Sunday, 30 December 2012

Freaks (1932)

"Freaks" (1932, Tod Browning, Metro Goldwyn Mayer) is a controversial 'horror' about a travelling circus. All of the sideshow performers were played by actual performers with various deformities, not people wearing make-up. While this was the main reason for the film's financial failure in the '30s, today it adds a new dimension to this, now cult, film.

Cleopatra (Olga Baclanova) is a trapeze artist at the circus. She is known for her beauty but not her kindness. While already seeing the strong man, Hercules (Henry Victor), she becomes aware that Hans (Harry Earles), the small man, has come into a lot of money and decides to marry and then kill him to steal his fortune. Hans is in love with Cleo and heartily agrees to the engagement, much to the heartache of his previous sweetheart, the small woman, Frieda (Daisy Earles).

Cleo and Hans marry, but Cleo is scared when the 'freaks' hold a welcoming ceremony for her, chanting 'We accept her. One of us!' and passing around a goblet of wine. She insults them, chases them away and then proceeds to try to poison poor Hans.

With the help of Venus (Leila Hyams) and her clown boyfriend Phroso (Wallace Ford), the 'freaks' stop Cleo in her devious plan. But they can not stop the other circus performers exacting revenge on 'normal' Cleopatra, with rather frightening results!

A quite perturbing film, it all but ruined Browning's career due to its unsettling images which caused some audience upset. While still effectively shocking to today's audience, the film is more like an apt social comment and a record of circuses of old. Various scenes throughout the film demonstrate the day to day lives of the circus performers, which don't add to the plot particularly, but are an excellent addition and really demonstrates the lives and challenges the performers face in their daily lives.

The 'normal' people in the film are seen as the real monsters. However, the scene when Cleo is chased and captured by the angry circus people is very eerie.

Iconic and infamous, this film is an unusual black and white.

[Image: Metro Goldwyn Mayer]

Saturday, 29 December 2012

I Know What You Did Last Summer

"I Know What You Did Last Summer" (1997, Jim Gillespie, Mandalay Entertainment) is one of the staple urban teen horror films seen mainly in the line ups for sleepovers. But, being the adventurous sort, I thought I'd give it another whirl, this time as a more 'mature' person (being 24 and all) and see how it fares.

While out celebrating being so pretty, Helen (Sarah Michelle Gellar), Julie (Jennifer Love Hewitt), Barry (Ryan Phillippe) and Ray (Freddie Prince Jr.) accidentally run over and kill a man in their car. Deciding the best way to deal with this is to dump the corpse and carry on with their promising young lives, the teens do so and try to forget about it. But, it's difficult to forget such a thing, especially if the corpse turns out not to be completely dead while you're disposing of it!

It isn't until a whole year has passed and the gang have separated, forgetting all about that tragic night, that things start to shake up again as they discover that someone knows what they did and wants them to pay for it.

It's based on a novel by Lois Duncan, which I haven't read, so can't really comment on. But the story is pretty good, bearing in mind it's of an Urban Legend nature and comes from some of the people involved in the Scream franchise.

What separates it, for me, from a lot of other 'teen horrors' is that the characters are relatively well-rounded and, while remaining stereotypes, are almost indispensable. Also, as a 'Big Bang Theory' fan, I enjoy that Max is played by Johnny Galecki, and, as a Whedon fanatic, I can enjoy Sarah Michelle Gellar in almost any role!

A fun little horror film with some decent, but not too OTT gore and even a jump or two, providing that you haven't already watched this film to death during your teens.

[Image: Mandalay Entertainment]

Friday, 28 December 2012

Dead & Buried

"Dead & Buried" (1981, Barclays Mercantile Industrial Finance Ltd, Optimum Releasing Ltd, Gary Sherman) is a classy little gorefest from some of the people behind 'Alien' and also featuring a small role from Robert Englund, (who went on to become Freddy Krueger).

This is another horror which was deemed  a 'video nasty' here in the UK, and I can see why. "Dead & Buried" is not afraid of showing all the grisly bits!

Dan (James Farentino) is the Sheriff of a small coastal American town called Potter's Bluff. He's been living there for some time with his school teacher wife, Janet (Melody Anderson), and has come to know all of the locals.

When a string of horrific murders begins in the town, Dan becomes suspicious that perhaps his idyllic little town full of his friendly neighbours is more sinister than it appears. His suspicions grow when he notices some new, but equally friendly, faces appearing about town as if they have always been there.

With a great and interesting story "Dead and Buried" brings a satisfyingly gory edge and a lot of shock moments, despite its charmingly post-70s feel. There are a lot of burning, slicing, bludgeoning and gouging scenes which are as adventurous as they are disgusting!

Creepy, gory and confusing, with a relatively obvious twist, I thoroughly enjoyed this film and will hold it in high esteem over some modern attempts I've seen recently! The acting is excellent, and far exceeds my expectations in horror! Jack Albertson, in particular, plays his eccentric mortician character to an enjoyable tune.

Definitely worth watching!

[Image: Optimum Releasing Ltd]


Sunday, 23 December 2012

The Ring Two

"The Ring Two" (2005, Hideo Nakata, DreamWorks Pictures) is the sequel to the American "The Ring" which I have reviewed earlier here:

This version is not a remake of the Japanese sequel to "Ring", but in fact an original story of its own.

Naomi Watts returns as Rachel, the mother with the odd little boy who refuses to call her 'mum' or 'mom'. It's been some months since the incident with Samara's spirit and the evil video tape, and Rachel believes she is free of her after getting young Aidan (David Dorfman) to make a copy of the tape and resultantly curse his own grandfather!

Simon Baker (whom you may recognise from 'The Mentalist') makes an appearance as Rachel's boss, Max.

Rachel and Aiden have moved away from the city and are now living in a quiet town in Oregon. She is working for a small town newspaper, and focussing on being with her son. It isn't until a local teen is found dead and facially disfigured in a way similar to Samara's previous victims, that Rachel realises that her actions in the first film have had repercussive effects. Upon seeing Rachel at the side of the body, Samara decides to make her her new mother, and begins to haunt she and Aidan once more.

Whilst the first movie is much more frightening and jumpy, this film has an effective feeling of dread and a build up of tension as you realise that Aidan has more in common with the spooky young girl than at first suspected.

With creepy children and jumpy ghosts, this film satisfies the need for a haunting horror. I would always recommend the Japanese versions over the American ones for spook-factor, but Naomi Watts, David Dorfman and the ever creepy Daveigh Chase (although, her parts are mainly stock footage) keep the film engaging.

Not a bad follow-on film at all.

[Image:DreamWorks Pictures]

Jack Frost

"Jack Frost" (1996, Michael Cooney, Moonstone Entertainment) is a festive horror comedy from America.

Surprisingly entertaining and laugh-out-loud cheesy this film has fast moved up my shelf and may not live with the other 'Christmas only' films.

Low budget, tacky and with some hilarious flaws (the main one being the severe lack of real snow! And also being able to catch glimpses of the actor under the costume during one particular scene), this film hits all the right notes with me for a Christmas slasher:
  • It's short (only 84 minutes)
  • It's got a lot of cheesy kill scenes
  • It's chalk full of bad puns and wooden acting 
  • Quite a lot of good low budget gore
  • It has a bloody ludicrous storyline
  • The killer is a snowman in a brilliantly bad snowman costume!
On his way to execution, serial killer Jack Frost (Scott MacDonald) suffers a freak accident and is contaminated with some questionable hazardous material. He then, of course, turns into an abominable snowman and quickly resumes his killing spree.

Jack brutally goes around town killing, maiming and raping - yes, there's some snowman rape - the locals of Snowmanton (And yes, that is the name of the town). Who can stop this chilly madman?

It's a good thing local sheriff Tiler (Christopher Allport) and FBI Agents Manners (Stephen Mendell) and Stone (Rob LaBelle) are on the case . Watch for Manners' hilariously unconvincing beard stubble!

So, all in all, this film is pretty good in that wonderfully cheesy low budget way. With everything from Shannon Elizabeth's winter strip-tease to the tune of "The Twelve Days of Christmas", to the disturbing snowman guts this film hits the button in an entertaining way. Not worth a lot of your money, however, I managed to score a copy from a charity shop for £1.50. Bargain!

Also, I enjoyed the random statements and quotes laced through the credits :)

[Image: Moonstone Entertainment]


Tuesday, 11 December 2012


"Witchcraft" (1989, Robert Spera, Digital Entertainment Limited) is a low budget witch horror which managed to rack up a surprising number of spin offs and sequels (mostly skin flicks to be honest), despite being one of the most boring, unoriginal witch horrors ever made!

