With a whopping eight feature-length films already released, ranging from typical throwback slashers to psychological thrillers, from sci-if infused action flicks to supernatural chillers, the Mychoverse is a rich interconnected viewing experience.
Now, ahead of its premiere at the 2020 Horror-On-Sea Festival, Dixon and co offered me a chance to look at their latest effort in yet another sub-genre.
Pandamonium expands on the story of Slasher House II’s stripper hating, panda mask-wearing Jakob Jakushi - this time going the comedy-horror route.
Would Dixon’s talents lend themselves to giggles as well as gore?
Dir: MJ Dixon
Stars: Oriana Charles, Will Jones, David Hon Ma Chu, James Hamer-Morton, Lee Mark Jones, Derek Nelson, William Marshall, Dani Thompson, Chloe Badham, Charlie Bond, Tatiana Ibba, Annie Knox, Nad Abdoolakhan, Martin W Payne, Pablo Raybould, Charlie Clarke, Susan Lee Burton
SPEEDY SYNOPSIS: I’ll try not to spoil too much here but continue at your own risk.
Arielle (Charles) has landed an admin job at top law firm Killmore & Percival. However, rather than be overjoyed at her big break she comes to realise that she is now working with a group of hard-drinking, drug-using, sexist city boys, headed up by the truly obnoxious Damian Hook (Hamer-Morton).
Forced to work late on her first day, she finds a sympathetic fellow new starter, Daniel (Jones) but things soon unravel when Damian and his cronies hire a team of strippers lead by tough as nails Jasmine (Thompson) - who lets slip a secret about Arielle’s past.
However, the arrival of Jasmine and her crew spells trouble in more ways than one - they have drawn the attention of the notorious Stripper Ripper, panda-mask wearing Jakob Jakushi (Hon Ma Chu). Now with a prime selection of victims assembled in one place, Jakushi won’t rest until he has killed them all - and anybody who gets in his way.
THE BEST BITS (mild spoiler warning): I’ve always been a fan of Mycho’s darker more serious films - as my glowing reviews of grim psychological thriller Hollower and the spookily supernatural Bannister DollHouse will attest. So I approached Dixon’s first crack at full-on comedy with some trepidation.
Thankfully, my fears were utterly misplaced. Of course, some of the wisecracks that he has written for his teen characters and the always acid-tongued Red are side-splitters, but even they could not have prepared me for how smoothly the Mycho team have made the transition to humour.
It’s a non-stop barrage of gags, some well-performed physical comedy and just enough black humour to keep things suitably dark for a movie about a misogynistic panda-headed serial killer.
That’s not to say that the script is all fluff - there’s a strong theme of female empowerment throughout (as there so often is in the Mychoverse works) which might come as a shock to those who will inevitably make snap judgements after reading the synopsis, and some surprising emotional depth to boot.
It’s easy to care for characters when they are written so well and portrayed as brilliantly as they are here.
The frankly wonderful Charles gives what might be my favourite performance in a Mycho movie yet. Her well-rounded character is given plenty to do over her arc and whether she is inspiring sympathy or awestruck admiration, she manages it effortlessly. This is one actress I cannot wait time to see more of.
Equally great is young Tom Hardy-alike Will Jones, who shows real likeability along with serious acting chops. Remember that name, he’s going places.
I also loved the work of Thompson who manages to inject some nice humorous moments into her tough girl performance. I’m crossing all non-essential appendages that we’ll see her cross paths with Red one day.
Speaking of comedy, none deliver as many laughs as our deplorable city boys, with Hamer-Morton chewing the scenery with great aplomb every time he’s on screen. He reminds me of Ralph Inneson’s Chris Finch from The Office - a huge twat but so unapologetically awful you can’t help but grin every time he pops up.
The same holds for the delightfully deranged Lee Mark Jones and Nelson. The pair were in some of the funniest moments in the movie, and while they may not have been the subtlest characters their OTT energy was precisely what the film needed. Bravo gents.
Rounding out the frightful foursome was a familiar Mycho face in the form of Marshall. He’s great too as are the other returning Mycho alum.
Regular readers will know how much of a fan I am of the terrifically talented Badham - so I was delighted to see her back again - while a welcome albeit short appearance by the great Payne also added massively to the film.
It’s not just the wit, warmth and performances that make Pandamonium a must watch - the film never forgets that a horror movie needs scares too. There are some tense set-pieces scattered throughout the film, shot with Dixon’s usual impeccable timing and eye for framing, and the kills are shockingly brutal at times.
Dixon’s eye-catching use of colour (a trademark in Mycho’s output) is as on point as ever while the snappy editing (especially during a Commando-esque tooling up sequence involving office stationery) gives an already electric flick even more energy.
Pandamonium looks fantastic for a film with such humble resources - but it is still a low-budget film. This means that at times it can become a little rough around the edges. Please do adjust your expectations accordingly- it’s very much worth it.
For example, the offices of celebrated law firm Killmore & Percival don’t exactly suggest the workplace of a top affluent business. There are no wide bright marble hallways or pristine boardrooms with huge mahogany tables. Instead, it’s a more typical looking office setting. I’m sure with a bigger location budget and unlimited research time Dixon would have shot in a building straight out of LA Law. Instead, the Mycho team did what they do best - take what is available and scale it up to purpose. This is just one more reason to praise their work, not a stick to beat them with.
While I praised the work of the larger cast, it does feel as if a few characters could have used a little more screen time. Of course, when you have a slasher movie you need bodies to up the body count, but it does feel as if a couple of characters have little more than a few minutes of meaningful screen time before they are dispatched. This is a tough one to address - make the movie much longer and it can risk feeling bloated. Ultimately I suppose this is a testimony to Dixon’s characters - the only flaw I could find was that I wanted more!
THE VERDICT: For the last few years MJ, Anna and their team at Mycho have asked me to check out their latest movies ahead of their big premieres at the Horror On Sea Festival in Southend each January. And every year I have been inspired to write ebulliently positive reviews for their efforts.
This streak continues with Pandamonium.
Die Hard meets Severance by way of Halloween, this mishmash of mirthful and murderous mayhem is a resounding hit. Great comedy, superb performances, some killer horror sequences and a lightning pace that never lets up make this another indie must-see from Mycho.
Trust me in this case you will have no choice but to grin and ‘bear’ it!
Pandamonium will premiere at Horror on Sea on 18 January. You can buy tickets for the event here.
In the meantime, why not read more about the movie at its official Facebook page. Or better yet, hit up the Mycho Patreon and help them create more quality indie horror.
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Until next time, I hope you enjoyed your stay.