6.5 out of 10

Release Date: 1st May 2009

Director: Christine Molloy & Joe Lawlor (Mister John)

Cast: Annie Townsend, Sandie Malia, Dennis Jobling, Sonia Saville, Danny Groenland

Writer: Christine Molloy & Joe Lawler

Trailer: HELEN

Splash Image JPEG File

Helen was made by people from outer space.  There is an overbearing sense of otherworldliness to this unusual film.  A combination of its immersive soundtrack, prowling camera and disconnected performances emphasise a feeling of deep unease.  If this film was set in Scandinavia or Europe and in a foreign language it woud have made a decent splash on the Art House scene in the UK. Being that it’s a Britpic, there is an unfortunate sense that this is just a little too self-important for it’s own good.  The main element that lets Helen down are the unorthodox performances.  Now I’m not sure if it’s because the cast could not act or it was a style that they were all co-erced to opt into by the makers.  Either way, this has created a huge gulf in trying to identify with the characters.  What we’re left with besides the soundtrack and camera work is a very economic yet oddly off-kilter script, which I liked a lot. The plot was slight but here’s an intro nonetheless.

A teenager called Joy goes missing in the woods.  Helen (ANNIE TOWNSEND) is recruited by the police to act as Joy’s ‘stand-in’ in a TV re-enactment to help jog peoples’ memories and hopefully lead to her being found.  Picked for her physical resemblance, Annie slowly becomes obsessed with Joy and those she left behind.  Wearing an identical yellow leather jacket to the one owned by the missing girl, she begins to get to know Joy’s parents and  boyfriend (DANNY GROENLAND).

There are several sequences in Helen that impressed me a great deal.  The opening sequence that sees Joy (or are we watching the TV recreation) walk across the park to the woods in slow motion is especially haunting. Scenes that take in the tree canopy as if looking up from the ground feature frequently too, as if Helen is trying to see through Joy’s eyes.  Another sequence where a female police officer (SONIA SAVILLE) addresses some college students about the ‘world outside’ is particularly creepy and alien.  The characters have a strange detached quality disconnecting the actors from their performances. The exception to this is the lead, Annie Townsend, who thoroughly convinces as the unsettled protagonist.  She confesses that her dream is to be ‘anywhere else’ but is secretly pretending to be somebody else going to help her in the long run?  The use of a handful of spartan and clean cut locations also adds to the sense of alienation and foreboding.  Every single frame is immaculate.

I’m not sure I’d recommend this film to everybody because it is very slow paced and only part resolves one of the main through-plots.  Some may see the acting as wooden and just plain bad, but I think it was just the style the director has required.  The same plot would make for an interesting story again one day, but for now we can marvel at this quiet story about one of cinema lands‘ lost loners with weird ideas about the world around them.

6.5 out of 10 – Beautiful but painfully slow mystery that never really addresses it’s more obvious plot turns. Essentially, Helen is a mood piece and the kind of UK film we see all too rarely nowadays.  Great score, weird script, wonderful camera work, peculiar acting methods. Worth a crack if you’re patient. And it’s probably the most disturbing film with a PG rating you’ll ever see. Don’t show it to your kids, you’ll even creep them out for life, or you’ll never wake them up. Look out for their follow up Mister John which adopts the same style but thankfully ditches the strange actors.



2.5 out of 10

Release Date: 17th May 2013 

Director: Craig Viveiros (Ghosted)

Cast: Tim Roth, Jack O’Connell, Talulah Riley, Kierston Wareing and Peter Mullan

Writer: John Wrathall


The-Liability1The Liability is a serio-comedy that is probably the sleepiest road movie I’ve ever seen.  It’s a cross between Kill List and Midnight Run without the wit or invention of either.  Tim Roth (PULP FICTION) plays a taciturn (read boring) hit man who is employed by gangster Peter (PETER MULLAN – NEDS)  to train his useless step son, Adam (JACK O’CONNELL – TOWER BLOCK) up in the arts of being a hired killer. So the film sees Roy and Adam drive around aimlessly, periodically taking in a few plot related hits for the latter to screw up. They encounter a sexy girl on a mission, who also plays her part in the subterfuge (TALULAH RILEY – THE BOAT THAT ROCKED).  To be honest, I lost all interest in the background plot and just kept tabs on the cardboard characters. So in fact I only know that Peter is involved with shipping Russian women to the UK for the sex trade and Ms. Riley is a relation of one of the women.

