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BARGE STILLS10

Movie Reviews (Horror-on-Sea Film Festival): The Barge People, The Psychics, Blood Tulips

U.K. shocker The Barge People is director Charlie Steed’s follow-up to his 2017 gorefest Escape from Cannibal Farm. In this new offering, Steed takes the basic premise for the original 1977 version of The Hills Have Eyes, moves the vacation location to British countryside canals, and adds some cool-looking monsters to the mix. The result is a fast-paced effort driven by one brutal onslaught after another, but greatly aided by some nice dramatic sequences involving loss and grief, and the breakdown of class differences. Sisters Kat (Kate Davies-Speak in a riveting performance) and Sophie (Natalie Martins) go on a canal barge trip with their boyfriends. The two men — nice guy Mark (Mark McKirdy) and obnoxious Ben (Matt Swales) — don’t get along from the start. When they accidentally bump the barge of some “You think you’re better than us?” types including hot-headed Ricky (Kane Surry) and Jade (Makenna Guyler) and later encounter the group in a watering hole that doesn’t cotton well to cityfolk, tensions rise until the titular mutants come calling, and things go from bad to violent, bloody, and deadly. The creature designs, masks, and practical effects are super, and fans of 1970s grindhouse and drive-in horror movies and 1980s home video nastiness will find plenty of impressive gore gags and nasty kills. Steeds and scriptwriter Christopher Lombard put a uniquely British spin on hillbilly horror in this brutal, bleak outing.

 

Norwegian horror offering The Psychics uses a cinema-verite–style approach in its telling of a woman’s documentary taking her to personal places she never thought she would go and placing her firmly in harm’s way. Kirsti Locas gives a solid, natural-feeling performance as journalist Camilla, who plans to film a documentary about psychics and how the police use them to solve crimes. As she investigates her topic, leads surface about a crime to which she has personal connections. Psychics Frank (Frank Thomas Holen Andersen) and Astrid (Oddrun Valestrand) warn her to stop pursuing her personal angle and to go back to her original plan of action. Naturally, this only makes Camilla more curious and determined, and writer/director Tomas Sem Løkke-Sørensen does a fine job of ratcheting up the suspense and providing unexpected twists. It wouldn’t be fair to provide much more information about the plot, so suffice it to say that both supernatural and crime/mystery elements are involved in this impressive chiller. 

Please be aware that the trailer for The Psychics shows several spoilers.

 

 

 

With its roots in 1970s giallo and Eurohorror, Blood Tulips is a wild ride. Codirected by Randy Kent (who stars as expat cafe owner Jaap, and who codirected The Perfect House [2013]) and John Luksetich (who stars as The Tulip Killer), the film concerns two sisters who share psychic abilities. When younger sibling Tess (Katie Kline) goes missing during a trip to Amsterdam to deliver a painting to a client, her sister Starla (cult-film actress Bouvier [Andy Milligan’s Surgikill {1989}; Club Lingerie {2014}], who receives a story credit for the film, as well) flies from Los Angeles to The Netherlands to search for her. While Starla scours Amsterdam for clues, The Tulip Killer chops up body parts and dumps them in plastic bags, along with his signature black tulips. Perhaps the biggest mystery regarding Blood Tulips is just how seriously Kent and Luksetich mean for it to be taken. After an opening sequence showing actual footage of Nazi atrocities during World War II and providing details about how possessions including valuable works of art were stolen from Jewish people by the Nazis, many cast members dive right into the scenery and chew it with aplomb. Add to the mix a subplot about sex trafficking that features some dark comedy and some heavy, serious imagery, and to say that the tone of the film is widely varied is putting it mildly. Kline gives the most earnest performance in this ultralow-budget outing, while Bouvier provides many of its funniest moments. Derrel Maury (Massacre at Central High [1976]) is a blast as Starla’s romantic interest and fellow crime solver Oliver, and Linda Young gives a jaw-dropping turn as Madam Reeks, a sadistic brothel boss. Whether Blood Tulips is venturing into absurd zaniness territory or getting across its sincere messages about the art stolen from Jewish people during World War II and the harsh reality of human trafficking, it is always entertaining. 

The Barge People, The Psychics, and Blood Tulips screened at Horror-on-Sea Film Festival, which ran January 10th–19th at Park Inn by Raddison Palace, Southend-on-Sea, U.K.

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