L.A. Slasher/Abducted

DirectorMartin Owen (2015)
StarringMischa Barton (occasionally), Dave Bautista (barely), Eric Roberts (even less)
Find itIMDB

When his daughter (Barton) is kidnapped by Eastern European gangsters, rogue special forces agent Frank Hardcastle (Bautista) is forced to take matters into his own burly, callused hands, breaking necks and taking names (in that order, which unfortunately hampers his investigation quite a bit). Along with ex-colleague, betrayer and eventual cannon fodder Jesus the Goon (Trejo), Hardcastle sets out along the twisted and bloody road of bodies to Roman Casanova (Eric Roberts) the man - and Vice President of the United States of America! - ultimately responsible. Danger, as the tagline promises, awaits.

Nah, I'm just shitting you. Dave Bautista plays a drug dealer and, with Danny Trejo, is in the movie for less than ten minutes. That's more than some, though: Eric Roberts is in precisely one scene. If you bought the DVD of Abducted, rented Abducted, streamed Abducted, stole Abducted (for shame) or watched anything with Abducted in the title, the joke's on you, because Abducted ain't the movie you're getting.

Straight to DVD action fans will in fact be sorely disappointed by the retitled and remarketed L.A. Slasher, which bears precisely nothing in common with the movie promised by the UK DVD case. Cashing in on the recent popularity of Bautista, of Guardians of the Galaxy and Spectre fame, it promises a Taken rip-off which L.A. Slasher couldn't be any less if it tried. Those who tune in wanting to see Dave Bautista stomp some face will not be happy bunnies.

Oh yeah, this thing is totally the same as the other thing.

There is some danger though, so it's not all lies. Pissed off by an endless parade of talentless dimwits becoming famous for their sex tapes and lack of brains, a serial killer begins kidnapping the reality TV stars of L.A. and broadcasting their murders for our satisfaction. And yet, as his star begins to rise, the slasher threatens to become the thing he hates the most: Internet famous.

Martin Owen's  L.A. Slasher is a lurid, hypnotic cross between Drive and Kill Keith - a truly weird slasher film that transcends its limited budget with style, sass, all-star cameos (within reason) and a soundtrack to die for. Its message is outdated by over ten years, and it's not as funny or clever as it should be, but it is a movie that demands one's attention - not to be hidden under a fake name with a mildly perplexed Dave Bautista on the cover.

On that note, I should probably have wrote more than just a paragraph about it, too. Oops.

The Gallows

Director: Chris Lofing, Travis Cluff (2015)
Starring: Reese Mishler, Pfeifer Brown, Ryan Shoos
Find it: IMDB

Years after a kid dies in a school play related mishap, a drama class decides to take a second shot at the production as some misguided sort of tribute. As if that wasn't a stupid enough idea, the class asshole (classhole?) and his brainless friends decide to break into the school and trash the set. Several locked doors and an angry spirit later and we're in full-on shrieking death mode.

The Gallows is further evidence to my theory that the worst character in a found footage movie is always the guy holding the camera. That's especially true here, with the diabolical dipshit Ryan (Shoos) making up for what he lacks in face time with the worst voice and demeanor this side of a a hyperactive Nickelodeon cartoon character. His chums aren't much better either - particularly not perma-zonked Reese and the rubber-faced Pfeifer.

Not even these numpties can completely ruin the first half though, which at least provides a little mean-spirited amusement (Gallows humour) in throwing a football at a nerd and its effective opening sequence. This is easier to comprehend and deal with than the hoarse screaming bullshit of its predictable second half, which consists mostly of running around in the dark shouting either abuse or each others' names into the night - when it's not taking sneaky shots of Cassidy's sweaty boobs, that is.

For a film with such immediacy at its core, The Gallows is so very drawn out and tiresome. It takes an overplayed found footage cliche (character staring, snotty and terrified directly into camera during a rare moment of silence - then is suddenly dragged off into the darkness) and makes that the whole concept, washed out in ghastly green and red nightvision filters. It's an ugly film, both in its ideas and visuals, and, worst of all, hangs around far too long past its welcome.


Director: Steve Oram (2015)
Starring: Steve Oram, Holli Dempsey, Julian Rhind-Tutt
Find it: IMDB

Toyah Willcox, preparing a lovely dinner in the kitchen, pauses to take a shit on the floor. Dirty business done, turd disposed of into the bin, she resumes cooking. Minutes earlier, we watch as Smith (Oram) and best pal slash subordinate Keith (Tom Meeten) take a joint piss on a photograph of the former's ex wife. This done, Keith lovingly wipes Smith's bell-end dry with a piece of tissue. All the time, no dialogue - just a series of ape-like grunts and shrieks.

