LA Horror Review: “Pernicious”

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While James Cullen Bressack continues filming his latest project, “Bethany,” LAHorror.com had the pleasure of viewing “Pernicious,” Bressack’s ultra violent ghost film that’s making the rounds now in the horror circuit. Fans of Bressack’s films will no doubt be in for a shocking surprise, as this is not only one of his most brutal and violent films (though probably not as rough as “Hate Crime,” which has been banned in the UK), but also his biggest film in terms of scope. “Pernicious” is a horror genre blending blood bath that will keep you guessing until the very end…

It was supposed to be an adventure of a lifetime as three young girls spend the summer in Thailand. But their adventure quickly becomes a nightmare when the trio unleashes the spirit of a murdered child with only one thing on her mind – revenge.

“Pernicious” works on a variety of levels and manages to differentiate itself from other films with similar set ups. We’ve seen young American’s overseas get brutalized before, but torture is far from the only thing “Pernicious” has to offer. Instead we get a rather clever ghost story, with elements of the torture porn nasties of the early 2000s, as well as something completely new and freaky…the gold little girl statue. All of this is cast over the beautiful landscape of Thailand, which adds to the mystery and isolation that this film offers. It’s hard to pinpoint the scariest aspect of “Pernicious,” but let me just say that the golden statue is freaky as hell. You’ll understand when you watch it. I love when horror films master several subgenres in one picture, and “Pernicious” does just that.

eyeballAnother thing that “Pernicious” masters is the gore. Can we talk about the gore? Toenails, eyeballs, throat slashes and oh so much more. “Pernicious” brings it. In fact, it’s a golden blood bath. If you’re a gore hound that likes it to look legit, then look no further. Watch “Pernicious.”

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But what’s good gore without good victims (and killers)? Our trio of leads, Alex (Ciara Hanna), Julie (Emily O’Brien) and Rachel (Jackie Moore) all do a great job keeping this film engaging and entertaining. Humor when humors needed, creepy when things get creepy. There are times when their Americanisms play a bit hard, but in all honesty it’s believable. We’ve all got friends like these girls. O’Brien in particular steals the show in a couple of scenes, one of them involving a very large knife and another involving a creepy witch doctor.

Bressack no doubt has hit a new high in his filmmaking career with “Pernicious,” and if this is any indication as to what’s to come then horror filmmakers should start to get really excited. Bressack directs “Pernicious” extremely effectively, his real talent shines when things get rough for these characters.  The sequences involving the golden statue were especially effective. Bressack also litters clues to the films final secrets throughout, which makes a repeat viewing especially enjoyable. If Bressack isn’t on your radar already, get with the program and catch up on his work. Starting with “Pernicious” isn’t a bad idea at all.

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I really enjoyed this film, and if you’re a sicko like me then chances are you will too. So keep your eyes peeled for this one…you don’t want to miss this golden opportunity for terror!

Read our pre “Pernicious” interview with James Cullen Bressack here. You can also read the LAHorror.com reviews of his films “Hate Crime” & “To Jennifer” here. Follow Bressack on Twitter for all the latest on his work.

Coming Soon from Grit Film Works: “Restoration” & “Bethany”

Greetings, horror lovers!  It’s my pleasure to share the news that a new production company, Grit Film Works, is now in production on two micro-budget horror films that are going to haunt your face off!  The films, entitled “Restoration” & “Bethany,” are being produced by Grit Film Works’ James Cullen Bressack & Zack Ward.

On a side note, I am an Associate Producer on these projects along with Jarrett Furst, Christian Ackerman & Line Producer John Mehrer.  I can tell you first hand that these films are going to shock, horrify and satisfy your lust for blood and horror!    The Hollywood Reporter just dropped the news in a new exclusive, check it out below!

Two Microbudget Horror Films First on Slate From New Production Company

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“Grit Film Works is off to a terrifyingly fast start.

The production company, owned by filmmakers James Cullen Bressack and Zack Ward, is in the middle of back-to-back shoots for two horror films.

Bethany stars Stefanie Estes as Claire, a woman who moves back into her childhood home with her husband. The abusive, traumatic memories of her mother return to haunt her — as her husband becomes busier with work, she finds herself in a fog of memories — as a small figure tries to reach out to her.

Bressack is directing the film, which also stars Ward, Shannen DohertyFelissa RoseBrodus ClayPeter JasonJohn MurrayOlivia StiefelAnna Harr and Ellen Gerstell.

The second film, Restoration centers on a young doctor who moves to a new town with her husband while she completes her residency. Things seem to be going well, as she and her husband, a contractor, renovate their home, and meet a fun couple next door. Things take a dark turn when they discovery a diary buried within the walls of their house, and a terrifying spirit is awakened.

