Wednesday, 28 November 2018


The second part of my double-bill of reviews for films by the talented folk at Mycho sees us return to the story of Carlton Layton A.K.A. Cleaver the killer clown.

With the character first appearing in Slasher House, then his own movie Cleaver: Rise Of The Killer Clown, he’s become a real cornerstone of the burgeoning Mychoverse.

So is this Cleaver razor sharp? Or is the whole thing getting rusty?

Read on...


Dir: MJ Dixon
Stars: Georgie Smibert, Gemma Louise Troughton, Paul Rogers, Jessica Michelle Smith, Holly-Anne Dodkins, Kimberley Lasi, Matthew Baunsgard, Derek Nelson, Olivia Krys, Jimi James, Ben Manning, Chloe Badham

SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I’ll try not to spoil too much here but continue at your own risk. Also, this is a direct sequel to Cleaver: Rise Of The Killer Clown, so it will spoil that movie. You have been warned.

Continuing shortly after the blood-thirsty events of the first Cleaver, the film opens in 1995 as police officers Jody-Ann (Georgie Smibert) and her partner Hatcher (Jimi James) are on the trail of notorious murderer Carlton Layton (this time played by Paul Rogers). Upon locating his battered old ice-cream truck, the officers fall afoul of Cleaver and his recently recruited daughter Mary-Beth (Holly-Anne Dodkins).

Five years later Jody-Ann is still searching for her missing partner, causing a great deal of discomfort with local law enforcement in each town she stops at.
The situation only worsens when she is responsible for the capture of a woman named Misty (Gemma Louise Troughton) who claims to have inside knowledge as to the whereabouts of Cleaver. Out for revenge herself, Misty wants out of jail in exchange for the information - putting Jody-Ann in a tough position.

Meanwhile recovering drug addict Tanya (Jessica Michelle Smith) is on a trip through the Mid West with her family, inept dad Larry (Matthew Baunsgard), oafish brother Artie (Derek Nelson), Artie’s infuriating girlfriend Chase (Olivia Krys) and bossy new stepmother Tiffany (Kimberly Lasi) who is just a couple of years older than Tanya.

With tensions already running high, the family cross paths with a seemingly lost and innocent Mary-Beth. As they descend on an isolated farmhouse, they have no idea what awaits them...

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): As I wrote in my recent review for Mycho’s fantastic Bannister DollHouse, the rapidly expanding Mychoverse affords the company plenty of opportunities to diversify their genre offerings. The original Cleaver was a babysitter in peril flick that paid loving homage to the grandfather of that sub-genre, Halloween. CleaverS branches out into another popular Slasher domain, the grimy grindhouse road trip, as inspired by the classic Texas Chain Saw Massacre.

It’s an inspired touch, giving the movie a completely different yet still cohesive feel to what has come before. This is in no small part due to Dixon’s assured direction. CleaverS is clearly another labour of love for the microbudget maestro, and that care practically radiates out of the screen.

Considering their decidedly meagre resources, the films in the Mychoverse are always great looking. Mycho movies often have a Bava or Argento-esque style of lighting, with bold colour palettes and striking framing. There are shots in this movie, such as the moment in which the police officers discover Cleaver’s seemingly abandoned ice cream truck, that are among the very finest Dixon has ever shot.

Of course, visuals alone are not enough to carry a film - it requires a strong plot. CleaverS is one of the most complex storylines to come from the minds of the folks at Mycho, as evidenced by the sizeable cast. More importantly, each character serves a purpose other than to ratchet up the body count. There are proper character arcs for everybody and more than a few surprises along the way.

CleaverS also explores some fascinating themes, especially that of fatherhood and the role a dad should play in protecting his children. This is best evidenced in the contrasts between cheery but weak Larry and his dysfunctional family and the psychotic but doting Layton.

One might not expect a movie titled CleaverS: Killer Clowns to tackle such weighty subjects, but Mycho has and done it well to boot.

