LA Horror Review: “The Campground”

The CampgroundOne of the most unique parts about the horror genre, and slasher films in particular, is the charm that they bring to the table no matter the scope or size of the film. No genre has such dedication from fans around the world than horror, and a lot of that is because young filmmakers aren’t afraid to throw their hats in the ring and create their own horror stories for other gore lovers to enjoy. Roman Jossart’s debut feature film,“The Campground,” is a perfect example of a horror fan becoming a horror creator, in a film that creates its own slasher that has no problem terrorizing a group of partying teens.

The legend goes like this…

In 1980, ten-year-old Charlie Varsin was taken into an abandoned campground by his mother to celebrate his birthday. His mother had other plans, however, brutally stabbing the child seven times to the face and six to the chest and heart. Now, 30 years later, a group of partying teens have chosen the old campground to celebrate a birthday of their own, not knowing that Charlie Varsin still lurks about, seeking revenge on anyone that gets in his path. His weapon, of course, is the same rusty screwdriver…used by his mother…only this time it’s Charlie who is dishing out the fatal blows.

Sure, it’s a familiar sounding story, but who cares; this is an uber-campy 80s style slasher movie. The execution does leave a bit to be desired, as there are some head scratching moments and some inexperienced actors, but just by looking at my collection of slasher films, many of my favorites are guilty of the same. And that’s fine. A movie like “The Campground” is made by and for slasher lovers, so casual horror viewers or film perfectionists probably aren’t the target audience anyways. “The Campground” could easily be a gem of some horror lover’s collection down the road.

The standout of this film is actor/writer/director Roman Jossart. His performance is easily the best and most natural, and you have to admire somebody who had a vision, went for it and made it happen. While “The Campground” does have its problems, it’s easy to see the potential and possibilities of things to come for this group of filmmakers.  It will be fun to watch these guys hone their craft and create more slasher disgustingness.

I will say this: “The Campground” did keep me entertained and managed to have a pretty high body count for a film that runs just under an hour. I can’t say that it’s the greatest slasher I’ve ever seen, but it’s definitely a quality, complete debut for a fresh group of young filmmakers. So take it for what it is. If you’re a fan of campy, ultra low budget slasher nastiness, then get your ass to “The Campground”! Charlie will be happy you did…

For more on “The Campground” or to get your hands on a copy, visit the film’s official website.  You can also “like” the film on Facebook and follow the film on twitter!  The filmmaker’s next slasher project, “The Woods Within,” is currently raising funds on Indiegogo.  Check it out here!

Tujunga Horror Story: The Beginning

You gotta love sunny California, am I right? It’s beautiful, warm and the neighbors are so welcoming…that is, unless you’re in Armand Petri’s “Tujunga Horror Story,” a three part horror story that allows us to see the peaceful town of Tujunga in a much more sinister light…

While only part one of this story has been released, it certainly sets up an interesting and eerie scenario that most definitely peeked my curiosity. The film follows Ashley (Andrea Garces) and Patrick Brooks (Matthew Thomas Brown), a young couple who has moved into an old home in the city of Tujunga, however it certainly seems that everything is not what it seems. There is a sense of shadiness with the supporting cast around Ashley and Patrick that is somewhat reminiscent of a story like “Rosemary’s Baby.” Not only that, but a foreboding warning and mysterious ghost certainly amps up the intensity.  And while this introduction into the story certainly raises more questions than answers, it lays down a solid foundation for what looks to be a very promising horror story.

But the story isn’t everything because this project certainly appears to have some ambitious goals set for itself.  Director Armand Petri goes balls out for his vision for “Tujunga Horror Story,” and while the sample size is small, it reeks of serious potential. Some awesome aerial shots of the city of Tujunga set the tone for this project, accompanied by a haunting and totally horrifying original score by Dara Taylor.   Throw in some sexy and talented actors and you’ve got all the pieces for a terrific horror story. But don’t take my word for it, watch the first installment now!

The remaining two parts will be released over the summer as a means to gather support for a feature length film version of the project, so keep your eyes peeled as this is only the beginning…

To learn more about “Tujunga Horror Story,” be sure to “like” them on Facebook. You can also follow Director Armand Petri on twitter. Armand Petri is currently raising funds for a new short film to raise awareness for HIV & AIDS; to learn more visit their indie gogo!

