Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Nosferatu (1922)

"Nosferatu" (1922, F.W. Murnau, Prana Film) is a German Expressionist silent horror movie based on Bram Stoker's "Dracula". Although, because it was not an authorised adaptation, in order to avoid copyright infringement, they changed the names of the characters and some small pieces of the plot. Not that this helped them at all, when the Stoker family took them to court...

Count Orlok (Max Schreck) is a vampire count living in Transylvania in the Carpathians. Sound familiar?

He is interested in purchasing a house in Wisborg, Germany (hint, not a real city) and contacts a company in Wisborg owned by a character called Knock (Renfield by any other name. Played by Alexander Granach). Knock sends young Hutter (The Harker character. Played by Gustav von Wangenheim) to the Carpathian region to meet with the count and deal business.

Hutter sets off immediately, much to the upset of his wife, Ellen (Mina. Played by Greta Schröder).

The film follows the general Dracula tale with Hutter travelling to the region, the locals being wary of the name of the count, getting to the castle by carriage and then by foot as the driver will go not closer, wolves, Orlok being creepy, a small cut and an overreaction to the "Precious blood" from the Count... yadda, yadda.

We also see Orlok travel by boat to Wisborg, killing the crew as he does in most versions of the famous tale, travelling in coffins filled with earth... and so on.

Orlok takes Ellen under his spell, distills fears in the townsfolk of plague, and drives Knock insane by turning him into a human-vampire-bug-eating-underling (not Human Servant if you read laurell K. Hamilton, you'll know that's entirely different).

The film is very old, and can be seen for free on YouTube as a slightly remastered copy with some subtitles for the ye olde script, where needed. Although all the dialogue cards are in English (but sometimes difficult to read, 'Hutter' looks like 'Butter' which just made us think of "South Park"!)

I do love this jumpy old fashioned film. Watch for things and people just popping out of sight or appearing from nowhere!

The real beauty of this film is not the acting or the plot, it's the fact it's a silent film with a traditional piano track. The makeup for the time is also excellent and the iconic image of the Nosferatu looming over the sleeping Ellen is one of the best known in cinema.

A real history lesson for any horror fan!

Some of the special effects must have dazzled the viewers in 1922; stop motion, Orlok rising into an upstanding position from a prone position, doors closing themselves, coffin lids rising... etc...

It is evident through most of the scenes that they have been shot in daylight, despite there being a vampire present... as the film equipment of the time would not have captured such scenes in a dark setting. And I'm afraid ol' Orlok has a reflection.

The overacting used in this period of film to convey the emotions and plot are hilarious for modern viewers! But were quite standard for the time, so don't go thinking this film is, in any way, bad. And Hutter's grinning, expressive face is just a hoot!

Ellen's 'I'm-sad-so-sad' look makes her look almost zombie-like and that's before she's even under the Nosferatu's spell!

Some of the scenes are just completely random, and the plot can be a bit jumpy. But on the whole, it's very well captured and the quality of the YouTube video is actually pretty damn good! Especially considering that it is not made from the original (and only, negative) but several later copies strung together! The original film may have been destroyed when they lost the rights to Stoker, I can't remember.

The demonic horses were my favourite part; real horse and cart sped up to look 'inhumanly fast' and the horses were wearing masks to make their faces look more like dragons!

Also, watch for the shipmate who looks a bit like Harry from "Dumb and Dumber"! And the weird stripey 'werewolf' in the woods!

This is a film strictly for real horror-history-geeks or people studying cinematography as an academic interest. It's not a fast or scary film and the Nosferatu's creepy, sinister movements are just laughable to the modern viewer who are more used to masked slashers and super-fast vampires in leather. Although, if you sit in a nice dark room with some candles burning, maybe there's a thunderstorm outside, this film can be enjoyed to its full extent.

Really good fun, and it lets you appreciate how horror cinema has developed.

[Picture: Arts Guild]


Monday, 30 July 2012

Demon Wind

"Demon Wind" (1990, Charles Philip Moore, Demon Wind Productions Ltd., United Filmmakers) is a low budget demon movie which uses every overused horror convention known to man.

