Saturday 7 April 2018


Directed by: Damien Leone, Starring: David Howard
Thornton, Jenna Kanell, Catherine Corcoran, Katie Maguire. Horror, US 2016, 81mins, Cert 18.

Writer/director Damien Leone’s unapologetically gory grindhouse homage features a killer clown named ‘Art’ who makes Captain Spaulding and Pennywise look like children’s entertainers, and the Chiodo Brothers’ outer space incarnations positively E.T. like!

Originally (and wholly appropriately), programmed as the late-night curtain closer at last year’s Halloween FrightFest, this pared-down uber-gruesome stalk-and-slash may well pay tribute to Craven, Romero and Hooper in its closing credits, but it feels closer in tone to Herschell Gordon Lewis given the amount of onscreen viscera.

Dawn (Catherine Corcoran, RETURN TO NUKE ‘EM HIGH VOLUME 1&2), and her friend Tara (Jenna Kanell, THE BYE BYE MAN), are heading home from a Halloween party when they encounter creepy mime artist clown ‘Art’ (David Howard Thornton), who takes a shine to Tara and follows them to a pizzeria where the girls are having a late night sobering-up snack. Tara is especially freaked out by the unspeaking clown, and speculates as to what the contents of the large sack he carries around might be. Unfortunately for both her, Dawn, and practically everyone who encounters ‘Art’ this Halloween night, they are all about to (very) gruesomely find out...

Colourised and scored to evoke a 1980’s vibe, albeit with smart phones and selfies, writer/director Damien Leone certainly succeeds in evoking the tone of such offerings as William Lustig’s MANIAC, and for us nostalgic Brits, it would definitely have been labelled a ‘video nasty’.

Leone’s killer clown had already appeared in his earlier short films and in his feature debut ALL HALLOWS’ EVE (albeit played by a different actor), but does ‘Art’ have horror icon potential? Well he’s apparently indestructible, unspeaking, well-versed in the use of multi-various tools for slaughtering random victims, and just may possess supernatural powers of regeneration: so he ticks most of the right boxes. (He lacks any kind of back-story, but hey, ask Rob Zombie what happened when he grafted one onto ‘The Shape’). He’s certainly creepy, but to me he lacks the physical presence to command a franchise, and when did Jason, Michael or Freddy have to resort to using a handgun to gain the upper-hand?

Art’s mayhem is however incredibly graphic, with an unflinching depiction of a dissection by hacksaw of a naked female victim suspended upside down being the grotesque Grand Guignol highlight in a welter of practically rendered slaughterhouse splatter.

It’s nastier and less fun than the over the top silliness of say for example Juan Piquer Simon’s PIECES, and ultimately its inherent mean spiritedness may prevent it from having true staying power. You only have to look at the fate meted out to the film’s ‘final girl’ for evidence of this. But it's certainly a gore hounds wet dream. And whether or not you see a metaphor in one early scene whereby ‘Art’ writes his name on a toilet wall with excrement, it’s hard to remove the shear unpleasantness of it from your mind.

***(out of 5* 

Paul Worts

Originally published by FrightFest.


Directed by: John Krasinski, Starring: Emily Blunt, John
Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe. Horror, US 2018, 90mins, cert 15.

Released in cinemas in the UK from 5th April 2018 by Paramount Pictures. 

Rarely have I sat in a cinema with such a reverent silence from fellow patrons as that I experienced whilst watching John Krasinski’s nail-biting suspenser. 

The set-up is simple enough. A post-apocalyptic scenario whereby a family are trying to survive without making any sounds which will attract the aural predatory attentions of alien creatures which hunt through their hyper-sensitive hearing. 

The three aces up director and co-star Kransinski’s sleeve are firstly the assured handling of sound (and often the lack of). Secondly, the careful measured portrayal of the family dynamic, mostly sketched through sign-language with only a minimal amount of spoken dialogue (ironically delivering more rounded characters than we are usually graced with in horror films). And thirdly, the heightened sense of scripted peril and the near-forensic attention to the little details all finely attuned to ring out every last potential drop of suspense and perceived danger. 

Alongside Kransinski, his real-life wife Emily Blunt plays the mother, who brilliantly and near-silently sells excruciatingly toe-cringing suffering in sequences such as the upwardly protruding nail in the barefoot and the enforced bloodied bathtub entrapment. Her eldest child is her daughter, superbly played by Millicent Simmonds. Both character and actress are deaf. It’s a pivotal role, refreshingly notn one-dimensional, and Simmonds delivers a brilliant performance of both strength and vulnerability which provides the core around which the entire family are intertwined. Her younger brother is essayed by Noah Jupe, who also pitches in with a sympathetic portrayal of a (naturally) scared kid, desperately trying to suppress his fears to his father.

The bottom line is we care about these characters, which makes their predicament far more engaging and involving, and my (often) clenched knuckles were all the more whiter as a result. 

Yes there are a couple of LOUD jump-scares liable to induce abrupt unintentional redistributions of popcorn into laps, but they are well-earned, and justifiable within the context of the film’s premise.

The creature design is excellent, coyly introduced at first with quick blurred glimpses before ratcheting up to shredding claws and finally to hideously full-bodied reveals. Onscreen gore and blood is judiciously employed minimally to convey internal trauma and suffering, and in one brief moment the aftermath consequence of creature assault. But it’s the startlingly assured deployment of audio threat which is the real trick which draws you in and keeps you hooked in nervous unity with the onscreen characters. 

A QUIET PLACE is a film worth (quietly) shouting about. 

****(out of 5*)
  Paul Worts