The script is woefully annoying in it’s attempts to make the central odd couple interesting. Tim Roth who is one of the UK’s finest actors just farts around to no avail, neither conveying pathos or anything close to mystery.  Jack O’Connell‘s character is neither stupid nor clever enough to engage us and there are no set pieces to speak of. Peter Mullan is sidelined to the peripheries and Kierston Wareing (FALL OF THE ESSEX BOYS) has about two lines.  Any attempts at quirkiness fall dead in their tracks and the whole exercise comes across as one big shrug which hides behind the fact that it has an excellent group of actors ducking out of doing any hard work.

The director’s last film Ghosted showed a lot of promise. Sadly The Liability is a lazy, solid fart of a movie. A road movie with four punctures called Tim Roth, Jack O’Connell, Peter Mullan and Talulah Riley.  Kierston Wareing is the spare.

2.5 out of 10 – Yet another tired and redundant crime caper. Points are for the scenery.

SEE Joe Pesci II’s review below…


  • Tim Roth: The Hateful 8, Selma, Grace Of Monaco, Mobius, Broken (2013), Arbitrage, Lie To Me (TV), The Incredible Hulk (2008), Funny Games (2007), Youth With Youth, Dark Water (2005), Don’t Come Knocking, Silver City, The Beautiful Country, To Kill a King, The Musketeer, Invincible, Planet Of The Apes (2001), The Million Dollar Hotel, The Legend Of 1900, The War Zone (dir), Liar, Hoodlum, Gridlock’d, Everyone Says I Love You, Four Rooms, Rob Roy, Captives, Little Odessa, Pulp Fiction, Bodies Rest & Motion, Jumpin’ At The Boneyard, Reservoir Dogs, Rosencrantz & Guilderstern Are Dead, Vincent & Theo, The Cook The Thief His Wife and Her Lover, To Kill a Priest, The Hit, Meantime, Made In Britain
  • Jack O’Connell: Tulip Fever, Unbroken, ’71, Starred Up, 300 – part II, Private PeacefulTower BlockWeekender, Harry Brown, Eden Lake, This Is England, Skins (TV)
  • Talulah Riley: Scottish Mussel, The Bad Education Movie, The Knot, St. Trinians 2, The Boat That Rocked, St. Trinians
  • Kierston Wareing: Eastenders (TV),Fall Of The Essex BoysLove BiteTwenty8KBonded By BloodThe HoldingFour, Fish Tank, Rise Of The Foot soldier
  • Peter Mullan: Jungle Book – Origins, Hector, Sunset Song, Hercules (2014), Sunshine On Leith, Welcome To The Punch, The Man Inside (2012), War Horse, TyrannosaurNeds, True North, Children Of Men, Criminal (2004), The Magdalene Sisters (dir), On a Clear Day, Young Adam, The Claim (2000), Orphans (dir), Miss Julie, My Name Is Joe, Trainspotting, Shallow Grave, Riff Raff


6.5 out of 10

Release Date: 6th June 2009

Director: Julian Richards (Darklands / The Last Horror Movie)

Cast: Kevin Howarth, Ciaran Joyce, Amy Harvey, Jonathan Jones, Chris Conway, Ryan Conway and Darren Evans

Writer: Al Wilson

Trailer:  SUMMER SCARS ** This is one of those annoying trailers that a) makes the film look sh*t and b) contains major plot spoilers….


.To be proofread & edited: I have a feeling that I’ve caught Summer Scars on it’s second round of sales. It’s been re-jacketed by Soda Pictures and dated as a 2013 release but IMDB tells a different story in that this great little film got made back in 2007 and saw it’s first release in 2009.  The fact that it’s actually good enough to warrant a rediscovery is a nice surprise.  I’ve only recently stumbled upon this practice via the weird and untalented Cornish film director Richard Driscoll (who made Highway To Hell then rebranded it as Eldorado and did something similar with The Legend of Harrow Woods).  It’s a shady practice renaming your under performing shit to get some extra money. Anyway who cares? On this occasion it has turned out well because Summer Scars is a good film.

