Horror Comedy

Nightstream Capsule Review: Boys From County Hell

Bringing my Nighstream coverage to a close is the delightfully bloody Boys from County Hell. Written and directed by Chris Baugh (Tin Star, Bad Day for the Cut), this film injects the audience with a hearty dose of gore, laughs, and suspense. We watch as a young man joins his father’s construction company. When they demolish an ancient cairn rumored to hold an ancient Irish vampire, they discover the legend is all too real.

The filmmakers waste no time in educating viewers on the legend of Abhartach in a way that is as informative as it is hilarious. Once the context is established, it’s time for the bloodshed. Boys from County Hell is a standout vampire flick because it establishes new rules. It also finds ways to create truly disturbing means for the vampire to attack and kill his prey. On top of this, the filmmakers moved away from the typical attractive, sexy, sultry vampire look horror fans see all time time in favor of a dark, gnarly, decrepit creature. The practical effects and creature design are stunning and terrifying all at once. There is a bit of CGI that is not quite as well done, but what it is used for would be nearly impossible to achieve with practical effects.

While the entire cast delivers strong performances, Jack Rowan (Born to Kill, Benjamin) is the clear standout as Eugene. He brings a perfect balance of laughs and heart to the character, making him endearing and lovable despite his flaws. The film takes care to always have balance; humor vs gore, terror vs sentimentality, etc. For the most part, the filmmakers strike the perfect balance between all these elements. Boys from County Hell is a devilishly good time delivering equal parts laughs, bloodshed, and heart.

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10

Nightstream Capsule Review: Dinner in America

Another smash hit from Nightstream Fest from writer and director Adam Rehmeier (Jonas, The Bunny Game) is Dinner in America. Readers who have followed my reviews might be surprised to see this film on my website as it’s definitely not a horror film. The fact I saw it and felt compelled to write this review should be an indicator of how much I adored it. Dinner in America follows a punk-rocker who unwittingly seeks the help of a young woman, who is obsessed with his band, for help in hiding from the cops.

The entire film is quirky, raunchy, and delightful. Both of the leads, Kyle Gallner (The Haunting in Connecticut, Jennifer’s Body) as Simon and Emily Skeggs (Mile 22, The Miseducation of Cameron Post) as Patty, deliver phenomenal performances and are a joy to watch. It’s impossible not to fall in love with both of them as they fall in love with an “us against the world” attitude. Some of the language may be off-putting to some viewers as there are racial, homophobic, and other slurs used, but for the most part they are said by characters the audience is meant to hate and this only strengthens that hatred. In the beginning of Dinner in America, Gallner’s character uses some of this language as well, but it becomes clear Simon says it to get a rise out of people and distance himself from others. Once those walls are broken down, his language changes.

Since this is a punk rock film, it’s only natural that it would have appropriate visuals and music. The Midwestern, suburban backdrop where it’s almost impossible to tell if it’s 1990 or 2020 emphasizes the fact that Simon and Patty are outsiders in this place. Everyone else is pristine in clean-cut outfits, track suits, and pastels, but the lovers are dressed in uncoordinated and grittier clothes. Then there is the music. Let’s just say, the music is so great that I immediately went online after watching the film to see if I could buy it anywhere (I couldn’t find it yet, in case you were wondering). Between the performances, the plot, and the music, I couldn’t stop smiling during this fantastic film. Dinner in America is charming, hilarious, and the perfect love story for outcasts everywhere.

OVERALL RATING: 9.5/10

Nightstream Capsule Review: Bloody Hell

Nightstream is bringing the fun with Bloody Hell, written by Robert Benjamin (Welcome to Acapulco) and directed by Alister Grierson (Sanctum, Tiger). This violent ride follows the misadventures of Rex. He recently got out of prison and is looking to abandon his notoriety in his home town, then decides to flee to Finland. Unfortunately, he only traded one hell for another.

Bloody Hell dives right into the action and sets the tone for the strange, uniqueness of the film. As Rex goes from one bad situation to the next, the audience watches him work things out by talking to himself (no, really, we watch as he talks to another Rex). It’s a really fantastic way to punctuate the violence with some very dark humor. Ben O’Toole (Hacksaw Ridge, Detroit) shines as Rex. He is an endearing, complicated hero and O’Toole brings great physicality to the role.

