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last update 8.Sep.11
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The Dead
dir-scr Howard J Ford, Jon Ford
prd Howard J Ford
with Rob Freeman, Prince David Osei, David Dontoh, Ben Crowe, Gaal Hama, Sergho Dak Jean Gustaphe, John Dunton-Downer, Leala Tall, Katy Richardson, Fae Ford-Brister, Halimata Nikiama, Dan Morgan
osei and freeman
release UK 2.Sep.11,
US 1.Oct.11
10/UK 1h45

the dead Spectacular African landscapes help this uber-grisly zombie movie overcome an obviously low budget as well as an inexperienced cast. And the filmmakers do everything they can to spice it up, even though they never quite break free of the formula.

As the last whites evacuate to Europe, a plane crash leaves one survivor: American engineer Brian (Freeman), who's heading home to his wife and daughter (Richardson and Ford-Brister). Marauding gangs of the undead are causing carnage across West Africa, so Brian teams up with local soldier Daniel (Osei), who's looking for his son (Hama). Heading north through the chaos, they find a village of survivors with a friendly chief (Dontoh) who helps them catch their breath before continuing their search for both Daniel's son and a way out of Africa.

Shooting on 35mm film, the Ford Brothers make the most of the settings and also effectively create action set pieces without expensive effects. The locations in Burkina Faso and Ghana are gorgeous to look at, even if they're crawling with hungry, dead-eyed zombies who are continually getting their faces either mashed or blown off. The make-up effects are gleefully ghastly right from the start, and the way the undead shuffle along silently offers scope for suspense, as well as a few good jolts

On the other hand, the filmmakers tend to rely on gimmicky editing, slow-motion and a very cheesy score to create the various moods. And while the actors do their best, they're not particularly well directed. Only Osei manages to be convincing by underplaying his character's inner pain and outer bravura. Despite his effective tough-man physicality, Freeman feels a bit panicky from the start, which is probably right for the character but leaves the film lacking a solid point of view.

While the continual string of close-shave escapes start feeling annoyingly contrived, there's a strong driving narrative as these two men endure a series of horrific encounters. At least three incidents could have been cut, which would have helped keep the plot's momentum from dragging badly in the final act. But while we're never much in doubt about where the film is heading, the journey is packed with entertaining, inventive moments.

18 themes, strong violence
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Tucker and Dale vs Evil
dir Eli Craig
scr Morgan Jurgenson, Eli Craig
prd Morgan Jurgenson, Albert Klychak, Rosanne Milliken, Deepak Nayar
with Alan Tudyk, Tyler Labine, Katrina Bowden, Jesse Moss, Brandon Jay McLaren, Christie Laing, Chelan Simmons, Travis Nelson, Alexander Arsenault, Adam Beauchesne, Joseph Sutherland, Philip Granger
labine and tudyk release UK 23.Sep.11,
US 30.Sep.11
10/US 1h29

Tucker and Dale vs Evil Flipping the backwoods horror genre on its head, this horror-comedy is riotously entertaining mainly because we never have a clue what's going to happen next. And even if it gets a bit cartoonish and overly grisly, it's thoroughly good fun right.

Nice-guy Tucker (Tudyk) is fixing up his run-down holiday cabin in the woods with his shy pal Dale (Labine), while nine university students are camping nearby. Around the campfire Chad (Moss) recounts a incident two decades earlier in which a group of kids were massacred right here. So when Allison (Bowden) goes missing, the gang becomes convinced that Tucker and Dale are hillbilly cannibals who have kidnapped their friend. But Tucker and Dale only rescued her when she was injured swimming., and now they can't figure out why these kids are attacking them.

While sticking fairly closely to the standard stalker-horror formula, the filmmakers gleefully subvert each scene by showing us both sides of the story. This gives each scene a comical zing, especially as they mercilessly tease the audience with red herrings. And the interaction between the characters is sharp and funny. Clearly these teens have seen too many horror movies, as they misinterpret everything that happens and take violent actions that horrify Tucker and Dale.

As the misunderstandings escalate, the two sides to this story are both hilariously outrageous. And most of the actors get the chance to break stereotypes with their characters. The dialog is offhanded and amusing, and there are terrific running gags like Dale's crippling nervousness around women and Allison's hilarious attempts to bring peace to the table. The glaring exception is Moss' paranoid nutcase, who annoyingly isn't capable of reason, although he does come with a back-story.

While director-cowriter Craig continually punches the comedy, he also knows enough about the genre to keep the suspense levels pretty high as well, playing with stereotypes while finding new ways to sabotage every cliche imaginable. Like Cabin Fever crossed with Final Destination, this is a nightmarishly nasty horror movie that manages to kill off its cast in blackly hilarious ways. But it also manages to freak us out right up to the inventive finale.

