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Can’t get to Horror Channel FrightFest? Watch these instead

The UK’s biggest film festival dedicated to all things horror kicks off later today with over 60 films being screened across the bank holiday weekend. The annual Horror Channel FrightFest returns to its home in the dark heart of London on Leicester Square from the 24-28 August, showcasing some of the most anticipated and unique genre movies around.

If you’re not as fortunate as our writer Andrew Brooker, who is attending the extravaganza (and will be reviewing it on next week’s podcast along with Mike Shawcross), then don’t worry! We’ve picked out two films being shown on the Horror Channel each day across the duration of the festival for you to enjoy instead.

Whack your popcorn in the microwave, crack open that 2ltr bottle of pop from the corner shop, and turn your tele on for some quality horror, all from the comfort of your own home.

Continue reading Can’t get to Horror Channel FrightFest? Watch these instead

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US Box Office Report: 25/09/15 – 27/09/15

The public checks back into Hotel Transylvania, The Intern gets paid (unlike actual interns), Stonewall crumbled, The Green Inferno immolated, and Other Box Office News.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

Much like the first film before it, Hotel Transylvania 2 is officially your new Best September Opening Weekend Ever.  Yes, despite the first film exiting all of our collective memories almost as soon as it entered them – and it really pains me to say that because I love Genndy Tartakovsky so very, very much – it turns out that the Hotel Transylvania brand is strong with the audience that matters: kids and, even more importantly than that, the desperate parents who just want them to be quiet for 90 goddamn minutes.  They both helped power Transylvania 2 to an excellent $47.5 million haul, a good $5 mil more than the first one made… three years ago?!  Oh, GOD, time won’t stop getting away from me!

Kids weren’t the only underserved market being thrown a (possibly juicy it’s kinda hard to tell until I can see these films) bone this weekend, though, as Nancy Meyers finally returned from exile to provide yet another film that ITV2 can add to their schedules whenever they need to fill a spot and the Fast & Furious: Tokyo Drift file is too worn out.  This one, The Intern, did the usual Nancy Meyers business, slotting comfortably into second place with $18 million, although that is a step down from what It’s Complicated made 6 years ago ($22 million).  Also returning from exile was Eli Roth with his evil-savage-cannibal-tribe movie The Green Inferno, but nobody gives a sh*t about Eli Roth so it barely made $3.4 million from 1,540 theatres for ninth place.

Meanwhile, the world of Limited Releases was just bursting with activity this week.  To start with, Sicario went up to 53 screens ahead of its nationwide expansion next weekend and managed to crack the Top 10 with an astonishing $30,000 per-screen average.  In terms of the weekend’s actual openers, though, the biggest success came from Lost In Hong Kong, the second feature from Xu Zheng and a massive hit in its native China, which rode a 28 screen opening to a very strong $558,900 and a per-screen average of $19,961.  Next up was Ramin Bahrani’s 99 Homes, a film that features Michael Shannon yelling so I’m sold, which did a very strong $32,807 from 2 screens and a per-screen average of you can figure that out.  And, finally, Half Nelson writer-directors Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck returned with Mississippi Grind which opened on just the one screen but managed a very respectable $14,335 nonetheless.

Bountiful weekend for the Limited Releases then!  Well, unless you’re Stonewall.  Yeah, Roland Emmerich’s apparently-thoroughly-misguided passion project crashed and burned on the 129 screens it opened on, taking an absolutely pitiful $112,414 for a per-screen average of $871.  Just goes to show: trying to turn one of the most important and diverse moments in LGBT history into a whitewashed Wizard of Oz-ification about a generic bland White guy because stories about events like these can’t just be for LGBT audiences, oh no, they must also provide easy “ins” for White straight audience members too, will just get you a tsunami of backlash, scathing reviews, and nobody will see your ‘accessible’ movie in the first place.  This almost feels like justice, it really does.


 

hotel transylvania 2

Oh, it’s been one hell of a week for me, so let’s crack on with this Full List.

Box Office Results: Friday 25th September 2015 – Sunday 27th September 2015

1] Hotel Transylvania 2

$47,500,000 / NEW

OK, Sony Animation.  Now, maybe, pretty please, can you let Genndy just make whatever he goddamn wants?  He’s given you two solid hits whilst tethered to the sinking Sandler brand, can you just let him off the leash and make his own damn films now?  Please?  I’m still bitter that you shoved that brilliant-looking Popeye movie he was developing back into the basement for this.

