Sunday, 29 November 2015


Like many men of my age, as a youngster I grew a real love for WWF wrestling. All my friends were fans of Hulk Hogan or the Ultimate Warrior, but I quickly came to appreciate the work of another larger than life character. He was cocky, swaggering, unpredictable, wild... and he wore a kilt.
This man was 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper.
Later on I discovered John Carpenter's cult classic They Live and with his portrayal of wise-cracking everyman pushed too far, John Nada, Piper cemented his status as one of my heroes.
Recently Piper passed away, aged just 61. His last role was in Vivieno Caldinelli's successfully crowdfunded short, Portal to Hell!!!
I'd like to dedicate this review to Mr Piper.

PORTAL TO HELL!!! (2015)

Dir: Vivieno Caldinelli
Starring: Roddy Piper, Laura Robinson, Matt Watts, Jordan Todosey, Millie Davis, Donald Tripe, Clyde Whitham

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: Jack (Piper) is an ageing superintendent in a crumbling old apartment block. Life for him consists of a series of menial repair jobs, heralded by an irritating phonecall from one of the building's tenants.
They're an odd bunch, and all Jack wants is to give them a wide berth as he enjoys a little peace and quiet in which to read his book, even if there are a few tasks still on his to-do list.
However, one day a power cut sends him down into the basement where he discovers odd residents Mr King (Whitham) and Mr Mathieson (Tripe) clad in just their underwear and robes, daubing arcane symbols on their flesh and walls and chanting 'R'lyeh'.
It seems Jack's reading has been disturbed by a pair of disciples of a certain tentacle-faced Old God... and now he needs to deal with a Lovecraftian menace along with blocked toilets, blown bulbs and faulty generators. 
Can the mop-wielding hero forge a happy ending in the face of a timeless adversary? And can the building's inhabitants survive?

WHY IT WORKS: If the simple premise of 'They Live'-style 'Rowdy' Roddy Piper vs Cthulhu makes you sit up and pay attention, you already know why you need to see this film.
If it doesn't, what the Hell is wrong with you? Smack yourself around the face, then get yourself out to watch Portal to Hell!!! immediately.
The film delivers exactly what you want — and by far the biggest of its assets is one Roddy Piper. A charismatic lead, he channels They Live's Nada, albeit with a few more miles on the clock, to give us a pissed off hero who REALLY doesn't want to be saving the world right now.
Piper's performance is flawless, at times loveably earnest, at others witheringly sardonic. His delivery is always impeccable, whether it be world-weary complaints or Eighties action-movie badass one-liners. Even his physical acting is marvellous, with the barely restrained fury in the 'look of death' he shoots towards his telephone tormentor one of my favourite things in the short.
Janitor Jack is one of the very finest heroes I've seen all year, and as final roles go, it's a fitting send-off for one of the most underrated B Movie action heroes of all time. RIP Roddy.
Elsewhere the rest of the cast also deliver, with Tripe and Whitham's oddball cultists among the standouts. The characters deliver plenty of laugh-out-loud moments and make the most of their limited screentime. I also loved the work of Robinson as Jack's would-be love interest Jeanie, and Watts as wimpy resident Mark who ends up embroiled in Jack's struggle with Cthulhu and his minions. Alongside him the feisty Todosey impresses as a babysitter who is not prepared to take any of this shit, while young Davis delivers a great big dose of creepy as her charge.
The cast are helped in bringing their characters to life by the wonderful writing. The story, by the talented Watts, is one of those fun ideas that I can't believe nobody has thought of before, combining the interdimensional, sanity-draining horrors of HP Lovecraft (one of the very greatest genre writers of all time) with the grimy, real-world banality of slacker-style comedies. It's an utterly compelling collision of vastly different worlds, but the script's biggest strength is that it has plenty of great characterisation for the cast to sink their teeth into. With cracking dialogue and plenty of laughs, Portal to Hell!!! is a genuinely fun film.
Caldinelli uses quick cuts, kinetic camerawork and brilliant pacing to suck the audience in and keep us all entertained throughout the whole runtime. It's every bit as polished as features with far higher budgets than this short. It is seriously entertaining and shows that Caldinelli is a director to watch.
One area in which the professionalism and fun combine is in the fantastic practical effects work by Astron 6's Steven Kostanski. We get plenty of bloody, oozy carnage as characters shed bodyparts, plus some suitably fleshy tentacles from the diabolical entities that are looking to force their way into our world. There's even some polished visual effects from the team that bring the titular Portal to Hell and the otherworldly landscape and its residents to life. It's all suitably over the top and splattery — just one more crowd-pleasing element of a film that I'm sure will be a massive success on the festival circuit.

SO WHERE'S IT AT? Portal to Hell!!! has just hit the festival circuit, while all of the film's backers have been sent their screener link to the short. 
Head over to the film's official Facebook page here for more information on how and when you might be able to catch it. Give it a Like while you're there too!

