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Outpost (2022) Review by Steve Kirkham


OUTPOST (2022)

3 stars
Lightbulb Film Distribution. On Demand and Download September 11th
Outpost opens with a woman screaming in terror – Kate (Beth Dover, Orange is the New Black) has suffered a traumatic attack. She begs her friend Nickie (Ta’Rea Campbell) to contact her park ranger brother Earl (Ato Essandoh), who Nickie clearly hasn’t spoken to in a while, to ask if she can volunteer as a forest service firespotter, in order to get away from everything and try and come to terms with the violence she has suffered.
Earl is understandably reticent – but he needs the help, so he agrees and drives Kate out to the remote tower which has no real facilities and an outhouse toilet that is often used by hikers. She is to report in twice a day and will be alone up a mountain for several months, with only the noises around her for company. What could possibly go wrong with someone in a fragile mental state? Still, the views are beautiful! But will she be overwhelmed by the flashbacks to the trauma and can she get over her fear of men being near her.
This is the feature length directorial debut of Joe Lo Truglio (who also wrote the script) and he has made a quite effective psychological horror – though he is better known as an actor in shows like Brooklyn Nine Nine and Reno 911, he also a self confessed horror fan.
Beth Dover is good in the lead, and the film manages to create an air of unrest as she struggles with her mental state – seeing things that aren’t there… or are they? As the film progresses we learn more about her assault and the solitude begins to play with her mind. Can she deal with the loneliness, but also the locals in the nearby town, the random hikers who turn up and the nearby grumpy old guy Reggie (familiar face Dylan Baker), who is sometimes friendly and sometimes a grumpy git. Her flashbacks start to bleed into reality and Lo Truglio does a good job of keeping you guessing as to what is real and what might be the imaginings of a fractured psyche.
Things pick up apace in the final part of the film but the ending feels rushed and ultimately unsatisfying, however, overall this marks the writer/director out as someone worth keeping an eye on.
Steve Kirkham

THE MOOR FrightFest review by Steve Kirkham


THE MOOR (2023)

3 stars
World Premiere FrightFest Saturday 26th August
Yorkshire 1996: In the opening scene a young boy is snatched from a corner shop, leaving behind Claire, his slightly older friend. The titles then do a good job of sketching in the back story of several children going missing, the police searching the moors and someone being jailed for 25 years.
Present day – the grown-up Claire is sitting in a café with the dad of Danny – her kidnapped friend, who was never found. Bill, the father, is pleading with her to help in his obsession with finding him up on the bleak moors after all these years. She has a podcast (doesn’t everyone these days) which he believes may be useful in his quest of getting news out about what he is doing.
So Claire reluctantly agrees and begins interviewing those involved back then (including Bernard Hill as one of the original investigators). This cleverly helps to fill in what happened back then.
She also agrees to go with Bill to the inhospitable and remote location on the moors where he believes he might find something. He is searching in a very specific location given to him by Alex, a douser, who has used his skills to pinpoint where to look. They discover a shoe. Then Alex involves his daughter Eleanor who has even stronger psychic abilities and has a very visceral reaction to the found object – but what will they discover when they all decide to head to the remote and hard to get to area which she identifies on a map?
Whilst this is slow to start this kicks in about an hour into proceedings – there is a very creepy and highly effective seance sequence and the music by Nir Perlman adds to the mood created throughout. Things start to get freaky – you have ancient stones and symbols scattered around, rolling fog, mist and rain, muddy peat bogs, something on the moor and grief driven obsession. This is well acted but takes a touch too long to get where it is going and ultimately, whilst it successfully builds an atmosphere and has several eerie parts and an unexpected ending, it doesn’t completely add up to a satisfying whole.
Steve Kirkham

