Starry Eyes Review


Starry Eyes (2014)

Directors: Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer

Writers: Kevin Kolsch and Dennis Widmyer

Starring: Alex Essoe

Sometimes the best thing you can do before seeing a film is read as little about it as possible and I’d say that is certainly the case for Starry Eyes, mainly because the film frequently defies an easy classification within any sub-genre. It is also exceptionally difficult to make a comparison such as Famous Film A meets Famous Film B. Instead, Starry Eyes repeatedly switches gears, ideas and often tones, often making it a fairly difficult film to stay on board with.

Sarah (Essoe) is a troubled, struggling actress who copes with her repeated disappointments by tearing chunks out of her hair – a behaviour she keeps private from those around her. However, after yet another failed audition she is found in the bathroom by a casting agent and asked to repeat her audition while incorporating her dark impulses. Further auditions follow, but they seem to be for a far darker role than Sarah first imagined.


First off, the central performance by Alex Essoe is strong and probably one of the main reasons for sticking with the film to the end. Her initial fragile appearance allows for a powerful transition as the film progresses – she critiques her looks in the mirror and doesn’t really seem comfortable around her ‘friends’ who live around her who seemingly exist just to put her down. Essoe however takes the whole film’s progression into stride with a confident performance for a relative newcomer.

Secondly, the way the film is put together stylistically really works with a great soundtrack and some very effective lighting techniques. Where the film fell down for me is the numerous direction changes, meaning the film ceases to be one thing or another, but without a seamless enough blend to make it completely work as a solid piece. Given a more seamless transition between the different elements the film would be much stronger, but the balance is a difficult one.


Overall, Starry Eyes is a film with plenty of ideas and ambition that will find an audience with people looking for something with some interesting twists and turns. However, I’d liken it to a patchwork piece in which there are several convincing and impressive pieces that perhaps don’t always work together as intended.

Starry Eyes is showing at the Abertoir Horror Festival on November 16th at 12pm.

The Strange Case of UK Distribution

Recently I’ve been struck by just how much a horror film changes from its showing at a horror festival to its arrival on a UK supermarket shelf, not in content but through its cover art. Now, it could be said that with the rise of VOD platforms that cover art is becoming less and less important with apps offering tailored lists to users of what to watch next rather than offering interesting covers to entice audiences. While the online viewing experience is no doubt a far easier option and offers film’s exposure to a far wider audience, I feel like it would be a sad thing to lose out on genuinely inventive designs to accompany often very inventive horror films.

It is this ease of access though that I feel is contributing to a decline in cover art. I’ve found myself that the majority of my DVD buying is now done in the supermarket, rather than paying out for postage costs for online specialists or even travel to a genuine media shop like HMV. Of course, in order to gain purchase in a supermarket – that most general of shops, everything must become comparable to something else in the hopes of attracting people to it. Perhaps the most obvious example of this, to me anyway, is Wither. Yes, the film is pretty much a direct homage to Evil Dead, and honestly, a pretty decent one. However, is there really any need for the cover art to be so different in the UK and US?

I mean, US cover art – pretty nifty looking scary demon:


UK cover art….really, really familiar:


So, you take the colour scheme of the Evil Dead remake and use the template of The Cabin in the Woods cover and hey presto! Instant success:

evildead  cabin

Frankly, the US cover art in this instance isn’t really that much better, but it at least pretends to be its own thing. I’m also aware that having things on display in a supermarket does somewhat limit your options in horror, because yeah, there’s always the idea that some child is going to walk past and be completely traumatised by a Wither, but still, is there nothing that can be done without mashing two previous covers together? Some might say that this is more forgivable considering the debt that Wither has to the Evil Dead, but there are other, even more perplexing examples.

Take Jug Face for example. A wonderfully inventive, original film with the kind of title that really makes you lean forward. What is a Jug Face? What does it mean? I really want to find out. So, of course, when it comes to UK distribution, that fantastic title falls away and the film becomes The Pit. Now, for me a title like The Pit is too simplistic and places far too much emphasis on that as the point of the film rather than the original Jug Face. By calling it The Pit it reduces it, particularly when the back refers to it as Jug Face anyway. The cover art between these too, is problematic given the US release shows the lead female character in full trance mode, a striking image that directly relates to the film and the UK release again highlights the role of the pit. For anyone who has seen the film, it is obvious that the pit is not the main focus of the film, instead focusing on the complex moral decisions at work within the film’s community.


