March 28, 2011

Girly (1970)

(AKA Mumsy, Nanny, Sonny & Girly)



"A wealthy, fatherless British clan kidnaps bums and hippies and forces them to participate in an elaborate role-playing game in which they are the perfect family; those who refuse or attempt escape are ritualistically murdered."

I found this little gem by Freddie Francis on Netflix ages ago but finally got around to watching it this weekend inbetween "Chloe" and "9th Company" (both of which I also recommend). I'll be honest with you, I'd never even heard of "Girly" or its star, Vanessa Howard, before which probably has more to do with never seeing a VHS tape or DVD of it available than anything else. I don't think it was very heavily promoted when it came out, and I was a long way from being a viable human being back then anyway.

Having now watched it a couple of times over, I can see where a lot of more recent movies got their ideas from albeit in the form of various tropes, conventions and clichés. Certainly, "Mum & Dad" (2008) borrowed heavily from the plot of "Girly" and did it so much that I'm glad that I haven't actually written a review of it yet which would have made me look like a complete idiot. I always thought that "Mum & Dad" was based on such mass murderers as Fred and Rosemary West, but I can now prove myself completely wrong. It's actually fun when something like that happens.

Anyway, "Girly" is basically about a "family" of absolute nutters who keep the roleplay going by sending out the "children" to bring back "new friends" who they can add to the mix.

You could also see "Girly" as a forerunner of Rob Zombie's "The Devil's Rejects" (2005) if you wanted to, but as I mentioned, the trope of a nutty killer family has been used ad nauseum in horror films. There are far too many similarities between Girly and Baby though for you not to notice. I honestly don't know if this has any more sinister allusions to '60s cults like "The Manson Family" or not, but I suspect that subject matter to have been influential at the time "Girly" was made. Without asking Freddie Francis himself, which obviously is impossible now, I don't think we'll ever know for sure.

Other big influences on "Girly" appear to be TV series like "The Prisoner" and "The Avengers", plus a ton of mod culture. It also has that Hammer/Amicus feel to it which is understandable considering once again who the director was, but it goes way offbeat into almost "A Clockwork Orange" craziness at times. The only things which prevent it from being a classic are that it really doesn't have any moral fable or message to it.

Looking back through that last paragraph makes it sound like "Girly" wasn't very original so I just need to redress the balance by stating that, as far as I know at this point in time, "Girly" was one of the most original films that I've seen. The only film that I think even comes close to this is "Twisted Nerve" (1968) starring Hayley Mills and Hywel Bennett and, possibly, "Fright" (1971). There are in fact dozens of British horror movies from around this time period which I've never seen reworked into anything better although most of them are quite stagey and adapted from theatre productions. Sometimes it makes me want to restart my blog over and concentrate on that part of the genre, but I'd probably get bored with it long before I even managed to acquire all the films I wanted to watch in the first place.


You can probably tell already that I liked "Girly" a lot, and not just because Vanessa Howard ticked all the boxes for 1970s physical perfection. The character of Girly carries the film which is presumably why the original title was shortened. You also have to give the rest of the cast credit for doing all this so straightfaced especially Michael Bryant as "New Friend" who went on to win numerous acting awards and a CBE for his services to drama. When you combine such classy actors together with a top director then you are guaranteed a winner no matter how preposterous the script may be.

Yes, the story will really strain your willing suspension of disbelief. If you've ever seen Dennis Potter's "Blue Remembered Hills" (1979) then you'll be forgiven in the first ten minutes for wanting to switch "Girly" off straight away. I was quite embarrassed as a Brit to be watching this until it quickly became obvious that it wasn't going in the same direction as a Dennis Potter story would although, again, I could call up yet another one of his more famous works which has one specific moment which I could make much more of than I should especially in relation to "Girly". The film I'm talking about is "Brimstone and Treacle", but to say any more would give away a major spoiler and probably cause a whole wave of arguments. "Girly" is contrarily quite a feminist movie, but I'll leave that subject matter alone for all the essay writers to worry about.

Obviously "Girly" isn't a perfect film. There are massive plot holes, unexplainable actions and non-actions which you just accept because it's a film and you're allowing it to entertain you. As far as a horror film goes, "Girly" has very few onscreen gory moments, tension or scares, but it's all done in such a gleefully sadistic way that it's definitely not a comedy. I don't know quite how to categorise it at all except as demented and disturbing but with a sick sense of humour underlying it.

I'm quite happy to recommend "Girly" to anyone who likes crazy British films from the '70s. If you are into modern hardcore grisliness then I suggest you go for "Mum & Dad" instead. Either way, if you watch one then you should definitely check out the other to see how the same ideas and motifs can be reinterpreted for different generations.

March 25, 2011

Left Bank (2008)

(AKA Linkeroever)



"When Marie moves into her boyfriend's apartment, she uncovers a disturbing mystery."

One of the most interesting things about having a Netflix account for me is when I forget that I've added a certain film to the queue and then it gets delivered in place of something else. Last night I was all prepared to watch "In the womb: Cats and dogs" but, upon opening the envelope, I found "Left Bank" instead. I'm still not quite sure how this happened other than accidentally clicking the "move to top" button but I'm sort of glad that it did otherwise I wouldn't have had anything to write about.

