, while both Keene and Bellando are excellent in their parts.
Of course strong actors are wasted if they aren't given strong material to work with and the story (written by director Bushman and star Dwyer) gives them all plenty to sink their teeth into.
Playing out like a fascinating cross between 13 Sins, The Game and Hostel, the plot is infused with a gritty, grim desperation that never lets go. The characters are all given a little motivation and all of them have their reasons to compete. They stand out from one another and, wisely, the strongest characters are kept in until the latest stages of the competition. The baying horde watching them, plus the seriously creepy attendants are all chillingly unnerving, utterly robbed of any humanity by the array of bizarre, cheap plastic Halloween masks that they're wearing.
This is just one element of the production design that hits the spot. The set is wonderfully brought to life, feeling like a filthy, dilapidated outpost on the edge of an impoverished town on the outs. However, at times the set also feels otherworldly, Roy Rossovich's cinematography presenting the proceedings with bright, bold coloured backdrops, especially those Twin Peaks-style red curtains. We are also given glimpses of the dark and shadowy woods outside, heightening the sense of isolation and ratcheting up the tension.
However, it is the events of the script that shock and disturb the most. The games start as simple fare, board games and the such, but the always uneasy atmosphere hints at worse nightmares to come... And boy do they come.
With some scenes of startling violence and degradation, by the time the final game comes around you start to think that the losers might actually have been better off dead than to have faced the trials it took to get here. The penultimate game in particular is horrifyingly haunting because it leaves so much to the imagination, just giving us upsetting images of the traumatised players in the aftermath. Forget your tacky torture p0rn effects, few celluloid horrors have made my skin crawl like the implied violation of two shell-shocked bodies on a couch did.

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): Union Furnace has a story that is told well, but that story is surprisingly simple. It's pretty linear with no real twists, turns or bumps along the way. What's more, at the end very little has been resolved. Two characters have received endings worthy of their arc, but so much else is left unfinished. Of course, this just adds to the horror of the film, but some may find that it falls a little flat. If you're after some especially complex story-telling or you want everything wrapped up in a neat little bow, you could find yourself let-down. Be warned.
Equally, those of you who like your horror filled to the brim with blood and bodyparts may be a little disappointed with the reserve with which Union Furnace dishes up its atrocities. There are a couple of very nasty gore moments but for the most part, Union Furnace steers closer to an especially grim psychological thriller than a Saw or slasher flick. I can appreciate both types of scary movie, but if you're not prepared to work with a film until you get to the good stuff or just want wall-to-wall splatter, this isn't the film for you.
Equally, those of you looking for a fun horror film may well find the near constant depressing mood definitely kills your buzz a little. Like so many films that have a touch of realism about them, it's oppressively downbeat and even the attempt to give one character a somewhat happy ending doesn't do much to lift the spirits after witnessing everything said character has endured to reach this point.
Finally, Union Furnace is a pretty low-budget film and every now and then the production values do reflect this. It isn't a major problem to the film, in fact I actually thought it added to that grim and gritty realism I mentioned earlier, but every now and then a minor member of the cast or the quality of visuals will dip a little. If you're used to polished and shiny Blumhouse style productions, complete with glossy mag teen leads and keyboard slam jump-scares, look elsewhere.

THE VERDICT: Some filmmakers have an ability to achieve a lot with very little. The guys behind Union Furnace certainly fall into that category. They tell a story that remains utterly captivating despite its comparative simplicity, gives us some seriously disturbing shocks with very little in the way of graphic gore and looks great despite any financial constraints. It's not fun, but it does entertain in all the ways you'd want a spiteful horror movie to hit the spot. 
In short, if you're thinking of splashing out on Union Furnace, I'd say that's a gamble worth taking.

You can buy or rent Union Furnace from Vimeo On Demand here.

Check out the movie's Facebook page here too and give it a Like, I'm sure sure Bushman, Dwyer and co. would appreciate it!

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.

Monday, 21 September 2015


Not got time to trawl the web for all the top horror news of the last week? Well allow me to give you a bite-size breakdown of the all biggest nightmarish news!


Rob Zombie has never been shy when it comes to promoting his movies and last week we received two new images and the following quotes!

'31 news! DOOM-HEAD (aka Richard Brake) does not fuck around. This guy is one fucking intense dude. I predict that he is the next great villian of horror.'
“Had a special screening of 31 last night,” said Zombie. “Holy fuck it was awesome! Even though the film is not 100% finished it rocked. If you loved The DEVIL’S REJECTS… well, then you will love this one.”

I loved DR so looking forward to this a lot!


Dimension Television is set to produce a TV adaptation of Stephen King's fantastic Lovecraftian novella The Mist. Already made into a fantastic film by Frank Darabont in 2007, this has serious potential.


I love Guillermo Del Toro's work and everything I've seen from his Gothic haunted house tale Crimson Peak has blown me away — including these amazing set images.
There's also this TV spot if you want to see it all in motion!


Scott Cawthon has revealed that his next game will not be Five Nights at Freddy's 5. Boo!
Instead it's going to be a FNAF RPG based in that world called, unsurprisingly, Five Nights At Freddy's World! Hooray! 
The game is looking unlikely at hitting it's planned November release date unfortunately, but stay tuned for more release news.


Perhaps the most maligned of Blumhouse's offerings has been Ouija, but that doesn't matter because it made serious cash and a sequel is on the way.
Annalise Basso and Elizabeth Reaser have already joined the cast but the announcement that's got me sitting up and taking notice is that Henry Thomas, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial's Elliott will be involved too! Thomas has had some impressive outings in genre efforts such as Desperation and Fire in the Sky, so my interest is piqued.


The sadly underrated Muck gets a UK DVD release this week. In my review (which you can read here) I said it's 'fun, sexy, bloody, creepy and hilarious'. Well worth checking out!
Buy it at Amazon here.

Wind Walkers is another film out this week which I've reviewed recently here at the House. In my review (which you can read here) I said it 'shows real intelligence and imagination'.
Buy it at Amazon here.

We're also getting undead horror flick, Extinction, starring Matthew Fox, this week.
Buy it at Amazon here.

For you hip youngsters out there we're also getting the teen TV horror The Diabolical A.K.A. Uncaged, starring the gorgeous Nina Dobrev of Vampire Diaries fame. It's a werewolf flick that looks surprisingly decent!
Buy it at Amazon here.

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.