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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 18.Sep.23

Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5  
dir Philip Barantini
scr Barnaby Boulton, James Cummings
prd Samantha Beddoe, Sara Sehdev, Ed Caffrey, Rupert Preston
with Chaneil Kular, Robbie O'Neill, Jay Johnson, Lauryn Ajufo, Frances Tomelty, Nitin Ganatra, Nila Aalia, Kimberley Marren, Ben Mars, Ollie Teague
release US/UK 22.Sep.23
23/UK 1h28

Is it streaming?

Grounded in realistic situations, this British thriller escalates into a mind-boggling predicament, orchestrated with confidence by director Philip Barantini. Because it's so easy to identify with likeable lead actor Chaneil Kular, the suspense begins to feel nerve-shredding over the course of one very long night. So even if the film shifts into a rather wildly heightened home-invasion horror, it keeps us on the edge right to the end.
On the day of a London bombing, nice-guy Harri (Kular) heads to the countryside to housesit for his parents (Ganatra and Aalia) as they go on holiday. His girlfriend Chloe (Ajufo) calls joking that he looks similar to CCTV footage of the suspect. Then a school friend also notices, posting a photo on social media. Within minutes, Harri is the UK's enemy No 1. And racist vigilantes on the dark web dig up his parents' address and go after him. The question is whether he can survive long enough for his name to be cleared.
When the hive mind starts churning, it quickly spirals into some of the ugliest vitriol imaginable, aimed specifically at people with foreign heritage. It's perhaps a bit on the nose that Harri is watching The Hunchback of Notre Dame, as this situation isn't much different from a mob with torches and pitchforks. And the script pushes things perhaps a little too far, leading to the usual increasingly violent cat-and-mouse nighttime nastiness around an isolated home. Digging deeper into the social media side of the premise might have given it a stronger kick.

In a virtual one-man show, Kular gets us on Harri's side before he plunges into this horrific nightmare. He's so taken aback that dealing with each thing that happens feels almost surreal, pushing him to the brink. It's a complex, demanding performance that cycles through all manner of emotional and physical reactions. The most pointed encounter is with a neighbour (Tomelty) who has known Harri all his life but now has doubts. As the masked intruders, O'Neill and Johnson are unflinching.

This is a clever approach to the paranoia most people feel about being unjustly targeted by internet trolls, even if the film's extreme approach eventually undermines the authenticity. There is also a steady flow of convenient details and a number of seriously grisly action beats. And where the series of events goes is harrowing in ways movies like this usually don't dare to get. And in the end, the film has something properly bleak to say about the legacy of racism.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 17.Sep.23

Here for Blood
Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5  
Here for Blood
dir Daniel Turres
scr James Roberts
prd Jacob Windatt, James Roberts
with Shawn Roberts, Maya Misaljevic, Joelle Farrow, Tara Spencer-Nairn, Michael Therriault, Samantha Helt, Kelly Penner, Glen Michael Grant, Channing Decker, Jesse Buck, Marqus Bobesich, Dee Snider
release Can Oct.22 tadff,
UK Aug.23 frf
22/Canada 1h41


Is it streaming?

roberts and misaljevic
Set around an aspiring professional wrestler, there's a wry double meaning in the title of this movie, which mashes up elements of broad comedy and home-invasion horror. Director Daniel Turres shoots this like a pastiche of vintage scary movies, complete with wildly excessive gore. The filmmaking may be somewhat cheap and cheerful, and the supernatural story elements unnecessarily over-egged, but the movie is also boldly inventive and riotously funny.
Struggling to earn a living as a wrestler, Tom (Roberts) is unsure about babysitting preteen Grace (Misaljevic) so that his girlfriend Phoebe (Farrow) can study for an exam. While Grace's parents (Spencer-Nairn and Therriault) are happy to leave Grace with this muscled hunk in their isolated home, she isn't thrilled. Then a masked gang of devil-worshipping kidnappers led by the Jackyl (Grant) attacks the house with a plan to grab Grace. But Tom is determined to stop them. And when Phoebe and her classmates (Helt and Penner) arrive later, everything shifts up a gear.
After opening with the standard violent prologue murder, the film settles into its comical vibe, setting up a fairly normal humorous situation before the hyper-grisliness returns with a vengeance. That the killers are beefy hulks wearing masks is part of the joke, although the way they dispatch their victims is brutally over the top. As is how Tom leads the defence with kitchen knives and head-smashing wrestling moves. The makeup effects are gleefully ghastly, especially since many of the killers have obviously lost all traces of their humanity.

