Oh No, UFO: PHOENIX FORGOTTEN (2017) Review

A young woman goes back to her hometown of Phoenix, AZ in order to conduct a documentary involving the disappearance of her older brother and his friends when she was just a kid. She ultimately uncovers the shocking truth and what the government doesn’t want revealed.

This latest found footage horror film goes back to the roots of the found footage we actually enjoy, the mockumentary subgenre that was enlightened by The Blair Witch Project. And the inspiration of that film is clearly inspired here. The film primarily takes place in present day with our lead Sophie. We see her conducting interviews with her parents and other citizens of the town about the legendary “Phoenix lights” that did in fact happen back on March 13, 1997. A mysterious set of lights formed in the shape of a “v” hovered over Phoenix and then disappeared, leaving citizens baffled. Some say it was military, some say it was aliens. Sophie’s (who was six at the time) brother Josh is hell-bent on finding out more about these lights. He then enlists the help of his crush Ashley and his best friend Mark to make this happen. As mentioned, the first half of the film is Sophie’s interviews with people about that night and the disappearances. Between this are intercuts of Josh’s footage. When Sophie thinks she’s reached a dead end, some new and shocking footage falls into her lap. The last half is that footage.

What I appreciated most about this movie is that it is clearly trying to set itself apart from the basic found footage films that get spewed out constantly. The structure and editing of the film works in its favor to make it appear more as a documentary film instead of found footage. The first half involving Sophie seeking answers is slow-moving, but it works to build it all up to our final footage. And I think the wait is worth it. Essentially it moves at the same pace as The Blair Witch Project, especially when it comes to the last half of the film. There aren’t any jump scares in this movie, but it uses the scares of the unknown to screw with your mind until it all goes crazy in the end. And I gotta say I was really tensed up when all hell breaks loose at the end. And this is executed really well because of how little we actually see. We get enough glimpses of the occurrences to shock us and it doesn’t linger on them, and it seeks to use sound more than anything. In some ways though it bares a little too much to Blair Witch in terms of how events go down. I don’t want to make this sound like a huge flaw, because it’s not, but it is hard to not make those mental notes in your head. The intensity of the film’s ending is great and a solid pay-off, but I was let down because that’s where it chose to end. I was expecting it to cut back to the present for at least little more time with Sophie, but it didn’t. This was a huge missed opportunity because I really liked where it was headed when Sophie found this last footage. In terms of character though, I really liked Sophie and the trio of friends in the footage and actually cared for them. The trio had good chemistry together, but their general performances I felt were really lacking.

Needless to say, I was massively impressed with Phoenix Forgotten. The creators knew that found footage has grown really stale and formulaic. Not to say this one doesn’t have its moments, but they recognized what made The Blair Witch Project so great and scary, and they hard-core applied it here. And it works. Found footage horror these days comes off as extremely fake, but what this and Blair Witch did is seek to make you think what you’re watching is real. Even if you know it’s not. Everything here feels authentic and it’s not out for jump scares, it’s out to psychologically freak you out and provide intensity. I was let-down of where it ended, and the similarities to Blair Witch very much linger, but Phoenix Forgotten is the approach I wish found footage horror would take by looking back on Blair Witch and using it as inspiration in how to really make these film scary.

-Cody Landman

Lost & Found Footage: THE DARK TAPES (2017) Review

A young couple discovers a random video tape that leads them to an abandoned room where it seems an experiment had been taken place. The tape is played back to show two young students and their professor trying to make contact with spirits of a parallel world. All the while, the clips are inter-spliced with other bizarre, supernatural footage.

One of the biggest problems with The Dark Tapes is that there is just point to it. We have our wrap-around story, which is the two students and their teacher. There is a story about a couple who enlist the help of ghost hunters to find out what’s going on in their home, a tale about a sinister web show involving two young women, and one about a girl experiencing visits from otherworldly beings after being drugged at a party. While each of these stories do consist of the paranormal, there is just no point to any of them being in the same movie. There are no connections at all. Unlike V/H/S for example, they don’t have anything in common, but they are at least found with each other. The tapes involved with the wrap around don’t have that indication. What’s even more tragic is that the wrap-around story was by far the most interesting, but it’s completely rushed with no real development and can often be hard to follow due to being rushed. And the supernatural entities that we are shown look nice with its practical costuming and effects, but once they start talking, it’s super ridiculous. The other tapes are severely boring and don’t offer anything chilling, disturbing, or entertaining. I will give credit though to the ending of the Paranormal Activity-ish story with the ghost hunters in that the twist was decent. Though it should have ended at that reveal immediately. The web show tape featured some nice gore, but that’s as far as the positives go for that. In terms of performances, very weak all across the board, unfortunately.

