You’ll never walk alone

in a violent nature 2024

IN A VIOLENT NATURE

3 Stars  2024/18/94m

“Nature is unforgiving.”

Director/Writer: Chris Nash / Cast: Ry Barrett, Andrea Pavlovic, Cameron Love, Reece Presley, Liam Leone, Charlotte Creaghan, Lea Rose Sebastianis, Sam Roulston, Alexander Oliver, Lauren-Marie Taylor.

Body Count: 8


Moderate spoilers. Back in the 80s, we had a second hand Commodore Vic 20 computer, which had a few single-screen games you loaded up via cassette tapes. One of them was a POV maze where you could pretty much go forward, left, or right, hear 16bit footstep sounds AND NOTHING MORE. It was relentlessly boring and seemingly unsolvable. That unrelenting view down line-drawn corridors with zero features made Pong look like The Last of Us.

Technology was pretty simple in the 80s, and while I think that game was coma-invitingly boring, we probably played the crap out of it. Forty years later, it seems creatives are doing all they can to revert to that analogue, lo-fi, no-frills approach to media where a film like, say, The Prowler seemed to be the best thing going, even though there’s about 73 minutes of people walking around silently in the dark. The FX work was the payoff.

in a violent nature 2024

In recent years, slasher movies have taken to branching beyond their admittedly rather overdone modal conventions to incorporate hi-jinks like time travel, body swaps, sucked-into-the-film chaos, time loops, behind-the-scenes documentary satire, forced first-person-final-girl perspective, found footage, and what-happens-next positing. What is left?

In a Violent Nature has kept away from parody or satire to strip away multiple layers of polish to present a film almost entirely shot as a companion to the killer (rather than from his POV, as per the aforementioned as-final-girl entry, You Are Not Alone).

Somewhere in the lush woodland of Canada, near an old logging community, thoughtless teen visitors remove a gold locket hanging from a tree beside a collapsed fire tower. After they make off with it, the ground stirs and a hulking man hauls himself out. We see him only from behind for the most part as he gets his bearings and begins making his way through the forest towards the sound of voices.

in a violent nature 2024

After ridding the world of an annoying MAGA-type trapper, our backwoods behemoth creeps up on a firepit of youths and listens as they share his story – duh – a slow kid named Johnny who, sixty years before, was blamed for an accident and then himself died in a revenge prank gone wrong. Buried but not at rest, every now and then he rises from the earth to kill folks. Jason found drawing up legal docs.

Because we’re cruising along like a Remora to a cruising Great White, we don’t learn a whole lot about the septet of visitors, only that Ehren wanders off with his cassette Walkman on to smoke a joint by a tree and gets his head gruesomely cut off. Johnny then drags the body away (which is interesting to see, as you do wonder how Jason has the time and motivation to string his vics up in trees, in closets, etc.) and procures a creepy old firefighters mask and some gnarly chains and spikes.

in a violent nature 2024

Johnny systematically eliminates the other guests, some gorily, others not, until the depleting numbers finally notice he’s there (their previous obliviousness to the sound of thumping feet on the undergrowth being annoying), and flee to the ranger’s station, where they’re told they need to rebury him and hang the locket back where it was found. Of course, things don’t go to plan, and someone ends up in a log splitting machine seen used in Cut. At this juncture, I made a note that it’s amazing these long buried wackos seem always to know how to operate heavy duty machinery.

Here, In a Violent Nature kinda splits like oil and water, and we shift away from Johnny and follow the remaining survivor as she reaches the road and is picked up by a motorist played by Lauren-Marie Taylor from Friday the 13th Part 2 and Girls Nite Out. With almost 20 minutes remaining, the killer doesn’t appear again, and instead we get a long monologue about a bear attack, casting doubt on the final girl’s recollection of events.

in a violent nature

There are some unsettling moments in the film, and while some reviewers bemoaned the last section, it’s here, when the truck pulls over and the paranoid survivor fixedly stares into the woods with the expectation the masked wacko will spring out from behind a tree any second, that inject some ‘reality’ to it. Slasher cinema has taught us that it won’t be over, but Chris Nash plays a neat trick on us by threatening the return of the loon and then refusing to play ball.

Elsewhere, long uninterrupted takes work to build an undercurrent of tension and prove economical for the runtime, which has a lot of following Johnny through the trees. In truth, the film could probably be a 45-minute short without this content, but being the whole what-hasn’t-already-been-done raison d’etre, it’s something of a necessary evil, even if I was growing restless when some sections ground on excruciatingly for several minutes. The lack of any soundtrack also gives things a strange banal reality. In some ways it highlights small cracks in performances and action timing, in others it gives the gruesome denouements a sort of anti-sensationalistic grittiness.

A very brave undertaking with plenty of interesting ventures beyond the box, though not one I feel has much rewatch appeal.

Slay.

crystal eyes 2017 mirada de cristal

CRYSTAL EYES

3.5 Stars  2017/15/81m

“Alexis Carpenter wants to be the best model of all …Even when she’s dead.”