Six young teenagers spend an afternoon in the local woods, farting about with a stolen scooter and sharing piss weak beer.  When the alpha male Paul (JONATHAN JONES) knocks accidentally knocks a man down with said scooter it kicks off a nightmarish chain of events.  At first the victim, Peter (KEVIN HOWARTH – THE MAGNIFICENT ELEVEN) comes across as a kindly down and out ex-soldier. But as the afternoon progresses he beings to reveal a twisted and sadistic side, playing the youngsters off against each other in a series of belittling mind games.  The sole girl, Leanne (AMY HARVEY) is the most outspoken and strongest but she also turns out to be the one with the most to lose.

Summer Scars‘ biggest strength is its young cast.  The cast are thoroughly convincing as a group of kids who are old enough to commit crimes but may not be old enough,brave enough or smart enough to outwit their tormentor.  All of them are strong with the standouts being Amy Harvey and Darren Evans (HUNKY DORY) as Jonesy, the clown of the group whois singled out as an early target for Peter.  The kids aren’t worldly enough to spot the doors close behind Peter as he sets his game up.  It appears at first that he is improvising but it quickly becomes apparent that he’s got specific axes to grind and he forces certain situations to arrive at a twisted set of his own conclusions.  the film would fail if he was the weak link but Kevin Howarth does a very good job.  The kids don’t know which way he’ll go. Will he beat them or tussle their hair?  The conclusion is inevitable as soon as one of the characters brags about his dad or brother owning a gun, then later escaping. It’s not a plot spoiler. It’s just plain obvious.

The final shot of Summer Scars is priceless though.  A handy little twist to keep the audience thinking.  The writer has a good handle on the dialogue although at times you can tell it’s been written by an older person. The script doesn’t contain all that much slang. For poor valley kids, they have a fair grasp of The Queen’s English. If the cast had been allowed to improvise a small bit giving a spin to the dialogue it would have been the cherry on an already good cake.  The film plays like an inverted Eden Lake with fewer chills. But in keeping the events more down to earth gives this film the advantage.  All incident in the film could really happen and pan out this way.  It’s the kind of story that would make local news but not national news.  Some may compare this to Stand By Me, but this has more teeth although the way the kids come together to fight against a common foe rings bells.  Summer Scars is also very lensed and the score is minimal but effective.  It’s a victory because the largely unknown cast do a sterling job. Many of the cast (according to IMDB) have not acted before or since and that’s a real shame considering how ‘well-connected’ talent vacuum’s like Daniel Radcliffe and Rupert Grint continue to get top jobs.  Kevin Howarth seems to be on an small upswing with a leading role in the new Wesley Snipes flick Gallowwalker and the Brit-Horror The Seasoning House.  His plum role in this film should have led to some good jobs, so maybe it’s a bad agent or bad luck that’s held him back.

6.5 out of 10 – Thoughtful and enjoyable little thriller. Reminiscent of Eden Lake. It’s elevated by very good acting from it’s small and talented young cast. Recommended if you like your horror mild, non-gory but extra edgy. DON’T WATCH THE TRAILER – IT GIVES THE WHOLE PLOT AWAY….

 Review Below by Joe “Ewok Worrier” Pesci II (yes, worrier NOT warrior)



5.5 out of 10

Release Date: 14th May 2013 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Ian Clark

Cast: Alex Reid, Aneurin Barnard, Steve Evets, Nia Roberts, Amit Shah, Skye Lourie, Oliver Coleman, Chris Larkin, Emily Butterfield and Jack Doolan

Writer:  Ian Clark


To be proofread: The Facility is a slightly above average Brit-chiller. It’s primarily elevated by its well thought out script. The good acting bolsts it further and whilst the characterisation is a bit cliched in this situation it’s probably forgivable because in real life people do adopt stereotypes / archtypes like the one on show here.  The Facility tells the story of seven medical guinea pigs who roll up the said facility for a trial. Some are in it for the first time and others are seasoned pros.  They are made up of: mad northerner, tough but sexy girl, sexy male student, disposable blonde girl, cynical business lady, nerdy Asian guy and bullish, sexist estate agent type guy.  At first the medical trial goes to plan and the test subjects are sent to bed, only one of them (not hard to guess) starts to have extremely adverse reactions to the drug.  Mad subject goes on a rampage and they see a nurse flee for her life across the car park below…. then a second subject beings to act weirdly.