10 WORD WRAP-UP: Roddy Piper delivers last great performance in awesome Lovecraftian romp 

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

Friday, 27 November 2015


Recently I reviewed the excellent and award-winning short, The Package, from director Damon Rickard. It made a very good impression, which meant that I was extremely excited at the prospect of watching and reviewing his previous short, the equally acclaimed The Tour.
Could this film prove just as a big an attraction as its successor? Or would it lose its way?
Read on...

THE TOUR (2014)

Dir: Alex Mathieson, Damon Rickard

Starring: Jessica Cameron, Heather Dorff, Tom Gordon

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I'll try not to spoil too much here as this is a short, but continue at your own risk.

American tourists Cassie (Dorff) and Morgan (Cameron) are taking in some of the more offbeat sights of the British Isles. Their most recent stop sees them visit Darkmoor Manor, the most haunted house in England — and a major tourist destination for the nearby village.

After a suitably melodramatic speech from tour guide Tom (Gordon) in which the dark and disturbing history of the house is outlined, the pair approach him and get chatting before heading to the local pub for a drink. Cassie thinks he's quite the hottie, so when he says he can organise a tour inside the Manor after nightfall, she leaps at the chance.
Morgan is a little less keen (and understandably quite creeped out), but as a good friend she reluctantly agrees to tag along.
As darkness falls the trio arrive at the ominous building and slowly creep in through the front door... but will any of them ever leave?

WHY IT WORKS: One of the coolest things about The Tour is the way in which it feels very much like a full-length feature condensed into a compact 16 minute runtime.

Writers Rickard and Mathieson manage to pack lots of character development and plot twists into this lean shocker, and even more impressively, they never let it feel rushed or underdeveloped. It's a rare thing to find a short that has much depth — as a medium it simply doesn't offer enough time for lengthy examination or elaboration of themes and plot details — yet, thankfully, that is precisely what the pair deliver here.
The story feels very rich, the haunted house and small village over which it looms feel like a part of a deeper mythos, as do the events that occur within its shadowy confines. The story is never predictable and zigs and zags on its way to a killer ending that will have you itching to watch it again. This is grade-A storytelling.
The character development is helped by the sterling cast that Rickard and Mathieson have assembled. I was very impressed with Gordon's work in The Package and he is excellent here too. He's a handsome guy, so you can understand how the girls could well be charmed by him, yet he's also able to give his character a subtle edge. Obviously I don't want to spoil the plot here, so I shall just say that Gordon's Tom is given the opportunity to show plenty of range, and he does so admirably.
The heroine of the piece is played by modern horror megastar and upcoming scream queen extraordinaire Jessica Cameron. Cameron is a marketer's dream — a hardworking promoter who sells the hell out of any project, with legitimate genre cred as her super hard-hitting upcoming releases in Truth or Dare and Mania prove. However, what many people overlook is that the delightful Ms Cameron is a fantastic actress, which is proven by her superb turn in The Tour. She brings charisma and serious acting chops to the role — in short, she's brilliant.
Filling out the central trio is regular Cameron collaborator Dorff. She too is a superb actress and you can tell that she's having plenty of fun in her role as Cassie. She's fun, edgy, but never overbearing. This is a talented actress that I would like to see a lot more of.
However, there is a fourth main character — the atmospherically creepy Darkmoor Manor. The house is shot in such a mesmerising way by the directors and cinematographer Richard C Bell that it becomes just as captivating as the attractive young cast. Shot on location at Wymering Manor in Portsmouth (which dates all the way back to the Domesday book), it's not just the dark, warren-like interior that sets the grim and ghoulish scene — the imposing and looming exterior of the house is equally spectacular. This really was a wonderful find for the filmmakers.
The manor is not the only element which is well shot  — the camerawork throughout is superb, giving each scene that extra bit of professionalism and quality that really heightens the enjoyment of the film. It is well framed, while great work in the editing suite ensures that it cracks along at a brisk but comprehensible rate. This is polished and accomplished filmmaking from top to bottom.
With a twisted and compelling story, stunningly atmospheric visuals and an absolutely top-notch cast, The Tour is one of those shorts that acts as a perfect example of how marvellous the medium can be. You really should check it out.

SO WHERE'S IT AT? The Tour is STILL knocking them dead on the festival circuit well over a year since its first screening. Get yourself over to the film's official Facebook page for more information on when it may be coming to a screen near you. Give it a Like while you're there too, Rickard, Mathieson and their crew deserve it.