Restoration stars Emily O’Brien, Ward, Adrian Gaeta and Sarah Ann Schultz. Ward also is directing the film

Ward and Bressack co-wrote both scripts. Restoration is currently shooting, while Bethany is set to begin filming later this month.”

Keep up with “Restoration” and “Bethany” right here at LAHorror.com!  Also be sure to follow us on Twitter for all the latest updates.  We will be sharing exclusive photos, videos and interviews as the films continue!

VHS Spotlight: “The Brain”

Lots of great stuff in the very near future coming to LAHorror.com!  But until then, let’s take a look back to another classic VHS that still needs to be released on DVD!  Alex Ray has the scoop on “The Brain,” a horror flick that may be in your basement stash, and one that definitely deserves to be revisited!

VHS SPOTLIGHT: THE BRAIN

1988 * 94 minutes * International Video Entertainment * Directed by Edward Hunt

brain_01_150It’s often noted that politics seem to influence trends in horror. The Vietnam War ushered in an era of dark, cynical works like Night of the Living Dead and The Texas Chain Saw Massacre. George Dubya’s time in office saw the rise of torture porn. So what did the Reagan years give us? Films like Larry Cohen’s The Stuff and John Carpenter’s They Live were fairly obvious responses to rampant consumer culture and a general brainwashing of the masses. But there was another un-subtle jab that went under the radar of our thoroughly manipulated collective consciousness: The Brain.

Yep, I’m waxing allegorical about a movie featuring a giant, floating brain that chases teenagers down steam tunnels. While it disguises itself with all the B-horror tropes, it’s pretty easy to see the not-very-hidden message: David Gale (of Re-Animator and Syngenor—look it up!) hosts a TV show called “Independent Thinking,” while he colludes with an alien brain that, well, brainwashes people!

Tom Breznahan (of Ski School) plays a lovable troublemaker just trying to get through high school. Too bad his parents and teachers think he needs a little psychiatric intervention to get him on the right track. So our young prankster goes to Doc Gale, who seems to have just the prescription for all wayward teens (the brain hypnotizes them or something). But when he sees more than he’s supposed to, it’s Three Days of the Condor time for Tommy B.

It really does feel like more of a conspiracy thriller than a monster movie for a majority of the ninety-four minutes, but every so often there’s a slithering tentacle or a topless nurse to remind us of what we’re really watching—which I’m nearly sixty-seven percent sure was pitched as Nightmare on Elm Street meets Videodrome. From there it must have mutated a little (as did a lot of things in those two movies), until they settled on this wannabe Robert Redford vehicle with shades of hentai (maybe intentional; probably not).

Of course, the classics mentioned above aren’t the only ones brought to mind by The Brain (see what I did there?). It owes The Crazies at least half a doff of the cap, and there’s a great Invasion of the Body Snatchers vibe to boot. Here’s a fun fact: M. Night Shyamalan took fifteen minutes of this movie and adapted it into his feature-length screenplay for The Happening, which, conversely, is one-sixth as entertaining.

Well, since I’ve now broken the record for number of movie titles referenced within a single review, I’ll hunker down and get serious. I really do like this movie. The story is compelling and generates a lot of momentum. Unlike with many teen horror flicks, we don’t spend the first act in a van, and the rest doesn’t hang on the suspense of guessing who will be next to hear a strange noise (not to cast aspersions; those movies are great, too). The characters are well-established early on, and then we’re off and running, all the way to the inevitable showdown with the brain—a proxy for any and all puppet masters behind politicians and spokespeople and celebrities. Yeah, this is deep stuff.

Not too deep, though. The subtext is pretty close to the surface at all times, and that’s kinda what makes it fun. The Brain really wears its heart on its sleeve—or its temporal lobe on its cerebral cortex, if you wanna get technical.

I proffer that this movie will only get more relevant, as our political and social landscapes get murkier and harder to navigate. It’s almost comforting to imagine that a big, alien, carnivorous brain might be responsible for all of society’s woes. Now that’s food for thought (yep, actual line!).

3 out of 4 stars

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VHS Spotlight is written by LAHorror.com contributor Alex Ray.

“Demons” – A Feature Film That Needs Your Help!

