Thursday, 25 February 2016

Basket Case 3: The Progeny

"Basket Case 3: The Progeny" (1991, Frank Henenlotter, Shapiro-Glickenhaus Entertainment, 20th Century Fox) is the third instalment in the Basket Case franchise. And the worst.

Following on from the events of the second film where Duane (Kevin Van Hentenryck) had tried, in a fit of madness, to sew his deformed, evil twin, Belial, back onto his torso, we find Duane locked up in a padded room at Granny Ruth's home for 'unique individuals'.

Granny Ruth (Annie Ross) is planning a trip for the whole group to visit her ex-husband's home so that Belial's girlfriend, Eve, can give birth to a litter of fleshy, evil lumps. Duane attempts to escape on several occasions, gets caught up with law, meets a girl called Opal (Tina Louise Hilbert) and generally fails at life, despite being able bodied and no longer telepathically controlled by his evil twin, who is giving him the silent treatment after his previous sewing escapades.

Henenlotter has made a few funny, weird films. The first being the original "Basket Case" (a bad movie night favourite) and of course not discounting the fabulously irreverent "Brain Damage" and the cheesy fun that is "Frankenhooker". However, if I'd thought "Basket Case 2" was pretty bad, I certainly wasn't prepared for the third one. An often dull and ridiculous film that can't even be saved by cartoonish gore. I found it frankly uncomfortable to watch. Imagine if the deformed creatures from "Spy Kids" ended up in a nursing home run by a crazy old bat and you have this film.

I have a pretty good threshold for bad B-movies, but this one wasn't even fun.

[Image: Shapiro-Glickenhaus Entertainment]

Sunday, 21 February 2016

Frankenstein (2015)

"Frankenstein" aka "Frank3nst3in" (2015, Bernard Rose, Bad Badger, Summerstorm Entertainment, Eclectic Pictures) is a modernised retelling of the classic novel by Mary Shelley.

Set in the present day in LA, a couple of mad scientist lovers (Carrie-Anne Moss and Danny Huston) and their pal 3D Print a fully grown man (Xavier Samuel) in their home lab. They initially celebrate their successes and attempt to nurture the creature (known, of course, as Adam) in a somewhat disturbing few scenes of nursing and screaming. But soon they realise that they have made an error in their calculations and their beautiful creation is becoming both inhumanly strong and grotesquely disfigured as his cells begin to degenerate.

The creature escapes into the world where he is unaccepted and severely mistreated by strangers, forced to scrounge for food, living homeless and without any understanding of the world. He makes a friend in a kind and wise, blind homeless man (Tony Todd) who teaches him to speak and helps him survive the city streets. However, his monstrous appearance and strength get the better of him frequently as he tries to get back to his creators.

This film boasts some recognisable faces, a poignant update on the classic monster tale and manages to make the humans the true villains of the piece (just like the original), but suffers from a low-ish budget and somewhat boring, meandering scenes. The narration is also somewhat confusing, giving us the impression that the monster has a differing future, and gains full conversational skills. I'm sure it's meant to be his internal monologue which would be how he'd like to sound, but for me it made the ending seem confusing, abrupt and a little disappointing.

This film is a straight to DVD release.

[Image: Bad Badger, et al]

Saturday, 20 February 2016

Victor Frankenstein

"Victor Frankenstein " (2015, Paul McGuigan, Davis Entertainment Company, TSG Entertainment, 20th Century Fox) is a retelling of Mary Shelley's famous novel.

We meet the currently nameless hunchback destined to become the iconic assistant, Igor (Daniel Radcliffe), working as a clown and aspiring physician at a circus, where he is brutalised and beaten often by his 'circus family'. He is saved by Victor Frankenstein (James McAvoy) who sees the young man's astounding intellect and potential when Igor's dream girl, the beautiful acrobat, Lorelei (Jessica Brown Findlay), is hurt during a performance and tended to by Igor.

Upon being freed from the circus, Igor is taken to Frankenstein's impressive home where the trainee Dr. quickly corrects Igor's deformity and posture, which was not a true hunchback condition and shows him his impressive scientific experiments. Together they assemble a creature which they bring to life to impress Victor's peers and superiors at university. The experiment succeeds but, instead of being met with applause, Victor is dismayed to find that his creature has brought him only disgust and it soon becomes violent, forcing him to kill it.

Not disheartened by this, Victor and Igor continue to work on a bigger, better creature whilst dodging the attentions of a determined Scotland Yard inspector who suspects the pair of murder and worse.

Although the horror elements are remarkably tame, the film attempts to retell the tale through Igor's eyes in an imaginative fashion and updates the plot without losing too much of the original tale.