Taking most of the plot from "Rosemary's Baby" and sticking in some of  "The Omen" and "The Amittyville Horror", this film is hardly original. When Grace (Anat Topol-Barzilai) moves into her creepy mother-in-law's mansion house (mother-in-law played by Mary Shelley - awesome name. Shame about the acting...)  with her partner John (Gary Sloan) and their brand new baby, it isn't long before she begins to suspect that not everything, or indeed everyone, is what they appear.

It soon transpires that Grace has unwittingly managed to get herself involved in a witchcraft cult, and now that she's given them what they wanted, a baby, she's really of no further use to them.

A terrible and harrowing film with some nicely hilarious effects which are the only reason I kept watching (well, that, my two good friends and a bottle of rum helped...). From the sacrificial cuddly toy, to the beheaded mannequin this film truly scrapes the barrel of effects to bring up what, even in the 80s, was beyond low budget.

No jumps, no scares and certainly no inventive plot, this film is less of a cheesy B-movie and more of a "Can I get those 85 minutes of my life back?" movie. A somewhat poor attempt to exploit the success of raunchy 70s horrors, this film didn't leave me eager to watch any of the sequels or indeed, rewatch this one ever again.

On the upside, the bloody drooling scene was good fun.

I don't recommend, but if you must torture yourself, by all means do!

[Image: Digital Entertainment Limited]

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Black Christmas (1974)

"Black Christmas" (1974, Bob Clark, Film Funding Limited of Canada, Ambassador Film, Warner Bros, World Cinema) is the original Canadian holiday stalk-and-slash from the 70s. It was remade in 2006 and you'll find my review of that version a few spaces down from here.

It's Christmas time at the Sorority House and all the girls are having a little party before they all depart for their respective family/whatever holidays. The girls' are concerned, however, when they begin to receive some pretty freaky prank calls - I've never heard the 'C' word so many times in a film before!

The girls hold their festivities regardless of the calls, but it isn't until one of their number goes missing that they start to think that someone may be watching them.

I enjoyed this film a lot more than the remake. The characters were generally more likeable and there was a lot of funny moments dotted throughout. I really enjoyed the house-mother and the lieutenant characters, who added something more to a generally simple plot. However, I would hasten to add that this is a B-Movie Holiday slasher, and should be approached with suitable expectations. But, considering that this film is a very early example of its sub-genre it's damn good.

Unlike the remake, this film is not full of over the top gore, although there are some good visual on-screen kills. I'm sure it was shocking in the 70s, but when compared to such films as "The Driller Killer", it doesn't go to the same extremes. The stalker is enjoyably sinister, though and his phone calls are disturbing.

The 2006 version spent a lot of time trying to explain how our killer, Billy, ended up the way he is. The 1974 film doesn't go into any explanation of Billy or his history. I like this. A good back story can be an excellent addition to a film, but in this instance I feel that it wasn't needed and Clark did well to avoid it. Billy is a killer with some mental issues. There's, of course, more to it but we don't know what, just as his victims and the police know nothing of it either. Where Morgan went off the rails with the remake, for me, was the over analysis of Billy's character.

With some good effects for a low budget film from the 70s, a B-movie atmosphere and some recognisable faces (Margot Kidder - known for her portrayal of Lois Lane and you may recognise her from "The Amityville Horror" and Andrea Martin - who is present in the remake of this film as the house-mother), this film is an entertaining watch and worth a try if you're looking for some campy Christmas horror.

[Image: Film Funding Limited of Canada & World Cinema]

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Damien: Omen II

"Damien: Omen II"(1978, Don Taylor, 20th Century Fox) is the second "Omen" Film, taking place seven years after the first, when Damien (Jonathan Scott-Taylor) has been raised to age of 12 by his uncle (William Holden) and his wife (Lee Grant).

Damien and his cousin, Mark (Lucas Donat) are best friends. Both are enjoying the wealthy lifestyle of his well-off aunt and uncle, and are attending a military academy. But, Damien becomes all too aware of his true nature, and begins to use his powers to get back at people who antagonise him.

With a few deaths under his belt, and several ones he may not have been aware of, Damien sets to take down his nearest and dearest.

Not as shocking or as well put together as the first, this is far from a terrible sequel. Several memorable deaths, particularly the ice rink one, are almost on par with the excellent beheading scene in the first film. The effects are not out-of-this-world striking, but are effective.

Not particularly frightening, but with some creepy undertones, this film tries to keep up the religious styling of the first (what with Damien being the son of the beast and all!), but it doesn't rely so heavily on it this time.

Jonathan Scott-Taylor's performance is not particularly scary. But that's not a criticism, as Damien's not the creepy demon child he once was. He's going through the realisation of his powers and purpose. What is creepy is what he will become. In the first film the child, like most children, has not fully developed his moral compass, and the powers just gave him the ability to do what he wanted. As a teenager Damien has more of a choice, and the scary thing is his own hormonally driven decisions to kill. He's a confused kid, like everyone was at that age. The only problem is, he knows what he's supposed to grow up into...

I, as usual, found myself kind of feeling bad for Damien. He didn't ask to be the spawn of Satan. And like a lot of misguided people, he's just doing what he thinks he should. Of course, that's no reason not to salt and burn the little bugger before it's too late!

The worst thing about this film is it has long boring moments which kind of allowed me to lose interest now and again. But, as I mentioned already, some of the death scenes make up for these.

Not great, but much better than some sequels out there and nicely tied into the first film's ending.

[Image: 20th Century Fox]

Monday, 26 November 2012

Black Xmas

"Black Xmas" (2006, Glen Morgan, 2929 Productions, Dimension Films) is a brutal little Christmas slasher film set in a Sorority House. It's based on the 1974 Film "Black Christmas" which I've also got in this year's Christmas viewing pile and will get to soon. Honest!

Coming from the makers of "Final Destination" I was expecting a lot of gore and little plot. That's pretty much what we got, so I'm cool with that.

Basically, if you took "Halloween" and crossed it with "House on Sorority Row", lowered the budget and set it at Christmas, you'd pretty much have this film...

A bunch of pretty but not particularly relatable sorority sisters sit down for a nice bitchy Christmas night in with their sorority mother, when they suddenly find themselves being stalked and slaughtered one by one!

With a pretty standard plot (with some outlandish additions!) and generic characters, this film is hardly a ground breaking piece of cinema.... But it's a holiday slasher! What more do you want? It's gory and daft, and contains more red herrings than an Agatha Christie book!

If, like me, you are freaked out with eye-centred-gore, you may not enjoy this film, though. It's not afraid to overstep the 'eek' factor when it comes to the ol' eyeballs....

I saw that Michelle Trachtenberg was in this film and I like her.  I can't say it's a shining point in her career, but it's hardly terrible. Just your generic, blood soaked Christmas horror. If you are upset about them rehashing an older film and changing the plot, I can only offer this advice: go watch the original! Which is precisely what I plan to do later this week ;)

Nicely gory effects and a lot of on screen kills, this film is not very imaginative, but bloody and graphic with some seriously dubious policing and a lot of female cannon fodder for the killer. Oh, and cheesy Christmas ringtones!

 [Image: Dimension Films & 2929 Productions]


Sunday, 25 November 2012

Bride of The Monster

"Bride of The Monster" (1955, Ed Wood, Rolling M. Productions) is a typical Ed Wood sci-fi horror starring the late Bela Lugosi in his role as mad scientist, Dr. Eric Vornoff.

Vornoff is working on some dubious science with his large, mute assistant, Lobo (Tor Johnson). He intends to use his newly harnessed power to create a race of super-humans (of course!). He has already practised this theory on other creatures including the 'monster'; a giant octopus who Vornoff uses to guard his swamp by allowing it to eat passers by.

It isn't until a determined young reporter, Janet (Loretta Kind Hadler), gets herself caught by Vornoff during her snooping into the disappearances, that things become more interesting for the mad doctor as her fiancé and the local police get involved.

The good doctor's plan, naturally, is therefore to make Janet a superhuman so he can marry her!

A low budget effort (but virtually high budget for Wood's typical films) which struggled, as many Ed Wood ventures did, for funding. Wood is highly acclaimed for his terrible movies, and this film does not disappoint.

The octopus prop was from another film and was either rented or 'borrowed' for this feature. They couldn't get it working, so had to manually flail the limbs themselves when the creature was meant to be attacking them. This gives an awkward and slightly amusing effect as you see the poor actors trying in vain to look convincing! Although, its hilarity wears off quickly as each 'kill' scene goes on far too long.

The use of stock film for the creature and other scenes is laughingly added in an almost patchwork way, too. This is just amateurish and distracting, but I've come to expect this from Wood films, so...

A stereotypical story, with some unimaginative lines, this film is a black and white horror B-movie that is not scary or very engaging (unless, like me, you enjoy terrible movies!).

