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]


Monday, 24 September 2012

The Innkeepers

"The Innkeepers" (2011, Ti West, Dark Sky Films, Glass Eye Pix) is a haunted hotel story.

A slow burning jumper of a film, we follow the otherwise dull lives of two young hotel employees, Claire (Sara Paxton) and Luke (Pat Healy), who are manning the front desk for the final weekend of the "Yankee Pedlar Inn" being open. There are only a handful of guests staying at the doomed hotel, and the owner is away sunning himself in Barbados.

Claire is an awkward teenager, who has recently dropped out of college and is feeling lost in her now directionless life, as she prepares to lose her job at the hotel. She's heavily asthmatic and is also prone to entertainingly flaky outbursts and exasperated half-tantrums.

Luke is slightly older, and is also a college drop out, but unlike Claire, he is happily nestled into his rut in life. It is he who has the main interest in ghost hunting in the hotel, and he runs a website about the strange happenings. Although it becomes apparent throughout the film that his interests in the paranormal are primarily all talk and he is more of a lazy, casual enthusiast.

Luke's interests in the hauntings by a young woman who hung herself after her new husband left her on their honeymoon at the hotel, has become quite an obsession now with Claire, who is most likely trying to find something to fill the hole in her life. Luke is evidently head over heels for her, and although deep down he has no actual interest in finding or facing a real ghost, he keeps up the charade to be close to Claire.

One guest is a retired actress-cum-psychic who uses her divining crystal pendulum to communicate with the spirits. Now, I have friends who are into this kind of stuff, and I can promise you that is not how you're meant to 'use' a crystal, but whatever! I enjoy that the 'wise man' part is played by a 'wise woman', considering that the main character is also female.

It seems that Claire and Luke's meddling in the supernatural with their EVP recording equipment, video cameras and so on have caught the attention of the spirits and kind of pissed them off, because soon it seems that they are now after Claire. Although she doesn't help herself much. Seriously, I spent quite a lot of this movie shouting things like "Why? Why, Claire? Why are you going into the basement?! Didn't you listen to The Ramones song?"

The film is slow paced with little happening for a while. The repartee between Claire and Luke is realistically casual and good fun. In fact, for a while you can maybe even forget that you are watching a horror movie at all, as you just take in the lives of this young pair and their awkward not-a-romance.

Now and again, though, West likes to remind you that the hotel is haunted and give you a quick flavour of horror. Although it's not a guts and blood squelch-fest, these little titbits of ghostly activity keep the pace up and keep the audience engaged.

Back to the original style of ghost story telling seen in latter day black and whites such as "The Haunting", most of the jumps are false alarms or tension breakers which are thrilling and also lull you into a false sense of security.

My only problem with this film was the end. The whole way through, tension is built up and up, keeping you waiting on a twist that's not coming, a big finale, or a prelude to a non-existent sequel. But... nothing. The end is the end. The plot is rounded but also unfinished and the hotel remains haunted!

One thing you have to say though is, all those horrorfans who like to boast about always seeing the twist in a film, well you should make them watch "The Innkeepers", because they will definitely not see the 'twist'.

A good little yarn with some relatable characters and a setting that isn't actually overly eerie, despite following the same set up as "The Shining" (virtually empty hotel with ghosts).

Definitely worth a watch, but not sure I'd sing about it as loudly as others have done.

[Image: Dark Sky Films & Glass Eye Pix]

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Dead Silence

"Dead Silence" (2006, Universal Studios, Burg/Koules/Hoffman, James Wan) is quite a classic style ghost story with a nicely added creep factor from an old favourite: The Ventriloquist's Dummy! If you read the "Goosebumps" story about 'Slappy' the dummy as a kid or have seen 'Magic' starring Anthony Hopkins, you may enjoy this film for that fact alone.

Jamie (Ryan Kwanten - aka Jason Stackhouse from "True Blood") comes home to his wife, Lisa (Laura Regan) to find that a strange package has arrived for him containing a Ventriloquist dummy called Billy. Perplexed, he sits it aside and goes to get some Chinese food for dinner. When he returns Lisa has been murdered, her tongue ripped from her mouth. The dummy is lying on the floor.

Naturally, Jamie is suspected to have murdered Lisa, but since there is no clear evidence, they can't hold him. And against the wishes of Detective Jim Lipton (Donnie Wahlberg), Jamie returns to he and Lisa's small hometown of Raven's Fair. In Raven's Fair there is a local ghost story about the once famous lady ventriloquist, Mary Shaw (Judith Roberts), who was suspected to have murdered a young boy and had been brutally murdered by several local men. The tale states that she hunts down relations of her killers and will kill anyone who screams in the presence of her ghost, taking both their life and their voice to add to her repertoire...

There is also, of course, the obligatory creepy child's rhyme.

Jamie goes on the hunt to uncover the truth behind the tale and stop the murderous ghost and her 101 creepy wooden 'children'.

