Film Reviews by NP

Welcome to NP's film reviews page. NP has written 1069 reviews and rated 1170 films.

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Stitch Face

Spoilers follow ...

(Edit) 10/02/2017

Serafina (Shauna Waldron) and Marsden (Edward Furlong) have recently lost their daughter. They hit upon a clearly unadvisable way of cleansing themselves of their abject misery by travelling to an isolated mansion in the middle of a desert and indulging in a ceremony designed to 'confront' death. You may think this won't end well. You may be right.

The director, known as Ajai, crams his film with as many images and ideas as 91 minutes will allow. Some might think it's saturated with too much incident; I rather liked the fast-moving nature of the ensuing horror. The thin budget makes itself apparent by some effects shortcomings and occasional lapses with the sound levels, and yet the ambition seems undiminished. I admire Ajai for this and, despite the shortcomings, 'Stitch Face' is an enjoyably gruesome experience. Hopefully, the director will continue for a long time to come.

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Removal

A chiller that is well worth your time.

(Edit) 17/04/2020

It must be a fine balance to write a screenplay that consistently wrong-foots the audience, makes them smile occasionally while delivering a fairly grim and creepy story, and ensures that it all makes sense too. Nick Simon, who directs and co-writes achieves this very nicely. There's an irresistible grim strand of humour running through this, although the main character Cole has little to be cheerful about. Mark Kelly is very good as the flawed central character, fighting several of his own personal demons, as well as the manipulations of those around him. Even Oz Perkins as the the unpleasant Henry Sharpe has a dry line in humour.

That the twists and turns pay off is a bonus - it isn't always the case, and while there's nothing wrong with open-ended stories, it's good to have things tied up here. Morte than that I won't reveal.

As a chiller about a put-upon industrial cleaner, Removal works very well indeed. My score is 9 out of 10.

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The Haunted

Magnificent, slow-moving horror - mild spoilers follow

(Edit) 01/05/2020

Making a horror film based on real-life tragedies is a tricky manoeuvre - the subject of this slow-burning, low-key chiller is Arthur, played by Bayly. Arthur suffers from Alzheimer's, although the condition is woefully under-diagnosed. As such, his new live-in nurse Emily (Sophie Stevens) has her work cut out for her, especially when the erratic nature of events drifts into the supernatural.

Nothing happens quickly, which won't sit well with some. Don't expect a multi-million pounds Hollywood-style spectacle here - indeed, such a style would rob 'The Haunted' of its dread and dark closeness, and poor Emma's experience wouldn't be anywhere near as effective. Only the finale picks up speed, and that is to its detriment. A host of information assails the viewer, which is not in keeping with the carefully layered storyline before it. This is a shame, but such rashness doesn't undo the effective scares that make up the majority of this film's running time. My score is 9 out of 10.

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Redwood

Stay on the path, kids

(Edit) 28/08/2020

'Redwood' is a character-based horror chiller that relies on the two main players Mike Beckingham and Tatjana Nardone (as Josh and Beth respectively. Happily, we're in good company with nice performances and interesting characters, who are responding to some fairly horrific news. They decide to go on a camping trip, and it would be naive indeed to hope that things go smoothly.

There's a twist towards the end of the 78-minute film, and as is the way of such things, some will guess it, and some won't. I didn't. I was enjoying the journey too much. Director and writer Tom Paton has created an immersive, effective horror that goes into some interesting places. To say more would spoil it. My score is 8 out of 10.

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The Brood

Are you my mummy?

(Edit) 08/06/2017

Written by Director David Cronenberg whilst his recent divorce was still in his mind, 'The Brood' is grim and at times, deeply unpleasant, and works extremely well as a horror film. The central character of Nola (Samantha Eggar) was based to a certain extent, on his ex-wife. Eggar plays her role to perfection, hinting that something is not quite right, but in no way preparing us for the revelations to come.

Among the impressive cast is Oliver Reed, restrainedly playing D. Raglan, who also imbues his character with such layers, we're not quite sure whether he acts for good or evil. A lot of the characters are similarly opaque. Teacher Ruth Mayer (Susan Hogan), briefly seen, is possibly the story's most wholesome; her role is memorable, particularly for a bloody, horrifying scene in a classroom, where some of the children are not what they seem.

Ah yes, the children. The true monsters of the piece, are horrifyingly filmed, sometimes obscured by shadow. Their role in the story is as imaginative as it is shocking.

Plenty to see here, albeit behind the hands and through the fingers. All filmed in crisp, cold colours. To me, this is Cronenberg's wincing, graphic triumph. My score is 8 out of 10.

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Crone Wood

"Ah ah ah! That's not nice!"