This was Lugosi's last speaking part and you feel he's just going through the motions with it, which he no doubt was, considering his advancing age and reducing health by this time.

One of Wood's better efforts, but that's hardly saying much! It's campy, schlocky and wooden. But sometimes that's precisely what you're looking for!

[Image: Rolling M. Productions]
That guy's totally being attacked by that terribly convincing rubber octopus! Yep...


Monday, 19 November 2012

Pet Sematary

"Pet Sematary" (1989, Mary Lambert, Paramount Pictures) is an excellent film based on the novel by Stephen King, about a cemetery which can bring the dead back to 'life'.

I saw this movie when I was 16 and I cried my eyes out at it! Seriously! And then I read the book this year (after finally getting over my fear of reading it) and guess what? Yep, I cried my eyes out all over again! On the bus to work at 6am, no less. Every day for a week! You can imagine what my colleagues were thinking!

Anyway, I can now watch the film without the aid of tissues. See, the story is so sad! And after reading King's explanation of his inspiration for the plot, I can see why it must have been a traumatic book for him to write! (Basically, he moved into the house pretty much described in the novel and almost lived the events of it! And being Stephen King, he drew on the aspect of the creepy little pet cemetery which was nearby).

A truly chilling tale, even for childless and free-living me, this film (and the novel, too), not only plays on the gory deaths, ghosts, 'zombies' and creepy woods, but also on the basic human instinct to protect the things and the ones we love. Can anyone really blame Louis for his actions?

Well, to cut a long story short, Louis Creed (Dale Midkiff) finds his idyllic life in the Maine countryside with his wife Rachel (Denise Crosby), daughter Ellie (Blaze Berdhall) and baby son Gage (Miko Hughes),  is turned upside down by a tragic accident. Accidentally given way too much inspiration by friendly and lonely old neighbour, Jud Crandall (Fred Gwynne - yes, Mr. Munster himself!), Louis sees there is only one solution to his terrible predicament! Of course, it will totally work out fine and no one will get hurt at all! Yup....

This film isn't long at only 98mins, and keeps your attention very well. Just like in the book, you begin to like some of the characters, and you enjoy the little happy family scenes. It lulls you in to a sense of happiness before it brings in the horror, and that's what makes the plot work. You experience the shock and the slow build up of dread with the characters almost in a 'real time' way.

Of course, there's some jolts to keep you interested along the way. Some brutal deaths, gory ghosts, scary babies and a pretty unfriendly cat to mention a few. This film had me upset as a teen, and I appreciate it for that. While it's not jump-out-of-your-seat scary, it's creepy and has some excellent gore scenes that still give me the shudders now!

Definitely one of the best King adaptations, he wrote the screenplay, and it shows! It follows the book's plot faithfully. The only thing I think I missed in comparison to the book is some of the character development. Louis isn't as rounded a character, and you don't get the lovely bonding scenes between the old man and young man. But I've never found a film that could convey as much as a good story can, and I think this film is fantastic! It's most certainly worth your time!

[Image: Paramount Pictures]

"Sometimes, dead is better!"


Saturday, 17 November 2012

Brain Dead

"Brain Dead" (1990, Adam Simon, Concorde, Charles Beaumont) is not to be confused with "Braindead", the zombie film from 1992 by Peter Jackson! This "Brain Dead" is more of a psychological brain trip.

A strange film, it stars Bill Pullman as Dr. Rex Martin, a neurosurgeon with a passion for brains and personalities, but not really for people themselves. He's studying causes of mental illness through brain analysis. It involves a lot of brains in jars and strange electric probes.

His good friend Jim Reston (Bill Paxton), a businessman for a large corporation called Eunice, manages to talk him into operating on a genius, John Halsey (Bud Cort), who has lost his mind and now resides in a mental asylum after murdering his family. Eunice want to retrieve some information from Halsey, or failing that, reduce Halsey to a state where he is unable to accidentally let this information slip; i.e. they want him brain dead.

It isn't until Martin begins to delve into the mind of Halsey that he begins to question his own mental state, which could result in dire consequences! From there on in the film goes from a 'mad scientist plot' to more of a 'descending into madness' plot, as we follow Martin on his trip from surety of reality, to questioning his very existence!

This film is very odd and dreamlike, keeping you kind of in a guessing state as you try to decipher what the hell is going on, but it has a fair amount of gruesome qualities and some seriously questionable medical practices! These include some open head surgery, brains in jars, murder, lobotomies, brutality in mental asylums, vintage insanity treatments and paraphernalia... There is enough to this film to keep it going as a 'horror' as well as a psychological thriller. Although the plot wanders a bit and it falls into the constantly waking from a dream trap which often plagues outlandish horror plots.

It comes from the mind of the writer from "The Twilight Zone", and this shows. But he'd been deceased for a while by the time this film was made, so you can't be sure how true to his script the finished product really was! Dated (it feels very 80s) and relatively low budget, this odd film really entertained me, however.

Pullman, Paxton and Cort really give a great performance as eccentric and slightly morally corrupt 'good' guy, cold hearted corporate puppet and completely screwy genius. Cort also appears sometimes as a sane man, giving his insane performance something to compare against. Which I enjoyed. The two Bills are excellent in their respective roles and really make this film watchable.

The effects and props are quite low budget but effective and some of the 'surgery' scenes made me squirm. Although strange and trippy, I would definitely watch this again. It's in the same vain as "The Man With The Screaming Brain", but with less of the purposefully outrageous plot lines (not that this film isn't in its own way, outrageous! There's just no robots or rapping Russians.).

Worth a try, but prepare to be confused and find yourself second guessing your own thoughts on the story!


Thursday, 15 November 2012

The House by The Cemetery

"The House by The Cemetery" (1981, Lucio Fulci, Fulvia Film, Arrowdrome) is an infamous Italian Splatter film from the cult hero of late 70s - 80s low budget Italian gore, Fulci - a relatively under appreciated director, who also brought us "The Beyond" and "City of The Living Dead". Although Fulci's certainly no Romero, this flick is a favourite of mine because it's not your average haunted house story or your average zombie film! Also it was banned here in Britain for quite a long time and this is the first time I've managed to catch the full unedited version!

Not a complicated plot, (Fulci's films rarely were) and with very little twists, turns or much in the way of story telling, this film isn't about the story, it's about the ride through slow motion gore soaked scenes and tense, if badly dubbed, creepy children scenes.

When a colleague of Dr. Norman Boyle (Paolo Malco) named Dr. Peterson is found dead in his large, old house in Boston in a cemetery, Boyle is asked to reside there for a short while to continue the man's research. He relocates from New York to the country house with his wife, Lucy (cult Italian gore actress, Catriona MacColl) and their young, floppy haired son, Bob (Giovanni Frezzi) - Yes, Bob.

Before setting off, Bob is anxious, and believes that a little girl in a photograph is warning him to stay away.

But this is a horror film, so Bob's fears are dismissed instantly and the family move in. It isn't long, though, before they begin to regret their decision and Bob makes a new friend, Mae (Silvia Collatina).

I really enjoy this film. It's creepy in places, and although badly dubbed, and generally not the most exciting characters, the children in this film are damn creepy. There are hefty amounts of gore done with good old fashioned special effects, make up and props! Excellent!

Fulci loved his slow motion gore. It's like he wanted to make the audience slowly suffer through the death of the character as much as the character does! That, or he just really loved blood splatters in slow motion! There are quite a lot of violent deaths in this film, but nothing that would have you screaming nowadays, but there are unsettling and inventive scenes, certainly.

They also reveal the 'creature'. While this can often be a mistake in film, this film carries it off spectacularly, creating a grotesque and nightmarish villain of the piece which is reminiscent of something from Greek myth or "Silent Hill". They also don't reveal too much too early, however, and while the plot is not exactly complex or even very clever, the slow, nail biting chase scenes are effective because you don't quite know what's going on.

A real cult favourite with famous fans including Wednesday 13, this film is an excellent example of early 80s low budget Italian Splatters. Filmed entirely in English primarily by non-native speakers, it has an oddly dreamlike hue to it, a quality which I think masks the lack of epic storytelling very well, and creates a good playing field for the gore.

Another level of creep is added by an odd sub-story running in the background with a childish friendship, and the history of the house. Although not fully explored, and kind of clumsily done, some of these scenes are the most interesting non-gory scenes in the film.

Fulci has been condemned in the past for being misogynistic, and while his female characters are generally nothing but screaming gore fodder, he's not exaclty alone in the genre in this, and I don't tend to dwell much on it. Many horror ladies spend most of their scream...sorry, screen time panicking and getting hacked up :P

A good, gory 'what lurks in the basement?' kind of film that will keep you occupied, if not heavily taxed in the brain department!

