Quantcast Icons of Fright News and Updates: FIRST LOOK Review Archives


June 03, 2009


Just added! Our staffer Adam Barnick just posted a FIRST LOOK REVIEW for the much talked about indie flick PONTYPOOL. Directed by Bruce McDonald from a script by Tony Burgess, PONTYPOOL stars Stephen McHattie (WATCHMEN, HISTORY OF VIOLENCE), Lisa Houle, Georgine Reilly, Hrant Alianak and Rick Roberts.

Synopsis: Pontypool tells the story of shock-jock radio D.J. Grant Mazzy. Mazzy has, once again, been kicked off the Big City airwaves and now the only job he can get is the early morning show at CLSY Radio in the small town of Pontypool which broadcasts from the basement of the small town's only church. What begins as another boring day of school bus cancellations due to yet another massive snow storm quickly becomes deadly. Bizarre reports start piling in of people developing strange speech patterns and committing horrendous acts of violence. But there's nothing coming in on the news wires. So...is this really happening? Before long, Grant and the small staff at CLSY find themselves trapped in the radio station as they discover that this insane behavior taking over the town is caused by a deadly virus that may be spreading as a direct result of their radio transmissions... Now they must shut up or die.

Click HERE or the image below to read Adam's review!

December 13, 2008


The cinematic vampire is no longer in retreat.

Popular in cycles, vampires in horror have been presented as everything from the romantic to the repugnant. With as many forms of vampire as there are it's not remarkable to note that the films featuring them have explored, stylistically, everything from the sublimely subtle to the supremely silly. This year the bloodsucker pendulum is swinging from the plasma-thin pop horror of “Twilight” to strangely beautiful “Let The Right One In”. Jim Spanos's “Maidenhead” falls somewhere between the beautiful and the silly. It's a humorous and unique take on the genre, featuring several striking performances and a stylishly retro look that immediately sets it apart.

Starring AJ Bowen (“The Signal”) as Martin, a young man with a unique disposition. A quiet, awkward man who attends bible study, enjoys the library and a quiet first date over a cup of coffee. He is leading a curious life, because his bedridden father (Michael Parks) kind of just happens to be a vampire. Martin is both caring for him and holding him captive, tied to a bed upstairs to protect the population at large, or perhaps just to avoid embarrassment. And of course, he's there to help fulfill Dad's unconventional dietary requirement for fresh virgin blood (god forbid it's not virgin, Dad is particular). Bottle-feeding has never been...quiet so disturbingly upsetting. Of course, all Martin really needs, all he really wants, is a girlfriend. But you know how it goes when your Dad is a incomprehensible immortal invalid. It complicates things considerably.

One of the most salient aspects of this film is the peculiar mood and feel, accented by the rich and commanding black and white photography of David Olive. Olive's cinematography vividly underlines the strangeness of the story, showing off crisp edges, slightly overexposed exteriors, and the occasional odd angle. It's look is off-beat without being too avant-garde as to be off-putting or distracting. Just weird enough to catch our attention, it looks like a lost episode of “The Twilight Zone”. We have to say it, it's unusual in low-budget horror today to see director and cinematographer care so much about how their film looks. In an age when even a sloppy $25,000 DV backyard zombie pictures can get a major DVD push, it's nice to see that there's a team of people crafting something that's as interesting to look at as their story is to follow.

Layered between the unique look and weird story are some truly notable performances. With AJ Bowen, we're certain from his work in this and in “The Signal”, that this actor is going to quietly make a name for himself. When presented without much dialogue to work with actors have a tendency to overplay it. Bowen manages to find his balance, and plays it weird, funny, and awkward without crossing that fine line into camp. Michael Parks, on the other hand, has plenty to say, except we can't understand more than a few words of it. He plays the bed-ridden vampire as a pathetically whiny child with a seemingly swollen tongue. Parks would need subtitles to be understood. At first it seems an odd acting choice, but as the film progresses Parks performance really becomes the core of “Maidenhead”'s distinctive humor. I mean, are we looking at the the first mumblecore vampire film? Possibly.

When compared to a straight-up, conventional vampire film “Maidenhead” will seem bizarre and experimental, but it's not so as to be inaccessible. The entire creative team on this film have really put together the kind of horror that's rare today: Quietly creepy, witty, and refreshingly entertaining.

-Mike Cucinotta

Watch the trailer for MAIDENHEAD HERE!


December 05, 2008


Jsyn checked in to give us a FIRST LOOK REVIEW of the acclaimed new creature feature SPLINTER! The film was written and directed by Toby Wilkins and stars Shea Whigham, Paulo Costanzo, and Jill Wagner. Click HERE or the image below to read Jsyn's FIRST LOOK REVIEW of SPLINTER! For DVD details, click HERE! SPLINTER will be available on DVD January 27th, 2009 courtesy of Magnolia Pictures.