Had The Dark Tapes been primarily about the wrap-around story and into a choppy anthology story with boring and uninteresting segments, this actually could have been a decent movie, even with the poor acting. And despite it’s small budget it does really well with the practical effects without looking cheesy and hokey. Instead we get one of the worst entries in the found footage subgenre that I’ve personally seen.

–Cody Landman

Shop Til You Drop Dead: PERSONAL SHOPPER (2017) Review

A young woman who works as a personal shopper for a snobby model uses her down time to get in contact with her dead twin brother. Prior to his death, they made a promise that whoever dies first would try to contact the other. She visits their old home hoping that she has the same gift as her brother in contacting the dead. It is during this that she suddenly begins to feel target by someone or something watching her. Is it her brother? Someone or something else? Or is she slowly going insane?

This drama/horror film is another entry in the slow burn psychological subgenre. What this movie does a great job with is putting is firmly into the world of our lead character and where her mind is at. We see her in this job she hates as much as her employer, as well as the desperation she feels to make contact with her brother. As it goes on and the horror begins, we see her world begin to spiral, and how much on edge this begins to put her. It all seems to clump together and take its toll on Maureen and she begins to question her sanity, whether this is all happening or not. We as the viewer also begin to wonder whether what we are seeing is real or if this is just Maureen’s psyche and emotional damage messing with her. All of the horror here comes from the fact that it’s a supernatural story, and while there aren’t any particularly scary moments, it has some rather intense and chilling effects to bring the horror to the forefront. We have a CGI ghost involved, but for what it is, it looks pretty fantastic. It’s not overdone, and it feels just right. On top of this we have amazing direction from Olivier Assayas. He has this way of capturing the setting with perfection and beauty, and the filming techniques he chooses are brilliant. Kristen Stewart turns in an excellent performance and really brings forth the pain, confusion, fear, and frustration Maureen is feeling. I would say this is definitely one of my favorite performances of hers.

Personal Shopper is different kind of horror film that while it does have more dramatic elements, it also allows you to feel the different variation of horror at hand. It leaves you guessing and wondering what is or isn’t real as you watch it, and even after it’s over.

-Cody Landman

Slow Burn Surprise: THE BLACKCOAT’S DAUGHTER (2017) Review

During winter break, two young girls are left behind at their boarding school. While they wait for their parents to come and pick them up, a demonic force targets them for torment. Meanwhile, another young teen hitches a ride with a husband and wife, making her way towards the same school.

Oz Perkins’ writes and directs this slow burn horror film that is all kinds of crazy. To me, Perkins is easily becoming one of my favorite modern horror directors. He has this way of completely setting up a creepy setting along with atmosphere. This one gives you a very unsettling atmosphere and a sense of dread, and it all leads to one hell of a crazy ending with you thinking about it long after it’s over. This movie is pure psychological horror all the way through. It’s a demonic possession horror film that follows a different formula than most. And that completely sets it apart from others. Besides the growing sense of doom, I loved following it and seeing how these two stories will collide and how they parallel with each other. When it happens, you have that immediate “oh shit” thought going through your mind. It’s also one of those few movies that doesn’t rely on jump scares. And there is definitely some good bloody moments in it. I will say though, that this is one you really should pay attention to in order to follow it. And even some of the dialogue you have to pay attention to.

The only thing I wish it did more was give us more time with the two girls at the school and develop them much further. Kiernan Shipka nails it as our shy and reserved main girl who is one of the targets of the supernatural presence. Shipka really captures the innocence of her character that is almost child-like, but then there are moments where she makes you feel uneasy with just a slight change of facial expression. Emma Roberts also headlines as the teen hitchhiker. What’s special about Roberts’ performance here is that it relies completely on her facial expressions and body language since she has very minimal dialogue. What she shows is a troubled young girl, but there’s also side of her that makes her come off as untrustworthy. As Roberts acting-career has grown, she definitely proves she can get completely into character. Lucy Boynton stars as Rose, the other girl left behind at the school. She’s the school beauty and rebel who is dealing with her own issues as the presence swarms. I don’t think Boynton really had enough moments to shine, but in the screen time she does have, she shows her uneasiness and fear very well. James Remar and Lauren Holly star as the couple who pick up Roberts’ character. Remar has some great scenes with Robert who tries to get her to open up. Holly on the other hand really doesn’t get much to do, but she’s fine for the most part.