See checklist:
  • Boy and girl on a trip in the sticks? Yep
  • Boy with bad past, digging it up a little? Yep
  • Bad dreams and premonitions about a creepy place resulting in the characters deciding to go to said creepy place? Check
  • Creepy petrol station and even creepier couple owning it? Certainly!
  • Inhospitable locals? You got it!
  • Religious stuff and the weirdest demonic beginning ever? Uh huh
  • Crusified remains? Yep
  • Evil fog? Oh yes!
  • Spooky old books and characters dumbly reading them aloud to begin the mayhem? Of course!
  • Demons?
  • Zombie things?
  • Spew?
  • Bloody writing?
  • Magick spells?
  • Ghosts?
  • Confusing, 2D characters?
  • Inescapable location?
  • Odd special effects?
  • Creepy children?
  • Demonic voices?
  • Evil fog?
  • A place you can't leave or escape?
  • Technology failing them?
  • Never-ending shotgun rounds?
  • Yes to all!
Oh yes! This film is like 10 films in one. And all of them kind of suck!

Oh, but one thing that was missing.... Demon Wind! That was what made me click play on the YouTube machine! I wondered, is it about demonic gas? Evil methane? Or is it a place like the name of the house is 'Demon's Wind' or something? Nope. Still confused!

The main character is called Corey (Eric Larson) and he and his girlfriend, Elaine (Francine Lapensée) are driving to Corey's old family home; a delapidated farm house in the middle of nowhere. His father has committed suicide after telling Corey that their family is cursed for worshipping Satan and that his grandparents had died in the cottage in a fire started by a Demon worshipping madman cleric.

How's that for a plot? Bloody crazy? Oh, it gets better.

So, it seems ol' Corey just couldn't have himself and Elaine have all the family tree, family death plot viewing fun to themselves, and invited all of their friends. And the friends actually turn up! Go figure!

Some of the friends are hilarious:
  • You have a magical karate kid magician who looks a lot like Jared Padalecki (but obviously isn't as he's way too young!)
  • You have the sensible dude (you know he's sensible because he speaks proper English and wears glasses) who from some angles kind of looks like a very young Alan Tudyk (but isn't).
  • And you have your jock, who looks a bit like Zack from "Saved By The Bell". But isn't.
The characters are all a bit touchy-feely and everything just seems plain forced. There's also some awkward demon-boob-groping, which is a bit reminiscent of "Basketcase", but with clothes.

The dialogue is terrible, and the demons (and pretty much most of the plot) is like a crappy copy of "Evil Dead". There's also a lot of shots of demons spewing white stuff and I believe most of the SFX budget was blown on one particular scene where Magician dude and the dude called Stacey (Jack Vogel) blow apart some zombie-demon/deadite-knockoffs with sawed off shotguns. Body parts flying everywhere!

I especially enjoyed the very 80s/90s neon light special effects!

The end is just confusing with Corey and Elaine suddenly becoming super witches and then Corey's head going all Coneheads-meets-Star Trek.

One thing I really liked though; how do you have a haunted farmhouse and a place for your characters to be stuck in if your farmhouse has been inconveniently burnt down in the opening scene? Easy! Alternate dimensions! Enter through the door and go back in time to the full house. Enter from the side of the ruin, and stay in reality!

Things that really just annoyed me:
  1. Maggots in an egg.... WTF?
  2. They get magic knives, or Athanes, which will kill the demons. They use both up very quickly and promptly lose them.
  3. Why did one girl turn into a demonic baby doll?!
  4. Why did one guy grow backwards and turn into a dove?!
These are the questions I'd like answered!

Generally, a complete and utter load of crazy with some typical demonic voices and several plots going at once. In fact, I'm still confused! This film didn't know what it was, and tried to do everything. All that was missing was a possessed hand and some foliage rape and this damn circus would have been a complete rip from the great mind of Raimi. But again it's free, so if you want to find out for yourself just how awesomely bad this film is, get on YouTube!

[Picture: United Filmmakers]
"Demon Wind - It'll blow you away!"


Sunday, 29 July 2012

The Driller Killer

"The Driller Killer" (1979, Abel Ferrara, Navaron Films) is a 70s slasher movie which was banned in the UK for a while. It's now in the public domain and can be found in full on YouTube. Enjoy!

Reno (Abel Ferrara, the director himself) is a struggling and talented artist. He is living in his studio with his girlfriend Carol (Carolyn Marz) and her, drugged-up and spacey, female lover Pamela (Baybi Day). Remember it is the70s. Carol is also kind of still involved with her ex-husband Steven (Richard Howorth).

Reno is currently working on a weird buffalo painting (all his paintings are weird in that 'modern arty' way) which he feels is his masterpiece. Unfortunately, until he finishes it, he will not be paid. And he is unable to keep up with his bills. His phone gets cut off (and unceremoniously chucked from the window), etc... etc... Carol is covering the bills as best she can, but things are looking dire.

