Shiny Shelf

Grimm Up North 2010: The Reeds, Dream Home, Alien vs Ninja

By Sarah Jane Vespertine on 11 November 2010

First film on Friday’s agenda was another new British film, ‘The Reeds’, starring Will Mellor. A group of twenty-something friends set off for a weekend’s boating and drinking on the Norfolk Broads, an atmospheric and isolated setting that lends itself unexpectedly well to the genre.

The start is a little clunky, featuring some heavy-handed exposition setting up which character is which stereotype, and with a mysterious boat-hire man straight out of Scooby-Doo. Of course, the boat they’ve booked is unavailable, which results in some pointless arguing until they realise they can just hire a different boat. A boat which is mysteriously located away from the boat yard, and bedecked with sullen teens when they reach it.

After more pointless arguing with the teenagers, they set off – doing remarkably well for not having any idea how to steer or drive a boat – and the drinking and exposition lead us into nightfall, and a rather nicely done first death.

Quite what is lurking in the eponymous reeds, and indeed in the surprisingly clear fen water, keeps you guessing for a fair length of time, and there are some good jumps once the horrible deaths get into full swing.

Some of the decisions the group make to get out of their ’stranded in the dark in the middle of nowhere whilst something stalks you’ predicament are on the idiotic side, but no more so that in a hundred other bigger budget teen slasher films. The plot gets a little caught up in its own convolutions, but does a good job of keeping you guessing what is actually going on, right up until the closing moments.

The effects and gore are surprisingly well done for a low budget British production, and a cast & crew Q&A at the end reveals that there may still be some final edits going on before it gets a   release. Not a bad film, in many ways, and may be even better with a little tighter editing before it hits the shelves.

The next film was ‘Dead Hooker in a Trunk’: see the separate review for more on that.

Third film of the day was ‘Dream Home’, a Hong Kong film starring Josie Ho. Right from the opening scenes, this film is visceral, and just when you think it can’t get any more visceral, it just keeps on going. From a shockingly nasty death at the start, this film then actually turns out to be about the property market after Hong Kong was handed back to the Chinese, and one girl’s dream to buy the apartment she’s promised her family, after they were driven out of their flat by land-hungry developers.

As spiraling prices and economic chaos constantly frustrate her, she becomes more and more desperate and driven, until nothing else matters but buying the flat. Not even her family matter any more, as she descends into sociopathic madness, and her killing spree becomes increasingly horrific in her attempt to frighten off other buyers and drive the price down to her level.

Whilst quite creative, and showing an interesting range of uses for zip ties, the killings are quite hardcore, especially that of a pregnant woman. Some of them cross the gore line into silliness, but are never less than wince-making. Not a film for the squeamish, by any means.

For such an anti-heroine, Josie Ho makes Sheung more sympathetic a character than you might imagine. You really want her to get that flat, and feel her frustration as events conspire against her, even if only so she will stop it with the murders.

‘Alien vs Ninja’ starts as it means to go on, with excellently over the top, hyper-ninja action. Our core team of ninjas are two competitive friends, one girl and the comedic slightly overweight one that no Japanese film would be complete without (unfortunately).

The plot, such as it is, is expressed perfectly in the title. A fireball falls to earth, our heroes set off to investigate, and find it was full of aliens intent on… well, having some ridiculously excessive fights.

Along the way, the ninjas meet the last remaining survivor of an alien attack on a small village, a young boy who they take under their wing and becomes part of their team. Then there’s some more fighting, some fascinating revelations about the aliens’ reproductive cycle and purpose on earth, a bit more banter between our heroes, and then, even more fighting.

The aliens are impressively Freudian, both in form and their increasingly bizarre range of bodily weapons. Whilst quite blatantly being men in rubber suits, and ever so slightly derivative of the classic Giger alien, they are nicely freaky-looking too.

This is a brilliant film, requiring nothing from the viewer but the will to be entertained by some very silly, nicely executed ninja vs alien action.

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By Sarah Jane Vespertine

Sarah Jane Vespertine is a writer, occasional poet and freelance thinker. You can follow her on Twitter at

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