Monday, 28 October 2013

Shadow of the Vampire

"Shadow of the Vampire" (2000, E. Elias Merhige, Saturn Films, Long Shot Films, BBC Films, Delux Productions) is an extraordinary film about the filming of the classic 1922 masterpiece, "Nosferatu", but it's no documentary by any means.

From the slow process of filming with the old hand turning equipment to the period dress the feeling of making this film is recreated elegantly. Humorous in places and excellently put together, "Shadow of the Vampire" is quite a captivating piece.

While filming the famously unauthorised version of Bram Stoker's "Dracula", Frederich Wilhelm Murnau (John Malkovich) is obsessively creating his masterpiece. He hires in an unheard of method actor, Max Schreck (Willem Dafoe), who refuses to 'come out of character'.

The other crew members are wary of Schreck, who is altogether a weird guy. But things become increasingly more suspicious that Schreck may be something other than human!

A truly eccentric film, I loved it. Dafoe plays the hammy horror icon to a tee and you can always rely on John Malkovich to bring some weird in. While not a scary film, it's an intriguing concept and a fun view for any fans of artsy cinema.

[Image: Saturn Films]

Saturday, 26 October 2013


"Misery" (1990, Rob Reiner, Castle Rock Entertainment, Nelson Entertainment, Columbia Pictures) is the film adaptation of Stephen King's fantastic novel "Misery".

I hold this film in high esteem because it captures a lot of the themes from the novel and the changes it makes are beneficial for the on-screen adaptation. It doesn't just chop and change features for laughs and creates a few levels of intrigue and dread without trying to go too deep.

The casting is also flawless with James Caan as author turned captive, Paul Sheldon and Kathy Bates frankly makes the role of crazy 'number one fan', Annie Wilkes, her own. I couldn't imagine anyone else playing the part. She is truly terrifying.

In case you've been under a rock since 1987 (when the book was published), the plot is simple: Paul Sheldon is the author of a successful fictional series called "Misery" (named after his title character). He is caught in a terrible car accident, and is horribly hurt. The car crash scene is very arty with the music. Love it.

He wakes to find that he's been saved by Annie Wilkes, a strange lady who proclaims to be his number one fan and a nurse. She nurses him back to health, but upon reading his pre-copy of his latest novel and discovering that he intends to kill off her beloved Misery, Annie gets nasty. Real nasty.

An excellent study of jailer and captive behaviour and a tense mental game of wits, I'd rate this film as one of my favourite King adaptations as well as an excellent psychological thriller.

While there are certainly 'eep' moments, this film is not a gory film or a jump-infested spook fest. It's a slow building dread, which eventually unleashes some real mental scares.

Also, there's a pretty epic fight scene that still makes my eyes water at a certain part!

[Image: Castle Rock Entertainment]


Wednesday, 23 October 2013

Stage Fright

"Stage Fright" aka "Stage Fright: Aquarius" aka "Deliria" (1987, Michele Soavi, DMV Distribuzione Filmirage) is an Italian/American slasher film set in a theatre.

 A troupe of actors are rehearsing a crappy, artsy musical about a masked killer called the Night Owl, when some real killings are discovered to have taken place. Could it be that a real Night Owl has returned to roost, claimed his mask and is on the hunt for more prey? Too many bird of prey jokes? Yes? Who will survive now that they are all locked inside with the killer?

A fun film, Soavi enjoys tricking his audience with misleading and cleverly panned shots. The characters are surprisingly well rounded despite a lack of deep back story. And this was Soavi's debut as a director, so I think he did rather well.

Our killer is wonderfully menacing with an extravagant mask and a dancer's style. He's also willing to use different tools from drills to axes. You've got to respect a man who can adapt to a situation.

Not the most technically advanced film in the world, but definitely fun, and with a distinctive feeling of Italian horror cinema, even when it was beginning to wane as a genre.

It's full of plot holes, some bad dubbing and some extremely B-movie acting, too.