So The Facility begins as a countdown. We see each of the group take it in turn to get injected so the order of their response to the drug is easy to predict. But there’s also the question of a placebo?  Who’s gotten off lightly and who will have to fight their way out? Also how long will the effects last, will it lock the sufferers into a permanent state, is the transformation part of the test?

Only a few of these questions get answered and for the most part its an intriguing and gripping little horror film. The set-up is well measured and the execution of the later action/horror sequences are effective. So all in all its an involving horror film – so why does it get the slender 5.5 out of 10?  Inspite of a bleak ending the filmmakers choose to ditch the film mid-air with a cue card telling you what happened next. This works in some stories but no there. The Facility is constantly boiling to a head but the makers have refused to let it explode.  In an action film, this kind of ending is inexcusable. Somehow they pulled a similar thing off in “F” but there was no “This happened next….” cue card. “F” was left open to leave the viewer to their own devices. In The Facility – the conclusion has been hastily scribbled down into paragraph and put on screen to piss the viewer off.   A real climax would have been an apt pay off – and if The Facility was a poorer movie I would have welcomed the reprieve, as it is we’re left in disappointment by a good,solid horror entertainer that just drives you into the wilderness, scares the shit out of you and then leaves you a note saying “by the way – that was the end!” before tip-toeing back to the car to leave you alone.

5.5 out of 10 – A great horror – let down by a howler of a decision to finish the movie off with a cue card. Good acting and nice script elevate this above the norm. At least I’ve warned you now. Maybe you’ll enjoy it more because you know what to expect come boiling point.




Release Date: 9th March 2012

Director: Michael Winterbottom (The Trip To Italy (TV) / The Face of An Angel / The Look Of Love Everyday /The Trip (TV) / The Killer Inside Me / Genova / A Mighty Heart / The Road To Guantanamo / A Cock And Bull Story / 9 Songs / Code 46 / In This World / The Claim (2000) / Wonderland (1999) / I Want You / Welcome To Sarajevo / Jude / Butterfly Kiss)

Cast: Freida Pinto, Riz Ahmed, Roshan Seth, Anurag Kashyap, Poonam Kaskar, Amit Trivedi and Neet Mohan

Writer: Michael Winterbottom / Thomas Hardy

Trailer: TRISHNA


  • Freida Pinto: Jungle Book – Origins (voice), Desert Dancer, Knight Of Cups, Yamasong (voice), Blunt Force Trauma, Black Gold, Immortals, The Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes, Miral, You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger, Slumdog Millionnaire
  • Riz Ahmed: Bourne 5, City of Tiny Lights, Una, Star Wars – Rogue One, Nightcrawler, Closed Circuit, The Reluctant FundamentalistIll Manors, Black Gold, CenturionFour Lions, Shifty, The Road To Guantanemo
  • Roshan Seth: City of Tiny Lights, Indian Summers (TV), Proof (2005), Frozen (2005), South West 9, Monsoon Wedding, Vertical Limit, Such a Long Journey, Solitaire For 2, Street Fighter, Electric Moon, London Kills Me, Mississippi Masala, Not Without My Daughter, Mountains Of The Moon, Slipstream (1989), My Beautiful Laundrette, A Passage To India, Indiana Jones and The Temple Of Doom, Gandhi, Juggernaut
  • Neet Mohan: Desert Dancer, The Magnificent ElevenAll In Good TimeEverywhere + Nowhere


3 out of 10

Release Date: 12th January 2009 (DVD Premiere)

Director: Adrian Vitoria (The Age Of Heroes)

Cast: Scot Williams, Kenny Doughty, Rory McCann, Cordelia Bugeja, Phillip Olivier, Goran Kostic, Mem Ferda, Rosie Fellner, Raza Jaffrey, Neil Bell, John Gillon, Francis Magee and Stephen Graham

Writer: Ian Brady / Kevin Sampson


Review by Matt Usher

movie_1968This may be the most boring film I’ve ever seen. Never before has the simple Scouse scallywag been taken so seriously, idolised so tediously, placed so highly (and foolishly) on a pedestal. This monumentally dull film drags on for two hours (and then has the gall to bung a load of deleted scenes onto the DVD as a ‘bonus’).