Here For Blood FrightFest review by Steve Kirkham



4 stars
Frightfest Friday 25th August
Phoebe (Joelle Farrow) is stressing as she has so much college work and an upcoming exam she needs to cram for. She pleads with her hunk of a boyfriend Tom (Shawn Roberts), who is a struggling wrestler who is not making much money, to replace her at her regular babysitting gig as she can’t afford the time. “Guys don’t babysit” he declares somewhat unsympathetically
He does eventually, reluctantly agree and heads out to the isolated home to look after sparky and smart 10 year old Grace (Maya Misaljevic) as her mum Barb (Tara Spencer-Nairn) and stepdad Gil (Michael Therriault) are going out for the evening. Surprisingly, they don’t seem fazed but Tom being a last minute replacement.
Grace is busy playing video games, Tom has money for pizza, all is fine… or so it seems. That is until they house is invaded by a group of weirdly masked interlopers. Grace and Tom must band together to fend off these attackers who appear to more of an agenda than just breaking in. Then, Tom discovers something in there attic he wasn’t expecting which flips this from a straightforward home invasion thriller to something more sinister. Tom is determined to fight back and protect Grace.
Whilst this isn’t wildly original, this is a fun horror comedy which delivers. Shawn Roberts makes for an appealing hero and is taking no prisoners – he is certainly not going to end up the typical horror film babysitter target without a fight! And fight he does… with the title Here For Blood, you can almost hear the audience screaming “yes we are” and this brings the splatter as our muscle bound hero using everything to hand to combat the invaders.
There’s an hilarious part for Dee Snider of Twisted Sister fame as the voice of a disembodied “head” and the film barrels along with both comedy and bloody ultra violence which I am sure must have played like gang busters at it’s various festival showings. This is a joyously gore soaked throwback horror with some nicely cheesy practical effects work and plenty of plasma spilled and splattered. Great fun!

ONCE UPON A TIME IN UGANDA (2021) reviewed by Steve Kirkham



4 stars
Blue Finch Film Releasing. Cinema 5th September
We all know Hollywood and Bollywood but do you know the films from Wakaliwood – unlikely…
In Uganda action movies are hugely popular – especially productions featuring Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee, Rambo and the like.
This affectionate and fascinating documentary follows the story of a brick-maker in a small Ugandan village who, inspired by the films he has enjoyed, decides to make his own. One Nabwana I.G.G., known as Isaac, saves up enough money to buy a small video camera and along with his wife begins shooting outrageous, super low budget action flicks – learning as he goes – in the slum of Wakaliga. He involves his family and neighbours to create a community dedicated to making movies for as little as $200 using whatever they have to hand to create camera rigs and props and editing on a small laptop.
Meanwhile New Yorker Alan Hofmanis, who has worked in the film industry, first sees the craziness via a trailer for Who Killed Captain Alex on YouTube, and makes the life-changing decision to up-sticks and track down this movie maverick just to meet him. Before long he is drawn into Isaac’s world and he decides to stay to both help out, even appearing in the productions, but also to try and bring worldwide attention to this unassuming creator.
Director Cathryne Czubek (along with co-writer Amanda Hughes) has crafted a heartwarming tale of triumph over adversity, the joy of filmmaking for its own sake, the passion of one man and a community but also a story of bruised egos and reconciliation, as Alan tries his hardest to take things to the next level and have a larger audience experience what he has found – but at what cost?
Of course if you watch this and immediately want to see the films featured you can, but don’t expect some kind of retrospective box set on Blu-ray (unless one of the boutique labels really wants to go out on a limb). YouTube is your friend and a quick search will reveal the goods.
Steve Kirkham

MOTHER, MAY I? (2023) Review by Steve Kirkham


MOTHER, MAY I? (2023)

4 stars
Vertigo Releasing. Digital Platforms 21st August
Emmett (Kyle Gallner) picks up his Mum’s cremated remains in a cheap box. Seemingly not bothered by her death, he and his wife Anya (Holland Roden) scatter the ashes in a lake in the forest. The only plus is they have inherited her beautiful, large, rural house. Estranged from his mother for some years, Emmett hasn’t been there since he was a young child. Anya however is immediately taken with the property – despite it being slightly creepy, with creaking doors and odd noises.
He has unresolved abandonment issues. They are trying for a child but is it for the wrong reasons? Both of them are quite fragile and they try and use psychological, role reversal games to attempt to understand each other and maybe fix each of their issues. Lots of close-ups and them looking directly at each other make for intense scenes.
Then things start to become unsettling… is his mother, who died in the house, haunting the remote dwelling? As things progress Anya starts to take on Emmet’s deceased mother’s persona and to treat him like a child, which really isn’t going to help his state of mind! The “possession” seems to come and go, meaning her husband doesn’t know where he stands from one minute to the next.
A slow burn, emotionally involving story with supernatural horror overtones this is a complex, chilling drama, well written and directed by Laurence Vannicelli and beautifully shot by Craig Harmer. The two leads give excellent, credible performances especially Roden who switches characteristics – which may or may not be the result of being taken over by the spirit of the dead owner of the house. The highly effective soundscape and music score by Marc Riordan add to the sinister atmosphere.
Steve Kirkham

