Thursday, 24 December 2015


The first part of my look at the best genre flicks of the past 12 months included fantastic films such as Bone Tomahawk, Krampus and The Hallow. Those are some pretty damn good films, but this second crop contains a selection that I feel is even stronger.


Well, plough on!



Worthy of mentioning in the same breath as Cabin in the Woods, Scream and Behind the Mask: The Rise of Lesley Vernon, Todd Strauss-Schulson's The Final Girls is a brilliant deconstruction of genre tropes. With plenty of laughs and a surprisingly moving amount of heart, this is a great homage to the heyday of slasher movies.
Read my review here.


Jason Lei Howden's splatterific love letter to metal played out like a gloriously gory hybrid of Spinal Tap and The Evil Dead, directed by a young Peter Jackson. Deathgasm makes for an absolutely awesome fun viewing-experience and is a sure-fire, stonewall cult classic.
Read my review here.


Any film that pays homage to Lucio Fulci's bloodily barking Gates of Hell trilogy gets a thumbs up from me. Combining a quiet and personal haunted house film with spectacularly violent kills and starring Scream Queen great Barbara Crampton, Ted Geoghegan’s We Are Still Here was a tremendous find.
Read my review here.


It had a terrible name, boasted a cast of irritating shiny teens and a concept that couldn't possibly work – the whole film unfolds in realtime on a computer desktop – yet somehow Unfriended overcame all of that to secure a place on this list. Extremely clever and surprisingly dark and creepy, this is a perfect example of stellar high concept executed flawlessly.
Read my review here.


A Found Footage (sort of) movie with a cast of two, Patrick Brice's Creep foregoes blood and guts and a metronomic bodycount for deeply personal scares. When Brice's Aaron is hired to document a day in the life of Mark Duplass's Josef we are treated to one of the most unnerving and creepy genre performances in a long, long time plus a legitimately unsettling ending.
Expect a review soon...


Arnold Schwarzenegger and Abigail Breslin make for another fantastic central pairing in the surprisingly moving Maggie. A bittersweet look at mortality and the relationship between father and daughter, it's deep, depressing, complex and, at times, utterly beautiful. See it.
Read my review here.


Another film with a central theme of mortality and ageing, It Follows was EASILY the most hyped genre film of the year after it blew audiences away at the Cannes Film Festival. Ok, maybe it wasn't this year's The Babadook (despite what plenty of critics wrote) but Robert David Mitchell's film was a fantastically rich and entertaining film that offers plenty to enjoy to horror fans and 'serious' film watchers alike.
Read my review here.


I'll be honest, I only watched Spring this week because I'd heard such great things about it and was about to compile this list. I’m so glad I did.
A beautifully shot Euro-romance, that just so happens to be a creature feature and body-horror shocker too, Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead’s movie is unique, original and one of those films that I know I’m going to be recommending to people for years to come. Absolutely fantastic.
Expect a review very soon...


The best film I saw at Film4’s FrightFest this year, in my review of this Antipodean Apocalyptic movie, I called it: ‘A beautiful, heart-breaking but ultimately hopeful tour de force, it is one of the finest movies I've seen in a long, long time’ and ‘an absolute must-see’. Two months on I stand by that. A character driven work of deeply personal horror, Zak Hilditch’s film is near flawless. If there’s one thing I hope my work as a reviewer achieves, it’s bringing These Final Hours to the attention of more genre fans.
Read my review here.


Guillermo del Toro. Jessica Chastain. Tom Hiddlestone.
Gothic Victorian ghost story.
When I first heard about Universal and Legendary’s hugely ambitious ghost story (or is it a story with a ghost?) my mouth started watering. The film did not disappoint. Forget about the lackluster box office performance, Crimson Peak is a joy to watch. It’s sumptuous, atmospheric and exquisitely crafted with a host of incredible performances and some genuinely frightening spectres on display. An utter masterpiece.
Read my review here.

But it's not been a 12 months without letdowns. Allow me to present the most heinous of those...


I’m a big fan of the low-fi chills of the Paranormal Activity franchise. Even when audiences started to turn on the series upon the release of Paranormal Activity 4 and the criminally underrated The Marked Ones, I remained a staunch defender of the films. So I was excited to see the ‘final chapter’ of the saga. 

I wish I hadn’t bothered. 
None of the characters we’ve come to care about, godawful CG and 3D, and perhaps worst of all, NO SCARES WHATSOEVER. I’d say the series finished with a whimper rather than a bang, but the total non-ending to the film that leaves every single plot thread dangling even makes a mockery of that. 
A film so terrible I almost begrudge wasting any more time on it by writing a review. Maybe for the DVD release...

Anything you disagree with? Anything you think should be higher? What do you want to see in my top 10?
Let me know below!