Original title: Mirada de cristal

Directors/Writers: Ezequiel Endelman & Leandro Montejano / Cast: Anahi Politi, Silvia Montanari, Erika Boveri, Camila Pizzo, Valeria Giorcelli, Diego Benedetto, Claudio Armesto, Victoria Del Rosal, Augustina Del Rosal, Adriana Pregliasco.

Body Count: 10


In 1985, monster diva model Alexis Carpenter pisses off everybody in her orbit, tossing hot coffee into the face of a poor makeup artist and taking to the runway in a shredded bridal gown, defiantly downs booze before setting herself aflame and going up like Mary Lou Maloney.

One year later, her Buenos Aires fashion house is preparing for a tribute edition, but a mannequin rocking all the killer runway poses keeps turning up and slashing, skewering, and drowning those associated with the concept, including the young models up for the ‘role’ of Alexis.

crystal eyes 2017 silvia manahari

Crystal Eyes oils itself up and rolls in a pit of giallo 80s excesses: Neon, big hair, high-end artwork, garish design, footwear that clip-clops loudly across any floor. Each and every shot is designed to wring out the sinister, every line of dialogue delivered like it has been redubbed, with characters responding to questions before the other person has even finished speaking. It’s so visually stunning, I’d defy anybody to think it’s anything other than an unearthed feature-length video from European MTV circa 1988.

The over-stylization of things actually makes for an unsettling, slightly nauseating tone, especially during the scenes as arch editor Lucia’s home, where identical twin assistants robotically clomp around in unison without cracking a smile. The kills are also savage, each dripping with the signature giallo build-ups: A creepy blind usher here, a razor glinting against the light there, eerie notes, and the killer themself; who sashays towards each victim like she’s on the Drag Race stage, her ‘face’ made-up to perfection like a drag exaggeration.

crystal eyes 2017

Like the 80s itself, and the fashion thereof, everything is grotesquely overwrought, bypassing a ten on the camp-o-meter at every possible moment. Expertly crafted stuff.

Not to be confused with fellow giallo throwback, Eyes of Crystal.

Not a sinner not a saint

candy land 2022

CANDY LAND

3.5 Stars  2022/93m

“We’ll take care of you.”

Director/Writer: John Swab / Cast: Olivia Luccardi, Sam Quartin, Eden Brolin, Owen Campbell, Virginia Rand, Guinevere Turner, William Baldwin, Brad Carter, Bruce Davis.

Body Count: 27+


Beware thy necessary spoilers.

Admittedly, when I read Candy Land was a slasher pic centered around sex workers at a truck stop, I pictured some regurgitated 80s throwback script with a succession of underdressed hot women being judgmentally offed by a wacko, while the patrons of their services get away scot free. And with the very first shot is of a naked chick riding a guy in the cab of a truck, I thought my suspicions were justified.

So it was a nice surprise when Candy Land turned out be something of an insightful little gem that adheres to the expected, but does so without leering at its subjects like they’re irredeemable filth.

candy land 2022

In 1996, a quartet of sex workers (Sadie, Liv, Riley, and Levi) run their ‘lot lizard’ business out of a truck stop motel alongside a remote highway. They turn tricks for cash in cabs, behind the dumpsters, in the bathroom, and get boarding from owner Nora, while local Sheriff Rex gives them no trouble in exchange for freebies from lone-male hustler Levi. This includes being lax about investigating the discovery of a mutilated corpse found in a bathroom stall. Other visitors include judgey Christians from a local cult, who routinely stop by to tell them to repent before it’s too late.

Ejected from this cult one day comes Remy, a sheltered girl covered by a thrift store dress out of Grandma’s 1950s collection, who is taken in by the group, fed, given a place to sleep, and taught the trade, if she wants to stick around. Receptively, Remy copies the others as best she can, but soon reveals that the bulky wooden cross she carries with her contains a lethal blade, which she uses to skewer, slash, and de-eye the men who try to lay their hands on her, including a sleazy old priest and a family man who’s “never done this before”.

candy land 2022

Praying that she’s saving them from themselves, Remy soon finds herself having to eliminate any witnesses, including one of the other girls and a luckless motorist who stumbles in on a kill. Then she sets about killing just about everybody for Jesus, before posing as the sole survivor and getting Rex to drive her back to the cult, where an intense end scene unfurls, which, if I’m honest, catapulted Candy Land up an extra star from ‘nicely done’ subcultural slasher to unsettling comment on opposing facets of American culture: Religious extremes and hedonism.

While the outcome is pretty bleak and there’s no real hero/heroine figure to root for, John Swab has written a group of interesting characters who exist in a non-traditional family unit, look out for one another, and possess awareness of the risks they face, emphasised in a scene where Levi is beaten by a patron who then rapes him. Visual objectification feels like a necessity here, given the subject matter, but at least seems to be from a place of art rather than titillation, and is sure to comment that those who judge most harshly are more often than not the ones frequenting the hookers’ services.

