Tag Archives: Supernatural

You Will Always Belong To Him…

“Seb Logan is being watched. He just doesn’t know by whom.

When the sudden appearance of a dark figure shatters his idyllic coastal life, he soon realises that the murky past he thought he’d left behind has far from forgotten him. What’s more unsettling is the strange atmosphere that engulfs him at every sighting, plunging his mind into a terrifying paranoia.

To be a victim without knowing the tormentor. To be despised without knowing the offence caused. To be seen by what nobody else can see. These are the thoughts which plague his every waking moment.

Imprisoned by despair, Seb fears his stalker is not working alone, but rather is involved in a wider conspiracy that threatens everything he has worked for. For there are doors in this world that open into unknown places. Places used by the worst kind of people to achieve their own ends. And once his investigation leads him to stray across the line and into mortal danger, he risks becoming another fatality in a long line of victims…”

“Under A Watchful Eye” is the eighth novel from Devon-based author Adam Nevill. I have read nearly all of his previous books, including the previous two “No One Gets Out Alive” and 2015’s “Lost Girl”.

Whereas the latter was based more in a sci-fi future world with “Under A Watchful Eye” Nevill is back onto more familiar ground, falling squarely into supernatural horror territory, in this case with a narrative penned from the perspective of horror author Seb Logan who encounters problems when an old roommate from student days, Ewan Alexander, reappears in his life. Before he knows it Seb finds himself immersed in a nightmare scenario involving a long-dead author, M.L. Hazzard, who it transpires was involved with some kind of cult.

The character of Hazzard was apparently inspired, at least in part, by the strange tale of Dr. Charlotte Bach although the activities here are centred around astral projection and out-of-body experiences rather than evolutionary gender theories.

Adam Nevill

The book is based in the Devon area, where the author resides, and the use of a dilapidated manor house in a secluded part of Dartmoor helps to add to the atmosphere as the story progresses. It also felt like a bit of a throwback to “Ritual”, Nevill’s debut novel that was set in rural Norway. A further reference to the author’s previous work comes within the text with a couple of references to the Temple Of The Last Days cult featured in his “Last Days” book, as well as the film-maker at the heart of that tale, Kyle Freeman. There are also some nods to a few metal bands included.

This certainly shouldn’t suggest a lack of ideas however. I think it’s true to say that stories of this kind can take a little longer to get into, as the imagery can demand more visual imagination than in, for example, your average crime thriller and I did find that to be the case here. That said, the horrors are so well described that it soon becomes all too easy to picture them in your head and imagine what Seb is experiencing!

I really enjoyed this story, going along for the ride as Seb’s organised and comfortable life is steadily eroded by events and characters in the tale and you wonder if there is any way he can make it through relatively unscathed. Another highly recommended novel from the excellent Mr. Nevill…

He’ll Kill To Find Her

“How far will he go to save his daughter? How far will he go to get revenge?

It’s 2053 and climate change has left billions homeless and starving – easy prey for the pandemics that sweep across the globe, scything through the refugee populations. Easy prey, too, for the violent gangs and people-smugglers who thrive in the crumbling world where ‘King Death’ reigns supreme.

The father’s world went to hell two years ago. His four-year-old daughter was snatched from his garden when he should have been watching. The moments before her disappearance play in a perpetual loop in his mind. But the police aren’t interested; amidst floods, hurricanes and global chaos, who cares about one more missing child? Now it’s all down to him to find her, him alone…”

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British supernatural horror writer Adam Nevill has followed up his sixth novel “No One Gets Out Alive” with the rather different “Lost Girl”. OK, so the title may seem a bit derivative given the seeming increase in books with the word “girl” in of late – “Gone Girl”, “The Girl On The Train”, “Luckiest Girl Alive”, “The Good Girl” etc., but the subject matter on offer here is very distinctive.

Adam Nevill
Adam Nevill

The tale is a first for Nevill in that it’s set in the future, centred on the county of Devon in the year 2053. This is a future that has seen mankind practically destroy the planet and left us very much at the mercy of a damaged and unhappy mother nature! Although there are parallels with the peak oil scenario played out in works such as Alex Scarrow’s “Afterlight” the situation described within the pages of “Lost Girl” is rather more of a nightmarish situation – extreme climate change, mass migration, pandemics, crime, violence – but sadly no less believable.

