dir-scr The Vicious Brothers
prd Shawn Angelski, Martin Fisher
with Brittany Allen, Freddie Stroma, Gil Bellows, Michael Ironside, Jesse Moss, Melanie Papalia, Anja Savcic, Sean Rogerson, Emily Perkins, Mike Kovac, Ian Brown, Mackenzie Gray
release UK 29.Oct.14, US 21.Nov.14
14/Canada 1h46
A dark and stormy night: Allen, Stroma, Papalia, Moss and Savcic

bellows ironside
fright fest
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
Extraterrestrial Opening with a Jaws-like scene of a young woman (Perkins) in extreme fear, it's immediately clear that the Vicious Brothers (aka Stuart Ortiz and Colin Minihan) intend to keep the audience on the edge of its seat. Fast-paced and witty, the film is packed with clever visual touches and some superb emotional moments. So even it it drags in the final act, it's thoroughly entertaining.

April (Allen) takes her boyfriend Kyle (Stroma) on a weekend trip to see the family cabin her mother wants to sell. But Kyle has invited three chucklehead friends along (Moss, Papalia and Savcic), who kind of disrupt her romantic plans while indulging in antics that attract the attention of the local cops (Bellows and Rogerson). This doesn't slow down their partying mood, especially when they discover a marijuana farm run by nutty neighbour Travis (Ironside). Meanwhile, residents of nearby Echo Lake have been experiencing unexplained attacks.

The film has a snappy, comical tone that plays merrily with both alien folklore and cabin-in-the-woods horror cliches. Travis is on-hand with government conspiracy theories ("They're out there and they're watching!"), and things start going wrong long before the a fireball crashes in the woods nearby, leaving distinctly non-human footprints in the mud. From here on, the film is an engaging blend of creepy action, spiky black comedy and even some deeper emotions.

Allen and Stroma get a chance to develop their characters before the alien wackiness begins. Each of the five central characters offer amusingly realistic reactions to what's happening, including their growing panic. Bellows provides some thoughtful intrigue as the skeptical stone-faced cop, while Ironside and the smaller side players provide plenty of mad-eyed hysteria. Although in the whizzy final act and a seriously yucky 20-minute epilog there isn't much scope for acting amid the rather drawn-out horror mayhem.

The film looks terrific, with impressive effects and a great sense of the setting, even if it's night and raining most of the time. And even if most of the biggest jolts are caused by jarring noises rather than proper suspense. It's gripping and consistently engaging, likely to elicit a jump and then a laugh in quick succession, but ultimately the script sticks so closely to the usual formula that is loses its ability to surprise us.

cert 15 themes, language, violence, drugs 22.Oct.14

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