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See also: SHADOWS FILM FESTIVAL | Last update 29.Oct.21

Barun Rai and the House on the Cliff  
Review by Rich Cline | 2.5/5  
Barun Rai and the House on the Cliff
dir Sam Bhattacharjee
scr Sara Bodinar
prd Sam Bhattacharjee, Mitra Bhattacharya, Firuzi Khan
with Priyanshu Chatterjee, Nyra Banerjee, Sid Makkar, Emma Galliano, Aakash Shukal, George Dawson, Tony Richardson, Ayvianna Snow, Travis Booth-Millard, Chandini Wilson, David Bailie, Mirabel Stuart
release UK 29.Oct.21,
US 3.Dec.21
21/UK 1h58

Is it streaming?

A Bollywood-tinged British horror thriller, this bonkers movie is a hot mess. From inconclusive direction to an overwrought soundtrack, the film works overtime to create crazed atmospherics, blending a haunted house with demonic possession. While there are a couple of superbly chilling moments, much of it is unintentionally amusing, simply because everything is so archly heightened. And director Sam Bhattacharjee's dedication to the project makes it remarkably endearing.
In 1978, paranormal investigator Barun Rai (Chatterjee) travels to Britain to assist Inspector Jenny (Galliano) as she investigates a series of inexplicable suicides at the picturesque Corvid's Head. So he starts asking questions, working with his sidekick Sukhbir (Shukal). Meanwhile, young couple Soumili and Harmesh (Banerjee and Makkar) have just bought the creepy mansion atop the cliff, and it's clearly haunted by something more menacing than the unbalanced neighbour Brian (Dawson), who prowls around snapping photos of everyone. And the local priest (Richardson) knows more about the history of this place than he's letting on.
An insistent and sometimes camp tone makes up for the clumsy filmmaking. Transitions are bewildering, characters appear and disappear, no one seems to have been paying attention to continuity on-set, and the audio dubbing is frequently dodgy. And then there's the interval break right in the middle of an action scene. Even so, the cast and crew's obvious affection for this material is infectious. So we chuckle at the sometimes hilariously over-serious atmospherics and simply give in to the cheap thrills.

A general lack of subtlety leaves the characters looking faintly ridiculous, but each has moments that earn some sympathy. Chatterjee brings some gravitas as the knowing Barun Rai, even if the film's writing and direction seem to forget about him from time to time. Banerjee becomes central to the story as a beautiful young woman who becomes the focus of this malevolent spirit. She's always likeable, even when the script gets her to do rather a lot of seriously stupid things. But then that kind of describes all of the characters.

Because this is assembled with the singular purpose of freaking out the audience, there's no deeper meaning to this story, even though the plot has potential for strong elements that could have added more engagement and intrigue. This helps us maintain an interest in the story even when the filmmaking is awkward. And while the over-reliance on digital effects offers some eye-catching imagery, it also leaves the entire movie feeling a bit cartoonish.

cert 15 themes, violence 27.Oct.21

Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires  
Review by Rich Cline | 3.5/5  
Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires
dir-scr Mike Mort
prd Rupert Lywood, Randhir Singh Heer, Mike Mort, Joseph D'Morais
voices Mike Mort, Jennifer Saunders, Paul Whitehouse, Dan Russell, Jonnie Fiori, Samantha Coughlan, Maxine Dubois, Lauren Harris, Sam Roe, Romano Marenghi, Geoff Robbins, Jonnie Price
release UK 29.Oct.21
18/UK 1h30

fright fest

Is it streaming?