A loud and crazy band called "The Roosters" with their lead singer Tony Coca-Cola (D.A. Metrov) move in to the apartment building where Reno and his two lady friends are living and painting. The constant noise, financial worries and probably excessive drug use begin to get to Reno and he soon starts turning to murder as a way to relieve stress. Of course!

This film is one of those 70s cult classics which you have to go into knowing what you're going to get. It was probably ferociously violent when it was first released, but by todays standards is quite tame. The killings don't begin straight off the mark, and when they do only some of them are full on-screen deaths. Although, there's lots of blood! Some of the killing scenes are very gorey, provided you can let yourself be sucked into the moment and not try to judge the scenes based on newer effects. But that is pretty much the secret to watching any older film.

Expect lots of crazy drug-addled dialogue, cheesy drills coming around the corner of the shot and some brilliantly 'crazy hobos'. You can tell off the mark that this film is a low-budget independant film, but by my usual standards, this film is everything it should be. The sound quality isn't great, but do remember the age and budget of the film.

I really liked the crazy band and their random group sessions. I felt this film captured the street and music scene of the 70s in New York quite well. The band are a kind of punk band so don't go expecting anything too melodic. The main score is all piano, and quite nicely adds to the gorey murders.

It seems Reno has a serious hate of hobos, but don't worry, he soon turns his attentions to a more personal level.

The film is quite short at only an hour and a half or so, and gets through the story quite quickly. The acting is not fantastic, but it's not terrible by any means (it's definitely a masterpiece in comparison to "Hell Asylum". But then again, what isn't?!)

Since it's free to watch, I'd definitely recommend if you have a spare hour and a half to kill. A cult classic in the usual B-movie sense and an interesting watch.

Definitely a good film to include in a bad-movie or horror marathon night, especially if you have a lot of beer and pals who are up for a good ol' 'when-someone's-killed-by-a-drill' drinking game! Also, lesbians!

[Picture: Navaron Films]

Monday, 23 July 2012

The Descent

"The Descent" (2005, Celador Films, Lionsgate, Neil Marshall) is an excellent 'adventure into the unknown' horror with an all female cast.

Now, as a girl, I am extremely disappointed in myself, but I am usually not a big fan of women in horror movies. They're; whingy, slutty, screaming nymphos; useless, screaming, panicky morons or overly-tough-screaming-bitches.

Very few films in the horror genre portray female characters in a likable light." The Descent", however, does. I can honestly say, hands down, that I can easily ignore the fact that all the characters are female and just enjoy the film. That says a lot in horror.

We follow a group of women who are on a caving trip. They're all experienced cavers and are on the trip to help our lead character, Sarah (Shauna Macdonald), who recently lost her husband and daughter in an extremely violent and shocking introductory scene.

Juno (Natalie Mendoza) is Sarah's best friend, and is the person who set up the trip as a way to say "sorry for not being there for you". How nice.

It all begins to go awry, however, when the team find out that Juno has purposefully chosen unchartered caves for their trip, believing that she can make them all famous. Things go further awry when they discover the true nature of the caves and what lies within them.

A fantastic on-the-edge-of-your-seat atmosphere and some truly grilling scenes (lots of gorey injuries to feast your eyes on, too) really make this movie a must-see.

The movie could have actually done without the monsters; being lost in an undiscovered cave with no equipment and injured or dead buddies is surely horrific enough? But you know, the quick jump from action-survival horror into monster-survival horror is seamless and effective. We also get to know our remaining characters better.

Now, for all you poor folks who only have the US ending at your disposal, let me tell you you're missing out. The true ending is haunting and awesome. Don't be fooled by the production company setting up for a sequel. I haven't seen "The Descent 2", and possibly won't, I'm not sure, but I hold true to the original UK ending; brutal!

Very well acted and the action is superb. The monsters are nicely made-up and like to jump out at you. Even the scenes prior to the monsters will definitely keep you watching.

My only real flaw with this film's plot? Surely it takes longer than that for humans to mutate and evolve into such creatures? But believe me, this won't bother you while you're watching.

[Picture: Celador Films]


ps - likely to be a bit of a gap in reviews whilst I go on a quick holiday to Italy! Will be back to my horrific viewings next weekend!

Saturday, 21 July 2012

My Bloody Valentine (2009)

"My Bloody Valentine" (2009, Lionsgate Films, Patrick Lussier) is the remake of the 1981 slasher. It was made for 3D and very obviously so.

