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Plot: alien lifeform rids the Earth of politicians, lawyers, and corporations.

I Am Here…. Now is the second of Neil Breen’s religious-patriotic-jingoistic supernatural thrillers and the one where all beloved Breenisms coagulated into their known form. As a faux-New Age spiritualist interpretation of The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) it’s built around a Tuscarora Indian proverb and about as incomprehensible as Double Down (2005) before it. Just like the Robert Wise science fiction classic before it I Am Here…. Now too pushes an environmentalist agenda that promotes renewable energy and sustainability while simultaneously addressing more contemporary social problems as poverty, prostitution, and inner-city violence. Las Vegas’ own Christian geek green-Marxist, as Narnarland has lovingly dubbed him, is at it again and I Am Here…. Now is brilliant for all the wrong reasons. “I’m disappointed in your species,also sprach Neil Breen as he clubs the viewer over the head with heavy-handed, overt Christian symbolism. Where royalty-free stock footage goes, trashy braless women follow…

In the Nevada desert a meteor crashes and when the smoke clears a translucent glass paper weight is revealed. Materializing from the glass orb is The Being (Neil Breen) who takes human form and is clad in virgin white robes. Circuitry protrudes from his arms and chest, he bears stigmata on his hands and occassionally reverts back to his alien form. The Being is omnipotent and omniscient; ageless, and eternal – and he has created the Earth and everything on it as one of his “experiments.” Now, after countless thousands of years, he has returned to observe his creation. In the distance six crosses have been erected. The Being waggles across the desert landscape, passing disembodied doll heads until he comes across a skull. He picks it up saying, “I’m disappointed in your species,” after which he procures civilian clothing from a couple of heroin addicts (Ali Banks, and Tommie Vegas, as Tommie Lee Vasquez). Assuring them that, “it's only temporary,” he zaps them unconscious before imprisoning them in between dimensions. The Being takes the couple’s pick-up and heads for Las Vegas, a den of godlessness and vice. Humanity has fallen for the pursuit of material things and succumbed to greed. Capitalism is on the verge of depleting Earth’s resources and the natural environment is collapsing. The Being is the way, prepare for salvation…

On the sidewalks of Las Vegas Boulevard Cindy (Elizabeth Sekora) and her wild twin sister Amber (Joy Senn) (who looks nothing like her, but who has a similar fashion sense), both environmentalism activists, learn that they have been laid off by the renewable energies company they have been working for. “The poor economy” and “corporate corruption and greed” are to blame. Taking her baby out for a stroll Cindy and Amber discuss what they are to do. Amber suggests Cindy makes a living as a stripper and prostitute. Something which she has been doing all this time, apparently. Meanwhile a corporatist (George Gingerelli), politician (Jason Perrin), and lawyer (Ron Schoenewolf) are conspiring to keep renewable energy such as solar - and wind-turbine power from becoming legislated. On the other end of town Amber’s no-good boyfriend Aron (Med Jast) turns to petty theft and joining the local street gang to make ends meet. En route to their first escort job together Cindy and Amber run into the gang Aron wants to join. The Being helps a cancer-stricken, terminally ill senior citizen (Herbert Allen, as Hebert Allen) in realizing his dying wish: to see the “welcome to Las Vegas” street sign. On his way home wheelchair man runs into Cindy pushing her stroller. This prompts The Being to rejuvenate him so that he (Eduard Osipov) can be a family with a strange woman he met mere seconds before. Aron is summarily killed when he fails to pay his respects to his senior hoodlums.

Somewhere after Cindy’s descent into prostitution and before Aron being killed on the street Amber and The Being engage in a steamy affair. Amber feels that she has found the man that can tame her wild ways and make an honest woman out of her. The Being meanwhile has more pressing business to attend to. Business that doesn’t involve fondling women half his age. The Being has selected six corrupt One-Percenters to crucify in the Nevada desert. The crucified ones will act as a fair and final warning to humanity to redeem itself. The selected six One-Percenters represent the classes in cahoots with the drug cartel running cocaine across the Mexican border. The same cartel that operated a prostitution ring that employed Amber part-time. On his way across the desert The Being returns the two heroin addicts from whom he borrowed the ragged clothes. Amber, realizing that she has known The Being in lives past, desperately chases him across the desert begging to take her with him. Her tearful pleads fall on deaf ears as The Being reverts back to his alien form before returning to his translucent glass orb and departing for the stars from whence he came. If humanity fails to redeem itself now that the political –, corporate -, and financial class have been wiped out he will return to destroy Earth and everything on it once and for all.