On a purely aesthetic appeal there seems to be a tendency toward coding horror DVDs in black, adorning it with skulls and calling it a day while other regions enjoy cover art that is directly related to the film and also something that stands out. For example, Rob Zombie’s Lords of Salem, a colourful and inventive piece concerning a spiral into madness (although many aren’t fond, I generally am), that in the UK was represented by a plain black background and skull motif. Compare this to the US version that uses imagery from the film to create a striking piece that really attracts the eye.

lordsofsalem lordsofsalemus

These decisions seem strange as surely the aim of selling any film is that it should stand out. By placing near identical, dark, uninspired cover art a serious disservice is being paid, particularly to lesser-known films without the budget afforded to more mainstream releases.

Hope you’ve enjoyed reading this.  Please get in touch with more baffling cover art decisions or even your favourite covers.  As always, I’m on twitter @caitlynmdowns and also on Facebook through Ghostface Girls.

Sheffield’s Short Shockers

Check out that alliteration right there…I think I may have spent all of my remaining creativity on that alone.  As most readers will know I spent Friday through Sunday at Celluloid Screams in Sheffield – a task that involved a three and a half hour drive each side of the festivities and during I was of course indulging in a few drinks.  I’d say it’s practically impossible not to during a festival.  As a result of all this I’ve spent much of my time since Monday morning tired, emotional and even a tiny bit unbalanced so this has taken a little longer than first anticipated.  I wanted to write about some short films I saw at the festival, as I hardly see short films and so don’t really review them that much.  There were some really strong shorts at Celluloid and sadly I didn’t see them all, so this is limited to being a personal overview rather than any exhaustive look at all of them.  I’m disappointed I missed Fist of Jesus from the team behind bat-shit insane Brutal Relax as it was shown during the all-nighter but hopefully will catch up with that one.  So without further non-short-related rambling I’ll make a start.

Lot 254 – Toby Meakins – UK – 2012 – 3mins

One of the shortest shorts on offer, coming in at only 3 minutes, this film featured a haunted camera that allowed the user to see things through the viewfinder that they could not see in reality.  Sadly, this one did very little for me, despite a solid attempt at creating something spooky, but I think the lack of time to allow things unfold let it down as there is a shortage of real tension.  Had this one had more time, I’m sure I would have ended up on the edge of my seat.  For some wider perspective though, this received an honorary mention in the judging of best shorts, so likely it worked for others.




The Last Video Store – Tim Rutherford & Cody Kennedy – Canada – 2013 – 10mins

This short was far more up my street, featuring some great effects by Manborg’s Steven Kostanski and injecting some comedy into proceedings.  A delivery man is tasked with ensuring a package gets to a video store, where he finds an eccentric owner eager to discuss the virtues of VHS over digital means.  He also warns that there are nefarious methods being used, causing video stores to be decimated by a golden video tape that causes VHS machinery to turn against its owner and reap destruction upon other non-digital formats.  The owner and the delivery man find themselves pitted against a monster made from tape, packing laughs, gore and plenty of references into its 10-minute time slot.

Invocation – Robert Morgan – UK – 2013: 3mins

Stop-motion animation has featured in a great deal of horror shorts – none so more than in the hilarious film parodies and original works by Lee Hardcastle, who was presenting his show reel in Sheffield.  However, it is rare (for me at least) to see stop-motion animation used alongside live action actors.  This is exactly what Morgan’s Invocation does in its portrayal of a stop-motion directing session gone very wrong.  Coming in at just 3 minutes the short does much to cut straight to the gory chase after warming up with some zoom shots of the teddy bear subject’s expression being manipulated.  What follows is a gory, satisfactory and cyclical piece of work that maintains a fast pace and some great imagery.




Butterflies – Isabel Peppard – Australia – 2013 – 12mins

This is possibly the most beautiful short I have ever seen.  The animation and puppetry is some of the most expressive and thoughtful work, giving the characters a grounded, yet magical appearance.  The subject matter is incredibly interesting too, considering how art and commerciality do not always go hand in hand and the trauma that some artists can go through when their work does not make money, yet their talents are forced into monotonous, yet technically-sound productions.  The best thing I can say about it is that I was genuinely sad when it came to an end as I really could have watched a feature-length version.