This isn’t a sci-fi future that is too far from the present to be unrecognisable, and I think that adds to the sense of realism that pervades even when the author’s trademark supernatural elements are introduced. In fact, so cleverly has this aspect of the book been penned that the reader could accept the seemingly supernatural elements to be exactly that or could write them off as the ravings of a drug-addled madman as the central character “The Father” attempts to.

I wasn’t too sure about having the main character have no name – indeed his missing daughter isn’t named until a long way into the tale and two of his contacts are only known by film star pseudonyms for the majority of the book too – but in the long run it isn’t a big deal and really doesn’t detract from an excellent and typically horrifying story.

The synopsis at the top of this post gives a decent flavour of what the book is about but it won’t prepare you for the horrors that unfold as the tale progresses. Those horrors work on several different levels – there is he horror of the not-too-distant-future-world, the horror of mankind’s treatment of its environment and fellow man, the supernatural horror and, by no means least, the horror of having your child stolen away from you.

btmI have to confess that I have a soft spot for Nevill’s debut novel “Ritual” with its mix of isolated rural horrors and black metal, but “Lost Girl” proves beyond doubt that Mr. Nevill continues to be an excellent writer who rarely puts a foot wrong. Highly recommended reading…

If You Trespass Upon Them, They Will Trespass Upon You

Originally titled “The Woods”, the feature film debut from director Corin Hardy is the 2015 British / Irish production of horror movie “The Hallow”.t

Joseph Mawle
Joseph Mawle

Adam Hitchens (Joseph Mawle – “Kill Your Friends”, “Made In Dagenham”) is a tree surgeon who moves to a small Irish village with his wife Clare and baby son Finn.

When Adam is out in the local woods making a survey ahead of some proposed logging he comes across an abandoned building, in which he discovers the corpse of a dead animal with a strange black muddy substance on it. Taking some cell samples, he heads home to investigate further.

Bojana Novakovic
Bojana Novakovic

Meanwhile Clare (Bojana Novakovic – “Devil”, “Generation Um…”) has been busy removing some metal bars that have been screwed in front of all the windows of the house that they have just moved into.

A local man, Colm Donnelly (Michael McElhatton – “Fifty Dead Men Walking”, “The Fall”), visits Clare, unhappy that Adam is meddling in the woods and demanding that he go to see him when he returns home.

Michael McElhatton
Michael McElhatton

Adam, however, elects to stay at home and study the samples that he collected. Later an upstairs window mysteriously smashes in Finn’s room and the door slams shut on Adam and Clare as they rush to investigate.

Michael Smiley
Michael Smiley

Thinking Colm to be to blame, Adam calls the police. Local policeman Garda Davey (Michael Smiley – “A Field In England”, “Kill List”) attends and says that he believes that a bird must have caused the damage to the window. He also alludes to a local legend regarding the woods known as the Hallow.

Joseph Mawle & Bojana Novakovic
Joseph Mawle & Bojana Novakovic

When Adam goes to the local village the following day to get the window repaired he is again warned about the Hallow, while Clare is visited again by Colm who warns that the couple should leave the village for their own safety. As Adam makes his way home the car suddenly loses all power and stops, the engine compartment inexplicably filling with the black muddy substance. Things get even worse when he does manage to get home. What is causing these unexplained events, and what does the Hallow have in store for the young family?…

This is a decent little horror movie. I suppose you could describe it as being part folk horror (outsiders moving to a remote village with hostile locals) and part supernatural horror (unexplained phenomena). Not gory or overly scary, the film is nonetheless effective in unsettling and chilling the viewer and keeping you watching. The climax is well handled and the final scene as the credits roll is a perfect ending. Worth a watch…b

They Said The Dead Can’t Hurt You… They Were Wrong

“Moving from the heart of Brighton and Hove to the Sussex countryside is a big undertaking for Ollie and Caro Harcourt and their twelve-year-old daughter Jade. But when they view Cold Hill House – a huge, dilapidated Georgian mansion – Ollie is filled with excitement. Despite the financial strain of the move, he has dreamed of living in the country since he was a child, and he sees Cold Hill House, with its acres of land, as a paradise for his animal-loving daughter, the perfect base for his web-design business and a terrific long-term investment. Caro is less certain, and Jade is grumpy about being separated from her friends.