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Demons.  We’ve all got them, in one way or another.  Maybe your demons have manifested from a regret or a lost loved one, a missed opportunity or a mistake.  Maybe you don’t even know that they’re there…until they rear their ugly heads.  For most of us, we learn to live with our demons, as they are often hard to conquer.  But in David Coupe‘s debut feature film “Demons,” it’s conquer or die, because these demons aren’t fucking around.  It’s a brand new vision of the demons we face in our daily lives, and just how powerful they can become…

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“Demons” is a feature length film gearing up to be shot in Chicago this year.  It follows a young man who must face-off against the forces of darkness while mending broken friendships and getting over a painful break-up.  And while this is being billed as a horror-comedy, the drama, chaos and carnage in this film are going to be straight from the pits of hell.  I was fortunate enough to read the script and it’s got basically everything you could hope for in a horror flick.  I won’t spoil anything, but this is going to be a damn fun ride, a ride that you can help make happen.  But enough from me, hear it from the creator himself!  LAHorror.com got to chat with Coupe about his film, his plan and even some of his demons…enjoy horror lovers!

1LAHorror:  Coupe, “Demons” the movie. In three sentences or less, what are audiences going to be in for?

David Coupe:  They are going to be in for an extremely relatable story about relationships that is paired with some of the most outrageous horror they’ve ever seen. I’m currently writing my ninth draft and there are moments that cause my heart to break for the characters as well as moments that make me run around my apartment in demented glee. There is one thing in particular I can’t imagine anyone who sees the movie not talking about non-stop after seeing it.

LAHorror:  So are you going for an “Evil Dead” type of outrageous? What are some of your inspirations with this script, specifically horror inspirations?

DC:  Someone, after one of the read-throughs, described it as “500 Days of Summer” meets “Evil Dead.” I think that’s not too far off. Specific influences while writing are definitely the “Evil Dead” movies, “The Exorcist,” “Shaun of the Dead,” and the recent crop of demon movies like “The Conjuring.” A lot of these movies I bow at the alter to and some of them, like “The Exorcist” and “The Conjuring,” I specifically study to play with the genre conventions.

LAHorror:  Haha awesome! “500 Days of Summer” meets “Evil Dead,” that’s great!  The tag line on your Kickstarter says: “An independent horror/comedy about cults, demons, and relationships. Each more horrifying than the last.”  What is so horrifying about this relationship? What’s going on with these characters?

DC:  I think that relationships are all about trust. The closer you get to someone the more of yourself you are putting in their hands. You don’t want to find out that your trust is misplaced. This movie sees the collapse of a romantic relationship in it’s first few scenes. The main character’s girlfriend breaks up with him and elects to become the host for a powerful and seductive demon. That gives the main character some serious trust issues that permeate the rest of the story. Friends whose integrity he never would’ve doubted are now under intense scrutiny. The whole movie is about this guy finding himself again in the wake of everything in his life changing.

LAHorror:  And while he’s finding himself, he’s battling a blood thirsty Demon? Is this a story about getting the girl back or killing the demonic bitch?  Exactly what kind of demon is he up against?

10DC:  He doesn’t even know! He’s in straight up denial mode with the break-up. He still thinks he can salvage it! Unfortunately, the girl he knew is gone. In her place is the most powerful, vicious demon that you’ve ever seen on film. This demon has a plan to eradicate the planet of mankind so he and his kind can run free. He pretty much wants to turn Earth into a vacation spot for his kind. This demon is going to do things to the human anatomy that is going to make you either squirm or squeal depending on where your tastes lie!

LAHorror:  Excellent! So what’s the method to this demon’s madness? What kind of HORROR / GORE does it wreak?

DC:  She is going to rip a character’s dick off and then whisper a incantation on it. She turns it into a sword and cuts his head off with it.

LAHorror:  …that’s fucking brilliant.

DC:  I mean, I think I probably shouldn’t be holding anything back with my first movie.

LAHorror:  Speaking of which, how stoked are you to be directing your first feature film? Are you nervous about being the writer / actor / director, all in one?

DC:  I’m absolutely terrified. I’ve never done anything like this before in terms of wearing so many different hats all at once. Unfortunately, I’m way more excited than I am terrified. I’ve been working on this for over a year and I can watch the movie in my head. In it’s entirety. And in my brain I’ve got the part. Also, as a director, it’s nice to know my lead’s schedule so far in advance.

LAHorror:  And how about your cast & crew? What’s your team starting to look like?

2-1DC:  It’s an embarrassment of riches. I had a pretty awesome run of working non-stop in Chicago theater from October 2012 to August 2014. I got to meet the best actors that Chicago (and probably the world) have to offer. So I cast the crap out of them. My crew are hard working and diligent. They are still coming together at the moment. This Kickstarter campaign will help us secure everyone we want to work with. The parties are interested, but we do need the cash to back up the vision.

LAHorror:  And on that note, why should people, HORROR fans in particular, take a look at your Kickstarter campaign?