10 WORD WRAP-UP: A stellar cast makes this a superlative haunted house flick

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

Wednesday, 18 November 2015


Slasher flicks.
We love them, don't we?
One of the coolest things to happen to our beloved genre in recent years is the resurgence of the throwback slasher movie. Seemingly emerging as a direct backlash to the teen-friendly, big budget, glossy Blumhouse-style horror movies of recent years, there's been a real wave of old-school slashers, such as Chill: The Killing Games; Muck; The Pickaxe Murders Part III; Headless; Axe To Grind; Berkshire County AKA Tormented and Dorchester's Revenge AKA Dollface, to name just a few of the titles that I've come across here at the House over the last year.
The latest subgenre entry to bring blood and mayhem back to the woods is Eddie Lengyel's Scarred (previously known as Kandie Land).
I've seen reviews praising the movie's hulking killer, pretty young victims and lashings of innovative gore, so I was delighted when the guys behind the film very kindly got in touch asking if I'd care to review it.
Would this one make a mark? Or would I think it was an unsightly blemish on the genre?
Read on…


Dir: Eddie Lengyel

Starring: Ari Lehman, Don Kilrain, Lisa Neeld, Carl Ferrara, Tina Grimm, Alex Russo, Molly Miller, Jessica Lauschin, Max Elinsky, Janine Sarnowski, Haley Kocinski, Devin Steiner, Justine Greenwald, Mark Cray, Robbie Barnes, Bart Flynn

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

The movie opens with a young lady pulling into a local bar and talking to the patrons about her missing sister. After she leaves, one of the gruff men (Cray) takes one of the girl's fliers home to his wife Luna (Sarnowski) and daughter Tiny (Miller). Tiny mentions that she has seen the girl on the flyer playing with 'Jonah', a statement that her disbelieving parents dismiss.
However, the audience is then introduced to the hulking, masked Jonah (Kilrain), who promptly slaughters the missing girl in his murky den.
Next we meet Jonah's next batch of victims, a group of models — Brooke (Grimm), Asia (Russo), Jess (Lauschin) and Marley (Kocinski). The head of their agency Miss Ambler (Greenwald) declares Marley the
 'new face of her company', then agrees to send the girls on a nature-themed photoshoot at an isolated rural location for a wealthy business partner — whose son, Brody (Elinsky), will photograph the girls.
Rounding out the group is Ambler's lovable nephew Bo (Ferrara), who will act as minder for the models and intends to use this opportunity to convince the girls to star in his upcoming horror movie.
Soon the crew are on their way and on route they meet a local couple Shaina (Playboy Playmate Neeld) and Austin (original Jason Voorhees, Lehman) who try to warn them about the dark history of their destination — notably that it once belonged to the Kandie family, whose strange son Jonah's face was cruelly mutilated by his violent father for unspecified sins. The group laugh this off as a silly campfire ghost story.
However, when they reach the campsite (run by Luna), it soon becomes clear that the long-presumed dead Jonah has unfinished business — and he may not be acting alone.
What exactly does Jonah want? Will any of the models escape his clutches... or even survive?

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): The folks behind Scarred are a canny bunch — rather than attempt to reinvent the wheel, they stick to giving the audience what it wants. This is an unapologetic, old-fashioned Eighties-style slasher flick. It boasts some decent scares, some good-looking young people all lining up in a remote location to join a sizeable bodycount and plenty of gruesome, grisly and inventive manners in which to off them. This isn't the most original of stories, nor is it likely to shake horror to its core — but what it is extremely good at doing is entertaining all you gorehounds that were raised on the likes of Madman, The Burning, Funhouse and all the other lurid-cased slashers that enticed us from the shelves of our local video store.

That's not to say that the plot is a dud — no, writer/director Lengyel manages to give us a couple of nice twists and turns, plus a compelling back story to hold our attention. What's more he juggles a large cast of characters without losing any of them in the shuffle, making sure that each stands out for all the right reasons. Furthermore, we don't get too many stereotypes among them. It would have been all too easy to make one of the models 'the bitchy' girl and one 'the sweet girl', but instead they have more nuance than that.
As a horror director, Lengyel also clearly knows his stuff, keeping the movie zipping along at a brisk pace and getting the very most out of the extremely modest $10,000 budget. Each shot is competently and professionally framed, each scene looks far better than it probably has any right to. This is due in no small part to the great cinematography by Noelle Bye who gives the film that last little bit of finesse. 
The cast are mostly pretty good, with all of the main characters hitting their mark. I especially enjoyed the work of the charismatic Greenwald and Lauschin, the stunning Kocinski (who shows enough here to suggest she could make for a super scream queen, should she choose to stick with the genre) and the very funny Ferrara who uses his superb comic timing to great effect in a couple of key scenes. It was also brilliant to see Ari Lehman, the original Jason Voorhees, in a nice supporting role. He's a very cool and talented guy, so it's always a pleasure to see him on the screen here at The House.
Elsewhere, the work of Cray is also worthy of mention — he plays a horrible character and quickly succeeds in getting the audience to hate him. That's a sign of a talented actor, so more props to him!
His sympathetic wife is brought to life by the wonderful Sarnowski. I thought she was great in Chill and she's even better here.
I also loved Miller's Tiny. The diminutive actress shows big talent in her role, making Tiny enigmatic at times, occasionally sympathetic, often extremely creepy but always utterly fascinating to watch. She's excellent and, should there be a sequel, I really do hope she'll be back for it.
The extremely imposing Kilrain (he stands at 6ft 5 and weighs 250lbs) is also excellent as the silent villain Jonah Kandie. He uses subtle body language to imbue his character with even more menace, veering from slowly stalking his victims and methodically mutilating them to frenziedly attacking. The character has a cool backstory and his MO of hating anything beautiful following his own disfigurement gives him a compelling (and decidedly disturbing) motive to target and mutilate the models.
And does he ever go to work on his victims! At times it borders on Hostel-style torture p0rn, as each of the murders are horrifying, sadistic and make full use of the spectacular effects work. With ripped, slashed, burnt and gouged flesh, plus geysers of blood, the effects team of Greg Lanning, Daniel Blain Click and Raven Lunitic go above and beyond the call of duty here. Kudos!
You can tell that this movie was a labour of love for the effects team, just as it was for so many other people involved in the production. To me, that is one of the film's biggest strengths. The people involved in creating Scarred really care. From the hardcore promotion that Lengyel is doing, actively seeking out reviewers to help bring this film to the masses, to taking the time and effort to engage with the fans during post-screening Q&As, it's so heartening to see filmmakers that feel so enthusiastic and passionate about a project. The cast and crew are obviously horror aficionados and in Scarred they have produced a movie for their fellow genre fans. For this reason I really do wish them and the project all the success they deserve. 