Within days of moving in, it becomes apparent that the Harcourt family aren’t the only residents of the house. A friend of Jade’s is the first to see the spectral woman, standing behind her as the girls talk on FaceTime. Then there are more sightings, as well as increasingly disturbing occurrences in the house. As the haunting becomes more malevolent and the house itself begins to turn on the Harcourts, the terrified family discover Cold Hill House’s dark history, and the horrible truth of what it could mean for them…”

9781447255949The House on Cold Hill

As well as his long-running series of crime novels featuring main character Roy Grace – the latest, eleventh, installment being “You Are Dead”, Brighton based author Peter James has penned a good number of other books, the most recent of which was published in October 2015 – “The House On Cold Hill”.

This is a supernatural ghost story based almost entirely at the titular property situated a few miles outside of Brighton. After a short and shocking opening chapter we meet the Harcourts – Ollie designs websites from home, his wife Caro is a solicitor and they have a twelve year old daughter, Jade.

Peter James
Peter James

Shortly after moving into their new home two things start to happen. Firstly, as can often be the case with older houses, problems begin to surface with the actual fabric of the building – water leaks, ceilings falling in, etc. The second, presumably less common problem, is that all three begin to see ghostly figures around the house.

I did feel at points that the story reminded me of one I had previously read, possibly in James’ short story collection “A Twist Of The Knife” from 2014, but I haven’t been able to verify that so it could just be the general familiarity of the haunted house scenario.

Overall this was a good, engrossing read, and an enjoyable tale. There were some novel ideas and some lovely twists too. On the downside, I would have to say that some of the plot developments were fairly predictable and setting practically all the action within the house and grounds meant that a lot of characters were more peripheral than they might have been.

The biggest problem, for me, however was the ending of the story which left too many questions unanswered and felt almost a little rushed. Don’t get me wrong, although I felt that it just didn’t reach the quality of the Roy Grace series, this is still a good book and a worthwhile read…peter-james-6-oct-2015

Beware Those You Love The Most

Last night I watched a recent supernatural horror film from the Hammer Films stable. An Irish / British co-production released in 2011, “Wake Wood” was directed by David Keating (“Cherry Tree”, “The Last Of The High Kings”) from a story penned by Brendan McCarthy.

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Ella Connolly
Ella Connolly

As the movie opens the action switches between watching a couple driving in their car through the countryside to a small town called Wakewood and to seeing flashbacks of their daughter’s birthday.

Alice (Ella Connolly – “Eliot & Me”) goes to feed a dog in the backyard at her father’s veterinary practice on her way to school on her birthday, only to be savagely attacked and killed by the dog.

Eva Birthistle & Aidan Gillen
Eva Birthistle & Aidan Gillen

Her parents Patrick (Aidan Gillen – “Still”, “Game Of Thrones”) and Louise (Eva Birthistle – “Waking The Dead”, “The Last Kingdom”) are devastated at the loss of their only child and some months afterwards they up-sticks and move to Wakewood.

Timothy Spall
Timothy Spall

While Louise works in the local chemists Patrick works as a rural vet for Arthur (Timothy Spall –  “Mr. Turner”, “The Damned United”), undertaking most of the farm visits etc.

Still struggling with their grief and loss, things are difficult for the couple, and when Louise becomes unnerved by a couple of things she notices about some of the locals she decides she wants to leave and asks Patrick to take her to the station.

Aidan Gillen & Eva Birthistle
Aidan Gillen & Eva Birthistle

On their way the car mysteriously malfunctions and the pair stumble across open fields until they find themselves at Arthur’s farmhouse. With no answer at the door Louise goes to check the yard, where she witnesses a strange and disturbing ritual taking place.

Timothy Spall
Timothy Spall

Following an accident where a farmer is killed by his bull, witnessed by both Patrick and Louise, the couple decide that the town is not for either of them – until Arthur tells them that he can bring a person back from the dead for three days, and will do so with Alice so that they can see her again and say goodbye properly.

Ella Connolly, Eva Birthistle & Aidan Gillen
Ella Connolly, Eva Birthistle & Aidan Gillen

There are some conditions attached, however. The body must have been in the ground for less than a year, they cannot leave the border of the town (marked by remarkably sinister wind turbines) during the three days and the couple must stay permanently in Wakewood thereafter. Patrick and Louise eagerly agree but are less than honest about one of the details necessary for the process to work smoothly.

