The Evil Dead Anthology [Blu-Ray]

Evil-DeadIn the annals of horror history, few films are as universally adored as Evil Dead (1981). A ragged, breathless, almost plotless adrenalin surge of a movie, it is about as pure a horror movie as you can get.

The set-up is that which launched a thousand imitators. Five college kids go to an abandoned cabin and, through playing a tape recorder of a vocal translation of the fabled Necronomicon, unleash an evil in the woods that possesses and kills them, one-by-one.

As simplistic as this is, the film really stands on pure energy and imagination. In particular, the frenetic and innovative camerawork of teenage director Sam Raimi. In time, he would become one of the biggest names in Hollywood, but the invention and will to entertain are already firmly in place in this, his first calling card.

A splattery roller-coaster of a film, Evil Dead belies its minuscule budget to deliver high-octane thrills and a genuinely creepy atmosphere. Shot on 16mm and blown up to 35mm, the Blu-Ray transfer does little to clear up the murky grain of the movie but in this case, that is not a problem. Indeed, the roughness of the look only adds to the underground, punk rock grime of it all.

At turns chilling, action-packed and even nasty (the notorious tree-rape scene), Evil Dead is a deserved 80s horror classic.

Raimi and his producing partner Rob Tapert would next attempt an action/comedy/caper flick called Crimewave. The ill-fated film was mired in studio interference and a young filmmaker operating beyond his means. Disheartened, they returned to the well with the 1987 release of Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn.

A bigger budget, more experienced cast and crew and a more deft Raimi at the helm saw that rarest of beasts emerged – a sequel that actually improved on the first. Evil Dead II is effectively a remake of the first, but this time with a critical difference – comedy.

Raimi, Tapert and star Bruce Campbell had grown up making Three Stooges-style slapstick comedy short films and the cold-blooded horror of Evil Dead was purely a financial decision as to what sort of film was ruling the drive-in theatres of the time. The second time out, though, they were able to let their comic sensibilities shine.

The big evolution was in Campbell. His character, Ash, was the only returning one from the original, now positioned securely front-and-centre. The film shifts to rest securely on Campbell’s shoulders and he rises to meet the challenge with a scenery-chewing performance that jumps off the screen. It is a massive work of physicality, commitment and surely more suffering than any other character in film history (witness a scene where his hand is possessed by evil, resulting in him beating himself up, complete with forward flip onto a wooden floor). It is the kind of performance than in a just world would have catapulted Campbell to A-list stardom.

Alas, it was not to be. A failed TV series (The Adventures of Brisco County Jr) and a near-miss in being The Phantom on that character’s big screen debut would be as close as Campbell would come to breaking out of cultdom, aside from a latter-day supporting role on TV series Burn Notice.
Evil Dead II remains his crowning glory, however. Not the brightest of characters, Ash remains thoroughly sympathetic throughout as he alternates between battling darkness and shouting desperately into the night for a break, any kind of break.

The third Evil Dead film, Army of Darkness, would eventually follow in 1992.

In the lead up, the horror press were slavering at the idea of a big-budget Evil Dead film. Initially titled, The Medieval Dead, it was touted as a horror epic to end all horror epics.

Instead, and in retrospect predictably, Army of Darkness was a comedy. Not a horror like Evil Dead or even a horror/comedy like Evil Dead II, but a pure, slapstick-and-pratfalls comedy. This did not go down well. The hardcore fans were disappointed and the movie flopped badly.

Time, however, would be kind to Army of Darkness. Campbell’s Ash character had now been amped up into a full-blown windbag, full of boasting and unearnt confidence. With this change came endless quotable lines mostly made out of the fact that the modern Ash now found himself trapped in 1300AD yet still fighting the Deadites.

Armed with his chainsaw and shotgun (his ‘boomstick’ as he describes it to the medieval folk or ‘primitive screwheads’) and of course his trusty Oldsmobile (actually Raimi’s own car), Ash is forced to fulfill his destiny as the hero of prophecy, saving two warring clans from destruction at the hands of the evil dead.