[Image: Fulvia Film]


Tuesday, 6 November 2012


"Thinner" (1996, Tom Holland, Spelling Films International, Paramount Pictures, Lions Gate Entertainment) is an adaptation of the Stephen King book of the same name. It's a story with a not so hidden message: Be a nice person and don't piss off any gypsies!... Or else!

This film has suffered from a lot of criticism, but I watched it with an open mind and can't really understand the harshness of some people's views. Yes, it's a simple plot, and yes it features primarily unlikable characters, but is that really so worthy of a damning review? I think not. For a start, I rarely like a lot of characters in horror films... Like most people I always wind up rooting for the bad guy! However, in a film such as this there is no particular bad guy or good guy. Just people being all grey and in-betweenish. Some are dicks and some are cruel, and some don't deserve their fate and that's that. Maybe that's why some people don't like this film?

Billy Halleck (Robert John Burke) is a morbidly obese lawyer. His wife, Heidi (Lucinda Jenney), is trying to get him to lose weight, but he's just not very motivated: he likes his food, he likes his booze and he's got money, why bother losing weight?

Their daughter, Linda (Bethany Joy Lenz), is his pride and joy, and out of all the characters, he relates most casually to her. His wife is a bit of a moan, so I can't blame him for that! ;)

Billy has just won a case for a known criminal and gangster, Richie "The Hammer" Ginelli (Joe Mantegna - yes, the voice of Fat Tony from 'The Simpsons'!) - so you know he's due some bad karma!

Aside from being fat, lazy and with a dubious set of morals when it comes to his profession (but then again, he's a lawyer!), I didn't see him as too bad a guy, really. His mates on the other hand...

There is a gypsy carnival in town, which is causing a stir, particularly amongst the local Judge, Cary (John Horton) and Police Chief (Daniel von Bargen), who are prejudiced against the gypsies and sexist to the young gypsy girl, Gina (Kari Wührer).

When driving home one night, and while otherwise occupied... Billy accidentally runs over an elderly gypsy woman, killing her! He finds a way to get around that whole problematic law thing about cars and killing folk, however, which results in him being faced with the wrath of the Gypsy leader, Tadzu Lempke (Michael Constantine), who curses him.

Naturally, the curse begins quite positively, as Billy is still eating like a horse, but is losing weight. It isn't until he realises that the weight loss won't stop that he becomes worried!

I found this film entertaining, and although the 'twist' was quite obvious, this is more from having read a lot of Stephen King stories, rather than it being uninspired. The characters are unlikable because this is their purpose to the message. I was confused, though, as to whether there was a secondary hidden message about being content and a nicer person and being thin, hungry and devious.... But maybe I'm over thinking it.

The effects are good, and quite gruesome, but not in a particularly gory way (most of the time). In particular, the thin Billy stuff is quite shocking. It's all a bit schlocky, which I like, and for some reason I felt this film was from earlier than '96!

Not many Stephen King adaptations are done successfully, but I like this one. It's got a good simple plot, some angry gypsies, curses, revenge, brutal off-screen deaths, back-firing revenge attempts, gangsters, fat suits, car chases, skeletal people... What more do you want?

Give it a chance, even if you haven't read the book!

[Image: Spelling Films International, Paramount Pictures & Lions Gate Entertainment]

Sunday, 4 November 2012

The Ring (2002)

"The Ring" (2002, Gore Verbinski, Dreamworks Pictures) is the American remake of the 1998 Japanese film. Although I prefer the Japanese version and find it to have superior scares, this film is spooky and I highly recommend seeing it! I'm also thinking of trying to pick up an English translation of the book!

The basis of the plot: There is an urban legend of a VHS video tape which, if you see it, will kill you 7 days from first viewing. Some teenagers accidentally view it while in a cabin for the weekend, and soon all die off. Worried aunt, Rachel (Naomi Watts), of one of the deceased begins to investigate this phenomenon upon hearing of the legend and seeing the peculiarly timely deaths. She is also worried for her son, Aidan (David Dorfman), who was very close to his cousin.

In true horror movie form, and fairly reminiscent of "Candyman", Rachel watches the strange tape and then proceeds to show her ex-husband, Noah (Martin Henderson), and so on. Soon it's a race against time to try to solve the tape's origins and stop her impending death, while also experiencing the week-long haunting which comes with the sentence.

I enjoyed Naomi Watts' performance as the determined protagonist, as she slowly unravels the history of the tape and attempts to find a solution in order to help herself and others. She manages be both intense and strong without going into that annoying 'female lead' mode which involves a lot of screaming and hysterics.

Unlike Raimi, when he remade "The Grudge" some years later, Verbinski opted to take the story entirely out of Japan. I think both styles of remake have worked very well, and take nothing away from the story. But I do find "The Grudge" to be generally more scary, mainly because the ghost moves in a much more eerie manner than in this film, taking more styling from the Japanese originals.

The special effects are enjoyable, the tense scenes built up excellently and the enveloping story is good. There is a particular scene that I just can't watch again (I am a horse lover...)!

As I mentioned, I think the only reason this film just isn't as scary as the Japanese version is just the stylistic movements of the ghost girl, (Daveigh Chase), but the plot, acting and haunting scenes are good. And there are definitely scares to be had here, too! I especially enjoy the child actors in this film, who give a very convincing and unsettling performance.

[Image : Dreamworks Pictures]


Tuesday, 30 October 2012

A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master

"A Nightmare on Elm Street 4: The Dream Master" (1988, Renny Harlin, New Line Cinema) is the Fourth in the Slasher series about the child-killer-turned-monstrous-teen-dream-killer, Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund).

Kristen (Tuesday Knight - a  perfect Burleqsue performer name, if you ask me! But turns out she's an actress and a singer), Joey (Rodney Eastman) and Kincaid (Ken Sagoes) are released from the mental asylum from the previous film. They are now at school and are seemingly normal.

Kristen has some new buddies, too: quiet, daydreaming Alice (Lisa Wilcox), nerdy, asthmatic Sheila (Toy Newkirk) and tough chick Debbie (Brooke Theiss). She's also found herself a boyfriend called Rick (Andras Jones), who's Alice's brother.

Yep, all is going seemingly well until Kristen begins to have nightmares again! And then all the usual Elm Street funzies begin. Turns out Freddy's still not completely dead yet, despite all their dream warrior efforts, and is now back for more.

This film is quite a lot of fun; very cheesy, very Freddy-filled and keeping in with the outrageous and flamboyant death scenes of the previous 3 films. I'd say this film outshines all the other sequels quite comfortably for visuals and has a nice shift in main characters which stopped the plot getting stale.

Does anyone else think Freddy is like a murderous Bugs Bunny? He dresses up as women a lot! Especially in the third and fourth films!

It is by far the most simplistic plot from the first 4 films and is really the start of Freddy being less of a horror icon and more a goofy weirdo, especially if you wait for the Freddy Rap Song during the end credits!

However, fun and loud with some good old nightmarish transformations, this film is far from scary, but is worth your time if you are so inclined to follow the full series, just so long as you're not expecting anything too clever!

[Image: New Line Cinema]


Monday, 29 October 2012

Friday the 13th (1980)

"Friday the 13th" (1980, Sean S. Cunningham, Georgetown Productions inc., Sean S. Cunningham Films, Warner Bros. & Paramount Pictures) is a slasher film I usually keep for watching on an actual Friday the 13th, but you know, I was just in the mood to watch some teen camp leaders get butchered... Wow, that makes me sound like a bit of a psycho, doesn't it?

I first watched this film as a 12 year old, alone, having snuck back out of bed once my parents had begun snoring.... At least, that better have been snoring! This was film 3 of a marathon which included "Halloween", "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre" and "Night of the Living Dead". My mum definitely knew I was awake, and I suspect left me to it so I'd learn my own lesson when I was too scared to go back upstairs to the bedroom in the dark myself...

Camp Crystal Lake had been closed for some time, ever since some kids were killed on the premises. But after a few years have gone by the owners decide it's time to bury the past and reopen the camp for the summer. They hire a bunch of teens to clean the camp up and get it ready to receive the young guests. The teens will also act as the camp counsellors once the children arrive. I have a good friend who's flown over to America a few times to work in camps like this. She'd never watch this film with me.... I wonder why?

Everything seems to be going to plan; cleaning, cooking, pre-brutal-death horror movie sex scenes... But it isn't long before people start to go missing...

A lively 80s B-movie slasher with a fair amount of gore that doesn't feel the need to get too OTT, there are some scenes which are very tense and a good, cheesey enveloping back-story to boot. Although, like everyone, I enjoy this film for the 'body reveal aspect' and chase, which is particularly good and very reminiscent of 'Halloween', a film which creator Cunningham was inspired by according to the internet.