Since I didn't even remember adding "Left Bank" to my queue, I had no idea what it was going to be about or even if it was a horror film at all. There were no obvious clues in the blurb written on the envelope and I was too lazy to look it up. After about half an hour of watching it, I still wasn't sure that it wasn't just some sexy Dutch drama either. But I kept on watching anyway just in case things started to get more sinister... and they did.

I suppose the easiest way to describe "Left Bank" is as a Belgian (not Dutch even though they all speak Dutch) version of "Rosemary's Baby" but without a decent ending. Apart from the slow pace and gradual feeling that this was all going to turn out badly, it didn't really have many horror elements to it. You could probably also compare it to "The Wicker Man" and "Dark Water" if you really tried but it didn't have a plot quite that clever either. What it reminded me of most was Lars von Trier's "The Kingdom" but with considerably less characters to worry about. One scene in particular involving the heroine's mother and a pendulum could have been straight out of that Danish TV series especially as the actress looks a lot like Sigrid Drusse too.

I'm not sure if Pieter Van Hees was trying to emulate "The Kingdom" or if he just borrowed bits and pieces from all over the place to make his film even weirder than it would have been already. There are certainly enough unexplainable details to make you think that they were added for no other reason than just to give people something to speculate about on internet message boards and blogs. I'm not playing that game though and if I can't work out what something is supposed to mean on one viewing then it pretty much means that the movie failed in its purpose.

Just for the sake of mentioning those "weird" bits though, I will say that I have no idea why Marie (played by Eline Kuppens) had a dream about suckling a baby who turned into a man, nor do I know why her injured knee went black, sprouted hairs and then had a mouse climb out of it. As for the ending itself, it was pretty obvious but also left me with a ton of questions concerning the plotholes which I don't even have the patience to try and find the answers to. It was simply very bad filmmaking which makes the fantastic acting performances and camerawork even more wasteful.

Have you ever watched a horror film which was really good until right at the end? Well, "Left Bank" is unfortunately one of those. I'm probably going to get slammed for this but pitifully bad endings seem to be true of every other Belgian horror film that I've ever seen especially "Calvaire" and "The Pack". If you've never seen them, don't waste your time. I'm even tempted to throw the French movie "High Tension" into this category since that was another which I really enjoyed until the ending ruined it all.

I'm not going to be completely negative about "Left Bank" though. Eline Kuppens pretty much carried the whole thing and was perfect in her role as Marie. Matthias Schoenaerts who played her boyfriend, Bobby, was all about his looks rather than adding any great depth to his character but was still pretty decent. The dialogue (albeit translated into subtitles for me) was adequate but also frustrating at times. There were so many things which I wanted Marie to ask Bobby about but she didn't and that made the quirkiness of "Left Bank" just a little bit irritating.

Apart from the gloominess of the whole thing (which probably has more to do with the setting and climate of Antwerp than anything else), "Left Bank" fell short of tension, scares or anything of any real shock value to qualify it as a horror film. It was a good psychological drama with some possible overly ambitious philosophical ideas involved in it but it wasn't very satisfying.

Surprisingly, I'm still going to recommend "Left Bank" for anyone who wants something a little bit more cerebral than the stale stalk, hack and slash thrillers which there are already far too many of. I've already mentioned it but I'll just repeat that it's all very reminiscent of something Lars von Trier would do especially when depressed. Just don't expect there to be any answers for bits you don't understand because there aren't any.

March 23, 2011

American Psycho (2000)



"A wealthy New York investment banking executive hides his alternate psychopathic ego from his co-workers and friends as he escalates deeper into his illogical, gratuitous fantasies."

Since I'm pretty sure that everybody has already seen "American Psycho" dozens of times, I'm not actually going to waste my time writing a review of the movie itself. We all know what it's about, what happens and how ambiguous it all is.

I just rewatched the "Uncut Version" DVD with Mary Harron's director's commentary on and it was that which interested me the most. I learnt a lot from it including how I'd never even thought about the fact that "American Psycho" was filmed as a period piece and didn't know that most of the scenes were filmed in Toronto not New York.

I hardly ever go through the director's commentaries or special features on a DVD but this time I did mainly because it was another totally unexpected snow day and I didn't have anything better to do. Some of the little featurettes on the DVD could have been better including the ones with the girl singer from a band that I've never heard of who wouldn't remove her sunglasses for some reason and there was a least one occasion where "American Psycho" was spelled wrongly as a caption. The typo "pyscho" is pretty common but you would have thought that whoever put the DVD together would have caught it.

Anyway, I just thought that I'd better write something to prove that I'm still alive and watching horror movies even if it is just "American Psycho" yet again. It's not my favourite film but I do think that it's Christian Bale's finest performance. I still like all the horror elements though I'm not entirely sure that the whole thing isn't just a comedy really.

It also dawned on me that I've never actually read the supposedly controversial novel of "American Psycho" and I still have no desire to. As a movie, "American Psycho" is pretty much perfect as it is. I don't see any need for yet another remake or even trying to imagine it being done any other way. I'm sure that one day some bright spark will try to do it again with a much bigger budget and a ton of arty-fartiness thrown in for good measure and it will suck even more than "American Psycho 2" which I have the misfortune of owning a copy of.