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 December 2015


I'm sure you've seen plenty of these lists already.
In fact, just this last week I was asked to contribute a top 10 to the wonderful UK Horror Scene.
But what I realised as I compiled my list was what a great year 2015 has been for our beloved genre.
Honestly, I could have easily compiled a top 20, with indie efforts in particular raising the bar for horror films.
So, that's exactly what I'm doing here, expanding that Top 10 into a Top 20!

You're welcome, you lucky, lucky people...



Veronika Franz and Severin Fiala's German-language psychological horror film was one of the most hyped and atmospheric films of the year.
It was incredibly creepy and boasted some genuinely shocking moments but missed out on a higher spot on the list due to its overly telegraphed plot twist.
Expect a full review soon...


I've said it before and I'll say it again — there is a HUGE amount of talent currently producing horror short films. In fact, some are significantly better than feature-length efforts.
In recognition of this fact, I'm going to place my favourite short of the past 12 months on this list, Shant Hamassian's self-aware and wonderfully clever, Night of the Slasher. It's amazing.
Read my review here.


Coulrophobes need not apply! Jon Watts' tale of the devilish Cloyne (brought to us by horror hotshot Eli Roth) was a shocking and sometimes darkly humorous body-horror flick. With a super cast and some surprisingly grim splatter, Clown is well worth your time.
Read my review here.


Produced by star Elijah Wood's SpectreVision, Cary Murnion and Jonathan Milott's zom-com with a top cast of comedy talent was an excellent and darkly funny effort.
Never have zombified children proved as entertaining!
Read my review here.


Arthur Cullipher took the fictional video nasty from Scott Schirmer's phenomenal Found and created a top-drawer visceral genre throwback.
Bloody and relentless, this feels just like a Seventies Grindhouse flick. Headless is a movie for the gorehounds.
Read my review here.


Corin Hardy's folk-horror opus is a wonderfully creepy dark fairytale and boasts some of the finest creature design work I've seen this year. It's a visual feast for genre fans and comes highly recommended.
Read my review here.


A recent release, but one that is entirely deserving of its place on this list. Trick 'r Treat's Michael Dougherty turns his attention to another holiday — with stupendous results. An unabashed creature feature with plenty of visual flair and lots of laughs, this is destined to become an annual festive tradition. Do check it out.
Read my review here.

13: HOWL

Along with Dog Soldiers, Paul Hyett's 'late-night commuter train' horror shows that Brit filmmakers are finally doing werewolves justice. This is a decidedly English film — it's quirky, creepy and built around some very realistic characters in a fantastical situation. Plus it has some great make-up work. Great stuff.
Expect a review very soon...


Anthony DiBlasi's sterling John Carpenter-influenced haunted police station flick was one of my surprise finds of the year. Playing out like Silent Hill meets Assault on Precinct 13, and built around a commanding performance from Juliana Harkavy, I really hope this one finds the audience that it's quality deserves.
Read my review here.


The only reason that S. Craig Zahler's frankly gorgeous movie isn't higher on this list is that I'm not entirely sure it's a horror film. More a fantastic Western with a horrific climax (and one of the most disturbing sequences I've seen this year), this feels a lot like The Searchers — if it turned into The Hills Have Eyes for the climax. An amazing cast (including House fave Kurt Russell) and a superb script give us a Wild West Jaws — this is a film that will blow you away.

Expect a review very soon...

So, that's the first part of this epic study of the best horror films of 2015, expect the concluding part VERY soon.

Anything you disagree with? Anything you think should be higher? What do you want to see in my top 10?
Let me know below!

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, 16 December 2015


Attention filmmakers — Twitter is your friend!
Recently I was approached by the wonderful guys at Lovely Lovely Voice (@LuvlyLuvlyVoice), the filmmaking trio of Mark Dutton (@notjustforham), Paul Jones (@Real_PaulJones) and Chris Blight (@Blighty1984), about covering their new short, Latch, via the bluebird-logoed social network.
They got my attention and earned 9mins and 37secs of my time for their efforts.
And it was just shy of 10 minutes very well spent!

LATCH (2015)

Dir: Christopher Blight
Starring: Mark Dutton

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: This is a short so I'll try not to spoil too much, but read on at your own risk.

As the working day draws to a close, a solitary worker (Dutton) finds himself alone in a dark enclosed office on an industrial site warehouse.
While he taps away at his computer, the peace and quiet is disturbed by the repetitive and rhythmic crash of a door left ajar. Nervously he ventures out into a pitchblack subterranean tunnel and finds the door swinging freely in the wind. His suspicions aroused, he carefully makes his way back to his desk... which is when he notices an ominous blue tarp through his window.
A tarp with something beneath it...