The film's about a town which has seen a tragic accident in one of its mines. Six men were caved in, but only one survived, Harry Warden (Richard John Walters), who was found in a coma after slaughtering all of his miner friends... He reawakened on Valentine's Day and slaughtered lots of people (while wearing his crazy miner-number-niner outfit) before being killed himself. Now, some years on, a killer also dressed as a miner appears to be on the loose. Is Harry back from the dead and on the rampage?

We follow the lives of Axl Palmer (Kerr Smith) and Tom Hanniger (Jensen Ackles) who is the son of the shamed and blamed mine owner. The young men and their girlfriends are having a booze up in the old abandoned mine when Warden shows up during his rampage.

We then jump forward in time a few years so that Tom is now the mine owner, Axl is now the sheriff, and Warden's dead, right? So no more killer. Nope, there's definitely a killer.

The plot is pretty basic, but I find that's the best thing for slasher flicks.

The action is fast and gross, very reminiscent of both the original film and also some of the works of Sam Raimi. There's a lot of blood sprays and flying body parts. Pickaxes and shovels find themselves stuck imaginatively into bodies. Almost every possible thing comes at you from the screen to make the most of the whole 3D thing. It's a bit forced, though, I feel. But sometimes used to good effect.

There's also a naked lady on screen for about 10 full minutes which I'm sure the men-folk appreciate (3D boobies).

All in all, it's pretty uninventive, but slashers generally are. It's part of their nature. Also, Jensen Ackles is in it (being type cast again! But also, oh so handsome).

The characters aren't developed, the patter's not exactly clever and the twist isn't that well hidden. It's definitely not a ground breaking game changer of a movie, but for some gross-out, cheesey, blood soaked fun, it's a good watch. Plus, did I mention Jensen Ackles is in it?

[Picture: Lionsgate Films]
Someone should tell grandpa that that's not how you 'pick' your teeth. Get it? Ok, I'll get my coat...


Friday, 20 July 2012

The Dreaded

"The Dreaded" (1990, Horizon Productions, Chris Robinson) is an amateur vampire movie featuring a vampire wearing awful cardigans.

I picked it up for £1 as a double feature with an equally low-to-no-budget vampire film called "Project Vampire" back when I was about 17.

The producer was only 20 when he did this film, so we can forgive it's lack-luster effects (please note lack of the word 'special'). The plot is thin, the sound is annoyingly bad quality (but that may be more down to the disk), the acting is wooden (but again, I say, it's an amateur film) and on the whole, this film is just terrible. And that's why I still own it, I am afterall the scream-queen fangirl of the most terrible B-movies!

Stealing some plot from Dracula, but cunningly setting it in 90s America, a vampire comes into ownership of some land and a house in a small town. He moves in and wreaks some mayhem.

Melanie Parker (Lisa Watts), a librarian, and her detective boyfriend, Mark (Todd Jones) break up.

Melanie becomes involved with Andrew Frazier (Tim Cobb), the vampire I was describing earlier. Mark is obviously upset by this turn of events, and decides to snoop on Andrew. Discovering that Andrew's a vampire, Mark sets about trying to slay him in true wannabe-Van Helsing style.

Andrew's creepy, but more in that pervy man way and less in the classic, creepy, sleazy, vampire way. And the characters are on the whole dismissible. But character development tends to cost money, so I can see why this film is the way it is.

There's some key attention to detail that I appreciate; no reflection in the mirror! But the scenes can be quite harrowing and long-winded and a few of them were definitely shot in someone's livingroom! The dialogue also leaves a lot to be desired...

All in all, I like this film. It's not a film I'd show many friends, but it's just the right kind of terrible to bring a wee smile to my face. There's also a confusing twist which I'm still never 100% sure on at the end.

Hilarious! But not on purpose.

[Picture: Horizon Productions]


Wednesday, 18 July 2012


"Candyman" (1992, Bernard Rose, Clive Barker, TriStar Pictures) is scary. It's not scary because of the whole urban myth, mirror thing. No. It's scary because it could happen. Not the undead dude with the hook, I mean going crazy.

I have two fears; zombie apocalypse (ok, not really, but out of all the horror creatures, zombies are at the top of my scariest shit list) and going crazy. Insanity scares me. I don't like the idea that I could just lose it and become someone/thing else! Really terrifying, actually!

Anyway, aside from my own personal insecurities, this film is about two PhD students, Helen Lyle (Virginia Madsen) and Bernadette Walsh (Kasi Lemmons) who are writing a thesis on Urban Legends. They come across the Candyman legend which is local to their area, being based in the gang controlled, ghetto-Projects closeby the university.