In a franchise known to quickly 'jump the shark' with many increasingly outrageous (and frequently hilarious) sequels, the first film is a classic for 80s slashers, with an ending that gave me the serious creeps as a kid and can still catch me to this day!

It doesn't need to be Friday the 13th to enjoy!

[Image: Georgetown Productions inc., Sean S. Cunningham Films, Warner Bros. & Paramount Pictures]


Friday, 26 October 2012

The Omen (1976)

"The Omen" (1976, Richard Donner, 20th Century Fox) is a suspenseful horror about a family who's young son is the Antichrist.

Little did American Ambassador, Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) and his wife, Katherine (Lee Remick), know when they were proudly taking home new baby son, Damien (Harvey Spencer Stephens), just how... uhm... special he was... And little did they realise how different their lives were soon to be!

The family's life is plagued with odd occurrences, disasters and tragedy, but it is the appearance of a strange priest, Father Brennan (Patrick Troughton), and also curious photographer, Keith (David Warner), which begins to make Thorn look at these occurrences under a different light. But can he uncover the truth and stop the evil before it's too late?

An excellent classic, this film is one of my favourite 70s horrors. Slow burning in places, the pace is kept with engaging plot, nice scenery, a thrilling 'witch hunt' and some shocking scenes. Also, if you have a bit of a dog fear, this may not be the best movie for you.

The story is played out more like a mystery with horror elements than going for the full shock-horror like "The Exorcist" or just the gore that other Satan-centred films rely on. Even my horror-hating boyfriend likes this film and it's 2006 remake, too. It's just a good film. But that's not to say that there isn't a few good old horror 'ookie' bits. There are some damn good horror scenes. It may be a 70s film, but the special effects are still good for today's audience and some of the death scenes are inspired!

The nanny character (Billie Whitelaw) is very chilling and little Damien is the essence of creepiness, while saying virtually nothing. Without crossing any lines (in my view, I'm sure it was scandalous for the day), "The Omen" shines as one of the best 'Satanic' horrors in the genre. I definitely recommend seeing this version before the remake!

[Image: 20th Century Fox]


Monday, 22 October 2012

The House of Wax (2005)

"The House of Wax" (2005, Jaume Collet-Serra, Village Roadshow Pictures, Dark Castle Entertainment, Warner Bros. Pictures) is the modern remake of the 1953 horror (of which you can find my review here: ), which was itself a remake of a previous film from 1933! (Which is also really good, but isn't a horror - more a murder mystery!)

Naturally, the 2005 version is sexed up, bloodied up and taken in a completely different, and somewhat more perverted, direction. Also, Paris Hilton is in it. But don't judge it on this fact alone!

At my High School Prom (back in ye olde 2006), we watched this film at my friend's house afterwards. We saw one particular clip 15 times on repeat. Three guesses as to which bit... Let me give you a hint, it involves Paris Hilton and a large spear.... Now you're thinking something really disturbing, aren't you? Filthy minds!

This film has suffered some terrible reviews over the years. I think it's main issue is people don't care about Wax museums any more, and not that many modern viewers (particularly the teenage group this film was aiming at) have heard of the Vincent Price or the '33 versions. The plot seems outlandish and odd to some. Unless you've been to Madame Tussaud's, however, and realised how freaky wax figures really are!!!

Following the common horror convention of a road trip (football game in this case), several promiscuous 20-something-year-olds, couples mostly, but you can't always tell in these types of films, get stuck. Their car then breaks down so they stop and camp for the night. During the night, the camp is disturbed by someone menacing in a truck.

In the morning, they split up (Excellent plan. No possible harm could come to anyone with this plan!), some staying with the broken Dodge and the others going in search of someone to sell them a new fan belt. The two who left the camp come across an odd little town called Ambrose, which is very quiet. They accidentally walk in on a funeral, and meet a mechanic called Bo (Brian Van Holt), who offers to help them once the service has ended. Feeling embarrassed, but glad of the offer, the two look around the local Waxwork museum (which is itself made of wax!). It's all very eerie... then we delve into the horror.

I got this film in a triple boxset which had the 1933 and 1953 versions in it, and as much as the 2005 version pales in comparison to the two classics (in regards to plot), this film has quite a lot going for it: It's gory, it has psychotics which overreach the polite boundaries trodden by Price in the '53 version, and it has Jared Padalecki in it (That's Sam Winchester from 'Supernatural' if you don't know already)! Not that I knew who the hell Jared Padalecki was in 2006, but it's one of the main reasons I keep this film on my shelf (aside from the gore of course!).

There are quite a lot of cheap scares and sheer bloody scenes, but that's what you're watching it for! And if it's not, then maybe you should be looking at a different genre? It doesn't exactly break any new ground, but I've never understood what makes it 'bad' in some people's books? It just seems like your average modern horror to me (boobs, blood and scares)! Plus, the plot is actually pretty disturbing, even if it's not very likely. Give it a try!

[Image: Village Roadshow Pictures & Dark Castle Entertainment]


Sunday, 21 October 2012


Warning - Spoilers below!

"Sinister" (2012, Scott Derrickson, Summit Entertainment) is a very well marketed horror film. The trailer for it is pretty humdrum as far as horror films go and, I can admit, gives way too much away! But it's the other parts of the marketing that they've done very well, and is what drew me to see this film while it was still in the cinema.
By using Twitter, especially the hashtag '#SurviveSinister', and having someone on hand to retweet anyone using this hashtag, they really got the word out there. Their flyers in cinemas, particularly in America, were also really effective and echoed the famous marketing of William Castle way back in the 'silverscream' days! And so many others in the horror blog-o-sphere have praised this film, that I just had to see what all the fuss was about!

Ellison Oswalt (Ethan Hawke), his wife, Tracy (Juliet Rylance) and his two children, Ashley (Clare Foley) and Trevor (Michael Hall D'Addario) have just moved into a house in a small town far away from their previous home. They're used to this, however as Ellison moves them around a lot chasing stories. Ellison, a crime writer who likes to delve into real-life grisly murders and try to solve them, hasn't told his wife and family yet that they have just moved into the house of a family who was found hung by the neck until dead from a tree in their back garden!

They are warned away by the local police, but one star struck police Deputy, named throughout the film as 'Deputy So-and-So' (James Ransone) tells Ellison that he is happy to help him in return for a mention in his new book.

Ellison is dedicated as he is desperate to reclaim his fame once found with an earlier book, but soon lost when subsequent book sales didn't reach those heights. In his determination he is at first blind to the danger he has placed his family in and the truly disturbing nature of the Super8 films he watches (and we watch with him, which really created an effect I enjoyed). But we soon watch him realise what he's doing and become more and more crazy as he tries to stop it. He kind of reminds me of Jack Nicholson's character in 'The Shining'!

The film itself is fine. It's jumpy as hell, an excellent cinema horror which keeps people squealing and on edge. The camera work is a little annoying after a while, though, as they tend to swing about a bit as if it's being filmed by someone behind. This is obviously intentional, considering that our killer, the Demon Bughuul and his band of enslaved helpers, tend to film all of their activity on Super8 film and leave it lying around for the next hapless victim to uncover.

The film ended in a satisfactory manner, breaking the recently disappointing American Horror film pattern of not having the balls to just have a sad, gutting ending!

I must admit to a few jumps and some gleeful squeaks as things jumped out just as the moment of 'something-is-going-to-happen'-ness was about to pass. Timing? This film certainly has it and uses it to full advantage.

I didn't find the demon himself particularly scary looking. I mean, don't get me wrong, if I find a guy like staring at me from the bushes I'm gonna grab a big ol' golf club (probably a Driver or my 3-Wood!), but for Horror Movie-Land, it just wasn't the most terrifying. But what really won this film over for me was the kids. The child actors in this flick are good and are creepy as! And the nickname of 'Mr. Boogie' and the drawings are freaky because as an ex-kid myself and an ex-Brownie Leader I can testify that kids draw creepy shit like that all the time! I really both loved (from the horror lover aspect) and hated (from the future mother in me aspect) the angle the children play in this film. Truly unsettling.

There were a surprising amount of horror conventions which weren't resorted to also! There are characters who would have instantly died in any other movie who get to live. There are plot lines set up which then weren't used as a lame get out. But, the film resorts to cheap scares and oogie boogie moments quite early in, which in the cinema on the big screen at volume 11 is pretty effective, but I doubt I'd find it half as thrilling in my livingroom.

[Image: Summit Entertainment]

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Donnie Darko

"Donnie Darko" (2001, Richard Kelly, Flower Films, Pandora Cinema, Newmarket Films) is a strange and poignant psychological film about a troubled teen boy, fathoming out his disturbing doomsday visions.

Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) is a boy with problems. He's been known to have imaginary friends and has been in trouble for his behaviour. He doesn't get on with his sister, Elizabeth (Maggie Gyllenhaal - I doubt Batman was dating her yet...), and his parents, (Mary McDonnell and Holmes Osborne), treat him like a weirdo. His youngest sister, Samantha (Daveigh Chase), is more interested in dancing. And his therapist, Dr. Thurman (Katharine Ross) just keeps hypnotising him and giving him more drugs.

Donnie awakens one night to a voice asking him to come outside. He follows the voice out onto the golf course and finds a man wearing a creepy rabbit costume standing there. The man introduces himself as Frank and tells Donnie that the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 42 minutes and 12 seconds from now.

Donnie then awakens in the morning to find himself still on the golf course green, being looked down at by two golfers. When he gets home, it is to find that his house has been damaged by an inexplicable jet engine falling from a plane. It has destroyed his bedroom, and so his family have to go to a Hotel for a while. No one knows where the rest of the plane is.

Donnie finds himself a girlfriend called Gretchen (Jena Malone) and begins following Frank's orders: flooding his school...etc.. and generally just acting out. He's not sure why Frank is making him do these things, but he's grateful to the strange spectre for saving him from the jet engine.

Frank hints at time travel being a theme of his existence, and so Donnie begins talking on this subject with a teacher, who lends him a book. The book was written by an ex-teacher at the school, and a local crazy-old-lady nicknamed "Grandma Death" (Patience Cleveland). Donnie discovers that much of the content of the book describes sensations he is experiencing through the presence of Frank.

There's a good scene in the cinema, where Gretchen and he are watching "Evil Dead". Gretchen falls asleep and Frank appears, showing his true face. Donnie is confused by Frank's appearance at the time, but it all falls into place later.

The ending to this film is both sad and quizzical. There are two endings, an explanation to what has been going on and then the true ending. I enjoyed this, but found it all to be a bit slow.

The film is quite deep, and yet very odd. Every character is strange or unhinged. Frank reveals some characters for their true colours, which I enjoy, too, but on the whole I found most of the characters to be a bit disturbing, and not in that usual horror movie kind of way. Drew Barrymore's character is quite a strange one, for example. She's both keen to have the kids learn independently, and also is quite slyly a bully. Patrick Swayze's character is supposed to be unnerving, and the revelations made about the character are shocking.

The special effects are ok, and I think the Frank the Bunny costume is quite frankly (pardon the pun), the best thing about the whole film! Creepy!

It's set in the late 80s, and they have done well to capture the era. I'd label this film more as a thriller than a horror, and it's definitely a slow burner. It's not scary, but just engaging in a kind of depressing way.

Drew Barrymore saved this film from relative obscurity, by allowing it a cinematic release through her own Production Company, but it suffered due to timing as it coincided with the 9/11 attacks in America (you can imagine this would put a stopper in the film release... what with some of the content regarding aircraft...). 

It's a real angsty film, going into the mind of a particular teen, but also reflecting on others around him. Not bad at all, but not something you'd watch a lot.

[Image: Flower Films, Pandora Cinema & Newmarket Films]

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Trick 'r Treat

"Trick 'r Treat" (2007, Michael Dougherty, Legendary Pictures, Bad Hat Harry Productions, Warner Premiere) is a horror anthology similar to, but much less corny than, "Creepshow" (comic books, linking tales, recurring characters, enveloping time frames, main ominous framing character and dark humour...).

I really liked this film. I'd heard good things about it and was looking forward to it, but with caution, as you can so easily do this style of film wrong! However, it's based on a short animated film which was written and directed by Michael Dougherty also, so you know the original material has been used to full potential!

There are 4 main stories encased within the timeframe of one particular Halloween night in America, and each story interlinks in some way or another.

The whole feeling of the film is between humorous, tense and cheesey (an excellent combination), and each tale focuses on something different, while still keeping the main theme: don't disrespect All Hallow's Eve Traditions and don't blow out the pumpkin light!

The First Tale

Emma (Leslie Bibb) and her husband Henry (Tahmoh Penikett) are coming back from the town Halloween parade in costume.
Emma hates Halloween and Henry loves it (kind of like my boyfriend and I, but the opposite way around...). Emma's tired and pissed off. She tries to talk Henry into taking down the decorations (on Halloween!). Henry isn't keen (he wants to watch Halloween porn in bed). Emma gives in and tells him to go inside and she'll take down the decorations instead. Henry bounces into the doorway and gets his video tape set up. Yes, video tape.
Emma begins taking down the rather extravagant decorations when she feels like someone is watching her. She begins to look about, sees a creepy guy in a mask, staring at her. She jumps, but then the guy turns out to be waiting on a lift to a Halloween party. Emma is just about convinced that everything's safe when she is suddenly jumped by a small figure in a dust sheet!
When Henry comes outside to find out where she's gotten to, it's to find Emma's gory remains decorating the garden...
A simple and short beginning, it sets the film up with a nicely gore-soaked opening.

 The Principal

Steven Wilkins (Dylan Baker) is the principal of the school. He's a bit of a psycho, too. Upon finding a brutish young boy called Charlie (Brett Kelly) smashing pumpkins and stuffing his face with too much chocolate, Wilkins decides to teach him a lesson. A deadly lesson.

Shockingly funny, and decidedly gross, this short nearly put me off my dinner. The burial scene is enjoyable, though! There's an entertaining end scene, too. And keep your eyes peeled for related characters!

The School Bus Massacre Revisited

Throughout the other stories, we have seen some trick or treaters who are looking for, not sweets, but pumpkins.

These kids turn out to be Macy (Britt McKillip), Schrader (Jean-Luc Bilodeau), Sara (Isabelle Deluce), Chip (Alberto Ghisi) and eventually also strange fish Rhonda (Samm Todd).

They are lead by Macy to a cliff face, where she explains that a school bus full of children with special needs had been driven over by the bus driver, who was paid to do so. The driver hadn't intended to still be on the bus, however....

Macy states that she intends to honour Halloween by placing a pumpkin for each child victim near the waterside where the school bus and bodies still lie. The kids go down in a lift (or elevator), but is this little field trip all it appears? And was Rhonda invited along just to be nice to her?

A good little trip, there are some quite effective, if obvious jumps and again, I enjoy the ending!

Surprise Party

I like this story because I like Anna Pacquin and I like a good build up. This story begins with a bunch of 20-something year old girls. Most of the group are getting dressed in as little as possible for the big Halloween party in the woods. All but Laurie (Anna Pacquin). She covers up, and unlike the others can't find a date. Her elder sister is quite cruel, getting her ugly or old dates, and constantly telling her she 'needs to be herself'.
When Laurie finds a date he's not what she expected, but he's certainly not expecting her surprise either!


Kreeg (Brian Cox) is a skanky old dude living with his dog. He enjoys frightening off Trick or Treaters with cruel tricks of his own. He's burning photos, and if you can guess who he is before it's given away, then you're paying attention!

He's all set to attack the next little kid who dares to chap his door when he finds out that some trick or treaters are not all they appear. Especially when they are Sam... Now, I'm going to hazard a guess that Sam's second name is Hain and when pronounced together he'd prefer you to call him 'Sow-en', because he's certainly a demon or the spirit of Halloween.

An exciting tale with an amazing performance from Brian Cox as the resilient old man! We even get to see what Sam's really made of, too.

Sam is creepy as! I love him!

A nicely rounded end which leads us (un)happily back to the start. I think this film is just what I wanted it to be, and with some good effects and some fun, gruesome humour in the mix, too. I think it's a new Halloween night favourite!

[Picture: Legendary Pictures, Bad Hat Harry Productions & Warner Premiere]

Sunday, 14 October 2012

The Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors

"The Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors" (1987, Chuck Russell, New Line Cinema) is the return to form sequel with the worst name. Craven returned to take over the screenplay to this one, and you can tell. However, like most cult geniuses in the film and TV industry (see Joss Whedon), Craven's original and far superior plot, was stomped all over to make it more 'commercial'... Ah, Hollywood, where dreams are... whatever.

Realising that taking Freddy out of the dream 'verse was a major error, and a no-go with fans, they took him back to his original domain: the nightmare.

But, where in the first film he's killing kids in their sleep and in the second he's framing kids for murder, in this third film Freddy's turning his hand to framing kids for suicide. We also see the return of Nancy (Heather Langenkamp) from the first film... who I'd thought was dead, but once the film got rolling, I'm glad she wasn't.

Set in a psychiatric ward for young teens, Freddy (Robert Englund) is terrorising a group of kids whom have been sectioned for their strange sleeping (or lack thereof) behaviour - caused by Mr. Krueger, also.