THE CREW are a bunch of Scouse gits, as Alf Garnett would have said, who, rather than work for a living, steal other people’s stuff, sell it then do dodgy property deals and have turf wars with foreigners. The film seems complicit with all this, after all it’s only foreigners and Sony who get ripped off and they can afford it after all, and the driver doesn’t get hurt because he’s in on it so that’s OK too (did no-one wonder why the driver kept getting held up by armed robbers? Did no-one find that suspicious? True, the police are conspicuously absent, but did none of these criminal masterminds wonder whether hijacking the same driver each time might look dodgy?). One of the many problems with the film is that it’s like a serious version of those not particularly funny Brookside send-ups Harry Enfield used to do (and a bit like Brookside itself when it went down those silly gangster-led blind alleys with Barry Grant and Sizzler).

The plot: a Big Gangster tells some Junior Gangsters to deal with a Fat Gangster, so they kill him, which wasn’t what the Big Gangster meant at all. Unfortunately for the Junior Gangsters they were seen by Drug-Addicted Foreigners so, even more unfortunately for the Foreigners, they (the Junior Gangsters) go round and kill them (the Drug-Addicted Foreigners). Meanwhile the Leader of the Junior Gangsters is a Junior Member of the main Gang of Gangsters who make up the eponymous CREW. They’ve just robbed a van which turned out to be a decoy (not only is this a professional disappointment but it also means that Hero Gangster’s libido fails him so his wife becomes a Drug-Addicted Bisexual With Poor Business Acumen). The CREW decide to have another go (at stealing stuff) in a few weeks. But the Chief Junior Gangster sells them out to a Foreign Gangster (not the dead Drug-Addicted Foreigners but a completely different club-owning Foreign Gangster), who gets killed by Hero Gangster who has done a double cross against the Big Gangster who has made him (Hero Gangster) kill one of the Junior Gangsters whilst Big Gangster kills the Leader of the Junior Gangsters (who is also Hero Gangster’s Little Brother), as well as killing Tinhead from Brookside. Meanwhile THE CREW successfully steal some Playstations and are very pleased about that. Meanwhile Hero Gangster and his Drug-Addicted Bisexual Wife With Poor Business Acumen get conned out of some money by a not-at-all Dodgy Asian and a Fake Lesbian. But Big Gangster helps him out, possibly because they might be family and it’s all about respect and scratching backs, and the director fancied a trip to Spain anyway. The moral of the tale appears to be that it’s fine to go around murdering and beating people up in the interests of your family, or if you’re a middle-aged white Englishman, but a very bad thing if you’re doing it for fun, or if you’re a youngster, or a foreigner.

 Scot Williams (REDIRECTED) is supposedly the star of this dreary mess, but rarely has an actor shone so dully. I had to keep reminding myself that he was the main character even though he seems to fade into the background, almost as if he doesn’t want to be noticed. Kenny Doughty (THE INCIDENT) plays his brother, a jack-the-lad who goes off the rails a bit (slaughtering drug addicts and foreigners for fun). His character’s storyline is reminiscent of those old Hayes-Code-baiting films in the thirties: he gets up to all sorts of gleeful naughtiness, but pays the price in the end (though he doesn’t really – one bullet to the head, he’d certainly earned a bit of torture but that’s what happens when you let foreigners do the killing). Doughty at least seems to be having a good time, but whenever he’s on screen you just want to smack him round the head and tell him to pack it in.

