From Zentropa, the producers of MELANCHOLIA, comes the Danish thriller ID:A. A young woman wakes up in a French stream with no memory and a bag full of several million Euros. On the run from gun-toting thugs, she makes her way back to Denmark; however, the discovery of her real identity raises even more questions than it answers.
From Monthon Arayangkoon, the director of THE HOUSE - also from MVM - comes the Thai horror shocker THE VICTIM (Phii khon pen). Aspiring actress Ting finds instant fame working for the police re-enacting crimes as a murder victim for the media; however, when she immerses herself in the role of a recently murdered actress, the woman's spirit and other dark forces start to stalk her. That, however, isn't even the beginning of the weird twists this film takes.
When she runs out of weed, Nancy (Sophia Disgrace) calls her aging skater-wannabe ex-boyfriend Dan (Dan Carter-Hope, THE WAKE) to replenish her supply. Dan calls his supplier Marley (Charlie Bore) to score some drugs in hopes of scoring with Nancy. Since Marley is currently kicking it in the Devil’s Jump forest, a stretch of terrain that is supposed to be little used but seems fairly busy today. Dan needs a ride to get there, so Nancy leans on dependable roommate Deb (Corinna Jane) to give them a ride. Deb in turn drags along nerdy third roommate Jamie (Jane West). As soon as they arrive, they are greeted with a bloodcurdling scream; nevertheless, they press on in search of the ganja. Dan quickly gets them lost and they take shelter from a sudden rainstorm in a shack (with décor by the Blair Witch presumably). They tell ghost stories, the most prescient being about a killer priest Father Malone (Stewart Dakers) who dons a hooded cloak (and a pair of tights over his face) to butcher those he believes are sinners. Hmm, could he be the assailant that is slashing his way through the forest’s visitors? When Dan goes outside to relieve himself and does not come back, the girls’ only hope may be “Super Special Cop” Craven (Dan Bone), a local nutter who likes to don his killed-in-the-line-of-duty father’s police gear to hunt druggies and devil worshippers.
Opening with a folksy Pentangle-ish title track over idyllic shots of the woods, THE SHADOW OF DEATH isn’t really that original of a slasher film, nor even as a slasher parody. The film name-checks DELIVERENCE and SCREAM, and features a HALLOWEEN poster in the background of one shot (the ghostly little girl may be an obscure reference to ghost children of THE FOREST), but the film also brings to mind James Bryan’s endearingly inept slasher DON’T GO IN THE WOODS with its introduction of random hikers, cyclists, bird-watchers, and the like in order to quickly and gorily kill them off (albeit with a smaller body count). The stalk and kill sequences are conventionally shot and lacking in suspense, but it’s the “meat” of these scenes that viewers care about and the film. In addition to the usual machete-to-the-head shots, stabbings, and decapitations, there are some novel kills including a death by bong, a bit involving binoculars and a tree branch, an eye-plucking, a typically messy evisceration by hunting knife, and a particularly wince-inducing impalement on a splintered sapling. The reversal during the finale is predictable but effective nonetheless – sort of calling to mind the obscure slasher THE REDEEMER – and could just have easily worked in a more serious slasher.
The three female leads are likable. Disgrace’s acerbic Nancy softens up later in the film, and it is becomes harder to peg any one of the three (stoner, enabler, nerd) as “the final girl.” Lip-ringed Jane is sympathetic as the enabler of the dysfunctional trio, and the focus of a self-contained black and white horror sequence in the form of a nightmare she relates during the “ghost story” session (one almost wonders if it was scripted as such or excerpted from an earlier work by the director, or at least a test-run for him). Carter-Hope and Bone play it broad, but not so much as to be off-putting (considering the disparate elements of this “everything but the kitchen sink” conglomeration). The end credits feature a special thanks to Slyvia Soska whose DEAD HOOKER IN A TRUNK (available on DVD in the UK through Bounty Films) – co-written and directed with her sister Jen – made a film festival splash recently.
The HD videography – captured on the Panasonic HDC-SD60 1080i camcorder – sports creative framing, but the colors make for a queasy viewing experience (possibly intentional). Highlights are often blown-out, and the super saturation of the forest greens and color gels as well as the sometimes murky contrasts suggest this has less to do with the original shooting and more with the application of preset color filters (the screener disc’s artifact-y quality may not represent the final product). A film-look type filter has also been added, so there are often artificial scratches and emulsion digs running through the frame. The effect adds little when viewed on the small screen, but it might add to the atmosphere – although I doubt it will ever look convincing – on festival screens with some added softness from the enlargement of digital projection. Although the end credits specify the make and model of camera, the audio recording device (the nifty-looking Zoom H4n 4-track digital recorder), the scoring and mixing software, it only states that it was edited on an iMac (I’m assuming he used Final Cut Express or Final Cut Pro rather than iMovie since he sprung for Pro Tools for the sound editing). The stereo mix on the screener disc has clear dialogue (usually an issue with low budget films), typically exaggerated sound effects during the stalk-and-slash scenes, and the music is well-mixed (the main title song in particular comes through atmospherically).