This unique plot is made more interesting with the help fo Rex’s imaginary double and striking imagery. There is everything from neon pops of color to gruesome and gory practical effects. At times the film can lean a bit towards cheesy, but it generally feels in keeping with the tongue-and-cheek tone of the plot. Bloody Hell is sure to make you laugh at the most inappropriate times and keep you entertained from start to finish.

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10

Fantasia Review: Monster Seafood Wars

On his way to make an offering of squid, octopus, and crab, a young scientist’s offering is stolen. The animals are given a secret drug to make them grow into giant monsters. It’s up to him and a government team to stop these enormous sea creatures before they destroy the city.

Fantasia International Film Festival is bringing lots of laughs to their audiences with Monster Seafood Wars. Director Minoru Kawasaki (The Calamari Wrestler, Executive Koala) co-wrote the film with Masakazu Migita (Death Kappa, Outer Man) based on an unmade film by Eiji Tsuburaya (Godzilla, Tokyo 1960). The film is a parody of the giant monster films popular in Japan. Kawasaki has a long history of making these types of films, but this is the first time he has brought all three of his seafood monsters together in on one screen. The film primarily focuses on Yuta, the young man who invented the drug, who is fired before he is able to complete is work. While he’s working at his father’s fish market, someone steals his seafood offering and uses his invention to unleash havoc on the city.

Monster Seafood Wars is funny, action packed, and also very cheesy. That cheesiness is part of the film’s appeal, especially since it is meant to be a parody. Some of the dialogue is comparable to what many of us likely experienced watching old episodes of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers in the 90’s. There is also a lot of food references throughout the film. Yuta makes it clear that he created this drug to make animals bigger to help feed the world. This leads to a long stretch in the middle of the film where people begin to eat monster meat and it is regarded as the best tasting meat there is. Kawasaki even brought Masayuki Kusumi, of Solitary Gourmet fame, on board to supervise. It definitely makes your stomach growl watch all the delicious looking food, but it also makes the middle of the film drag as we see meal after meal with no progression of the plot.

Likely in keeping with the parody aspect of Monster Seafood Wars, many of the performances are over the top and hilarious. The clear standout is Keisuke Ueda (Black Crow 1, Yowamushi Pedal) as Yuta. Yuta is the most relatable character for many audience members who are likely watching the film for the monsters. Yuta loves monsters and even describes them as “cute,” but Ueda still does a fantastic job of making it clear that his true purpose is to make the world a better place. Yoshida Ayano Christie makes her debut as Nana, a member of the Defense Ministry and a childhood friend of Yuta’s. Nana is the only female starring in the film, and she is a strong authority figure. Christie is great at making her character stand with the men as their equals.

The creature designs for this film are absolutely delightful. Kawasaki used monsters from his previous films, but this is the first time they have all been together in one film. They all have a very static look common with monsters from classic 1950’s monster movies. The monsters are people in costumes, typically working on a green-screen or in a set with model buildings that can be smashed to smithereens. All three creatures are adorable and I want to cuddle them. The one aspect of the low-budget beasts that I was not a fan of is how the octopus monster looks like he has a giant vagina on his forehead.

Monster Seafood Wars is a delightful giant monster throwback, complete with people wearing the monster costumes. Kawasaki clearly loves Godzilla and similar classics and shows that love by creating his own, more humorous version of those films. Despite some of the clunky dialogue, the performances for the most part are great and Ueda and Christie are endearing to watch. Because of how goofy the film intentionally is, and the long food sequences, this film won’t be for everyone. Yet it will greatly appeal to all the monster lovers out there, just like Yuta.

OVERALL RATING: 6.5/10

Fantasia Review: The Mortuary Collection

A young woman visits a mortuary to interview for a job. Throughout the course of the interview, the creepy mortician tells ghastly tales of how some of the bodies came to be in his mortuary. Spanning from the 50’s to the 80’s, each tale is more horrifying than the last.