Perhaps the oddest thing about THE CREW is the amount of masturbating in it (indeed at one point Doughty and former Brookside star Philip Oliver seem to be simultaneously masturbating and murdering people). But mostly it’s the past-time of poor old Rory McCann (HOT FUZZ), cast as a comedy tough guy who keeps getting beaten up. Stephen Graham (HYENA) turns up for a few scenes towards the end of the film but it’s too little too late despite Graham doing his best staring-into-the-distance-and-evoking-the-good-old-days-when-men-were-men-and-not-foreigners-or-drug-addicts acting. Elsewhere some TV regulars pop up but no-one can do much with this quite unbelievably boring script. Even the film itself gets bored from time to time, so the film-makers just throw in random acts of violence (usually against Rory McCann when he’s not playing with himself) which have nothing to do with anything, and are there either to round out the running time or to show how brutal and boring the members of THE CREW are.

The most shocking thing though, apart from how incredibly boring it is, is how seriously it takes itself. It has a surprisingly ambitious scale: to start with we seem to be in the world of petty thieves and criminals, and cheap-looking locations. But as the film proceeds, we realise that things are getting bigger and shinier and bolder (and more boring). By the end, it’s as if THE CREW has said ‘this is Liverpool’s reply to THE GODFATHER’. There’s even a significant scene of a family celebration with sweeping camera moves and everyone going on about family. It merely underlines how THE CREW is alarmingly pretentious, too long (by about 100 minutes), bad, arrogant (with nothing to be arrogant about), and (in case you haven’t got the message) boring.



7 out of 10

Release Date: 18th July 2008

Director: Olly Blackburn (Random)

Cast: Nichola Burley, Jaime Winstone, Julian Morris, Tom Burke, Jay Taylor, Tom Boulter and Sian Breckin

Writer: Olly Blackburn & David Bloom


Donkey Punch International Artwork

Donkey Punch is a very satisfying and wild genre thriller.  The plot throws together seven pretty young things in to a very grim ‘life or death’ situation and let’s rip.  Miscommunication is order of the day and it gets several of the characters killed at various points due to very bad split second reactions.  It’s bloody, yet predictable but thoroughly gripping at the same time.  It’s pretty old now so there’s a  chance that several of you may have come across it already but here’s a plot intro all the same.

Three girls arrive in Spain looking for a good time and a party. They hook up with four likely lads and return to their yacht for drinks and sex.  During the inItial group sex session one of the number is accidentally killed when another member of the party performs the titular fictional sex trick, the ‘Donkey Punch’ on them.  In an effort to cover up the death, the group quickly descend into a drug and alcohol fuelled panic.  This is going to on hell of a comedown for any survivors.

Set on board said yacht for the majority of the film’s running time, the makers are economic yet inventive keeping the story running at a fast pace.  The balance of power is constantly shifting between those that want justice and those that want to brush the whole incident under the carpet. Some people will do anything to preserve their future, whilst others are aghast at how cheap life itself has become over the course of the evening.  Only one of the deaths calls for a stretch of imagination, but all of the other demises are slow and painful. The camera barely flinches as it pores over the mangled, stabbed and shot bodies of the victims.  As I said, two or three of the deaths could have been avoided but are killed in the heat of the moment or through the misreading a situation from a distance. One of the seven is killed completely by accident because he happens to be holding a gun whilst having a sensible discussion.

The script is good and the escalation of the situation is well paced.  If you bear in mind that all the characters have been drinking all day and have had varying quantities of drugs too you can understand how the situation got so bad so quickly. We quickly identify with Nichola Burley (KICKS) and Tom Boulter’s (MERCENARIES) characters as the sensible ones as they are the only ones that abstain from the group sex, but nobody comes away from the events of Donkey Punch squeaky clean.  This is highly recommended because it is well directed, well scripted, it’s as tight as a drum all round. The mostly unknown cast excel themselves in what could have been yet another tired retread of numerous American slasher flicks.  The sex scenes are soft-porn too with the camera all too unfazed so when THAT punch comes, you are snapped out of some kind of drug hazed reverie yourself. Filth. Man of the match is the completely odious drug hoover Bluey (TOM BURKE – TELSTAR).  He definitely has the plum role and he relishes every line as the shitty smart arse of the group.  Viewers may even be cheering his demise because we’ve all met cocks like this character.

7 out 10 – A great genre thriller with some great death sequences. Think Dead Calm with a bigger body count and you’ll be on the right track.