WHY IT WORKS: I think it's pretty safe to call Latch a low-fi effort. However, what the talented North-East-based trio of Dutton, Jones and Blight prove is that when it comes to scares there is no greater asset than filmmaking technique. This short may have a tiny cast and very little in the way of blood, gore, creature effects and jumpscares, but what it has in abundance is tonnes of exquisitely cultivated atmosphere. 
The slowly but relentlessly mounting tension throughout the short really is the film's biggest strength — it is a masterclass in building unease.
The story, by director Blight and star Dutton, seems relatively simple, however, as it goes on the plot shows some surprising depth, hinting at a darker, emotional backstory. However, the somewhat linear series of events are presented in such a way as to mine each scenario for every drop of tension. The film shows some impressive cinematography (by Blight and Jones), making superb use of shadow and using a couple of bright, bold colours to make an impact at key moments. The camerawork is especially impressive, with some excellent angles, technically assured framing and a clever use of claustrophobic close-ups and creepy wider angles that hint at something darker and more disturbing lurking in the background.
The film was shot in Newcastle over a couple of weekends and the crew really do deserve the utmost credit for finding some tremendously spooky locations on which to film this nasty little number.
As what is essentially a one-man show, a lot of the film's success hinges on the acting ability of Dutton. And as well as proving a wiz at scripting and in the editing suite, he proves pretty good in front of the camera too.
He's believable in an Everyman way, his reactions never seem questionable and there is never any doubt as to what the character's motivation is. It's a role without dialogue so Dutton has to convey everything just using facial expressions and body-language. It can't have been easy but he manages to tell a compelling story. This is impressive work.
As great as Dutton's character work is, it is the true nature of the enigmatic 'Latcher' which makes for one of the plot's biggest mysteries. The Lovely Lovely Voice gang don't exactly batter the audience over the head with exposition — the film's ending is refreshingly open — but what they do provide is one of the creepiest genre 'antagonists' I've seen in a long, long time. 
Or should that read 'that I HAVEN'T seen'? Utilising the classic method of getting the audience's imagination to do all the work for you, the eerie, motionless presence lurking beneath the tarp is infinitely more frightening than thousands of dollars worth of CGI ghouls or goblins. Trust me.
With plenty of talent and care for their craft on display, Latch firmly establishes Lovely Lovely Voice (not to mention the folks at Mr Blight Productions, EAT. SLEEP. GEEK and turnipheadpictures) as a group of filmmakers that I shall keep a keen eye on in the future.

SO WHERE'S IT AT? I imagine you want to check the short out right now?
Well you can do it here!

Once you've finished, head over to the Lovely Lovely Voice Facebook page and give it a Like. Blight, Hutton and Jones really do deserve it!

10 WORD WRAP-UP: A simple but superb masterclass in building tension and suspense

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, 14 December 2015


Do you remember the days before The Lord of the Rings, King Kong and The Hobbit, when Peter Jackson wasn't a maker of blockbuster megahits but instead was known for hilarious and gorestained genre titles such as Bad Taste and (one of my favourite films) Braindead/Dead Alive.
These films cracked along at a frantic and exhilarating pace, barely pausing long enough to give you time to react to the rapid fire succession of gags and mutilations.
There has been little like those films in some time — until now.
A smash at Film4 FrightFest this year, Jason Lei Howden's Deathgasm has had audiences buzzing over its mixture of Heavy Metal and classic Kiwi Splatter.
Would it strike a chord with me? Or will it hit a bum note?
Read on...


Dir: Jason Lei Howden
Starring: Milo Cawthorne, James Blake, Kimberley Crossman, Sam Berkley, Daniel Cresswell, Nick Hoskins-Smith, Tim Foley, Delaney Tabron, Colin Moy, Jodie Rimmer, Stephen Ure, Cameron Rhodes

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

Tormented teen Brodie (Cawthorne) finds his life upturned when his widowed mother has a breakdown and he is packed off live with his god fearing aunt and uncle (Rimmer and Moy) in a sleepy small town.
Already a keen metal head, Brodie's niche tastes make him something of an outcast, whose only friends are fellow misfits and Dungeons & Dragons nerds Dion (Berkley) and Giles (Cresswell). This wouldn't be so bad, except for the fact that his bullying jock cousin David (Hoskins Smith) insists on making his life a misery, regularly dishing out beatings with his pack of cronies, even though his sweet and charming girlfriend Medina (Crossman) doesn't approve of his mean-spirited antics.
However, Brodie's life changes when he meets fellow metal aficionado (and baddest guy in town) Zakk (Blake). Bonding over their love of metal, the two decide to form their own band (eventually settling on the sidesplitting name Deathgasm) along with Dion and Giles.
The band aren't great, but at least they find something that gets them noticed — and one of the people that starts to pay attention to them is Medina.
When this provokes another violent altercation with David, Brodie meets up with Zakk and agrees to break into the house of reclusive former rocker Rikki Daggers (Ure). Within his home they find some arcane and ancient sheet music that they pocket — shortly before the violent henchmen of the sinister Vadin (Foley) arrive, thwarting their efforts to seize the manuscript for their shadowy leader. 
When the band play this mysterious Black Hymn they awaken an ancient evil, the demon Aeloth the Blind One, causing the townsfolk to become possessed by his dark and corrupting spirit. The demon's victims start to mutilate themselves and anybody unfortunate enough to cross their paths — leaving the band forced to fight for survival against their possessed assailants, Vadin's cult-like followers, including poisonous witch Shanna (Tabron) and find a way to stop Aeloth from manifesting and destroying the world...

