Mad God (2021)

Mad GodA character wearing a gas mask, The Assasin, descends into a hellish world filled with devastation and mayhem. With him on his dark journey into a dystopian nightmarish world, he’s got a map and a suitcase, and while traveling deeper and deeper he encounters several monstrous creatures. Filth, death, war, despair and, well, hellish surroundings are all over the place.

 

Mad God is a stop motion horror film which was written, directed and produced by Phil Tippet. The film was in production over a period of thirty years. Tippet started filming it while working on Robocop 2, but when he became involved in Jurassic Park this set the film on hiatus. Originally, Jurassic Park was supposed to have stop motion dinosaurs, but after Spielberg saw some CGI work of a T.rex, he told Tippett: “You’re out of a job”. To which Tippett replied, “Don’t you mean extinct?”. This was even referenced in Jurassic Park, where Dr. Grant says “Looks like you’re out of a job” to Dr. Malcolm”, and he replies “Don’t you mean extinct?”. Anyhow, Tippett was still kept as supervisor for the CGI animation of the dinosaurs, so at least he wasn’t really out of a job… but due to the change during his involvement in this film he believed that stop motion was now a thing from the past, and because of this he shelved the Mad God project. Which is a sad thought, really, as many stop-motion effects from some older films can look really good, and often better than many of the early CGI effects used. Even now, I think there are some movies whose practical effects look greater than some of the modern CGI of today…

 

In spite of all that, Mad God got pulled out of hiatus-status twenty years later, when members of his studio encouraged him to start working on it again. And with a successful Kickstarter campaign, and a crew of volunteers to assist him, Mad God came into fruition at last.

 

And what kind of movie is Mad God, exactly? Well…I dare say you’ve never seen anything quite like it before. We start off with a scene depicting the destruction of The Tower of Babel, and then we see a citation from Leviticus 26, which reads as follows:

“If you disobey Me and remain hostile to Me, I will act against you in wrathful hostility. I, for My part, will discipline you sevenfold for your sins. You shall eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters. I will destroy your cult places and cut down your incense stands, and I will heap your carcasses upon your lifeless idols. I will spurn you. I will lay your cities in ruin and make your sanctuaries desolate and I will not savor your pleasing odors. I will make the land desolate so that your enemies who settle it shall be appalled by it. And you I will scatter among the nations and I will unsheath the sword against you. Your land shall become a desolation and your cities a ruin”.

Yeah…that’s the words of a Mad God indeed, one that is truly pissed off. Or just completely deranged. And we get to see a world that is actively punished by this mad god.

 

Aside from that, there isn’t much of a story to cling to here, although one can clearly see the statement about our world and its condition. There are several segments which are obvious metaphors for certain human behaviour, and you can probably dissect and analyze so many parts that are shown here. Mostly, though, it’s a film that is mainly enjoyed due to its visuals and dark content. There’s so many weird and absurd things happening on screen, everything from things that are disgusting and gross, to the weird and uncanny, to pure nightmare-fuel. There’s also a bit of blood and gore, and other stomach-churning stuff. There’s even a scene (although somewhat obscured) where Putin is taking Trump from behind while Hitler is watching. Jeez. Creatures are chopped into pieces, eaten, tortured, and everything is just filled with decay, debauchery and general ghastliness.

 

Mad God is definitely not a film for everyone’s tastes. Some will find it a nonsensical and gross mess, while others will enjoy the dark, surreal, nihilistic atmosphere and awesome special effects (Horror Ghouls belonging to the latter group of people).

 

Mad God is available on Shudder (for those who live in a country where this is accessible. We live in Norway, where Shudder is not available, though we were lucky enough to get one of the few copies of the film on DVD).

 

Mad God Mad God Mad God

 

 

Writer and director: Phil Tippett
Country & year: USA, 2021
Actors: Alex Cox, Niketa Roman, Satish Ratakonda, Harper Taylor, Brynn Taylor, Hans Brekke, Brett Foxwell, Jake Freytag, Harper Gibbons, Tom Gibbons, Tucker Gibbons, Arne Hain, David Lauer, Chris Morley
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt15090124/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE LOOP – Horror Short

Mikey’s older brother, Tommy, brings home a mysterious bootleg VHS tape of “the scariest movie ever made”. What they expect to be a run-of-the-mill slasher flick turns out to be something much more terrifying.