ALONE AT NIGHT (2022) Reviewed by Steve Kirkham




2 stars
Signature Entertainment. Digital Platforms 7th August
Following a break-up Vicky (Ashley Benson – known for Pretty Little Liars apparently, she’s also one of the producers) accepts an offer from her friend Stacy (Sky Ferreira) to stay at her family’s remote cabin to get her head together.
Vicky works as a cam girl and this is set during the Covid pandemic. This is mentioned several times but none of the characters act as if there is a potentially deadly virus out there.
Add to this there is a murderer on the loose dubbed The Crowbar Killer.
Her plan is to carry on doing her sexy shows on the 18 & Over website (this was also the film’s original title). When not writhing about sexily, she watches her favourite reality show Trap Stars, which is your typical Love Island-style nonsense hosted by none other than Paris Hilton (complete with her little chihuahua). There doesn’t seem to be any reason for this to be interpolated into the plot except to fill out the running time, add some questionable star power and periodically show annoying clips. Some kind of social commentary perhaps… doubtful methinks.
Of course things like the power goes out and the internet goes down to add to the less than exciting happenings and to bring in a local hunk to fix things. We also get Pamela Anderson popping up as the local sheriff and one of Vicky’s webcam customers is played by Luiz Gusman – he’s kind of fun, which is more than can be said for this mess.
Apparently this started life being released as an NFT – seriously! This fails on almost every level: it’s not tense or thrilling and isn’t even sexy!

THE INHABITANT (2022) Reviewed by Steve Kirkham



3 stars
The Movie Partnership. Digital download 14th August
The story of Lizzie Borden is a famous murder which took place in Falls River, Massachusetts in 1892. Whilst she was the main suspect in the killing of her father and stepmother she was not convicted – but the trial received extensive coverage in the US press. There was even a rhyme made up about the supposed “forty whacks” from the axe. Much of this is laid out in a long preamble at the start of the movie to get you up to speed. Many of us older viewers probably remember the TV movie starring Elizabeth Montgomery The Legend of Lizzie Borden from 1975.
In The Inhabitant the descendants of the notorious Lizzie continue to live in the small community – some aware of the tragic family lineage. Every October, stories are told of the grisly deaths and of a dark spirit that transfers from woman to woman… taking over their souls, to kill in its name!
A young girl is going for an early morning run when she sees a woman with an axe – and is duly killed. So starts the whacking.
Tara (well played by Odessa A’zion, recently in the new Hellraiser), is in her senior year at high school and struggling. She is plagued by nightmarish visions. There are tensions in the family as her Mum (Leslie Bibb Iron Man, Iron Man 2) wants them all to go visit her sister, who also started having bad dreams at age 16 and, due to killing her child, is in a psych ward. Her mother is concerned that the same thing is happening to her daughter and tells her of the family curse… because they are, of course, descendants of old Liz.
People start being killed and inevitably the police suspect a connection to Tara.
With the background of the Borden murders and the opportunity of some serious chopping you would think this would be a more exciting film than it turned out to be. Instead it is a disappointingly mediocre outing mainly exploring the coming of age of a girl with an overwhelming legacy hanging over her – partially buoyed by the central performances by A’zion and Bibb. Dermot Mulroney is completely wasted in the role as Dad.

Girl Gone Bad (2022) Reviewed by Steve Kirkham



3 stars
4Digital Media. Digital platforms in US and UK. Out now
Also known as Guiltless, there is a very slight spoiler ahead with the opening violent scene setting up the movie.
16 year old Samantha (Alison Thornton who also produced the film) is excited as she has the house to herself as her Mum is away – she is looking forward to time with her girlfriend Amanda (May Lowe) as her Dad is also out for the period. However, when Samantha tries to contact her she can’t get any answer… we know she has been killed. Then the young girl realises that there is somebody in the house.
However, it soon becomes clear she is a resourceful adolescent and not one to be messed with as she flips the expected home invasion narrative and manages to capture the intruder Ron (Alex Zahara) and has him gagged and bound in the basement.
As they begin to converse she reveals she won’t take any nonsense – as she takes her anger out on her captive when she comes to the realisation that he is responsible for killing her friend. But has she put herself in an uncompromising position?
Flashbacks fill in the two girls’ relationship. Mind games and violence ensue as our protagonist proves to be more of a psycho than the interloper!
Director/writer Kevin Schultz shows some promise despite what is obviously a fairly low budget and Thornton gives a forceful, unhinged performance. Despite this, and the unexpected plot turn which makes for an interesting variant on a well worn these, this fails to fully grip. The final twist takes a turn into the ridiculous.
Steve Kirkham