These days, pretty much anyone with access to even a consumer HD camera can round up some friends and run around the woods (and they do) and offer the result up for distribution. As far as the script is concerned, THE SHADOW OF DEATH may be thrown together (certain character bits seem like they could have been better explored and integrated); but the shooting seems to have been very well thought-out, suggesting that the director’s future work will be worth checking out should he get more ambitious with the scripting and usage of available locations and other resources. THE SHADOW OF DEATH has not yet secured distribution in the UK or stateside. THE SHADOW OF DEATH Website THE SHADOW OF DEATH on Facebook THE SHADOW OF DEATH at IMDb
Fremantle Media presents THE SHAKESPEARE COLLECTION featuring four major, faithful televised adaptations.
First up is Trevor Nunn's avant-garde production of MACBETH starring Ian McKellan and Judi Dench. DRACULA A.D. 1972's Christopher Neame woos a forbidden love in ROMEO AND JULIET on disc 2. Disc 3 features Kenneth Branagh's production of TWELFTH NIGHT with his Renaissance Theatre Company (made the year before he broke into cinematic Shakespeare with HENRY V). Finally, Patrick Magee chews scenery as KING LEAR
Groupie Suzy Superscrew hits London and she'll do anything to make it big with the Scottish band Forever More in PERMISSIVE, directed by Lindsay Shonteff (NIGHT AFTER NIGHT AFTER NIGHT), in the first half of this double bill. In the second half, Austrian au pair becomes THAT KIND OF GIRL when she sleeps around London's beat scene in FANNY HILL director Gerry O'Hara's VD-scare film. Both rare seedy films have been brilliantly restored by the British Film Institute.
From director Daniel Stamm (THE LAST EXORCISM) comes the DVD debut of his earlier faux-documentary feature A NECESSARY DEATH. Gilbert, a young L.A. Film Conservatory decides to do his thesis project on suicide and searches for an interview subject who is ready to actually commit the deed on camera. He finds the perfect candidate in Matt, a young British immigrant who has an incurable brain tumor. Despite misgivings of his crew (as well as the filmmaker documenting the making of his controversial documentary) and the potential legal trouble, Gilbert presses on. As Gilbert and his crew get to know Matt (and vice versa) neither side is sure that they can go through with the their side of the project; but ambition, financial troubles, jealousy, and manipulation may lead to a more deadly finish than any of them had anticipated. Several years in the making, A NECESSARY DEATH intelligently uses the faux-documentary genre conventions while nicely balances drama, black comedy, and suspense.
Writer/director/actor Tino Struckmann (CHAINED: CODE 207) mounts an ambitious WWII period piece set in France (but shot in Tennessee and Alabama) with NORMANDY. Captain Klaus Mueller is injured on the Russian Front and transferred to Normandy where he reunites with his fiancee Klaudia; however, a sadistic Gestapo agent comes between them and threatens their lives even as the Allied Forces are storming the beaches.
DOCTOR WHO's Matt Smith and DARK SHADOWS' Eva Green star in this sci-fi thriller. Rebecca (Green) reconnects with her childhood friend and first love Tommy (Smith), but their love affair is cut short when he is killed in a road accident. She decides to use his DNA to create a clone and carry it in her womb. She soon learns of the prejudices that others have towards "copies" and now must hide the truth of Tommy's origin from others as well as her son (even as he is growing up and becoming more and more like her lost love).
Victor (Iain Robertson) arrives at the Oakley Court hotel (former Hammer Horror House) for an assertiveness seminar, but he is only one puppet in the games of the omniscient Godfrey who has special plans for his guests; however, even Godfrey's plan are subject to the turns of fate (involving con-men and gangsters).
News reporter Shalinee looks into the murder of a woman by her physician husband and discovers that the house where they lived was previously inhabited by two other doctors who had also murdered their wives. As apparitions terrorize and warn Shalinee to stay away from the house, her husband starts to be bedeviled by paranoid fantasies of his wife's betrayal with one of her co-workers. Will Shalinee and her husband become the next victims of THE HOUSE?
Middle-aged heroin addict Checkie is entrapped by the police to set up Ika, the teenage son of one of his former classmates (now a politician) in a drug bust. Although he is reluctant to betray his old friend, the police promise to help him and his wife with their crippling financial worries; but Checkie becomes even more conflicted when Ika himself goes to extreme ends to help Checkie and his family in this black comedy from Georgia.