As a comedy, Army of Darkness has hits and misses. Some inspired moments (Ash’s cockiness leads him to not remember magic words very well with disastrous results) are mixed with Stooges-type silliness (complete with ‘boink’ sound effects) that feel crushingly unfunny.

Despite a decent budget – which production ended up going over by nearly double – the film also over-stretches. In the pre-CGI age, creating a convincing army of undead is beyond the realms of practicality and a lot of clearly static skeletons are knocked over in ‘battle’. While the handmade aesthetic of the previous Evil Dead films gave them an eerie, otherworldly feel, here it just feels cheap.

For fans – the ending here is the director’s cut “downer” ending, rather than the studio-enforced, happier, “supermarket” ending. It may be debatable which is actually superior, but the darker conclusion may be tonally off-kilter with the rest of the film, but it is consistent with the bumbling, self-destructive nature of the Ash character.

Once again, though, it is the mix of Raimi’s energy and Campbell’s charisma that save the day and Army of Darkness, while undoubtedly the weakest of the trilogy, is still an enjoyable watch.

Raimi would then go on to make the star-studded action/western The Quick and the Dead (1995) before the more mature efforts of A Simple Plan (1998) and The Gift (2000) would lead to the global blockbuster Spiderman (2002). With Tapert, he would also find success on the small screen as a producer with Hercules, Spartacus, Legend of the Seeker and Xena shooting in New Zealand (the latter starring Tapert’s future wife, Lucy Lawless) and the formation of Ghost House Pictures, producing films such as the US remake of The Grudge (2005) and 30 Days of Night (2007).

Throughout this time, rumours kept circulating of a possible Evil Dead 4. But the schedules of the key players remained packed and, as Campbell in particular aged, it looked increasingly unlikely to ever happen.

But with the dawn of the 21st century came a rash of horror remakes and a different option appeared – a remake with an entirely new cast and director. Fede Alvarez had come to attention with his special FX short film about giant robots attacking Montevideo Panic Attack! and got the nod to helm a new take on Evil Dead in 2012.

Shooting in Woodhill Forest outside of Auckland in New Zealand, Alvarez approached the set-up with a clever twist: the characters this time would be at the remote cabin to help one of their number, Mia (Jane Levy) to go cold turkey from her drug addiction. Naturally, as Mia is the first one to encounter the Deadites, the conceit allows the other characters to not believe her…until things really get crazy.

As a remake, Evil Dead (2013) is a definite success. Alvarez has his own style, but it is as high-energy as Raimi’s, giving the film a familiar-yet-fresh feel. If anything, the nods to the original actually serve to hold back the remake and it is at its best when it is adding fresh mythology to the mix.

The gore is amped up and the FX are nothing short of brilliant, but gone is the eerie atmosphere of the original. The remake may be shocking, violent and high-octane, but it is never creepy or scary. The horror is much more physical and biological – culminating in a literal rain of blood that is the only real tongue-in-cheek moment.

Levy proves herself at least as game as Campbell and indeed her acting is probably superior. The supporting cast is weak, however, and one wonders if first-timer Alvarez, for whom English is a second language, was unable to get the best out of his young charges.

As a modern take on Evil Dead, the remake is an excellent piece of work held back from true high regard simply because of its lack of originality. This is naturally a problem with any remake, but when the ‘five kids in a cabin’ set-up of Evil Dead became the de facto standard template for horror movies in the past three decades, it became an insurmountable problem by 2013.

At time of writing, no further films were planned, but instead a TV series on Starz has been greenlit. The Evil Dead march on…

Extras:

Evil Dead has seen numerous releases of various formats over the years, but this package really is the best of them. As well as including the four films – all hugely entertaining – the discs are packed with extras with all sorts of behind-the-scenes details and footage.

The focus on the extras is definitely the original film, and justifiably so. The story behind Evil Dead has become almost as mythic as the film itself.