When Mainland China pushes their environmentalist agenda of renewable energy they have the wisdom to cast models/hostesses as Frieda Hu Meng-Yuan (胡梦媛) or Miki Zhang Yi-Gui (张已桂) in productions as Angel Warriors (2013) or My Magic Girlfriend (2017), respectively. When Neil Breen does it, he casts complete unknowns. Breen is never in the habit of casting the same actress twice and unlike Rene Perez he doesn’t seem to have a muse. Perhaps Neil Breen uses his movies as preamble to meet beautiful women. Who knows? I Am Here…. Now is prescient in the casting of Joy Senn as she’s the embodiment of Breen’s ideal vision of feminine perfection. In that sense Senn is a precursor to Jennifer Autry, Victoria Viveiros, and Sara Meritt. Joy Senn and Elizabeth Sekora are average looking and not nearly as well-endowed as later Breen babes and their wardrobe consists of unbuttoned tank tops with spaghetti straps and short denim shorts exclusively. At one point both strip out of their tiny bikinis but immediately cover themselves up for modesty. Likewise is Tommie Vegas wasted on a glorified cameo appearance. Vegas is no Aria Song or Ginny You but she doesn’t exit without having her blue tank top fully unbuttoned and her breasts nearly falling out first. Of the entire cast only Tommie Vegas and Eduard Osipov have something resembling an actual career. Vegas would probably feel right at home with The Asylum, TomCat Films, or Rene Perez.

Breen’s disdain for the political – and corporate elite is well established by this point. While he’s highlighting a very real problem within global politics, namely corruption and greed, his solutions are usually quite drastic. In Double Down (2005) he caused the death of millions of innocents across a tri-state area by spiking the watersupply with anthrax. He also threatened mass civilian casualties if his character’s demands weren’t met. Here he resorts to similar draconic measures by advocating mass genocide for an entire class. Neil would take a similar stand in his magnum opus Fateful Findings (2013) where his character drove politicians and corporatists to commit mass suicide in public. Notably absent are the rock/mineral lending divine powers, and the lost Lenore that typically is central to driving the plot forward. That his alien resembles Doyle Wolfgang von Frankenstein from The Misfits is funny enough all by itself. The silicon messiah would resurface again in Pass Thru (2016) (where Breen ascends out of a drug-infested homeless commune) and he would play the titular twins in Twisted Pair (2018). Neil has never hidden his celestial pretensions, and doesn’t so here either. That Breen encounters a pair of heroin addicts in the desert foreshadows Pass Thru (2016).

That Breen is something of a crusader and a defender of the Christian faith was evident as early as Double Down (2005). I Am Here…. Now foregoes what little subtlety (that is to say, none) the past Breen feature had, and is littered with heavy-handed, overt symbolism. To wit, it begins with Breen literally coming off a wooden cross in white robes bearing (one-sided) stigmata; early on there’s a shot of six crosses on a desert stretch, probably meant to resemble mount Calvary; The Being has regenerative powers (he restores at least two clipped roses), and occassionally performs miracles such as healing/rejuvenating the terminally ill man in the wheelchair, which was probably meant to resemble the healing at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-16). Less subtle (but no less overt) is the fact that Amber has angel wings tattooed on her shoulder-blades; and acts as a sort of Mary Magdalene to Breen’s Christ figure. To really drive home the point I Am Here…. Now closes with a re-enactment of the touching the hand of God from the famous Michelangelo fresco The Creation of Adam. The entire thing is wrapped in oblique Native American and New Age mysticism, and the credits include the Tuscarora Indian proverb, “Man has responsibility, not power.” It’s probably meant to insinuate that Breen is concerned about the plight of America’s indigenous peoples, but there’s no hard evidence to substantiate that assertion.

