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Mania Terrors Returns!

The latest in horror news and reviews!

By Tim Janson     June 09, 2014

The latest in horror news and reviews!
Welcome back to Mania Terrors, your source for news and reviews from the world of horror.  It’s time to play catch up on our film reviews so we’ve got six films that have been recently released for you to check out as well as a pile of new films trailers.
Extended Trailer for The Strain.  We are just over a month away until the long awaited FX Network’s premiere of The Strain and we have a new extended trailer for you to check out.  It tells the story of “Dr. Ephraim Goodweather,” the head of the Center for Disease Control Canary Team in New York City. He and his team are called upon to investigate a mysterious viral outbreak with hallmarks of an ancient and evil strain of vampirism. As the strain spreads, Eph, his team, and an assembly of everyday New Yorkers, wage war for the fate of humanity itself.

Showtime confirms second season for Penny Dreadful.  Showtime announced a second season for their new horror series Penny Dreadful.  Starring Josh Hartnett, Timothy Dalton and Eva Green, Penny Dreadful will go into production, and will once again shoot on location in Dublin, Ireland for a 2015 launch.
The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina.  Archie Comics has enjoyed such popularity with their “Afterlife with Archie” that the publisher is expanding the horror motif to another one its characters Sabrina the Teenage Witch.  Afterlife writer Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa will also be handling this new title with upcoming artist Robert Hack. It launches appropriately in October.

Blood Soaked coming to DVD June 17. Peter Grendle's Blood Soaked will be available nationwide on DVD and VOD June 17th.   Blood Soaked was a horror festival favorite throughout 2013, winning Best Effects at the Jersey Gore Film Festival and playing to audience applause at Pollygrind in Las Vegas, the Horror at Sea Film Festival, the Dark Matters Film Festival and the Puerto Rico Horror Film Festival. 
On her first day of college, a beautiful young freshman is seduced by an older co-ed and they share a sleepless night in the New Mexico desert.  But the couple's bliss is violently interrupted by a pair of orphaned sisters with a taste for kidnapping, torture and the creation of flesh-eating zombies in their underground bunker! As they fight for their lives, the couple uncovers the sisters' terrifying plan for a Fourth Reich army of the dead. Only wits and survival skills will save them from this undead Nazi nightmare.

The Possession of Michael King coming in August.  Anchor Bay Films is proud to announce therelease  of  the  highly-anticipated,  terrifying  supernatural  horror  film  The Possession of Michael King in  theaters  on August  22nd and available OniTunes,  On  Demand,  DVD and  Blu-ray  on  August  26th.  
The film tells the story of documentary filmmaker Michael King (Shane Johnson),who doesn’t believe in God or the Devil. Following the sudden death of his wife,Michael decides to make his next film about the search for the existence of thesupernatural,  making  himself  the  center  of  the  experiment  –  allowingdemonologists,  necromancers,  and  various  practitioners  of  the  occult  to  try  thedeepest and darkest spells and rituals they can find on him – in the hopes that whenthey  fail,  he’ll  once  and  for  all  have  proof  that  religion,  spiritualism,  and  theparanormal are nothing more than myth. But something does happen. An evil and horrifying force has taken over Michael King.  And it will not let him go.
Korean thriller Hide and Seek on DVD June 10.  Sung-soo has everything: a beautiful wife and children, a comfortable home and luxury car, and plenty of money in the bank. When he learns that his estranged brother has gone missing, he visits his apartment in search of answers. Unsettled by the shabby, half-empty apartment complex, he quickly notices strange symbols inscribed under the doorbells and the terrified residents who hurriedly lock their doors at the sight of an outsider. The disturbing visit follows Sung-soo and his family home, as they soon find themselves stalked by a mysterious masked figure, and the same strange symbols appear under their doorbell. With his own nightmares escalating out of control, Sung-soo must face his most primal fears to reveal the shocking truth behind the intensifying horror.