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): I'll cut straight to the chase — I loved Deathgasm! It's an absolute riot, filled with humour, a great Metal soundtrack and lots and lots of gore. The story, by Howden, both celebrates and revels in the inherent silliness of smalltown Metalheads, without ever feeling like it's taking shots at the subject. Howden is obviously a big metal fan, distinguishing between the different types and packing the soundtrack with proper creditable metal tracks and artists such as Pathology, Axeslasher, Razorwyre, Beastwars, The Lair of the Minotaur, Elm Street and Bulletbelt. What's more, there are certain frames and images that will be very familiar to those of you who've seen your share of Metal album covers.
However, the humour isn't entirely reliant on familiarity with the subject material, it's as much about the posturing but ultimately hopeless characters. 
The dialogue and set-pieces are guaranteed to tickle and the talented cast deliver with aplomb. Cawthorne is superb as our sympathetic hero, managing to be just nerdy and frustrated at life enough to amuse but not so much as to annoy or rob the character of his likeability. You can't help but root for him to succeed, even if you find yourself doubting his ability to. He's a talented guy and I can't wait to see more of him.
Equally talented and portraying an entirely different kind of loser is Blake's Zakk. If Brodie is a guy who knows he's meant for better things but doesn't know how to make them happen, Zakk is a guy who thinks he's beating a world without realising that the joke's on him. He's a real rebel without a clue, whose selfishness and tough guy posturing makes for some brilliant gags at his own expense. Zakk should be a deplorable character but the likeable and handsome young Blake makes him thoroughly entertaining. If Cawthorne is this film's Luke Skywalker, Blake is definitely Deathgasm's Han Solo.
Outside of this central pair, the delightful Crossman makes for a fine love interest, plus she gets some moments of serious ass-kickery that are sure to win her plenty of fans. With acting chops to match her good looks, I think it's safe to say that she is going to go a very long way.
The very funny Berkley and Cresswell add excellent support (and both show marvellous comic timing), while Foley and Tabron make for a suitably OTT pair of villains. Foley's unhinged Vadin is especially hilarious, his twitching insanity and volatile, seething rage the source of a couple of very funny moments. Elsewhere Hoskins Smith's David gives us a more everyday sort of villain, the popular bully whose comeuppance you eagerly await. He's genuinely hateable, so credit must go to this very talented young man for hitting his target.
The rest of the cast also impress and it's wonderful to see Housebound's ultra-talented character actor Rhodes in an extended cameo as a similar uptight authority figure whose character arc takes a decidedly dark and messy detour. 
Yet as good as the cast and the humour are, there is one key aspect of Deathgasm that I know will win it plenty of fans — the truly spectacular gore and viscera on display. The effects work is FAR better than the film's modest budget might have you believe, with a jaw-dropping amount of severed limbs, flying entrails and gushing blood on display. Think the most splattery moments of The Evil Dead films and you're not even halfway there. With awesome practical effects from the skilled team of Storm McCracken and Tim Wells, plus some extremely cool visual effects work from a team that includes Darwin Go and Michael A Miller (who both count the epic The Hobbit among their film credits).
Gorehounds, this one is for you.
It isn't just the splatter that looks great, as director Howden uses clever framing and frenetic camerawork to amp up the hyperkinetic deranged energy that crackles throughout every scene.
With a great young cast, gallons of viscera and a skilled and assured director whose careful guidance makes sure that both look as great as they possibly can, Deathgasm is a feast for the eyes of horror fans everywhere.

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): In all honesty, there's very little to find fault with in Deathgasm, so expect this section to be pretty short.
In case you hadn't guessed, humour and splatter are to the fore in the film, so if you're going in expecting any serious scares or frights, this is not that kind of horror film. However, it is a loud, fun and funny 'beer-and-pizza' film that I imagine will be great to watch with a group of appreciative friends. 
I suppose one problem that does crop up is that (outside of our three leads), there's not much of an arc for most of the characters. Howden has created plenty of very good characters, unfortunately the story doesn't do all of them justice. I'm sure plenty of viewers will praise this as the writer showing focus and a lean script, I just wish we could have had a little more time with some of the other interesting inhabitants of the rock 'n' roll ravaged small town.
Finally, even though the spectacular splatter effects could cause you to forget that this is a movie with a much lower budget than your average polished, big studio horror flick, the fact remains that it is a little rough around the edges in places. Personally, I thought this added to its indie, Metal charm, but if you prize production values over all else, Deathgasm is not for you.