The Breach review by Steve Kirkham



3 Stars.
Lightbulb Film Distribution. On Demand/Download. 10th July
This Canadian horror film opens with a riverside picnic disrupted when a canoe drifts by with mangled, boneless remains on board. The body, or at least what is left of it, is identified as particle physicist Cole Parsons, who had recently rented a remote cabin nearby. Sheriff of the small community of Lone Crow is John Hawkins (Allan Hawco), who was due to head “down south” to his new job, but finds himself dragged into investigating this mysterious death. He brings in coroner Jacob Redgrave (Wesley French) to help and also his ex-girlfriend, who actually has ‘history’ with both men – wilderness guide Meg (Emily Alatalo). As Hawkins digs deeper into the case he discovers Parsons daughter was reported missing and still hasn’t been found, adding to the puzzle.
They decide to head out to the shack in the woods, to see if they can find any clues as to what is going on. What is the weird sound they hear when they get there? What has the scientist been experimenting with whilst living away from society?
The building emits strange noises and creaks and Jacob keeps being bitten by insects – and then (slight spoiler, sorry) Parsons turns up alive! Do we have a scientist meddling in things they should leave well alone? I think so, as a portal to other dimensions is revealed and the film tips into the area of sci fi – though it does throw in some zombie like creatures at the end.
Directed by Rodrigo Gudiño – founding editor of Rue Morgue magazine, so he should know his stuff as it were – this is an adaptation of the 2020 novel by Nick Cutter (pseudonym of Craig Davidson) who co-wrote the movie with Ian Weir – though the credits say it’s based on the Audible serial version.
This starts intriguingly but goes flabby in the mid section (haven’t we all) and proves to be very talky, with a love triangle that adds little to the muddled plotting. However, the sound design is effective and there is strong production design on show. Also worth noting is the score by Slash from Guns ‘n’ Roses (he is also an Exec Producer). The physical make up effects are nicely gooey and gory (credited to Daniel Baker and Chris Cooper) and its well enough helmed by Gudiño – though it can’t help reminding you of other better productions like cabin in the woods classic The Evil Dead and a touch of Lucio Fulci (even the font used for the title treatment feels like it has been chosen purposely to be a callback). So another horror with a retro feel that is neither terrible or indeed particularly good either.
Steve Kirkham

SHE CAME FROM THE WOODS (2022) review by Steve Kirkham


3 stars

Blue Finch Film Releasing. Digital. Out now

In this 80s throwback summer camp horror (you know the kind where filmmakers don’t have to deal with pesky mobile phones), we are at Camp Briarbrook in 1987, as Kim Wilde’s Kids in America plays over the titles. It’s the end of the season and we are introduced to the various camp counsellors as they prepare to close down and have a bit of fun before heading home. The various “types” are efficiently sketched in, you know, so you care about them. You probably won’t though…

Peter (Spencer List) is the life and soul of the party and doesn’t take anything seriously, unlike his more serious older brother Shawn (Tyler Elliot Burke), who is always getting his sibling out of trouble. Their Mum Heather (Cara Buono) runs the place, which was started by her father Gilbert (William Sadler, the only familiar face in the expendable cast). 

When Peter persuades his fellow counsellors to invoke the spirit of the urban legend Nurse Agatha, who supposedly carried out occult shenanigans at the camp several decades before. He believes it is just a made up terror tale to keep the kids in their beds at night-time… but of course it isn’t. 

Soon after, we have one of their number going bonkers and bloodily attacking one of the girls, and then we have a bunch of the children, as their bus has broken down as they were on their way home, being possessed and marauding through the grounds and woods. Eventually, and it takes a while, Nurse Agatha herself turns up, as family secrets are revealed and several of the characters are despatched in gory ways.

Written by Erik Bloomquist and Carson Bloomquist, this is an expansion of their 2017 short, with the former capably directing what is a fun if obvious homage to the numerous films set in a similar environment. It’s not particularly original but it is entertaining enough, if ultimately throwaway stuff with many of the plot turns not really adding up and elements that seem to have been thrown in for no apparent reason than to up the kill quotient. 

You are also left with one question after viewing it – which you’ll understand if you have seen it…what happened to the kids in the basement? I have now seen it twice now and have no idea!

Steve Kirkham