DC:  We shot a proof-of-concept piece last year and it’s on the page. We didn’t make it with much money, but I think it shows that we’ve got our hearts in the right place. Check it out for the preview alone. If it’s something you enjoyed. I can tell you exactly how to get more:  You donate to the Kickstarter. I just want to make that clear!  It seems like a weird thing to leave ambiguous.

LAHorror:  Is there anything else you want to share about “Demons”?

DC:  I’m going to be making movies for the rest of my life. That is a 100% guarantee. It should start with this one. The script is great. The cast is better. We want to take the audience for this ride. I don’t want to just entertain people with this movie. I want to possess them.

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Be sure to check out “Demons” on Kickstarter!  You can also learn more about the cast & production at the official “Demons” website.  Also, be sure to like “Demons” on Facebook and follow the film on Twitter!

LA Horror Review: “L.A. Macabre” (Season 1)

Los Angeles is an incredible city with a rich culture and colorful history.  While this city has given us some amazing events, it has also given us some of the most horrific.  After all, this was the home of Richard Ramirez (The Night Stalker), The Black Dahlia murder, and the rise and fall of Charles Manson – perhaps the most notorious cult murderer of all time.  And, if you’re like me, you might have a morbid fascination toward some of these things and, perhaps, even a desire to learn about some of the under the radar crimes that may have been committed in this great state.

Luckily for us, there is Dan Ast‘s “L.A. Macabre,” a new web series about a trio of young filmmakers, Ryan (Ryan Hellquist), Collin (Aidan Bristow) and Jamie (Ryan Bartley), who set out to do just that.  But when the trio meets Callie (Corsica Wilson), plans to cover a wide variety of real life Los Angeles horror change, and begin to focus onto one sinister story that the media never covered: The New Family.

THUMB5-2“L.A. Macabre” is an impressive character-driven series, which is a hard feat to pull off, especially in this genre.  This is mostly due to the incredible performances from the shows main characters, the hosts of “L.A. Macabre,” Ryan Hellquist and Aidan Bristow.  They are both natural leading men and have no problem carrying each episode to its greatest potential.  Their characters are layered and deep, and each episode allows them to flex their acting chops a little bit further, especially when things get intense.  


Complimenting them nicely is the timid yet alluring Corsica Wilson, who plays ex-cult member Callie of the mysterious New Family.  She brings an element of mystery and intrigue and succeeds as being the catalyst for a lot of the show’s drama.  The chemistry of everyone on screen makes “L.A. Macabre” extremely enjoyable and easy to watch, as they not only succeed in their intensity and dread of the situations unfolding around them, but also bring a realistic, human quality, which is a great find in indie horror. There are no generic, stereotypical “horror” archetypes in “L.A. Macabre,” and I genuinely felt invested in these people as if they were actually investigating these events.  This is a fictional show…right?

But quality acting does not alone a good series make.  Writer / Director Dan Ast has come up with a clever, engaging horror show.  While the story flirts with real life events, namely the Manson Family murders, it creates an almost alternate history that is very believable.  This is Los Angeles, after all, and there’s plenty of whackos out there.  Pairing this idea up with the documentary filmmaking style, it really clicks.

Now, I know what you may be thinking…a documentary style, “this is real” approach has been done before, correct, but rarely does this work as seamless and believably as it does in “L.A. Macabre.”  The use of multiple cameras never feels like a gimmick or distraction, as there is a great blend of DSLR, webcam and GoPro footage that all comes together in terrific fashion. There are some incredibly creepy and intense moments where you are just begging to see what the other cameras are filming, but we are at the mercy of the characters’ choices, often just the click of a mouse, which changes our entire perception of the events we are witnessing.  This creates some serious tension and several jaw dropping moments throughout the series. Just wait until you see the season finale…

But while the episodes are fantastic, they are only part of the story…Ast and his crew have really put together a piece that’s so deep and layered that it’s unlike any web series I’ve ever seen before.  In fact, I HIGHLY recommend watching ALL of the additional content outside of the episodes themselves, as they add a whole lot more to the overall picture.  These include Jamie’s Video Blogs, which are co-written by Ryan Bartley, the “L.A. Macabre” updates & behind the scenes videos, as well as the mysterious LAMacabre Fan, who lurks about giving ominous clues to the team.  Needless to say, it’s an intricate and meticulously planned series and viewers with a keen eye to detail will be rewarded…

What we’ve posted here is just a sneak peak of the universe “L.A. Macabre” has created, and there’s not a lot about this show that I didn’t enjoy.  In fact, my only major problem with it is that the season is over and I’m DYING to find out what will happen next!  I’ve got my fingers crossed for a season two, that’s for damn sure.  And just a word to those curious horror thrill seekers out there…don’t bite off more than you can chew…you might just find yourself in a spot you can’t get out of…

You can subscribe and watch to the entire “L.A. Macabre” series in chronological order here.  Also, be sure to follow “L.A. Macabre” on Twitter & “like” the series on Facebook!