Is "American Psycho" your favourite film? What do you think of it? Is it really horror? Let me know in the comments below.

March 18, 2011

A Perfect Getaway (2009)



"Two pairs of lovers on a Hawaiian vacation discover that psychopaths are stalking and murdering tourists on the islands."

Winter has finally ended, the snow has all gone and, full of the joys of Spring, I watched "A Perfect Getaway" for the first time last night. I meant to watch it when it was released a couple of years ago but just never got round to it. I'm glad that I waited though because the director's cut is far superior to the theatrical version which is also on the same DVD.

The only unfortunate thing about "A Perfect Getaway" is that I can hardly tell you anything about it without spoiling it for you. Such is the nature of thrillers with twist endings. You really need to watch it cold and without reading any reviews whatsoever.

What I can reveal to you is that it had a completely unpredictable plot. I didn't see the twist coming at all especially as I was so caught up with seeing Milla Jovovich actually acting for once rather than just dressing up and looking moody like she does in the "Resident Evil" movies.

"A Perfect Getaway" also had great cinematography which really made me feel like I was on holiday in Hawaii even though a lot of it wasn't actually filmed there. It seems that it was mostly filmed in Puerto Rico but I don't care because the scenery was fantastic. One scene in particular really was like the garden of Eden should you ever try to imagine it even if Kiele Sanchez (from "The Glades") didn't get quite nude enough to be Eve.

Everyone involved was (for lack of a better word) perfect in their roles though many were cast against type, Steve Zahn and Timothy Olyphant in particular. The characterisation was good, the dialogue was witty and the script was very clever.

David Twohy has always been one of my favourite writers/directors and again he delivered the goods. Ok, so his "Chronicles of Riddick" may not be exactly brilliant and I got a bit bored with "The Arrival", but that's only because I'm a horror fan and not so much into sci-fi. I still watched them.

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed everything about "A Perfect Getaway". I don't care what the haters on the IMDb say about it. Obviously there were a few moments which were derivative and homaged other films, but, as far as I'm concerned, it was outstanding!

March 17, 2011

RIP Michael Gough

Michael Gough died today at the age of 94. Before becoming Batman's butler, he was also known for his horror roles in Hammer's "Dracula" (1958) and Amicus' "Dr. Terror's House of Horrors" (1965). He was uncredited in the role of Emeric Belasco in "The Legend of Hell House" (1973) but made over 150 movie and TV appearances during his career.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Happy St. Patrick's Day if you're Irish. If you aren't then the celebrations are nothing to do with you anyway so you might as well just grab yourself a bowl of colcannon and enjoy some Irish horror movies instead.

These are my picks from the most entertaining Irish and Irish-themed horror movies available in no particular (or should that be "Patrick-ular"?) order.


1. Escape to Nowhere (1996)
(AKA Spectre AKA House of the Damned)



"Will and Maura, despite their marital problems, decide to come to Ireland and live on Maura's ancestral estate, bringing with them their daughter Aubrey. But soon weird happenings around the house lead a local priest to confess that Maura's ancestors practiced black magic, and Maura's own insecurities threaten to bring her into the evil fold."


2. High Spirits (1988)



"When Peter Plunkett's Irish castle turned hotel is about to be repossesed, he decides to spice up the attraction a bit for the 'Yanks' by having his staff pretend to haunt the castle. The trouble begins when a busload of American tourists arrive - along with some real ghosts. Among the tourists are married couple Jack and Sharon. Sharon's father holds the mortgage on Castle Plunkett, so she's hoping to debunk the ghosts. Jack, on the other hand, after meeting pretty ghost Mary, is very eager to believe. Can there be love between a human and ghost? Jack and Mary are going to try and find out."


3. Leprechaun (1993)



"When Dan O'Grady returns to the U.S. after stealing some Irish leprechaun's pot of gold, he thinks he can settle down and enjoy his newfound wealth. He thought wrong. The leprechaun followed him and O'Grady barely gets away with his life, having locked the little monster in his basement. Ten years later, J.D. and his spoiled daughter Tory move in. By accident, the leprechaun is released and almost immediately the annoying creature starts to look for his gold, not displaying any respect for human life."


4. Rawhead Rex (1986)



"Ireland will never be the same after Rawhead Rex, a particularly nasty demon, is released from his underground prison by an unwitting farmer. The film follows Rex's cross country rampage, while a man struggles to stop it."


5. Boy Eats Girl (2005)



"A boy declares his love for his girlfriend, only to die the same night. He is brought back to life by his mother as a flesh-craving zombie, who sires more teen undead while trying to control his, er, appetite for his beloved."


6. Shrooms (2007)



"3 couples go to Ireland woods to collect magic mushrooms and trip out. On their way they meet some strange inhabitants of the woods and it doesn't take long until a creepy story is being told at the campfire which might be more than just a story. So strange things happen, people start disappearing, silhouettes move through the woods and the creepy story starts to melt into reality. The horror kicks in along with the effect of the mushrooms."


7. Dead Meat (2004)



"An infection spreads from slaughtered animals to humans, which causes the dead to rise and feed on the living."


8. Isolation (2005)



"On a remote Irish farm, five people become unwilling participants in an experiment that goes nightmarishly wrong."


