By Nick Durham


Ridley Scott’s follow up to 2012’s mostly maligned Alien prequel Prometheus has finally been unleashed in the form of Alien: Covenant, and goddamn it I finally got around to seeing it. Before I get to my thoughts on the film, I just want to express that it feels good to finally see the Xenomorphs back on the big screen slaughtering people after 20 years since the last real installment of the franchise (no, I don’t count the Alien VS Predator abortions), so no matter how the film would end up turning out, at least I had that little nugget to tide myself over with. With that in mind, let’s dive right in and see if Ridley Scott made a gem of a film here, or if he pissed all over his own legacy, which I was very fearful of him doing in the past.

Alien: Covenant picks up about a decade or so after Prometheus ended with a ship called Covenant that features a terraforming crew and colonists aboard. We’re introduced to a synthetic named Walter (Michael Fassbender with an American accent), and after a tragic accident befalls the ship, we’re introduced to the surviving crew, including Daniels (Katherine Waterston), pilot Tennessee (Danny McBride), religious acting captain Christopher (Billy Crudup), and more. On their way to a habitable planet to begin new lives, the crew comes to realize that there is a never-before known planet in closer proximity that appears to be able to sustain human life. Upon investigating it they find unhinged synthetic David (Fassbender again), the only survivor of the Prometheus. As Daniels and co. begin to discover what horrific secrets lay in wait in this world, they also discover that David has been quite busy with some experiments; namely creating the Xenomorphs.

That revelation in itself is probably what my own personal biggest problem is with Alien: Covenant. The fact that the Xenomorphs aren’t an evolutionary step of a parasitic alien being, but rather are a race of creatures that through trial and error are engineered by David. If you’ve heard of people complaining that this is how Ridley Scott messes with the lore of the series, this is what they’re mainly talking about. This revelation raises so many questions about what we’ve been led to believe that it’s honestly kind of hard to digest. It’s something that I myself have wavered with trying not to make a big deal about, but part of me wants to shit all over this movie just because of that alone. Looking back on it, I honestly try not to think too much about this revelation, and instead focus on the rest of the film, which is actually pretty good.

First and foremost, Alien: Covenant is much more enjoyable than Prometheus was. The characters here are written better, even if a few of them suffer from the syndrome of being really smart yet do some really stupid things that lead to their gory deaths. And speaking of which, there are some balls-to-the-wall gore-drenched moments that will make any fan of the franchise stand up and cheer. The Xenomorphs, what little we see of them, are brilliant looking; even when CGI effects take over for them. The other creature effects are pretty good too, and are designed well enough that it would probably make H.R. Giger proud.

From a technical standpoint, Alien: Covenant is gorgeously shot, as it should be since this is a Ridley Scott film. Even with his worst directorial efforts, Scott’s films are sights to behold, and this film is no different. There’s a great deal of suspense and tension and dread permeating throughout the film, which is a massive plus and evokes the original film in terms of this as well. The acting is pretty good as well, and Fassbender is absolutely fucking dynamite in his dual role. The only saving grace for David being responsible for the creation of the Xenomorphs is that this practically guarantees Fassbender will be around for a while, and I’m very, very okay with that. Katherine Waterston is good as well as the heroic Daniels, although the Ripley-esque haircut is a little much. Danny McBride does pretty well being cast against type as our cowboy-hat wearing pilot, and the rest of the cast is alright as well. The ending stinger though you will see coming a mile away, which is fairly disappointing, meaning the whole film kind of ends on a bit of a whimper.

In closing, Alien: Covenant is a better film than Prometheus, and probably the best Alien film in the franchise since Aliens. Granted that isn’t saying too much when compared to Alien 3 and Alien: Resurrection, but you get the point. If for some reason you haven’t seen the film yet and continued to read this after the spoiler warning, I still recommend seeing it to form your own opinion, and judge for yourself if Ridley Scott redeemed himself for Prometheus or continued to piss on his own legacy. Either way, it looks like we’re getting more films in the series one way or another, so maybe the best (or the worst) is yet to come.