THE VERDICT: In case you missed it earlier — I LOVED Deathgasm! It's Spinal Tap meets The Evil Dead and is one of the funniest, bloodiest horror flicks I've seen in a long, long time. It's a rare thing to find a film that you KNOW is going to become a cult favourite in years to come, but I guarantee that is what Howden has produced. Check it out as soon as you can, this is a horror-comedy that really rocks! 

Deathgasm will be released on DVD/Bluray on 29 February 2016. Preorder it here.

In the meantime, you can check out the film's official Facebook page here. Give it a Like while you're there too, show some love!

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, 11 December 2015


I love Michael Dougherty's Trick 'r Treat and in recent years I've become a teensy bit obsessed with the darker Christmas traditions of our European cousins. From Germany's spider in the tree, to the grotesque Yule Lads and their murderous  ogress mother Gryla of Icelandic yore, I love the mythology that has sprung up around the coldest, darkest time of the year in countries that specialise in cold and dark.
However, THE daddy of dark Christmas myths is undoubtedly Krampus, the Christmas devil. A terrible beast, Krampus is the shadowy cousin to St Nicholas in Alpine folklore. While St Nick delivers gifts to good children, Krampus is the furry, horned monster that visits naughty children, snatching them away.
This is definitely a stronger deterrent to misbehave than the chance of receiving a lump of coal on Christmas morning.
So, imagine my delight upon learning that Dougherty was returning to horror, this time taking on Nöel with a darkly humorous story about the anti-Claus.
It's surprising box office success certainly suggests that it'll provide comfort and joy to genre fans... but would it give me a Blue Christmas?
Read on...

KRAMPUS (2015)

Dir: Michael Dougherty
Starring: Adam Scott, Toni Collette, Emjay Anthony, Stefania LaVie Owen, David Koechner, Allison Tolman, Krista Stadler,  Conchata Ferrell, Maverick Flack, Lolo Owen, Queenie Samuel

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

Max (Anthony) is a boy that loves Christmas. However, his family have lost the festive spirit — from overworked dad Tom (Scott); to stressed-out mum Sarah (Collette) to sarcastic teen sister Beth (Owen); they all look at the holiday season as something of a chore. This certainly isn't helped by the fact that each Christmas sees them house Sarah's put-upon sister Linda (Tolman), her gun-nut husband Howard (Koechner) and their children: surly, gluttonous Howie Jr (Flack) and tough, spiteful tomboys Stevie (Owen) and Jordan (Samuel).
When they are joined by Sarah's crabby, hard-drinking Aunt Dorothy (Ferrell), this looks like it could be the most unpleasant Christmas yet. At least Max has kindly, caring Austrian grandmother Omi (Stadler) to share his love of Yuletide. However, even she can't prevent the latest catastrophe, when the two girls snatch his letter to Santa and read it aloud at the dinner table, revealing some deeply personal feelings about everybody else present. Finally he grabs the letter, runs upstairs and, in tears, rips it to shreds before scattering the pieces out of the window.
However, this awakens a darker Christmas spirit, and as a freak blizzard blows in, knocking out the town's power, the family find themselves trapped in the house. When Beth decides to make a trip through the snow to see her boyfriend, she is the first to see a shadowy, horned figure perched on the rooftops. 
Beth may be first... but she is not the last of the family to cross paths with the diabolical Krampus, his dark elf helpers or the twisted toys he brings in his sack.
Will the family survive until Christmas morning? And can they learn to appreciate the most wonderful time of the year if they do?