They, of course, dare one another to say "Candyman" five times in the mirror, but only Helen finishes all five repetitions. I have to say, that the fact that he didn't jump out and kill her just then really impressed me. The tension meter was right up for about the first 20 mins of this film while I awaited his big entrance!

The two women visit Cabrini-Green, the projects, where they learn of the history and the myth around the Candyman. And meet a few locals.

Poor Helen runs into a lot of unfortunate luck even before she is confronted by the hook-handed man. And, lucky her, he fancies her. So instead of gutting her right there, he instead decides to frame her for a bunch of murders (of mainly people she knows) and for kidnapping, and then kill her once she's become infamous like him (reasoning being that she too will join him as a local Urban Legend).

The slow descent into madness for Helen is traumatic to watch. I remember watching "Premonition" starring Sandra Bullock and finding her torturous unlinear week and 'madness' very disturbing. As I said, it's a thing with me.

Virginia Madsen plays the part well, and I hear she also had hypnosis during filming. Some method actors, huh?

So we're left with the question, is Helen truly haunted by her not-so-secret-admirer, Candyman? Or has she just flipped and is actually killing everyone then blacking out covered in evidence?

Very disturbing with a nicely hefty amount of gore (remembering Clive Barker was involved!) and a few good jumps. Also some 90s fashion; always scary! Oh and bugs. Lots of wasps. Yuck!

Scary on so many levels:
  • The childish boogeyman factor
  • The insanity factor
  • And, speaking as a female, the maternal factor - they stole a baby, man! For a MONTH! What was that kid eating?!
I'm disappointed in myself for having never watched this classic before, but now I have I can say, as a first time viewer, I am so impressed! Never knew what I was missing!

[Picture: TriStar Pictures]


The Thing (2011)

"The Thing" (2011, Matthijs van Heijningen Jr., Strike Entertainment) is the prequel to the 1982 original John Carpenter film also called "The Thing". Why they didn't just come up with a different name, I don't know!

As a film it's ok. The special effects are fantastic and they try very hard to make it feel like the early 80s. And it's convincing.

But it lacks the tension and plot of the original. The lead protagonist, Kate Lloyd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), jumps almost instantly to the conclusion that the alien they've dug up is copying and becoming people. Despite having only some crude equipment, an odd corpse and 80s science to base this on... And the others don't take that long to believe her. Now, fair enough, their Norwegian buddy has just been eaten by something that they dug out of the ice (dead)! But, I expected more "You're just crazy, lady" before the big agreement bandwagon jump-on.

The film pretty much redoes the original; it begins differently and it ties in to the orginal in some ways, but on the whole it goes through all the motions of the original plot, but with less finesse. The effect thing/alien is very well achieved, and I liked how they explained the two-headed corpse from the original film. And who doesn't appreciate an insect-like killer hand every now and again?

I feel that it must have been an interesting script to work on, like making a film backwards from what we already know from the original and reconstructing the events leading up to it. But, unfortunately, as interesting as that process must have been, the outcome seems a bit hollow when viewed as an outsider.

The whole checking-for-tooth-fillings-thing-to-be-sure-that-you're-you is a bit cruddy, I'd say. I mean, I would say because I don't have any fillings (oh yeah! 24 years old and no fillings, I am truly that awesome!)! But the little point on body jewellery was a valid one. But, surely, she could have at least tried to converse with the only talkative and apparently 'sane' alien?! See what the hell it was up to? Ask if it just wanted an aspirin or something?

There was also a point where I thought they'd killed off the female protagonist before the end of the film, and I thought Wow, that was a brave move, I like it! and then she came back. Damn.

There's a lot of flamethrower action, too. Which is fine, but gets a little dull after a while.

By far, the point I was waiting on was how they ended it so that it was set up for the beginning of the original film. I think they achieved this well. I was waiting with baited breath, fearing that they had killed off all the possible useful characters for this scene (remembering that the two guys in the helicopter are Norwegian at the start of the original film, not American or English. Oh, and they're also men), and then voila! They saved it.

However, on the whole, it wasn't so groundbreaking that I'd rather watch this than the original masterpiece! But worth it for the special effects.

[Picture: Strike Entertainment]


Tuesday, 17 July 2012


"Zombieland" (2009, Relativity Media, Ruben Fleischer) is an action-packed, zombie-apocalypse gore comedy!