A group of friends in Michigan decide to make a horror movie and set about doing it the hard way – with no external help at all. They make a test mini-feature on 8mm called Within the Woods and take that around local businessmen, looking for investment. Eventually, from various merchants and dentists, they scrape together enough cash to get to work on their masterpiece and so would begin an incredibly gruelling shoot.

As retold in a variety of pieces – most are also present on previous releases, especially the Anchor Bay trilogy package – the remote shoot would test friendships, health and sanity. Campbell laughingly retells how none of the cast would talk to he or any of the other producers for a long time afterwards. Sleeping on floors, freezing temperatures, toxic smoke machines, unbearable fake blood and FX…the shoot ran way over time and took everyone to breaking point.

The release would be initially muted, until a screening at the Cannes Film Festival resulted in a glowing Stephen King pullquote (“the most ferociously original horror movie in years”) and a purchase by UK distributor Palace Pictures. Palace would launch the film in theatres in Britain simultaneously with a release on the burgeoning new home video format, resulting in major waves.

Then, the film found itself banned as part of the infamous conservative video nasty clampdown in Britain, but that only served to increase its infamy and it began to find an audience in America, too, eager to see what all the fuss was about.

One extra included is a feature-length documentary on Tom Sullivan, the lead special FX man on Evil Dead. His story is one of practicality and clever workarounds as he stretched a micro-budget into some iconic visuals. The stop-motion climax is explained in all its painstaking, multi-month detail and his illustrations for the Necronomicon are now the subject of a thousand tattoos worldwide.

Sullivan’s own story would take a dark turn as depression and the death of his wife ultimately would drive him from the set of Evil Dead II, but now he is an affectionately-viewed fixture of the horror convention circuit.

A behind-the-scenes of the special FX of Evil Dead II is excellent viewing. It is a showcase of the first time the legendary Kurtzman/Nicotero/Berger trio worked together, prior to the formation of their KNB studio. The effects are a wild mix of superb sculpture and magician-level sleight of hand and seeing them laid out is compulsive viewing, even if special FX are not normally of interest.

Army of Darkness is completely passed over in terms of extra material, but the remake is packaged with all the same extras from its own previous Blu-Ray release. These are a director’s commentary, plus a neat series of featurettes on various aspects, including some shots from Jane Levy’s video diary of a typically tough day of filming. (“You just missed my temper tantrum. I just hate the blood rain, it makes me into a…child.”)

On top of that, the whole collection comes packaged in a replica of the Necronomicon itself (although the discs are just in paper envelopes within) and there is also a scaled-down version of the Kundarian spine-dagger from the film, which makes for a pretty damn cool extra!

The Evil Dead Anthology is available on Blu-Ray/DVD from Madman.

Halloween

Halloween

Any conversation around the greatest horror films of all time will invariably include mention of 1978’s Hallowe’en. A lean, mean, straight razor of a film, this surprise underground hit launched the careers of Jamie Lee Curtis and John Carpenter and sculpted the template for the modern slasher film. What followed was a massive boom in horror and in retrospect, this was part of a golden run of films for Carpenter.

The story is straightforward. On a rainy night, Michael Myers escapes from the mental hospital where he has been incarcerated since he brutally murdered his sister as a child. Pursued by his psychiatrist Doctor Loomis (Donald Pleasance), he heads back to his old neighbourhood to continue his killing spree. His targets are quickly set as wholesome babysitter Laurie Strode (Jamie Lee Curtis) and her friends. And he arrives…on Hallowe’en night.

It is on this simple set-up that writer/director John Carpenter cuts loose, setting out a variety of techniques that would – in an incredibly short time – become staples of horror films. The masked killer who appears dead but isn’t. The young teens having flirtatious fun getting picked off one by one. The virtuous survivor girl. And numerous more such elements.