[Image: DMV Distribuzione Filmirage]

Saturday, 19 October 2013

The Texas Chain Saw Massacre

"The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" (1974, Tobe Hooper, Vortex, Bryanston Pictures) is the original of what was to become a franchise with the memorable gruesomely masked, chainsaw wielding killer, Leatherface (Gunnar Hansen).

Sally (Marilyn Burns) and her wheelchair bound brother, Franklin (Paul A. Partain), are travelling in a camper van with their friends, Jerry (Allen Danziger), Kirk (William Vail) and Pam (Terri McMinn) on a road trip to their old family home in the country. They hear of some odd goings on at the graveyard, pick up a psychotic hitch hiker, get some odd chat (and barbecue) from a local petrol station and eventually make it to the deserted house. Only they find that this isn't the end of their troubles as their neighbours would like to have them for dinner...

 This much copied Tobe Hooper classic is still standing strong to this day with some truly chilling scenes and disturbed themes. Although by today's gruesome standards it's not as splatter happy as it was back in the 70s, "The Texas Chain Saw Massacre" still manages to make audiences fidget uncomfortably in their seats. And it's still disturbing.

I like a Slasher film as much as the next horror nut, and Leatherface and his family are a truly scary bunch. The depravity of the film makes it one I don't watch too often, but when I do I have to admit that it is a creepy and unnerving film which, regardless of its age, still scares me on a base level.

[Image: Bryanston Pictures]

Thursday, 17 October 2013

The Hills Run Red

"The Hills Run Red" (2009, Dave Parker, Dark Castle Entertainment, Warner Premiere) is a twisted slasher with a bit of a sick dig at its fans and fans of horror in general.

Tyler (Tad Hilgenbrink) is an obsessive horror fan. In fact he's obsessed with one particular horror film; a 'lost' film by a director, Concannon (William Sadler), who swiftly disappeared after making it.

In an attempt to find the missing footage and put a rest to his obsession, Tyler, along with his two friends, Serina (Janet Montgomery) and Lalo (Alex Wyndham), track down the director's stripper, junkie daughter, Alexa (Sophie Monk) and head out to the site of the film. All the while filming themselves and laughing merrily about how this is just like the start to... well, a horror film!

And wouldn't you know it? Things go awry. Very awry.

Bending the rules and breaking the fourth wall creatively, this film manages to be a gore soaked torture and mystery film in the way that the first "Saw" movie managed, but perhaps with less brains behind the plot.

Aside from the viewer prodding plot, there are some very good tropes in this film. The masked killer, Babyface (portrayed by Raicho Vasilev, Danko Jordanov and Itai Diakov), is a good one. The legend behind him isn't too important, but the disturbing physical appearance of our killer coupled with the 'reality' we discover is truly grotesque. The mask itself is beyond creepy and he also manages to effect that hulking but sad character that's often associated with masked slasher villains. He also threatens people by pointing a gun at his own head which makes.... what kind of sense?! But somehow works...

Our director is wonderfully psychotic. And that's as much as I'll say about him.

While I didn't feel particularly vested in the characters, the end scenes are really horrific and I have to hand it to the writers, this is a twisted little plot.

It's worth a see for some good kill scenes, a lot of gore, a bit of mystery and an incredible slasher mask!

[Image: Dark Castle Entertainment]

Wednesday, 16 October 2013


"Hardware" (1990, Richard Stanley, British Satellite Broadcasting, Unlimited Palace Productions, Palace Pictures, Miramax) is a post-apocalyptic dystopian sci-fi film.

The world is a mess and a war is raging. During the Christmas ceasefire, "Hard Mo" Baxter (Dylan McDermott) and his buddy Shades (John Lynch) are visiting junk dealer, Alvy (Mark Northover), when a nomad walks in with some robot body parts.

Hard Mo, being a hard-ass and all, takes these parts to his recluse girlfriend, Jill (Stacey Travis). Little does he suspect that this robot will come back to life and rebuild itself before trying to take out every human it sees.