Eva Birthistle, Ella Connolly & Aidan Gillen
Eva Birthistle, Ella Connolly & Aidan Gillen

Alice is reborn in the ritual that Louise had earlier spied and the couple are overjoyed. But gradually it becomes clear that things are not what they should have been and that their little white lie may be more costly than they could have ever imagined…

Ella Connolly
Ella Connolly

This film tells a folk horror tale which is similar in ways to the likes of “The Wicker Man” and “The Blood On Satan’s Claw” with aspects of paganism, sacrifice and ritual, not to mention seemingly odd locals in a remote location. There are also parallels to be made with Stephen King’s “Pet Semetary” but I felt that this movie, a low-budget affair, was different enough to stand on its own merits.

A genuinely creepy affair with some rather gruesome moments and a neat twist or two at its conclusion, this is a great film from the resurrected Hammer Films studio. Great stuff…

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Five Strangers Trapped. One Of Them Is Not What They Seem

Finally got around to watching a movie that’s been on my “to watch” list for sometime last night – the 2010 supernatural horror thriller from director John Erick  Dowdle (“As Above, So Low”, “Quarantine”) written and produced by M. Night Shyamalan (“The Sixth Sense”, “Lady In The Water”) titled “Devil”.

Devil-movie-poster

The film begins with quote from the Bible “…be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary the devil walks about like a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour” and a voice-over describing stories told to the narrator by his mother about the devil sometimes taking human form and finding those who have sinned are killing them all. Such events were said to start with a suicide as the devil makes his presence known.

The Suicide
The Suicide

During this we are gradually closing in on a shot of a cleaner wearing ear defenders busily polishing an office building floor whilst in the background a truck roof seems to suddenly explode as the falling body of a suicide hits it at high velocity. The truck then rolls away out of sight.

Chris Messina
Chris Messina

Police detective Bowden (Chris Messina – “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”, “Argo”), a recovering alcoholic still trying to come to terms with the death of his wife and son in a hit and run incident five years previously, is sent to investigate when the body – clutching rosary beads – is discovered down the street from the office building.

Bokeem Woodbine
Bokeem Woodbine

Meanwhile in the office building temporary security guard Ben Larson (Bokeem Woodbine – “Total Recall”, “Riddick”) is signing visitors into the building when he needs to take something up to one of the top floors. His colleague tells him to take the lift, where he joins four other people.

Geoffrey Arend
Geoffrey Arend

The four are mattress salesman Vince (Geoffrey Arend – “Body Of Proof”, “500 Days Of Summer”, a young woman Sarah (Bojana Novakovic – “Edge Of Darkness”,”Drag Me To Hell”), an older woman Jane (Jenny O’Hara – “Mystic River”, “Wishmaster”), and Tony (Logan Marshall-Green – “Prometheus”, “Across The Universe”).

Bojana Novakovic
Bojana Novakovic

The lift suddenly becomes trapped between floors, to the bemusement of the building security and maintenance staff who can find nothing obviously wrong with the lift. Staff are able to speak to the occupants of the lift but are unable to hear what is going on in the lift, having to rely on the solitary CCTV camera in the corner of the lift. Bowden is outside the building where he hears about the trapped lift, having traced the truck’s path back there, so heads into the building to assist.

Jenny O'Hara
Jenny O’Hara

The lights in the lift begin to flicker off and on and one of the security staff watching, Ramirez (Jacob Vargas – “The Hills Have Eyes II”, “Bobby”), thinks he sees a ghostly image of a face close up to the camera. Ramirez is deeply religious and provides the aforementioned voice-overs during the film. When the lights go back on again the mirror inside the lift has been smashed and Vince’s throat cut.

Logan Marshall-Green
Logan Marshall-Green

Bowden’s job has suddenly got much harder, and the need to free the lift more urgent – and things have only just begun…

This film was tagged as the first film in “The Night Chronicles”, set to be a series of supernatural thrillers, with the second film “Reincarnate” due to have begin shooting in 2011.  This, however, has yet to happen so maybe “Devil” will end up being the one and only entry in said series?

Jacob Vargas
Jacob Vargas

Whatever the result of that, what I can say is that “Devil” is a pretty good movie in its own right. As the story unfolds there are numerous rational and logical reasons why the events in the lift could be happening, and those trapped within the lift switch their suspicions from one person to another as things escalate. Equally there is the sense that supernatural forces could be at work – despite the understandably cynical misgivings of Bowden and the others outside of the lift.