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): 
Like I said before, Scarred is a simple throwback slasher film, made from the template of the hundreds of 'maniac in a summercamp' movies that have come before it. What this means is that it inherits the flaws inherent in all of those films.
As slashers go, it's pretty damn great, but if you aren't a fan of the sub-genre I very much doubt that there's anything here that is going to change your mind. The plot is simplistic, and yes, Lengyel does give us a couple of interesting twists along the way, but it very much follows the usual format. It's pretty linear and serves mainly to link the considerably gory set pieces together.
This is a slasher movie — don't go in expecting The English Patient.
Bizarrely, it's both very simple AND leaves some key points unexplained. I'm hoping that this is just the first outing for Jonah Kandie and some of those extra details will be more fully fleshed out in subsequent outings.
Also, while I praised the commitment and dedication of the cast earlier, there are a couple of moments when inexperience does shine through. There are a few clunky line deliveries and some rather awkward facial expressions from a couple of cast members. Long-term horror fans will be all too familiar with game, if not the most polished actors appearing in slasher flicks — and that's exactly what we get here. Thankfully most of the major parts are played well and the less accomplished moments don't serve as a serious hindrance to enjoying the film.
Also, while the filmmakers have done a marvellous job with such a small budget, it is worth pointing out that to those of you used to larger-budget, shiny, big studio horror flicks, this will definitely appear a little rough around the edges. Unfortunately there are a few points at which some audio issues arise. However, I think it's a testament to the skill of Lengyel and his crew that these issues are so rare.

THE VERDICT: Scarred is a mean, nasty slasher flick and I had a real blast with it! With some viciously imaginative kills, a memorable villain and plenty of heart from everybody involved, this is a throwback slasher done right. I really hope that the folks at Fright Teck Pictures return to Kandie Land to give us even more of Jonah's murderous misadventures. I for one, shall be first in line if they do.

If you want to watch Scarred, you can buy the film (plus plenty of cool merch including a killer t-shirt!) direct from the makers here. For more information, check out the film's official Facebook page. Give it a LIke while you're there too, these guys deserve your support!

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, 16 November 2015


I've said it before and I'll say it again — horror shorts rock.
What's more, there are plenty of extremely talented filmmakers plying their trade in short films right now, so film festivals are showing plenty of shorts of an incredible calibre.
One such film that has been extremely well received on the festival circuit recently is AJ Briones' The Smiling Man.
Luckily the very talented Briones was kind enough to grant me access to the film.
Would I be grinning after watching it? Or is this one nothing to smile about?
Read on...


Dir: AJ Briones
Starring: Abbi Chally, Strange Dave, Melissa Chally

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I'll try not to spoil too much here as this is a short, but continue at your own risk.

A cute little girl (Abbi Chally), home alone watching classic cartoons, comes to realise that she may not be by herself after all.
Innocently following a trail of floating balloons throughout her house, the little girl draws ever closer to the nightmarish Smiling Man (Strange Dave) — and the dark source of his insane amusement...