The Blackcoat’s Daughter is one of the best original films I’ve seen. Yes, it’s slow moving, but it’s totally worth the ride. It brings psychological horror to a new level and really knows how to get the heart beat racing.

-Cody Landman

Support Indie Horror: IRRATIONAL FEAR Bonus Rewards End Soon

There are only a few days left to receive some killer rewards and get your name in our IRRATIONAL FEAR credits! Did you miss out on our IRRATIONAL FEAR Kickstarter? We are now expanding several of the perk rewards here on Slasher Studios. All money raised will go directly into the filming of IRRATIONAL FEAR. Support indie horror and pick up some killer rewards!

What is IRRATIONAL FEAR?
Everyone has something they are afraid of that they know cannot possibly hurt them. With our third horror feature we ask..what if these fears could kill them? Slasher Studios is teaming up with LA Horror to bring you a slasher style feature that is unlike anything Slasher Studios has ever done before. Titled IRRATIONAL FEAR, the film centers around six therapy patients are brought together at a secluded cabin to confront their strangest fears. Little do they know, these fears will certainly be the death for some of them. Who will make it out alive?

REWARDS AVAILABLE:
Donate $10 (or more): Receive a special link to view the film early & social media shout out!
Donate $25 (or more): Special link to view the film early, social media shout out, & your name in the credits!
Donate $30 (or more): All of the above & IRRATIONAL FEAR on DVD.
Donate $40 (or more): All of the above with IRRATIONAL FEAR on Limited Edition Blu-Ray instead of DVD.
Donate $75 (or more): All of the above (DVD or Bluray) & Slasher Studios two previous films on DVD.

If you are international, please add $10 to donation amount to cover shipping.





Staying Alive: PRESERVATION (2014) Review

Two days ago I watched “Preservation (2014)” on Netflix for the first time. This movie is written and directed by Christopher Denham (Home Movie). The cast includes Wrenn Schmidt (Outcast), Pablo Schreiber (The Manchurian Candidate), Aaron Staton (Mad Men) and Cody Saintgnue (All Cheerleaders Die). My hopes weren’t that high for this movie to tell you the truth, but it was sitting in my Netflix queue for a long time. The low ratings certainly didn’t Two days ago I watched “Preservation (2014)” on Netflix for the first time. This movie is written and directed by Christopher Denham (Home Movie). The cast includes Wrenn Schmidt (Outcast), Pablo Schreiber (The Manchurian Candidate), Aaron Staton (Mad Men) and Cody Saintgnue (All Cheerleaders Die). My hopes weren’t that high for this movie to tell you the truth, but it was sitting in my Netflix queue for a long time. The low ratings certainly didn’t help with building up any excitement either. It’s a good thing that I managed to avoid watching a trailer for this movie beforehand though.

Preservation is a slightly above average effort in the “survival horror” subgenre. The acting performances are okay at best, with the exception of the talented Wrenn Schmidt. The two male lead characters in this movie are some of the dumbest characters I’ve seen in horror movie history – period. Who in their right mind decides to turn their back to the killer after just knocking them out for two or three seconds? I was intrigued by the killer(s) in the first act, but everything about that aspect fell through the cracks when the masks were taken off and the motive was assumed. That bit honestly turned me off. I did however like the design of the masks. I loved the way this movie was shot even though I noticed some “shaky cam” here and there. The cinematography of the landscape looked pretty and helped with elevating the story to a higher level and makes you forget about the clichés.

The script is for most part disposable and it’s evident that the makers didn’t even try to be any different than similar horror movies. This movie has a short running time and the pacing becomes fast as things get more suspenseful. The soundtrack is excellent and succeeds in giving off a nice retro vibe. The ending is predictable, but gives the audience closure. Preservation is a fairly by the numbers survival horror movie that offers more style than substance. I don’t think I’m planning on watching this movie ever again. I’d still say it’s worth watching once on Netflix for the die-hard horror fans, but you might want to maintain realistic expectations.