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): My favourite non-horror Christmas films are National Lampoons' Christmas Vacation and GremlinsKrampus plays out like a wonderful mix of the two.
Picture the more unsavoury members of the Griswold clan besieged by scores of malevolent beasties. 
It has a sweet message at its core, but it also has a dark vein of cynicism running through it. It both pays homage to and ruthlessly skewers the schmaltzy tropes of the likes of Miracle on 34th Street or It's A Wonderful Life.
Perhaps the most important thing, is that Krampus is very funny. The trailers play up the horror elements, but really Krampus is a very dark comedy. The sharp writing allows us to laugh both with and at the characters (even if we might recognise some of the problematic traits in the characters in ourselves and our own families). 
I don't wish to spoil the twists and turns of Todd Casey, Zach Shields and Dougherty's plot, but it takes its time with the scares, layering on atmosphere and plenty of characteristion (more specifically driving home the reasons that each of Max's family deserve the nightmarish fate that Krampus and his malevolent minions have in store for them) before hammering home it's message with an excellent ending.
This characterisation is helped by the extremely strong cast assembled: Parks and Rec vet Scott can handle put-upon comic characters in his sleep, while the bright comedy talents of the always brilliant Koechner and Ferrell make their slightly broader characters the standouts when it comes to laughs.
Everybody knows what an incredible actress Oscar-nominee Collette is, while the talented and prolific Tolman lends excellent support.
The youngsters are all great, especially the charismatic Anthony and extremely polished Owen.
However, it is the most senior member of the cast who steals most of the scenes. Austrian industry veteran Stadler is fantastic, balancing on the fine line between warmly realistic and like something from an old country fairytale. She delivers most of her dialogue in German, but that never stands as a boundary to the emotional meaning behind her lines. She brings a fantastic amount of gravitas to the film and her delivery of exposition (especially during a beautiful animated sequence midway through the film) never becomes dull or trite.
This animated sequence is just one of the visual aspects of the film that look spectacular. Feeling like an Eastern European Tim Burton flick, it is incredibly atmospheric and really captures the mood of the film.
One of the strongest parts of Trick 'r Treat was the way the film dripped with Halloween atmosphere. Krampus reiterates that Dougherty knows how to find the right cinematographer for his visions, because Jules O'Loughlin makes sure the film looks splendid.
The rich greens, reds and sparkling golds that play such a big part of the season provide a strong and striking contrast to the bleached, washed out whites of the blizzard that engulfs Max's home. The power cut that hits the house means that scenes are often lit by firelight, further heightening the campfire horror story feel of the movie. This also provides plenty of deep dark shadows to ratchet up the creepiness... and provide plenty of cover for the Krampus and his vile servants. 
And THIS brings us to arguably the biggest strength of Krampus — the fantastic creature effects. With work from a team that includes the geniuses behind the various beasties of The Lord of the Rings, Weta Workshop, plus scores of visual effects supremos, the creatures of Krampus are wonderfully realised.
The Krampus itself remains largely in shadow, hidden but always unnerving. When it is finally revealed, the face is initially a little underwhelming... until you realise what exactly you're seeing. I urge you all to look a little closer and prepare to be creeped out. 
Yet while Krampus hangs back, making only fleeting but impactful appearances, his twisted toys and helpers are nowhere near so coy. From a savage teddy bear, to a terrifying 'angel' that is best suited to topping the Manson family's tree, via a hacking, slashing toy robot, these horrific envoys all get their chance to shine. I think the best of the bunch is the seriously sinister Jack-in-the-box, a delightfully creepy cross between a porcelain clown and Poltergeist II's tequila-worm demon with the split-mouthed maws of the Reapers from Guillermo del Toro's Blade II. This particular creation is the stuff of nightmares.
What makes these creatures all the more impressive is that they were realised using good, old-fashioned practical effects.
Yes, there's CG here and there to animate certain movements that may have been impossible or to add subtle embellishments such as snake-like tongues, but for the most part they were brought to life using costumes and animatronics, which gives them a realistic quality you might not expect from beasties of this type.
Okay, the Gremlin-like wholly CG gingerbread men are decidedly less convincing but no less entertaining, while the animated Krampus bounding from rooftop to rooftop is actually pretty darn good. At the other end of the spectrum we have the low-fi dark elves, sporting creepy blank wooden masks and portrayed by graceful physical actors. These hauntingly simple monsters really do make the most of their limited screentime and I'd love to see a film which focuses more on them.

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): First I'll address an issue I imagine will be a big problem with lots of viewers — despite the message of the film's marketing, Krampus is not a horror film. Nobody is going to be scared by this film, it's remarkably tame. Instead it feels more like the comic creature features of the late Eighties, a Critters or Ghoulies. Krampus is most definitely Trick 'r Treat's more mainstream, family-friendly cousin. If you want frights, look elsewhere.
This seems to have caused some problems with critics, with many having a hard time with the movie tonally. I get this, it's a little too dark to count as just a comedy, but nowhere near creepy enough to entertain the horror crowds.
However, I didn't have this problem, instead looking at the film as a dark fantasy with some nice creatures and lots of laughs along the way. I can appreciate a film like this and, judging by Krampus' spectacular box-office figures, there are plenty more people out there who can too.
The only real problem I had with the film was its very odd pacing. It feels a lot like it may have been snipped and reshuffled in the editing room and as such the story moves along in a rather disjointed manner. The very long characterisation and expository section of the film runs for just a little bit too long, while the climax seems rushed.
Then, to top it off, we get not one, not two, but THREE successive endings piled one on top of the other. It feels a little like test audiences didn't appreciate Dougherty and co's original ending so a little extra footage was glued onto the end.
Don't get me wrong, I enjoyed the film but just wish that five minutes could have been excised from a borderline flabby middle section and injected into the climactic hasty action sequence to give us a few more thrills. As for the ending? I personally loved it.

THE VERDICT: It may have a few minor problems, but Dougherty's Krampus is great fun and adds a delightfully dark twist to all our festive favourite films. This is an unabashed creature feature and it serves up a super selection of macabre monsters with its turkey, mince pies, tinsel and eggnog. It's a movie destined to become a Christmas cult classic with genre crowds and I can guarantee that when it receives a home release it'll become an annual tradition here at the House. Highly, highly recommended.

Krampus is showing in UK cinemas now. Check out its Facebook page here for more information.