A good yarn with some classic charm. The tale is slightly cheesy, but in the horror world this is no negative thing. Often films attempting to break the mould wind up falling flat on their face. "Dead Silence" exploits the creepy, traditional surroundings perfectly, making an obvious but effective situation for the story. The large old, carefully unlit house, the mortuary, the cellars, the abandoned theatre, the river, ghostly reflections, flowing raggedy curtains, creepy woods, graveyards with dead trees, cobwebs and fog; this film has it all!

Considering that this film is from the people behind "Saw", I was pleasantly surprised to see such a classically styled plot. "Saw" broke into some new settings horror-wise, when it was released and was creative, twisted and gory. The rest of the franchise, however, I have little time for, as they helped create and enter into the 'horror porn' arena and lost their sense of purpose and plot. "Dead Silence", although not particularly creative, keeps the horror coming and well placed gore to a conventional and very effective pace.

The ghost is scary and unrelenting, in a way that is almost from a mind similar to Sam Raimi. The dummies are creepy and effectively used, with surprisingly little overall movement, keeping things creepy and not delving into the ludicrous world of "Puppet Master".

The makeup is good, the special effects are satisfying and I enjoyed the performances of the actors, in particular heartbroken and determined Kwanten and confused and serious Wahlberg. People have complained that the characters are boring, but remember that this film is set in a small town and the people are scared shitless of a homicidal ghost... considering all that the characters are quite lifelike, really...

The addition of the mortician, Henry (Michael Fairman), was a good plot device, similar to the character of Mr. Bentley in "The Woman In Black". Other side characters seemed slightly unnecessary and didn't add much to the plot.

Overall, a fun little nail biter, that may give you a jump or two. Nothing too creative, but unworthy of all the negative comments it has received in the past. Especially considering that most of the complainers probably rate "Hostel" as an excellent horror... Tasteless idiots! I see nothing wrong with some charming old fashioned story telling, in today's modern world of cheap remakes and terrible plotless bloodfests.

Screenwriter Leigh Whannell has all but disowned this film, feeling it to be a bad effort and a blot on his CV. As much as it's certainly no "Poltergeist", I'm glad he has come to terms with the fact that this film mainly 'failed' due to the Corporate machine treading all over the creativity.

There are an alternative beginning and ending, and I feel the alternative ending may have been better than that actually selected for the film. But that's just me.

Again, this a film of many names including "Shhh..." which has got to be one of the worst names ever!

The twist can be seen coming by weathered horror fans and anyone paying really any attention to the scenes, but may surprise a few young teens new to the wonderful world of horror or any non-careful watchers.

Worth a try on a dark night with someone who hates dolls! But remember not to scream!

 [Picture: Universal Pictures &]


Tuesday, 18 September 2012

Murder Party

"Murder Party" (2007, Magnolia Pictures, Jeremy Saulnier) is a "horror" "comedy" based in Brooklyn, New York.... I bought this film for three reasons:
  1. It was cheap and had free shipping
  2. The cover looked entertaining
  3. It had one of those terrible horror names (a fact the film itself makes a nod to by including a video tape called "Scarewolf" in the plot)
A strange and lonely man called Christopher (Chris Sharp), who lives with his cat (who seems to own the sofa), finds an invitation to a Halloween party called "The Murder Party" on the street and decides to go... He makes a Halloween costume out of duct tape and some cardboard and sets off.

He gets to the secluded spot to find a bunch of scene-kid 'artists' wearing Halloween costumes (some of which are recognisable), toting weapons... It turns out that the scensters are looking to murder someone in the name of 'art', and Christopher has accidentally volunteered!

I'm sure they were going for 'ironically uncomfortable.'.. What they got was 'normal uncomfortable'. This film is not funny, at all. The only thing really going for it were some fairly okay low-budget gruesome moments (the "wolfman" getting burnt so badly his mask melted to his face being particularly yucky and some axe through the face action being quite impressively accomplished).

The film is way too quiet, and other than setting up quite a good 'weirdo' lead character in Christopher, the film achieved very little. The 'Patron' character is kind of like a badly written Will Ferrill character, and the scensters are just too lifelike to be satirical.

A film made by scene kids, taking the piss out of scene kids, for the enjoyment of scene kids makes very little sense... Quite frankly it wasn't entertaining in the least and it will be joining "The Thirst" in the charity bag.

On the other hand, it's an independent film made by people with next to no money, so in that respect, well done! The special effects are actually pretty impressive considering, and the relative idea behind the film could be sinister. Unfortunately, it's just not achieved in the product, and even I won't inflict this DVD on anyone else.

[Picture: The Lab of Madness & Magnolia Pictures]


Saturday, 15 September 2012


"Botched" (2006, Opix 13 Ltd., Barraboy Films Ltd., Kit Ryan) is an Irish gorefest comedy with some fairly out of this world plot lines, and an enjoyable crazy factor that verges on the slapstick.