Anchor Bay invites you to play The Midnight Game this August.  On August 12th Anchor Bay Entertainment dares you to join...The Midnight Game! An official selection at the 2013 Miami International Film Festival, Telluride Horror Show Film Festival and SF Indie fest’s Another Hole in the Head International Genre Film Festival, The Midnight Game promises a new whole spin on the games people play!
In this eerie chiller inspired by true events, Olstead stars as a partying teen whose friends decide to perform an ancient pagan ritual found online called ‘The Midnight Game’: Candles are lit. A drop of blood is spilled. Your worst fear is confessed and an entity is summoned. But if the rules are not followed exactly, punishment is promised. Tonight, the game is not being taken seriously. A demonic horror has been unleashed, and now, even daylight cannot stop the nightmares that may destroy them all. Are you ready for the arrival of “The Midnight Man?”

Trailer for Snowpiercer coming June 27th In this sci-fi epic from director Bong Joon-Ho (The Host, Mother), a failed global-warming experiment kills off most life on the planet.  The final survivors board the SNOWPIERCER, a train that travels around the globe via a perpetual-motion engine. When cryptic messages incite the passengers to revolt, the train thrusts full-throttle towards disaster.

Invasion of the Scream Queens 20th Anniversary.  Wild Eye Releasing announces that the classic documentary Invasion of the Scream Queens will soon be available on DVD.   Originally shot in the early 1990s, the film has been rescued from obscurity and will be released on a Special Edition 20th Anniversary DVD on June 17th.  
Directed by cult horror icon Donald Farmer (Demon Queen, Savage Vengeance) and featuring interviews with legendary horror divas Brinke Stevens (1313: Cougar Cult, Bloody Mary 3D), Mary Woronov (House of the Devil, The Devil's Rejects), Melissa Moore (Samurai Cop, Sorority House Massacre 2), Michelle Bauer (Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, 3 Scream Queens), Elizabeth Kaitan (Friday the 13th Part VII, Silent Night, Deadly Night, Part 2) and more.   All the babes and the blood are on full display here in this classic, rare document from the history of horror.

Trailer for Beneath.  In the film, a crew of coal miners becomes trapped 600 feet below ground after a disastrous collapse. As the air grows more toxic and time runs out, they slowly descend into madness and begin to turn on one another. Inspired by true events.  Stars Jeff Fahey, Kelly Noonan and Joey Kern. 

Devil’s Knot
Release by: Image Entertainment
Grade: B+
Devil’s Knot is based on based on a 2002 book of the same name.  This true crime thriller is based on the real life case of “The Memphis Three” which has spawned three HBO documentaries.  In 1993 in the small town of West Memphis, Arkansas, three 8 year-old boys are found murdered in the local woods.  Suspicion in the bible-thumping town immediately falls on three teenagers are rumored to be part of a Satanic Cult.  Despite wild and inconsistent statements given by questionable witnesses, the teens are arrested on murder charges and face the death penalty.
Ron Lax (Colin Firth) is a local private investigator who takes on the case with no pay, not wanting to see possibly three more innocent boys killed.  Lax finds that the police put little effort in investigating other possible suspects, targeting the three boys from the beginning, mainly due to one boy’s infatuation with witchcraft and the occult.  Lax runs into one barrier after another in trying to prove the teen’s innocence yet eventually, even the mother of one of the boys, Pamela Hobbs (Reese Witherspoon) begins to have her doubts.
While some critics have complained that Devil’s Knot offers nothing not covered in the HBO Documentaries, the fact that this is a dramatic film story versus a documentary opens the story up to a wider audience.  Firth gives a first rate performance as the crusading investigator who is the teen’s last hope as even their public defenders admit to being overwhelmed.  Witherspoon also shines as the mom dealing with the tragedy of her son’s murder yet wanting to make sure justice is not misplaced on the wrong suspects.
Director Atom Egoyan fumbles with some of the plot elements.  The sub-story of Lax’s impending divorce adds nothing to the story and is merely a time waster, however slight.  The ending is clumsy as well ending abruptly with a text narrative update on the case and those who were involved.  It’s still a well-made and filmed true crime tale.