Rating: 3.5/5


By Nick Durham

Remember those board games from the 80s/90s that included a VHS tape with them? These were interactive board games, and they set themselves apart from the usual pack of Sorry and Scrabble thanks to the fact that these VHS tapes would mostly include a host that would range from explaining how the game was played to flat out taunting you. These games were usually of the fantasy variety and ended up doing a lot with a little in terms of overall depth and most of the time ended up being pretty damn enjoyable for what they were. Over the years, these kind of board games (which there weren’t too many of sadly) are looked back on with a healthy bit of nostalgia; more so than any of the typical board games that have been around forever or are still around today.

Beyond the Gates is a movie designed to feed on this nostalgia, pure and simple. That in itself isn’t such a bad thing, as it’s actually quite enjoyable for being what it is. The plot of the film revolves around a pair of estranged brothers named Gordon (Graham Skipper) and John (John Dies at the End‘s Chase Williamson). The brothers reunite in their home town after their father mysteriously disappears, and seek to sell the remnants of his video store as well. In the process however, we discover that a mysterious VHS board game (hosted by genre stalwart Barbara Crampton, who also served as a producer on the film) may be responsible for the father’s disappearance, and soon enough the brothers are drawn into the power of the tape as mysterious events start happening, and escalate into some downright creepy moments.

As fun and almost whimsical as Beyond the Gates ends up being, it’s the film’s overall lack of execution that is the most disappointing. Know that when I say lack of execution, this mostly refers to the fact that the film’s ideas end up being too big for its budget to contain. You can tell the filmmakers had a very big vision here for what they wanted to do, but budget limitations can be a bitch. This really isn’t that big a deal though believe it or not, and kind of adds to the charm of the film as a whole. The point of the VHS board games, and fantasy board games in general, is to use your imagination; and this film manages to reflect that. The acting is wonderful as well, and Chase Williamson is hilarious. The characters are all given some pretty good depth, and the drama between the brothers is well orchestrated. Barbara Crampton channels her inner-Elvira, and the film itself is well shot with some decent atmosphere.

All together, Beyond the Gates is a fun little film that will satisfy the kid in you, as well as please the horror fan that you are. It will be streaming on Netflix in the very near future, and I wholeheartedly recommend checking it out. If I can make any other recommendation, it’s that to leave sky high expectations at the door, and just plain old enjoy the nostalgia trip you’re about to embark on.

Rating: 4/5


By Nick Durham

More often than not, when I hear about a heap of praise being levied on a horror movie at any time from any kind of critics, I tend to approach it with caution. Remember when everyone said The Babadook was the greatest thing since sliced bread and it turned out to be the equivalent of a frozen dog turd with sprinkles? Yeah, when it comes to praise, I usually tend to feel the opposite way. That’s why when I was going into The Void, I honestly wasn’t expecting too much from it, even though I went into it knowing practically nothing about what the film was about. Coming out of it…well, all I can say is that this may in fact be the best horror film I’ve seen in a long fucking time. This film is equally inventive and unpredictable, and saying it made a lasting impression on me is saying it lightly.

The Void picks up with a small town sheriff named Daniel (Aaron Poole) picking up a disheveled man he finds bloodied and disoriented. Transporting him to a local, understaffed hospital inhabited by his ex (Kathleen Munroe), a veteran surgeon (Twin Peaks vet Kenneth Welsh), and a handful of others; Daniel soon learns that something very sinister is going on when mysterious hooded figures start surrounding the hospital. Things go from bad to worse when bodies start dropping, but that’s only a taste of the unrelenting horror that unfolds as the film goes on, and gets legitimately totally fucking shocking.

I really don’t want to spoil much more about the plot of The Void, because I really do feel that the less you know about this film going in, the more you’ll enjoy it. Granted there are some plot elements that come out of left field, but the end result is a genuine shocker of a film that will leave you with plenty of lasting impressions. Not to mention the fact that this film is loaded with wonderful practical effects work and some ridiculously grotesque sequences that gorehounds will undoubtedly adore. I’ve often heard people labeling the film as being Lovecraftian and also making comparisons to John Carpenter’s The Thing, and I agree with both sentiments wholeheartedly. There is an aura of unpredictability and flat out “what the fuck” moments peppered throughout the film, along a feeling of isolation and hopelessness that are perfectly orchestrated here. I’ve also heard comparisons to the work of Lucio Fulci quite a bit as well, but I think these are more aimed towards the fact the film’s ending shot may be a bit of a head scratcher for some and leave you wondering what the fuck you just watched. Regardless of that, this is a modern day horror film that is truly one of a kind.