WHY IT WORKS: Simplicity is often key when it comes to making an effective short. Without the additional runtime that a full-length feature affords, a short film needs to be leaner and punchier — it should be able to get in there, grab you fast and hit you hard before the end credits roll.
Director Briones understands this and boy does he deliver!
Arguably the film's biggest strength is its gripping and imaginative visuals. Briones may have built a career in visual effects (his work includes serious heavy-hitters such as Avatar; Iron Man 2; Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and Tomorrowland) but he also shows a fantastic talent for framing and composing a shot. Cinematographer David Holechek ensures that that each and every scene looks beautiful — this may be a short but it looks every bit as a polished as a big studio feature. There is a wonderful use of colour throughout — the innocent bright hues of the trail of balloons make a striking contrast to the darkness of the story and the shadowy hallways of the house. Through subtle but effective camera trickery and some nice set dressing and props (not to mention the decidedly spooky black and white cartoons on the girl's TV) Briones is able to transform what should be a lovely family home into a maze-like warren that descends deep into the bowels of Hell. 
Briones takes a pretty simple premise — it could quite easily be an extended scene from a longer film — but through skilful camerawork and assured direction he is able to wring the scenario for every single drop of suspense.
Of course it doesn't hurt that the adorable Abbi Chally is such a sweet little child — you can't help but care about her. She shows some great acting chops for such tender years and even though she isn't given much in the way of lines to deliver, her reaction work and physical acting is top notch. She's a small girl and the use of some clever camera angles just heightens the sense of her diminutive stature. 
These camera angles are also used to great effect in keeping the titular Smiling Man just out of frame for as long as possible (the scene in which young Chally's body is used to block the Smiling Man on the stairs, instead revealing just his creepy, skeletal hand is especially effective), building the anticipation and dread as it does so. An overhead view shot late on is another standout, giving us the briefest of glimpses of Strange Dave's monstrous villain.
And it is the extremely strange indeed Dave that plays a huge part in the success of the film. Part ghoul, part psychotic clown, The Smiling Man is a truly nightmarish creation. Dave's performance is spectacularly creepy — quiet and childlike yet bristling with malevolence. He combines fluid, graceful movements and gestures with a hunched, twitching bestial posture, to maximum unnerving effect. From his darting eyes to the extravagant manner in which he applies his 'make-up', every single gesture and tic is used to imbue this hideous creation with just a little more demented character. It's a show-stopping turn and, combined with some brilliantly effective prosthetics make the Smiling Man instantly iconic.
Ultimately, the only problem I had with The Smiling Man was that it left me wanting even more. Here's hoping that Briones and Dave can join forces once again to give us more of this magnificent movie monster in the future. But for now, this is a superbly executed and lean exercise in carefully cultivated fear. With a great cast, some superb effects work and an assured confident director who knows how to shoot horror, The Smiling Man is an absolute must-see.

SO WHERE'S IT AT: The Smiling Man is still knocking audiences dead on the festival circuit. Check out the list of upcoming screenings at the film's official web site here for more information on how you can catch it.
Alternatively check out the short's official Facebook page for news. Give it a Like while you're there too, show some love!

10 WORD WRAP-UP: A simple, lean and fantastically executed exercise in gripping terror

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, 13 November 2015


One of the best horror trailers I've seen in recent months was that for Travis Cluff and Chris Lofing's The Gallows. You may have seen it — the long setpiece in which a terrified girl cowers in a room lit only by a red light as a menacing hooded figure slowly approaches, unseen, by his prospective victim.
I loved the look and the tension of the scene and it really piqued my interest — then came the reviews.
Many panned the film as a clear example of everything that's wrong with modern horror. I'll be honest, the backlash I read was SO strong, it put me off watching the film for a while. 
Ultimately, however, I decided that I had to at least give it a chance.
Now, with the film receiving a UK DVD release this Monday 16th November, I'm finally penning my review. Is this one as ropy as critics have suggested? Or was it worth hanging around for?
Read on…


Dir: Travis Cluff, Chris Lofing

Starring: Reese Mishler, Pfeifer Brown, Ryan Shoos, Cassidy Gifford, Alexis Scheider, Price T Morgan, Theo Burkhardt, Melissa Bratton

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

In 1983 tragedy struck Beatrice High School when an accident on the set of the school play, The Gallows, saw a student, Charlie Grimille, die onstage in front of a live audience.
Now, 20 years later, the school drama department looks to pay tribute to that fateful night by performing the play once again. 
Among those involved in the production are brash jock Ryan (Shoos) and his football team-mate Reese (Mishler). As Ryan documents the proceedings via his video camera (and makes his sarcastic disdain for the project quite clear) we come to see Reese's reason for signing up — his costar Pfeifer (Brown). The precociously talented and irrepressibly enthusiastic Pfeifer has landed the female lead role while Reese has been cast opposite her as the male lead — and he hopes to use this to get close to the object of his affection.
However, there's one small hitch — Reese isn't much of an actor and he's struggling with his lines, something Ryan is quick to mock.
Finally, on the eve of the performance Ryan convinces Reese that he's destined to blow it, so the two hatch a plan.
Later that night the pair, along with Ryan's cheerleader girlfriend Cassidy sneak into the school auditorium through a broken side door, intent on vandalising the set to prevent the play from taking place. However, as they set about their task they are interrupted by Pfeifer who wants to do some last minute rehearsing.
Things look pretty bleak for Reese when Pfeifer discovers his true intentions but that becomes the least of his problems when the youngsters realise they are now trapped in the building... and they are not alone. Somebody (or something) is prowling the school hallways, eager for revenge...