Shellshocked – Dominic Brunt – UK – 2013 – 12mins

Introduced by Brunt himself as the total opposite to his feature Before Dawn where the zombie apocalypse is told simply through the impact on an ordinary couple, Shellshocked introduces zombies into a World War II setting as both a British and German soldier find themselves underground, guns focused on one another, both waiting for the other to attack.  As they spend more time together, they appear to soften, offering one another chocolate and cigarettes despite the language barrier.  It seems that the story takes a great deal from the real story of the ceasefire on Christmas Day during World War II where soldiers took a break from shooting at one another to play a game of football, only to return to combat the following day.  That touching and tragic event weighs heavily on the short as it examines the capability of humans to adapt, overcome but also the consequences for breaking someone’s trust.

The Root of the Problem – Ryan Spindell – USA – 2013 – 13mins

Personal confession time: I’ve never had a fear of the dentist.  This means that a lot of dental-related horror is sort of lost on me (now laser eye surgery or something…yeah I’d squirm like you wouldn’t believe) so maybe this one didn’t have as much of an impact on me as it did for others.  While the construction of the dated dental office (fitting it’s 1950s setting) is good and sets the scene for the horror to come it is really the performances that make this short, with all three turning in wonderful performances that can be so hard to find in short films.  One actress is even limited to mostly mumbling, but manages to convey her move from general unease to total terror solidly and convincingly.  The tooth fairy mythology is something that despite fitting well within the genre has been relatively rarely explored so is nice to see a short tackle it.




Cat Sick Blues – Dave Jackson – Australia – 2013 – 10mins

When I first read the description for this one it was probably one of the only ones to instantly creep me out.  People wearing masks are always fuel for nightmares and the idea of being followed home is an incredibly real and horrible one – even if that person isn’t wearing a cat mask.  It is an incredibly effective short, featuring a couple who stop to offer help and a kind word to a man passed out on the beach.  However, their kindness is unrewarded as the man enters their house.  There are a few comic moments arising from the surreal situation, but this is soon abandoned for a far darker tone that fits and leaves the short in your mind for much longer.

The Guest – Jovanka Vuckovic – Canada – 2013 – 4mins

Another shorter film which throws the viewer into a situation in progress – offering very little background or context aside from a man who appears conversing with an unseen voice in a mirror about the deal he has made.  It soon transpires that the man has killed his wife and daughter – a fact illustrated by a bleached out, haunting cutaway to images of his wife and child holding out severed hearts.  It is impressively shot with that fantastic imagery really lingering in the mind.

Angst, Piss and Drid – Fredrik Hana – Norway – 2012 – 19mins

Angst, Piss and Drid won the prize for best short at Sheffield and while certainly competently directed and suitably dark subject matter handled I was surprised that it did.  This may just be my Butterflies bias creeping in of course but that was really the only short that totally blew me away.  Angst, Piss and Drid is exceptionally dark – the sort of film you think you need a wash after watching, as would be expected for a film that chronicles the relationship between two serial killers.  However, we only see the male of the couple continuing to kill, while the female stays at home, cradling body parts in plastic bags and obviously finding a disconnect with her partner, regularly lashing out at him.  Their previous exploits together are shown via old film footage, featuring the two torturing and dismembering a victim, but the film grading makes it appear as a fond family home video – a return to happier times.  The film is relentlessly gritty, never allowing an out for the audience or encouraging enjoyment.

Eden – Todd Cobery – USA – 2012 – 14mins

Some shorts are films by themselves, with beginnings, middles and ends not dissimilar to their feature-length counterparts.  However, others are obviously used as pitches toward a feature-length version and I believe this is the case with Eden.  There is no exposition or real background provided for the strange goings-on, the panic, rioting or the terrorism as all of these things would be difficult to explore fully in such a short time.  As a result of this lack of background however, I found myself confused and unable to enjoy it as much as some of the others.  Of course, this could also be that I do struggle to hold an interest in sci-fi, which this appeared to be for the most part, with the horror as an addition to the dystopia.  In saying that though, the short is glossy and thrilling, making me wonder what could be done with the idea in a feature-length medium so if it was indeed a pitch, then mission accomplished.