The plot is ok and the visuals are fun. There's even some good action sequences. My main issue with the film as a whole was that I was bored. It's a shame I feel that way because a lot of people rave about it. Perhaps they see something I didn't. But I was excited to see this film in the line-up at the "All Night Horror Madness" night and by far I thought of it as the worst entry of the night by the end.

Slow and not extremely engaging , the film does benefit from good visuals and cameos from Iggy Pop (vocal) and Lemmy.

[Image: British Satellite Broadcasting]

Tuesday, 15 October 2013


"Frankenhooker" (1998, Frank Henenlotter, Shapiro-Glickenhaus Entertainment) is exactly what you think it is.

Another "All Night Horror Madness" night at the Grosvenor cinema, another gem of a horror comedy.

Completely inane, but still funny. We meet Jeffrey Franken (James Lorinz) who is a science geek electrician meddling with biology (despite being thrown out of medical school) and his 'tubby' (read wearing an unconvincing fat suit) but hot girlfriend, Elizabeth (Patty Mullen). Unfortunately, at her dad's birthday party, Elizabeth is killed by a freak lawnmower accident which completely dismembers her.

Going further round the twist, Franken concocts a plan to rebuild his bride to be using body parts from other women. Naturally, the best way to get body parts is to kill a bunch of hookers. I'm sure he wouldn't get any STD's off of his new girlfriend now....

The humour is very B-movie and the gore is over the top and silly (just as it should be!).

Lorinz's mad scientist is great fun and who doesn't love an exploding hooker mannequin? But Patty Mullen steals the show with her hilarious undead facial expressions and monster act!

Just a bit of fun!

[Image: Shapiro-Glickenhaus Entertainment]

The Wax Mask

"The Wax Mask" (1997, Sergio Stivaletti, Dario Argento, Lucio Fulci, Cine 2000, Mediaset, France Film International, Italian International Film) is a wax museum film.

Fulci died making this film and so I'm not 100% sure how true the end result is to his script, but it is indeed a lot of fun to watch.

With a kind of incidental Steampunk style (incidental because, as far as I'm aware, there was no such genre as 'Steampunk' in 1997), The Wax Mask tells a tale set in 1900s Paris. We see a couple brutally (and hilariously) butchered by a man with a clawed metal hand. We also see a young girl, their daughter, cowering under the bed.

Years pass and said young girl is now a costume maker working at a wax museum. The museum has gained some disrepute due to its gory collection of sculptures and, after the death of a young man who was dared to stay the night, the museum becomes more and more creepy.

It's fun, gothic and a little gory. The effects are nice and the props are awesome. The story is a little average as far as wax museum films go, but there's a nice added Frankenstein element which is fun. 

I'm not a huge fan of the ending, however, which seemed a little diverted from the rest of the film's styling, and I think I prefer the Italian version with the subtitles to the dubbed English, which can make the acting seem a little odd.

All in all, worth your while, but not a great representation of Argento, Fulci or Stivaletti.

[Image: Cine 2000]

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Cradle of Fear

"Cradle of Fear" (2001, Alex Chandon, Dani Filth, Pragmatic Pictures ltd.) is a British splatter film starring Dani Filth (Dani Davey) from Cradle of Filth, a band I owe much of my teen years to spent listening to their dark, angry songs. Good times. In fact I still like them. Please don't judge me.

The film is a horror anthology of sorts, similar in layout to "Trick 'r Treat" in that there is an encompassing story, all tales are interlinked, but unlike other anthologies there isn't a narrator.

A series of gruesome murders are seen around town, each in itself a tale. Our encompassing plot follows Detective Inspector Neilson (Edmund Dehn), a troubled and slightly creepy man, as he investigates the murders and attempts to piece things together. Soon he discovers that these new killings are linked to an old case of his, and also his own life.