Dark House
Released by: Cinedigm
Grade: B-
Dark House is directed by Victor Salva who has helmed such films as Jeepers Creepers, Jeepers Creepers II, and Powder.  The film tells the story of Nick Di Santo who has the ability to touch someone and see exactly how they will die. On his 23rd birthday, Nick is summoned by his mother to the asylum where she has been institutionalized since he was a kid.  Nick finds out he has inherited an old house which he has never seen, but has drawn pictures of for years.  He sets out to find the house with his girlfriend Eve and best friend Ryan.
Nick is told by the local, usually creepy townsfolk that the home was washed away in a flood years ago.  Nick is still determined to find the house even if it lies in ruins.  As they search the back roads they get help from a land surveying team led by Chris (Zach Ward who played Scut Farkus in A Christmas Story).  They eventually find the house far away in the woods but still intact.  However someone is already in the house…a mysterious man named Seth (Tobin Bell) who is determined to protect the house and has a handful of trench-coated, shambling creatures with axes to help him.  Nick must unlock the mystery of the house while finding himself in a battle between good and evil.
Dark House benefits from the fact that any horror film gets a bit of a boost solely based on Tobin Bell’s inclusion in the cast.  Slaven, who also co-wrote the story, doesn’t do a good job, however, of hiding the fact that Nick should be more terrified of his new friends than the overtly terrifying Bell.  He borrows from the Silent Hill films by making his axe-wielding shamblers stand perfectly still until Nick and his friends do something to set them off, much like the demonic nurses in those video-game inspired movies.  Dark House might be predictable but it’s a suitably terrifying diversion.

Black Water Vampire
Release by: Image Entertainment
Grade: D+
Black Water Vampire bears a striking resemblance to The Frankenstein Theory from 2013 and that is not meant to be an endorsement.  This is a found footage film that plays step-for-step like the original Blair Witch Project except with vampires instead of witches, with an ending stolen directly from Rosemary’s Baby  Danielle and a group of friends set out to investigate the woods where a string of murders has taken place over several decades.  Danielle hopes to prove that the man in prison for the crimes is innocent.
They make their trek into the woods, encountering several local and predictably unfriendly hunters.  They begin to experience strange phenomena and hear weird sounds in the night, panicking them.  Despite the protests from her friend Rob, Danielle pushes on, determined to solve the mystery.  This leads to them being stalked by a hellish creature.
The performances of the main cast in Black Water Vampire are atrocious to say the least.  The characters are dumb beyond belief and annoying to boot, especially the male leads.  On the positive side, some of the supporting cast members do a find job, notably Bill Oberst, Jr., playing Raymond Banks, the man accused of the murders.  He’s an eerie ball of craziness.  The movie drags at a pace that will have you playing on your smart phone as you wait for something…anything to happen.  The shock ending only serves to further irritate the viewer as it blatantly rips off Roman Polanski’s classic 1968 horror film.

Released by: Sonar Entertainment
Grade: C
Scarecrow is an original SyFy pictures film debuting in October 2013.  And yes being a SyFy original film does give the film a point against it right off the bat but hang in there, it’s not actually horrible.  Scarecrow is basically The Breakfast Club meets Children of the Corn.  A group of high school students serving detention are tasked with going out to an old farm and taking down a scarecrow for the town’s annual scarecrow festival.  The students include your usual cast of stereotypes…brainy kid, jock, rebellious tough kid, quiet kid, etc…They are joined by a teacher Aaron who gets stuck supervising the kids.
Arriving at the farm they meet up with the farms current owner and Aaron’s former girlfriend Kristen (Lacey Chabert) who has also arrived to help.  As the kids talk about the local legend of the farm and the many people who allegedly were killed there, and unseen force begins to grab them by the ankles and drag them off into the cornfield.  In Night of the Living Dead fashion the rest of the group takes refuge in the dilapidated farmhouse.  However this provides little safety against the creature stalking them—a scarecrow come to life determined to kill them all.
I found the whole plot of the kids being sent out on detention to get the scarecrow laughable…especially in this day and age of liabilities and what not.  But I suppose you needed some reason to get them all out there.  Director Sheldon Wilson ignores character development, opting to jump right into the creature stalking the group almost as soon as they arrive.  The creature is created completely in CGI and looks nothing like a scare crow.  It actually looks much more like Swamp Thing from DC Comcs, being composed of branches and moss with a cadaverous face.  But the creature effects were pretty solid for a low budget SyFy films production.  The final scenes take place in an old ship graveyard which lends to the film’s eerie atmosphere.
On another positive note the film features a gorgeous cast of actors including Lacey Chabert, Lanie McAuley, Julia Maxwell, Nicole Munoz, and Brittney Wilson.  Not great but an OK film for the Halloween season.