Jenny OHara
Bojana Novakovic, Jenny O’Hara, Bokeem Woodbine, Logan Marshall-Green & Geoffrey Arend

All of those trapped have unsavoury secrets. They’ve all done wrong in some way and these secrets are revealed one by one as the film unfolds until the climax. There was the opportunity for a final twist at the end but, as I remarked to my wife when the credits were rolling, I’m glad the filmmakers avoided taking that opportunity because I think it would have been a little corny and obvious, so the film worked better without it.

Jacob Vargas & Chris Messina
Jacob Vargas & Chris Messina

The acting was pretty good throughout, the special effects were effective and he whole thing was put together just about right to keep you entertained, maintain suspense and keep you guessing. Although Shyamalan’s reputation has taken a but of a battering in recent years I thought this film, regardless of the fact that he didn’t actually direct it, was spot on.

In summary, then, this is a good old good-versus-evil kind of movie, looking at themes of repentance, redemption and forgiveness. Irrespective of your religious leanings I would certainly recommend it…DEVIL (1)

The Magus Of Hay

“The castle was moonlight-vast, all its ages fused together by the shadows, chimney stacks like the backs of hands turned black…

Hay-on-Wye : an eccentric medieval town known for its dozens of secondhand bookshops… and for having its own king. Now in the grip of recession, Hay is fighting for its future. Not the best time to open a bookshop, but Robin and Betty are desperate, and only Betty worries about the oppressive atmosphere of the shop they’re renting.

Merrily Watkins, diocesan exorcist for nearby Hereford, knows little about Hay until a body is found in the dark pool below a waterfall on the outskirts of the town and the police ask her to assist. The dead man’s peculiar interests will open a passage to the hidden heart of Hay and a secret history of magic and ritual murder.

And Merrily is alone and vulnerable as never before…”

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The latest novel that I have read was written by British author Phil Rickman. The twelfth book in a series featuring the character of Merrily Watkins, a vicar based in the fictional Herefordshire village of Ledwardine.

Some years ago I had tried to get into “The Wine Of Angels” (published in 1998), the first in the series, and at that time couldn’t get into it. More recently, however, I picked up a copy of book ten “To Dream Of The Dead” (from 2008) in the local library and was instantly hooked, leading me to read book eleven “The Secrets Of Pain” as soon as it was released in 2011.

I think as I have got older and felt more of a connection with nature and an interest in the ways of our ancestors I have been able to identify more closely with some of the ideas in Rickman’s books. It doesn’t hurt that Merrily and her pagan-leaning archaeologist daughter inhabit a part of the country not too far from that in which I live, also close to the River Wye and England / Wales border.

“The Magus Of Hay” finds Merrily having to spend some time alone as boyfriend Lol Robinson is on tour and her daughter Jane is away on a dig. It’s at this time that police detective Francis Bliss gets in touch to get Merrily’s unique insight – as diocesan exorcist for Hereford – into the home of an old man whose body has been found in the river close to his home at Cusop Dingle.

Phil Rickman
Phil Rickman

The story is set entirely in and around the border town of Hay-On-Wye, with its many bookshops suffering from the effects of recession and the rise of the e-book, where a pagan couple, Robin and Betty Thorogood, have taken the decision to open a bookshop, devoted to pagan books, in a vacant shop.

While Merrily digs into the background of the dead man, Bliss finds that one of his colleagues, a young PC who lived near where the body was found, has gone missing.

Meanwhile Robin and Betty begin to find out that there is a hidden history to their new shop which man not be terribly positive.

I really enjoyed this book, and would say that it is certainly the best of the series that I have read so far (I will, in due course, be going back and reading books one to nine in this series). Rickman’s depictions of both character and locations are excellent. So much so, in fact, that I am looking forward to revisiting Hay itself as well as discovering Capel-y-ffin and some of the other places in the story.

With ingredients including ghosts, castles, stone circles, paganism, girls disappearing, magic, murder, Nazi occultism in World War II and a neo-nazi group going by the name of the Order Of The Sun In Shadow, and the addition of real-life characters including Richard Booth (the “King Of Hay”), author Beryl Bainbridge and artist Eric Gill, there is plenty to get your teeth into and to keep the old grey cells ticking over.

81ZlGQkAy9LIn my humble opinion this is a fabulous book, with a superbly plotted story. I very much look forward to book thirteen, to be titled “Friends Of The Dusk”, which is due later this year…

Look At Her Long Enough And She May Be The Last Thing You’ll Ever See!