Ritchie Donovan (Stephen Dorff) is a thief. He's a good thief. His only major flaw? He has recently had some terrible luck! After losing his swag in an otherwise fairly successful heist, he is given one further chance to appease the ringleader, who coincidentally helped Donovan's mother leave Russia and become an American citizen. He must go to Moscow and with the help of two Russian brothers, steal a priceless crucifix from the Penthouse of a highly protected building. Easy.

Donovan, Peter (Jamie Foreman) and Yuri (Russell Smith) get the swag with little trouble, it isn't until their lift (elevator) is swamped with civilians and they end up on an unknown floor with no lift call buttons on it that they realise things have gone awry!

Trapped on the floor with the people they have now come to take as hostages, they receive a radio call from what they presume to be the police... Silly them.

A really surprising plot with a lot of blood spraying, head bludgeoning, decapitating fun! The action turns from tense to horror to plain old comedy very quickly, and has quite a cartoony feeling to it.

Jaime Murray from "Hustle" is excellent as the female lead and Dorff is a great straight man, who seems genuinely surprise by the whole thing, and it's almost as if he really has stumbled into another film without realising it. But it's the other characters who really make this film, as strange and insanely written as they are, they are entertaining.

A definite must see for any gore hound, it's a laugh out loud comedy which will have your jaws dropping surprise as the sheer ludicrousness of the twists!

(Picture: Opix 13 Ltd., Barraboy Films Ltd., Zinc Entertainment, Arclight Films, Appollomedia & Arcade)


Satan's Little Helper

"Satan's Little Helper" (2004, American World Pictures, Satan's Little Company, LLC, Intrinsic Value, Jeff Lieberman) is a B-movie slasher laced with dark comedy set at Halloween. I was going to keep this flick for Halloween, but had heard so much about it, I couldn't wait!

Nine year old Dougie Whooly (Alexander Brickel) is an odd child, but once you meet his mother, Merril (Amanda Plummer, whom you may recognise from The Fisher King and other films), you begin to realise why. His whole family are a little strange. He has become obsessed with a game called "Satan's Little Helper", which has inspired a sudden admiration of Satan in him.

He is excited for Halloween for three reasons, and none of them involve teeth-rotting sweeties!

1) Dougie is excited to see his elder sister Jenna (Katheryn Winnick) who is home from acting college for Halloween to take him Trick or Treating.

2) He is looking forward to dressing up as his favourite game character, 'The Helper' from "Satan's Little Helper", who mainly helps Satan attack and kill random people in the highly featured, terrible animation during the film

3) And he is convinced that he is going to find the real Satan and 'help' him "rip people's guts out". Little does he know how true this wish is going to come...

When Jenna returns with her new boyfriend, Alex (Stephen Graham), Dougie is upset (he's a little incestuously interested in his elder sister, in that way where most 3 year old girls are convinced that one day they'll marry their daddy).

In a huff, Dougie storms out into the street, bemoaning the fact that his sister has ruined his Halloween. He spies a man dressed as a demon dragging a body out into a porch and arranging it like a decoration. Convinced that he has found Satan, Dougie follows this man as he clearly goes along arranging obviously real dead people around the neighbourhood. The 'demon' spies young Dougie who is now gleefully cheering him on in his 'game' and is about to either run or dash the boy's brains out, when Dougie explains that he is Satan's little helper, and would like to help him out!

The boy then hangs out with this serial killer for the rest of the film, helping him, while clearly convinced that it is all a game. As I said, this boy is very strange and clearly a little stupid... OK, a lot stupid! But then, the rest of his family aren't much better. His mother appears to be stoned, her friends appear to be blind and his sister turns into an instant slut (like a lot of girls do around Halloween)!

The film delivers some moderate B-Movie gore and also the laughs in plentiful supply, and the sheer WTF moments just add to the fun. We spent a lot of time going "Why...? Oh wait... They're clearly just not a 'smart people'". But believe me, this isn't a criticism.

The killer is brilliant. He gets a lot of screen time, doesn't speak, never shows his face and is both sinister and kind of enjoyably & darkly charismatic all the way through the film! His rapport with the deluded young kid is kind of oddly endearing, if, of course, you ignore the fact that he is a psycho murderer, and also apparently an aspiring rapist, once he sees Jenna in her sexy Wench costume...

Although the base storyline could be considered a rehashing of "Halloween", I argue that's it's not. The addition of the innocent (and clearly misguided) child, really keeps the humour and shock coming, and adds a lot more to the story than simply a psycho killer in a mask stalking a babysitter. (Not that I dislike "Halloween", of course! That classic is definitely on my All Hallows Eve watch-list).

A film that deserves a cult following, "Satan's Little Helper" is an excellent slasher comedy, which contains some effective, if simplistic, special effects (despite virtually non-existent budget) and some actual scares, contained in a nicely produced B-Movie format which I really love. Also, there are a fair amount of boobs and cleavage, for those looking for that!

It doesn't help the argument that games don't effect children's view on violence, however...