The zombie apocalypse is upon us, thanks to mad cow disease, and nerdy student, "Columbus" (Jesse Eisenberg) *everyone's named after where they come from rather than their actual names. It's the apocalypse, who cares about names?!* has had to come to terms with his need for survival. He has devised some simple rules to live (and keep living) by:

  1. Cardio
  2. Double Tap
  3. Beware of bathrooms (good one, it's always when you're busy!)
  4. Seatbelts
  5. Cast iron skillet
  6. Travel light
  7. Get a kickass partner
  8. Bounty paper towels
  9. Bowling ball
  10. Don't/Be a hero (depending on whether you're trying to impress a girl or not)
  11. Limber up
  12. Avoid stip joints
  13. Know your way out
  14. buddy system
  15. Always check the back seat
  16. Enjoy the small things
  17. Swiss army knives are your friends
  18. clean socks are everyone's friends
  19. Hygiene
  20. Backup
**(the numbers don't correlate, I wasn't that dedicated to taking notes)**

The list begins much smaller, but as he travels (on his way to his home of Columbus to find his parents), the list increases in size.

He meets "Tallahassee" (Woody Harrelson), a tough guy in a cowboy hat who lets Columbus tag along...grudgingly. Tallahassee loves Twinkies. Being Scottish, I've never experienced a Twinkie so I'm not sure how funny this craving is. But I like to imagine it's like craving Irn Bru; sugary awesomeness that I can live without until I get told that I can't have any. Then I NEED it!

The boys run into scheming sisters, "Wichita" (Emma Stone) and "Little Rock" (Abigail Breslin) and all four begin making their way instead to a themepark called "Pacific Playland" where the girls are convinced is zombie free. Of course!

A very fun comedy horror film with good long-running jokes, plenty of gore and an excellent cameo from the great Bill Murray! (I love Bill Murray). I really do hope that is his house ;) But somehow, I doubt it.

The characters are likable and there's even one or two real scares in there! It's the kind of zombie flick that both horror-geeks and normals can enjoy; not relying too much on you having seen any iconic zombie movies to get the jokes.

It's very American in the way that "Shaun of the Dead" is very English, which I enjoy. And the make up and effects are excellent (like I'd expect anything less from Tony Gardner, who was involved in Michael Jackson's masterpiece video, "Thriller"?!).

I just recently got this DVD back from a colleague who:

a) watched it and didn't even LIKE it!!! (He said it was too funny to be a zombie movie... What a weirdo! He clearly hasn't seen "Fido", "Wasting Away" or "Shaun of the Dead"!)

and b) kept it for about 3 months! So naturally, the first thing I did was rewatch it :)

An excellent film!

[Picture: Relativity Media]


Sunday, 15 July 2012


"Devour" (2005, David Winkler, Bigel Entertainment Productions) is a film about Satan, satanists, the human mind, odd compulsions to murder, destiny and evil online computer games. Also, I'd say in today's world, it could also be seen as a film about online security and just how much info. about ourselves is out there floating on the internet, accessible by anyone in the know. But mainly, it's about Jensen Ackles being, in the words of Zoolander, really, really ridiculously good looking!

Now, that may seem like an indepth set of themes there, but don't be fooled. There's not much depth to this film.

Basically, we meet Jake Gray (Jensen Ackles, the reason I even bought this film!), a college student who is being haunted by disturbing flashes of him murdering people and also mutilating himself. Flashes he can't explain, but compulsions that he fears and kind of enjoys. We meet his two weird friends, Dakota (Dominique Swain), a pretty, blonde, alternative chick, who's *cough* 'flirtatious' nature has gotten her into an uncomfortable arrangement with her lecherous lecturer, and Conrad "Conny" (Teach Grant), a stoner, layabout non-achiever.

Conny has become a little off-kilter recently.... well, he's bought a gun and seems to be intent on using it. Jake questions him on it, and Conny tells him that he's begun playing an online RP-game called "The Pathway", where you give it all your details, it periodically phones you and gives you 'challenges' which allow you to progress through the levels. Only, these 'challenges' generally involve murder, mayhem and suicide. Oh, and Conny has signed Jake up as a birthday present. What a nice friend!

Jake meets a girl, Marisol (Shannyn Sossamon), when he 'fixes' her laptop for free, costing him his wages and job in the IT shop. As Conny and Dakota begin to get wrapped into the game and then commit suicide (I did like the gruesome suicides!), Marisol and Jake work to free Jake from "The Pathway" and its satan-worshipping creator's grip.