Hell No – Joe Nicolosi – USA – 2013 – 3mins

One of the only shorts that was exclusively a comedy, acting as a trailer for a horror film in which good characters make smart decisions, playing on a variety of horror tropes that have had genre audiences screaming at the screen for decades.  A particular highlight for me is a cheerleader who approaches another student to ask if he wants to break into an abandoned building and play with a Ouija board, only for him to respond with a deadpan “No, no I don’t.”  The different scenes are intercut with reviewer quotes like ‘Kind of…anticlimactic’ and feature a voiceover typical to horror trailers.  Despite playing with these tropes to a hardened horror audience who is aware of them all Hell No got a great deal of laughs all the way through which is a great indication of its quality and how it hits all of the right notes for the jokes.

Delicacy – Jason Mann – USA/UK – 2013 – 11mins

An interesting little short that constantly manages to balance the comic, the ridiculous and the downright sinister throughout.  The film features a grumpy food critic who bemoans the fact that he hasn’t tasted anything exciting since 1991 and the chef who feeds him a mystery meat in order to prove him wrong.  However, when the chef can’t resist snatching the meat for himself it becomes clear that the meat is addictive and highly regarded.  Never has a short film changed so quickly with one word as in this film as the meat is revealed to be from a mythical creature.  I won’t spoil it as the delivery of the reveal is so wonderfully funny and strange it really needs to be seen.  The remainder of the film follows the pair as they go on a hunt for more meat with a virgin female leader and utilises the woods well in its balance between mundane nature and something far more fantastical.

Awake – Francisco Sonic Kim – USA – 2013 – 10mins

Another entry into the ‘children are creepy as all hell’ section of the horror genre that probably keeps the birth rate amongst horror fans relatively low.  The film drops us into the lives of parents of a young boy who is unable to sleep and have adapted their lives so one member of the couple is awake with him at all times.  The boy has a scar on the side of his head that bleeds from underneath its dressing and appears to be from some sort of surgery, likely to determine the cause for his lack of sleep.  However, the child is prone to violent outbursts and after striking his mother, heads off into the woods.  This is another film I would be interested in seeing a feature length version of, with more exploration of the boy’s condition and also the parent’s attempts to cope as the short does not quite have the creep factor that it could for me, although there is a solid and frightening idea behind it.




The Body – Paul Davis – UK – 2013 – 19mins

Last year Davis’ short Him Indoors was a real favourite of mine, packing in horror, comedy and a healthy dose of irony and Davis has used the same package here to great effect once again.  The Body follows a serial killer (played wonderfully by Alfie Allen who maintains a quiet, yet confident and sinister manner throughout) who uses Halloween to transport the body of his latest victim.  However, he is stopped by some people who are attending a costume party and want him to bring along his fantastic costume with them.  The short fits wonderfully within its time frame, with no wasted time and closing off the story at an appropriate point, showing that Davis has a real grasp of pacing.  I’m very interested to see if he will make the transition from shorts to features at some point and can safely say I’d buy my ticket in advance.


So there’s my view on a selection of shorts from Celluloid Screams 2013.  Pretty soon I’ll be getting some full reviews of a few features that should go up over at but will keep people posted on that. Hayley is also sorting out more of our videos from the festival.  Twitter, as always is @caitlynmdowns

Top 10 Horrors of 2012

Happy New Year everyone and I know I’m a little late with this as most had their ‘best of’ lists out by the end of December, but I’m ridiculously indecisive and I know as soon as I post this I’ll immediately think of others that should have been on here or it should be in a different order but such is life.  So with no further ado, my top 10 horror films of 2012…


10 – Manborg


At just over an hour long this frantic, 1980s video-game look and sound alike makes for the perfect midnight movie.  Some brilliant, endlessly quotable one liners make it a great one to watch with friends and the fairly short run time means the film ends before the joke wears too thin.  It is hugely enjoyable and its impressive to see a film without a big budget utilise it to create a ‘look’ that escalates the film into something more interesting.

9 – Resolution


With horror fans crying out for original additions to the genre I’m expecting Resolution to be one of the most talked about horror films of 2013 despite it not really fitting into any sub-genre.  Much of the film’s appeal for me rests on the incredible chemistry between drug-addled Chris (Vinny Curan) and well-meaning Michael (Peter Cilella) as it is their unlikely yet believable friendship that carries the film for the most part.  I must see it again.