9. Banshee!!! (2008)



A group of college friends on a spring break camping trip are stalked and slashed by an unknown creature with the ability to make them hallucinate through sound waves.


10. Legend of the Bog (2009)



"When a 'bog body' a 2000 year old murder victim preserved in a peat bog is disturbed by developers in rural Ireland, an archaeologist, a hunter and their helpers face the task of sending him back where he came from."


Actually, I really don't recommend the last two films on my list at all but if you drink enough Guinness and Bushmills, you won't care anyway.

March 13, 2011

4 Films Vampire Collector's Set


SHADOW ZONE: THE UNDEAD EXPRESS

VAMPIRE WARS: BATTLE FOR THE UNIVERSE

NADJA

THE CASE OF THE WHITECHAPEL VAMPIRE


I bought this Echo Bridge pack from the local "Swap Shop" for $3 yesterday. After reading the reviews on IMDb, I thought there might be at least one good film on there but I was wrong.

Although "The Undead Express" was mildly entertaining, it was obviously supposed to be part of a kids TV series which I've never seen and never want to see any more of. The less said about the other three turds, the better.

I really don't have the patience or inclination to spend any time reviewing this collection as it was mentally draining enough just to sit through these four films in the first place.

Basically, if you see this set on sale somewhere, just leave it.


Having bought 7 of them, I'm done with buying Echo Bridge "Collector's Sets" now. The only good thing I have to say about these DVDs is that they are a very cheap way to build up the number of horror films in your collection even though you will probably never make it all the way through any of them unless you have something very wrong with you.

Fortunately for me, I also bought "Transformers", "Babel", John Carpenter's "Vampires", "Anatomy", and "Vanilla Sky" at the same time so my weekend wasn't entirely wasted. Well, I enjoyed "Vanilla Sky" anyway.

March 12, 2011

Ils (2006)

(AKA "Them")



"Lucas and Clementine live peacefully in their isolated country house, but one night they wake up to strange noise... they're not alone... and a group of hooded assailants begin to terrorize them throughout the night."

"Ils" is a French home invasion thriller supposedly based on a true story set in Romania, and it's a good one. I wasn't expecting much from a film with a slightly predictable plot and a running time of only 77 minutes, but when I first watched this four years ago, I got a nice surprise. Having now rewatched it, I still can't find too many flaws though it has obviously been eclipsed in nastiness by "À l'intérieur" and "Martyrs".

The first ten minutes are by far the best and could easily stand alone as a short. It reminded me a bit of the ending of "À Ma Soeur" but without all the sexual nastiness. I found the Romanian language quite intriguing too. You don't often hear a lot of Romanian spoken in horror films (in spite of the location of Transylvania) and, as another romance language, I found it quite easy to understand without subtitles (though of course I still had the subtitles on). It's sort of like French in structure but the words are pronounced differently if that makes any sense. Obviously that's why the main character later is supposed to be a French language teacher. Well, it wouldn't make a lot of sense for a French actress to play an English teacher in a Romanian school, would it?

The rest is a pretty formulaic home invasion story but is shot and acted exceptionally well. Olivia Bonamy (Clementine) is great to look at and, after a short (15 minute) break following the first murders to build up some sympathetic characterisation, the action is real edge-of-your-seat stuff which doesn't let up until the end. I think this even beats "Haute Tension" which I know a lot of people rate very highly.

Suspense is mostly created by the reactions of Clementine and her pretty useless husband Lucas to various bumps and noises as their house is invaded as, until the final 10 minutes, you don't really see or find out who the "them" are. What makes it worse is that it's all very believable.

Some people have said that "Ils" isn't gory. I don't know what film they were watching, but there are lots of blood effects and very realistic woundings. Realism is the key word here. You don't need buckets of fake blood thrown over everything (or a huge budget) to make a scary film anyway, and it's certainly better than "The Strangers" which it pre-dates. Even if the "true story" isn't, it'll still give you something to think about.

I'm giving it 7 out of 10. The film does have a few weaknesses, especially in length and denouement, and you can really only watch it once. The tension will make you think that you've just watched something with an 8 out of 10 rating if you aren't quite so critical as I happen to be. Yes, I still recommend this film.

March 11, 2011

Blood Babe of the Week - Olivia Bonamy

Olivia Bonamy (born 21 September, 1972) is a French actress best known for her appearances in the films "Jefferson in Paris", Jacques Audiard's "Read my lips", the thriller "Ils" and "Le ciel, les oiseaux et ta mère".
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Olivia_Bonamy

Isn't she beautiful?

Olivia Bonamy in Ils


Yay, it's Friday morning. Guess which film I'm going to rewatch and review this weekend?

March 10, 2011

Blog vs. Blog Challenge

It appears that I am part of the first Fright Club blog challenge. If you like my blog more than the other one, click the link and vote for it in the top right corner of the site.

http://frightclub.blogspot.com/2011/03/1st-blog-vs-blog-challenge-are-their.html


While you are there, don't forget to become a "Fright Club" member too.

March 9, 2011

Exam (2009)



"Eight talented candidates have reached the final stage of selection to join the ranks of a mysterious and powerful corporation. Entering a windowless room, an Invigilator gives them eighty minutes to answer one simple question."