2] The Intern

$18,225,000 / NEW

This looks like hot garbage.  That said, I haven’t actually seen any Nancy Meyers films yet, although I want to try and find the time to get at least one watched before I sit down on Saturday and spend… 121 minutes?!  …how?

3] Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials

$14,000,000 / $51,685,672

For those who missed it a couple of weeks back, here’s my review.  Still waiting for a point to appear in this franchise, some reason as to why I am spending this much time with these non-characters, but I will say that I would take this series over the Divergent films any day of the week.  For one, despite them having nothing going on so far, at least Maze Runner isn’t drop dead boring like Divergent is.  And for two, unlike Divergent, there are only going to be three of these things instead of four.  Hopefully.  Please.

4] Everest

$13,090,000 / $23,129,805

Oh, yeah, this one went to actual cinemas this week.  Think we can see that this genius release strategy hasn’t really worked at all.  Just because something worked for a Mission: Impossible movie, doesn’t mean that it’s going to work for your film as well.  Your film doesn’t feature Tom Cruise, after all.

5] Black Mass

$11,510,000 / $42,608,179

A lot of my university friends are really, really excited about this one, for some reason.  In fact, if it weren’t for them, it’d probably have flown under my radar near-totally.  The fact that it’s not coming out in the UK until mid-November for some bizarre reason might have something to do with that.  Plus, I’m mega-excited for The Peanuts Movie whilst those heathens couldn’t give two sh*ts, so…

I don’t actually have a punchline for this entry, so we should probably just move on.

6] The Visit

$6,750,000 / $52,260,580

OK, I’m hearing from a lot of people that this is actually alright and that is very disconcerting to me.  Because, well, it sounds awful and it’s Shyamalan.  But it’s apparently alright?  I dunno, this sounds wrong to me.  Or, you know, maybe I’m just worried that it being OK and doing decent business will lead to him trying to make a second Avatar movie.  I know that that series will never hit cinema screens again, but he’s already ruined it once and I don’t much like going through the rest of my life being terrified that he may try again.

7] The Perfect Guy

$4,750,000 / $48,871,135

I got nothing.  In fact, to tell you the truth, I completely forgot this thing existed until I just typed in the words for this entry.  Remember when this was number 1 two weeks back?

8] War Room

$4,275,000 / $55,999,681

Oh, please, October.  Please hurry up and eject nonsense like this from the chart.  God, September is the worst.

9] The Green Inferno

$3,494,000 / NEW

Right, this won’t be sticking around next week so let me get both of my commentaries for this film out of the way in one go.  1] This film stars Sky Ferreira, who is primarily a pop singer and should be way bigger than she is (due to lots of bad luck, mainly).  If you haven’t listened to her 2013 debut Night Time, My Time, go do so.  2] American movie goers, it worryingly sounds like critics are going to give a passing grade to Knock Knock in a few weeks when that finally drops on your side of the pond.  Do not believe them, stay away from it.

10] Sicario

$1,770,000 / $2,350,594

Got to see this one early on Wednesday as part of an Unlimited Screening.  My review’s not up cos I can’t crack it – left it too long for various personal issues you don’t care about – although I may try it again after I see the film again when it properly comes out, but for now…  oh, you need to see Sicario.  You need to book your tickets in preparation for Sicario right now.  Right.  Now.

Dropped Out: A Walk in the Woods, Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation, Straight Outta Compton, Grandma

Callum Petch can’t feel his face when he’s with you.  He now writes for his own site (callumpetch.com).  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

Knock Knock

Well, at least Keanu Reeves is still picking interesting projects?

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

WARNING: Minor-ish spoilers for Knock Knock, semi-major spoilers for the 1971 version of Straw Dogs, and possible Trigger Warning for discussion of rape scenes.

knock knock reevesI think Knock Knock is attempting to run on the Straw Dogs principle.  Allow me to explain.

In the 1971 version of Straw Dogs – the good one, in case you need further distinction between the two films – there is a centrepiece sequence in which Amy, the wife of David, is raped by Charlie.  The scene has become infamous, however, because of how ambiguous it is seen to be by many people for, at a certain point during the rape, Amy can be seen by some to enjoy it, indicated by her kissing and embracing Charlie, possibly turning the rape into consensual sex. It turns the scene into something much less clear-cut, that can distort or enhance the film’s subtext depending on how you view it, although it is important to mention that Amy has traumatic flashbacks to it throughout the rest of the movie, and that her second rape later on is clearly and unambiguously a rape.