Forty six years ago today, on 8 August 1969, the actress Sharon Tate was brutally murdered at 10050 Cielo Drive, the rented home she shared with her film-maker husband Roman Polanski, by members of the Manson Family – followers of criminal guru Charles Manson.

Over the coming days I’m going to look at the films that Tate starred in before her untimely death, starting with “Eye Of The Devil”, her first starring role filmed in 1965 and released in the UK during the summer of 1966.

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Philip Loraine - Day Of The Arrow
Philip Loraine – Day Of The Arrow

Directed by J. Lee Thompson (“The Guns Of Navarone”, “Conquest Of The PLanet Of The Apes”) the movie was based on a novel by Philip Loraine titled “Day Of The Arrow”.

David Niven
David Niven

Philippe de Montfauçon (David Niven – “Murder By Death”, “The Pink Panther”) is a wealthy vineyard owner who becomes concerned when he learns that his crops have failed for the third consecutive year.

Deborah Kerr
Deborah Kerr

He heads off to the family estate at Montfauçon Castle in Belenac to rectify matters, but tells his wife Catherine (Deborah Kerr – “From Here To Eternity”, “The Sundowners”) that he does not want her or their children to go with him, something that Catherine is none too pleased about.

Donald Pleasence & David Niven
Donald Pleasence & David Niven

Arriving in Belnac, Philippe is greeted by the village priest, Father Dominic (Donald Pleasence – “The Eagle Had Landed”, “From Beyond The Grave”), who makes vague references to a duty which he says that he was sure Philippe would not refuse when the time came.

Sharon Tate & Robert Duncan
Sharon Tate & Robert Duncan

Still at their home, Catherine is disturbed when the couple’s young son Jacques (Robert Duncan – “Rasputin : The Mad Monk”) has a sleepwalking episode during which he talks of going to see his father, leading her to decide that she needs to take the children out to the estate.

David Hemmings
David Hemmings

When Catherine gets to the castle she is unsettled by a pair of mysterious siblings. Christian de Caray (David Hemmings – “Blow-Up”, “Barbarella”) who likes to wander around the castle grounds shooting birds with his bow and arrow and his sister Odile de Caray (Tate) who has a hypnotic effect on those around her.

eod-016[1]When Catherine sees the siblings sneaking into the castle with a dove that Christian had killed and follows them to witness some kind of pagan ritual taking place. Spying hooded figures in the woods has Catherine further spooked and fearful for the safety of her husband…

Tate apparently met with the High Priest and High Priestess of Alexandrian Wicca in the UK to prepare for her role.

Sharon Tate
Sharon Tate

Although she and Hemmings both have relatively minor roles in terms of speaking parts, their presence is essential to the feel of the film and Tate, in particular, is quite spellbinding – beautiful and also projecting an ethereal quality that, for me, really made the film much more effective that it might otherwise have been.

Also known as “13”, this is certainly an interesting film with clear parallels with “The Wicker Man”, especially in terms of how it treats paganism and pagan rites and the narrative about sacrifice with regard to failed crops, and the isolated and insular community involved. Whilst it isn’t in the same league as its more famous counterpart this particular film is still well worthy of watching.

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Revenge Comes Online

Last night we watched a novel supernatural horror movie, directed by Levan Gabriadze (“Lucky Trouble”), titled “Unfriended”.

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Laura Barns' Suicide
Laura Barns’ Suicide

The film opens with high school student Blaire Lily (Shelley Hennig – “Ouija”, “Days Of Our Lives”) watching a YouTube video on her laptop showing her childhood friend Laura Barns (Heather Sossaman – “10.0 Earthquake”) committing suicide twelve months previously after suffering from an online campaign of bullying and abusive comments.

Shelley Hennig & Moses Storm
Shelley Hennig & Moses Storm

Blaire then receives a call via Skype from her boyfriend Mitch Roussel (Moses Storm – “The 4 to 9ers”). After a flirtatious conversation in which they promise to lose their virginity to each other on the upcoming prom night they are joined in a group Skype call by three other friends.

Shelley Hennig, Will Peltz & Moses Storm
Shelley Hennig, Will Peltz & Moses Storm

Whilst talking to the three – Jess Felton (Renee Olstead – “The Bling Ring”, “The Secret Life Of An American Teenager”), Adam Sewell (Will Peltz – “In Time”) and Ken Smith (Jacob Wysocki – “Pitch Perfect”) – Blaire notices that there is another person connected to their conversation with no picture showing, named Billie227.