[Picture: Satan's Little Company]

Thursday, 13 September 2012

The Grim Reaper aka Anthropophagus

"The Grim Reaper" aka "Anthropophagus" aka "Zombie 7: Grim Reaper" (1980, Joe D'Amato, Shriekshow Entertainment, Hollywood DVD, Edward L. Montoro) is a low budget video nasty. This is the edited, edited, barely gory version. If you can get your hands on the full version well done! Keep it! It could be worth some money as it's damn near non-existent, and is highly collectible for fans of the genre.

You know when a movie goes by so many different titles it's either a good 'un or a 'dear god, what the hell did I just watch?' one. Well, this one's both!

The highly prudish British government in the 80s banned this film for its vulgarity. Which is why this edited version exists. And sadly, it does little justice to the full and freaky version!

And now we have "The Human Centipede" and "Saw" movies, which make this little Italian gorefest look like a kiddies cartoon! But ho hum, sick breeds sick, they say, and maybe it's little gems of terrible horror like this that are the reason such dire atrocities are even in existence (can you tell I think both of the aforementioned movies are complete bollocks? No?! Well, they're complete bollocks!). The scene which caused so much havoc in the UK, where the killer eats a foetus, has been edited out of this version.

The opening of this movie gets the obligatory semi-nudity out of the way; a couple get to a cast-over and cloudy beach, strip and the girl cavorts around in the water while the guy listens to some terrible 80s music with his fairly old and uninterested dog. The excitement begins when the dog begins 'barking' and (wait for it!) stands up and wanders about two feet before sitting back down again! This signifies that he knows something's amiss!

The horror begins, and the underwater filming is fairly impressive given the meagre budget this movie evidently had! Boyfriend takes his sweet time noticing his girl's in trouble, too. What an oaf!

We then start on our actual plot. Some young tourists are travelling around the Greek islands when they are asked by another young woman if she can tag a lift on their boat to one of the islands where she has some friends waiting and a job set up looking after a young English girl.

They happily oblige in their naive 80s way.

When they get to the island it's almost deserted! And to their dismay, they find a very dead body. They also find one survivor, the English girl that the older girl was coming to look after. And, just for fun, the English girl is blind and so can only tell them that 'the man' who killed everyone on the island is very scary and smells of blood.

When the group's pregnant friend goes missing, you'd think they'd look for her, but presuming she's on the, now sailing out to sea, boat they arrived on they turn in for the night! Great friends.

But when the 'man' arrives to take more victims, it soon turns into a quest for survival.

The props in this movie are hilarious! I especially enjoyed the oh-so-the-opposite-of-convincing severed head in the bucket! But some of the more impressive effects are done with some skinned animals, which are, of course, of questionable morality nowadays, but are damned gruesome.

A fun little jump and slash with some random back story and side characters. Even with the gore halved, it's not too boring, but it is a little slow to get started. It's just a bit wooden, terribly dated and kind of nuts!

The dubbing is kind of distracting, personally I'm a bigger fan of subtitles, but you get used to it.

Despite the wooden acting, the even more wooden voice acting of whoever dubbed over the film, and some props that looked more amateur than some of my own attempts, the film manages to be entertaining even in its heavily censored form. I'm glad I got it for 50p, though!

There are some normal horror hooks to watch for; tarot cards, ominous statements "no future", heavy breathing killer, blind, orphaned girl, pregnant lady and cleavers to name a few!

This film was the first horror film that wasn't pornography by the director D'Amato, and a year after this film was made he decided to remake it as a porno under a different title (stick to what you know, eh?).

He also make a kind-of sequel to the non-porn version called "Absurd". So there you go! Everything you ever needed to know about this crazy flick. Probably.

[Picture: Shriekshow Entertainment]


Tuesday, 11 September 2012

The Return

"The Return" (2006, Asif Kapadia, Universal Pictures, Rogue Pictures) is a psychological thriller about a troubled young professional woman who begins to experience visions of the murder of a woman whom she's never met.

Joanna (Sarah Michelle Gellar) is a truck rep, making a name for herself in the industry. She heads to Texas to chase down a new perspective customer, when she begins experiencing the visions.

As her life begins to get a bit hectic, considering that she keeps passing out or daydreaming away the vital minutes, she begins to try to work out what the visions are and who they are from.

She meets a guy called Terry (Peter O'Brien), who's wife, Annie (Erinn Allison) had died several years ago.

As Joanna begins to piece together the strange visions and memories, she starts to realise that perhaps this woman's unfortunate and untimely demise is in fact linked to her in some way or another.

A nice slow burning thriller with some jumpy bits and not a lot of dialogue, "The Return" keeps you watching, waiting on more of the puzzle. SMG proves yet again, that she excels at deep and strong female characters, and can act without any need for words, as she works her way through this artistic piece.

While not a horror in the conventional sense, there are some jumpy bits and the bad guy (J.C. Mackenzie) is quite scary. Not to mention the fact that the 'memories' are really the ghost of the dead woman telling Joanna what happened in order to get her 'Rest In Peace'. Or, perhaps Joanna is no longer Joanna, and hasn't been for some time...!!!