Writer and director Ryan Spindell brings his feature-film debut to the Fantasia International Film Festival. The Mortuary Collection tells four tales of terror with a single overarching plot to tie it all together. That overarching is the story of a somewhat frightening mortician in his mortuary. After a funeral he gets a knock at the door and meets a young woman looking for a job. As he goes through the motions of the interview process, the young woman encourages him to tell scary stories. But these aren’t just any scary stories. These stories are about how and why certain bodies ended up in this mortuary.

The audience gets to hear stories from different subgenres of horror including a pickpocket from the 50’s who finds more than she bargained for, a 60’s frat boy who learns a lesson the hard way, a husband forced to make a tough choice about his invalid wife in the 70’s, and an homage to the classic 80’s babysitter/serial killer story. These stories are fascinating, yet I couldn’t shake the feeling that it has a bit of a “woman-hating” tone. Each of the main female characters typically is portrayed in a negative light or meets some kind of violence. I believe it may seem this way because the film also tends to portray women in roles typically reserved for men, but it was an aspect that gave me pause.

Despite spanning four decades and covering a wide range of topics, these stories feel unified. Each tale in The Mortuary Collection is unique, but Spindell unifies them by giving all of them the same, somewhat cheeky tone. There is a perfect marriage of gruesome events sprinkled with moments of dark humor. It gives the film a bit of a lighthearted feel despite some of the more horrifying and graphic stories being told. Even the overall look of the film helps tie the different stories together. They all have the same visual style, utilizing a heavily blue and green color palette. The filmmakers also had all the stories take place in the same town of Raven’s End. The scary, yet humorous tone combined with the eerie look of the film all blend seamlessly. It’s as though Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark and Creepshow came together and had a spooky baby.

Other visual aspects of The Mortuary Collection that enhance the look and vibe of the film are the production and effects designs. From the moment the camera moves through the streets of Raven’s End, the audience is transported back in time. The cars are clearly decades old, the buildings all look as if they have been around for at least 100 years, and the clothing matches the time period. The mortuary itself is an absolutely gorgeous Victorian building that I would definitely live in, even if it was haunted. The sets and costumes also help us move through the decades in each story and match perfectly to their respective time periods. To bring terror into these tales, the filmmakers use absolutely gorgeous practical effects. There is some CGI enhancement, but for the most part you can tell they wanted to keep it old school. The effects are just as stunning as they are disturbing, plus they add quite a bit of fright to the film.

From each segment, The Mortuary Collection encompasses tremendous performances. Everyone is truly magical, but it is the mortician and the young woman he is interviewing who stand out. Clancy Brown (Shawshank Redemption, Starship Troopers) stars as the mortician himself. This man is creepy, decrepit, and always seems to be laughing at some inside joke in his head. Clancy brings this character to life in the most memorable way, being both scary and funny all at once. Caitlin Fisher (Teen Wolf, Extraction) plays the interviewee, Sam. Fisher’s performance really stands out because, on the outside, Sam appears to be just a sweet girl looking for a job. Yet Sam is cunning and challenges the mortician at every turn and Fisher conveys that defiant nature quite well. Brown and Fisher also have a great banter between the two of them and seem to challenge each other for dominance at every turn.

The Mortuary Collection is an enthralling blend of scares and laughs that is a delight to watch from start to finish. The fact that this is Spindell’s feature-film debut makes me believe he is a writer/director horror fans should keep an eye on. As a whole and also looking at the individual tales of horror, the various plots are all unique and intriguing to watch and every performance is impressive. Unified by the gorgeous visuals and the storytelling mortician, The Mortuary Collection delivers a group of tales audiences are sure to enjoy.

OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10

Fantasia Review: The Columnist

After a columnist’s article goes viral, she gets a great book deal. The downside is, now she has trolls constantly harassing and threatening her on social media. The columnist decides to take matters into her own hands and exacts revenge on those trolls.

Hailing all the way from the Netherlands, Fantasia International Film Festival brings the darkly comedic horror film, The Columnist. The film is directed by Ivo van Aart (Quantum Zeno, Zes Dates) and written by Daan Windhorst (Quantum Zeno, Zes Dates). Together, this duo deliver a black comedy that is both hilarious and humorous. As a writer, this is a story that really hits home. Femke Boot is a columnist who writes a controversial piece that sets some of the more conservative readers on the attack. Trolls hound her on social media by threatening her, calling her names, and so on. It’s unfortunately all too common for the anonymity of the internet to embolden people to say whatever they want without fear of repercussions. Yet Famke isn’t going to take this harassment anymore. She begins tracking down some of the more vicious trolls and getting her revenge.