This cavalcade of moments, combined with the purity of the killer, create an almost mythic feel to the film. We never see Michael Myers’ face (save for a one-second glimpse at the climax), he never speaks a word of dialogue. Instead, he is as blank as his expressionless white mask, a void with which you cannot reason, cannot bargain. He is the embodiment of childhood fear, lent gravitas by the constant warnings from his psychiatrist and becomes a horror icon par excellence.

Further contributing to the film’s effectiveness is a careful lighting scheme and wonderful use of the cinemascope frame. Time and again, Myers lurks at the far edges of the screen or in the shadows, unseen by the characters in the foreground. Over it all runs the distinctive and immediately recognisable theme tune, written by Carpenter himself. A simple, almost childlike piano melody vaguely reminscent of The Exorcist overlaid with menacing chords, with the whole thing stuttering uneasily in 5:4 time, it is elegantly sinister.

Hallowe’en was a massive financial and critical success in 1978. On a shoestring budget of just over US$300,000 it racked up some $47million at the box office which at the time made it the most profitable film in history. It launched careers, sequels, remakes and…a whole lot of rip-offs.

The intervening three decades and more have not been kind to Hallowe’en. While the movie itself remains remarkably valid and still looks current, its effectiveness has been drastically undercut by the onslaught of imitators that followed in its wake. Chief among these is undoubtedly the Friday the 13th series, with its carbon copy villain and promiscuous teen victims, but every scare and moment in Hallowe’en has been recycled in some form or another to the point that it is near-impossible to view the original with any sense of surprise or tension.

Regardless of the eroding of its impact, Hallowe’en stands as a masterclass in filmmaking and essential viewing for even the most casual horror fan.

No special features.

Halloween is available on DVD and Blu-Ray from Umbrella Entertainment.

Legend Of The Hillbilly Butcher

HillbillyORDER DVD

With a title like that and a deliberately faded, washed out look that is reminiscent of some recently discovered grindhouse gem this is a film that is going to leave some people very disappointed.

You see this is essentially an art film disguised as horror, or maybe it’s vice versa but either way it isn’t what you expect.  And I for one have to admire director Joaquin Montalvan for trying to expand the slasher genre.  Whether it actually works or not is another thing.

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Octaman

Octaman

In a little Mexican village radiation is poisoning the water and American scientist Dr. Torres is there trying to solve the mysteries of the deep, or at least the lake. Mysteries like why does his voice not match his lips, why is it so dark all the time and why does a plastic octopus have human eyes? This plastic octopus gets Torres excited but when he whips back over the border to get more funding he finds the scientific community want nothing to do with him so he’s forced to accept the backing of a carnival owner who is hoping to bag himself a freak for the carny.

Carny brings his buddy Bert Reynolds Jr along for the ride too. By the time they get back over the border to Mexico all the doc finds though is his friend’s corpse and an empty bucket. The plastic octopus is gone!

A couple of leftover Spaghetti Western actors then wander on set and tell the tale of Octaman, a many armed, tentacle legged half man/half beast who, after the doc shares a brief dialogue about pollution, turns up to take out a couple of the locals. No more western movies for those guys. Luckily the good looking one survives so he can continue to help the gringos out. Good thing too cos it turns out Octaman has his eye(s) on the doctor’s gal and attacks the camp while the doc, the carny and Bert are out on the lake looking for him. (now there’s an episode of River monsters I’d like to see!) Occy gets the gal but the doc and Bert discombobulate him with lights (too many eyes you see) and then form a ring of fire to burn up the oxygen around him! An ankle high ring of fire it must be pointed out but it seems that Occy isn’t smart enough to lift those tentacles over the flames so he collapses and is netted and tranquilised by a very happy Carny crew.

But nature has a way of fighting back and when it rains, the water revives our many tentacled rubber skinned fiend who is less than happy at his surroundings and once again escapes.

When our intrepid heroes decide to get outta town they discover that though Occy isn’t smart enough to step over the flames he is smart enough to topple trees on the road and trap them Our Mexican friend then tracks Occy down to a cave and invites the rest to follow. Of course they get trapped down there too since nighttime isn’t dark enough in a shitty, low budget way, a dank dark cave is perfect for making sure you can’t see shit.