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, 8 December 2015


To most people, Christmas is a time of sweeter than sweet goodwill. It's gaudy decorations, even gaudier jumpers, turkey, presents, mistletoe and the umpteenth viewing of It's A Wonderful Life or Elf.
However, to us horror fans, there's another tradition — the festive horror flick.
Silent Night, Deadly Night; Christmas Evil and Black Christmas — forget Miracle on 34th Street, these are the films we watch while munching mince pies.
This shows no sign of ending either, with the likes of Michael 'Trick 'r Treat' Dougherty's Krampus hitting cinemas this weekend (expect a review VERY soon).
What's more, our friends in Europe (home of all the greatest Christmas traditions) have recently got in on the act with the extremely fun Sint (from Holland) and Rare Exports (a Finnish production).
This week I was lucky enough to receive a copy of Per-Ingvar Tomren and Magne Steinvoll's O'Hellige Jul! (Christmas Cruelty). This Norwegian holiday horror had me intrigued early on when I saw that the DVD cover sported a warning due to extreme content.
'How bad can it be?' I asked myself as I tossed it in the DVD player.
The answer, dear readers, is VERY.


Dir: Per-Ingvar Tomren and Magne Steinvoll
Starring: Eline Aasheim, Tormod Lien, Per-Ingvar Tomren, Magne Steinvoll, Raymond Talberg, Tone Søyset Døving, Nina-Shanett Arntsen, Olav Kåre Torjuul, Thomas Utgård, Eiric Mubarak Lien, Frans Hulsker

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

The film opens in the midst of a brutal attack. A terrified family, battered, bloody and bound are powerless to resist as a driven, determined and remorseless sadistic psychopath (Lien) has his way with them — even their infant child.
Yes, Christmas Cruelty is prepared to go there… and then some.
Afterwards we are introduced to our 'heroes' — a group of small-town kids who are just looking to have a good time. Per-Ingvar (Tomren), who is disabled and spends most of his time confined to a wheelchair; permanently angry and misogynistic Magne (Steinvoll) who spends most of his time insulting the others (especially the long-suffering Per-Ingvar) and Eline (Aasheim), their feisty but caring friend who seems destined to attract the unwanted attention of losers.
We see the three entertaining themselves by discussing the festive customs of the Scandinavian people, creating and donning plaster masks to terrify the townsfolk and creating their own insanely potent mulled wine before wrecking their shabbily decorated Christmas tree. 
However, unbeknownst to them they have become the latest target of the psychopath we saw earlier. A seemingly caring family man and respected Government official, his work at the NAV (an agency that handles benefits for the unemployed, the homeless and the disabled) has brought Eline and her friends to his attention. And now he's plotting a visit from Santa that will deck their halls with blood…