Some spooky music and supernatural electronic disruption, ghostly visions and general spookiness allow this film to fall into the horror genre, although if you're looking for gore, go elsewhere.

A' horror' for those who don't really like horror, this film is entertaining and mellow. I really liked it!

Apparently there's an alternate ending, but like most American productions, only the Region 1 version gets the good stuff. Poor show!

 [Picture: Universal Pictures & Rogue Pictures]


Monday, 10 September 2012

The Selling

"The Selling" (2012, Emily Lou, Gabriel Diani, Redwood Pictures, Diani & Devine Productions) is an indie haunted house comedy. It is one of the Kickstarter success stories, managing to meet its target to get a cinematic release in America. As a non-American who donated to the Kickstarter, I was treated to a free digital copy of the film, since I probably won't be stopping by any L.A. Cinemas anytime soon!

The plot is creative and the comedy is fun and lighthearted. The characters are likeable and strange (which I appreciate), and the ghostly action is moderate but fun. The film pays homage to some of the greats; 'Poltergeist', 'The Shining', every ghost film with a bathroom cabinet scene and so on, and points for those who spot the play on the classic 'Jaws' line!

Richard Scarry - pronounced 'Scary' - (Gabriel Diani - who reminds me very much of a young David Tennant!), is a terrible real estate agent who is duped, along with his business partner, Dave Ross (Jonathan Klein), into taking on the house of a now deceased serial killer, by pretty and ruthless real estate agent, Mary Best (Janet Varney). Naturally, they find it quite hard to sell the house, due to it being haunted by the ghosts of the killer's victims and all....

With the help of local looney, Ginger Sparks (Etta Devine), a waitress who moonlights as a ghost expert and blogger, they attempt to cleanse and sell the house. Richard is particularly keen to sell the place in order to pay for his terminally ill, but oh so entertaining and awesome, mother(Nancy Lenehan)'s treatment.

Some key cameos include Simon Helberg (Howard from "The Big Bang Theory"), Barry Bostwick (Brad Majors from "The Rocky Horror Picture Show") and Harry Groener (The Mayor from "Buffy The Vampire Slayer")!

The script is excellent, I must say. And the film is well produced and edited (unlike that travesty of a film I tortured myself with yesterday!).

A nicely self aware project, "The Selling" is good fun and does justice to the horror comedy genre, which is fast becoming bloated with half-assed efforts featuring zombies and Simon Pegg wannabes.

The only thing missing was the dancing goat from "Drag Me To Hell"! Well done guys!

Also, I like the tagline: "Five Bedrooms. Four Bath. Twelve Ghosts"

The film is available on iTunes and also on Amazon for downloadable formats. And if you're in America, I suppose you could go see it in the cinema!

 [Image: Diani & Devine Productions, Redwood Pictures]


Sunday, 9 September 2012

The Thirst

"The Thirst" (2006, Jeremy Kasten, Anchor Bay Entertainment, Starz) is a vampire B-Movie I bought for 4 main reasons.
  1. It was £1.50
  2. It stars quite a bounty of Whedon alumni: Clare Kramer ('Glory' from BTVS and she was also in the original 'Bring It On'), Adam Baldwin ('Jayne' from Firefly), Tom Lenk ('Andrew' from BTVS and Angel) and Serena Scott Thomas (also a Buffy alumni)
  3. It looked gory
  4. At least 2 Rasputina songs are featured in it (listen out for the song 'Antique High Heel Red Doll Shoes' - it's weirdly awesome!)
 The film is about addiction, as vampire films sometimes are (see 'Lost Boys: The Thirst'). Maxx (Matt Keeslar, who you may know from 'Dune') and his girlfriend, Lisa (Clare Kramer) are recovering drug addicts. What particular drug is not mentioned, so I'm going to guess heroine.

Maxx is attending something similar to AA Meetings, but Lisa is not. Actually, she is stripping at a sleazy nightclub wearing a 'Hitgirl'-esque wig (of course, this was before 'Kick Ass' came out). Maxx shares with the group that he suspects that Lisa is still using and is hiding it from him. Little does he know that she's in fact hiding something completely different and equally deadly, from him.

Lisa can't face the world and commits suicide, leaving Maxx completely distraught. Before he reaches the point of no return, his buddies take him to an erotic nightclub where besides meeting some interesting characters including submissive/bottom, Kronos (Tom Lenk), Maxx also swears that he spies Lisa dancing.

He can't stand the nagging feeling that he really saw her, so returns to the club asking for her and gains access to the VIP room... It's safe to say he didn't find what he was expecting!

The story's OK, and I love at least 3 of the actors, but the film just isn't a keeper, I'm afraid. There is a lot of blood and a fair amount of boobs and dancing to keep you entertained. Adam Baldwin is pretty much Jayne with more bloodlust, and the leader of the vampire gang, Darius (Jeremy Sisto) is entertaining. There's a lot of fight scenes and trippy scenes (one scene may disturb cat lovers), and generally this film should be good, but it's just not. As a low-budget lover, I should find this to be a hidden gem, but you know I think it's just badly put together. The editing is below par and even a whole truck-load of fake blood isn't going to fix that!