October 02, 2008


Just added! A FIRST LOOK REVIEW for the Swedish vampire flick LET THE RIGHT ONE IN! (Låt den rätte komma in) Directed by Tomas Alfredson from a script by John Ajvide Lindqvist (and based on his original novel of the same name), LET THE RIGHT ONE IN stars Kåre Hedebrant as Oskar and Lina Leandersson as Eli. The story centers around the shy & often bullied 12 year old Oskar and his blossoming relationship with his new neighbor Eli. Eli however isn't like other 12 year old girls. Oskar believes she may be a vampire.

LET THE RIGHT ONE IN is a movie that ICONS OF FRIGHT stands 100% behind. Guillermo del Toro said, "As delicate, haunting and poetic a film as you're ever bound to see... A chilling fairy tale." And it's already being remade (sigh) for American audiences by CLOVERFIELD director Matt Reeves. Magnet, the horror sub-division of Magnolia Pictures will release it theatrically on October 24th. In the meantime, read our FIRST LOOK REVIEW of LET THE RIGHT ONE IN by clicking the image below or HERE! Check out the trailer at yesterday's news post HERE! You don't want to miss this one!


Just added! A FIRST LOOK REVIEW for the Starz Inside documentary FANTASTIC FLESH: THE ART OF MAKE-UP EFX! Our staffer Adam Barnick chimes in with a review of the upcoming FX doc which premieres on Starz next Tuesday October 7th! One in a series of monthly original special hosted by Richard Roeper, FANTASTIC FLESH: THE ART OF MAKE-UP EFX features interviews with KNB's Greg Nicotero (who also serves as an exec-producer), Howard Berger, Tom Savini, Dick Smith, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, Eli Roth, Frank Darabont, Mick Garris, John Landis, Joe Dante, Wes Craven, Simon Pegg and many, many more. Click the logo below to read Adam's review of the documentary special!

August 11, 2008


An Icons of Fright Exclusive! The first review of the long-awaited "Return to Sleepaway Camp"!

Return to Sleepaway Camp

Return to Sleepaway Camp

It's been 5 years since principal photography completed on “Return To Sleepaway Camp” and this reviewer has to wonder why it's taken so long to get the movie out. Especially when you consider that this is a sequel that finally lives up to the rude and nasty spirit of the original “Sleepaway Camp”. Forget the mid-80's sequels, “Return To Sleepaway Camp” is THE movie us fans have been waiting for.

The sequels that hit video store shelves in '88 and '89, featuring Pamela Springsteen as Angela, were adequately goofy/gory spoofs of the cheapo slasher subgenre. They featured enough splatter and contrived continuity from the original to tide over fans for almost two decades. Still, “Sleepaway Camp” writer-director Robert Hiltzik had nothing to do with them. While they hold up as campy (no pun intended) fun they lack the seedy, sleazy, and mean-spirited tone of Hiltzik's original classic. It has always lacked a proper follow-up.

Return to Sleepaway Camp

“Return to Sleepaway Camp” picks up 20+ years later. At Camp Manabe, co-owed by Frank (Vincent Pastore of “The Sopranos”) and Ronnie (Paul DeAngelo, reprising his role as the former Camp Arawak counselor) kids are being relentlessly cruel to one of the campers. This time it's the overweight and socially awkward Alan. The counselors, and his peers, relentlessly berate him about his weight, and his slovenly appearance. He appears to never bathe or change clothes. The maladroit manner with which he interacts with the opposite sex wins him no girlfriends either. Still, unlike the shy and unassuming Angela, Alan is kind of a jerk too, bullying the younger campers as much as he gets it himself.

Return to Sleepaway Camp

Soon a series of increasingly grisly “accidents” start to happen around the camp. Ronnie immediately becomes paranoid, convinced that somehow Angela has found him. They seek out her brother Ricky (Jonathan Tiereston, also reprising his role) who assures them that Angela is locked away in mental facility. Ricky, Ronnie, Frank, the camp chef Charlie (played by the late Isaac Hayes), and a local sheriff with the worst facial hair since famous 'stash on the cop' in the original, try to figure out what's going on, and put a stop to the killings. Still, the cruel jokes continue, the body count rises, and everyone not already dead at Camp Manabe becomes a suspect. Maybe Angela is back in town?