 

The Loop is a fun horror short with a slice of good old nostalgia!

THE LOOP - Horror Short

 

Director: Rich Ragsdale
Writer: Rich Ragsdale
Country & year: USA, 2019
Actors: Will Abbott, Shane Almagor, Mosh
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt10009718/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Innocents (2021)

The InnocentsIda is a 9-year old girl who moves to a seemingly normal and boring suburban neighborhood with her parents and her older sister, Anna, who has non-speaking autism. It’s also during the summer holiday, and with enough free time Ida starts exploring the surroundings in the nearby forests and playgrounds. She meets a young boy, Ben, who shows her one of his special tricks: he’s able to sling rocks with his mind. Ida is curious and delighted by seeing his Carrie-esque ability, and after meeting another girl with a special ability, Aisha, who is seeming to bond nicely with Anna on the playground, the foursome start playing together. However, their innocent intentions inevitably end up taking a dark turn.

 

De Uskyldige (The Innocents) is a Norwegian supernatural thriller from 2021, written and directed by Eskil Vogt. The title of the film, as suggested, challenge the perceived notion that children are inherently innocent. Through their play, one gets to see the thin line between what is simple and childish fun, and how little it can take to tread over the barrier into something outright evil. While horror movies have its own sub-genre for “evil children”, this movie differs in its depiction of them. When most horror movies about evil kids are either about them being demonic/possessed, monsters, or total psychopaths, this movie displays a group of kids where some of them simply have supernatural abilities, while they are still very much normal children in a normal world…and not all of them grow up under good circumstances. For this reason, the movie makes an obvious effort to describe how childish innocence can be completely tainted by awful parenting and a toxic living environment. This is a movie seen from the children’s perspective, and the adults in the movie are merely bystanders. The children are living out their secret lives in the playground, in the forest, in the surrounding areas, just “playing”. Like most children do, without their parents ever really knowing exactly what they’ve been up to, and don’t really care either as long as they’re home in time for dinner or curfew.

 

The child actors are all doing a controlled and convincing display of their characters, which is important since the movie is heavily carried along due to the performances by the actors. There’s equal amount of childish glee in their faces when they have fun, as well as obvious fear and confusion when things go wrong. It’s never really any outright in-your-face horror (aside from a couple scenes that are quite uncomfortable to watch), but it’s creeping steadily under your skin, where you always have the anticipation of something going wrong. And of course, it really does.

 

De Uskyldige (The Innocents) is a slow burning thriller which gradually turns up the heat, and the underlying tension builds up in a way that grips you from start to finish.

 

The Innocents The Innocents The Innocents

 

Writer and director: Eskil Vogt
Original Title: De Uskyldige
Country & year: Norway, 2021
Actors: Rakel Lenora Fløttum, Alva Brynsmo Ramstad, Sam Ashraf, Mina Yasmin Bremseth Asheim, Ellen Dorrit Petersen, Morten Svartveit, Kadra Yusuf, Lisa Tønne
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt4028464/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LAURA HASN’T SLEPT – Horror Short

Desperate to rid herself of a recurring nightmare, a young woman seeks the help of her therapist.

 

Laura Hasn’t Slept is the creepy horror short by Parker Finn, which his directional debut Smile is based upon!

LAURA HASN'T SLEPT - Horror Short

 

Director: Parker Finn
Writer: Parker Finn
Country & year: USA, 2020
Actors: Caitlin Stasey, Lew Temple
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt11650610/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Smile (2022)

SmileOne day at work, the psychiatrist Dr. Rose Cotter meets with a recently admitted patient called Laura Weaver. Laura is a PhD student, who appears to be having some kind of mental breakdown, caused by witnessing her professor committing suicide some days earlier. She claims that some kind of entity is trying to kill her, and it pretends to be other people smiling at her. As Rose tries to calm her down, Laura suddenly screams in panic and falls to the floor, convulsing. Rose calls for help, but after making the call she turns to see that Laura is standing on the floor, smiling widely at her. And then she cuts her own throat with the shard from a broken vase.