Chuck Steel: Night of the Trampires
Finely rendered stop-motion animation and a witty script keep this action pastiche entertaining even when it gets silly. Indeed, much of the comedy is over-the-top, which is a bit exhausting. But there's also a steady flow of snappy gags that play on genre cliches. It moves at blinding speed, set in the 1980s to a power-rock score. And the scale of the action mayhem could make it a cult classic.
After hard-man Los Angeles cop Chuck (Mort) terrorises yet another new partner with chases, shootouts and explosions, Chief Schitt (also Mort) has finally had enough of Chuck's lone-wolf carnage. But Chuck still refuses to speak to police therapist Dr Alex (Saunders). Then he learns that several violent disappearances are linked to tramp-vampires roaming the city's alleyways. Teaming up with trampire-hunter Abraham (also Mort), Chuck heads out to find the leader before they take over the city. And a furball Wise One (Whitehouse) thinks Chuck might be the chosen one to stop the scourge.
With heavy echoes of Team America, the film is loaded with profane language, elaborately choreographed hyper-violence and outsized masculinity that echoes in exaggerated homophobia. Cross-dressing is a continuous motif amid the gun battles and fireballs. Some elements don't work, such as a random chimpanzee partner or the constant stream of cheap toilet gags. Other jokes are much more nuanced, with some terrific pointed angles that poke fun at both police thrillers and society at large.

Of course Chuck has a late wife, murdered by a violent criminal, leaving him an angry mess who shoots first (especially at televisions) and generally hates everyone, usually for good reason. But of course there's more to the story, with repressed feelings revealed in Chuck's feverish dream sequences. His entire identity is wrapped up in being the best cop on the force. Through all of this, the animation is strikingly well-designed, with seriously epic action sequences that occupy much of the film's running time.

The story takes numerous riotously fast twists and turns that keep the audience on its toes, and there are actually some meaningful underlying themes in the way the script playfully skewers both misogynistic machismo and corrupt politics from various angles. Not to suggest that this is highbrow in any way: Mort clearly thinks that vomit is the most hilarious thing in the world. But the subtext adds some teeth to the comedy that makes it both funnier and more provocative than it has any right to be.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 24.Oct.21

Review by Rich Cline | 4/5  
dir Rob Savage
scr Gemma Hurley, Rob Savage, Jed Shepherd
prd Jason Blum, Douglas Cox
with Annie Hardy, Amar Chadha-Patel, Angela Enahoro, Seylan Baxter, Mogali Masuku, James Swanton, Jemma Moore, Caroline Ward, Edward Linard, Faith Kiggundu, George Keeler, Emma Louise Webb
release UK Oct.21 lff
21/UK 1h17

london film fest

Is it streaming?

Shot as live-stream footage, this horror romp makes The Blair Witch Project look like it was made for the Hallmark Channel. With relentless action, raucous violence and a continuous stream of hilarious gags, this is another fantastic genre reinvention from Host filmmaker Rob Savage, who is clearly a flan of classic horror movies. This is hugely enjoyable filmmaking that delights in both shocking the audience and keeping us laughing.
With her BandCar channel, Annie Hardy (as herself) live-improvs irreverent songs while driving around Los Angeles. But lockdown politics have worn her out, so she heads to London to surprise her old pal Stretch (Chadha-Patel). His girlfriend Gemma (Moore) is serious annoyed, especially when Annie steals their car to make one of her shows. With viewers chattering in the comments, Annie is asked by a stranger to deliver Angela (Enahoro) to a specific address. But there's something very strange about her. And when Stretch catches up with them, all kinds of mayhem breaks loose.
Thankfully, Savage orchestrates moments to breathe, because much of the movie flies at a breakneck pace from one moment of outrageous chaos to another. It looks like it was shot on Annie's often shaky phone, capturing the panic. So we're thankful for scenes that are still, even if we know something awful is bound to happen at any moment. There are an ambitious number of elaborate settings, from restaurants to an abandoned theme park, plus several car crashes, each of which has its own wicked punchline.

Hardy amusingly reverts to her usual persona in between each crazed set-piece, turning to the camera to perform for her fans. Her mix of fear and tenacity is almost inspirational. As Stretch, Chadha-Patel is terrific, trying to balance his love of a good time with his attempt to be more responsible about his life. And Enahoro steals the show as the absolutely terrifying Angela, who's scary enough when she's just sitting there. As her story emerges, just enough enigma remains to keep her thoroughly unnerving.

Savage's skill as a filmmaker is impressive, so it would be nice to see him go a little deeper next time. Aside from Annie's show-must-go-on ethos, there isn't much here in the way of a meaningful theme. But the film's technical expertise and visceral joy make it worth seeing on a big screen with an up-for-it audience. And perhaps watch it again to read more of the running commentary on the screen, because it's genius too.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 17.Oct.21 lff

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