The plot of The Columnist is very straight-foward, if not a bit too on-the-nose, but still brings the laughs. Femke gets up to some very bloody and violent antics tinged with dark humor. What makes her violent acts even more hilarious is that they seem to help her break any writers block she runs into while writing her new book. It’s very clear how the filmmakers feel about internet trolls. They address it in a comedic way, but it also doesn’t leave a lot of room for complexity within the plot. The only thing driving the story, aside from Famke trying to finish her book by killing trolls, is whether or not she will be caught. It leads to a rather predictable end, but the film is still a fun watch.

Each actor in The Columnist plays the role relatively straight, which makes their performances even funnier. The characters seem so normal on the surface, but their actions prove otherwise. Katja Herbers (Westworld, The Leftovers) stars as Famke Boot. Famke seems like the most normal, mild-mannered woman. Herbers does a great job of giving off that persona for the character, while also showing Famke becoming more unhinged the longer she scrolls through social media. It makes her murderous actions shocking, yet still plausible. Despite these violent methods, Herbers still shows Famke as a sympathetic character. Bram van der Kelen (Centraal, 4Jim) plays another writer, Steven Dood. At first Steven seems like he’s against Famke, but he eventually reveals he is simply playing a spooky persona to match his books. He’s an interesting character who is surprisingly sweet and van der Kelen’s performance adds a bit more commentary on the roles we play in the public eye. Herbers and van der Kelen are not only great together on screen, but they also perfectly show two opposing types of writers.

Despite the generally lighthearted tone of The Columnist, it still has a fair amount of gore. Each time Famke kills, the murder scenes become a bit more elaborate and violent. The best part is the “souvenir” she takes from each victim. The practical effects are disturbingly realistic. They are all the more disturbing because of the juxtaposition between the murders and the otherwise cheery Netherlands setting.

The Columnist is a delightful revenge fantasy for anyone who has dealt with internet trolls, despite it being a bit gauche. Windhorst and van Aart have a clear message they are sending to Fantasia International Film Festival audiences. There could have been a bit more subtlty, but the bloody dark comedy is still incredibly entertaining to watch. Both Herbers and van der Kelen deliver delightful performances. It’s an almost therapeutic watch that will hopefully make at least a few trolls think twice before posting hate on the internet.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10

Fantasia Review: Fried Barry

Barry is a piece of shit. He’s a drug addict, he’s violent, and he’s a horrible husband and father. After a bender, he’s abducted by aliens. They return his body back to Earth, but it’s being controlled by an alien who explores human life through human eyes.

When you think of strange films you might discover at Fantasia International Film Festival, Fried Barry perfectly fits the bill. While he has created dozens of short films, this is the feature film debut for South African writer and director Ryan Kruger. Inspired by his short film of the same name, Fried Barry is a strange sci-fi/horror/comedy mash-up. Kruger makes sure the audience immediately dislikes Barry, which makes his eventual abduction and probing (yes, I said probing) simultaneously disturbing and humorous. It’s when the alien goes back down to Earth using Barry’s body that things really get strange. The alien gets a front row seat to the underbelly of human civilization as Barry goes from one misadventure to the next, often resulting in violence, sex, and psychedelic drug-induced insanity.

Fried Barry is the kind of film that will likely be polarizing. Audiences will either love it or hate it. The one main plot is simply the alien navigating through South Africa and learning about humans. Yet again and again alien Barry finds himself in increasingly strange and dangerous predicaments. It results in multiple subplots that make the film, at times, seem like an anthology with Barry as the connecting thread. Many of these misadventures show the seedy underbelly of South Africa. Part of me wishes there had been a bit more to the plot, such as a clearer motivation for the alien controlling Barry or something else driving the film forward, but it is still a film that sticks with you.