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): The Gallows is a teen-friendly Found Footage flick, but I'm not one of those people to whom this instantly equates crap. I believe that any sub-genre can entertain, provided it is executed well. And for the most part, The Gallows is executed very well indeed.
It's quite difficult to make a Found Footage film that appears visually stylish, by their nature they are rough-and-ready in their presentation, supposedly capturing real events as they happen, and with that eliminating a lot of the cinematography tricks that would take us out of the moment. The Gallows manages to make a strong visual impact without betraying its premise by utilising a striking colour palette. The scenes in which the hooded spectre stalks the hapless teens are often bathed in intense burning reds or ethereal greens. What's more directors Cluff and Lothing and their cinematographer Edd Lukas make good use of light and shadow, the spotlights and deep shadows heightening the sense of isolation for our beleaguered leads. 
This sense of creepy dread is an area in which the film is a tremendous success. At times it is unbearably tense, the set-pieces exquisitely executed, varying from disorienting and frenetic to eerily still and silent. The hooded figure doesn't make a huge number of appearances but, when he does, each and every one counts. I must say that Cluff and Lothing deserve plenty of praise for the way in which they craft their scares. 
A major part of the creepiness also comes from the exquisite production design from Stephanie Hass, Mark Hatwig and Jennifer Sullivan, especially in a number of decidedly unnerving sets (especially that fantastically frightening prop/costume room) and props (the crackling TV in one scene is used to marvellous effect).
The story told by Cluff and Lothing (who penned, as well as directed the film) is a simple one, taking the age-old trope of revenge from beyond the grave, but with a clever twist. However, it is the manner in which the story is told that really works. The pair are obviously assured and capable directors, with a decent eye for camerawork and a top notch ability to get what they need from their youthful cast.
Of the four youngsters it was Brown who most impressed, a believable and interesting character brought to life through a flawless performance. A scaled back, real-world version of Glee's Rachel Berry, she manages to give what could have been a very irritating character a level of cute charm. It's very nice work indeed.
The striking young Gifford (daughter of the famous Kathie Lee) also does a great job, giving her character a mischievous toughness that soon turns to terrified vulnerability. Should she choose to stick with the genre, I could see her become a fine Scream Queen.
Elsewhere Mishler does a fine job with a character that is probably the least exciting of the group. He may not have the spiciest lines, but he gets to play lovelorn puppy, easily-influenced jock and a mid-movie reveal gives him a weighty issue to wrestle with before stepping up to become the braver hero we want him to be. It's quite the arc and the boyishly handsome Mishler handles it admirably. 
Finally the character that looms largest over the film is definitely that of Shoos's Ryan. Of course as the main 'cameraman' his voice is most likely to be heard, but it's also a voice that does not stop. He's cocky, loud, obnoxious, oh, and did I mention that he's loud? He's the character that you just KNOW is going to end up with some of that arrogance knocked out of him come the end of the film and Shoos is superb in the role.
Now, the next part is quite difficult to discuss without spoilers, so if you are averse to that sort of thing, you may wish to skip ahead.
Sure you want to read on?
I really liked the film's boogeyman, the hooded and vengeful spectre of Charlie Grimille. A silent and spooky slasher style antagonist, he's a menacing figure and his weapon of choice, the noose, makes for a nice change. The scenes in which Charlie's unwitting victims find themselves suddenly choked by an invisible noose or abruptly snatched up into the air to be hanged from a phantasmagorical gallows are unnerving and at the centre of some of the best jump scares in the film. Oddly (or not) I've not been able to find out the name of the actor beneath the hood, but whoever this mystery man is he does a superb job of appearing legitimately threatening during his short screen appearances.
Also his plan, while not entirely transparent, leads to a couple of very cool reveals during the film.
**********SPOILERS END**********

