Sightseers at an Alien Uprising

Sightseers and Alien Uprising are currently available on instant Netflix

Alien Uprising

 

Alien Uprising (2012) – Rated R

One night five friends are out drinking, the next they’re struggling to survive in a landscape controlled by alien invaders in this sci-fi chiller. Anarchy is in the air as an enormous spacecraft hovers overhead and order breaks down on the ground.”

One Line Review: Absolutely awful, abominable atrocity.

OMG. Writer/director/producer/actor Dominic Burns has a terrible case of Attention Deficit Disorder. He is unable to focus on a single scene for longer than a few seconds. Initially I thought it was because he was filming (badly) a montage of the dance club but he can’t even focus on that. He cuts back and forth from the incomprehensible past to the equally incomprehensible present. Burns is also a bit of an egomaniac, plastering posters of his Airborne movie throughout the film.

The camera jitters all over the place, particularly during the sex scenes. Speaking of which, he cuts back and forth during two simultaneous sex scenes, splicing in footage of another friend throwing up in a toilet.

There is much to be said about taking an intimate approach to a global problem. It worked really well in Signs. Here though you’ll want all the characters to die long before the aliens show up.

The actors are pretty terrible though I will say it was probably a smart move to cast Bianca Bree as the hottie. She is quite attractive but, more importantly, she is Jean Claude Van Damme’s daughter. My guess is that is why he is in it. Speaking of nepotism, Michael is played by Pierce Brosnan’s son, Sean.

I can’t really blame the actors though as it is the completely haphazard way the film is thrown together that is the worst offender. There are innumerable nonsensical flashbacks/dream sequences/visions, even the film isn’t sure what they are.

A note to whoever titled this piece of cinematic garbage: Uprising has a meaning (an act or instance of rising up) – try to at least have your title make sense.

People Watch: Julian Glover and Sean Pertwee show up as voices of doom, each for about half a minute. I have to think that they were sentenced to community service or something.

Sightseers

 

Sightseers (2012) – Not rated

Newly coupled Chris and Tina embark on an RV road trip to take in England’s unique sights and rolling countryside. But as events and people inadvertently raise Chris’s ire, the trip takes a gory wrong turn.

I think you’ve found your ouevre, Chris.”

I love Ben Wheatley. His first film, Down Terrace, was a hysterically funny sendup of the British crime film albeit in a very low-key, dry humor way. He wrote, directed, and edited both that and his second feature, Kill List. Kill List is a bit of a mash-up between a hit man film and a horror movie. It is very funny, though not as good as Down Terrace. Kill List is currently available on instant Netflix.

Ben Wheatley directs and edits here but Sightseers is actually written by the two lead actors, Alice Lowe and Steve Oram. Sightseers has the same sense of humor. Wheatley’s films are made on a very small budget with no big name actors, explosions, or special effects yet are very professional.

I do have to warn that they are quintessentially British. There is no effort to broaden the appeal of these movies for American audiences. Wheatley makes very personal, humorous films and I’m very much looking forward to his latest endeavor, A Field in England.

If I seem vague about Sightseers, I am. The film is very good but most of the fun are the turns the story takes and I don’t want to spoil those. The evolving relationship between Chris and Tina, both of whom have rather severe mental problems, is the other highlight of the film.

Terror in Space – Event Horizon

Event Horizon is currently available on instant Netflix.

One line review: Hooey but pretty, entertaining hooey with a good cast.

Event HorizonEvent Horizon (1997) – Rated R

Seven years after it went missing, a spaceship sends a garbled signal back to Earth that sounds a lot like a cry for help. A rescue ship is dispatched to investigate, but the crew soon realizes that something unimaginable has happened on board.”

I thought it said “liberate me” – “save me.” But it’s not “me.” It’s “liberate tutame” – “save yourself.” And it gets worse.”

Oh, to be forced to sing the praises of Paul W.S. Anderson. I have never seen his directorial debut, Shopping, but his sophomore effort, Mortal Kombat is big, pretty, loud dumb fun. Event Horizon is big, pretty, loud dumb fun. Soldier is big, pretty, loud dumb fun. Ditto Resident Evil. Ditto Alien vs. Predator. Never mind that the last two were very much missed opportunities.

His more recent efforts of Death Race, Resident Evil: Afterlife, and Resident Evil: Retribution have been increasingly dumb and decreasingly fun. I have not seen his version of The Three Musketeers and I do not hold much hope for the upcoming Pompeii, in spite of a decent cast. I have no doubt that there will be another Resident Evil with his wife, Milla Jovovich.

Event Horizon is very pretty and stylish. It has been called a cross between Alien and Hellraiser and it does shamelessly rip off ideas from both, though admittedly most modern space horror rips off Alien.

Event Horizon is fun in a check your brain at the door kind of way. The science is predictably and laughably bad. The ship is going to pull 30 g’s so everyone has to be in tubes yet they fail to secure a lot of the ship. The Event Horizon and in particular the ‘meatgrinder’ and gravity drive look pretty cool, although I’m not sure what purpose the large spikes in the engine room serve or the massive number of lights in the service corridor.

There is a good cast assembled. Laurence Fishburne is the star as Captain Miller. Sam Neill plays the enigmatic scientist Dr. Weir. The distaff side of the crew are played well by Joely Richardson (Nip/Tuck) and Kathleen Quinlan (Apollo 13). Other crewmembers include Sean Pertwee (Dog Soldiers), Richard T. Jones (Collateral), Jack Noseworthy (U-571), and Jason Isaacs (The Patriot).