 

After this, Rose is understandably upset. And she starts seeing and experiencing things she can’t quite explain. At first, both she and everyone around her believes that it’s the stress and trauma of witnessing a patient committing suicide right in front of her, but as the supernatural occurrences continue she starts noticing the smiling entity Laura mentioned in their brief session. Things escalate quickly, causing misery to both her and everyone around her, including her sister Holly whom she’s already got a strained relationship with ever since the death of their abusive mother, who overdosed when Rose was a child. So, when Rose tries to explain what is happening to her, no one believes her and thinks it’s either the trauma from her childhood flaring up, or even that she’s starting to show traits of her own mother’s mental illness. Desperate for answers, she embarks on a stressful and frightening journey in the hopes of breaking the curse.

 

Smile is a horror film directed by Parker Finn, which is his directional debut. It is based on his 2020 short Laura Hasn’t Slept. At first, Paramount originally planned for this $17 million dollar budget movie to head straight for a streaming-only release on Paramount+. Thankfully they changed their mind! During the test screening the audience feedback scored much higher than they expected, which prompted them to give the movie a theatrical release. And the budget was already earned back during the opening weekend, where it grossed $22 million, to where Paramount’s distribution chief Chris Aronson said it exceeded their wildest expectations.

 

So, Smile has already made a place for itself in the horror genre, proving that using some well-known horror tropes and familiar ideas can still give us an effective experience and make for a good movie. In some ways it highly resembles It Follows (another horror movie that was highly effective and scared the bejeezus out of some people) as well as a little bit of ideas from other movies like for example The Ring. There were even some parts later in the movie which had a little bit of Resident Evil vibes. But most importantly, it also has a flair of its own stuff.

 

Smile is a horror movie that centers around trauma and its impact on not only the people who experience it, but how those who suffer from trauma may also affect their surroundings. The entity in Smile isn’t just something that wants to scare you and simply kill you, it feasts on emotional pain, which means it must make you suffer. While both the title and the entity displays a surface-level metaphor (how people suffering from trauma and depression are often forced to just “smile” and put on a mask in order to pretend to their surroundings that everything is okay), there are also a few other subjects which is delved a little into, like for example the lackluster healthcare services which often doesn’t give people with mental illnesses the treatment and care they need, how mental illness is something that is highly stigmatized, how people close to those with mental illness may be affected by it, and how those who suffer may get turned away with a “I can’t deal with this right now”, often leaving the sufferer alone and feeling helpless. Smile is a dark and grim horror movie, executed with an obvious understanding of tension building and how to make the jump-scares effective as a whole and with the full context. It’s a curse-themed horror movie that’s got teeth, and it bares them with a smile.

 

(Screenshots will be added later.)

 

Writer and director: Parker Finn
Country & year: USA, 2022
Actors: Sosie Bacon, Kyle Gallner, Jessie T. Usher, Robin Weigert, Caitlin Stasey, Kal Penn, Rob Morgan, Gillian Zinser, Judy Reyes, Jack Sochet, Nick Arapoglou, Perry Strong, Matthew Lamb, Dora Kiss
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt15474916/

 

 

Vanja Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SMILE – Horror Short Film

When a young woman struggles to smile, her depression becomes something truly monstrous.

 

Smile is a simple yet creepy little horror short from 2021! (Note: it is not related to the current horror film by the same name that’s been hitting the theaters worldwide recently.)

NIGHT VISIT - Horror Short Film

 

Director: Joanna Tsanis
Writer: Joanna Tsanis
Country & year: Canada, 2021
Actors: Konstantina Mantelos, Ashley Laurence, Tyler Williams
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt14250596/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hell of the Living Dead (1980)

In the late 1970’s, the two Italian filmmakers Claudio Fragasso and Bruno Mattei teamed up to become a duo, a collaboration that lasted ten years. Neither of them had much of a talent, but was sure driven by a lot of naive, eccentric passion and will power. It’s basically two Ed Woods we’re talking about, to describe them in the easiest way.

 

Fragasso wrote most of the scripts while Bruno Mattei probably tried his best to transfer his incomprehensible and demented screenplays to celluloid under the pseudonym Vincent Dawn. And the fact that Bruno Mattei wasn’t the greatest director, to put it mildly, they never got that phone call from Hollywood. A lack of resources and budget was also a common thing. Fragasso also had to step in as an uncredited co-director when Mattei presumably needed a siesta from the insanity, and sometimes vice versa.