 

LA Horror Review: “El Gigante”

elgigantewebEl Gigante” is an incredibly ambitious and stylish short horror film from LuchaGore Productions funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign. Perhaps best known for their “M is for Matador” entry into the “ABCs of Death Part Two” competition, LuchaGore is a creative team that has clearly found their stride and are poised to make the leap from short form to feature films.

“El Gigante” opens with a gorgeous desert vista and a man stumbling through the heat. Through a flashback, we learn that the young Mexican man is named Armando (played by Edwin Perez) and that he tried to strike a deal with a coyote to smuggle his family across the border. They didn’t have enough cash, so Armando had to make the border crossing on his own.

Armando makes it to the border, but is intercepted by a mysterious stranger. Armando passes out. He awakens inside of a room that holds a wrestling arena/altar. He now has a burlap Lucha Libre mask sewn to his face. As a grotesque family of characters watch, he is forced into a death battle with El Gigante, an enormous wrestler.

Visually, this short is a huge treat. It embraces grindhouse style entertainment without veiling it in a fake 1970s aesthetic. The production design and costuming are top notch: this movie pays close attention to textures and character and set design in a way that most short films do not. The makeup and gore effects are incredibly effective. This movie looks and feels filthy.

The cinematography by Luke Bramley and Spencer Village is reminiscent of Dean Semler’s work in “The Road Warrior.” The camera is not in constant motion, but there’s an effortless flow established and enhanced by the editing of director Gigi Saul Guerrero and co-director Bramley.

Guerrero is the colorist for the film as well, and chooses vivid lurid red accents to the sickly greens, yellows, and greys of the wrestling arena. She has a great eye for action and how it can be used to reveal character.

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“El Gigante” is currently on the festival circuit, and will hopefully be seen by people who see the feature potential in it. The short is adapted by Shane McKenzie from the first chapter of his book “Muerte con Carne,” and it’s an amazing contribution to “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” style cannibal family genre. Each family member has a distinct look and role to play in the slaughter. If the rest of the book is as exciting as this first look is, then El Gigante could one day join Jason and Leatherface in the pantheon of masked movie killers.

Be sure to “like” LuchaGore Productions on Facebook and follow them on Twitter @LuchaGoreFilm.  This review was written by LAHorror.com contributor Paul Stephen Edwards.

LA Horror Talks Camping with Horrorble Podcast!

I fucking love camping.  There’s no denying that.  And while I’ve been lucky enough to survive all of my camping adventures, many characters in the horror universe, unfortunately, have not.  After all, putting yourself in terrible peril by gathering and partying in the deep monster and serial killer infested woods is a quality recipe for great horror–or campy horror to say the least!  To close out 2014, I took a trip into the deep woods to discuss camping horror with Horrorble Podcast, your source for straight talk, face value horror!

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Horrorble Podcast is hosted by Devon Arnold, along with co-hosts Dylan Holland, Manton Frierson and Brandon Ritman (aka Blootster).  On the docket?  Camping Horror, particularly in the films “Exists,” “Friday the 13th (2009)” and one of my personal favorites, “Sleepaway Camp.”  Check out the episode to see which of these films earned a GEM or a STINKER rating from myself and the Cast!

Listen to the episode here!

HorrorbleCoverWhat Devon and his crew have created with Horrorble Podcast is an everyman approach to different horror topics, which is one of the reasons why I love this cast.  These guys aren’t necessarily horror film buffs, but rather regular fans who know what they like and what they don’t like, and have a pretty damn good time telling you why.  That being said, their insight into the genre is impressive and worth noting.  They have already released a plethora of horror content on their cast, covering a wide variety of horror topics and sub-genres.  Some of my favorite episodes include “The Christmas Episode,” “The Don’t Episode” and their interviews with filmmakers Ivan Kavanaugh (The Canal) and Aaron Moorehead & Justin Benson (V/H/S:  VIRAL).

If you’re a casual horror fan or a die-hard, definitely keep up with Horrorble Podcast.  And for any of you campers out there, for God’s sake don’t have sex or do drugs in those woods.  It’s just asking for trouble that you probably can’t handle…

Be sure to follow Horrorble Podcast on Twitter and “like” Horrorble Podcast on Facebook!  Horroble Podcast is also available on iTunes and Stitcher.