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[Fantastic Fest] ‘Hellraiser’ Fascinates by Carving New Damnation and Games

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Hellraiser

In a world of reinvention and retooling, there are often a lot of letdowns when it comes to our favorite films and TV shows. More often than not we are disappointed by the retelling. It is great to announce that David Bruckner’s recent Hellraiser reimagining is incredible and makes use of Author, Clive Barker’s original parts to incredibly give us the familiar while also carving its entirely own fascinatingly dark path.

Hellraiser tells the story of Riley (Odessa A’Zion,) an addict trying to live her life and resist all temptation. When Riley and her boyfriend burglarize a shipping container, they come upon the puzzle box. The box immediately begins to draw attention to it begging them to push and pull its corners. Little do they know that the box’s offerings will change their lives forever.

Hellraiser

The backdrop of Hellraiser is a dreary one. It is entirely filled with a sheen of darkness and grime throughout. The entire city and places the characters visit all become participating characters in the film itself. An amazing work of production design around every corner.

Director, Bruckner is commanding with the darkness. He is careful to control Barker’s bleakness and is great at it. Between himself and screenwriters Ben Collins and Luke Piotrowski the trio actively and effectively manage to solve their own puzzle box of the macabre and the constantly invigorating.

The Cenobites are back with a fully new roaster of incredibly creative beings. Each of them has a patchwork of skin in which flesh itself is what they wear. There aren’t any more bits of leather clothing that brought the legendary, Doug Bradley to life, instead, their wardrobe is made organically. Another fascinating detail of their look is brought about by these carefully placed pins with pearl tips. A touch of The Hellpriest’s personal touch.

The Hellpriest just as revelatory as the film. Jamie Clayton pays homage to and simultaneously reinvents The Priest from the ground up. A head full of pearl-tipped pins along with the fascinating touches from The Leviathan that add pieces of the box to her as well as the same creative organic wardrobe utilized by the other Cenobites. Horror fans have nothing but a brilliant experience ahead of them. Clayton makes the role her own and brilliantly creates her own spine-tingling voice for the character. A terrifying rasp, that is delivered with authority making her lines stand out with imposing importance.

Hellraiser

Ben Lovett creates a brilliant score that moves and shifts around as much as the puzzle box itself. Throughout it is entirely its own with tiny shifts to single notes of the famous Christopher Young score. The entire thing is devilishly done and creates an entire audio Cenobite all on its own. By the film’s finale, Lovett and Young become one in a chill-inducing crescendo.

Hellraiser is a fascinatingly dark work that combines Barker’s worlds and sensibilities into a brilliant haunting cocktail. There are hints of Damnation Game, Weaveworld and of course The Hellbound Heart. The hands shifting this puzzle box were tender and caring with Barker’s material. That reverence produces one of the best Hellraiser’s to date. Bruckner’s film gets back to diving beneath the flesh of terror. Jamie Clayton entirely lives in and reinvents The Hellpriest in every turn. Hellraiser brilliantly cuts, carves and pulls nerves. Dark, provocative, and filled with Clive Barker’s brilliance – Hellraiser is finally back.

4 eyes out of 5

Movie Reviews

TADFF 2022 Review: ‘MexZombies’ Knows the Kids Are Alright

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MexZombies

Along with writers Luis Gamboa and Santiago Limón, director Chava Cartas has crafted a celebration of youth, life, love, and film with the charming (if not awkwardly named) feature, MexZombies. In a world full of violent zombie apocalypse movies, this one’s for the teens. 

In a gated community in Mexico, Halloween festivities take an unexpected turn when the quiet suburb is overrun by the shambling undead. Only a small group of kids are aware of the chaos unfolding around them, and the fate of the world falls into their teenage hands. 

MexZombies stars an ensemble cast of talented young’uns. Marcelo Barcelo is comically cheeky as cinephile Cronos, Iñaki Godoy wins hearts as underdog Tavo, Luciana Vale is impressively savvy as sardonic Rex, and Vincent Michael Webb’s repeated self introduction as American tourist Johnny is… surprisingly funny. These kids bring a lot of their own authenticity to their roles, and you can’t blame them for having a blast as they slash their way through a horde of zombie neighbors. And it’s nice to see actual teenagers playing their age! Sorry 20-something year old American actors, but you’re not fooling anyone.

The film deftly weaves typical teen troubles into the zombie-killing action. MexZombies sings the frustrated teenage anthem of “parents just don’t understand” while juggling themes of unrequited love and class disparity. These themes are approached with a level of respectful maturity; they’re young, but their troubles are still valid. Especially when combined with the whole “survive and save everyone” thing. 

The character of Cronos is particularly tangled in this topical web; any dorky movie nerd can identify with his continued dismissal, but he counters it with such impassioned enthusiasm that the film never gets too broody or dark. If Tavo is the heart of the film, Cronos is the guts. 

One thing the film seems to be lacking is any sense of despair. Let’s be clear: this is not a bad thing. It’s oddly refreshing. Are there “we’re at a dark moment and it could get rough” points? Yes. But it somehow stays light on its feet, pushing audience engagement with quick pacing and forward momentum. 

MexZombies definitely wears its Zombieland influences on its sleeve – between the overt references (Cronos dressed as Tallahassee for Halloween) and the slightly less direct (the overuse of slow-motion blood spurts). The appreciation of the zombie film oeuvre is high in this one, from Romero to Thriller to Shaun of the Dead. Overall, the whole film is a smorgasbord of pop culture references, which actually kind of adds to its whole teenager cinephile vibe. 