That I Am Here…. Now was ripe for reimagining and expansion was a foregone conclusion. Breen would do exactly that with the double-whammy that was Pass Thru (2016) and Twisted Pair (2018). With his second feature Neil Breen evidenced that he wasn’t shy about recycling concepts and characters, and his apparent god complex wouldn’t diminish in light of his cult following as a fringe filmmaker. Instead of improving Breen seems to sink ever deeper in the throes of insanity. I Am Here…. Now offers no novel insights into the human condition and while the message it’s pushing is relevant enough, Breen fails to make much of a case for, well, basically anything. Neil Breen embodies some of the worst aspects of independent filmmaking. Neil Johnson he most certainly is not. Breen probably loves cinema judging by what he chooses to imitate, but he has no understanding of either cinematic language or any of its technical aspects. The lesser said about his writing the better. It makes you wonder whether there was even a screenplay. As always Breen’s supernatural thrillers are hardly ever thrilling and not nearly as “controversial” or “thought-provoking” as he probably imagines them to be. Not that Breen is any good at action direction either, as Twisted Pair (2018) would amply evince almost a decade down the line.

Plot: supernatural murderer spreads terror in metropolitan Newcastle.

Great Britain has a rich and storied history in horror and cult cinema spanning several decades. In the fifties and sixties Hammer Film dominated the market. Amicus and Tigon came close behind but only flourished when Hammer began ailing in the seventies. Independent producers as Peter Walker and Norman J. Warren went for a sexier, bloodier route updating the horror conventions that the old houses had used so well for the new times. In the late eighties and nineties Nigel Wingrove (from Salvation and later Redemption Films) and Alex Chandon were tipped as the next greats of British horror. What do these two very different men have in common? They both were involved with emerging extreme metal band Cradle Of Filth at one point or another. Wingrove had provided artwork and art direction to the Filth’s “The Principle Of Evil Made Flesh” and “Dusk… and Her Embrace” albums as well as the “V Empire” EP. Wingrove made a name for himself on two seperate occassions. First with his 18-minute short Visions of Ecstasy (1989) that was banned on release on charges of blasphemy and would remain so until 2008 when blasphemy laws were finally repealed. Secondly with his irreverent nunsploitation romp Sacred Flesh (2000). Since forming Redemption Films in 1993 it has specialized in obscure Eurocult and hard-to-find erotica.

Compared to the more cerebral Wingrove, Alex Chandon was cut from a different cloth entirely. Chandon made a name for himself in the micro-budget, shot-on-video school of filmmaking and picked his players coming from various counterculture scenes. He debuted with the 7-minute short Chainsaw Scumfuck (1988), inspired by The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Friday the 13th (1980), and from there graduated into the 36-minute long Bad Karma (1991) and the futuristic Drillbit (1992). Before Cradle Of Fear there was the lovably bonkers Pervirella (1997) and four years later Chandon would at long last debut proper with this feature. In 1999 Chandon directed the Cradle Of Filth music video ‘From the Cradle to Enslave’ as well as the home video “PanDaemonAeon” and two years later the videos for ‘Her Ghost in the Fog’ and the Sisters Of Mercy cover ‘No Time to Cry’ plus another home video in the form of “Heavy, Left-Handed and Candid”. That collaboration was extended with Chandon offering Cradle Of Filth frontman Dani Lloyd Davey the starring role in the similarly named Cradle Of Fear with other then-members in cameo parts.

Allegedly an anthology inspired by the Amicus production Asylum (1972) from director Roy Ward Baker, Alex Chandon’s Cradle Of Fear is a showreel for the Creature Effects team who have since become an institution in modern Hollywood. Cradle Of Filth have since the most successful British metal band since Iron Maiden, if Metal Hammer is to be believed. Meanwhile Alex Chandon remains in London and is as much of an obscurity and humble unknown as he has ever been. Cradle Of Fear is, for lack of a better description, an extension and expansion upon Chainsaw Scumfuck (1988), Bad Karma (1991) and Drillbit (1992) - and, sadly, suffers from pretty much the exact same defects as those earlier shorts did. Even by forgiving standards of micro-budget, shot-on-video splatter-horror Cradle Of Fear has little more to offer than a veritable gallery of gratuitous gore and wanton depravity with the absolute thinnest veneer of story.