While Fried Barry has a rather sizable cast, there is one performance that takes over the film. Gary Green (Escape Room, Three Suspects) plays the titular character, Barry. As Barry, Green does a great job of making the character unlikeable. It’s when Barry is controlled by the alien that Green’s performances truly shines. Green already kind of has an alien appearance to him. He’s quite gaunt and skeletal, has penetrating eyes, and has an intensity about him. Alien Barry doesn’t talk much, so Green has to rely on his physicality to convey what the character is thinking and feeling at any given moment. It’s really a phenomenal performance and a large part of why I enjoy the film.

From start to finish, this film assaults the senses. Fried Barry has a general griminess to it. Each scene feels dirty enough to make your skin crawl, which fits the overall tone of the plot. Yet this griminess is broken up by scenes of vibrant, hallucinatory colors and images to convey Barry’s more drug-fueled moments and the abduction itself. Then there is the musical score by Haezer (The Experimental Witch, Nobody Dies). Much like the visuals, the music is gritty and vibrantly synth in turn, fitting perfectly with each image on the screen.

Fried Berry takes audiences on a strange journey that will make you laugh while also making you feel like you need a shower. This film is an incredibly strong feature film debut from Kruger that truly shows his filmmaking prowess. Green’s portrayal of Berry definitely helps to make the film a standout at Fantasia International Film Festival. While it won’t appeal to every viewer, it is guaranteed to be a memorable viewing experience that makes audiences laugh and cringe in turn.

OVERALL RATING: 7/10

Yummy

In a secluded Eastern European hospital, a woman goes to get breast reduction surgery while her mother is getting more work done to look younger. While they are prepped for surgery, the woman’s boyfriend accidentally stumbles upon something he shouldn’t have, unleashing a nightmarish zombie outbreak inside the hospital walls.

This zombie gore-fest hails all the way from Belgium. Lars Damoiseaux (10 jaar leuven kort, Undercover) directed and co-wrote the film along with Eveline Hagenbeek (Undercover, Rokjesdag). Yummy takes humorous jabs at plastic surgery and the lengths people will go to feel young and beautiful, while also delivering copious amounts of blood and guts. When we are introduced to the young woman, her mother, and her boyfriend, it creates an interesting dynamic. This is especially evident with mother and daughter. The daughter has the “God given gift” of very large natural breasts, but she hates the attention they bring her so she wants breast reduction. The mother, on the other hand, has already had multiple procedures to look younger and comes to the hospital wanting more. While both sides represent being unhappy with who you are and the way you look, the mother is the more traditional view of plastic surgery most viewers will think of. The film creates a kind of “be careful what you wish for” scenario as the doctors accidentally created the zombie virus in their quest to unlock the secrets of eternal youth. It sends a strong message, but it also allows the filmmakers to inject quite a few laugh-out-loud moments.

While for the most part Yummy delivers lots of fun along with the carnage, there are some drawbacks. There are one or two scenes that lean a bit too far into the realm of distasteful humor. It’s clear they want to push the envelope, especially with some of the effects, but it ends up bordering on offensive. That being said, most of the practical effects throughout Yummy are very well done. There are a lot of terrifying and gruesome zombies in this film and each one looks fantastic. In a few scenes there are practical effects to replicate cosmetic surgery or other aspects of the human body and those are also quite realistic. The film even has a great score, although during one scene it sounds very similar to the score from 28 Days Later.

There are many great performances in Yummy, but three stand out. The first is Maaike Neuville (De Dag, Clan) as Alison. What really stands out about Neuville’s performance is how she conveys being uncomfortable with her own body. Alison doesn’t want the attention her breasts give her, and the attention most women at the clinic desire, and Neuville excels at showing us that. Bart Hollander (Salamander, Callboys) plays Alison’s boyfriend, Michael. Michael is like a big, maybe slightly pathetic puppy dog; he’s goofy and hates the sight of blood, but he clearly adores Alison. Hollander plays this role well, especially when his many attempts to be the hero don’t quite work out. Then there is Benjamin Ramon (Carnival, Toxic Anyway) as hospital employee Daniel. Ramon does a fantastic job of being incredibly sleazy in one moment, then completely sweet in the next, depending on who he’s interacting with. These three actors also play off of each other very well.