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): The clue is definitely in the name, but if you're after merry and bright, Christmas Cruelty is NOT the film for you. This is a lean, mean, sick and sadistic Grindhouse flick for those who want their horror to horrify.
You want extreme? This is extreme. 
The plot, written by a bumper team of Janner Iren Holseter, Anita Nyhagen, star Aasheim and stars/directors Steinvoll and Tomren, is quite simple, telling a relatively linear story that follows the killer's potential victims and the seriously disturbed serial rapist and murderer as he plans his next attack. What this means is that we get plenty of characterisation after that explosive opening, before a seriously disturbing final act. However, strange as it may sound to say about a film that features sustained torture and a series of gruelling sexual assaults, there's actually quite a lot of black humour in the script.
The permanently furious and abrasive Magner's outbursts lead to some of the most creative obscenities and insults that I've seen in some time, while the interaction between him and co-stars Tomren and Aasheim manages to be both witty and natural. However, there are bleakly humorous moments with Lien's psycho Santa, including some jarringly banal conversations with coworkers and family and an interaction with a salesman at a hardware store that is so awful it really shouldn't be as funny as it is.
However, as funny as these moments are, make no bones about it — this is a vile, hard-hitting horror flick. It is unflinchingly sadistic and will leave you feeling more than a little dirty. When Christmas Cruelty gets bloody, it gets bloody. The film might have a micro-budget (as you can probably tell by the number of different hats that each member of cast and crew needed to don) but the gruesome special effects — many of which were overseen by Tomren — never disappoint, with buckets of blood and gore on display. I don't want to spoil the horrors in store for potential viewers, but suffice to say we get plenty stabbings, slashings and dismemberments before the end credits roll.
Which leads me to another area in which O'Hellige Jul! excels — for as those credits roll it's accompanied by just one of a number of great tracks on the film's awesome soundtrack. What's especially impressive is that actor/director Steinvoll actually performed and recorded most of the extremely rocking, bluesy tracks himself. He's a talented guy and his cool-as-hell music mixed with a selection of traditional Christmas tunes make this one of the finest soundtracks I've ever heard. Think a grittily festive Tarantino flick and you're nearly there.
However, just praising Steinvoll, Tomren and Aasheim for their sterling work behind the camera would be doing their excellent work in front of it a grave disservice. Each of the three is very good indeed, bringing their characters to life in a way that makes them likeable and believable. They aren't silly caricatures, they feel like real people, complete with real problems and very real flaws. I especially liked the work of the charming Aasheim, she's extremely sympathetic and a character that you can't help but root for. She's a talented young actress and I hope to see more of her.
Both Steinvoll and Tomren show some great comic timing, Steinvoll is given a pretty free rein to go as gonzo as he wants, while the surprisingly sweet Tomren does a wonderful job with his character, but undoubtedly the most impressive cast member is the terrifying Lien. Whether he plays the scene with an icy and detached nonchalance or a deranged and devilish glee, he is utterly mesmerising. I understand that Lien is actually best known for his work as the titular Jakob in 2007's Jakob – mannen som elsker Jack Nicholson and Jakob og campinglivets farer. These are family friendly films in Norway, so this is a massive departure. However, if Lien was uncomfortable working in a different niche, this is not evident in his commanding performance. Not many men could manage to interject elements of black humour into an otherwise utterly spine-chilling role this seamlessly, but Lien does it with aplomb. He is absolutely phenomenal.
The writing of his role is handled cleverly, the subtle message behind his profession is an excellent piece of social commentary — this is a social worker employed in a benefits department who can be generous benefactor or a cruel, destructive ruiner of lives. What's more, he is able to maintain his aura of mystery, for while we see what he does and are given hints as to his darker origin, his cruel and vile acts are never explained. 
You want a motive? Find your own.
With a plot that gives us plenty of extreme and shocking acts of depravity, some surprisingly well-crafted laughs and a talented cast, it would be easy to overlook the technical prowess on display in making the film. The fact is that Steinvoll and Tomren are excellent directors, ensuring that the framing of each shot heightens the mood of each scene, be it frivolous or frightful. The grainy looking film stock just adds to the ambience of the film, giving it a gritty Grindhouse feel that works in the film's favour. It's actually a pretty great looking film considering its low budget, something that the co-directors of photography Raymond Volle and Karoline Emilie Folland Sæter should feel extremely proud of. 
Finally, the cast and crew are clearly genre fans and pack the film with references and shoutouts to classic horror movies, so do keep your eyes peeled throughout.

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): First off, I'll mention this because I know plenty of readers have issues with subtitles, the dialogue in O'Hellige Jul! is all delivered in Norwegian. If you don't speak the language, you're going to need to use the subtitles. If that's a deal breaker, fair enough, just realise that you're missing out on a hell of a lot of fantastic genre flicks if you aren't prepared to read as well as watch.
Not sure you can handle an extreme horror film? Well keep right on moving, Christmas Cruelty is not a film for the weak of stomach. It's spiteful, degrading, violent, unflinching and unrelenting. This diabolical Santa is not Richard Attenborough's Chris Chringle — think a Scandinavian counterpart to Wolf Creek's Mick Taylor in a bright red suit. It's intense and it will not be for everybody — consider yourself warned.
Bizarrely, another area in which I can see it drawing criticism is its rather erratic pacing.
After that barnstorming opening scene, the film then takes a VERY long break from horror. In fact, if it weren't for the horrors witnessed in the opening 10 minutes, you could well believe that you were watching a slacker comedy. This goes on for a good three-quarters of an hour, before then snapping back into horror with a truly shocking scene of terrible violence.
I quite enjoyed this long mid-movie lull, it gave us a reason to care about the characters before Lien's Serial Santa goes to work on them, plus (and this is quite a rarity) the humour is actually funny. What's more, this more genteel section lulls the audience into a false sense of security, which then actually heightens the horror of the later moments, the visceral violence amplified by the quieter moments that precede it — much like Takashi Miike's Audition. This is something I appreciated, but less patient viewers may find this section drags.
Also, while the film is a tremendous achievement considering it's modest budget, it is worth reiterating that Christmas Cruelty is decidedly rougher around the edges than the polished likes of Ouija, The Gallows or any other number of shiny, teen-friendly Hollywood offerings.
Like I said, I thought this added to the gritty atmosphere, so I don't feel any harm is done, but other opinions may differ.

THE VERDICT: With a level of festive sadism unseen until now, Christmas Cruelty is no John Lewis ad! Its sheer level of brutality and depravity will not be for everyone, but if you've got the stomach for it, and you want your horror gruelling, this twisted Christmas flick delivers plenty to float your boat. 
It's hard-hitting, superbly shot, brilliantly acted and boasts a marvellous soundtrack and some surprisingly funny laughs. O'Hellige Jul! is a nasty little Christmas gift to genre fans that I thoroughly recommend you unwrap as soon as you can.
For more info on how you can do that, check out the film's official Facebook page. Give it a like too, I'm sure the very grateful Tomren, Steinvoll, Aasheim and company would appreciate the recognition for their dark labour of love.

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