LA Horror Review: “Zombie Prom” – a FREE Horror Musical in Studio City, CA

Prom.  A night of wonder for some, and a night of horror for others!  And if you live in the Los Angeles area, then find a date and relive the memory at “Zombie Prom,” a totally kick ass late night horror musical that’s going on now!  We checked out the show and it’s ridiculous and hysterical.  It’s always great to see good horror theatre.

Zombie Prom Promo

The musical itself is…well, it’s “Zombie Prom.”  You feel me?  It’s upbeat, super energetic and has all of the stuff that makes a campy musical fun.  But director David Ruben doesn’t hold anything back and has created an interactive and ultra intimate theater experience that was an absolute pleasure to be watch.  The cast, lead by two heartthrobs in Reagan Osborne and Alli Miller, show some MAJOR chops with impeccable singing along with some serious choreography.  Each actor is fully committed and super talented – there really are some strong performances all around.  Some special props to actress Kate Bowman for being a ridiculously funny villain throughout.

Now, this is a musical, so expect a ton of singing and dancing and not much gore, but Director David Ruben definitely amps up the campiness with some classic horror influenced staging and direction.  Check out their promo video below to get a feel for the vibe!

We chatted with Director David Ruben to learn a bit more about the show, so check it horror lovers!

LAHorror:  David…”Zombie Prom.”  Where the hell did this come from?

David Ruben:  “Zombie Prom” is a hilarious, late night rock musical that premiered in the 90’s off Broadway with quite the underground following.  It spoofs B horror films, Hammer Films, and sci-fi flicks of the 50s and 60s with musical stylings of the period.   We decided to present the show because it’s just the type of material that develops into a nocturne/cult hit that audiences will eat up.

LAHorror:  What are your favorite zombie-related horror flicks?

DR:  I don’t have much of a background watching zombie flicks besides the original “Night of The Living Dead”, but I grew up watching a lot of the Hammer films and some of those old Roger Corman pictures.  Those films had an immense impact on how I approached a lot of the material in the musical.

LAHorror:  How is your cast?  Was your leading man excited to be playing a walking member of the undead?

DR:  The cast is 10 strong — 7 students, 1 zombie, a school principal, and a sleazy tabloid reporter.  All are local talent with immense enthusiasm and pluck.   The show is a whirlwind of theatrical efforts.  Shockingly, the musical is almost 80% sung.   I’ve yet to ask the leading man if he is excited to be a walking member of the undead, but I imagine he is.  He gets to be a zombie.  Who wouldn’t be excited?

LAHorror:  Why should horror fans come and check out your show??

DR:  A) Zombie.  B) Free.  C) Full Bar.  D) It’s awesome.  E) Did I mention zombie, free, and alcohol?

LAHorror:  Anything else you’d like to share about “Zombie Prom”?

DR:  We are doing the show free as a social experiment.  We asked the audiences to come and not pay because it’s a pain to pay for an event if you don’t know if you’ll like it or not.  At the end of the show we will ask our audiences to give us a few bucks if you liked what you say so we can continue to provide free theatre.  It’s our way of not pricing people out of seeing live entertainment.

The show is performing at Upstairs at Vittello’s in Studio City every Friday in March at 11:00 PM.   Tickets can be reserved my e-mailing or by calling Vitello’s at (818) 769-0905.

LA Horror Review: “Missing” – A Short Horror Film by Joey Medina

Missing PosterBlood. Violence. Chopping. Gore.

Gruesome, gruesome gore…

These are just a few of my favorite things, and when I’m watching horror I’ve always got my eyes peeled for the grisly money shot. And when it comes to the good stuff, the really nasty and ultra-violent carnage that we all love and adore, Joey Medina’s short horror film “Missing” does not hold back. In fact, “Missing” didn’t just satisfy my thirst for blood, but pretty much dumped a bucket of it onto my face. It’s a brutal, unflinching horror experience that managed to shock me all the way until the very end. I absolutely loved this film!

“Missing” is the type of film for the most depraved horror lover, and those are usually the ones that hit me just right.  Essentially, we follow a day in the life of a LA’s most twisted serial killer…dig it?