Of course, this is a horror movie - and a killer clown one at that -so it’s not all gentle chin-stroking and stirring monologues about the futility of it all. We get plenty of kills along the way, with Cleaver and his little protege showing off their warped sense of humour with a series of deadly ‘prank’ style traps. Cleavers are all well and good but strategically placed piano wire shows true artistry!

These kills would be for naught if we don’t care about the characters getting offed, and despite the size of the cast, Dixon does a pretty good job of getting us onboard (or dead set against) them.

It helps that he has assembled such a strong cast - especially in his core group of leading ladies.

Smibert, Troughton, Smith, and Lasi are all fantastic, each bringing something different to the film, but complementing one another perfectly. I for one hope we will see plenty more from this talented group of actresses.

The same can be said for Dodkins who is clearly having a ball in her Harley Quinn-like role. I've got a sneaking suspicion the folks at Mycho aren’t done with her just yet, and I thoroughly approve.

I was also glad to see familiar Mycho face Chloe Badham pop up again. It’s little more than an extended cameo, but she is great once again.

And it’s not just the female cast members that bring their A-game.

Baunsgard is awesome, bringing several layers to his portrayal of Larry, and nailing it throughout.

Rogers also delivers in a major way.
(Ok, you’ll have to forgive this one but I’ve been dying to make this pun ever since I heard the role of Cleaver was being recast ) with Andrew M Greenwood stepping down as the lead antagonist, Rogers had some, ahem, ‘big shoes’ to fill.
Thankfully he does not disappoint. He manages to channel the essence of the character so the transition is not too jarring, but he also manages to bring some fresh ideas to the part, making it his own rather than a pale imitation.
Rogers is just one more reason why CleaverS connects.

More than any other movie in the Mychoverse to date, CleaverS feels most like an ensemble piece. This means the characters tend to get more to do, and also ups the danger levels as we are never truly sure who will make it out alive. It’s this level of danger and breakneck pave that propel us on towards some very dark revelations - including one that hints at some fascinating possibilities for the series moving forward.

Finally, I think real credit is due to Dixon for so effectively portraying his locations as those on an entirely different continent. I don’t think it will come as a huge surprise to hear that he didn’t fly his cast and crew over to the Mid West to shoot the film, instead cleverly using smartly dressed British rural locations and some expert tweaks on the colour scale to capture that sun-baked feeling. It’s truly masterful sleight of hand and warrants appreciation.

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): A regular point I have to make when reviewing indie horror flicks is that the comparatively low budgets can often leave movies feeling decidedly less slick than the sort of James Wan produced/directed multiplex offerings you’ll find on nationwide release. So consider that point raised here.

Also, do please bear in mind that, while I praised CleaverS for making use of a sizeable and talented cast, the brisk pace of the film did leave me wishing that I could have seen a little more of some of them. Still, it’s a surefire sign of a good thing if you’re left wanting more!

Speaking of the cast, there are a couple of occasions on which this very British group of actors wobble with their American accents. However, I think it’s a testimony to their ability that these times are so few and far between.

Now, while not a weakness per se, I do feel a need to once again stress that this is a sequel. As such, some familiarity with its predecessor is definitely necessary to get the most out of CleaverS. It’s not impossible to keep up - and the clever opening scene does a pretty great job at bringing any newcomers up to date - but I’d recommend this as part of a double-Bill before calling a stand-alone. So why don’t you pick up a region-free copy of the superb Cleaver here before checking out the sequel at Horror-on-Sea in January?

Finally, and this is very much an issue of personal taste, it feels like CleaverS could have been a bit gorier. The title lends itself to plenty of bloody onscreen carnage, as does the throwback feel to genre classics such as TCM and The Hills Have Eyes. It’s not that the film is bloodless - far from it, in fact, it features a couple of decidedly graphic kills - it just feels like it could have been a bit more splatter.