There's some low-budget special effects, fire, shouting, demonic revelations, log cabins, pentagrams, satanic rituals... satanic incest.... you want it, it's there.

The script is not the best, the characters are 2 dimensional and disposable, the plot twist is just weird, but they did have quite a good satan-lady outfit, so they get points for that.

It's not a good film, but Jensen's performance keeps it going, although he did seem to get over his satanic discovery pretty quickly...

All in all, I've seen MUCH worse, and I'm not exactly going to take it to the charity shop, but it's not a scary film, and may only be fun for 'Supernatural' fans and B-movie lovers.

[Picture: Bigel Entertainment]


Friday, 6 July 2012

House of Wax (1953)

"The House of Wax" (1953, Warner Bros. Pictures, André de Toth) is the remake of a movie called "Mystery of the Wax Museum" from 1933, and was itself remade again in 2005 (with the main best scene being Paris Hilton getting a spear through the head!).

Vincent Price stars as Professor Jarrod, a waxwork sculptor who owns a museum. His museum is criticised by his financial backer (Roy Roberts) for being boring and old fashioned. When Jarrod refuses to 'liven up' his exhibits, the backer sets the museum alight, clearly as a last ditch attempt to make some cash off of the insurance. In shock, and unable to leave his waxwork creations to burn alone, Jarrod is left in the flames, apparently to his doom.

Jarrod survives, however, but is wheelchair bound. He opens another waxwork museum with his helper, a deaf-mute name Igor (Charles Bronson).

Learning from previous lessons, Jarrod has a special 'Chamber of Horrors' section to his museum which is a big success. It features some older crimes and newer terrors. The crowds are loving it.

Suddenly, a disfigured killer is on the loose, seemingly avenging Jarrod's mishaps, by killing the backer. Unfortunately, a young woman is also killed.

When the young woman's friend recognises her deceased chum as one of the waxwork models things get hairy.

A very nicely executed film which tried hard to maintain the feeling of the 1910s.

The 2005 film kind of overdid the whole thing, but the 50s version kept some finesse to it. I really liked the feeling of this whole film and the eerie scenes on the streets are enjoyably atmospheric.

The character of Cathy Gray (Carolyn Jones) is just a silly little woman. Her voice is really very high pitched, too. But you do feel terribly for her friend Sue Allen (Phyllis Kirk) who, for a 50s horror female role, wasn't too helpless... well, I said TOO helpless!

Remember the period it was made in, though. It's a movie you switch the lights off to and grab a mug of hot chocolate.

[Picture: Warner Bros.]


Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The Mist (2007)

"The Mist" (2007, Frank Darabont, Darkwoods Productions, Dimension Films) is based on the novella of the same name by Stephen King.
A wild thunderstorm causes some carnage to the house of the Draytons, David Drayton (Thomas Jane), Stephanie Drayton (Kelly Collins Lintz) and their son Billy (Nathan Gamble). It also damages the house and car of their dickhead neighbour Brent Norton (Andre Braugher).

David agrees to take Brent to the shops in his undamaged car, taking young Billy with him, and leaving his wife in the house. The supermarket is teeming with people who are panic-buying after the freak weather.

Just then a sudden thick mist rolls in, accompanied by a yelling madman, Dan Miller (Jeffery DeMunn), who warns everyone to stay inside and avoid the mist as he has seen someone 'taken by it'.

The power goes down and the store becomes reliant on its back up generator. Several people run out into the mist and can be heard screaming in agony.

Everyone backs into the shop and awaits there, terrified. One woman, desperate to get back to her children, runs out into the mist solo.

A run-in in the backroom brings it to the attention of everyone that there is indeed, something in the mist.... or some things!

The film does well to analyse human nature and to demonstrate how one convincing and fanatical person can quickly turn people against one another. The "crazy Christian" woman fanatic-type-person, Mrs. Carmody (Marcia Gay Harden), starts as a minority figure. A crazy person that the others avoid and laugh at, but as the fear spreads and the panic grows, she becomes stronger, more convincing. The others flock to her and she becomes dangerous and twisted. She begins to appear to make sense, to be a redemption for the terrified people, but the power goes quickly to her head and she soon begins to think of herself as the second-coming. She can do anything, right? She has god on her side! And if she has to kill a few people, well he'll understand, right? Somehow, I think both King and Darabont are men after my own heart. I'm not the biggest fan of religion. Especially fanatics. By all means, have faith, just don't push it on me. If I'm stuck in a shop with you, surrounded by man-eating mist monsters, and you wont stop preaching all day and all night, I'll damn well use up all the duct tape stock! Geese!