It's The Planet of the Apes in the most arthouse sense. Writer, director and actor Oram's Aaaaaaaah! (eight 'a's, counted aloud every time I type that title) depicts a world not unlike our own - save for the crucial difference that everyone in it talks and behaves like apes. Kitchen sink drama by way of David Attenborough, we watch fascinated/repulsed (delete as appropriate) as a narrative begins to form. Helen (Dempsey) is the heroine of the piece, trapped under the rule of Alpha Male Ryan (Rhind-Tutt). Enter Smith, whose gatecrashing of a party threatens to throw the whole family unit into disarray. The rest? You'll have to work that out for yourself, as half of the fun here is deciphering the story, relationships and the ways in which this world works.

Those familiar with British cult comedy should recognise most of the cast, from Sightseers' Oram (magnificent as ever, and curiously scary) to Green Wing's Julian Rhind-Tutt and The Mighty Boosh's Julian Barratt (plus Noel Fielding in a small but definitely memorable role). Oh, and Toyah Willcox too, who proves admirably game in the face of all this monkeying about. Its satire is offered without judgement, although the sad, weary expressions of the beleaguered womenfolk speaks volumes.

A divisive one, to be sure: a gonzo Shameless by way of Pink Flamingos, not everyone is going to be on board with 80 minutes of grown adults shitting, pissing and masturbating everywhere while screaming like monkeys in drippy Britain. Aaaaaaaah no, I certainly couldn't get enough. All that and the most poignant use of a battenberg cake in movie history, too.

Insidious: Chapter 3

Director: Leigh Whannell (2015)
Starring: Lin Shaye, Stefanie Scott, Dermot Mulroney
Find it: IMDB

It's never a good sign, reviewing a sequel, when one has to Google one's own blog to check whether you've reviewed the previous films in that series or not (turns out I reviewed one of them - and wrote a Letterboxd thing for the other, back when I used Letterboxd). Even worse: the fact that I watched the entirety of Insidious: Chapter 3 without ever realising that it was a prequel to two movies I have already (allegedly) seen.

Which is the thing about Blumhouse movies (either that, or a thing about my shitty memory maybe). I know I've watched most of them, from Insidious to Sinister, from The Purge to any number of the sequels, but I couldn't tell you any of the specifics. It's some of the most forgettable horror franchising I've ever seen. Well, I think I've seen it, anyway.

Insidious: Chapter 3, then. I remember enjoying the first (although my review isn't as positive as I recall) and not enjoying the second (although my Letterboxd whine isn't as negative as I recall either) - but nothing else beyond Darth Maul, a spooky shadow dimension and evil Patrick Wilson at some point. Maybe Lin Shaye too, although I'd forgive myself for mistaking the Insidious series for The Conjuring, which I have definitely already seen and forgotten.

And yet, the fact that I have forgotten more or less everything about Insidious and its sequel turned out to be a good thing. Not knowing that the film I was watching was a prequel, I spent the whole film convinced that certain characters were going to die. Which left me genuinely surprised by certain survivals and developments throughout. Bravo my stupid memory/copy and paste Blumhouse filmmaking.

The plot, while I remember it: following the death of her mother, plucky teenager Quinn (Scott) seeks out the assistance of talented medium Elsie (Shaye), hoping to contact her in the afterlife. Alas, Elsie initially refuses, and Quinn winds up harassed and attacked by a vicious demon from the Nether Regions (not the proper term for it, but as good as any). Loud music and effective jump scares ensue as Quinn's clueless family try to deal with the problem. If only Elsie could hurry up, beat her own personal demons (both literal and not) and come save the day. No, really: hurry up. For all the jump scares and screaming, Insidious 3 is only interesting when Lin Shaye (and, to a lesser extent, her ghostbuster buddies) is around. Hers is a great role, giving the genre actress plenty to wrap her teeth around. I (just about) remember Patrick Wilson doing well enough when faced with the same situation in Insidious, but Shaye has him beat, like a spooky John McClane faced with Paul Blart Mall Cop: she's the real deal. Which makes me wonder, now I know this is a prequel, why they didn't just send Lin Shaye in to deal with Darth Maul.*

Being the only thing I am likely to remember about this film in a week or so.

This film of two halves - one dullish supernatural horror, one kick-ass Die Hard in the Nether Regions movie - is surprisingly smart and inventive at times**. It has a great star in Lin Shaye, and plenty of good villains in its various demons. While the story is nothing special***, it's pulled off with enough Blumhouse sheen and style that those who lap this sort of thing up should enjoy it well enough.

Who knows, I might even remember this one.

*Probably reasons I have forgotten, like I did everything else.
* *When Lin Shaye is around.
*** When Lin Shaye is not around.