8 – Citadel


The first film on this year’s list to make me cry, which is, regrettably, becoming more and more common.  Taking an altogether more sentimental take on ‘hoodie-horror’ ‘Citadel’ rests on the shoulders of Aneurin Barnard as a father traumatised by the death of his wife and it is his performance at the centre, despite a great turn from James Cosmo as a rather sweary priest.  I do have my complaints about the film in terms of it relying a lot on loud noises as opposed to genuinely scary moments (which it does have) but this film was a great surprise with its ability to maintain a claustrophobic atmosphere throughout.

7 – Chained


Chained was probably the most uncomfortable film I saw this year and I definitely left the cinema feeling a little grubby for it.  Although disturbing it also allowed for some incredibly uplifting moments as Rabbit is repeatedly conditioned to become a killer by his serial-killing captor Bob.  Eamon Farren has a strangely beautiful screen presence used to full effect and Vincent D’Onofrio’s Bob intimidates through the screen.  Jennifer Lynch has created a haunting film about the ways in which damaged people cope.  Wonderful, but so glad I did not have to get a taxi home after watching it.

6 – Errors of the Human Body


Body horror was something I was really unsure of before attending Abertoir this year due to being unaware of my own limitations in terms of watching gore.  Turns out, I’m quite a fan as this and a higher entry on the list will show.  Errors of the Human Body is a heartbreaking tale of genetic modification, mad scientists and failed relationships backed up by slick production, dark laughs and a steady, if slow for some pace.

5 – Before Dawn


One of a few feature debuts on this list – this one is from husband and wife team Dominic Brunt and Joanne Mitchell.  This was a film I was interested to see, but honestly did not expect that much from it and I was so glad to be proven wrong.  Zombie lore meets romantic drama as a troubled couple (played by Brunt and Mitchell) head off to a remote cottage in an attempt to save their marriage, blighted by husband Alex’s drinking problems brought on by losing his job.  There are some wonderful touches in this in relation to zombie mythology but at its heart remains a study of love and ultimately, despair (Aww..sweet).  The second film on this list to make me cry too.

4 – The Cabin in the Woods


I think the marketing for this film was one of the things to let it down.  The posters proclaimed it to be a ‘game-changer’ for the horror genre and this likely appealed to many fed up of the constant found-footage films, remakes/reboots and sequels being churned out.  However, ‘Cabin’ is not a game-changer at all.  What it is though, is great fun and this is probably the way it should have been sold to cinema goers.  The conventions and cliches being played with have already been tackled and some of the ‘you get the horror films you deserve’ points are a little heavy-handed, but it had me glued to my seat the first time I saw it and every time since too.  The only word I can ever use to describe it as is fun, and isn’t that enough sometimes?

3 – Sightseers


Ben Wheatley’s ‘Kill List’ took the number one spot in my top ten last year and the teaser clip for this had me very hopeful, with its tone very similar to British comedy series like Nighty Night – dark, biting and delightfully absurd.  Of course, last year the film I was looking forward to seeing most was The Wicker Tree and we all know how that one turned out, so I was prepared for disappointment.  Luckily, Sightseers did not disappoint and while probably not strictly a ‘horror’ film, work of this quality should be welcomed into the genre.  Amy Jump is fast becoming one of my favourite screen writers and her collaboration with stars Alice Lowe and Steve Oram for this film is hilarious.  I am strongly looking forward to Wheatley and Jump’s next project ‘A Field in England’, starring Julian Barratt, Reece Shearsmith and Michael Smiley, among others.

2 – Antiviral


Brandon Cronenberg’s first film is bleak, clinical and every bit as invasive as the needlework undertaken on-screen as it explores celebrity culture, cosmetic surgery and the obsessions surrounding both.  Caleb Landry Jones has a brilliant on-screen presence and often it seems like the environment has been built around him as the centre point.  It is beautiful, captivating and I still can’t believe it is Brandon Cronenberg’s feature debut.  It feels far more sophisticated than that.

1 – American Mary


American Mary could have won this simply with its soundtrack, which is honestly one of the best I’ve heard in a while and needs an official release.  While I’m mentioning the sound (without giving anything away like some of the latest trailers…grrr) there is a moment of sound in this film so well designed that it sounded like it was coming from inside the cinema.  Some fantastic prosthetic work, lashings of dark humour and not ignoring the seriousness of their story make it a very strong follow up to ‘Dead Hooker in a Trunk’.  I’m already interested to see what the Soska Sisters will tackle next as their first two films couldn’t be more different.  Katherine Isabelle is a compelling leading lady, but for me the star was Tristan Risk as Beatress, who ably switched from confident and comedic to tragic and fragile.  With any film as highly anticipated and praised as this one its bound to have its detractors, but for me its blend of ‘Nip/Tuck’-esque stylised surgery and snarky revenge film worked very well.