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): Right, let's address the elephant in the room — The Gallows is Blumhouse Found Footage movie. As I said before, I don't mind a good FF-flick, but I know some people out there will read those two words and their stomach will turn. Sadly, I do think the film could have worked just as well without the Found Footage gimmick. On the other hand, I understand that it was done as a cost-cutting measure for a micro-budget genre flick by a pair of first-time feature directors. With this in mind I think it was a pretty good idea in the end and certainly didn't ruin my enjoyment of the film. However, those of you who've had your fair share of shaky cam chillers may find this entry in the rapidly growing genre a bit too much to take.
Unfortunately, what I found too much to take was Shoos' overbearing Ryan. It's not the actor's fault — sadly the character is just too much of a dickhead to tolerate. I get that the character is meant to be annoying, but in this case I found myself hoping that he'd end up at the wrong end of a noose long before the killing started. Perhaps scaling him back a bit would have helped — as things were I found him irritating and extremely unsympathetic.
One area in which I have seen some negative feedback towards the film is in its comparative bloodlessness. Inexplicably given the dreaded R rating in the States, I absolutely cannot understand what it was that the film board saw that was so upsetting? Perhaps a film in which high school-age teens end up hanged was seen to be too much, because it certainly wasn't down to any violence or gore on display. By its very nature a noose is a weapon that does away with any serious splatter, so gorehounds should be aware that if you're looking for bloodshed, The Gallows is not the film for you.
Finally, I need to get a little spoilery again, so you may wish to skip this next section until after you've viewed the film.
The plot is sadly missing a few key details that would really help the audience and flesh out the story. Perhaps Cluff and Lothing were hoping for a sequel to expand upon their tale?
First, what exactly was Grimille's motivation? We see that he targets Reese because his father was meant to be on stage in his place on the fateful night in 1983. So why did Reese's father miss the play? Was there something more suspicious about the 'accident'? Or is Grimille merely so vengeful that he plans to exact his revenge for something that was purely down to poor luck? Is he just striking down anybody involved in the now cursed play, in which case, why does it matter that Reese's dad should have been onstage in the first place?
And finally, the ending very much suggests that Pfeifer is actually the daughter of Grimille. Well, if that's the case and the play was last performed 20 years ago, that makes her a 19-year-old high school student. Hmmmm...
**********SPOILERS END**********

THE VERDICT: The Gallows may be a shiny, teen-oriented Blumhouse Found Footager, but I still enjoyed it. Sure, it has its flaws (what horror movie doesn't?) but it's extremely well executed and provides excellent atmospheric visuals, some top-drawer frights and a very cool, enigmatic cinematic boogeyman. This is a film that I certainly advise you all to make up your own mind about.

To me, Cluff and Lothing are clearly filmmakers to look out for and should their next effort be a return to Beatrice to flesh out the story they've already started, I'll definitely be there to check it out — whatever the reviews might say.

The Gallows will be released on DVD and Blu-ray this Monday 16th November. Buy it at Amazon here.
In the meantime, check out The Gallows' official Facebook page. Why not give it a Like while you're too, I'm sure the filmmakers 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.

Thursday, 12 November 2015


One of the most anticipated films to hit the festival circuit recently has been Corin Hardy's The Hallow. Known for his dark but intriguing visual flair (that is more than a little reminiscent of the great Guillermo del Toro) and long-standing appreciation of monster movies, The Hallow sees Hardy return to the folklore of his native Ireland. I was fortunate enough to catch the film at the recent FDA Showcase event in London.
So, is this a movie that can stand up to the serious weight of expectation upon its shoulders?
Read on...


Dir: Corin Hardy

Starring: Joseph Mawle, Bojana Novakovic, Michael McElhatton, Gary Lydon, Michael Smiley, Stuart Graham

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

As the growing economic crisis in Ireland forces the government to sell off swathes of its ancient woodland to the highest bidders, large companies move in, much to the chagrin of the local people.

London-based arborologist Adam (Mawle) is sent to check the woods before the deforestation crews can move in. With his young wife Clare (Novakovic) and their newborn son Finn in tow, Adam spends his days roaming out into the forest and exploring, documenting any and all flora and fauna that he comes across.
It is on one such excursion with Finn strapped to his chest and the family dog beside them that Adam discovers a curious black fungus growing deep in the woods. However, it soon becomes clear that the family have more pressing matters, not least the local hostility towards them, especially from their closest neighbour, Colm Donnelly (McElhatton). A simple farmer whose daughter disappeared in mysterious circumstances, Donnelly is quick to offer the pair strong warnings about disturbing whatever it is that lurks in the dark heart of the forest.
Adam is rather dismissive of the simple locals while the lonely Clare keeps herself busy by removing the clunky iron bars from the windows of their new (but very old) mill house home. But when an unexpected and frightening event late one night leaves the couple shaken, Adam finds himself on a collision course with an insidious threat. 
Are Donnelly and the locals doing their best to drive out the young family? Or is there something ancient and deadly lurking within the woods, waiting to strike?

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): As you might expect from the supremely talented Hardy, The Hallow looks incredible. Bringing the bleak but beautiful dark Irish landscape to life with exquisitely framed and shot camerawork, the film effortlessly transports the viewer into the world that it conjures. The deep greens of the woodland contrast with the cold grey skies, heightening the sense of isolation for the characters. They are shot in a way that makes them seem both beautiful and dangerous. It's certainly easy to see why the film was originally going to be titled The Woods.