15 themes, language, violence
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The Woman
dir Lucky McKee
scr Jack Ketchum, Lucky McKee
prd Robert Tonino, Andrew van den Houten
with Pollyanna McIntosh, Sean Bridgers, Angela Bettis, Lauren Ashley Carter, Zach Rand, Shyla Molhusen, Carlee Baker, Alexa Marcigliano, Chris Krzykowski, Marcia Bennett, Lauren Petre, Lauren Schroeder
mcintosh release US Jan.11 sff,
UK 30.Sep.11
11/US 1h43

the woman The escalating horror in this film has more to do with the way it so effectively depicts thuggish sexism than it does with the story's more hideously horrific elements. Actually, it's quite impressive that a filmmaker can make an audience squirm this much.

While hunting in the woods, Chris (Bridgers) discovers a feral woman (McIntosh) who was raised by wolves and has become a fearsome hunter. Back home, he brutally chains her up in the cellar and decides to civilise her. His wife (Bettis) and three kids (teens Carter and Rand and younger Molhusen) are reluctant accomplices to this increasingly vile experiment. And as the family begins to implode, it's clear that their feisty prisoner is just waiting for her chance to take revenge.

No, it's not difficult to guess where misogynistic nightmare this is heading. The woman may be ruthless and wild (she instantly takes a bite out of Chris), but it's clear that Chris is the real monster here. His family is controlled by his alpha-male cruelty, which reveals itself gradually as the story progresses to an outrageously nasty finale. Based on Ketchum and McKee's novel, the story is slanted as a trawl into the innate violence in everyone rather than a more interesting exploration of the nature of civilisation.

McKee is a skilled director, and he gets committed performances from actors who are willing to play extremely disturbed characters. Bridgers' Chris is a serious creep right from the start, so discovering what he's capable of is as fascinating as it is repulsive. Amid her animalistic physicality, McIntosh manages to give the woman a glimmer of dignity even as she snarls and gnashes at anything and everything. While Bettis and Carter nicely reveal the inner life in their troubled characters.

On the other hand, McKee gives the movie a leery tone that makes it sharply uncomfortable to watch even before things turn hyper-grisly. This is a depiction of genuinely ugly behaviour, and no one emerges as particularly sympathetic. And as secrets are revealed in ways we could never expect, there's also a deranged dynamic that makes "like father, like son" a grotesque understatement.

18 themes, strong violence, language
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You Instead
aka: Tonight You’re Mine
dir David Mackenzie
scr Thomas Leveritt
prd Gillian Berrie
with Luke Treadaway, Natalia Tena, Mathew Baynton, Ruta Gedmintas, Alastair Mackenzie, Gilly Gilchrist, Gavin Mitchell, Joseph Mydell, Johnny Phillips, Sophie Wu, Rebecca Benson, Newton Faulkner
Tena and Treadaway release UK 16.Sep.11,
US 11.May.12
11/UK 1h30
you instead Eclectic filmmaker Mackenzie tries out another genre with this frisky, loose romantic comedy filmed at a music festival. The result is thoroughly enjoyable, with the zing of real crowds and musicians overcoming some very corny plot turns.

Adam (Treadaway) and Tyko (Baynton) are the frontmen for the hit band The Make, getting ready to perform at Scotland's huge T in the Park festival. When they have a confrontation with girl band The Dirty Pinks, a stranger handcuffs Adam to lead singer Morello (Tena) in an attempt to bring peace. Adam's grumpy supermodel girlfriend Lake (Gedmintas) isn't finding this funny, and neither is Morello's nice-guy boyfriend Mark (Mackenzie). But the real problem is that the girls are due on stage soon, and no one can find the key.

The film is like a stream of consciousness over the course of 24 hours, as several wacky characters intersect during loud concert performances, raucous backstage gatherings and encounters with UK festival fixtures like porta-loos, clammy tents and excessive amounts of alcohol and mud. Of course, Adam and Morello do begin to get along, and then some, despite the general goofy chaos around them. Along the way there are some enjoyable sequences as Adam interrupts The Dirty Pinks' set in surprising ways, and then Morello returns the favour.

On the other hand, the plot is both contrived and predictable, including some sideroads involving other romantic entanglements, The Make's ill-tempered manager (Mitchell) and a pair of eco-warriors (Wu and Benson). But Mackenzie shoots it like a reality TV show, with guerrilla-style camerawork that follows the characters right through the crowds and into the smallest spaces, which makes the film often exhilarating to watch.

It also helps that Treadaway and Tena are thoroughly engaging in the central roles. Their edgy banter and cynical insults are hilarious, which helps them to exist on another plane from the rest of the characters. Meanwhile, Baynton has an odyssey of his own that feels amusingly improvised. And by the time all of the somewhat forced story threads are tied off, we're won over by the film's scruffy charm, as well as a subtle comment on artistic camaraderie.

15 themes, language, sexuality
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