In the end they find their way out to sunlight where Occy starts the party with a great rendition of Devo’s Whip It Good. I won’t give away anymore cos hell, I fell asleep so I don’t know what happened. (actually that’s a lie, I stayed awake for the whole thing but the end was so dull I’ve erased it from my memory).

This movie is bad beyond description, not helped by the “digital remastering” that seems to just mean it was dubbed straight from VHS to CDR – there are times when you seriously cannot see a thing but then again that just may be a blessing.

Featuring very early FX work by Rick Baker, the Octaman is actually pretty cool for a zipper wearing, rubber suited whatever he is but in the end you get what you paid for, so don’t pay too much.

An eco- disaster movie where disaster has more than one meaning, Octaman promises so much more than it delivers but then come on, what else did you really expect?

Octaman is available on DVD from Cheezy Flicks / MVD Visual.

Interview: Ursula Dabrowsky

Ursula-DabrowskyCrimson Celluloid: From conception, gestation to birth…it’s been a long wait for INNER DEMON. Have there been times when you’ve been sick of the sight of it and dying to move onto something else?

Ursula Dabrowsky: It took two and a half years from go to woe which isn’t that bad for a no budget feature. Having said that, it definitely wasnt meant to take this long . Yes, there were times it was very frustrating, but if I was resilient before, I am now even more so. Throw anything you want at me, not having enough money, hiring the wrong people for the job, technical issues that, at the time, seem impossible to resolve, and I will push through it all and get the film finished. I am so fucking resilient now, it scares me.

Crimson Celluloid: What kept you going?

Ursula Dabrowsky: Drugs and alcohol. Kidding. I was excited by what I had shot and wanted to see the finished film. I really believed I had something special on my hands, particularly in terms of performances.

Crimson Celluloid: What lessons did you learn from your experience on FAMILY DEMONS that you carried over to INNER DEMON?

Ursula Dabrowsky: That I can make films that people will sit through and not get bored. That I cast well. That I come up with good stories. That I will make mistakes and learn from them and never, ever repeat them. That making horror films is where I want to be.

Crimson Celluloid: It was a brave move casting a relatively unknown actress in Sarah Jeavons in the lead role. Especially considering she had to carry the whole film. What qualities did you see in her in the audition process that convinced you she was right for the role?

Ursula Dabrowsky: I already knew Sarah could act from a couple of taped auditions. But we also had a one-day test shoot where she was crammed into this tiny closet. She didn’t complain once and she delivered take after take after take. She was also very keen to get the part. All those things sold me on Sarah.

Crimson Celluloid: Your decision to cast her was vindicated when you see the final film, she does an amazing job. Were you conscious of having to guide and protect both her emotional and physical well-being during filming, especially given her young age?

Ursula Dabrowsky: Not really. Sarah was able to take care of herself. I was quite blown away by her maturity. I was never that mature at her age. Shes bloody amazing, on and off camera.

Crimson Celluloid: I can’t think of too many other films where the film is told virtually entirely from the perspective of the lead character…do you think it really aided in feeling sympathy for her plight?

Ursula Dabrowsky: I love films that are told with only one point of view and minimal cast. Films like High Tension, Buried, 127 Hours, Gravity. I find them to be powerful cinematic experiences. Unfortunately, most of the main characters in these films are doomed. Mine is no exception.

Crimson Celluloid: How grueling was the shoot in comparison to FAMILY DEMONS. Does a bigger budget simply mean bigger headaches?

Ursula Dabrowsky: If I had paid everyone on Family Demons it would have come pretty close to the budget I had for Inner Demon. So there wasnt much difference there. I still found that I had to make just as many compromises as before. The main difference is that, when I made Family Demons, I didn’t have any expectations. With Inner Demon, I did. I wanted to surpass what I’d done before, so the pressure was on, and it got pretty stressful at times. I’d like to ease up a bit and find a happier, more joyful middle ground with the next film I make.