Blurb-of-interest: Owen Campbell was in X.

Schrei Zwei

dead island school's out ii 2001

DEAD ISLAND: SCHOOL’S OUT II

2.5 Stars  2001/95m

Director: Robert Sigl / Writer: Kai Meyer / Cast: Katharina Wackernagel, Barnaby Metschurat, Anna Kanis, Luise Bähr, Alexandra Finder, Annette Kreft, Karin Giegerich, Nezâ Selbuz, Susanne Berckhemer, Friederike Kempter.

Body Count: 7


A TV sequel to 1999’s German TV Euro-Scream sleeper, School’s Out, where a scissor-wielding harlequin hunted a string of school friends.

In the follow up, heroine Nina (Wackernagel) is now residing at a clinic on a small island, once home to a convent until the nuns up and vanished one day. Something about a murdered baby. Sacrifice. Jealousy. Revenge. The subtitles were live translated from the German audio so it’s not clear. At one point somebody apparently exclaimed: “The cake itself carried away with it!”

In the now, Nina’s boyfriend Niklas sneaks on to the island alongside a visiting doctor, there to oversee and report back on the questionable methods of therapy employed by the wheelchair-bound professor who runs the place.

Before long, someone in a veiled nun’s habit starts killing everyone: A girl is chased into a bog and sinks, a couple of others meet the business end of a harpoon, and most others die off camera. Tame stuff, but with some nice aesthetic flourishes here and there and a fun locus with the abandoned fortress on the edge of a cliff.

I wasn’t particularly clear on the killer’s motive, but the attempts to hide their identity are also curiously absent. Expect a sort of Murder She Wrote: Teen Jessica’s Adventures and you’ll picture it. About as good as the first one. Take that as you will.

Gorestunbury

wreck season 2 2024

WRECK – SERIES 2

4 Stars  2024/274m

Directors: Louis Paxton, Chris Baugh / Writer: Ryan J. Brown, Ellie Kenderick / Cast: Oscar Kennedy, Thaddea Graham, Jodie Tyack, Harriet Webb, Peter Claffey, Miya Ocego, Alice Nokes, Amber Grappy, Warren James Dunning,  Niamh Walsh, Greg Austin, Joseph Arkley, Alan Dale, Orlando Newman, Anthony Rickman, Buck Braithwaite, Sam Buttery, Carolyn Bracken, Shaheen Jafargholi.

Body Count: 25

Laughter Lines: “She’s the worst person I’ve ever met – and I went to stage school.”


Gonna be honest, I didn’t expect there to be a second series of Wreck, the BBCs LGBTQ-peppered horror comedy series which, initially, skewered cruise ship culture for laughs and scares. For all its in-jokes (both horror and homo), nobody else seemed to be talking about it. The good news is that it must’ve done something right, because here we are again – and it’s even better than before.

After escaping The Sacramentum, pals-by-trauma Jamie and Vivian find exposing parent company Velorum for their Elite Hunting-esque set up impossible. The company either pays off potential witnesses or disposes of them – a fate which quickly befalls a number of the surviving crew members.

wreck series 2 2024 main cast

Meanwhile, in the beautiful woods of Slovenia (been there, it is that lush), a Velorum-backed hippie festival, Exodum, is about to launch. Headed up by the company owner’s daughter Devon (see Laughter Lines), it seems nothing has changed and bright young things who came to work there find themselves put aside for the killing pleasures of rich clientele.

Jamie and Vivian, along with the ever-loveable Cormac and Rosie, Lauren, and a reluctant Sophia (until her friends are murdered) meet up with inside-man Ben to try and save themselves from a pair of duck-masked killers, one of whom possesses Jason-like invulnerability. Also in attendance? Jamie’s ‘dead’ sister, Pippa, who makes it clear she and something of a resistance network are already on the case and intend to stick it to Velorum, with a little help from an unlikely source.

wreck series 2 2024

I watched Wreck S2 in the same week that I was involved in a conversation that mourned Scream‘s recent reluctance to raise the stakes and kill its darlings, something that is not a problem for Ryan J. Brown; characters we liked and even loved are not spared the business end of a blade this time, which adds an emotional weight to proceedings, rather than just bussing in a new serving of clueless schmucks as knife fodder. Look out for the scene with the heavy oak door and the pitchfork – sad, brutal, daring. It pays off.

Beyond the sad though, Wreck wrecks me with its humour. Sharp, cutting dialogue flies off the screen at locomotive pace (“despite the sensible shoes, I’m not a fur trader”) and the light disdain for festival culture (“this is some white people shiiit”) is endlessly amusing. The reassembly of the quirky, diverse group of underdog heroes is where it scores most impressively though, drawing out their likeable all-for-one qualities, albeit mocked by the bad guys, and keeping us rooting for them right to the end.

wreck series 2

Season 3 don’t wait too long!

Blurb-of-interest: Alan Dale was in Houseboat Horror.

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