Although it’s not quite an apples-to-apples comparison, Knock Knock seemingly wants to use that principle to fuel its entire movie.  Evan (Keanu Reeves) is a devoted and loving husband and father who, one night when his wife and children are away on a trip, provides shelter for two women, Genesis (Lorenza Izzo) and Bel (Ana de Armas), who are stranded in the cold and rain lost on their way to a party.  They then proceed to, whilst waiting for a cab, slowly start coming onto Evan, who frequently and firmly rebuffs their advances.  Then, when the cab does arrive and it’s time for them to leave, they approach Evan, naked, unzip his trousers and, despite his pleas, give him a blowjob, eventually transitioning into full-on sex between the three of them.

The second half of Knock Knock chronicles their subsequent punishment of Evan for the sex, using the justification that Evan is completely deserving of this because he didn’t stop them.  The fact that the sex kept going after the initial blowjob is treated, by the two girls and the film itself despite Evan’s constant pleas that he didn’t want to do it and is a loyal father and loving family man, as though it were consensual and that Evan should just have said “no”.  Except that he did.  Frequently and emphatically.  And the film goes to great strides during its second half to show that, no, Evan could not have physically stopped them from overpowering him, because if he could break free and stop them at any time the film would be over.  Evan was, at least from where I am sitting – and though I have talked with many people about this, I am still not completely certain or confident in saying this, so feel free to continue this debate in a civilised manner in the comments or on my Twitter – raped, yet the film treats him as if he could have just stopped it at any time.

That is an extremely privileged and rather reprehensible viewpoint that, if the genders were reversed, would be taken as being a rape apologist.  But it’s what the entire film bases its moral compass on and, therefore, its second half on.  And it’s so tone-deaf and just plain wrong, not to mention its marginalisation and discrediting of female-on-male rape, that I was waiting for the other shoe to drop.  “This can’t be the film’s entire message and point.  There has to be a twist coming, a reveal that will change this whole thing completely.”  But it didn’t, and there is no twist, which is just bewildering to me.  After all, movies like this are basically morality plays and I cannot believe that this film’s message is “Don’t ever cheat on your wife, being raped is no excuse.”

By which I mean, I literally cannot believe it because, well, this film is too utterly ridiculous to be taken as a straight-faced erotic horror-thriller.  The dialogue is utterly ridiculous – Keanu Reeves earnestly extolling the virtue of vinyl is something that really needs to be seen to be believed – the characters are paper-thin, the tension is nearly non-existent because the film gets really stupid the further in it gets, the acting is legitimately laughable – including a woefully miscast Reeves who spends pretty much the entire time purposefully giving the exact opposite of his John Wick-quality performance – and the payoff to this seemingly straight-faced tense and terrifying horror-thriller is… two full-on honest-to-god gags.  Not of the unintentional kind, of which this film has plenty, but of the genuine intentional kind.  One of them’s actually pretty damn funny, too.

So I’m having a hard time taking Knock Knock seriously because… well, I really don’t know if it wants to be taken seriously.  It’s so ridiculous, so histrionic and melodramatic, that I don’t know if it’s supposed to be a ridiculous parody or is just so completely inept that it’s coming off like this.  So is the film sincere in its primary message – and secondary message of “Bitches be crazy” – or is it just negligence brought on from nobody adjusting the film’s moral compass to be more firmly behind Evan or the girls?  Is Keanu Reeves – because, good lord, he deserves every last Razzie that’s going to be thrown his way come end of year, and I say this as one of his absolute biggest fans – purposefully being so hammily terrible or is just hammily terrible?

What’s more… I don’t hate this movie.  It is an incredibly bad movie with a reprehensible moral compass (if everyone involved is being serious) and nothing to recommend about it besides its unintentional hilarity, but I don’t hate it.  I think I was honestly having fun at how utterly terrible this film was, like I was watching a future Mystery Science Theater 3000 candidate unfolding in front of my eyes, if that show were still with us.  Like, the film is pure garbage, but it wasn’t the kind of garbage that causes me to sit and question why we as a collective humanity exist and why I am wasting my life watching the film in front of me.  Knock Knock is almost, and I can’t believe I’m saying this, so bad that it’s good, even though it’s kind of an embodiment of every MRA douchebag “aren’t women so mean to nice guys” and rape apologist ever at the same time, somehow.