Crimson Celluloid: The supernatural element to the film comes late in the piece and out of the blue. It’s effective and very scary…how important is the element of surprise in your work?

Ursula Dabrowsky: I’m surprised that people find the supernatural element comes out of the blue. Granted, it is unconventional what happens to the lead character and maybe the audience finds it difficult to accept and refuse to take it on board. I don’t know. For me, it makes sense that things happen they way they do. Perhaps it’s a question of the execution, and I’m willing to take that on board, but I had limited resources and did the best I could with what I had. Twists and turns in the story are paramount. It’s all about keeping people interested in what’s going to happen next.

Crimson Celluloid: You’ve never played the gender-card, and that’s admirable, but did you find being a woman in charge of the film production offered any unexpected or unwelcome challenges?

Ursula Dabrowsky: Up until the Inner Demon experience, I never had any issues with my gender as a filmmaker. I did on this shoot. I just ignored the bullshit and pushed on. Cuz that’s what it is. Bullshit. I’m also fully aware that men with less experience than me are being offered better opportunities. I try not to think about it too much, and just stay focused on my own filmmaking journey.

Crimson Celluloid: How has the film been received by those lucky enough to see it already?

Ursula Dabrowsky: I’ve been told that it’s a strong calling card that will help me get my next film financed. So that’s encouraging.

Crimson Celluloid: Given your films and persona, what do you think surprises people when they actually meet you?

Ursula Dabrowsky: That I’m funny. And I laugh. A lot. I guess people expect a horror filmmaker to be morbid and serious, but I put my dark side on the screen and not in my every day life.

Crimson Celluloid: There seems to be a stigma these days in regards to funding horror films where the limp-wristed, panty-waist funding-bodies are concerned. Did you have to keep this in mind when pitching the film?

Ursula Dabrowsky: Panty-waist? Ha ha! To be honest, I didn’t have any issues with the SAFC when it came to content. I was lucky with Filmlab in that I was offered carte blanche and was free to write what I wanted. Stephen Cleary, my Script Consultant, never once asked me to tone it down. In fact, the opposite. My next screenplay, Demonheart, was recently funded for SAFC script development and I wrote it without any hassles. So have I been lucky? Or does the SAFC get it? I dont know. I still havent dealt with Screen Australia, so perhaps I will face obstacles there. I hope not.

Crimson Celluloid: Have your past experiences in life shaped you in regards to your interest in females-in-peril and horror movies?

Ursula Dabrowsky: The underlying themes in my work are usually about the abuse of power, both by men and women. I don’t discriminate. I take a particularly traumatising time in my life where psychological or physical abuse has occurred. I then raise the stakes and wrap the story in the horror genre . What comes out are survival stories. Not terribly complicated, and yet utterly cathartic.

Crimson Celluloid: I was surprised that you received some negative feedback about your POZIBLE funding project to finish the film. To me it showed dedication and commitment, in that you wanted to touch-up the film and finish it to your high-standard, did the negative feedback (albeit limited) surprise you? Also, it must have been pleasing that so many people had faith in your vision and wanted to contribute?

Ursula Dabrowsky: You must know something I don’t! I had no idea that there was any negativity. I must’ve been too busy just trying to finish the film to notice and even if I had, I tend to ignore the naysayers. My cast and crew had put time and effort into the film and had something at stake. They were as keen as I was to see the finished product.

Crimson Celluloid: What’s next on the drawing board for Ursula Dabrowsky?

Ursula Dabrowsky: I am currently on board to write and direct a segment of an all-female directed horror anthology and a segment of a horror web series. I’ve been sent some horror screenplays that producers want me to direct. The fact that they are being sent to me is bloody fantastic. I’m also working on the third installment of my Demon Trilogy: Demonheart. So despite the fact that I didn’t have to die to go to hell making Inner Demon, I’ve come out the other side with plenty of opportunities to keep growing and learning as a filmmaker which is what you want.