So there you have it!  I realise that no top 10 list will have everyone nodding in agreement so welcome others to submit their ideas about the films that maybe should have been included, or anything I’ve missed out that I should have seen.  I’m on Twitter @caitlynmdowns for any discussion.  Thanks for reading and I’m hoping to be able to announce a pretty cool project fairly soon…maybe even during this week.

Abertoir 2012

As you’ve seen from the videos posted direct from the festival I had an awesome time at Abertoir 2012, but I still felt like there was room for a further write-up on it now that I’ve had some time to reflect on the whole thing.

What is wonderful about Abertoir is the fact that you don’t have to choose between screenings as you might with some larger festivals so its easier to take a chance on films that you’re not sure about or would probably not normally make the effort to see.  As a result, you can stumble upon some real gems and in some cases, even change your mind about certain sub-genres.  This was certainly true for me this year as before attending I had it set in my head that I was not a fan of body horror – however the cold and heartbreaking Errors of the Human Body and Brandon Cronenberg’s stunning debut Antiviral have changed my mind about that and I definitely want to find more films like them.  Suggestions via Twitter always welcomed.

There is truly something for everyone at Abertoir and that was certainly highlighted this year through the wide selection of classic and newly restored films showing alongside new projects from experienced and up and coming directors.  This is without even mentioning the wide range of sub-genres on offer, including musicals, thrillers and monster movies, as well as short films.

Another thing that Abertoir has is an incredible sense of community.  The organisers are incredibly welcoming and this obviously extends to the guests they are able to secure for Q&As.  Even those who are unable to attend send videos (some hilarious introductions like the directors of Resolution) and are usually well-received by the audience.  I would challenge anyone to find such a selection of films, talks and special events for as little as Abertoir charges.

So with all that said, I’ll discuss my personal favourites from the festival.  I had several favourites throughout the festival that changed in order throughout the week, but all remain very strong contenders and certainly future additions to my DVD collection.  Ultimately American Mary was my favourite film, closely followed by Sightseers (which was shown with wickedly funny short Him Indoors) with Errors of the Human Body, Antiviral, Resolution and Citadel close behind.  An honorable mention has to go to Sleep Tight, which actually had me checking under the bed after I saw it!  I’m hoping to have some full reviews of some up pretty soon.

Abertoir is Looming

Tomorrow I am off to Aberystwyth for a jam-packed six days of horror goodness.  I am also lucky enough to be involved in covering the festival with fellow horror blogger Hayley with coverage set to range from footage of talks and a Rocky Horror themed party to on-the-ground video reviews and reactions from festival-goers.  Very excited (and truth be told, a little nervous) about all this and hope that people will be interested in what we produce.  At the moment it is likely that I will be reblogging from Hayley’s blog, that can be accessed via this link to save on time spent uploading videos to two different computers.  Should also have some written reviews following the festival after I’ve recovered too.  Keep an eye on my twitter account (@caitlynmdowns) for bite-size morsels of what’s currently happening.

All in all I can’t wait for the festival and to share the experience with readers. I hope you’ll enjoy it.  Check out Abertoir for a full list of films, talks and stage shows that will be covered.

Entity Review

Due to the site not currently up I’ve decided to post this review here for now.  Hopefully, in time it’ll go up over there too.  I was lucky enough to see this film on Saturday as part of Abertoir and Chapter Arts team up over the Halloween weekend, culminating in a showing of The Evil Dead and Before Dawn tomorrow night (go to for more information – there is still time to book!).  This showing was only the second screening in the UK before it hit Celluloid Screams the day after, so pretty excited to be doing a review for it.


Entity (2012)

Director/Writer: Steve Stone

Starring: Dervla Kirwan, Charlotte Riley & Michael David Worden


Entity follows Kate (Charlotte Riley) a producer/presenter working on a programme called ‘Darkest Secrets’, aiming to investigate the mysterious discovery of a mass burial ground, along with members of her team Matt (Rupert Hill) and David (Oliver Jackson).  The team are also joined by psychic Ruth Peacock (Dervla Kirwan) who serves to lead them to the site and also provide some contact with the deceased in an attempt to discover what happened to them, while Yuri Levkov (Branko Tomovic), has his own, darker reasons for participating in the investigation.