I do love Ollie Weeks (Toby Jones) in this flick. He's the assistant manager, and his unassuming character quickly steals the show as a capable, gun-toting sensible dude!

A lot of the characters are quite menacing and tense. Which really adds to the plot and the pace. The people are suspicious, scared, angry and soon, without hope. They react like pack animals, and turn on one another. Plus, some truly horrific injuries really bring you to the edge of your seat.

The monsters are surprisingly good, considering movies which rely on so many special effects usually lose their impressive effect after so long. "The Mist" manages to keep some mistique by shrouding the creatures in mist. The animals, insects and creatures are scary because, for all intent and purpose, they're pretty organic. They've clearly come from another world, another climate and have adapted differently. They're not monsters, they're just creatures. They're doing what comes naturally to them! Now, I'm not saying 'let's conserve these crazy gigantic bug-monsters'! Hell no! Kill 'em all! I'm just saying, well done guys, these creatures are scary!

The creatures vary from lobstery things and tentacled things, to gigantic locusts and pterodactyl-y things and... spiders! Arachnophobes beware, here there be spiders!

The ending is severe. Harsh, even. Extremely harsh! Stephen King is never this harsh. The brutal ending is needed though, I think if this movie had ended like the book or like "The Birds" it would have felt unfinished.

And watch out for familiar faces!

A good, tense movie. If you have a bug-fear, you may find this movie uncomfortable. If you fear for humanity you will find this film will not soothe those fears. But since when did horror exist to make you feel good about humanity?

[Picture: Darkwoods Productions]


Monday, 2 July 2012

The People Under the Stairs

"The People Under the Stairs" (1991, Wes Craven, Universal Pictures) is a fun little horror about a sick couple. It's also a comment on racism and child abuse. But don't let that put you off!

A young boy living in the ghetto, Poindexter aka 'Fool' (Brandon Adams), lovingly nicknamed by his older sister as whenever she reads his Tarot cards the Fool card always comes up, decides to get involved in a robbery in order to help his family. His mother is sick, his sister, Ruby, is a young mother and his family are about to be evicted from their home unfairly. The landlords, The Robesons, are Fool and his friend Leroy's (Ving Rhames) target.

The Robesons are a creepy, incestuous couple, who keep their daughter Alice (A.J. Langer) locked up in her room. Alice behaves herself as she is painfully aware of what will happen to her if she misbehaves.

As is predictable, Mr. and Mrs. Robeson (Everett McGill and Wendy Robie) hide behind 'faith' to tell themselves that the evil they commit is ok. The couple are portrayed amazingly by McGill and Robie; manic and crazy.

In the basement are the Robeson's old children. See, they like to snatch babies and then when the children get too old or begin to display 'misbehaviour', they cut off the offending part (wicked tongues, eavesdropping ears...) and then throw them into the cellar to live like animals. They also feed them intruders, visitors and door-to-door sales people. So far, all the kids in the basement are boys. Alice is the only girl.

One child, a smart and manic kid called Roach (Sean Whalen) has escaped the cellar and now lives in the walls of the house. Roach is awesome! He is constantly being hunted by Daddy Robeson (who likes to wear a gimp suit for hunting...) with a rifle. Roach is Alice's only friend.

Fool finds himself in trouble when he and Leroy find their partner in crime dead and then cannot escape the house before the Robesons return. Leroy, being a big man, doesn't last long as he can't sneak about like Fool can.

Fool manages to escape (with the loot!) but can't live knowing poor Alice and all those crazy mutilated kids are still in that house, and goes back in to save the day. Does he make it? Watch and see!

Adams gives an enjoyable performance as our young hero.

A nicely paced movie with lots of jumps. The kids in the cellar like to jump out at opportune moments. Prince the bloodthirsty dog is a nice addition, too. Although, if you don't want to see a fake dog get stabbed through a wall with a machete.... I'm just sayin'.

A nice cheesy happy ending manages not to ruin the film. The cellar kids manage to sneak out into the big bad world, but they neglect to grab any of the free money. Dolts! Plus, they all look like gollum with hair, surely someone spotted them?!

Another small issue I have with this flick is that all the kids look about the same age. Surely they didn't steal 15 - 20 babies at the same time?

But on the good side, some blood, angry puppies, knives, guns, crazy religious people, incest, cannibalism, robbery, good intentions and explosives; what's not to like?

Worth a look, don't expect to be scared though.

[Picture: Universal Pictures]