And yet I don’t hate it, and I’m afraid for what that says about me as a person.

Callum Petch is cheating on you, yeah.  Listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio (site link) and follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

Horror Channel Recommendations

As you may or may not already be aware, the Horror Channel has quite recently made the transition from subscription only services, directly onto your freeview box. This opens up a world of possibilities for the recommendations section of our podcast! To give you a flavour of the kinds of movies we might be pushing on you, here’s a selection of five of their best over the next few days:

Tuesday 17th March 2015, 21.00 – eXistenZ

existenzDavid Cronenberg’s meta-psychological sci-fi thriller eXistenZ – with its wobbly translucent organic squirming control pad game-pods that characters can plug themselves into via bio-ports in order to play a virtual reality game – is probably the best film they’re showing all week. The fact he has created something so hideous both in design and concept that it can still be recalled with disgust days, weeks, probably months and years after you first see it is testament to his skill and legend as the master of body-horror. Having a strange and unnerving atmosphere spawning from a strong script is one thing, but the imagery that is incorporated into this espionage-come-sexually-invasive thriller is what gives it an edge. It’s not just a clever film about what life is, about the creation and destruction of life, and particularly in its relation to religion and environmental issues; it’s also a visual feast. Some fantastic designs only add to the entertaining and complex plot.

Thursday 19th March 2015, 21.00 – DeadHeadsdeadheads

Zom-coms seem to have a genre all to themselves. Sometimes they are painfully funny (the go-to example is Shaun of the Dead), and other times… not so much. Whilst DeadHeads is some way off the quality of Edgar Wright’s British zomedy, it still has enough going for it to make it worth your time if you are a horror aficionado. The concept is perhaps not completely original, but it’s a nice twist on the genre to show the movie from the perspective of two geeky loser zombies who happen to be able to talk just like regular guys. They just also happen to be dead. It’s simply a road trip movie where the main characters are zombies and their pursuers are zombie hunting government enforcer types, but it does have a couple of laughs scattered throughout.

Friday 20th March 2015, 00.40 (Saturday morning then I guess, technically) – Cabin Fever 2: Spring Fever

cabin fever 2Now, don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed Eli Roth’s first Cabin Fever from 2002 as much as the next sane (insane?) horror film fan did. I’m basically recommending this sequel from 2010 blind, purely based on the fact that it has Ti West’s name attached to it – even if he did publicly disown the project. This time, the flesh-eating virus has spread to a high school prom, which leads to a Not-Another-Teen-Movie-meets-Roger-Corman bonanza. Described elsewhere as “joyfully gross“, it’s a film you will either love or hate (apparently). But it’s a good example of the kind of gem that turns up on the horror channel from time to time, just when you’re in the mood to watch a properly naff but gory horror film.

Saturday 21st March 2015, 21.00 – Grave Encountersgrave encounters

Low budget. Found footage. Jump scares. These are all phrases that will either put you off the Viscous Brothers insane asylum documentary-gone-wrong horror, or, if you’re like me, sound irresistible. I first watched it late at night, in bed, with all the lights out, and I’m not ashamed to admit that it creeped me the fuck out at times. There are some original twists in the story; it’s a lot more than just a bunch of idiots sneaking around an old building being scared of creaking doors. There’s a few layers to the horror, starting out quite mild and eventually building to bigger and more ambitious things. If you can forgive the fact that the characters all make unrealistic or silly choices at times (which you really should in a film of this ilk) then you will probably find Grave Encounters best watched from behind a cushion.

Sunday 22nd March 2015, 22.45 – The Vault of Horror

vault of horrorA classic British anthology horror from the 70’s, featuring the likes of Terry Thomas and Tom Baker, which has endlessly been parodied. Perhaps by no-one more brilliantly than Steve Coogan in his under-appreciated ode to Hammer Horror TV series, Dr Terrible’s House of Horrible. As always in this sort of film, some of the stories are a bit hit and miss (mostly miss), but when it’s on form (such as in Tom Baker’s segment, Drawn and Quartered) then it is really bloody good. And who doesn’t love classic British horror films? Exactly.

The horror channel is now available on Sky 319, Virgin 149, Freeview 70, Freesat 138 and TalkTalk 487.