But what “Missing” succeeds in most is not only the carnage, but also a very stylized and unique viewing experience, as Medina takes a popular concept and gives it his own stylized twist. Without going into too much detail, I will say this: Medina made blood the main character, and oh what a role it plays.  There are also some excellent performances by a cast of oddly charming actors who all bring their A-games to a really intense story.

The film is making it’s way into the festival circuit now, so take notice as it should not be missed. There may also be plans in the future for a feature length version down the road. Keep your eyes out for it…

To learn more about Joey Medina, visit his official webpage.  You can also “like” the film on Facebook and follow Medina an twitter.

LA Horror Review: “The Upper Footage”

Don’t do drugs, people.  Okay, that’s a little harsh, let me rephrase that:  Don’t do drugs unless you’re prepared for the real life horror that can come of it.  And that’s exactly the lesson learned (well, sort of learned) by a group of socialites in Justin Cole’s “The Upper Footage,” a brutally honest and maddening descent into one nightmarish party that went way too far.

You see, according to multiple sources, a video of a girl’s drug overdose and subsequent death leaked online, yet no one has been brought to justice due to the affluent nature of the parties involved.  However, a 90-minute segment of the home video of the incident is now available to watch: “The Upper Footage.”

The film opens with an unbelievably clever and convincing segment introducing this found footage, practically guaranteeing its authenticity.  It hooked me in, that’s for damn sure, and the realism never died throughout the entire movie, which is both the strength and potential flaw in “The Upper Footage.”  I say that because while this may be one of the most believable found footage film I have ever seen, it’s a hard movie to really enjoy simply because it’s so repulsive.  I mean that as a compliment.  And the fact that the “victim” in this film’s face is blurred adds an interesting element as well, not only to the “authenticity” the film tries to create, but also to the unsettling vibe this film emanates as a whole.

Real life horror happens every single day, and unfortunately it’s rarely fair.  “The Upper Footage” merely sheds light on this harsh reality, and as we follow these characters through their night of coked up debauchery, we only learn to hate them more.  This film is successful not only in its ability to shock you with its content, but also fills you with a certain loathing of every character on screen and the situation they create.  The worst part of it is that you probably know people like this, and we all know that it’s possible to get away with murder in America.  It’s a truly convincing film all around that left me feeling incredibly disturbed and uncomfortable.

The highlight of this film is its unbelievable editing and patience.  There is no rush, and nothing is forced–you simply see the events as they happen and not much else.  That being said, to be able to truly appreciate “The Upper Footage,” you must show the same patience in return, as this isn’t a horror film per se, this is just a film where horrible things happen…often in real time.  But sometimes the scariest things don’t have to jump out at you, but simply unfold slowly before your eyes.

This film is probably not for the casual horror viewer, but it definitely satisfied my urge to watch something really, really nasty.  Watch it at your own risk, as “The Upper Footage” is really raw and powerful, but will probably crawl its way under your skin.  In fact, it might just leave you feeling kind of fucked up.

To view “The Upper Footage” and learn more, visit the film’s official website.  You can also follow “The Upper Footage” on twitter and “like” it on Facebook.

LA Horror Review: “Exile”

Exile 2Who doesn’t like an awesome alien invasion movie? We don’t get many of them, but when we do, they usually involve F-16 fighter jets, massive explosions and hordes of flying saucers.  But that’s not the case in “Exile” (formerly “The Sunderland Experiment”), a gruesome and thought provoking horror flick from Blatke Productions that was incredibly effective in all the best ways.  I’m making a prediction:  “Exile” will be very well received by fans of creepy, undeniably original and thought provoking science-fiction horror.  This film was such a delightful surprise.

The story is anything but simple, and I’m almost hesitant to get too far into the actual plot.  I honestly didn’t know much about this film when I saw it, and I feel like that only made it more enjoyable and shocking.  I will say this quickly:  the story revolves around young man named David (Dylan O’Brien) and his fellow classmates in the small town of Sunderland.  Also residing is the “Angel,” a ruthless and haunting creature who gives an ultimatum to every resident of Sunderland:  worship and obey her to become blessed, or fall and become an outcast.