It's funny what Netflix suggests for you based on "your taste preferences", isn't it? Since I've been watching a lot of streaming "Dark, Suspenseful, Psychological Thrillers" recently, I was presented with "Exam" as one of my options. I'd never even heard of it and didn't really have much interest in watching it but, since I had another snow day with nothing else to do except see how honey cheese flavoured cheesy poofs I could get into my mouth in one go, I fired up my laptop and clicked "Play".

Starring nobody you've ever heard of outside of the UK (including a lot of TV actors from things like "Eastenders", "Holby City" and "Doctor Who"), "Exam" is an obviously low-budget, almost "Twilight Zone" sci-fi drama with a "Ten Little Indians" feel to it. I was immediately reminded of "Lifeboat", "Lifepod" and the "Cube" films and, due to the presence of Colin Salmon, "Resident Evil" too. As soon as I saw him, I remembered a "Doctor Who" episode that I'd seen him in recently and I knew that I was in for something good. It's funny how one actor can make that much of a difference even if, in this case, he isn't actually on screen for very long.

I was also quite impressed with how the various characters were shown getting dressed during the opening credits sequence. It's intimate, emotive and it very effectively added more exposition than any dialogue could ever do. I remembered just how it felt to get ready for examinations I have taken myself, the nerves involved, the anxiety, and how I wouldn't even be able to sleep properly the night before. I think this all added a lot to how I was willingly able to suspend my disbelief about the extremes these characters would go to later on.

One thing I don't like about watching movies on my laptop is that when they are filmed with so many extreme "warts and all" close-ups, I start to judge people by their skin pores, teeth, and any blemishes I see before they even begin to act. There are four absolutely beautiful girls in this, but because of the camerawork, I found myself completely unattracted to any of them. The same thing happened to me during the kissing scene in "Jennifer's Body" as pimply faced Megan Fox made me feel a little bit queasy. I'd be interested to know if anyone else notices things like this.

Anyway, to cut a not so long story even shorter, the whole thing is about a group of very different people all stuck together in one room trying to work out how to pass an exam to get a top job. If you imagine the worst people possible from "Big Brother" doing one of their weekly tasks then you get the idea. There are clever ones, nasty ones, natural leaders and followers, but all of them want to win at any cost. Keep that in mind when you pick your favourites at the beginning and be prepared for a few surprises should you choose to watch "Exam" yourself.

Another film that this reminded me of was "The Breakfast Club". It's probably the setting more than anything else but I'd even go so far as saying that the way the backgrounds of each character came out were quite similar. Admittedly, there's no hint of romance and not a lot of comedy in "Exam", but I did feel that it could have gone that way a few times if the script and direction hadn't been as controlled as it was. I wanted something to happen between Luke Mably and Nathalie Cox, and there certainly seemed to be some subtext there. Unfortunately, it didn't turn out to be what I thought it was at all.

Luke Mably may be known to American TV viewers for his role in "The Gates". I still haven't watched a single episode of it so I couldn't tell you who he is in it or whether the show is any good or not. In "Exam" he's absolutely excellent though, and you'll love and hate him at the same time. He pretty much eclipses all the others apart from former "Eastender" Jimi Mistry, but this is one of those stories where the characters you don't really notice turn out to be the most important.

You'll never guess the ending which is de rigueur for this genre unless you are one of those annoying people who can work out who the villain is in "Scooby Doo" cartoons or something. I'm sure there are a lot of reviewers who would lie and say that they worked out how it was going to end right from the start, but I'll happily admit that I didn't have a clue myself. I was too wrapped up in watching everyone solve the puzzle to even think about what it would lead to, and that is both the film's major strength and its weakness.

The slightly futuristic setting and the revelations about what is going on in the world outside which has lead the eight people to be taking this particular exam was a very inspired idea. The downside to this was that, ultimately, I didn't really care and found it to be a little bit far-fetched. The final scenes are somewhat of a cop-out, but at least they don't end up dead and living on an island or anything ridiculous like that. I had a horrible feeling that they would be when Jimi Mistry almost turned into Sayid at one point.

If you noticed how I've highlighted a lot of similarities between "Exam" and other films and TV shows then you'll probably realise that "Exam" isn't all that original. It really does borrow its best points from things we've all seen before. Having said that, all these elements have been so skilfully put together that most people wouldn't even notice. I suppose that's the curse of watching as many things as I do inside and outside of the horror genre. After a while, there really is nothing that original any more, just how it is presented with a slightly different spin on it.

Before I end this review, I have to mention that Adar Beck who plays "Dark" (they are all named after their hair colour or racial type) has some absolutely stunning photos of herself on her IMDb profile. I don't know anything about her since "Exam" was her first real film appearance other than a short which I've never seen, but I hope that she's in more good things in the future. Yes, I do now have a little crush on her, but it won't effect my rating of "Exam" in any way.

I'm happy to give "Exam" a pass mark of 7 out of 10. It has some great performances, looks good, and it held my interest all the way through. For someone like me who has the attention span of a gnat with ADHD, this is a great achievement. It only loses marks because the emotional payoff at the end didn't do anything for me as a hardened horror fan without much compassion for the human race in the first place. I'd obviously rate it even higher if Luke Mably's character, White, had been even more like me.