(Edit) 13/03/2021

In this low-key folk horror, we follow Danny and Hayley (Ed Murphy and Elva Trill) as they seem determined to get themselves into as much bother as they can. They are a likeable couple, and it's a pleasure to spend time in their company, but you do wish - as is often the case in such films - that they would just turn around and go home.

Director and writer Mark Sheridan, for whom 'Crone Wood' seems to be his last venture to date, has created an immersive found footage world. Events are presented at a fair pace, and we're never in doubt as to exactly the kind of jeopardy our heroes are in - unless he wants to reveal a further twist, that is.

Taking full advantage of the beautiful Irish location, and the notorious Hellfire Club too, which hosted a satanic group at one time. Crone Wood is well worth a visit. My score is 8 out of 10.

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The Housemaid

Recommended.

(Edit) 05/03/2021

To begin with, the viewer is overwhelmed with ideas. Soothed by the impressive photography and evocative locations, the revelations and twists soon become less disorientating. Derek Nguyun is a very good director; whilst watching, I actually felt he was playing with my mind - which was his intention, I'm sure!

Linh (Kate Nhung), is a shy and humble new housemaid. Our sympathies rest with her as her good nature is taken for granted and she is treated less well than she should be. As her confidence grows, however, events become less easy to predict. It's an intriguing set-up, and Nhung is excellent.

As a horror film, this is rather less successful. The scares are tepid and it's down to the ambience of the opulent surroundings to provide something creepy - which it does, but I could have done with more actual thrills. By the end though, the twisting plot pays off and brings to an end a highly enjoyable film. My score is 8 out of 10.

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Dogged

Impressive Indie horror

(Edit) 17/04/2021

Not everybody goes for slow-burning horror films, but I do. So 'Dogged' won't be for everyone. It's a low-budget venture that lasts for nearly two hours. For those who like spectacular, fast-moving jump scares and mind-altering special effects, this probably won't appeal.

Director, producer and co-writer Richard Rowntree's folk horror would have been more effective if its rich and atmospheric camera work was achieved in a grainy filmic texture; here the video causes it to lose its richness somewhat. But make no mistake, 'Dogged' is an immersive experience, and if you go with it, it'll provide you with a rewarding 116 minutes. Funded via Kickstarter, it tells the story of Sam (Sam Saunders) who returns to his coastal island home to attend a funeral. Here, he discovers that things seem to have changed in his absence, and the local ambience has taken on a very sinister tone. Women folk have been relegated to a position of subservience, while their men have claimed a certain unchallenged dominance. Things get darker here on in ... My score is 8 out of 10.

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Asmodexia

A different take on the Exorcism genre ...

(Edit) 29/03/2018

Ever since the seminal film from 1973, exorcisms have been a thriving subject for various horror productions. Director and co-writer Marc Carreté’s story provides something a little different. We are still treated to 'wailing and gnashing of teeth' as we would expect when demonic forces are expelled from the human host, but this Spanish film concentrates more on the exorcists themselves. Fifteen-year-old Alba (Clàudia Pons) and her grandfather Eloy de Palma (Lluís Marco) travel from city to city to help the possessed, usually comprising of those existing in the lower end of society.

Jordi Dalmau's excellent score is worth mentioning because it enhances the dread. When we realise that even those we thought of as the 'good guys' turn out to have dark secrets of their own, we're inclined to believe that nowhere is safe. Well worth a watch. My score is 7 out of 10.

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Paranormal Xperience

Spoilers follow ...

(Edit) 18/01/2018

This, the first Spanish horror film to be shot in 3-D, takes its cues from several cliched American slasher films, which doesn't immediately bode well. A handful of perfectly manicured young friends posture and gesticulate throughout the early scenes, inciting nothing much from the audience except perhaps irritation at such characterless, self-satisfied people. The usual bland prog-rock music score accompanies their every pout, too. So far, several points lost, I'm sorry to say.

Once we drift into more isolated locations, Director Sergi Vizcaino’s camera is disinclined to dwell so much on the bottoms of the females in the group to take in the rugged beauty of the world in which they now find themselves, and things begin to pick up. The performances all round become more enthusiastic. Our villain Dr. Matarga (Manuel de Blas) fails to make much of an impression when we first meet him, but like the story, he grows on us - and on the cast of characters too, only not in the way they relish.

'Paranormal Xperience' is the very definition of a 'grower'. It's worth sticking with and, even though we may not ultimately get the explanations we're looking for, it's a good, chilling ride. My score is 6 out of 10.

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Night Train Murders

Uncomfortable and disturbing viewing

(Edit) 08/04/2021

Also known as 'Last Stop on the Night Train', this was banned in the UK in 1976, only surfacing once Shameless dusted it off and released it on DVD.