Sounds pretty far out, right?

Directors Sean Blau and Adam Petke assume that their audience is intelligent and open-minded and lets them experience the events in Sunderland just as the residents do.  The world they created is nasty, scary and oddly believable, given the nature of cults and extreme religion in our societies nowadays.  And maybe that’s what makes “Exile” so unique.  This is without a doubt an alien vs. human style monster movie, however it never even gets close to touching the clichés that so often stick to that genre.  And while there’s plenty of scares in “The Sunderland Experiment,” there’s also plenty of laughs and real human moments.  Blau and Petke have made a thoughtful and dynamic film that also manages to push the boundaries of extreme horror.

And let’s talk about the horror.  This movie is gory—super gory—and the Angel is seriously fucking creepy.  Not only that, but from a technical perspective, this movie was seamless.   There’s a wonderful blend of puppetry and special effects, enhanced by beautiful cinematography, a simple yet extremely detailed setting and sound design that is out of this world.  When the Angel speaks, you can’t help but feel a crawling sensation up your spine, and I found myself to feel very invested in the characters while watching.

O’Brien steals the show as lead man David and gives an honest, endearing performance along side of the loveable and spunky Cassie (Katie Reed).  It’s so nice to watch a horror movie where you actually root for the main characters, and these two lead a terrific ensemble.  The townspeople of Sunderland were delightfully creepy, and kudos to voice actress Dennice Cisneros who is a powerful force throughout this film.

Looking at the small size of the cast and crew of this film, they’ve definitely accomplished something special.  Rarely do you see small, indie horror films look, sound and feel this good.  This film will undoubtably find its audience, and it really sticks with you.  Keep your eyes peeled because you do not want to miss this.

For more on “Exile,” please visit their official website.  For screening information be sure to like “Exile” on Facebook and follow them on twitter.

LA Horror Review: “Zombie with a Shotgun”

Zombie with a Shotgun.”  That’s rolls off the tongue nicely, doesn’t it?  I always like to see how people take the classic idea of flesh eating zombies and transform it into their own creation, and in this web series by Hilton Ariel Ruiz, not only is our main character a soon-to-be zombie, but he’s also got a motherfucking shotgun.  Get it?

With four episodes released, “Zombie with a Shotgun” definitely sparked my interest by the quick pace and high drama.  We start during the middle of some sort of flesh eating apocalypse, and our hero, Aaron (Braeden Baade), along with love, Rachel (Lynnea Molone), are trying desperately to survive, even though Aaron himself has been bitten by a member of the undead.  The great thing about “Zombie with a Shotgun” is it starts right at all the good stuff – zombies, guns and of course the cruel battle against human nature.  It’s a fun idea from Ruiz that has the potential to become a much larger story.

The episodes showcase our two protagonists nicely, and at times you wonder which one of them will emerge the story’s true hero.  Each episode runs just about five minutes, and they do go quick.  It will be fun to see our hero’s full transformation into a flesh-eating Zombie…with a shotgun, of course.

Ruiz will be releasing another 5-6 episodes and potentially a feature film down the road.  We’ve posted the first two episodes here, so grab your twelve-gauge and pull the trigger!

To watch more, click here!  Be sure to follow “Zombie with a Shotgun” on twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.

LA Horror Review: “Don’t Go to the Reunion”

Who doesn’t have nightmarish memories from high school?  The mere thought about my 10-year high school reunion makes me nervous – not because I didn’t like my classmates or have any terrible regrets, but because you get to see how people change and after years, and who knows what kind of monsters people have become…

In Slasher Studios’ debut feature film, “Don’t Go to the Reunion,” the reunion of the 2004 class of Hamilton High is no different, however instead of awkward conversation and bad fruit punch – this 10-year reunion is MURDER.  You see, the popular clique, led by the beautiful Erica Carpenter (Stephanie Leigh Rose), wasn’t exactly the nicest to a certain horror movie loving geek Scott Rantzen (Brady Simenson). After a high school prank goes terribly wrong, naturally destroying Scott’s life, someone is back for settle the score 10 years later at the special, invite-only, “A-list” class reunion…

It’s the classic set up for a 80s revenge slasher, which “Don’t Go to the Reunion” has no shame emulating.  And why would it?  In this day and age, we are bombarded with horror remakes, sequels and reboots.  It seems like a lifetime ago that the golden age of slasher horror reigned supreme – and “Don’t Go to the Reunion” reminds us how great the campy slasher can really make us feel.  This film is an unbelievable pleasure to watch, especially for its target audience:  die-hard slasher movie junkies.