THE VERDICT: Right up until I watched CleaverS, I said that Mycho had never disappointed me.
After watching CleaverS... that STILL holds true! It’s a slick, sick, killer clown flick that highlights everything right with the Mychoverse. It looks great, it builds and expands on its own already fascinating universe and it doesn’t scrimp on the scares either! There are still places that this story can go, and I cannot wait for MJ, Anna and all the other good folk at Mycho to take us there.

That not one but two great Mycho flicks should come along at once is incredible - that CleaverS and Bannister DollHouse should deliver while being so very different from one another is nothing short of a wonder. Attendees at Southend’s Horror-on-Sea Festival have a real treat in store this January. Want to be one of them? Well, you can buy tickets at

Meanwhile, keep up with CleaverS news at Mycho’s official website at And check out their Patreon here.

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

Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.

Thursday, 22 November 2018


Mycho Entertainment is a company that I can’t help but root for.

From humble roots, founder MJ Dixon has built an original horror shared universe, one made up of seven full length movies and a number of shorts.

That an indie company is able to achieve this is already an impressive feat, but what really stands out is that there has not been a single misfire to date.

So you can imagine my joy when Dixon offered The House an early look at his next two films in the series.

The first of these, Bannister DollHouse provides an origin for Slasherhouse II's extremely creepy Molly.

Would it continue the streak of hits? Read on...


Dir: MJ Dixon

Stars: Tiana Rogers, Grant Kempster, Susan Lee Burton, Emmeline Kellie, Chloe Badham

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

Bannister DollHouse continues the story started in the Mycho Patreon exclusive short Molly.

It features the Bannister family, dad Kenneth (Kempster), mother Mary (Burton), and their three daughters - Sherry (Badham), Dottie (Kellie) and Molly (Rogers).

Opening at Christmas, we witness a delighted Molly receive a gift of a decidedly unnerving doll from an unknown benefactor.

Of the immediate family, only the eldest daughter, the feisty Sherry, spots something amiss and (following the chilling events already witnessed during the short film Molly) decides to investigate. However, something has its eye on her, and her actions lead to tragedy.

A short while later the fractured family are still struggling to recover from the events of that fateful night. Ostracised Kenneth watches from afar, knowing that something is very very wrong with his youngest daughter.

But even the most devoted of family members cannot ignore the escalating oddness of Molly’s behaviour, forcing the Bannisters to confront the dark and insidious force that has targeted them...

THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): One of the great strengths of Mycho’s expanded universe is that different movies give director Dixon a differential sub-genre to play in - from classic slashers, to sci-fiesque comicbook action flick, to dark psychological thriller, the Mychoverse is exceptionally diverse. Bannister DollHouse adds another new ‘flavour’ to the Mycho menu - the creepy supernatural chiller.

It reminds me a lot of Blumhouse style modern haunting movies, themselves heavily influenced by classics such as The Haunting, The Changeling and Poltergeist. I know some may find the comparison insulting, but as a fan of the likes of Insidious, Ouija (well, the origin movie anyway), The Conjuring and it’s own demon doll spin offs Annabelle (and it’s vastly superior prequel), this is actually high praise.

Bannister DollHouse exudes that throwback ‘spooky’ atmosphere - and is a real hit for it.

Dixon is a talented filmmaker and his movies always look great - his framing of shots and visually striking colour palettes have only become better with each passing movie. This could be the best looking Mycho movie yet. At times some shots look like paintings and the clever use of colour motifs really pops. Bravo!

Of course, good looks alone don’t make a good movie, there needs to be some substance too. Thankfully, Dixon’s script delivers. It’s a very different sort of story to those he usually tells - it’s less grounded and opens up a whole new corner of the Mychoverse (think of this as Mycho’s Dr Strange!)

However, there’s no awkwardness in the transition and Dixon proves just as adept at this type of horror story too. There’s also a strong focus on character in this story, giving us a reason to care about the Bannister clan before the inevitable bloodshed. Too often overlooked in our genre in the past, it’s great to see filmmakers taking the efforts to earn an emotional investment from the audience.

It certainly helps the cause that at the core of the movie there is a cast that are uniformly strong.