Yummy is a zombie cautionary tale about the consequences of trying to look young forever. Damoiseaux and Hagenbeek definitely create a film that is as funny as it is grotesque. Gore hounds will be delighted with how drenched in blood and guts Yummy is from start to finish. There may be a couple of distasteful moments and a mildly lackluster ending, but it is sure to entertain viewers. The performances and cosmetic surgery hospital backdrop help to make this zombie film stand alongside others of its kind, even if it doesn’t stand above them. And because in this day and age some people still refuse to watch a film with subtitles, I will let potential viewers know that it’s about 50/50 English vs subtitles. If you’re looking for mindless fun, then this is definitely a great choice.

OVERALL RATING: 6/10

Scare Package

What’s better than seven tales of horror wrapped in one package? Seven meta tales of horror filled with laughs, gore, up-and-coming filmmakers, and familiar faces wrapped in one package. This and more awaits viewers in the new horror anthology, Scare Package.

Scare Package brings together a host of talented writers and directors. They all used their individual segments to hone in on various horror tropes and either subvert them or highlight those tropes. Viewers will no doubt watch the seven short films and see numerous nods to classic horror films, some more obvious than others. Sometimes the plots take a back seat to the visual aspects, but these aspects often tell a story of their own for the trained horror fan’s eye. Through all the meta filmmaking and Easter eggs, the filmmakers still manage to tell stories that are as funny as they are unique.

“Cold Open” hilariously honors the characters in horror films that are briefly seen and don’t get enough credit for setting up the film, while also honoring one of the most popular horror films of all time. “Rad Chad’s Horror Emporium” is not only a place I wish I worked, but it’s also the overarching story that ties everything together as each segment is presented like a rental at Rad Chad’s. “One Time in the Woods” is probably the goriest segment that also throws as many horror subgenres at you as it can. “M.I.S.T.E.R.” is likely going to piss off a few male viewers, but I mean that in the best way possible because it perfectly plays with the idea of what makes a real man. “Girls’ Night Out of Body” can be found in the post modern feminist slasher revenge body horror section at Rad Chad’s, and that honestly sums it up perfectly. “The Night He Came Back Again! Part IV: The Final Kill” plays into the classic horror trope of the masked killer that somehow always comes back, no matter how you kill him! “So Much to Do” exemplifies how important shows are to some people and the dangers of revealing spoilers. And finally, “Horror Hypothesis” takes everything you know about slashers and puts it to the test.

The performances in Scare Package are all fantastic, many of them being highly satirical and sure to make viewers laugh. Because many of the segments are meant to a mockery of horror tropes, some of the performances come across as intentionally cheesy. That might not appeal to all viewers, but definitely made me laugh. A clear standout performance from the beginning is Jeremy King (The Pale Door, Sinister Seduction) as none other than Rad Chad himself. King perfectly embodies all the good and bad aspects of hardcore horror lovers. His portrayal will make you love Chad as much as you also can’t help but roll your eyes at him. Another great performance comes from none other than Noah Segan (Knives Out, Mohawk) who stars as the husband in the segment he also co-wrote and directed, “M.I.S.T.E.R.” Segan does a fantastic job of acting as a typical nice guy with an underlying creepiness. Toni Trucks (Grimm, Franklin & Bash) stars in the “So Much To Do” segment as Franchesca. Trucks really shines in this role mostly because she kicks some serious ass. She has one of the most physical roles of all the segments, and she definitely delivers. Really all the performances are delightful and horror fans are sure to see more than a few familiar faces.

One thing I can promise viewers is that there is a lot of gore in Scare Package. The film relies on practical effects to create creative kills, gruesome monsters, and devious killers. There is definitely no shortage of blood, guts, and goo. While all of these segments utilize great practical effects, the most memorable in that regard is definitely “One Time in the Woods.” Not only does it have a high body count and unique kills, but it also has a fantastic melting character that looks absolutely amazing. If lots and lots of blood is more your speed, then “The Night He Came Back Again! Part IV: The Final Kill” is definitely the segment for you. The effects have a little something for everything horror fan.