Nancy enters as a 'dream expert' and we also have Dr. Neil Gordon (Craig Wasson) and  Dr. Simms (Priscilla Pointer), who are 'looking after' the group.

Also spot a young Laurence Fishburne, whom you may recognise as Morpheus from 'The Matrix'.

Realising that Krueger has returned, Nancy joins forces with the kids to defeat him, with initially sceptical help from Dr. Gordon.

A relatively engaging plot, with actors who can actually act and some very enjoyably 80s gore scenes (the 'puppet' suicide is a particular favourite of mine). There are also a lot of dream-related scenes. Some are good, especially the Freddy snake and the roast pig scenes, but some are just laughable - the wheelchair attack scene for example...

There are quite a few nods to the first film: the house comes up a lot for instance. But they decide to investigate Freddy's early life and his burial ground in order to end his reign. Sadly, it doesn't end here because this film isn't too bad, and is what most people feel to be the true sequel.

[Picture: New Line Cinema]

Thursday, 11 October 2012

The Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge

"The Nightmare on Elm Street 2: Freddy's Revenge" (1985, Jack Sholder, Smart Egg Pictures, New Line Cinema) is the second Freddy Krueger slasher film.

Freddy (Robert Englund) is tired of being limited to only killing hapless and lusty teenagers in their dreams, and decides to resolve this issue by slowly possessing and taking over a dude called Jesse (Mark Patton), happily framing poor Jesse for all the murders.

I can draw a lot of parallels between this film and "Candyman":
  • Ghostly bad guy who can affect the dream 'verse
  • Possession of the protagonist, who then kills people without knowing it (at first)
  • Protagonist waking up in strange places or being covered in blood...
  • Questions as to whether Freddy is real or a figment of our friend Jesse's imagination!
Unlike "Candyman" though, the plot's not clever. It's just a Freddy Krueger story!

80s gore to the max, with a lot of sub-par teen actors, slightly uncomfortable possessed sex scenes and some questionable parenting, this film doesn't exactly exceed the expectations of its viewer.

Englund's return to the stripy jumper and glove is once again gleefully portrayed as the nightmarish fiend, and his evil determination to take over Jesse and kill everyone nearby keeps the story moving. But unlike the first film, there's just no oomph.

The rampantly peadophilic-goth-club-patron-gym-teacher is an odd addition... But his death scene is quite hilarious, with reference to Rod's death scene in the first film.

The ending of the film is a lot faster paced than the rest of it, with quite a good round-off and classic Krueger cliffhanger ending.

This film is sans Craven, and it shows. He didn't like the idea of a franchise (apparently. He is the king of franchises, if you ask me!) and didn't like them taking Freddy out of dream land. I can agree with him here, Freddy's no fun in the real world!

[Picture: Smart Egg Pictures & New Line Cinemas]
Pucker up...


"Hybrid" aka "Super Hybrid" (2011, Eric Valette, Anchor Bay) is a movie about a man-eating car. It's been a while since I watched the ultimate killer car movie, "Christine", and since I didn't have it handy, I thought it was high time to widen my killer car film horizons!

The premise of the film is simple: a squid-like creature with the ability to camouflage itself as anything in order to hunt its prey, has a particular penchant for cars. We see him out in the 'wild' (aka Chicago), eating some moronic club goers. But, when he gets into an accident, and is taken to a small garage run by a skeleton staff of randoms, the car decides to have a game of hide and eat... (sorry for terrible punnage... I'm bad for that!)

Our rag tag team of mechanics (with, what seems to have become recently obligatory in horror movies, the tough-but-not-butch female mechanic character), the dickhead boss and the secretery in the tiny skirt, work out pretty quickly what is going on (after a few of them get eaten first, of course) and quickly decide to capture the beast to see if it's worth some money.

So, trapped in the large building, the crew attempt to bring down the monster, while the monster (disguised as various vehicles) attempts to devour the whole staff. (He's a very hungry squid monster).

They seemed to very suddenly jump to the correct conclusion on what the creature is and seem to be completely unfazed by this, which always annoys me.

This film was very well put together and the background music is very.... Batman-y.... The production is very professional and the editing is excellent.

I liked the noises the monster car made, too. Something between an engine and a stomach growl. The animal morphs into a car, he's not wearing it like a suit, so the almost organic noise was very fitting.

The SFX of the monster were pretty good, considering budget, but they began to show too much, kind of spoiling what was otherwise a nifty little effect. I enjoyed the car's red vision as well.

I was confused as to how it ate the people, though. At first I thought it filled up with a kind of stomach acid goop and dissolved them like a venus flytrap (which I thought was suitably horrifying), but later it looked more like it had the tentacles and its mouth within the car cockpit... I liked the acidic idea more.

The car manages to have it's own presence as a creature, though, in the same way that "Christine" always does. So, I must commend them for that! It sneaks about convincingly and, similar to 'Robert the tyre' in "Rubber", it seems to waver between normal and menacing.

I wasn't too enthralled with the characters. The lead female was a bit of a moan, and the war hero mechanic angle wasn't played on enough with the most likable male character. It just seemed kind of thrown in there. There was also a lot of useless sub-plot build up for no reason: lazy boyfriend, cousin/nephew, war hero.... Wasted man-eating car screen time if you ask me!

The dickhead boss had so much promise, but he just didn't seem to be well rounded enough as a character. It seemed to me, to be written like a Bruce Campbell character, but they just didn't give the actor enough of the quips to take him from an asshole to a good-guy-with-asshole-tendencies.

While I've seen a lot better, I was pleasantly surprised by the professionalism in this film, and found the story suitably batshit crazy and also very well put together! It's worth watching if you're in the mood to watch a bunch of mechanics try to trap a monster car in a garage. If you're looking for guts, gore or jumps, it's probably not for you.

[Picture: Anchor Bay]

Sunday, 7 October 2012

The Nightmare on Elm Street

"The Nightmare on Elm Street" (1984, Wes Craven, New Line Cinema) is the first and, in my opinion, best of the series of  the "Nightmare...." saga.. This film introduces us to famously unkillable and unavoidable, Freddy Krueger (Robert Englund). Freddy's the stuff of nightmares. Not only are they his domain, but they are also his hunting ground. And his favourite kind of victim is? Oh, teenage cannon fodder, of course!

As Halloween approaches, I like to lace my usual random horror viewing with some real classics, because frankly, I like to be scared and sometimes the classics are the only way to do that. So I'm starting with some base fears (via yesterday's 'IT' and today's Freddy); the nightmare.

When a group of friends all have similar nightmares about getting hunted down and murdered by a mysterious and severely disfigured man with a glove which has knives for fingers, you'd think they'd be a little worried. But you know horror movie teens; they love sex... And to hell with everything else!

When Tina (Amanda Wyss) is then murdered in her sleep by said man, the teens begin to realise that there is someone stalking them in their dreams... A someone who can kill you, and whom you can't avoid, because... well... Everyone sleeps.

Poor Nancy (Heather Langenkamp), Glen (a very young Johnny Depp in his first big screen film role) and Rod (Nick Corri) try to avoid ol' murderous Freddy as best they can, but can you just fathom it? None of the grown ups believe them! And instead think that they are all either crazy or mad killers!

The special effects are still admiral to this day (for instance the much copied bath scene), although often a little kitsch and corny (the mildly hilarious phone-tongue scene for example). The bit with the stairs was always my favourite, though! Really gave me the shivers as a kid.

The scary thing about Freddy is that he has utter control in the dream realm, and an uncanny knack of convincing you that you're actually awake and safe! The false-start dream sequence is overplayed these days, but "Nigtmare..." still brings it with the best of them.

Englund clearly relishes his role as psychotic child-murderer-turned-murderous-dream-ghost, bringing an edge of manic glee to the role. His iconic jumper, hat and glove is still a common sight on Halloween to this day on both males and females alike.

A real classic that suffers from the 'too-many-sequels-spoils-the-broth' mentality which threatens many of the greats (see 'Halloween', 'Friday the 13th', 'Poltergeist', 'Alien' and 'Predator' for evidence...) and not so greats (see 'Puppet Master'...). Craven is one of the few masters of the 'too-many-sequels' craft, however, and has enjoyed much success with his 'Scream' films.

The plot is actually pretty dark (as most horrors obviously are), and the adults in the film are way too busy trying to ignore their own dark secrets to admit that Freddy is killing again. This level can easily be ignored by the gorehounds looking for boobs and blood, but for those seeking something more, it can add another dimension.

A film everyone should see at least once, and one which manages to remain funny and jumpy despite it's rapidly ageing look.

[Picture: New Line Cinema]


Saturday, 6 October 2012


"IT" (1990, Lorimar Productions, DawnField Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television, Tommy Lee Wallace) is one of the classic Stephen King adaptations. It's one of the few King books turned films that have actually been done well! If not completely accurately, but when has that ever happened? This is the made for TV version, which is the superior version in my book.