While the science is, to put it charitably, dodgy, the first half is quite good. Event Horizon starts off as science fiction and gradually segues into horror. The science fiction aspects are silly but tense. Unfortunately the horror aspects pile on incredulity after incredulity so some may enjoy the first half, some more the first three quarters, etc. Eventually most people will reach the point of hooey but I find Event Horizon pretty entertaining.

People Watch: Noah Huntley who, unrecognizably, plays the Burning Man has gone on to play Mark in 28 Days Later and King Magnus in Snow White and the Huntsman.

Wilderness

Wilderness is now available on instant Netflix and Amazon Prime.

Wilderness (2006) – Rated R

“The tough teen inmates of a juvenile institution are dropped in a dense forest, where they’re expected to learn how to work as a team. But their backwoods rehabilitation hits a snag when a crazed archer starts picking off the delinquents one by one.”

“Listen I don’t want your lads anywhere near my girls. They are in enough trouble already.” – “I mean I’m not delighted about the situation myself. I’ve got a couple of drug dealers, a violent sociopath, an armed robber, a murderer, and a serial sex offender.”

Wilderness is a very well constructed ‘slasher’ movie. Writer Dario Poloni has only written two titles, Wilderness and Black Death, both of which are excellent. This is a slasher with believable characters making believable good and bad choices. The villain is initially mysterious but ultimately well fleshed-out.

Director Michael J. Bassett handles things well from the austerity of the prison facility to the lush wilderness of the title. I enjoyed Bassett’s Solomon Kane (2009) and Deathwatch (2002) even though they were misfires. Unfortunately Bassett’s latest, Silent Hill Revelation, just came out to some dismal reviews. That said everything in Wilderness seems to work quite well.

Maybe it’s a throwback to the days of Hammer but I love a good British cast in a horror movie. I am much more likely to find decent acting in a British film than in an American one. This is perhaps because of the ridiculous number of low-budget American horror movies but is also due to the trend in American movies of casting the best looking actors (what I like to call the CW Effect).

Top-billed Sean Pertwee is definitely not a male model but is an actor I love to see in horror movies. He always adds a sense of gravity to the proceedings, particularly in Dog Soldiers. Here he plays Jed, a monitor for a bunch of juvenile delinquents.

Toby Kebbell plays our lead juvenile, Callum. He has notably gone on to play the off-his-rocker Johnny Quid in RocknRolla and John Wilkes Booth in The Conspirator. Alex Reid, Beth in The Descent, plays Louise. Stephen Wight and Luke Neal play the vicious bullies, Steve and Lewis. Stephen Don makes an impression as the father of one of the inmates.

The film is unpleasant, as it should be, during the brief juvenile prison sequence. None of the inmates are exactly what you could call likable. Steve and Lewis are the main bullies but none of the other inmates lift a finger while the lower caste are being tortured and humiliated.

The visit to the island starts off as a sort of wilderness boot camp until everything goes wrong. While the characters are inmates. we do learn some sympathy for a few but, as in Lord of the Flies, the situation causes the baser instincts to come out and the inmates turn on each other.

While Wilderness has thriller elements with a bit of mystery tucked in, it is firmly in the horror category as a killer stalks the group, picking them off one by one. The tension is thick and the gore is plentiful.

People Watch: Lenora Crichlow, who plays Mandy, would go on to play the ghostly Annie in the UK version of Being Human.

Devil’s Playground – Zombie-A-Go-Go

I love a good British horror movie as you can typically count on good acting. I also love zombie films. Devil’s Playground is currently available on instant Netflix.

Devil’s Playground (2010) – Not rated

“When an experimental drug turns 30,000 test subjects into zombies, ex-mercenary Cole seeks the one unaffected woman, hoping she’s the key to a cure. As the contagion expands, Cole becomes infected himself, and the hunt becomes personal.”

First off Devil’s Playground is a terrible name for a zombie film. There is a small reason why it’s named this but it conjures up the wrong image.

Director Mark McQueen assembles a wonderful cast of British character actors. Sadly two of my favorites, Colin Salmon and Sean Pertwee are only in it briefly. Just as she did in Dexter, Jaime Murray plays a character you can’t wait to see die. The main stars are MyAnna Buring (The Descent), Danny Dyer, and Craig Fairbrass. Everyone acquits themselves nicely and no one upstages anyone else to any real degree. Craig Fairbrass comes across the best as a tough guy on a mission.

If you end up liking this cast then you should probably also watch Dead Cert, a vampire film starring Craig Fairbrass, Danny Dyer, Lisa McAllister, and Mo Idriss – all from this film as well as Jason Flemyng. I’ll probably get around to watching it myself in the next few days.

The virus setup, while overused as much as the zombie genre itself, is fairly effective. There are some leaps in logic that have to be overcome but in general I liked the plot.

The part I didn’t care for was the parkour zombies on steroids. Eschewing traditional zombie makeup, they went for a bulging vein drug addict look. It doesn’t look scary and in some scenes comes across as unintentionally funny. I presume the parkour zombies were a way to one up the running raging zombies of 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later but again there is some unintentional humor here.

So in an oddity I enjoyed everything BUT the zombies in this zombie movie. If you love zombies, then you should check this out as it is a decent movie. It just isn’t as good as it could have been.

People Watch: The cast is certainly no stranger to the restless dead. Colin Salmon appeared in Resident Evil, Sean Pertwee in Event Horizon, Danny Dyer in Doghouse, Craig Fairbrass in White Noise 2, Jaime Murray in The Deaths of Ian Stone, MyAnna Buring in Vampire Killers and Lisa McAllister in Pumpkinhead: Ashes to Ashes.