Making her return to the Mycho fold having previously portrayed Molly in both 2016’s Slasher House II and the aforementioned short film, Rogers is pivotal to the success of the film. It’s a complicated role requiring real range, and she manages it with aplomb. While I suspect Molly Bannister’s story may be all but told, I’m sure Dixon will find a way to use her again (she’s clearly a favourite having appeared in 2015’s Cleaver too). Fingers crossed!

Badham is another actress who Dixon has used multiple times and it’s easy to see why. She’s quite excellent and I think it’s telling that the only criticism I can find of her scenes is that I wish there were more of them!

Burton is also excellent and takes a role that could well have fallen flat in lesser hands to major beleaguered mum Mary one of the film’s more interesting characters. A classy actress to watch, she strengthens every scene she’s in.

Kempster is also great, and brings a nice degree of pathos to his role. Like both Rogers and Burton, his is a role that could decide whether the film holds up or falls down, and he shows he is more than up to the task with a nuanced performance.

Kellie has plenty of experience and is just as strong as the other actors, even if she does have a little less to do. She’s definitely one to watch.

Now, this isn’t a family drama - Mycho is an unapologetic creator of horror movies. A decent script and talented cast are all well and good, but what about the frights?

Well, I think a strong argument can be made that this is one of the scariest films in the series. Tonally it’s definitely closer to Mycho’s genuinely unnerving Hollower than the more fun and in your face Slasher House flicks.

There are some fantastically creepy set pieces and one of the more terrifying antagonists in the series - a demonic entity that is sure to chill the blood during each of its brief but memorable screen appearances.

THE WORST BITS (mild spoiler warning): Honestly, it feels churlish to find fault with a film like Bannister DollHouse, one that achieves so much with so little. In fact I’d go so far as to say that everything in this section of the review will amount to little more than nitpicking, but that is my job after all.

I have referred to MJ Dixon as a microbudget maestro in the past. This is still true, but he is not a miracle worker. While I have likened Bannister DollHouse to the glossy output of Blumhouse, I do feel it is is worth stressing that is a low budget British indie horror movie without the substantial resources of colossal Hollywood studios. Yes it looks good, but do please adjust your expectations accordingly.

Another quibble I have, is with some of the humour injected into proceedings at times. I understand that a film as dark and grim as this needs the tension to be broken at times, but some of the wisecracks felt a little jarring. Sadly the delivery just felt a little off on a couple of occasions too. Perhaps I was just in the mood to be scared? Nonetheless these instances were few and far between and certainly not a big enough deal to have much of an affect on my enjoyment of the film.

Finally, as mentioned above, this is the latest chapter in an ongoing story of many chapters. First time Mycho viewers may find themselves a little daunted. Yes, this is a movie that rewards familiarity with the Mycho brand. However, this is not the equivalent of walking into Infinity War having never seen a Marvel Studios movie.

In fact, Bannister DollHouse is one of the best Mychoverse pictures from a stand-alone basis - and a lack of familiarity with Slasher House II would actually make the entire last act significantly more surprising! But do watch Molly to get the full story - and give those talented Mycho folk a bit more Patreon support while you’re at it.

THE VERDICT: I often review Mycho’s movies positively here at The House. I make no secret of my admiration for what MJ, Anna, and their network of talented collaborators have achieved.

But do not let that trick you into thinking that the movies they create are not worthy of the praise I give them - especially this one.

Putting it simply, Bannister DollHouse is one of the best movies they have made, and a genuine must-see. It’s a dark, creepy spookfest with enough frights to chill the most hardened of horror-loving hearts.

With a superb cast, visuals and plot, this is the real deal - and more than worthy of the Mycho name.

The next effort CleaverS has certainly got its work cut out following this - stay tuned to see how it fares.

Both Bannister DollHouse and CleaverS will have their world premieres at the Horror-on-Sea festival at Southend’s Park Inn Palace Hotel in January. You can buy tickets at

Meanwhile, keep up with Bannister DollHouse news at Mycho’s official web site at And check out their Patreon here.

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

Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.