The fabulous Tim Curry (Dr. Frank-N-Furter himself!) stars as the child-eating-fear-demon (well really, he's more of an interdimensional-being, but whatever!), who often takes the form of Pennywise the 'dancing' (read 'insane') clown. Pennywise plays with his victims, either luring them to their death like a Kelpie, or by simply scaring them to death by transforming into their worst fear. We see him lure a small girl to her death at the start of the film.

When Mike (Tim Reid, who is the dad from 'Sister, Sister') is at the scene of the crime, he spots an old photo lying on the grass. The photo is of a small boy, who he recognises as the deceased younger brother of one of his old school friends, Bill. Bill's baby brother, Georgie (Tony Dakota) was one of Pennywise's victims in the 60s, when Mike and his pals were all children. It was Georgie's death which started the group's adventurous involvement with crazy clown man.

Mike calls up all his old friends, who have since moved away from the small Maine town of Derry, and have forgotten most of their childhoods and all about Pennywise, thanks to the creature's magical defences. The gang make their way back to Derry at the pleading of Mike, and slowly begin to remember what had happened there.

The film is really following one storyline, the group vanquishing 'IT'. But the film shows two stories, the group battling IT as children, and then again as adults when the creature rises again.

As children, the group were: African-American Mike (Marlon Taylor) who is facing the still very racist bullies at school, talented writer Bill (Jonathan Brandis) who blames himself for the death of his young brother at the hands of the demented Clown, lone girl in the group Beverly (Emily Perkins) who has an abusive father, funny guy Richie (a young, but remarkably completely recognisable Seth Green), hypochondriac asthmatic Eddie (Adam Faraizl), competent and intelligent Ben (Brandon Crane) who is bullied for being fat, but by today's standards, he's pretty normal and Stan (Ben Heller), who is introduced as a Jewish boyscout and a birdwatcher.

As adults, the group are: still-in-Derry, Mike (Tim Reid), horror writer (who's totally based on Stephen King himself) Bill (Richard Thomas), fashion designer in an abusive relationship, Beverly (Annette O'Toole), TV comedian Richie (Harry Anderson), virgin limo business owner Eddie (Dennis Christopher), famous, and no longer fat, architect Ben (John Ritter) and real estate broker Stan (Richard Masur).

The film is quite long at 195minutes, and the DVD is one of those ones where you have to flip it over half way through to see the rest of the film. This is because the film was shown as a two parter on TV.

Despite the length, the film isn't boring and the special effects are excellent. There's a lot of blood, but it's not gory, usually coming from sinks, balloons and other odd places. The film and characters are very 80s. Since it came out in 1990, this isn't a criticism. Most of the characters, except the main characters, are unlikable and cruel. But this is on purpose, to build up group dynamic and emphasize the group's status as losers.

Pennywise is the epitome of creepy and really a complete and utter nightmare monster. A real modern classic in that respect. Tim Curry is one of the masters at creating demented characters, and really brings the fear guzzling creature to life, probably fuelling quite a few people's fear of clowns over the years, too!

The dialogue isn't always the smartest, but that isn't the most important part of the film. And the end left me a little non-plussed. The undertheme, as common to King books, is about being the oddball, beating the odds and bullying (whether it be by greaser teens, or by monsters).

A classic and an excellent film all round, I recommend "IT" as a must see!

[Picture: Lorimar Productions, DawnField Entertainment, Warner Bros. Television]


Monday, 1 October 2012

The Silent House (2010)

"The Silent House" or "La Casa Muda" (2010, Gustavo Hernández, Tokio Films Ltd) is an Uruguayan film (in Spanish) which was inspired by 'real events'. Whether the events were truly real or not, I can't say. But somehow, I doubt it.

Laura (Florencia Colucci) and her father, Wilson (Gustavo Alonso) plan to spend the night in an empty farmhouse owned by a man called Nestor (Abel Tripaldi). They have been asked to clean and fix up the place as Nestor intends to sell it. Nestor warns Laura and Wilson not to go upstairs as it is unsafe. He then leaves, and the two settle for a snooze before they get up early to begin on the house.

Laura wakes her father upon hearing a noise from upstairs and he goes to investigate. He doesn't make it back....

The film is meant to be shot in one long scene, although truthfully it only appears this way and is actually just extremely well edited. Naturally, the creators like to sell the fact that it is 'one long take'. Whether it is or not is really not important, it feels like it is, which is truly the point, no?

Florencia Colucci gives an excellent performance throughout the film as she makes her way through the house in sheer terror. Her gruesome discovery is effectively played out in manic girlish panic, and as she starts to slowly edge over from fear to lunacy, she begins to see things...

The film makes effective and torturous use of mirrors, constantly filming into them, giving the viewer the idea that something may appear there, behind her. (Seriously, it was almost worse than "Don't Be Afraid of The Dark" and all the knife-y-McStabby-ear/eye scenes!)When the spooky background stuff starts for real, it actually loses some effect, though, as you're more relieved to finally be seeing what you've been waiting for all along.

The film is quiet, slow and tense. People who can't let themselves be dragged into what's happening on screen may find this style of film boring, and people who don't like subtitles might not be able to get past the start of the film. But the main body of the film has very little dialogue, and is quite engaging without need for language.

Very tense and atmospheric, the film keeps you guessing as to whether it's a straightforward slasher or a straightforward haunted house story. Laura is convincingly scared and confused, and the scenes are spooky. The gore is minimal and not the main point of the film.

Unfortunately, it's not a straightforward anything. My main problem with the film? Lack of real plot. A nonsensical twist, and a sloppy, rushed ending with the unhelpful 'written explanation' slide at the end. For a film that had played so much on the simple, atmospheric spookiness and some very effective camera work and lighting, it felt unnatural for it to about-face so quickly and go into 'unneeded complicated plot' mode....

However, as a low-budget indie film, it has a feeling of accomplishment to it and keeps you watching the background in anticipation.There are some truly freak jumpy bits, too.

Not a film I'd sing hundreds of praises over, but I think the above fairly positive drabble does it justice.

 [Picture: Tokio Films Ltd.]


Saturday, 29 September 2012

The Crazies (1973)

"The Crazies" (1973, George A. Romero, Cambist Films) is the original 70s version which was then remade in 2010. My review of the 2010 version can be found here:

Both versions are the well-known 'infection-spread-Zombie-movie' in essence... if not technically 'zombie' movies in reality; there be no shambling corpses in "The Crazies".

The remake was good, and managed to keep the main story the same without taking anything away, simply just updating the original.

The original seems quite dated to today's audience, but it is a Romero film through and through with a good yet simple plot and some creepy costumes (mainly gas masked military men). However, often the characters are a bit dull and the script isn't the most interesting.

When a plane carrying a chemical weapon which turns people into violent, homicidal killers, crashes into the reservoir of a small town in America practically infecting the whole population, the military move in to contain the situation.

We follow a small group of survivors led by fireman David (Will McMillan), his pregnant nurse wife, Judy (Lane Caroll), and David's firefighting buddy, Clank (Harold Wayne Jones). They wind up picking up a few stragglers such as a father, Artie (Richard Liberty) and his virgin (remember that bit, it's important) teenage daughter, Kathy (Lynn Lowry) - who totally reminds me of the female gelfling muppet in The Dark Crystal!!!! Anyone else? No? Just me, then...

There's also a few other survivors, but their characters are barely worth mentioning.

David, Judy, Clank and the gang are trying desperately to escape the town, and avoid the armed forces who have been instructed to capture or kill civilians on sight. As they try to make their way through the panic, they also have to avoid the hordes of crazy infected people who are trying to kill everyone! Peasy. Oh, and also, any one of the 'survivors' could be infected, too!

In conjunction with this story, we also follow the military leaders as they try to both stop the infected people escaping and going on the rampage, and also try to find a cure. It's just a shame that in true horror film style, they're pretty much incapable of doing either effectively.

As I mentioned, the script isn't much to get excited about, and other than a few jumpy scenes and some effective but simplistic effects, you can guess what's coming for most of the film. But, as an idea the plot is unsettling. As someone who considers insanity as one of my top 5 fears, I have to hand it to Romero that this film really hits the button. Unfortunately, the lack of budget affects the execution and overall feel of this film and allows it to suffer. I also think more time was spent bigging up the military as the main obstacle, rather than the infected nutters...

Definitely watch this version before the remake, though, to fully appreciate the story!

There's a scene in this film which is far more shocking than anything in the remake! Quite disturbing.
Not a great Romero film by any means, but not the worst horror from the 70s by far!

[Picture: Cambist Films]