I can praise The Void day and night and keep going on, but I won’t. This is a film that you flat out need to see right fucking now. I myself may love it more than most, and it goes without saying that The Void isn’t a film for everyone or all tastes either, but this is truly an unforgettable achievement in practical effects work and being able to orchestrate an overwhelming sense of dread that most modern horror films couldn’t do if they tried. Co-directors Steven Kostanski and Father’s Day co-helmer Jeremy Gillespie really crafted something special here, and The Void is something that I’ll be happily revisiting for years to come.

Rating: 5/5


By Nick Durham

House on Willow Street, also known as From a House on Willow Street and A House on Willow Street (at least it wasn’t the Last House on Willow Street though right?) is a film that begins with a very interesting premise and set up but quickly degrades into a by the numbers horror film. It’s a shame too because this film shows a lot of promise right off the bat as it kicks into gear. Sadly, it never gets itself out of that first gear, and instead goes into full reverse, never to return again.

The plot of House on Willow Street revolves around Hazel (You’re Next star Sharni Vinson) and her small crew attempting to kidnap Katherine (Carlyn Burchell), the daughter of a wealthy jewelry dealer. Hazel has her own reasons for wanting to pull this off, resulting in a small subplot that goes nowhere. Regardless of that, the crew pulls off the kidnapping, only to discover that there is something definitely, seriously wrong with Katherine, and now everyone’s lives and souls are at stake.

I’ve never been much of a fan of demonic possession movies, but I wanted to give House on Willow Street a fair chance because it looked fairly interesting. After doing just that, I was massively disappointed. There’s a lot that gets set up in the first act of the film that never comes to fruition, and what we get instead is a bombardment of clichés and predictability. Our lead characters Hazel and Katherine are meant to be sympathized with given their respective predicaments, but neither are fleshed out enough for us to really care much about what happens to them. Not to mention the fact that by the time the film becomes a watered down slasher with possessed people hunting unpossessed people, you’ll be ready to take a nap. It’s just flat out boring, and the bargain basement CGI effects don’t help much either, although the climax and ending are even more of a hoot than they’d already be because of how shoddy they are.

Despite its many drawbacks, House on Willow Street does manage to be somewhat entertaining, almost in spite of itself. There are some interesting ideas sprinkled in here and there, but not nearly enough to sustain the film for its hour and a half running time. If you’re into demonic possession films, this may be worth looking into if you have absolutely nothing else to watch. For everyone else though, you won’t miss much by not seeing this.

Rating: 2/5


By Nick Durham

An intriguing mix of haunted house horror, super bleak themes, and a metal-flavored atmosphere, writer/director Sean Byrne’s The Devil’s Candy is a worthwhile and surprisingly good little scare show. I discovered this almost by accident and between the film’s soundtrack and the increasingly intense proceedings the film presents, I came away very pleasantly surprised. Brought to us by IFC Midnight, the film was actually filmed in 2015, and has only recently been unleashed upon us, and we should all be thankful that it has.

The Devil’s Candy follows metalhead painter Jesse (an unrecognizable Ethan Embry) who, along with his wife Astrid (Shiri Appleby) and teenage metalhead daughter Zooey (Kiara Glasco) purchase a house in Texas after its original tenants met odd demises. Little do they know that they’re in the crosshairs of the tenant’s deranged son Ray (Pruitt Taylor Vince) who hears demonic voices telling him to do unspeakable acts of horror. Jesse himself soon becomes victim to similar voices, compelling him to paint horrific imagery in his work. What happens next is shockingly intense and can be pretty damn unforgiving honestly.  

I don’t want to give too much away about what The Devil’s Candy has in store, other than the fact the film offers some genuine shocks and very disturbing content, it manages to never feel exploitative. Not to mention that the cast plays it all straight and is pretty damn good as well. Pruitt Taylor Vince in particular is flat out frightening and so goddamn creepy. He’s a horror genre stalwart at this point, with his more memorable roles being the drunken priest in 2005’s Constantine and as the ill-fated Otis in the second season of The Walking Dead. His creepy performance here is worth checking the film out for alone. The film’s soundtrack should also be mentioned, featuring classic cuts from Metallica, Pantera, and Slayer among others. The film’s end credits play out over Metallica’s For Whom the Bell Tolls and certainly brought a smile to my face.