I think, had they decided if Maxx was a dick or a nice guy, his love story with Lisa would have been more filled out. As it was, I just didn't really care. Also, if they had played a little more on the mystique of seeing Lisa in the club, it would have mean't more. Everything seemed to be suddenly resolved very quickly. It was as if they had cut out masses of plot to get more tits in! I mean, what is this, a low budget vampire chick movie?!... oh, wait....

Really, they tried to fit too much in and ended up giving a terribly edited and unmoving plot. However, I liked the ending; artsy and complete, they didn't torture us with the thought of any sequels!

So yes, the film is awful. It's not funny. It's not well written, and aside from some attractive cast members (both for cult status and just normal attractiveness POV), there just isn't much in this film I'd compliment.

But there are a lot of naked people and some terrible one liners. Some of the special effects were not too bad (eg. burning effects, wounds...), but the blood sprays were just ludicrous and everyone who was getting eaten, hurt or stabbed just seemed to lie there and take it and scream half-heartedly about it. There is a fair amount of gore and blood, though, so if you like Hellraiser-esque OTT blood baths, then you may enjoy this.

But I'd recommend many other movies over this one. And I'm afraid Mr. DVD, it's straight to the charity shop with you!

[Picture: Starz & Anchor Bay Entertainment]


Friday, 7 September 2012

The Nanny (1965)

"The Nanny" (1965, Seth Holt, Hammer Film Productions) is the last Hammer Horror shot in black and white. The last silverscreen Hammer. It's based on a novel of the same name by Evelyn Piper.

This is one of the best Hammer Horrors that doesn't feature a monster (psychological horror by any other term), because in essence it's terrifying! Also, not one of the characters is likable. And while in modern slasher films this is the norm (7 faceless beautiful people seriously lacking personality go into a... and get killed off one by one by ... in a mask with an 'insert weapon here'), in original horror cinema, most directors and writers usually spent some time building up at least one sympathetic character. In "The Nanny" none of the characters are really very likable, but it works because they're all very real and the idea behind the film is all too possible!

An upper-middle-class couple, Virgie (Wendy Craig) and Bill (James Villiers) Fane are having to come to terms with the fact that their young son Joey (William Dix) is returning from his boarding school/child's prison after serving his sentence for the part he played in the death of his toddler sister, Susy (Angharad Aubrey). Hint, they think he's insane. Joey's a bratish child who enjoys tormenting middle aged women (although when you discover why, can you really blame him?) and his hysterical mother cannot deal with anything, never mind her son's disturbing abruptness and apparent hatred of everyone, especially Nanny (the fantastic Bette Davis).

Bill is a distant father, as was accepted in the day, and a bit of a bully, he spends a lot of time at work. This is why, despite there having been no children in the house, Nanny, has remained to look after Virgie.

Virgie's ailing but independent sister Penelope, or 'Aunt Pen' (Jill Bennett) as she's known, is a jealous woman and has a short temper and an annoyingly direct manner that mirrors Joey's precisely.

In fact, you're pretty much made to feel sorry for Nanny, when seeing the film for the first time. She tries hard to win Joey over, and deal with the distraught Virgie, but you soon see the cracks in her armour as her idea of reality crumbles and the tragic events of the past are revealed. Also, she is trying to kill an innocent little boy, brat though he is, it's hardly the Nanny-like thing to do! What would the neighbours think!?

Joey's little friend from upstairs, Sarah (Sandra Power) is an obnoxious character, but I remember being a young teen, and I'm pretty sure I was the same!

The film starts as a slow burner, but action slowly picks up and the revealing scenes, if you can let yourself fall into the film, are quite shocking and sad.

I recommend giving this film a try, it's an original plot and the simplicity of the horror is cutting.

[Image: Hammer Film Productions]


Thursday, 6 September 2012

Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth

"Hellraiser 3: Hell on Earth" (1992, Anthony Hickox, Dimension Films, Paramount Pictures) is the third installment in the "Hellraiser" series. It's also the first fully American "Hellraiser" film.

Deciding that the Kirsty and uncle Frank story was getting rather old (it was), the wonderful people behind the "Hellraiser" franchise decided it was high time to get to explaining the mystery behind Headboy Cenobite, Pinhead (Doug Bradley). After revealing that he had been in fact human, and also a British WW1 soldier called Captain Elliot Spencer in the last film, they decided this was a damn good thing to explore.

When J.P. Monroe (Kevin Bernhardt), the asshole owner of a trendy rock club called "The Boiler Room", bought some new 'art' from a mysterious gallery run by a hobo, he didn't quite expect what would happen next.

When a young, down on her luck reporter called Joey (Terry Farrell) stumbled into the biggest story of her life without her cameraman Doc (Ken Carpenter), she didn't realise what would happen next either.