Return to Sleepaway Camp

“Return To Sleepaway Camp” has it's share of gruesome and violent death scenes, including one great homage to the original featuring an industrial strength deep-fryer instead of a pot of boiling water. However, most of the gore is left to the imagination, and we're usually treated to just the nasty after-effects of the murders. One of the reasons “Return To Sleepaway Camp” was rumored to have been held up was the need to complete some CGI special effects. We're not sure where these supposed CGI effects are. Most of the death scenes are done practically, with makeup effects. There's a cheap looking CGI title sequence, and one death involving fire that may have required CG, but that's it.

Like the original, but unusual for the genre, the kids in the movie are the played by actors of the appropriate age. There are no 30 year old women playing teenager girls in this movie. It's weird to watch Disney Channel-esque actors in a slasher film. With all the violence and foul language it's like watching a bunch of 14 year olds reenact a John Waters movie. It's just not something you ever got comfortable with in the original and the effect holds up here. The young cast, and their sometimes stilted and clumsy performances, give the film that loud, hysterical, crass feel of the first and lend to it a strangely trashy edge. You know what? I'll take trashy over safe and politically correct in my slasher sequels anytime.

There are a few problems with “Return” that hopefully the filmmakers have some time to fix. The pre-release cut Icons of Fright saw features a lackluster score and often amateurish editing. Be honest with yourself though: The original “Sleepaway Camp” is a fun 80's slasher movie (which this one really captures the spirit of) but it's not an amazing example of fine or remarkable filmmaking. Still, the original score made it much more cinematic and theatrical than this one comes across. Without that vintage-style score this sequel feels cheap. The pedestrian editing, featuring long fade-ins and outs between scenes, hurts the pace of the movie. Both these elements leave the film feeling somewhat unfinished, and after 5 years that's unacceptable. Also, considering the pedigree of this film the ending is somewhat anti-climactic.

Still, it's hard not to recommend the film, especially to any fan that's been waiting for a true follow-up. It's got everything you're going to want from a “Sleepaway Camp” sequel: A bunch of obnoxious, nasty, rude camp-goers getting burned, skinned, crushed, and eaten alive in a movie that's only a few half-shirts and denim shorts from looking like it's 1983 all over again.

Return to Sleepaway Camp

-Mike Cucinotta



Return to Sleepaway Camp

Check out the trailer at our previous news post HERE!

Visit the official SLEEPAWAY CAMP website at: http://www.sleepawaycampmovies.com/

Our FRIGHT exclusive interview with FELISSA ROSE!


July 31, 2008

REVIEW: Fear Itself's Episode "Skin and Bones" - Directed by Larry Fessenden


Indie genre favorite Larry Fessenden (THE LAST WINTER, WENDIGO) tackles this week's episode of FEAR ITSELF entitled, "Skin and Bones" concerning a subject that director is quite familiar with.

A rancher, played by Doug Jones (HELLBOY, PAN'S LABYRINTH) goes missing in the mountains for ten days
and miraculously returns home... rather different. Now, his somewhat dysfunctional family must face the
ravenous, supernatural force residing inside him.

What makes this episode really work is the incredible Doug Jones. If fellow HELLBOY star Ron Perlman is this
generation's Boris Karloff, then Jones is most definitely our Lon Chaney. Doug absolutely owns this
role, his performance shining through the very subtle prosthetics and makeup. It's clear that this man is
more than just a guy with foam latex stuck to his face. He's a very rare kind of actor who understands makeup as a tool, and works with it instead of around it. He shifts effortlessly between creepy, scary and physically imposing, transforming himself from the inside out, changing even his voice.

Director Larry Fessenden may be working with a different palette here than what he is used to, but the finished piece is still very well crafted. It must be challenging to keep indie sensibilities while dealing with limited running time, commercial breaks and network execs, and I do get the feeling that maybe he wasn't able to put as much of himself into the episode as he would have liked to, but then again he has two films that deal with the same subject in a much different way. In a recent interview, he joked that "Skin and Bones" is like the big-budget Hollywood
remake of WENDIGO, and while that observation is not too far off, the finished product is certainly not without Larry's fingerprints on it. There are a quite a few moments of real dread and fear, and some wonderfully composed, creepy shots of Doug doing nothing at all. I would love to see a director's cut of this released on DVD if possible.

Drew McWeeny and Scott Swan wrote the episode, and are best know for John Carpenter's MASTERS OF HORROR episodes, "Cigarette Burns" and "Pro-Life". The script (which can be read on-line for a limited time) is not bad, it just seems to be following the same beats as their previous episodes with a different setting.
Apparently John Carpenter was intended to direct this episode, but it was ultimately offered to Fessenden. The thing is, having Larry Fessenden direct an episode about a Wendigo is like having George Romero direct
and episode about zombies... it's kind of obvious. It would have been more interesting to see writers and chosen director tackle material outside their respective comfort zones. Hopefully we'll get to see that if NBC orders up another season.