Zombie movies are a dime a dozen, so you really have to do something bold to stand out. MexZombies may not be brazenly bold, but it is a light, bloody snack. Consider it part of a zombie-watching balanced breakfast. 

MexZombies played as part of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival‘s 2022 lineup. 

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TADFF 2022 Review: ‘Here For Blood’ Serves a Knockout Punch

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Here for Blood

If Hulk Hogan’s 1990s family-friendly action comedies have taught us anything, it’s that a burly wrestler is quite possibly the best qualified person to watch your kids. Daniel Turres’ Here For Blood confirms this lesson, but with a whole lot more blood. And cultists! It’s a great time. 

In Here For Blood, college student Phoebe (Joelle Farrow, Level 16) is encouraged to find a substitute for her regular babysitting gig so she has more time to prepare for an upcoming exam. Her friends are pretty persistent, and they have a valid point, so Phoebe turns to her rugged rough-and-tumble boyfriend Tom (Shawn Roberts, Resident Evil: Afterlife) to ask the big favor. He reluctantly agrees, and thus begins a night of mayhem. A group of cultists attack the home and attempt to kidnap Tom’s young ward, Grace (Maya Misaljevic, The Boys), unaware that she’s under the care of a heavily muscled man with a real knack for violence. 

As a horror comedy, a lot of the laughs are in the presentation; it’s less about the script and more about the delivery. Another key to its comedy is in the bloody mess that erupts across the screen. Here For Blood uses ample amounts of blood – buckets of it, in timed spurts – which just adds to the absurdity. 

The practical effects are done by The Butcher Shop FX Studio, and they’re top notch over-the-top gruesome gory goodness. It’s gooey, gnarly, visceral fun. If you like your horror with a heavy dose of campy violence, Here For Blood has just the kind of bare-knuckle punch you’re looking for. 

The cast have just the right amount of fun with it. Roberts as babysitter extraordinaire Tom O’Bannon charms his way through a burly front to create a character that you really grow to care for. Misaljevic as Grace is endearingly precocious, and it’s always a treat to see Canadian legend of stage and screen, Michael Therriault (Chucky). 

In Here For Blood, the stakes are high – the fate of the world, etc etc – but there’s a carefree avoidance of logic that somehow still works out. Who needs a rational explanation when there’s so much fun to be had? 

Director Daniel Turres (Terry’s Car Gets Stolen) shows a real flair for the melodramatic elements that make the film work. At moments – greatly aided by the synthy score from composer Norman Orenstein (The Editor) – the film plays like a cult classic 80s horror. Turres understands the assignment and crafts a plucky retro-inspired blood-soaked horror comedy.

 A surefire crowd-pleaser, Here For Blood is a treat for fans of classic 80s horror, but with a modern flair. The film is full of a passionate love for the horror genre and all the splatter that comes with it.

Here For Blood played as part of the Toronto After Dark Film Festival‘s 2022 lineup.

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Mischievous Children meet Gory Folklore in Dark Comedy ‘Kratt’

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Kratt review

Horrifying folklore has never been so fun as in the Estonian dark comedy Kratt. Similar in tone to Psycho Goreman, this film is filled with kid’s hijinks and mischief getting wrapped up in Estonian mythological figures in an entertaining way. 

The film centers around two pre-teen kids who have been dropped off at their grandmother’s farm house without their cell phones to show how their parents were raised while their parents go off to a hippie resort. They start bemoaning their lack of internet and their grandmother shows them that instead of being bored, there are lots of chores around the farm that they could be doing to help out. 

Kratt Estonian Horror
Image Courtesy of Red Water Entertainment

She also tells them about a demon called the kratt, which can be ordered to do anything by their maker. They just have to constantly supply them with jobs to complete. After meeting some other local kids in the town, they happen upon a book that explains how to make that very same creature, and of course, they do. Unfortunately, in the process, they accidentally get their grandmother involved and she becomes the kratt. Now the children must figure out how to get their grandma back unscathed while also having fun with the kratt doing their chores. 

This fantasy horror film is goofy and bold. The characters are what bring it together, as they all possess unlikable characteristics with a heart. They’re dumb but lovable, and the humor falls on them but never disrespects them. The children in particular are fun to watch and lead the film confidently. 

Kratt 2022
Image Courtesy of Red Water Entertainment

While it centers on kids, it doesn’t hold back on horror elements. There are few sequences in this film that don’t hold back on the blood. With that said however, this film could still be watched by both adults and kids. It’s an off-kilter contemporary horror film reminiscent of Billy and Mandy’s Grim Adventures. 

Additionally, the action in this film is surprising and quirky. One moment the kids are talking to their Siri stand-in, Vivi, asking for advice only to reveal it is run in a Russian child labor scheme run by their fentanyl-cooking mother. Laughs ensue. 

Kratt
Image Courtesy of Red Water Entertainment

Midway through, the plot does seem to lose some of its momentum as it constantly juggles a few different plotlines at once, some of which are dubiously included. Especially if this film is made for a younger audience in mind, it could be a tighter story focusing on the grandma kratt and children. 

Outside of the story, the film is artfully constructed, with fantastically cluttered sets, and engaging cinematography and editing.

Kids horror Kratt
Image Courtesy of Red Water Entertainment

Directed and written as the debut by Rasmus Merivoo, this film played well at multiple festivals, including Fantasia Film Festival, Sydney Underground Film Festival, Screamfest, Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival and more. 

Those who like to have a little fun with their horror and are looking for something that could be family friendly or on the less upsetting side might enjoy this surprising Estonian film. Look for it on iTunes, Amazon, Google Play, INDemand and DISH.  Check out the trailer below.

3 eyes out of 5
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