And for those less seasoned horror viewers – let me explain what “Don’t Go to the Reunion” can offer:  amazing, tongue-in-cheek one-liners (such as “Out of my way, faggot!” and “Why did we ever come to this fucking reunion?!”), plenty of gratuitous sex and nudity, tons of red-herrings and most importantly buckets and buckets of GORE.  “Don’t Go to the Reunion” is a serious blood bath!

Brandon (Matty Dorschner) warns that something is going very wrong at this reunion…

But sex and gore do not alone a terrific slasher make.  “Don’t Go to the Reunion” features several terrific performances by some cool-as-ice actors.  Most notably, the quiet and cautious Brandon (Matty Dorschner) and the mysterious new boyfriend David (Spencer Harlan) really shine and add a couple of layers of suspense and intrigue to this film.  And who can’t love the beer guzzling brute Joe (Mike Goltz), who can be spotted frequently in this film slamming beers and trying to convince other people (and himself) that he’s not gay (you might remember him in a similar fashion in Slasher Studios awesome horror short, “Teddy”).

I think it’s safe to say that director Steve Goltz and writer Kevin Sommerfield have succeeded in what they’ve set out to do:  create an enjoyable, gory slasher film which pays homage to the greats that came before it.  Albeit a classic set up, it’s great to see original horror coming out of indie filmmakers to remind us of how thrilling the scene used to be, and still could be for that matter.  The work of Goltz and Sommerfield will be a pleasure to watch in the future as their passion radiates in each shot of this film, lending to the sense that everybody was on board to get bloody, have fun and make a memorable, freaky and occasionally hilarious slasher romp.  I’m not sure if I’ll go to my 10-year high school reunion next year, but “Don’t Go to the Reunion” is one event that you should definitely not skip!

To preorder your copy of “Don’t Go to the Reunion” and other Slasher Studios films, visit their official website.  Be sure to follow Slasher Studios and “Don’t Go to the Reunion” on Twitter.  You can also find “Don’t Go to the Reunion” on Facebook.

LA Horror Review: “Dead Inside”

419008_373211466037474_898293181_nDead Inside” is an interesting little horror film with a fresh perspective and a brooding sense of atmosphere. This happens to be the film’s strong suit as it more than compliments the film’s jump scares. Often, it overshadows them. The film centers on a group of party-goers haunted by their impending doom and provides a healthy dose of supernatural goings-on while maintaining an overall ambiguity.

The film introduces Sarah (Hannah Ward AKA Lala Hensely), a quiet girl raging war with her inner demons. When those demons come to light, bad things happen. There are a few good ideas here and a few questionable ones, but all in all, the film just does things differently. Popular high school students crash Sarah’s house expecting a party and she timidly agrees to play host. The setup is seemingly “outcast versus the world,” but much of the scorn and bullying associated with this dynamic is substituted for indifference and, occasionally, sympathy. It’s a pleasant turn from the norm.

While the characters are treated to a decent amount of development, the soap opera dramatics to which the film often deviates take “Dead Inside” down a notch. The actors handle the material well, though, and Lala Hensely is superb as Sarah. It may not be a showcase of her range, but what she does deliver is genuine. There is a standout moment on a staircase where she turns to her friends and shares an ominous message. It is terrifically creepy and a highlight of the film.

Another interesting layer to this film is its refusal to designate a threat. There is most certainly a threat present, but it is tantalizingly mysterious. Any sense of villainy is juggled between all characters and the supernatural aspects of the story are kept in the dark. I mean that literally and metaphorically, but it is the former that may actually work against the film.