And when lost, young rock chick Terri (Paula Marshall), who suffers from a condition where she doesn't dream (I'm sure it has a name, but I'm just too damn lazy to look it up!), witnesses the puzzle box kill someone and is then dragged back into the nightmare by first Joey and then Monroe, she didn't realise what would happen next either!

As you can see there's a theme here of people making some bloody stupid decisions.

Monroe's ugly new sculpture-pillar of torment takes some victims, awakening Pinhead who was trapped inside the thing, and allowing him to strike up a deal with Monroe, appealing to his sadistic side. Pinhead's plan is to make some new Cenobite friends, take over the world and destroy the only thing still holding him under Hell's rule; the puzzlebox. His issue of course being that he doesn't have the puzzlebox... and he can only have it if someone gives it to him. Geez Hell, always with the rules!

With the help of the ghost of Pinhead's former human self Joey tries to stop Pinhead's reign and defeat his army of rock club reject Cenobites. Now speaking as a frequenter of several rock and metal clubs, I have to say that's a mean task!

There's some side plot but it's barely worth analysing.

One thing, though, does Terri not totally remind you of Faith from Buffy? She reminded me so much of Faith when she was with the Mayor! 

The gore is in-keeping with the usual Hellraiser film style, but only one girl gets flayed this time. I like to see a deviation from the original plot, and a little less reliance on convincing the audience that Pinhead thinks pain is fun. We get it already! We sat through the first two films!

However, the dream sequences were a bit dull, the acting is not the best and aside from some creative things done with chains, this film has little offer in actual plot...

The new Cenobites are uhm... blah. I'm sure you've all heard the complaints before. And the attack scenes in the club lose their engagement about 20 seconds in...

If only they'd stopped at three....

[Image: Dimension Films & Paramount Pictures]


Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Hellbound: Hellraiser 2

Find my review of the first "Hellraiser" film here:

"Hellbound: Hellraiser 2" (1988, Tony Randel, New World Pictures) is the sequel to the original "Hellraiser".

Continuing pretty much from the original film, Kirsty (Ashley Laurence) is now in the Channard Institute insane asylum, where she raves on about the events of the previous film to unlistening ears. Well, the detectives seemed slightly interested... and they do have the blood soaked mattress...

She meets a young 'mute' girl called Tiffany (Imogen Boorman) who likes puzzles (can you see where this is heading?), and also gets an admirer, her doctor's assistant Kyle (William Hope), who gets himself involved in the hellish goings on. Silly Kyle. All to get into a crazy chick's pants!

It turns out Kirsty's doctor, Dr. Channard (Kenneth Cranham), already knows all about the Cenobites and the puzzle box, and he is actually trying very hard to open the damn door to Hell! What a loon! Methinks the nut is running the nuthouse?!

Dr. Channard manages to resurrect the flayed remains of Julia and makes some messy love to her. He also gives her some nice bandages so she won't mess up his things. How thoughtful!

The Cenobites show some restraint when young Tiffany is forced to solve the puzzle, and instead give Channard what he wants (too bad he decided he doesn't want it anymore!).

Gory and full of flayed people, this film achieves what it sets out to. The special effects are good, and the Cenobites are hilariously chilling and a bit daft. The film spends a little too much time explaining itself, though.

But we do learn how Pinhead (Doug Bradley) came to be, and "Hellbound" flows very well from the original "Hellraiser" story.

I do love some of the creepy scenes in Hell, especially Uncle Frank's private chambers.

A fair sequel, as far as sequels go, to a silly, gory film about torture, sex, evil and other such things. If you liked "Hellraiser" you won't be disappointed in this film.

[Picture: New World Pictures]


Tuesday, 4 September 2012

From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter

"From Dusk Till Dawn 3: The Hangman's Daughter" (2000, P.J. Pesce, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, A Band Apart, Los Hooligans, Dimension Films) is the third film in the franchise, and a prequel to the original film.

Set in the 1900s in Mexico, American author Ambrose Bierce (Michael Parks), a drunk who is experiencing weird flashbacks, has hitched a ride with a young married couple, John (Lennie Loftin) and Mary Newlie (Rebecca Gayheart), who are spreading the 'word of God' via free bibles.

Their coach is attacked by a band of highwaymen lead by Johnny Madrid (Marco Leonardi), who has just narrowly escaped the hangman's noose and kidnapped the hangman's daughter Esmeralda (Ara Celi). The attackers find nothing of value in the wagon.

Soon everyone congregates (seperately) at a secluded inn which we know from previous films to be the 'Titty Twister'. The barman is also our good ol' friend Razor Charlie (Danny Trejo), this is the same character as in the original movie.

Although the vampire princess Santanico Pandemonium is played by Selma Hayek in the original film, it is revealed in this film that she is none other than Esmeralda. Dun dun dun!

A fun little period gore comedy, the plot goes back to the original setting and style. Most of the vampire action is in the inn itself, and again there are a lot of boobs and vampire ladies wearing very little clothing.

As much as I liked the fight scene music, I thought the original film's was better, but on the whole I enjoyed this film for the humour and the complete ludicrousness of it all.