I recommend that you all take a small break from watching horror movies and give "Exam" a try. It's probably not something you'd want to buy or watch more than once, but it's certainly worth renting or adding to your Netflix queue.

March 8, 2011

End of the Line (2007)



"In this unsettling and creepy thriller, Karen (Ilona Elkin), a young nurse who works in a psychiatric ward, boards the last subway train of the night only to have it stop suddenly in the middle of the tunnel. As those around her are brutally murdered, Karen and a handful of survivors must face supernatural forces, homicidal religious cult members, as well as their own fears and suspicions of Armageddon, in order to survive."

This was completely different to what I expected. I thought it might be a cross between "Deathline" and "Midnight Meat Train" but it ended up being all about a load of religious nutters believing that demons are going to take anybody who they leave alive.

There was a kind of twist where the demons could actually be real (as shown on the DVD sleeve which ruins it for everybody) but it's still one of those films where you are left to wonder a bit at the end. Were the demons real or were they just a symptom of the hysteria? Who knows?

Performances were very good and it had some nicely realistic gore too. I wasn't completely happy with the ending but it all entertained me. It's Canadian so it has that "feel" about it, if you know what I mean, but the production values were very high throughout.

The heroine of the film, Ilona Elkin, reminded me a lot of Shannen Doherty which is no bad thing. In fact, it's just down to her performance alone that I liked this a lot more than I probably should have. Some of the other characters were a bit two-dimensional but that's just the way of horror films anyway.

I know that I haven't gone into very much detail with this review but "End of the Line" is just one of those films which you should watch "cold" if at all possible and I don't want to spoil it for you. Whatever you think it's going to be, it isn't. It's actually a lot better.

I'm rating it as a 6 out of 10. There was some good use of tension and atmosphere. I recommend it.

March 7, 2011

Ichi the Killer (2001)



"Yakuza boss Anjo disappears with three hundred million yen. His loyal gang members, lead by the masochist Kakihara, start a search, but their aggressive and gory methods worry the other yakuza gangs. Kakiharas most frightening counterpart is the mysterious Ichi, a psychopathic killer with a dark childhood secret, who is controlled by a retired cop."

Having just wasted the last two hours of my life watching this utter drivel, all I really want to do now is use every expletive under the sun to describe how appallingly shit "Ichi the Killer" was. As amusing as that would be, it isn't my style and wouldn't really be all that informative for anyone who hasn't watched the film.

Yes, I know that it was made in 2001 and special effects have improved since then but honestly this was like some kind of unintentional comedy. All the spurting blood effects which were obviously copied by Quentin Tarantino for "Kill Bill" just threw me right out of the action such as it was. The characters were all beyond ridiculous and the negligible plot did very little to hold my interest. It seemed to be nothing but set pieces of gore and violence just for the sake of it.

You should all know by now that I'm certainly no prude and I'm also one of the least artistically-minded horror movie reviewers on the internet but I do like a good story and sympathetic characters. I wasn't looking for some big, thought-provoking work of art with "Ichi the Killer" but I was expecting to not be bored out of my mind by it.

Honestly, how do all these Takashi Miike fanboys manage to delude themselves and other people that "Ichi the Killer" is so fantastic? Apart from one of the prostitutes who kept switching from English to Japanese, there wasn't even any worthwhile heterosexual eyecandy in the thing!

Yes, Takeshii Miike fanboys, I'm calling you out! This film is GAY! It's so homoerotic that I'd put it up there with David DeCoteau's "Leeches". Of course there's nothing wrong with any of that particularly if a gang of misogynistic, genital-torturing Yakuza floats your boat but it did nothing for me.

I pretty much hated every minute of this film from the title appearing in a pool of sperm to the ending which I couldn't understand. I'm not being racist but at least two of the actors looked almost identical and I really couldn't tell who was doing what to who or why. Was the blond one only blond so that he could be more easily identified by a Western audience? And what was up with his cheeks being sliced open and clipped together? I didn't get any of it and couldn't even be bothered to follow what was going on after a while.

Suffice it to say that I did work out that a "Muscle Mary" cop called Jigii had brainwashed crybaby Ichi into killing the Yakuza for him somehow using post-hypnotic suggestions but the rest of it, including all the torture, just washed over me like some really cheap and unpleasant predecessor to "Horsemen" (which I also had the misfortune to watch through Netflix a little while ago).

I suppose a lot of people would credit "Ichi the Killer" with kicking off the whole "torture porn" wave of over-the-top gory effects-driven movies which ruined the 2000s for everyone. Gruesome scenes do not make a horror movie if they come without any emotional investment in the characters. Since there were no "good" characters in the film at all, what was the point? People who enjoy crap like this would probably get off watching cockfights or a couple of pitbulls tearing each other apart with just the same feeling of moral detachment.

I have honestly never hated a film as much in my life as this one. There are no merits to it at all. Without doubt, "Ichi the Killer" is simply the worst kind of poorly written and directed pulp. It was at least an hour too long as well. Avoid!

Sucker Punch (2011)





"A young girl is institutionalized by her wicked stepfather. Retreating to an alternative reality as a coping strategy, she envisions a plan which will help her escape from the facility."