Sarah has some serious issues in “Dead Inside…”

“Dead Inside” is shot well throughout and makes expert use of shadows and silhouettes. It is a dark vision and a justified representation of Sarah’s dismal outlook. However, it is at times too dark. On a practical level, a few key shots are so underexposed that they obscure all information. However, it is not without its qualities. Director Pearry Teo carefully treads a line that aims to only hint at things unseen. It may not always be the perfect execution but it is always scary. After all, that is the wonderful, alluring thing about the dark.

Teo has a good eye for creepiness and an acute handle on suspense. The soundtrack is minimal but effective, especially the soft lullaby that opens the film and revisits us throughout. With elements of “Carrie” and “Identity,” this film is a slow burner worth seeking out. If you’re looking for an eerie supernatural drama or if you have any appreciation for dark irony, “Dead Inside” is for you.

For more information about “Dead Inside,” please visit the films official website.  Also, be sure to check out “Dead Inside” on Facebook.  This review was written by Levi Caleb Smith.

LA Horror Review: “The Cohasset Snuff Film”

Does life imitate art or does art imitate life?  It’s a tricky question, especially when you apply it to the world of horror, given all of the atrocities that happen on a daily basis all over the world.  Director Edward Payson‘s “The Cohasset Snuff Film” blends the fictional world and the real world together, giving us an up close and personal look into the mind of a serial killer in a chilling way.  At times, it’s hard to determine if what you are watching is real or merely the fantasy of a couple of disturbed but talented filmmakers.

“The Cohasset Snuff Film” is real, or so they say.  The film begins with a pair of documentarians as they uncover the secret tapes of Cohasset, Massachusettes best kept secret:  serial killer Colin Mason.  You see, Mason killed three girls in 2009 and had the good sense to get it all on camera.  In a quest for infamy, Mason compiles a series of video diaries plotting, and executing, his plans for inflicting pain and torture.  Now you can see the footage for yourself in every horrifying detail.

This film is a tender reminder of just how fucked up this world really is.  With murder sprees and serial killers seemingly popping up all the time these days, this film feels relevant.  And this is certainly one that will attract the morbid curiosity of both experienced and novice horror viewers.  And when I say novice, I mean the kinda of kids that sneak horror movies into their slumber parties, that watch them when their parents aren’t watching or don’t know.  I say that because the killer in this film is in high school, and what sort of normal adolescent hasn’t fantasized about murder at one time or another?  This film will no doubt be a dirty little secret for many viewers.

But while the idea of this movie hits close to home, our lead character is a little harder to sympathize with.  I always like rooting for a killer.  It’s fun and makes you feel a little guilty.  Yet, the one thing I felt was missing from this film was a strong motive for this killing spree, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there.  Colin Mason is obviously resentful of his fellow humans for the typical reasons – being ignored, abused and picked on, however we never really see any of that on film.  While we do learn about the human side of our killer through classmate interviews, psychology studies and the police reports, the face to face time with Mason is long past his days of being “normal.”  It’s less of a descent into madness as it is being just thrown into the mix right before shit goes down—and shit does go down.

The great thing about “The Cohasset Snuff Film” is its raw intensity.  There are no jump scares or cheesy twists.  This film is grounded in reality and the murders are real.  Some mad props go to these actors who certainly had trust in director Edward Payson and believed in this project.  Their trust will no doubt be rewarded as this film will certainly be getting some pretty big attention in the near future.  I say that with no hesitation, because this film has all of the right pieces to be an underground hit.

On a hilarious side note, supposedly some people in Cohasset, Massachusettes are pretty upset that this film has been made.  Now, why they are upset is up for debate.  Maybe they don’t want their town to have a bad reputation, or maybe they just don’t want to be associated with something as nasty as “The Cohasset Snuff Film.”  Or maybe, just maybe, there’s a little more truth to this film than originally thought.  That’s why I recommend you check it out and decide for yourself.

If you are living in the Los Angeles area, the world premier of “The Cohasset Snuff Film” is fittingly this Halloween in North Hollywood.  You can purchase your ticket here.  If you’re not in the Los Angeles area, the film is beginning a self distributed theatrical run in limited cities.  If you want to see this film in your area, then visit this page and demand to see “The Cohasset Snuff Film!” has previously interviewed director Edward Payson about this film and other horror projects.  You can read that here.  Be sure to check out “The Cohasset Snuff Film” on Facebook and Twitter