"Skin and Bones" is a solid episode of the so-far-so-good season of FEAR ITSELF, worth watching for Doug Jones alone. It airs this Thursday on NBC so be sure to tune in or set your TiVo's. Check local
listings for times.

-Jay Alvino

Also check out our recent Fright Exclusive Interview with Director Larry Fessenden:

July 11, 2008


Just added! We've posted a FIRST LOOK REVIEW for the Spanish horror flick [REC], which has already been remade into QUARANTINE (starring Jennifer Carpenter & Jay Hernandez and due in theaters October 10th!) The original film however has instantly become one of our favorites here on ICONS! From directors Jaume Balaguero and Paco Plaza and starring Manuela Velasco, read our thoughts on [REC] by clicking the image below!

July 04, 2008


Our staffer Beth caught a screening of the much-talked about ALL THE BOYS LOVE MANDY LANE at the recent Flashback Weekend convention and you can read her FIRST LOOK review by clicking the image below! The film was written by Jacob Forman and directed by Jonathan Levine ("The Wackness") and stars Amber Heard, Anson Mount, Michael Welch, Aaron Himelstein, Edwin Hodge, Whitney Able and Luke Grimes. We're still waiting on word on distribution, but in the meantime, read Beth's review. The rest of us are looking forward to this one!

May 09, 2008


We've just posted a FIRST LOOK review for the highly anticipated adaptation flick THE MIDNIGHT MEAT TRAIN! Based on the story by Clive Barker from his legendary BOOKS OF BLOOD, the movie version was directed by Ryuhei Kitamura (VERSUS) and stars Bradley Cooper, Vinnie Jones, Leslie Bibb, Roger Bart and Brooke Shields. It opens August 1st in theaters from LIONSGATE. But in the meantime, check out our review of the film by clicking either image below!


April 20, 2008


Our staffer Phil Fasso has a FIRST LOOK review of the latest addition to the ever-growing "zombie" subgenre. The feature? ZOMBIE STRIPPERS. (Hey, I guess it hasn't been done before.) The flick stars former "adult" film actress Jenna Jameson (if you can recognize her!) and former Freddy Krueger himself Robert Englund!? So is it worth checking out? Click the poster below to find out!

Continue reading "FIRST LOOK: ZOMBIE STRIPPERS!" »

February 08, 2008


Oh boy. Well, George A. Romero's latest zombie flick DIARY OF THE DEAD is getting a limited theatrical release on February 15th, 2008 via the Weinsten Company. Today, we've got a duel FIRST LOOK review of the film from yours truly (Robg.) and staffer Phil Fasso. Two different opinions. Both, sadly... on the negative side, but also non-spoilers. Phil and I do our best to tell you what to expect from DIARY OF THE DEAD, without giving too much away. Click the logo below to read our thoughts!

Continue reading "FIRST LOOK: DIARY OF THE DEAD!" »

August 21, 2007


Just added! Mike C. let's us know what he thinks of the eagerly awaited WRONG TURN 2: DEAD END, the new sequel from director Joe Lynch, which stars Henry Rollins and Erica Leerhsen! Rollins kicking ass? Splattery gore? Mutants? Mutant sex? Mutant masturbation? This movie's got it all! Reading is believing, fiends. Click the logo below to read our FIRST LOOK review!

Continue reading "FIRST LOOK: WRONG TURN 2: DEAD END" »


Just added! Jsyn chines in with a FIRST LOOK review of Damon Packard's latest opus SPACEDISCO ONE! (Dubbed in teaser posters as the sequel to Logan's Run and 1984) Why more people aren't covering the genius of filmmaker Damon Packard is beyond us! Read on for the FIRST LOOK review and open up to the world of Packard!

Continue reading "FIRST LOOK: SPACEDISCO ONE" »


Just added! A FRIGHT FIRST LOOK review of the indie flick 100 TEARS, directed by Marcus Koch, written by Joe Davison and starring Raine Brown, Joe Davison, Georgia Chris and Jack Amos. The flick is about two local reporters investigating the "teardrop killer", who turns out to be Gurdy, a homicidal huge clown who stalks mutliple victims with a giant cleaver! Click the logo below to read our review!

Continue reading "FIRST LOOK: 100 TEARS" »

August 10, 2007


Stevan Mena has followed up his 2004 low-budget slasher film “Malevolence” with BRUTAL MASSACRE, a documentary-style comedy about the making of a low-budget slasher film. It's a cinema verite, art-imitates-life-imitates-art moment for Mena, but is it funny? Read on for the FIRST LOOK review!


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