Roaming the streets of Newcastle upon Tyne is The Man (Dani Lloyd Davey, as Dani Filth) in search of a number of very specific (and other quite random) victims. In a goth nightclub he spots sex kitten Melanie (Emily Booth, as Emily Bouffante) and before long they retreat back his place and the two spent the night together. The day after Emily wakes up back in her apartment, not sure how she got there and what exactly happened to her the night before. She starts to have strange hallucinations walking around town and asks her friend Nikki (Melissa Forti) if she can sleep at her studio. Mel takes a sleeping pill (with more booze, of course) and starts to have stomach cramps and strange belly bulges. Mel has Nikki examine her stomach and the two girls meet their gruesome end as the demon spawn from The Man bursts from Melissa’s belly. First at the crime scene is low-rent and disgraced police inspector Peter Neilson (Edmund Dehn) who immediately feels up the lifeless body of Melissa. Supposedly because he has a supernatural gift of some kind (which is, of course, never mentioned again), but more pressingly because it reminds him of an old case. One he very much would like to forget…

In another part of town small-time crooks Sophie (Rebecca Eden) and Emma (Emma Rice) decide to burglarize the apartment of an old man (Al Stokes). The two bicker back and forth so much that they ignore the obvious fact that the elderly man is still very much at home. The world’s worst prepared robbery goes horribly, terribly awry when Sophie and Emma are attacked by the man defending his property and end up killing him in the fracas. Instead of checking the state of their victim they decide to take a bath on the premises. Once the two have soaped each other up Sophie - apparently the more upwardly mobile of the ditzy dames - turns on Emma and kills her in cold blood. Thinking the spoils of the robbery are hers for the taking Sophie gets her comeuppance from beyond the grave as she’s beset by the reanimated corpses of the studio’s occupant as well as her former partner, neither of whom are prepared to let bygones be bygones. At this point Neilson finds enough circumstantial evidence to link the current spate of homicide to Kemper (David McEwen), a detainee in Fenham Asylum in Kettering, but he has no solid proof to substantiate his findings. His superior officer chief inspector Roper (Barry Lee-Thomas) is none too pleased with his performance and urges him to crack the case.

Nick (Louie Brownsell) has erectile problems ever since losing his leg. His girlfriend Natalie (Eileen Daly) is accomodating to his disability but Nick wants nothing more than to be “a whole man” again. One day he does find a donor. His doctor operates on him and Nick is restored to his former state. Nick and Natalie have never been happier, until one day Nick’s donor leg starts having a mind of its own. The leg kills Nick and Natalie in a violent car crash. Meanwhile Inspector Neilson has taken to Kemper’s cell in Fenham Asylum where he finds a list of all his targets, himself included. Kemper is going after everybody who was behind his conviction and incarceration. Richard (Stuart Laing) works for an internet monitoring company and investigates dubious web content for a living. One night Richard happens upon The Sick Room, a live video service where customers can order custom-made homicide within the room. Richard is apprehensive of The Sick Room but soon is addicted to the sheer depravity of it all. One day he’s not ordering a custom-made murder from the web, but thanks to some intervening from The Man he IS the custom-made murder. It’s revealed that Richard was in fact Neilson’s son. Things come to a head at Fenham Asylum when Neilson confronts Kemper with The Man hiding in plain sight disguised as an armed guard leading to a bloody stand-off. Neilson is able to kill both Kemper and The Man but not without suffering a (very much implied) bloodsoaked, graphic demise himself. To nobody’s surprise, The Man (who has been orchestrating all the carnage up to this point) is Kemper’s son…