If The Devil’s Candy has any flaws, it’s probably that some connections aren’t exactly explained to the viewer and there are definitely some plotholes to be sure. This isn’t really that big a deal, but given the film’s brisk 79-minute run time, it definitely feels like some things were left on the cutting room floor. Not to mention the fact that the film’s climax and ending don’t quite reach that level of bleakness that was teased throughout the film, which is either a good or bad thing depending on your personal tastes. Despite all that though, there’s still plenty to admire here, and the film definitely doesn’t wear out its welcome. 

All in all, The Devil’s Candy is a brisk and very worthwhile horror flick to sink your teeth into. It may not be for everyone, but for those with a taste for dark and demonic horror with a bit of a metal flavor to it, this is definitely something you should check out. This could be a minor cult classic on our hands here folks, go give it a look.

Rating: 4/5


By Nick Durham

You won’t see many films like the Mexico-based We Are the Flesh, and to be totally honest, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing. I went into this film not knowing much about the film’s plot or content, only hearing that it takes a supposedly new level into transgressive film-making. After viewing the film and taking the time to come up with a well thought out response to what I’ve witnessed, I’ve come to one solid conclusion:

This is some wild fucking shit.

Written and directed by Emiliano Rocha Minter, We Are the Flesh takes place in the aftermath of an unknown apocalypse. Siblings Lucio (Diego Gamaliel) and Fauna (Maria Evoli) have traversed the wasteland in search of food and shelter, and eventually come across the very strange Mariano (Noe Hernandez). Mariano lives in a run down building and appears to be doing some kind of work on an underground cavern, and he offers sanctuary to Lucio and Fauna…but at a very steep price. Boundaries are broken, taboos are smashed in the face, and some just plain old weird shit follows. I really don’t want to give much more than that away about the film, because regardless of my personal opinion on the film, I feel that you really should see this shit to believe it.

If I could compare anything to We Are the Flesh, it’d probably be compared to the works of Gaspar Noe. Noe’s films (Enter the VoidI Stand Alone, Irreversible, Love) often explore taboos, are visually stunning, sometimes feature unsimulated sex, make little sense, and occasionally disappear up Noe’s own asshole. We Are the Flesh does all of that in the span of its relatively brisk 79-minute run time. If anything, we should be thankful that Minter’s film does all this in less than an hour and a half, where as Noe’s films often take more than twice that long to do just that. It’s a psychedelic head trip that isn’t as psychedelic as one would hope, and whatever visceral thrills and images it offers up come off more as cheap shocks than anything as profound as the director believes he’s presenting. It’s pretentious, isn’t nearly as provocative or intelligent as it thinks it is, and any of the “artistic merit” that is attempted to be drummed up by the time we reach the film’s stinger of an ending comes off as being something crafted by a bargain basement David Lynch.

Arrow Video has brought We Are the Flesh to Blu-ray here in the States, and it features a small handful of extras. There’s interviews with the director and the three principal actors, as well as a video essay, trailer, still gallery, and two short films as well. Everyone involved here (based on their interviews) seems to believe that this film is the next big thing in arthouse cinematic buggery, which in itself is kind of interesting I guess. 

I really wanted to like We Are the Flesh, mostly because I actually do enjoy films like these that push and break barriers and go for shock value but defend doing so by labeling themselves as being an arthouse film, but I just couldn’t. The film has its share of critical acclaim, so maybe it’s just lost on me. I think you should give it a look regardless, mostly because you won’t see many films like these from anyone that isn’t Gaspar Noe and doesn’t run almost three fucking hours. That being said though, don’t expect anything profound in the least since this film is nowhere near as clever as it thinks it is.