 

Still, they cranked out a film for each year throughout the 80’s, most of them being complete obscurities that are hardly seen by anyone, while three or four have been picked up to become cult films in Italian Trash Cinema, or so-bad-it’s-good, if you will. Rats – Nights of Terror, Zombi 3 (poor Lucio Fulci), Night Killer can be mentioned, and of course Hell of the Living Dead, their first feature. Fragasso also wrote The Other Hell, which I’ve mentioned some years earlier.

 

After the duo went their separate ways in 1990, Claudio Fragasso made his magnum opus Troll 2 for which he will always be best known for. Mattei continued with an active career of making fast n’ cheap genre films under several weird pseudonyms such as Pierre Le Blanc, Frank Klox, Herik Montegomery, until working himself to death in 2007, aged 75. The 70-year-old Fragasso still lives in his own bubble somewhere in Nilbog, where he still makes films and is still convinced that Troll 2 is a genuine good work of cinema. Tommy Wiseau and James Nguyen would probably agree.

 

Hell of the Living Dead, also known as Virus, Night of the Zombies, Zombie Creeping Flesh, and let’s just add What the Hell of the Living Dead while we’re at it, starts out in the traditional way with a virus that leaks from a lab in a tropical island and causes a zombie outbreak. So, who’s here to save the day? A blonde newsreporter, a camera guy and a crew of four commandos with a lot of bullets and gunpower to waste until one of them is smart enough to figure out that the only way to kill them is to shoot them right through the skull.

 

A bunch of random shit happens from here on. We witness a family whose son is infected and turns into zombie, to get brutally executed in RoboCop-style by the commandos. As they drive with their jeep further into the jungle, they stop by a village of natives. The reporter gets her clothes off, rubs some symbolic paint on her body so she and her crew can enter the village. And since there wasn’t any time, resources or budget to film in a real native village, the gaps gets filled in with a bunch of stock-footage clips from the documentary Nuova Guinea, l’isola dei cannibali (1974) to add some cheap shock value and random filler content. We have a glimpse of a bloated corpse getting ready for a disturbing burial ceremony, random dancing natives, cannibals eating maggots from a rotten human skull, more random dancing natives, clips of exotic animals, and did I already mention the obscure newsreels? Whatever. Back to the plot: Their visit goes of course to shit when they get attacked by zombies and have to escape to the next scenario with more flesh-eating, cheap gore, retarded zombie action, bad acting, and I almost forgot to mention the cheesy dubbing.

 

Hell of the Living Dead is an incoherent, chaotic and schizophrenic mess from start to finish. It’s really telling when Fragasso stated that the film had no budget, nor even a script when the crew arrived in Spain to start shooting. That really says it all. The only thing they had left was to rewrite and improvise and hope for the best. The acting is overall cheesy and just plain bad. Zero instructions seems to be given to them other than to run, scream, look scared and try their best not to laugh. Most of them just looks goofy and clearly don’t give a shit. Margie Newton as the news reporter is one of the worst actresses of all time. She has several scream-queen moments and can’t even bother to try to look a bit scared. My favorite is the dude with crazy eyes, played by Franco Garofalo who looks like an uncanny version of Klaus Kinski. His unpredictable and over-the-top performance adds most of the fun in the movie and is one of those who knows exactly what kind of a film this is and goes full, ballistic force with it. The zombie priest performed by Víctor Israel is also a highlight, ans so is also the soundtrack by Goblin although it’s recycled tracks from the Dario Argento’s cut of Dawn of the Dead.

 

So … even though most of the production value is something straight from a sewer, Hell of the Living Dead is an entertaining trashfest for those of us who love funny-bad movies, and is a great start to dive into the Mattei/Fragasso universe.

 

Hell of the Living Dead Hell of the Living Dead Hell of the Living Dead

 

 

Directors: Bruno Mattei, Claudio Fragasso
Writers: Claudio Fragasso, José María Cunillés, Rossella Drudi
Also known as: Virus, Night of the Zombies, Zombie Creeping Flesh
Country & year: Italy, Spain, 1980
Actors: Margie Newton, Franco Garofalo, Selan Karay, José Gras, Gabriel Renom, Josep Lluís Fonoll, Pietro Fumelli, Bruno Boni, Patrizia Costa, Cesare Di Vito, Cesare Di Vito, Bernard Seray, Víctor Israel
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt0082559/

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

NIGHT VISIT – Horror Short Film

A police officer is performing an evening wellness check and soon discovers that someone (or something) is waiting for him.