Okay, I know that this won't even be released until March 25th but I'm really looking forward to it so I thought I'd repost the trailers. It appears to have all the elements that I could wish for in quality entertainment so, even though it's a PG-13 and isn't horror, I hope I don't end up too disappointed.

As long as this doesn't turn out to be as bad as "Ultraviolet" or "Aeon Flux" then we'll all be happy, won't we? What do you think?

March 6, 2011

The Children (2008)



"A relaxing Christmas vacation turns into a terrifying fight for survival as the children begin to turn on their parents."

There are many good reasons why I never want to have children apart from the obvious physical impossibilities of trying to squeeze a baby out of any of my male orifices but this film is yet another one. It's not that "The Children" was in any way scary but the annoying screeching of all the kids involved just made me want to switch it off. That was before any of them turned evil too.

I'd really been looking forward to seeing some British horror again and, as you can imagine, I was hoping that this would be the best thing that I'd ever seen so that I could rave about it for months to come and irritate everybody. Unfortunately, "The Children" was a very, very poor "evil kids" film. The children weren't all that sinister and pretty much sucked at acting even given that they are all obviously too young to know any better anyway.

I'm not sure whether it was just the acting or if it was how I just couldn't identify with any of the seemingly middle class parents which made me not care about any of them. It's a given that I wouldn't care about the children anyway but you'd think that I maybe would have felt something for the sexy Casey played by Hannah Tointon (Simon's girlfriend in "The Inbetweeners" and real-life younger sister of Kara who plays Dawn in "Eastenders"). I just wanted everyone in the film to die as quickly and as brutally as possible. Adults and children, I didn't care which went first.

After a really slow and irritating start which told me more about the annoying personalities of the two families involved than I even wanted to know, there were a couple of brutal "accidents" caused by the children with most of the gore occurring off screen. I can forgive the filmmakers a bit because of the obvious lack of budget but if you are going to have someone sledge down a hill straight into a pitchfork then I want to see it happen and not just see the aftermath no matter how good the practical latex and corn syrup effects are.

Everything else consisted of various kinds of slicings and stabbings. I can't really fault the technical aspects involved as the production values were pretty good but things moved far too quickly for there to be any tension or atmosphere whatsoever. Back to the acting, all the adults looked anxious or constipated while the children just stared without blinking and seemed to be laughably gormless in the process.

With every minute, things just got more frantic and incredible until the denouement ruined it all completely. Basically, you can easily predict who will survive and why. Then, after the fact, wonder why you even bothered to watch this film in the first place. There were no lessons to be learned here and it was certainly no moral fable.

SPOILER (Highlight to read)

The fact that the children were simply the first to succumb to some kind of virus that turned them into evil killers pretty much spoiled everything that had gone on before. I was expecting another "Village of the Damned" and instead all I got was an even more inferior version of "The Crazies".

END OF SPOILER

Very rarely do I ever watch the so-called "Special Features" on DVDs but, due to not being in any way entertained by "The Children" itself, I watched the "Making of" documentary. Apart from being very shoddily put together, there were a few interesting insights into how the various stunts and effects were achieved but there wasn't anything particularly useful or memorable there either. It's sad that I actually still enjoyed "The Making of The Children" more than the main feature.

Anyway, that's another one that I don't recommend to anyone unless they have already started a collection of coasters made from these dreadful "Ghost House" releases.

March 5, 2011

Evilution (2008)



"An alien bacterium resurrects the dead on Earth."

I try my hardest not to watch anything on the Chiller channel for a number of reasons. Firstly, I can't cope with the obscene amount of hypocritical censorship on American television which causes Chiller to have to blank any swear words and pixellate the briefest of nude scenes while showing all manner of grisliness virtually uncut. Secondly, 90% of the films that Chiller shows are amateur, low-budget crapfests that nobody in their right mind would want to watch in the first place. If you ever thought that Zone Horror's selection was bad, you have really underestimated the amount of truly terrible horror films that there are in existence.

Unfortunately I sat up late last night channel surfing and ended up watching "Evilution" because for the first 15 minutes it was actually pretty good. I don't know whether it was the zombies, the creepy apartment manager or the luscious Sandra Ramirez that sparked my interest enough to watch this awful film all the way through but none of them were enough on their own to make it a worthwhile investment of my time.

Basically, "Evilution" was a mixture of "28 Days Later" and "Re-animator" with a subplot about a cursed building. At best you could say that it was ambitious but ultimately it turned out to be less than satisfying.

The main problem with "Evilution" was that it lacked action. Some people might say that Eric Peter-Kaiser's lacklustre performance was another low point but I didn't really notice anything wrong there apart from how completely dull his character was. No, what ruined it all for me was how the promise of lots of running, jumping and biting zombies turned into a lot of talk and got confined to about four sets with hardly anything happening until almost the end.

I also really didn't get the "alien intelligence" angle which had something to do with the glowing serum which resurrected the dead. I'll give it credit for being something different and trying to be original but really stuff like that belongs in an episode of "Star Trek" and just doesn't work so well in what should have been an apocalyptic zombie movie.