Rating: 2/5


By Nick Durham

Director Bryan Bertino has had an odd career. He turned heads with his feature-length debut The Strangers in 2008, and kind of fell off a bit after. He resurfaced in 2014 with the disappointing found-footage-esque Mockingbird, and now he’s back with The Monster. As the title implies, The Monster features a monster, even though that in itself isn’t quite the central figure of the film. What we get instead is a surprisingly well-crafted (and relatively nasty) family drama that dominates a good chunk of the first half of the film, followed by typical monster movie elements. It all amounts to something watchable and even enjoyable, if a little too predictable.

The Monster revolves around pre-teen Lizzy (Ella Ballentine) and her alcoholic and somewhat abusive mother Kathy (Zoe Kazan). Lizzy yearns to permanently live with her father, and appears to be getting closer to getting her wish. As Kathy prepares to deliver Lizzy to her father, they get into a car accident as Kathy hits an animal in the road. While waiting for a tow-truck and ambulance to arrive, Kathy and Lizzy discover that it wasn’t the car that killed the animal, but something else. Soon enough, the titular creature is revealed, and some very bad things happen to everyone involved.

When The Monster kicks into high gear, it’s pretty damn entertaining. There’s solid suspense and scares to boot, but they feel uneven. The familial drama that is interspersed throughout the proceedings are well done scenes that actually manage to pull on your heartstrings, but they break up the actual horror elements too much that it doesn’t take much to find yourself losing interest. The film is well-shot and well-acted, and the creature itself is pretty well designed for the most part. It is refreshing seeing a guy in a monster suit (for the most part) and practical effects instead of non-stop CGI effects, so that automatically earns it big points for me personally. The film’s conclusion however is wholly predictable, and that’s a pretty big letdown sadly. Other than that, there’s a decent amount to admire here.

All in all, The Monster is fairly entertaining. At its best, it’s pretty damn entertaining and taut, and proves that Bryan Bertino has oodles of talent, but still lacks points for consistency in terms of tension and scares. This isn’t a bad film at all, and it’s definitely worth your time to check it out.

Rating: 3.5/5


By Nick Durham

Darren Lynn Bousman has had an interesting directing career. He blew up almost overnight thanks to directing the second, third, and fourth installments of the Saw franchise, before going on to craft the modern cult classic Repo! The Genetic Opera, a relatively decent remake of the Troma trash classic Mother’s Day, and his passion project series The Devil’s Carnival. Bousman has usually always been a mixed bag to me personally, though I’ve enjoyed a majority of his work despite that. Abattoir is something that Bousman has had in mind for a while, going so far as to craft a comic book mini-series (that serves as a prequel to the film) way back in 2010-ish. So given all that time in developing a universe with tons of backstory and interesting characters, this film should be pretty damn good and entertaining right?

Lol, no.

The story of Abattoir involves a real estate journalist named Julia (Jessica Lowndes) who suffers a massive personal tragedy. Her investigation into what happened sets her on the path of the mysterious Jebediah Crone (Sons of Anarchy and Deadwood vet Dayton Callie) who appears to be purchasing parts of various pieces of real estate where murders took place (basically the murder rooms) and is using the pieces to construct something out of it. Naturally Julia ignores the advice of her cop ex-beau Declan (Joe Anderson) and ventures out to the town of New English to find out what Crone is up to, and what it has to do with her own personal tragedies and past. Naturally, things don’t go well for anyone involved.

While the initial setup of Abattoir is pretty intriguing, that’s about as interesting as the film gets. What happens after the opening shocks come flat out fail to live up to any kind of promise that the film may have, mostly due to the fact that it’s just plain boring. Not to mention the fact that we don’t give two shits about the lead characters, and by the time we do get to where it may appear things may finally start to pick up, they just don’t. There is some creepy imagery here and there, Dayton Callie is great as the villainous Crone, and genre stalwart Lin Shaye is here in an all too brief role; but that’s about it for the positives of the film. 

You’ll definitely see worse films than Abattoir, that much is for sure, but the end result of this film is flat out disappointing. It does often feel like Bousman was really trying to come up with something pretty cool, but it sadly just ends up being a bore. There’s possibly a sequel on the way at some point too apparently, and maybe by the time that sees the light of day, we’ll get a better idea at what Bousman is shooting for with this whole thing he’s trying to build. 

