The Week In Video Part V

Sunday, August 19 2012
The Week In Video Part V

This column, in which we talk about our home viewing over the past week or so, is written with a slightly unusual slant this week, as most of our watching has taken place not in London, but in slightly sunnier climes, as we’ve been away on our annual summer holidays. All of which means we’ve concentrated solely on DVDs, rather than Blu-rays (we’re not that up to date that we have a Blu-ray drive yet, not as if Macs have them anyway), watched from a laptop. However, we’ve had an interested week’s worth of watching. A lot of it has been homegrown, British product, which has made for some intriguing comparisons.

Harsh Light Of Day, from the relatively new Monster Pictures imprint, via Eureka, was one of the first titles we viewed. It’s a micro-budget outing, following a man who, his life having been torn apart by a trio of attackers, who raided his home, killed his beloved and left him paralysed. He’s offered revenge and redemption by a shady character, but it comes at a price. It’s the kind of film that even a decade ago might not have been made, let alone seen the, ahem, light of day (no pun intended), but now, thanks to DTV, digital film and independent labels such as Monster, can find its way into homes. It’s more interesting than anything else, you can only admire its inventiveness in trying to get as much done for as little money as possible, even if it is flated at times. There’s always a market for British-made horror, especially among the cognoscenti, eager to support genre fare.

Our best British film of the week was, without doubt, The Hot Potato. We touched on Showbox’s Cine Britannia imprint last week, and this is by far the best offering form the label thus far. It’s also the one it’s been leading up to; rather than giving away its best first, it has waited to establish itself before unleashing The Hot Potato. It’s a cracking little film; a world away from the kind of British gangster flick I was expecting. It stars Ray Winstone, in his more lovable persona. Set in the 60s, it has a distinct period feel, and is more reminiscent of a 1960s caper than your average Guy Ritchie lorluvaduck-me-old-chinas Cockernee knees-up. It’s fluffy, admittedly, but it had an undeniable charm that, along with the presence of Winstone, Colm Meaney and other familiar figures, will help it through at retail.

Another label we’ve mentioned in recent weeks is High Fliers, and Brake, an American DTV thriller from the label, is the latest in our package of October releases we’ve been going through. Loath as we are to describe films as “x meets y”, there’s no better way to talk about this than to say it’s pitched somewhere between Buried and 24. Stephen Dorff (yes, him) is some kind of government agent, trapped in a perspex box in the boot of a car. It starts off hugely promisingly, but the ending is one of the daftest of the year, beaten only by The Devil Inside. It’s a shame, as it’s a great premise, and is intriguing and exciting, but it feels as if it’s painted itself into a corner (or trapped itself in a box) and can’t think of a way out. But what we think isn’t important here. Dorff is the quintessential straight to video star: recognisable and bankable, giving this film a touch of class. It’s a commercial sleeve (kudos to High Fliers, it’s far better than the US outing, even if Dorff looks very much like Bruce Willis in it and the helicopter is fairly superfluous – there’s barely one the film). It’s a good actioner, and should perform accordingly.

Back to horror, and Arrow’s recently released The Tunnel. It’s another entrant into the found footage market, and while they’re still proving to be such strong commercial propositions, people will still keep making them. Effective at times, it leaves a little too much unexplained, but it’s watchable enough and is aided by the fact that this fare always finds a market, and it comes wrapped in a commercial sleeve. It’s not quite up to the standard of Lake Mungo, another Australian found footage film released earlier this year by Second Sight, which has been one of 2012’s better surprises.

More DTV fare next, with a film, Bad Ass, where the story of how it came about is as interesting, if not more, than the flick itself. Bad Ass is that very modern title in that it originates from an Internet phenomenon that’s somehow been turned into a script, borne of a short youtube clip of what used to be referred to as a “have a go hero” who stood up to a couple of thugs on an LA bus, and turned them over. It was filmed by shocked passengers and, before you could say “I’ll upload that”, the Vietnam vet had become a star. This as its starting point for the film itself, and from then on veers off into formulaic revenge-style plot as our eponymous hero tries to find out who offed one of his only pals. The plot is hackneyed, but it’s the presence of Danny Trejo, real-life gangster turned film star, and one of our favourite DTV stars (heck, he’s one of our favourite actors) as the titular character that makes it worthwhile and gives it a fighting chance at retail. The likes of Ron Perlman, who increasingly seems to be a bit player in films such as this (wasted, in our opinion) may help too. And the Internet grounding gives it a further story to tell, which could help.

Our final film of the week is, the final few minutes of Brake aside, the most bizarre too. Monster Brawl is a wrestling match-up with a difference – for it sees film, book and mythical monsters taking each other on for some unknown reason. It’s great fun, but strange nonetheless: this blend of WWE and horror has a ready-made audience, er, WWE and horror fans, in case you hadn’t guessed, but little in the way of plot. It really is just like a WWE outing, so there’s no real beginning, middle or end. Its close to WWE than horror – fans of the former should lap it up, die hard horror fans may be disappointed; people who like both will be delighted. Momentum has done a great job with the sleeve, its nous in this area is almost unparalleled in the business and, with a high profile launch event already under its belt, this has got off to a good start. Right, we’re off to the pool, more on our holiday viewing next week…

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