Billie227
Billie227

Despite repeated attempts the five are unable to disconnect Billie227 from the conversation. When the user claims to be the dead girl, Laura, and the group start to receive messages from Laura’s Facebook account they suspect another of their friends of playing a trick on them so call her via Skype.

Courtney Halverson, Jacob Wysocki & Renee Olstead
Courtney Halverson, Jacob Wysocki & Renee Olstead

The friend, Val Rommel (Courtney Halverson – “Godspeed”), joins the conversation, only to suddenly find compromising pictures of her at a party suddenly uploaded to Facebook – apparently by Jess.

Jess's Facebook Page
Jess’s Facebook Page

Jess protests her innocence and struggles to delete the pictures from Facebook but as soon as she is successful the pictures are re-posted on Adam’s Facebook account.

UnFriended10Gradually tensions amongst the group are exploited by the person terrorising them as secrets are forced into the open and events take a decidedly dark turn…

Heather Sossaman
Heather Sossaman

What we particularly enjoyed about this film was that practically the whole thing takes place on the screen of Blaire’s laptop – in fact we did think that watching the movie on a laptop or PC would make for an even more immersive viewing experience. This isn’t the first film to use this technique, with last year’s “Open Windows” treading a similar path, but in this case it felt very effective.

ce41b75311dcf9950e91ce0ad9a02ab5Nonetheless, this was a very well made film (apparently filmed via laptop mounted GoPro cameras) and made excellent use not only of the likes of Facebook, YouTube and Skype but also used spooling, lagging and pixilation breaking up as a clever way of adding to the tension.

Originally titled “Cybernatural” there is a supernatural / possession element to the film. More than anything, however, this movie should serve as something of a cautionary tale to those who spend large amounts of their lives interacting with others online, and especially of the very real fact that whatever you post or do online will be around for a very long time – this is especially pertinent to the mistakes and negative things.

Ultimately, no matter what your view on that, this film works very well as a tense supernatural horror and is definitely worth viewing…

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Every House Has Its Secrets

From producer James Wan (the “Saw” series) and director / screenwriter Will Canon comes a horror movie, originally titled “House Of Horror” but now known as “Demonic”.

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Frank Grillo
Frank Grillo

Detective Mark Lewis (Frank Grillo – “Disconnect”, “Collision”) arrives at the crime scene at an abandoned and run-down house to find some college students have been brutally killed, and takes the one surviving student into custody under suspicion of murder.

Maria Bello
Maria Bello

Psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Klein (Maria Bello – “Prisoners”, “A History Of Violence”) is called in to question the suspect – John (Dustin Milligan – “Primary”, “Repeaters”) – who claims that he and his friends were amateur ghost-hunters, seeking out paranormal phenomenon at the abandoned house, which they believed to be haunted.

Megan Park
Megan Park, Scott Mechlowicz, Dustin Milligan & Aaron Yoo

Also included in the group were John’s pregnant girlfriend Michelle (Cody Horn – “End Of Watch”, “Magic Mike”), her ex-boyfriend Bryan (Scott Mechlowicz – “Cat Run”), Donnie (Aaron Yoo – “Disturbia”) and Jules (Megan Park – “What If”).

Cody Horn & Dustin Milligan
Cody Horn & Dustin Milligan

Once they’d broken into the house – where there had been an occult related slaughter some years previously – the college friends had rigged up cameras all around the house and had a séance.

00b1c057b13935961cb72b549f8a4f34923e88f2With Michelle and Bryan missing, and the rest of the group dead, John claims that not only is he not responsible but that no-one is – instead he blames the house itself.

Told through scenes of the police investigation mixed with flashbacks to illustrate what John is telling Dr. Klein, this film takes the found footage idea but does feel somewhat fragmented, and the picture is rather dark in places. The movie was announced way back in 2011 and the release seems to have been delayed more than once since 2013, which hints that perhaps someone wasn’t entirely happy with the finished article.

Dustin Milligan
Dustin Milligan

Acting performances were OK, there’s nothing terrible here., although I have seen far better from Bello in particular in previous roles. Overall, the film is certainly worth a watch because the idea – and I won’t go into detail to avoid spoilers – is a good one, and the end of the story is clever, but overall the film feels slightly lacking for some reason…

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