July 2007

Delivery

Delivery Life has not been good to Monty (Matt Nelson). Socially inept and friendless, he’s way too old to be a pizza delivery boy, but this is what he is doing for a living. His life is a constant round of humiliation, torment and abuse, largely at the hands of his customers, who are quick to complain about him afterwards.

In fact the only person with whom he has any sort of connection at all is Bibi (Tara Cardinal), and she’s a customer.

As the downhill spiral of his life progresses and every small success turns out to be a setback waiting to happen, it isn’t hard to predict how things are going to pan out. But this is not a by-the-numbers slasher film and what really sets it apart is the extent to which we are drawn into the mundane reality of Monty’s existence.

It’s a good hour before things start to get violent and this time is spent exploring Monty’s character, his past his personality and the vicious circle of bullying and withdrawal that characterises the vast majority of his interactions with various people.

It is refreshing to see a horror film that tries to go beyond simply rehashing the same old stereotypes and actually develop the characters. And, although the pacing does feel a little slow in places, the character development is very solidly handled.

Matt Nelson does a great job here of bringing Monty’s personality to the screen as well as his frustrations, fears and reactions so that we not only gain an understanding of his character but also find ourselves sympathising with him. So much so that when the violence does break out you find yourself rooting for Monty rather than his victims.

Monty’s character doesn’t develop in isolation, however, and it is the faltering friendship that he develops with Bibi that provides the momentum for much of the film. And here Tara Cardinal puts in a very solid performance, building a character that is believable throughout and which brings a real emotional depth to the climax of the film.

Well written and well acted, Delivery is a lot smarter than your average horror film. Writer/director Jose Zambrano Cassella has taken the time not only to tell a very solid story, but also to develop the protagonist into a real and sympathetic character. And it’s this characterisation that imbues the whole film with a genuinely dark atmosphere and a real sense of inevitable violence.

If only more horror films were made this way.

Cyn

Cyn poster Writer/director, Alex Ferrari has a real sense of visual style, as he has confidently demonstrated with both Broken and Daddy’s Home. And with Cyn, a trimmed down version of a longer script written for upcoming feature film, Red Princess Blues he does it again.

The film centres on Cynthia (Stephaine Michaels), a young woman who has been kidnapped by a pair of strung-out minor hoods - Mr. Sugar (Josh Randall) and Otto (Frank Rodriguez) – and taken to an abandoned kindergarten. But all is not as it seems and Cyn spectacularly turns the tables on her captors.

As with his earlier films, Ferrari packs an immense amount into a very short running time. The dialogue wouldn’t have felt out of place in one of Quentin Tarantino’s better films, and the – frankly superb – action sequence reminded me more than anything else of Coffy.

The film looks fantastic and Egon Stephan’s cinematography certainly deserves a mention for giving the proceedings such a wonderfully grungy feel; and the acting is consistently strong throughout.

My only gripe is that I would have liked to have seen much, much more of these characters.

As it stands, Cyn is a stunning and stylish thriller that left me wanting much more. If this film is a taster of what we can expect to see with Red Princess Blues, then I will be rushing out to see the full length feature as soon as it’s released.

Actiongirls: Soldiers of the Dead part 1

Actiongirls poster With all the recent hype about Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez failing to reinvent the exploitation genre with Grindhouse, it is refreshing – to say the least – to find someone like Scotty JX who reminds us that these films never went away in the first place.

Actiongirls (I’m not going to type out the full title every time) is set in a post-apocalyptic near future in which society has fallen apart and power has fallen into the hands of increasingly corrupt gangs. The most notorious of these is controlled by one Helman Himmler, a slave trader who has assembled an army of followers across Europe. He and his followers spend their time searching for – and capturing – women who are turned into gladiators for his Arena of Death, the winners of which would gain a privileged place at his side.

All of this is explained in a (rather lengthy) chunk of text that runs over the top of the opening scenes, and then we are into the film proper which centres on two main characters.

Susana (Susana Spears) is one of Himmler’s gladiators. Recognising that the only way to survive as a captive is to fight – and fight well – she rises to become his most successful fighter and a trusted member of his entourage – with slaves of her own – until she sees the opportunity to escape.

The Black Queen (Adriana Zarcova, looking rather gorgeously like she’s just stepped out of an Ilsa movie) is Himmler’s most prized possession. But she is tiring of his endless affairs and starts looking for opportunities of her own.

After escaping, Susana rescues Emile (Emile Kova), and takes her under her wing. The two women take over a – surprisingly well appointed – apartment and start to consider their next move.

Actiongirls is a sexploitation film and, of course, there is plenty of nudity. But there are very few actual sex scenes. Apart from a very erotic lesbian s/m bondage scene early on, the film is much more interested in showing off – and admiring – beautiful naked, and scantily clad, women in a variety of situations – such as showering, fighting in a gladiatorial area or battling zombies.

Another Actiongirls poster Did I mention battling zombies?

This is where Actiongirls really moves into a league of its own. During a raid The Black Queen discovers a formula that allows her to reanimate the dead as super-soldiers totally subservient to their master… or mistress.

And from here on in it’s sexy babe kicking fast zombie butt all the way.

Actiongirls is an unashamedly fun film. It’s also a much better film than I was expecting. The production values are remarkably good and, although there are a few inconsistencies, the plot does hold together very well.

The film is also packed with in jokes and references to other films and genres from the Mad Max inspired genre of post apocalypse movies to women in prison films by way of both Herbert West and Ilsa.

My only real gripe is the ending which isn’t. This is – as the title makes abundantly clear – intended as the first part of a series. This is fine and I will be keen to see part two, but there is no real sense of closure with the end of part one.

But this is a minor complaint, more than made up for by the fact that this is a film that knows its audience and delivers exactly what it promises.