–Ferdi Akkulak

Haunted Horror: BETHANY (2017) Review

After the death of her mother, Claire and her husband move in to Claire’s childhood home. Claire then begins to have haunting flashbacks to her abusive mother who is hell-bent on making her a beauty queen like she was. Not only that but she also finds herself being haunted by her imaginary friend from when she was a child.

Bethany plays essentially the same way as any other “ghost child” movie. But at the same time, it was interesting to have Claire being haunted by two different things, and by the end the two ultimately become connected. That said, the moment when that happens, the reveal isn’t entirely surprising, but it’s good for the story, though the final scene plays out essentially like the ending of this year’s Rings. And in all honesty, the reveal is kind of disturbing. There isn’t much that’s suspenseful or terrifying about this one, but it does put in a decent effort to try and give it a spooky atmosphere. It also has some interesting “body horror” moments that don’t get too grotesque but are still enough to be cringe-worthy even if some of the CGI pretty evident. If there are any moments where the CGI isn’t very pretty it’s moments involving the ghost.

For the most part, Claire is a likeable lead, she’s not great, but it’s better to have her trauma be something like this instead of the typical “death of a child” cliché. Though I do question why she would care that much about her mom or the house after the hell she put her through. And as far as the husband goes, he’s good-hearted, but he’s also very annoying with his constant use of “baby”, “sweetie”, “honey”, etc. The acting from Stefanie Estes does a good job as Claire, and she captures the trauma and pain Claire is going through pretty well. Her husband is played by Zack Ward (the bully from A Christmas Story), and for the role, he’s not really outstanding, but he plays the caring and supportive husband party well-enough. But then we have the two big names of Tom Green and Shannon Doherty. Tom Green is barely recognizable as Claire’s shrink; and honestly, there’s just not much to say about him here. It’s a super basic role that didn’t require much, similar to Ward’s role. Doherty plays Claire’s crazy mom, and while it’s not a bad performance, I could feel like she wasn’t really giving it her all. From the small glimpses we got, I could see that she could knocked it out of the park as a psycho mom, but it seems like she was holding back.

Bethany is pretty by the numbers, but for what it is, it’s a decent enough watch. What I would praise it about it is the use of the two evils and how they come together in the end and I liked what they did with that, even if the outcome isn’t particularly new or original.

-Cody Landman

Enter If You Dare: THE VOID (2016) Review

A small town cop comes across an injured man on a highway and brings him back to the hospital. However, he soon realizes that bringing him there was a mistake. By bringing the man there he’s put himself and the others in the hospital in danger as a mysterious cult surrounds the outside, while a hellish creature invades the inside.
The Void comes off as a triple combination of The Thing, Assault on Precinct 13, and Hellraiser. The movie starts out really good with an opening that grabs your attention, after the characters are introduced the cult then comes in. And the cult people are actually kind of freaky looking. They are basically dressed similarly to the KKK but only have a black triangle in the facial area.

The way they are used is well-done and creepy. We mostly see them standing outside in the dark, knives in hand, and attack anyone who is outdoors. The creature that comes into play bares some similarities to the “the thing” but as far as that goes, we don’t get a very good glimpse of it in full. It’s menacing enough but very underused. Fortunately it’s not the only horrific creature in the movie. Even creepier ones come into play towards the end. That said, I almost wish this was more about the cult, because they were more chilling than the creatures. Both are pretty freaky, but they should have chosen one or the other. It felt a bit too much cramming them both into this movie and makes it really unfocused.

The story in general isn’t anything special. It’s not boring, but had this primarily been about these hooded figures and these potential victims, it would have been better. Instead it’s just another story of bringing hell on Earth and resurrection. It also has some great gore and practical effects, but it doesn’t use them for the sake of being gory, and it doesn’t linger on it very long. Quite simply, the script just tries to be too much and that hurts it a lot, despite having potential to be good. It has a great setting, a creepy tone to it, great villains, and some pretty horrific imagery. But like I said, I would have preferred them to make more about the cult, or even if it was just about the creatures and hell aspect, at least it would have been more focused.

While the script wasn’t satisfying, the acting and character are worse. The acting is just so weak from everyone involved, and the characters are just boring, unlikeable, uninteresting, and you just don’t care about them. And some of the major characters aren’t even well-developed.

I’m not saying I don’t recommend this, it is worth watching, and maybe you’ll like it more than I did for what it is. Despite the overall great look of the film, I felt it needed to be more focused or give more direction of where it’s headed, and not as quick-paced to the point on being underdeveloped. But mostly I wanted it to be about the cult, but that’s just me.