Roberts and Farrow nicely underplay their roles as genuinely decent people who are forced to kill marauding villains just to survive. Even as things get viciously serious, they find ways to drop punchlines into the dialog while taking no prisoners in the action. And the cast around them is just as enjoyable, especially Misaljevic's mix of surly adolescent and freaked-out little kid. And when her parents return home, Spencer-Nairn and Therriault are so ridiculous that they almost steal the show.

As people keep arriving at this farmhouse, there are twists and turns in the narrative that make everything increasingly silly leading up to a fateful ritual in the barn. It's all so amusingly entertaining that we don't mind that there are no underlying themes to make the mayhem more involving. A few emotional reactions add a hint of resonance, but our main reaction is to laugh at the properly disgusting nastiness as it escalates into an absurdly deranged finale.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 27.Aug.23

The Weird Kidz  
Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5

The Weird Kidz
dir-scr Zach Passero
prd Lucky McKee, Charles Horak
voices Ellar Coltrane, Tess Passero, Sydney O'Donnell, Glenn Bolton, Brian Ceely, Angela Bettis, Sean Bridgers, JW Rogers, Andrew Smetek, Habbah Passero, Lucky McKee, Charles Horak
release UK Aug.23 frf
23/US 1h20


Is it streaming?

The Weird Kidz
Using an inventive and distinctly handmade animation style, writer-director Zach Passero spent eight years creating this witty horror comedy. With an amusing collection of teen characters, it's a pastiche of 1980s monster movies. A steady stream of hilarious banter and rude gags will appeal to the 12-year-old within most viewers. And the story takes some genuinely scary turns along the way, with moments that are tense and violent.
In a quiet small town, Wyatt (Coltrane) takes his girlfriend Mary (Wharton) to pick up his preteen brother Dug (Passero) and his older friends Fatt and Mel (Ceely and Bolton) for a camping trip in the desert. Mary's presence is a distraction to the younger boys, and she isn't too impressed by Wyatt's song about her. Around the campfire, they drink beer, dance and meet a man dressed like an insect creature from local folklore. Then the real big bug shows up, and these kids find themselves in the middle of an epic battle.
Most of the movie's jokes centre around the antics of pet dog Grumbles, such as when he spies on a private moment between Wyatt and Mary or sets off fireworks at an inopportune time. Then when the bug starts stunning and dragging people back to its lair, the violence becomes genuinely grisly and tense, animated roughly but with a clever eye for detail. There's even a prolog that sets up a 25-year-old back-story involving the local sheriff (Bridgers) and shop owner Duana (Bettis).

Even with the relatively simplistic character design, these people have endearing personalities, each with a distinct sense of humour. Dialog offers continual insight into both the young people and the adults they encounter, creating relationships that are unusually complex. These teens may seem like losers, but they're also intrepid when they need to be, facing the challenge of a nutty desert cult that's planning a nefarious midnight ritual. Along the way, Passero adds wonderfully creative touches everywhere.

This is a remarkably well-assembled little film, telling an utterly bonkers story with knowing humour and some real heart. It's unsurprising that the narrative takes a couple of major twists along the way, offering some clever whiplash moments while propelling the high-energy mayhem in new directions. And since the characters are so endearing, there's an added bite to the suspense. We like them so much that we cheer for each inventive thing they do to get out of this alive, against the odds. And we also hope they'll save the world, of course.

cert 158 themes, language, violence 24.Aug.23

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