Check out Crimson Celluloid’s review of INNER DEMON here.

Savages Crossing

SavagesCrossingORDER DVD

When Sue (Angela Punch McGregor) finds out her estranged husband Phil (John Jarrat) is about to be released from prison, she’s terrified. She cleans out the bank account, puts through a call to a friend named Chris (Chris Haywood), packs up her teenage son Damien (Charlie Jarratt, John’s real-life son) and heads out of town in a hurry. They wind up at an outback roadhouse at Savage’s Crossing, where the owners Kate (Jessica Napier) and Mory (Craig McLachlan) tell them they’re about to be stranded, as the rain’s going to flood the nearby rivers. Sue and Damien are soon joined by two young women on holiday, and are all set to make the best of it when Phil turns up having tracked Sue and Chris from their home. Sue’s friend Chris (who may or may not be a cop sent to bring Phil in) is not far behind, and the group are forced into closer and closer proximity by the rising floodwaters.

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Inner Demon

InnerDemonOne of the greatest joys in life is enjoying the success of friends…only eclipsed by the sweet nectar that is the failure of enemies.

I can happily report that Ursula Dabrowsky has lived up to, and exceeded, the promise shown in her debut feature Family Demons (2009) with the second film in her Demon-trilogy, Inner Demon.

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Lucky Bastard

Lucky-Bastard

Ashley Saint (Betsy Rue) is a popular Pornstar, who has worked on everything up to and including violent rape porn. Nonetheless, when her regular director Mike (Don McManus) wants her to work for his site “Lucky Bastard” she flatly refuses. “Lucky Bastard” is a porn site unlike the rest – they solicit applications from fans, one of whom gets to be the “Lucky Bastard” and have sex with one of Mike’s stable of stars on camera.

Having sex with an amateur is strictly against her principles, but when Mike ups his price Ashley relents and picks the nicest-seeming of the prospective Lucky Bastards from the video applications they’ve received – Dave G. However, when they pick Dave up from the train station it rapidly becomes clear that he is not the innocent nobody that he seemed, and when he is humiliated during the shoot, things quickly begin to spiral out of control.

Lucky Bastard is yet another entry into the now-vast category of “found-footage” horror/thriller movies, with the twist that because the majority of the action takes place on a porn shoot in a house that’s specially designed for filming from multiple angles at all times (Mike explains that it was purpose built for a reality TV show and now gets rented out by the hour to film crews) there’s actually not a lot of the “shaky cam” or extremely limited fixed angles that are usually a trademark of the genre. Instead the “found footage” element mostly means that the dialogue is very naturalistic (to the point of nearly sounding improvised at times) and that the movie doesn’t really progress according to a standard thriller or horror template.

Instead, we get extended scenes of the cast and crew getting set up and talking amongst themselves and get to know them and their assorted relationships, alliances, and tensions. Even when Dave comes on the scene and stuff starts to get out of hand, Mike attempts to do the sensible thing and get the clearly-agitated guy out of the picture as quickly and safely as possible. This means that instead of the slow-ratcheting tension you usually find in a thriller movie, Lucky Bastard moves along at a fairly sedate pace until suddenly everything goes wrong at once.

The downside of this approach is that the movie runs the risk of losing a chunk of its audience if they signed up for “horror” and get bored of waiting for it to start. On the other hand, this means that the film makers have the luxury of taking time to explore the characters and their relationships in depth – which in my opinion adds the impact when bad things start to happen, as well as providing an unusually candid and nonjudgmental look at the inner workings of the porn industry.

Lucky Bastard is a clever and thought-provoking movie, which perhaps suffers by self-identifying as “horror”. The characters are well-drawn and resist easy reduction into caricature, and the very specific nature of the rage that drives the central tragedy of the plot is complex and uncomfortable.

Recommended.

Lucky Bastard is available on DVD from MVD Visual.