Gothed up and chalk full of drugs and alcohol the shorts are OTT gory and a little silly. There's also a lot of flashing lights and, of course, some Cradle of Filth tunes. It's certainly not everyone's cup of... whatever, and it's not particularly creative or fantastically pieced together, but it's a mildly entertaining 2 hours of gore, nudity and hammy acting.

Some interesting things are touched on in the plot (including some usual tropes) such as Satanism, goth sub-culture, child abuse, rape, insanity, drugs, demons, body issues, sex, love, murder, obsession and online snuff porn. Pretty much what you would expect from this film! But it's certainly not cerebral viewing and definitely lives on my 'switch-off-brain-gore-fest' shelf.

[Image: Pragmatic Pictures, ltd.]

Saturday, 5 October 2013

The Bat

"The Bat" (1959, Crane Wilbur, Allied Artists) is a film adaptation of a stage play by the same name. This was not the first film version of the script, but it's the only one I've seen. Mainly because it stars Vincent Price.

Cornelia Van Gorder (Agnes Moorehead) is a leading female crime novelist whose mansion house is in a town currently being stalked by a masked killer with blade-tipped fingers known as The Bat, who is on the hunt for a large sum of money which is hidden somewhere nearby.

Her housemaid (or possible lesbian lover, I've not decided), Lizzy (Lenita Lane), is bitten by a real bat one night, and so they call out Dr. Malcolm Wells (Vincent Price).

But when The Bat is seen snooping around the house, the mystery novelist is having to unravel a real mystery for a change as she and the police try to decipher who is behind the murders and why, before it is too late!

The Bat himself is actually quite creepy with his faceless mask and his Freddy Krueger-esque gloves. Of course, he's not scary in comparison to some of the more modern villains, but his sneaky antics are fun to watch.

Old fashioned, creaky and fun (with some very tame humour) I enjoy this mystery movie for what it is. It remains one of my favourite Price films as his delivery is great and he remains suspicious and suave but not hokey throughout. Although, I hasten to add, he does not feature as much as the poster would have you believe!

[Image: Allied Artists]

Thursday, 3 October 2013

End Call

"End Call" (2008, Kiyoshi Yamamoto, Monte Cristo Entertainment, T.O. Entertainment) is a Japanese tech horror. 

A group of schoolgirls come across the Devil's phone number and discover if you phone it at midnight he will grant your greatest wish at the cost of taking the duration of your call from your lifespan. Naturally, he's like a crappy text message Wishmaster, so nothing you wish for ever works out well for you.

The film is not in chronological order and jumps back and forth a lot. It's also not terribly scary, which I was disappointed with considering how freaky some other larger budget J-Horror films are!

The action scenes are few and far between and there's a lot of quiet dialogue. 

One thing the Devil also seems to excel at is running up a large phone bill for his callers, so one girl resorts to becoming a hooker to pay her bill...

Most of the girls' problems are trivial teen girl issues. "Oh, I don't have a boyfriend.", "I'm not popular" and such, although there was a chilling scene with an abusive father that gets his comeuppance. 

Quite an average film and not the best introduction to J-Horror, so if you're new to the genre I recommend watching "One Missed Call" or "The Ring" instead (and no, I don't mean the American remakes!).

Sometimes a film's obscurity is for a reason...

 [Image: T.O. Entertainment]


Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Munsters' Revenge

"The Munsters' Revenge" (1981, Universal Studios) is the made-for-TV film with original cast members Herman (Fred Gwynne), Lily (Yvonne De Carlo) and Grandpa (Al Lewis) Munster.

The Munster family have been immortalised as waxworks in a local museum. Unfortunately, these wax models are actually evil robots who wreak havoc all over town, resulting in Herman and Grandpa being blamed for the crimes and thrown in prison!

Can they clear their names before the big Munster Halloween party?

A fun little film which doesn't deviate from the characters, humour or styling of the original show and kept me suitably entertained on a long train ride.

[Image: Universal Studios]