Review: Errementari: The Blacksmith And The Devil (2017)

Errementari

Based on a fable, a Blacksmith with a secret stays to himself. But when a little girl enters his world, along with an official looking for gold, sets in motion events that leads to the gates of hell…

Words are often important in context. At the beginning of Errementari, we get a narration about a man so evil even the Devil was afraid of him. These words are repeated at the end, but this time have a different meaning. But when repeated at the end of this wonderful film, they really hit home the power in the film.

Most fantasy films these days are based on novels, often over rely on CGI and focus on teens. Here, while there may be CGI involved during the final act, a visually stunning sequence at the gates of Hell, but for the most part focuses on character, some surprising twists and turns and a story that is powerful and full of emotion.

Oh and on the whole focuses more on adults rather than teens.

But at its heart is a stunning performance from Uma Bracaglia as Usue, a little girl who inadvertently sets in motion the events in the film. Orphaned at a young age, she’s raised harshly by the local priest, and bullied by other children, even though she does often give as good as she gets. Usue is the heart of this film, events in the film to a degree revolve around her and Bracaglia’s performance is wonderful.

She’s matched by Kandido Uranga who plays the Blacksmith. While a man of few words, behind is threatening demeanour is a man haunted by his own past and a deal he made, one he tries to avoid, in part by trapping a demon. The Blacksmith, Patxi, appears an intimidating figure, but there is much more to him and as he bonds with Usue we see a slightly softer side to him.

The rest of the cast are first rate too. Special mention to Eneko Sagardoy who plays Sartael a demon, one who despite a fearsome look, is actually much less intimidating as the story progresses.

The film looks stunning, thanks to great work from director of photography Gorka Gomez Andreu. The scenes at the gates to Hell are spectacular. The design of the film is terrific, the music from Pascal Gaigne is great.

Paul Urkijo Alijo directs the film very well. He also co-wrote the film with Asier Guerricaechevarria, the script adding touches of humour into the story, such as the idea of chickpeas being something you can use against the devil! But the story has a lot of heart too and Alijo brings that out very well indeed. As the story heads to its climax, as it takes surprising turns, it would have been easy for the film to get overblown, but it doesn’t thanks to it’s director’s ability, leading to a fantastic final moment, one, as I said, that reuses the words at the beginning to a different effect.

I saw this film at the FrightFest Glasgow event earlier this year and loved it. I’d been hoping for it to receive a UK cinema release since, but instead it has gone to Netflix. But no matter how you get the chance to see it, I highly recommend this film as it is one of the best fantasy films I’ve seen in years.

Rating: *****

Advertisements

Review: Redcon-1 (2018)

Redcon1

When there is an outbreak of a virus that turns people into Zombies, a small team of soldiers is sent to look for the scientist who may hold the key on curing it…

What happens if you take a dollop of Neil Marshall’s Doomsday, a sprinkling of Escape From New York and 28 Days Later, an extract of The Raid and a drop of Train To Busan and ? You get a film like Redcon-1.

Now, mentioned the above films, which I love in relation to Redcon-1 may be doing the later a disservice. A lot of films borrow from others to a degree. It’s what you do with the borrowed items that can make or break your film.

In the case of Redcon-1, the writers Chee Keong Cheung (who also directs) Steve Horvath and Mark Strange take these elements and for the whole make their own film. The basic story does have similarities to Marshall’s film, with infected zones, a small team looking for a scientist and possible cure, the limited time mission is from Carpenter’s film, the action does have the vibe of a film like The Raid, as is the idea of not fully introducing the characters before the mission, instead letting them develop more as it progresses. Perhaps more surprising is the nod to Train to Busan and the emotional heart of the film. It’s something I feel films never get right, especially those with a lot of action, but it works very well here.

Where I feel the writers get it wrong, however, is that in their attempt to blend their influences, they try to do too much. The film runs for 115 minutes, but I do think that there’s actually too much going on. As well at the military team, we have another group they battle at times, a camp of survivors are dragged into the story late on in the film as well as scenes of the officer who sent them, Major Smith, that aren’t fully developed. There’s also a moment in the film which is definitely a moment of plot contrivance. I also think the final confrontation in the film doesn’t grip as much as you want it too.

These issues don’t derail the film however, in part as director Cheung keeps the film moving from action set piece to action set piece. He stages the action very well indeed, barely letting the audience relax before the next burst of violent action arrives. The screening didn’t give the film’s (UK) classification, but I would imagine it’ll be an ’18’ here. We get guns, swords, axes and even sledgehamer as the soldiers battle the zombies/infected. However, while the action keeps erupting, Cheung prevents it from becoming repetitive, thanks in part to a story detail of the infected being able to use weapons and work together.

The cast, certainly for me are mostly unknowns but all equip themselves very well indeed. Oris Erhuero plays the lead, Marcus, leader of the soldiers and is very good indeed. There is good support from Carlos Gallardo, Mark Strange, Katarina Leigh Waters, among many. While the character outline may fall into generic traits, the actors are able to bring out those aspects very well indeed. At the end, thanks to Erhuero’s performance and his character’s relationship with the little girl they rescue is touching, which leads to a slightly emotional ending, which is a perhaps surprising, but welcome touch.

The film is budgeted at under $1M dollars. At a Q&A after the screening, the director didn’t give the exact figure, but said it was under $1M. Considering the scale of the film and its ambitions, you have to admire what the production companies have made. It has a scale way above it’s budget and for the most part pulls it off.

I really enjoyed Redcon-1. It may be a patchwork of ideas from other films, but holds together as it’s own thing. It’s brutal at times, very bloody with some good action, and some touching moments.

It may not be truly an original idea or film, but it’s one that is certainly worth taking a look at.

Rating: ***1/2 out of 5

 

 

 

Welcome!

There may be some that know me from my other Blog, The Film Grump (click here). That Blog is devoted solely to film in all forms. This Blog, will only be for my love of horror.

To give some background, my love of horror began way back in the seventies, when the babysitter I had used to let me and my brother stay up late, when, at the time the BBC often had late night horror double bills on a Friday or Saturday night.

As a result, I was often terrified but couldn’t stop watching. But the one that made the biggest impact, was the Hammer Horror, Dracula (1958).

Dracula
Still my favourite horror film

If I’m honest, I doubt Dracula, like most Hammer films may not be considered scary by today’s standards but I will always love Hammer films, especially the earlier ones and certainly those with my favourite actor, Peter Cushing or with Christopher Lee

There’s a reason Cushing is my favourite actor. In every film I’ve ever seen with him in it, you can tell he’s fully committed to the work, even those that may have been considered beneath him and at no point did he ever look down on the genre.

Over the years since, while my love of Hammer has never diminished my horror taste has evolved. There has been a love of slashers, monster films, serial killers, ghosts, zombies and everything else in between.

But this Blog isn’t just going to be about film. I love horror fiction, with novels like The Haunting Of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, Hell House by Richard Matheson, Ghost Story by Peter Straub, Dark Matter by Michelle Paver and Susan Hill’s The Woman In Black being among my favourites, with Matheson’s classic I Am Legend being my all time favourite work.

Quatermass
Quatermass

 

TV too has brought us some great horror. From Nigel Kneale’s terrific Quatermass stories and also his stunning take on the ghost story, The Stone Tape and also a terrific TV adaptation of The Woman In Black, to a controversial BBC production, Ghostwatch that caused numerous complaints, TV has often served horror very well.

As this Blog progresses, I hope to convey my love of horror to people in an enjoyable manner. I’m launching it in October, the horror fan’s favourite month. I feel horror has been on a pretty good run at the moment.

Long may it (bloodily!) reign!