Rating: 2/5


By Nick Durham


One of, if not the, highest grossing films in South Korean cinematic history; Train to Busan is the kind of epic zombie movie you don’t see all too often in a world overrun with carbon copy zombie movies. It’s managed to achieve quite a bit of critical acclaim across the planet to go along with its commercial success, and is quickly making an impact on the world of modern day horror seemingly out of nowhere. There’s even an inevitable American remake on the horizon, because of course there is, and hell there’s even an animated prequel that was recently released and the possibility of a sequel in its native land as well.  Does Train to Busan live up to the hype of being the next best thing in horror flicks? Well, yes and no.


The story of Train to Busan revolves around divorced working father Seok-Woo, who plans on taking his young daughter on a trip via train from Seoul to Busan to see her estranged mother. Unbeknownst to Seok-Woo and the train’s many other passengers, a zombie outbreak is taking place, and it isn’t long before not only the train is overrun, but all of South Korea. The train continues to make its trek to Busan, and the situation continues to become more desperate. Will Seok-Woo and his daughter make it all the way?


Clocking in at almost two full hours, Train to Busan can be a bit of a chore to get through. While it does manage to pack a in a lot in terms of character development and overall heart, there’s probably about half an hour or so that could have easily been trimmed out of the film. Despite that though, the film does manage to outshine every other recent infection/zombie/outbreak dirge that you’ll come across thanks to this heart and character development, in addition to some excellent acting as well. As for the film’s zombies, these are the kind of fast kind, and are super reminiscent of the ones portrayed in World War Z: a swarm-type of zombie with weird contortions. They’re portrayed relatively well here, and there are some genuinely suspenseful and even scary moments. Despite all it’s great production values and other positive qualities, there isn’t much here that you haven’t seen already, but it’s done so well that it hardly matters.


So, does Train to Busan deserve all the praise it’s garnered? To a degree yes; it is very well-made and well-acted and features more than enough emotional depth to separate it from the rest of the zombie movie pack. It overstays its welcome and the film’s ending I’m not too crazy about in all honesty, but in a sea filled with shitty zombie movies that have come out every week for over the past decade plus, Train to Busan is right near the top. Go check it out before the Americanized remake comes out and ruins the fun for everyone.


Rating: 4/5



By Nick Durham

Every other zombie movie that gets released these days tends to be pretty terrible and derivative, usually offering nothing in terms of originality or even anything interesting. Extinction isn’t all that different, aside from the fact it features a couple actors you’ve probably heard of, along with a few twists here and there. Aside from that though, there isn’t a whole hell of a lot that separates Extinction from the rest of the zombie pack.


Almost a decade after an outbreak that causes its victims to become feral cannibalistic creatures (ya know, the Z word) has devastated the world, an intense winter has seemingly permanently set in. The zombies are apparently dead and gone by now, and we focus on neighbors Patrick (Matthew Fox) and Jack (Jeffrey Donovan). Jack lives with his young daughter Lu (Quinn McColgan) and there’s an intense hatred between Jack and Patrick dating back to when the outbreak first hit. It soon becomes apparent that the creatures aren’t all that dead though, and have apparently evolved into something even worse. As you might expect from this kind of movie, shit starts to hit the fan in short order.


Extinction takes its sweet old time setting things up. Aside from a pretty creepy opening, the first hour or so of Extinction is so drawn out and honestly kind of boring that it’s hard to stay vested in the proceedings. Fox, Donovan, and McColgan give solid performances, but they’re not enough to stop the snooze fest that is the first half of this film. Also, Extinction is nearly two whole hours long to boot. Normally I don’t have a problem with relatively lengthy slow burn horror movies, but for a zombie movie, this tends to be cinematic suicide. When things finally do kick into gear, it’s too little too late to really give a shit. Not to mention that the uber-dramatic backstory between our leads is super predictable, and the CGI outside environments are so badly realized (especially in the daytime) that it’s very distracting.


Compared to other films of its ilk, Extinction definitely isn’t the worst zombie flick you’ll ever see. That being said, you can still do better than this. If you’re in the mood for a super slow and slightly meandering zombie melodrama featuring two dudes that used to be leads on long-running TV shows, this is the flick for you. For everyone else though, proceed with caution.


Rating: 2.5/5