–Cody Landman

Spread the FEAR Worldwide: IRRATIONAL FEAR Artwork Contest

This summer, we start shooting our third slasher feature IRRATIONAL FEAR. In the past, we received over 100 poster art submissions for our first two slashers, Don’t Go to the Reunion & Dismembering Christmas. Now we want YOU to create the ULTIMATE Irrational Fear poster! You have until May 31st to submit your best Irrational Fear poster art. This summer, we will let the fans decide which poster they like best with the winners announced shortly thereafter. The winners will receive their artwork on either the DVD, Blu-Ray, or VHS release of the film. Send your submissions to [email protected] Make your best FEAR count!

Make sure to like the official FB page for updates on the film:
IRRATIONAL FEAR FACEBOOK

Slasher Studios Interview: Noah Nicholas Nelson (PROM QUEEN)

Filmmaker Noah Nicholas Nelson has been a good friend of Slasher Studios for a long time now. In addition to being an aspiring filmmaker, he has also created some amazing artwork for our upcoming film IRRATIONAL FEAR. Today we had a chance to chat with Noah about his upcoming horror film PROM QUEEN, which is currently slashing up Indiegogo.

How would you describe your history with the horror genre?

I’ve religiously watched horror since virtually the day I was born. My grandma and older brother were always devoted horror fans, so I had a huge VHS collection accessible at both my home and any time I visited my grandma’s house. One of my first cinematic experiences I remember is watching The Car (1977) with my grandma. Although classified as a thriller, I still remember it being my introduction to how cinematic wide landscapes and the use of letterbox can be and I would still credit it for influencing me seek out thrillers and genre-benders as I got older. Despite being only 17, I make it my mission each year to broaden my horizons and knowledge of cinema. Dario Argento has always been my favorite horror director since discovering Suspiria. I’m still fascinated to this day by how much effort he put into every single frame of that film. Each shot could be framed in a museum. It’s that jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Excuse me for always finding a way to incorporate my undying love for Suspiria in each interview I do. It’s tradition at this point.

What made you decide to write Prom Queen?

I’ve always had a fascination with looking through old family photos and school yearbooks. There’s something magical about finding a special memory that strikes a chord. I’ve looked through some yearbooks where people will point out “oh, s/he was very popular!” and you always sort of wonder in the back of your mind what happens to those kids who were flying high in school. This is a story of where those people are now blended into the realm of horror/thriller.

What about this story makes it stand out from the other horror movies being made today?

At its core, this is a very cat-and-mouse type film. Simplicity has been my greatest demand regarding any ideas that me or my co-writer have thought of. I’ve studied some of the storytelling techniques of classic horror/thriller films from the ’60s and ’70s, even as far back as the ’30s to tell this tale. I think keeping the story focused around this woman who feels toxic to everyone around her can create horror within itself — perhaps moreso than the villain can supply.

Tell us about our current Indiegogo campaign for Prom Queen.

The campaign was created to raise as much funds as we could to make this the best it can possibly be. There was a great chance of the film being made without the campaign, but I can certainly say that it wouldn’t be half the film it will be without the support we’ve received. There are some incredible rewards for our gracious backers, including extremely limited-edition DVDs. There is a strong chance that less than 20 DVDs will ever be produced, so this is a very rare chance to own the film on physical media.

When/where do you plan on filming?

Filming will begin in my hometown in North Carolina in the early summer. I’m keeping cast and crew as local as I can, but I can promise that this will not compromise the quality of the film. Everyone involved is working their absolute hardest to make sure that this is the best it can possibly be with the resources available.

What plans do you have for the film once filming is complete?

I plan to have a final cut ready for release by this winter. Release will primarily be VOD, but as previously mentioned, a very limited DVD run will be available.

What specifically do you want to bring to the horror genre with this film?

I want to show that low-budget horror can be thrilling and chilling with a lot of heart. Each scene in this film (excluding the death scenes, of course) is deeply personal in some way — some of which I won’t reveal the reasons — but each scene was carefully devised to reflect a time in my, my family, or my friends’ lives. I want to bring “writing what you know” to a new and frightening level.

Where can readers go to find out more?

The film has official Facebook and Twitter pages. You can also find us on IMDb and Letterboxd.

Facebook: www.facebook.com/pq2017
Twitter: @pq2017
IMDb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6502818/

Make sure to become an Indiegogo backer today and support indie horror!!