Scare Package hilariously highlights the good, the bad, and the ugly of horror films. It’s clear this anthology was put together by horror fans for horror fans. Each segment is a hilarious take on various horror tropes, but there are still delightfully unique stories to be seen. At times it might be a bit too meta and tongue-and-cheek for some viewers. I for one scared my pets multiple times by bursting into laughter. Scare Package showcases the beginnings of promising careers for these writer and directors. Fans will also be laughing along with the fresh new actors and cheering for the horror favorites that pop-up. It might be a bit goofy at times, gory horror anthology that viewers are sure to adore.

OVERALL RATING: 7.5/10

Harpoon

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Three friends go out for a day pleasure cruise. While out at sea, tensions flare and horrible choices are made. The group is left adrift in the middle of the ocean with no food, no water, no radio, and no working engine. As the yacht endlessly floats, sexual tension and deep dark secrets are forced to the surface with disastrous consequences.

Writer and director Rob Grant (Desolate, Alive) brings the darkest of dark horror comedies with his latest film, Harpoon. A narrator sets the tone for the film with sarcastic and cynical monologues introducing viewers to the three main characters. Then, when the characters are finally brought together for the first time, an explosive burst of violence perfectly shows the tumultuous and deranged relationship these people have. How quickly they go from a physical altercation to going for a day cruise on a yacht makes it very clear that there are a lot of deep rooted issues with these three friends just waiting to bubble up to the surface. It leads to some truly gruesome and hilarious hijinks as things go from bad, to worse, to complete and utter disaster. All the while, the narrator continues to describe the disturbing events in ways that are sure to make the viewer laugh at the most inappropriate times. There are also some great long-running jokes throughout the film. Even the name of the film is a joke because there is in fact not one harpoon in the entire film.

One of the most interesting things about Harpoon is that it does something I usually hate in horror films, yet Grant makes it work. Typically, it bothers me when none of the characters have any redeeming qualities because then I don’t care about their fates and it kills the suspense. All three people trapped on the yacht are really despicable people in various ways and to differing degrees, yet it works exceedingly well in this context. We aren’t meant to really feel for these people. We are meant to be shocked by what happens while also cracking up at the unfortunate events that befall the group. It is the perfect combination of horror and humor that doesn’t make the viewer feel ashamed for laughing at their misfortune.

The entire small cast delivers memorable performances. Budding horror film star Munro Chambers (Riot Girls, Turbo Kid) plays Jonah. Chambers has been making his mark in genre films over the past couple years and his performance as the tragic Jonah is another great success. Jonah’s intentions sometimes appear to be good, but there are many layers hidden within that really allow Chambers to show off his acting prowess. One of the surprises of the film is Emily Tyra (Flesh and Bone, Ring Ring) as Sasha. Of all the characters, Sasha comes across as the most levelheaded. It is her knowledge and resolve that help keep the group alive and Tyra shines in the role. Christopher Gray (The Mist, The Society) plays Sasha’s boyfriend and the owner of the yacht, Richard. Richard is the epitome of the rich, white, privileged guy you can’t help but hate, yet Gray also manages to make him the most hilarious character in the film. Between his great dialogue and his anger issues, Gray is sure to give the audience a good laugh. All three actors play off of each other incredibly well and their on-screen chemistry truly makes it feel like they have known each other for years.

The sets, practical effects, and filming techniques allow for a lot of visual interest throughout Harpoon. Really there is one set for 90% of the film – the yacht. It is a fairly spacious boat, but when three people are stranded on it with nothing but open water as far as the eye can see it definitely becomes claustrophobic. There is something about being adrift in the vast abyss of the ocean that is truly terrifying. That terror is intensified by the surprising amount of gore. There are bruises, cuts, infections, and copious amounts of blood and all of it looks disgustingly real. With the film taking place on a yacht at sea, there are some great opportunities for interesting cinematography. Yet what stands out are a couple flashback scenes that connect the events of the film to events of the past in a way that adds to the plot while also giving the viewer something fun to look at.

Harpoon abandons a group of dysfunctional friends adrift on a yacht and lets the insanity unfold in this dark horror comedy. It is a relatively simple plot that Grant manages to inject with memorable moments and humor. While the characters are all horrible people, it makes it much more entertaining to watch them deteriorate and turn against each other and the performances from all three actors are fantastic. This film definitely won’t be everyone’s cup of tea, but it is exactly the kind of deranged humor I can’t get enough of.

OVERALL RATING: 8.5/10