[Image: Dimension Films]


Monday, 3 September 2012

From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money

"From Dusk Till Dawn 2: Texas Blood Money" (1999, Scott Spiegel, Quentin Tarantino, Robert Rodriguez, A Band Apart, Los Hooligans, Dimension Films) is the sequel to the comedy vampire gorefest, "From Dusk Till Dawn".

This time, we follow a band of criminals on a bank job (rather than two criminals after their bank job), lead by Luther (Duane Whitaker), although our main character is Buck (Robert Patrick). Our other members of the unhappy heist are Niles (Muse Watson), tough guy Jesus (Raymond Cruz) and weakest link Ray Bob (Brett Harrelson).

I love the opening scene for this movie. It's awesome for a good many reasons, but mainly it's particularly good because it features Bruce Campbell! Did I mention my love of Bruce?

So this is kind of a Mexican vampire version of "The Thing". Who's a vampire? Who's dead? Who's not what they appear? and so on...

Danny Trejo returns to his role as the vampire barman, Razor Eddie this time though (as Charlie was killed in the first movie), and obviously we have the obligatory scenes in the 'Titty Twister' bar.

There's a lot of cheesey gore, but none as good as the first film's, and although Tarantino and Rodriguez have again managed to create a film that begins with one story before jumping randomly into vampiredom, it's just not got the same oomph that the first one had. There is a hilarious scene with a vampire bat in the shower, however. And the pervy ones of you will be happy to again see a lot of boobs.

A bit of fun and sleaze this film isn't pretending to be anything it's not.

Most of the bite scenes are done in bat form, though, which got a bit old after a while... But there's some good carnage at the end, a lot of creative vampire deaths and they seemed to favour some of the more interesting camera angles, including: water-bowl-cam, fang-cam, car-bonnet-cam and skull-cam!

[Picture: Dimension Films]


Sunday, 2 September 2012

The Curse of Frankenstein

"The Curse of Frankenstein" (1957, Terence Fisher, Hammer Film Productions, Warner Brothers) is Hammer's first colour horror movie, and also the first of their many renditions of the Frankenstein story based on the novel by Mary Shelley.

Peter Cushing, who is also well known for portraying Van Helsing in the Hammer Dracula series of films, stars as Baron Victor Frankenstein, who we find in prison awaiting the death sentence. A priest enters and Frankenstein recounts his life story to him.

Young Frankenstein (Melvyn Hayes, who was famed for playing 'Gloria' Gunner Bombadier Beaumont in the "It Ain't Half Hot, Mum" TV series) takes on a mentor and tutor, Paul Krempe (Robert Urquhart), since inheriting the estate from his late father.

There's a montage of he and Paul working on science and maths throughout the years, as Hayes becomes Cushing. Finally we see that Frankenstein and Paul have brought a dead dog back to life! Oooh!

Dissatisfied with this enormous feat, Frankenstein begins working on creating life and a 'perfect' man, by stitching together bits of corpse. He's also not too scrupulous about how he comes about these bits of corpse...

Paul becomes uncomfortable with the turn in events and tells Frankenstein he is leaving, until a young woman, Elizabeth (Hazel Court), who is Frankenstein's cousin, appears and tells Paul that she has come to live with and marry her cousin! Fearing for the young woman's safety, Paul sticks around to protect her from her crazy fiancé-cousin.

Little known to either of them, ol' Frankie is knocking off the maid, Justine (Valerie Gaunt)! 

Wanting his creature to be perfect, Frankenstein invites 'round a scholar and decorated scientist, Professor Bernstein (Paul Hardtmuth), kills him and then grave-robs his brain! What a loon!

Paul, suspicious now, catches him in the act and accidentally damages the genious brain in the scuffle. Oops!

Frankie perseveres, and we witness the consequences. The monster is played by another Hammer favourite, Christopher Lee! Who is one of my all-time favourite actors and thespians. He plays the monster in some very original monster makeup. No green, square heads and bolts for this guy! Lee looks painfully dead.

A fun adaptation of the book, which is itself an excellent story and a very dark read.

With excellent performances from Cushing, Lee, et al, the film keeps a good pace and doesn't feel dated.

Lee's monster isn't given enough screen time in my opinion, but the time he does get he uses to create a sad and very 'dead' creature, which is unstable, awkward and animalistic, unlike other Frankenstein's Monsters from past and present, who are always more human... 'Humanising' the monster can be very effective, such as it is in the big screen 1994 adaptation starring Robert De Niro, but in this version, the monster isn't the real villian of the piece.

Cushing gives an excellent performance as a the disturbed and determined Baron. The end scene is very emotional, and Frankenstein's desperate pleas seem very heartfelt. Like most crazy people, the Baron didn't think what he was doing was crazy! And considering how much his friends deny his tale, maybe it didn't even happen at all!

Definitely a version of the story you should see. One of my favourite Hammer Horrors, too!

[Picture: Hammer Film Productions & Warner Bros.]