 

Night Visit is a creepy little horror short with a sinister vibe!

NIGHT VISIT - Horror Short Film

 

Director: Spencer Keller
Writer: Spencer Keller
Country & year: USA, 2022
Actors: Chloes Ciara, Raymond Power, Luke Schuck, Mackenzie Wynn
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt22022002/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gutterballs (2008)

In this little 80’s throwback slasher and rape/revenge-flick Gutterballs, we spend time in a bowling hall with two groups, getting ready for a bowling contest. But the plan for that night goes down the toilet when a fight escalates. The individual that stands out is the unhinged Steve, a sadistic bully with some serious anger issues. He screams desperately for attention in every scene, spews out a world record list of obscenities, one of them being over 600 fuck-bombs (yes, someone actually tried to count them). I wouldn’t recommend the drinking game for obvious reasons, but at least we have some other use of colorful words to play with such as cunt, bitch, motherfucker, whore, pussy, etc…

 

The plot and the boners thickens when Steve and his group of friends gang rapes Lisa, the girl whom left Steve for some other guy in the other group. The next night the two groups hook up again in the bowling hall to start over. Lisa is still there, that poor girl, but reserved behind some, big dark sunglasses. And when the bowling-match is about to settle, a mysterious, unseen player by the name BBK is shown on the score monitors. They soon learn that they’re being terrorized by a killer wearing a bowling bag over its head and using sharp bowling pins to penetrate the victim’s private parts.

 

THE MOST OFFENSIVE FILM EVER, many calls it. Well, at least it’s far from being boring. But yeah, it’s hard to not agree that the characters are a bunch of insufferable fucks performed by the bottom of the barrel actors from Troma, and you can’t wait to see them get brutally killed. And let me tell you, Gutterballs doesn’t disappoint in that aspect. Some dude gets his head crushed by two bowling balls, another’s head gets blown to smithereens by a shotgun, we get a nasty close-up castration, sodomizing, face melting and even more. The most memorable scene is the couple getting killed while having a steaming 69 in the bathroom. Sadistic and perverted fun for the whole family.

 

Writer and director Ryan Nicholson has since the mid 90s primarily worked as SFX artist on titles such as Ghost Rider, Stargate, Transformers, X-Files and the list goes on. Special effects is clearly his main focus, but despite the film’s limited budget, he also manages to lit up the bowling hall with the use of neon light to enhance some of the 80s atmosphere. He followed up with the sequel Gutterballs 2 for his cult-followers in the underground horror movie community, and also made films such as Dead Nude Girls. Sounds fun. Gutterballs seems to be his most approachable film for the masses, and if you like raw, trashy and silly 80s slashers like Intruder, Chopping Mall, Savage Streets and Troma in general, this one will surely please you.

 

Gutterballs Gutterballs Gutterballs

 

Writer and director: Ryan Nicholson
Country & year: Canada, 2008
Actors: Alastair Gamble, Mihola Terzic, Nathan Witte, Wade Gibb, Candice Lewald, Jeremy Beland, Trevor Gemma, Nathan Dashwood, Scott Alonzo, Jimmy Blais, Danielle Munro, Stephanie Schacter, Saraphina Bardeaux, Dan Ellis, Brandon Dix, Ryan Nicholson
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt1087853/

 

Tom Ghoul

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

VR ESCAPE ROOM – Horror Short

In this virtual reality escape room you may not get out alive! A girl is playing a VR Escape Room game, but finds that this game is not letting her win that easily…

 

VR Escape Room is a fun horror short with a spin on how Virtual Reality can become a little too real!

VR ESCAPE ROOM - Horror Short

 

Director: Alex Magaña
Writer: Alex Magaña
Country & year: USA, 2021
Actors: Malia Arrayah, Julian Duque, Brittnee Hollenbach
IMDb: www.imdb.com/title/tt15787228/