If anything can plunge horror fans into despair at the moment, it’s the arrival of yet another found footage film.  Luckily, director of Entity Steve Stone, despite looking to programmes like Most Haunted for inspiration has made a film that utilises the more effective elements of found footage, while still creating a film without the usual trappings of the sub-genre.  This is achieved through the switching between the first-person shaky-cam style and the more conventional filming style so you’re not left reaching for sick bags from being shaken around for the full run-time.  What this does, however, is make the inevitable shaky-cam segments all the more effective.



It is refreshing to watch a low-budget that does not suffer from a weak link amongst its actors, with all playing their respective parts well and with subtle nods to character pasts and motives without having to explicitly tell the audience all about their backgrounds.  It is no wonder that the film has already secured distribution as it cuts straight to what horror audiences really like and keeps the action moving.  The haunting performance of Michael David Worden as Mischka is incredible, considering Worden’s relative lack of experience and adds greatly to the atmosphere.  It does subvert some common horror tropes by refusing to follow a character’s reaction to something in the distance with a reverse shot, meaning that the suspense is kept up and the Entity is not always revealed completely to the audience.

With director Stone’s background in digital art there is an expectation that the focus will be on impressive visuals and while the visuals of the asylum where much of the action takes place are suitably daunting, the sound design is the real heart of the film.  It is, without a doubt, one of the best uses of sound in an independent feature that I have experienced.  The cinema rumbled and creaked along with the film asylum and frequently built to borderline painful ear-piercing screeches that put the audience in the same space as the on-screen characters.
I would give it a very strong 5 out of 5 and urge people to check out the website for more information and forthcoming screenings.  For the sake of a better experience I would strongly suggest seeing it in a cinema if possible, just to be able to ‘feel’ that sound.

Abertoir Takes Cardiff

With my pass already purchased for Abertoir in Aberystwyth from the 6th to the 11th of November I’ve been impatiently counting down the days.  Luckily, Abertoir are a great bunch of people who believe in horror all year around and for the first time are venturing outside Aberystwyth for a few horror-filled days to Cardiff Chapter Arts Centre from October 26th to the 31st. Full details are available from the Abertoir site.  One of the most exciting things for me personally though is the chance to see The Evil Dead on the big screen at Halloween.

My reaction is pretty much summed up by a simple gif:


Portmanteau Horrors

I’m going to start this blog by just stating that I’ve still yet to see a huge number of portmanteau or ‘anthology’ horrors but due to being excited about V/H/S wanted to take a look at those I’ve enjoyed most.  I’m grateful to any lovely people who can suggest any others to watch, either on the comments here, or on Twitter @caitd5.  Likelihood of spoilers is pretty high.


 Arguably the first portmanteau horror is Dead of Night and despite its release in 1945 is still thought of highly to this day.  It does hold up well, threading together the stories, blended with elements of comedy and the ever-spooky ventriloquist dummy and builds towards a shocking climax.  It sets the scene for future portmanteau films by weaving together the stories in an interesting way, preventing what could be a simple film gimmick into a successful, enjoyable and yes, at times scary piece of work.  This pioneering work clearly inspired the work of Amicus studios throughout the 1970s as they adapted horror comics into films starring some of the biggest names in horror.

One of these comic adaptations is The Vault of Horror and contains my favourite segment of any anthology horror (so far) ‘Midnight Mess’ and also my second favourite ‘The Neat Job’.  The framing device for the film involves a group of men (including Dr Who star Tom Baker) entering a lift, that instead of taking them to their desired floor opens out to a basement room where chairs are arranged in a circle.  The men all take a seat and begin to tell tales of strange dreams they have had in which they meet their demise.  While the content has certainly aged the stories have a camp, dark humour to them and the sense of the grotesque that I really love.  The idea of blood on tap, direct from the neck of a still-living human being remains a horrifying idea, as does the frustration and anger of a housewife who, unable to keep up with her husband’s meticulous sorting regimes decides to kill him, chop him up and store him in carefully labelled jars.