What's more, Hardy and his cinematographer Martijn Van Broekhuizen make superb use of light and shade, especially during the climactic scenes and the numerous thrilling setpieces along the way. I cannot stress this enough, The Hallow is a real feast for the eyes.
Those aforementioned set-pieces are arguably the strongest parts of the film. The story (written by Hardy and Olga Barreneche) is rather slow moving, leading the viewer by the hand down several interesting and entirely viable cul-de-sacs before finally revealing the truth behind the film's various bumps in the night. As such the more thrilling scenes scattered throughout serve to keep the audience engaged, all while affording us some hints at what the true threat is.
From the scene in which Adam finds himself locked in his own car boot while unseen assailants terrify young Finn, to that where the whole family cower behind Adam's shotgun while a group of diabolical home-invaders ransack the mill house, these are excellently executed exercises in tension. As well as having a real talent for eye-catching visuals, Hardy can certainly wring a scene for every single drop of drama, plus there are a number of nice visual references to some classic horror movies that have gone before, showing that the director is a real fan and student of the genre. The 'scary' scenes more than manage to hit the spot and Hardy proves to be a skilled horror storyteller.
However, as impressive as the frights and the general look of the film are, the finest visual element is one that I don't really want to spoil here (even though plenty of other reviewers and even the poster are doing precisely that). Suffice it to say that the production design of a certain element introduced and shown in full late on in the film is absolutely fantastic. I do wish I could rave about The Hallows more here, but it's worth witnessing this superb work for yourself.
Of course a movie needs to do so much more than merely look pretty to truly captivate an audience. It's also necessary to give us some characters that can hold our interest and this is an area in which The Hallow's topnotch cast certainly helps the cause.
Mawle is extremely realistic in his portrayal of an idealist whose ongoing work can lead him to think that he is above the simple local folk and their customs. He's a well-educated Londoner and he sees the various references to Irish folklore and superstitions as silly attempts to get him to abandon his post. He isn't neglectful towards his family — in fact a couple of key scenes show that he is extremely protective of them — but his failure to assign a suitable level of importance to the grim warnings that come his way is a tragic character flaw. Mawle's character arc is compelling and events transpire that give him ample opportunity to show multiple facets to his character. It's very good work indeed.
Novakovic's Clare is the more sympathetic of the two leads. She's a new mother who has given up her friends and family to follow her husband's career. She is quicker to accept that there's something wrong in their seemingly idyllic home and she does a great job of portraying the fear that her character is feeling. Her character has a less pronounced arc than that of Adam, but she's still able to show some decent range throughout the film.
Elsewhere McElhatton impresses with his somewhat limited screentime as does the always excellent Smiley in what amounts to an interesting (if brief) cameo which delivers plenty of eerie foreshadowing. McElhatton is given a bit more to do, his down-to-earth, simple and deeply sad Donnelly serving as a nice foil to Mawle's more cultured, arguably pretentious and carefree character. 
One thing that I loved about the surprisingly straightforward storyline was the fact that it was prepared to not only take its time with its mysteries but to also steer clear of explaining each and every detail, granting it a little more mystique and encouraging the viewer to pay attention to get all of its intricacies. By refusing to give us a standard Hollywood exposition dump, Hardy and his crew utterly succeed in evoking the feel of the grim Gaelic fairy tales at its heart — and frightening us silly along the way.

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): As I stated before, The Hallow is a film that is prepared to take its time. Unfortunately, at times it may just be a little too slow for the less patient among you. This is not helped by the repetitive and cyclical nature of a large part of the film whereby the young family are terrorised by night by an unseen assailant, but hide without incident, and then the following day Adam travels into the local village where numerous unkempt locals glare at him knowingly.
This would perhaps be less of a problem if the characters to whom these encounters were happening gave us a little more to invest in, but all the leads are quite thinly sketched archetypes.
Clare is the isolated and lost new mother, Adam the doomed and superior sceptic, with very little more discernible personality. 
Horror has long thrived on using character tropes (in fact the doomed sceptical scholar is at the centre of some of the genre's finest literary works), but for us to truly sympathise with their plight our leads need to be at least a little bit likeable. Unfortunately the couple come across as a little too smug, a pair of Guardian-reading, middle-class, thirty-something, M&S/Gap shopping would-be hipsters. I understand that their assumed superiority is a large part of the moral behind the tale: for all their airs and graces, in the end it is they, not the supposedly less-educated locals, who are unprepared for the truth of The Hallows, but they veer dangerously close to irritating. Thankfully Hardy directs their plight in such a way that we do have to sympathise with them towards the end of the film, but it is certainly a little touch and go for a while.
Finally, on a more personal note, while I found the vast majority of the effects work absolutely fantastic, the rather daft and decidedly ropy CG depicting the black fungus as viewed through a microscope was disappointing. In a film filled with visual flair, this is the one image that stands out as an absolute clunker.

THE VERDICT: The Hallow is not a perfect film, but for a debut feature it is astonishing. It looks beautiful, boasts some amazing effects work and overcomes a couple of plot shortfalls by effortlessly drifting from sub-genre to sub-genre as it tells its tale, keeping the audience guessing even as they jump out of their seats at the numerous superbly executed scare sequences. 
A gorgeous but terrifying work, The Hallow proves that Corin Hardy is a name to watch out for in the years ahead.
The Hallow will be released in UK cinemas this Friday, 13th November.
For more information, why not check out the film's official Facebook page. Give it a Like while you're there too, I'm sure they'd 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.