The Invoking
Released by: Image Entertainment
Grade: D-
I’d like to believe that a DVD cover quote that comes from the fine people over at Fangoria can be one on which you can bank.  And in truth, after reading Fangoria’s full review I can say the quote of “chilling” was largely taken out of context even though they gave it a positive review. On the other hand there is nothing remotely chilling about The Invoking other than the fact that it leaves you cold after viewing.  Here is another film that begins with the premise of the lead character inheriting a home from a relative they never knew.  This time it is Sam who inherits an old country home from her aunt.  While the DVD cover pictures an old, southern gothic style mansion, clearly the budget constraints hit The Invoking hard because the actual home is a tiny ranch-style home that is barely a step up from a trailer home.  Sam has journeyed to the home with a few of her friends to check the place out.  
The group is greeted by Eric, a young man who keeps watch on the place and who had helped to care for Sam’s aunt before she passed away.  While Eric seems friendly it’s the kind of friendly where you know the guy is up to no good.  The Invoking plods along at a snail’s pace as you wait for something…anything to happen.  Instead we mostly get dull, amateurish performances from the entire cast.  By the time the movie makes an attempt to gain your interest nearly an hour in you’ll likely be ready to reach for your remote to shut it off.  Sam begins having hallucinations and horrific visions about her friends as something in the house takes hold of her.  Yeah who cares!  The Fangoria comment might have been taken out of context but the film got similar positive reviews from FearNet and Rue Morgue.  I can only assume it was a slow day around those outlets when “The Invoking” arrived in the mail.

Way of the Wicked
Released by: RLJ Entertainment
Grade: C

This small-town, supernatural thriller features Vinnie Jones and Christian Slater.  Five years earlier a 12 year old boy named Robbie and his friend Heather were being bullied by two other boys when one of them choked to death mysteriously.  Robbie was suspected of doing something to the boy, although why is anyone’s guess because he never touched him.  Never the less, local priest Father Henry (Slater arrives at Robbie’s house to question the boy and asked some rather odd questions, angering Robbie’s mother.
Cut to present day and Robbie has returned to town after being gone for five years, reuniting with Heather.  Robbie quickly earns the enmity of Heather’s meathead jock boyfriend, Greg.  The two have a confrontation in the school hallway and an unseen force throws Greg up against the lockers like a ragdoll.  Heather’s father John (Jones) is a police detective and, along with Father Henry, begins investigating Robbie.  While John thinks the boy is just a troubled teen Father Henry believes there is a more demonic excuse behind Robbie.  Greg is killed mysterious when he is rundown by a farming combine that did not even have an engine.  As the bodies start to pile up, John and Henry race to stop Robbie and save Heather but an even darker twist awaits the pair.
I’m a huge Vinnie Jones fan and it was great to see him in a role where he didn’t play the tough guy villain as he has so many times before.  Here he is a typical American dad (transplanted from the UK) who loves his daughter and looks forward to family barbecues.  It’s a shame though that Vinnie is wasted in such a convoluted, slow-moving film with an unoriginal twist ending.  Way of the Wicked is highly derivative of The Omen, a far better and more terrifying film.  
Slater has been starring in a host of cheap, direct-to-video films as of late so it’s no surprise to find him here but you have to wonder how Jones ended up in this production.  The cast is solid for the most part but there is not a shred of suspense or terror in the film.



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