The segment ‘The Neat Job’ clearly inspired the Dawn French segment of the Psychoville Halloween segment in which the tale is modernised to include the perils of improper recycling.  Creators Steve Pemberton and Reece Shearsmith use the anthology formula in order to set-up a variety of different stories that would be unable to fit into the Psychoville storylines but still, through a bit of clever writing, manages to further and set-up the second series.  It’s a device the pair used alongside Jeremy Dyson and Mark Gatiss for The League of Gentlemen Christmas Special to use some of their characters in a different way while still remaining true to the worlds they have created.  Mark Gatiss also used a form of portmanteau story telling in his fantastic series Crooked House, that moves through different times of the house and the effect it has on its inhabitants.

The thing I really love about anthology horrors is that they allow for a wide variety of horror themes.  It can deal with the supernatural, serial killers or any other sub-genre of horror in small chunks.  Most anthologies include paranoia, revenge, betrayal, grief and obsession which are integral to the nature of horror.  For example, in ‘The House That Dripped Blood’, one of the stories concerns a horror author who begins to see his serial killer creation Dominic around the house, often attacking his wife.  This theme of obsession and the dark interests of those who work in horror works well as a story opener.  The sight of Dominic is one of the more genuinely creepy things within the often camp nature of some of Amicus’ output.

Another great thing about the anthology horror is the line up of cult and horror names involved in the productions.  Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Denholm Elliot, Anna Massey, Tom Baker and Vincent Price have all been a part of one or more and the format often allows them to play against type.  A good example of which is found in ‘The House That Dripped Blood’ where Christopher Lee appears to be playing the role of a villain before a twist in the tale showcases his talents in a different way.  Of course, the performances that conform to their usual roles are just as fun, with Vincent Price explaining the breeds and cross breeds of various monsters in ‘The Monster Club’ being a particular highlight.

So that’s my little ramble about anthology horrors, inspired by the fact that V/H/S is out soon, the format of which (if successful) could allow new directors to collaborate with others and hone their craft by working on smaller tales, but with the creativity to weave them together.  My only problem with V/H/S is that its another found footage film and they really have outworn their welcome, but at least there’s a little change to the format and the handover to a variety of directors should inject some life into the genre.  Plus, who can argue with how cool that poster is?

Thanks for reading and as already stated at the start of the blog all suggestions for more anthology horrors are welcomed, either here or on Twitter.

1 Year and 10 Days

I’ve been terribly inept and neglectful lately due to ongoing work but am going to try and post more regularly from now on.  Worst of all I’ve even missed commemorating the 1st birthday of Scared Sheepless by 10 days.  So this post will just be a little catch-up type of deal then I can sort some more (hopefully interesting) stuff out for the next few weeks.

Scared Sheepless came directly from my starting to write horror film reviews for, where I realised that I didn’t just like writing about the films themselves, but rather those things around it.  A huge thanks first off to Robin and Julie for being so awesome and not only giving me the opportunity to write for such a great site, but also for recommending Martyrs – a film that still hasn’t left my head.  I’ve always had really great responses from people who’ve read the reviews, even if they disagree with what I’ve said, people have always been polite.

So about a year or so ago I was in a little market stall and saw a possessed Regan in bed that had sound and movement and I realised that was the sort of wonderful thing I wanted to write about.  Coupled with this is the fact that The Exorcist is one of my favourite films ever (and a fair candidate, I think, for one of the best films ever made) and I came back to find out more about the merchandise and Merchandise Monday was born.

Following on from this I was able to attend my first film festival – Abertoir in Aberystwyth.  I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many films in such a short amount of time.  The Abertoir organisers are great and really do find and showcase some gems.  Also met some other wonderful film fans who I’d been able to speak to a little bit on Twitter, but nothing bonds a group of people like heavy drinking at Inn on the Pier.  Look out for Moore and Roberts too who are currently doing some great audio/visual reviews.  Looking forward to going back again this year to see what will be showcased and hopefully getting some reviewing done.  One of the best things to happen as a result of Abertoir and AllHorror was that my review of Some Guy Who Kills People was used in a press piece for Newcastle Cinema…the finished piece is still one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen and I can’t quite believe its my words on there.

Also huge thanks to authors like Jake Bannerman and Julianne Snow (and Sirens Call Publications as a whole) for being so accomodating and being interviewed and doing guest posts for the blog.  I’m pleased to say that I’ve yet to encounter anyone unpleasant or difficult in my time of writing stuff, so long may that continue.  So with that said, I’m hoping to get back into the blogging and try and include more opinion type pieces.  Thanks to everyone who has read or retweeted my reviews or blog entries, it means a lot.  Now on to year 2!