At first, you might well wonder what all the fuss was about. What begins as an untidy-looking production, we witness sinister activity on a train, from a couple of youths notable for their distinct lack of menace. But this isn't mere hooligan behaviour here. They progressively become more abhorrent as time goes along, and Director Aldo Lado is in no hurry to move on from their deeds. The fact that their behaviour seems to be controlled by the main antagonist makes things even more distasteful.

That the shocking events are carried out in such measured tones also means that various horrors are both disturbing and on occasion, highly satisfying. Once used to the mindset of the villains, it's easy for us to want the very worst for them.

A good cast, and some beautifully foggy cinematography - my score is 8 out of 10.

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Frankenstein: Day of the Beast

Spoilers follow ...

(Edit) 13/10/2016

Rearranging events from Mary Shelley's original novel, this film manages to be true to the book while at the same time making something new.

Very much an independent production, Ricardo Islas has directed a very atmospheric horror variation on the familiar theme, of an animalistic monster who seems to delight in killing. You may not blame him, because most of the supporting characters want to kill him too. More than bloodlust, a sense of mating drives him along.

Newly married Victor Frankenstein (Adam Stephenson) and his new wife Elizabeth (Michelle Shields) are, at the time of the story's commencement, being heavily guarded by a group of guards only too aware there is a monster afoot. Frankenstein here is a rather fey character, who is afraid of what he has created, but is not prepared to take the responsibility. What transpires is a game of cat and mouse between the motley selection of guards and the creature, with the latter displaying an almost impossible inability to succumb to death. Some of these effects stretch the budget and the realism.

This is low-key and highly enjoyable, muddy and grimy, with a fast-moving story and willingness to go gory when the plot demands it. Also, the ending is delightfully oblique, allowing us to imagine that somewhere out there ... evil lurks.

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Cassadaga

Well worth your time.

(Edit) 29/03/2018

According to the DVD extras, 'Cassadaga' is two originally separate story strands melded together. This is apparent but still works well as two strands of the same tale being told. It also means there's plenty of incident. There are gratuitous scenes from the get-go, and the characters are not difficult to like and empathise with as we follow them through a twisted mass of events.

The ending is good, too, ensuring the destination is as enjoyable as the journey. Good performances, convincing effects and an engaging story. My score is 8 out of 10.

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A Room to Die For

A wonderfully and progressively twisted horror

(Edit) 19/02/2021

One of the joys of Devanand Shanmugam's film is that it begins so steadily, even sedately. You might even be put off by this, but stick with it. Events turn progressively darker, even if they never reach the wince-inducing depths of Mark's aspirations as a stand-up comedian (don't worry, he's supposed to be bloody awful). Mark (Michael Lieber) is a bit of an idiot, and, as is often the way of things recently, the girlfriend, in this case Jill (Loren Peta), provides the practicalities and the backbone of the relationship.

So strong is she that when the couple's new landlords, Henry (Christopher Craig) and Josephine Baker (Antonia Davies), prove to clearly be up to no good, you're surprised she doesn't cotton on sooner. Whatever, this tightly written chiller becomes progressively more weird and genuinely disturbing - nasty, even.

Another joy is the unpredictable quality of the ongoing story. You truly don't know where it is heading, but get quite a jolt when it gets there. My score is 8 out of 10.

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Lake of Dracula

Spoilers follow ...

(Edit) 29/03/2018

As I write, it's 69 years since Godzilla first stomped across our planet, causing the kind of destruction that is, even now, wowing audiences across the world. Toho films were originally (and subsequently) responsible for most of The Big G's attempts to save/destroy humanity. Perhaps less well known, particularly to Western audiences, is that Toho also enjoys a run of horror films. They were behind 1998's seminal Ringu, for example, which spawned a whole host of ghostly dark-haired children in horror films.

They flirted with the Prince of Darkness himself with this trilogy of films. Beginning with 1970's 'The Vampire Doll' and ending with ending with 'Evil of Dracula (1974)', 'Lake of Dracula' stars Shin Kishida as a thin glowing-eyed vampire and is more frightening than you might imagine. Nicely directed by Michio Yamamoto and bathed in abrasive colours, he is a force well up to the standing and style of other Draculas.

Any middle section of a trilogy has the most difficult job. No beginning and no end to speak of, it might ungraciously be regarded as 'filler' to any ongoing story. Happily, the stories are so loosely connected, 'Lake' is free to do as it pleases to a large degree.

There's a note of restrain with the horrors here, which isn't always the way with Toho films, and yet the finale is as horrifying as you could hope for. A triumph of lighting, tension and a generally eerie ambience, my score is 8 out of 10.

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