McAvoy and Radcliffe make an excellent pair of mad scientists with McAvoy playing the titular Victor Frankenstein in true charismatic, maniacal brilliance. Radcliffe brings a new dimension to the usually humorous assistant character of Igor, with a confused ethical code, heroic qualities and a sympathetic charm.

It was nice to see Igor get a new lease on life (and some intellectual credit) and to see the tale from a different perspective. However, the film itself does nothing particularly ground breaking and certainly won't appease the gore hounds. It stands as a fun retelling but can be boring in places and, despite the excellent performances of the main characters, it does not break free from other Frankenstein remakes as anything unique.

[Image: 20th Century Fox, et al]

Tuesday, 16 February 2016

Daughters of Darkness

"Daughters of Darkness" (1971, Harry Kümel) is an erotic Belgian vampire movie made in English.

Newly weds, Stefan (John Karlen) and Valerie (Danielle Ouimet), are on their honeymoon. They stop at a grand and lavish hotel in Belgium planning to spend the night there and then catch the ferry to England in the morning. The couple are experiencing some tension as Stefan seems reluctant to introduce his new wife to his mother.

The concierge explains that hotel is empty as it is off-season and that the couple have the place essentially to themselves. Well, mostly. There is always the Countess, Elizabeth Báthory (Delphine Seyrig) who shows up after dark in all her splendour with her secretary, Ilona (Andrea Rau). The countess takes an unhealthy interest in the young couple, becoming obsessed with them.

Valerie and Stefan come across a gruesome murder and learn of others. By the time they see the Countess' true nature it could very well be too late.

A very strange film that manages to be both classy and campy at the same time. This film has beautiful scenery, exquisite costumes and erotic horror elements. It's a real hybrid of a film. I feel that this film acted as inspiration to AHS' Hotel season;a  lonely hotel, creepy staff and the halls haunted by the presence of a beautiful, polite and sinister femme fatale vampire wearing fabulous outfits.

Sinister, sensual and dark, "Daughters of Darkness" manages to engage whilst retaining its Art House charms.


Sunday, 7 February 2016

Don't Look Now

"Don't Look Now" (1973, Nicolas Roeg, Casey Productions, Eldorado Films, British Lion Films) is an independent Italian-British film.It's actually based on a short story by Daphne du Maurier.

John (Donald Sutherland) and Laura (Julie Christie) have recently moved to the city of Venice after their daughter, Christine (Sharon Williams), had tragically drowned at their home in England (because the first thing you'd want to do after a water-related tragedy is move somewhere that is full of water...).

Whilst eating out, Laura meets two elderly sisters, Heather (Hilary Mason) and Wendy (Clelia Matania). Heather is blind and claims to be psychic. She tells Laura that she has spoken to her daughter from beyond the grave and that she is happy.

Although sceptical at first, John begins to see creepy things himself one of which is a child wearing a red coat similar to the one his daughter was wearing the day that she drowned... Despite being warned by Heather to leave Venice, John continues to search for answers, and it may not be ghosts that he's seeing...

A really intriguing and weird film with beautiful scenery, a slightly confusing, but engaging plot and a few nice twists and turns along the way. The story is really a study on grief and eloquently captures the journey of this couple's grief. It's not a horror in the usual sense, more a thriller, but has some really key horror aspects to it that make it a haunting and classic tale.

[Image: Casey Productions, et al]

Needful Things

"Needful Things" (1993, Fraser C. Heston, Castle Rock Entertainment, New Line Cinema, Columbia Pictures) is the screen adaptation of Stephen King's novel of the same name.

Castle Rock is a small town in Maine, USA. The locals are unsettled when a mysterious man named Leland Gaunt (Max von Sydow) opens an Antiques store called "Needful Things". Slowly different town residents enter the shop to find that Gaunt just happens to have something that is really sentimentally valuable to them. Each resident 'buys' a treasure with Gaunt 'kindly' agreeing to accept favours as part payment. The favours, it transpires, come in the form of cruel pranks played on each resident's neighbours.

Gaunt seems to be very reasonable, knowledgeable and always open, but his true colours begin to show and it becomes evident as time goes on that Gaunt has twisted intentions.

Some films of King's work are admittedly sub-quality. Needful Things is not one of them, in my opinion. The characters are portrayed by recognisable actors and the action is suitably paced but with very little gore. It's more a study on human psychology than a horror film. The plot is uncomfortably familiar, which is possibly why a lot of people don't like this film; it's maybe a little too close to home. Imagine someone could give you something that you really want and the price seems so small... What morals would you shirk in your desperation to get it?

Although it's not a scary film, in the usual sense of the word, it's an entertaining yarn.

[Image: New Line Cinema, et al]