While Cradle Of Fear is superior to anything Chandon had done at that point, the writing - or lack thereof - is still the biggest sore point. All of the characters (except maybe Emily Booth and Melissa Forti in the first vignette) are unlikable to say the least. Dani Lloyd Davey’s The Man is so much of an abstract that the last-minute revelation that he’s Kemper’s son begs the question why the relationship wasn’t explored to any degree during the preceding two hours. The Man is central to the plot and there isn't a single motivating factor behind anything he does. He's a harbinger of doom, certainly - but there's nothing to go on. Not a name, or a backstory. Chandon’s screenplay offers the bare minimum in terms of story and what little plot there is exists merely to facilitate a number of gory setpieces in an anthology format. The four vignettes, lest we be remiss to mention, barely seem to have any connection to the main story. The framing story remains unresolved and goes nowhere. At no point during its two-hour runtime does Cradle Of Fear bother to explain why Kemper goes after a goth girl, two small-time crooks, a disabled person, and an internet addict; nor how The Man figures into his masterplan. Neither inspector Neilson nor The Man, the nominal leads in the feature, are given any kind of identifiable character traits, let alone that they undergo any development. Most ancillary characters aren't even named and those that are barely exist for any other reason than to be killed in some far-fetched fashion.

Despite its low-budget nature and grimey aesthetic there a few well-known faces to be found in the cast. Stuart Laing is a regular on British television with roles in Berkeley Square (1998), Cambridge Spies (2003), Holby City (2004-2008), and EastEnders (2006–07). Al Stokes was in the Aphex Twin video ‘Come to Daddy’. Eileen Daly appeared in music videos from Soft Cell and from there out carved a place in low – and micro-budget cinema with Nigel Wingrove’s Sacred Flesh (2000) as a lone highpoint. Emily Booth appeared in Event Horizon (1997), Pervirella (1997), and Sacred Flesh (2000) and was one of the hosts of video game show Bits (2000). One of Booth’s career highlights came with an appearance in the “Don’t” trailer of the Robert Rodriguez-Eli Roth exploitation homage Grindhouse (2007). She worked with Chandon again on Inbred (2011), his first feature in a decade, and a homage to the backwood horror of Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (1974) and Wes Craven’s The Hills Have Eyes (1977).

Cradle Of Filth fanatics will recognize Emily Booth and Eileen Daly from the ‘From the Cradle to Enslave’ music video and David McEwen (with the voice of Doug Bradley) from the ‘Her Ghost in the Fog’ video. Cradle Of Fear was as much a promotion tool for Alex Chandon as it was for Cradle Of Filth who contributed the instrumentals ‘At Gates Of Midian’ and ‘Creatures That Kissed in Cold Mirrors’ as well as ‘Lord Abortion’ and ‘Danse Macabre’ to the score. Anna Haigh has since become a much in-demand costume graphic – and concept artist in Hollywood. The same goes for Creature Effects who have worked on some of the biggest blockbusters in recent memory. Director Alex Chandon hasn’t produced a feature since Inbred (2011). It's not that Cradle Of Fear was in any short on ideas, but the anthology format didn't permit for any to be developed in any meaningful way. We'd love what could have become of the body horror vignette with Emily Booth, or the Tesis (1996) and 8MM (1999) inspired piece of found footage and torture-porn that the The Sick Room vignette could have been.

Empire Magazine called Cradle Of Fearthe best British gore film since Hellraiser. While there’s certainly an abundance of gore to be found in Cradle Of Fear to put it on the same plain as Hellraiser (1987) is just a tad too hyperbolic to do justice to either. Hellraiser (1987) was a clever and imaginative piece of subtextual horror full of arresting imagery and introduced iconic master villain Pinhead to the world. Cradle Of Fear has slumming actors, buxom babes in the buff, and a slew of unknown non-actors dying overwrought, excessively bloody deaths in a barely coherent screenplay that at no point manages to establish a narrative the way it’s typically understood. At no point does Cradle Of Fear provoke any sense of dread or tension, let alone that it inspires fear of any kind. Certainly there’s plenty of tedium to be had. It’s a farcry from the Victorian finesse of Hammer, the knickers-and-knockers exploitation of Peter Walker and Norman J. Warren and this is the last place to look for a heir apparent to Barbara Steele or Candace Glendenning. If only this was as entertaining as Pete Walker’s proto-slasher The Flesh and Blood Show (1972). Had Cradle Of Fear been half as long, twice as fun and functioned as the special effects showreel and investor prototype it ought to have been, then Alex Chandon would’ve been able to produce the feature this was probably meant to be.