The parts of "Evilution" that did intrigue me though were Nathan Bexton's appearances as "The Manager" which were as creepily camp as could be. If you think of him as a younger, American version of Simon Cowell then it gets even more amusing. I've read in other places that his role is somewhat repeated in "Basement Jack" (which also stars Eric Peter-Kaiser) but I haven't seen it yet and have no idea if "Evilution" is part of a series of films tied together by the same building and manager or not.

Of course, because I'm always on the lookout for interesting eye-candy, Sandra Ramirez as the hot, horny and quite desperate divorcee was another highlight for me. It strained credibility a bit too much that she was apparently "dating" as many members as possible of the so-not-scary street gang who lived in her building and even more so that she wanted Eric Peter-Kaiser. Based on looks alone and not the terrible dialogue that came out of her mouth, she was way out of anyone's league in this film. Trust me, you really want to look her up on Google Images.

Anyway, without giving too much away, the scene in the army office which occurs about 15 minutes in, kills this story stone-dead. Not only does it contain some of the worst acting ever but it just chokes the flow of the movie and it never really recovers afterwards. There would have been a dozen better ways to introduce Tim Colceri's character though why it was even needed in the first place, I can't imagine.

As far as horror movies go, "Evilution" is a bit of a turd. Production values range from very good to just about average, the zombies are scary enough to upset small children, but the story itself is so clichéd and poorly written that it all becomes an endurance test to sit through rather than the entertainment that it should be. Having said that, it's still surprisingly watchable and certainly isn't any worse than a SyFy channel movie or any of the Roger Corman productions.

I don't recommend "Evilution" as something you should buy or even rent but if you are sitting up late at night, maybe downloading sexy wallpapers on your laptop or eating a bag of Funions as big as your head, then using it as free background entertainment which you don't have to concentrate on too much is ideal.

March 4, 2011

Apple iPad 2 and Netflix



Although I'm probably never going to buy either an iPad or the new iPad 2, I saw this video on YouTube and started thinking about the possibilities of watching horror movies on the thing.

I have no experience with Apple products other than an old G3 iBook which I bought from ebay and turned into a glorified DVD player so I don't know if the iPad is even capable of playing Netflix streaming movies or if you have to download everything through iTunes. It would probably be the greatest invention ever made for me if it could replace the Acer TravelMate that I currently use for Netflix.

Anyway, I just thought I'd share the news about this product. I went to bed as soon as I got home from work and didn't watch any films at all today. According to my Netflix queue, the next horror DVD which I will be watching is "The Children" (2008).

I've only got 11 films in my Netflix queue at the moment:
The Children
A Perfect Getaway
Open Your Eyes
In the Womb: Cats and Dogs
The Kiss
Doghouse
Fish Tank
The Apartment
Thesis
Mesrine: Part 1: Killer Instinct
Vengeance

I'm running out of new stuff to watch. Any suggestions?

March 3, 2011

What's on your desktop?


Here's a screen capture from my Acer laptop because I can't think of anything more worthwhile to post right now. And, yes, I do like Paris Hilton. She's the perfect accompaniment to a winter day.

March 2, 2011

Taxidermia (2006)



"Gyorgy Palfi's grotesque tale of three generations of men, including an obese speed eater, an embalmer of gigantic cats, and a man who shoots fire out of his penis." (Note: this IMDb description is a little bit inaccurate concerning the role of the cats!)

Just in case anyone thinks that "A Serbian Film" is the most disgusting thing they've ever seen since "Salo" (1975), don't forget to check out this Hungarian film with a similar political message supposedly underlying it.

For those of you who have no interest in watching such arty pretentiousness, let me just say that you have really missed out if you haven't already seen "Taxidermia". I only remembered to watch it myself after browsing other foreign movie blogs since it has been largely overlooked by the horror community. I didn't even know that it had been released on DVD in America and I'm actually quite surprised that it was.

Although it isn't really a horror movie per se, "Taxidermia" has all the elements that are necessary for it to qualify as one including a plethora of taboo subjects brought to life through gory practical effects. It's all hardcore stuff in every sense of the word.

Basically there are three stories joined together by the men from three generations of the Morosgoványi family - Vendel, Kálmán and Lajoska. Each is as grotesque as the other and it's hard to say which is the more disgusting although morally it is probably Vendel.

Starting in wartime with the soldier Vendel Morosgoványi who can only really be described as a sexual pervert of the highest order, the story follows his son, Kálmán, who is a world champion in eating contests during what could be the 1960s or 1970s, to the present day where Lajoska, a taxidermist who looks after his now bloated and immobilized father, ends things in a less than credible but highly entertaining way. You can probably guess what will happen from the title but you'll still be amazed by how graphic it all is.

The cinematography is absolutely excellent as you would expect from a European film although it does lapse into unnecessary moments of arty-fartiness which could confuse a few people. If you stick with it though, "Taxidermia" really is worth the effort especially if you aren't such a desensitized horror buff as me. I'm not sure quite what emotional reaction other than nausea you will feel but I laughed my arse off.

The acting is pretty average as far as I could tell and "Taxidermia" reeks of the same overly pornographic scenes as "A Serbian Film". It isn't as polished as "A Serbian Film" but you have to bear in mind that it was made four years before and by filmmakers from an entirely different country.

Although the political agenda/social commentary that both films claim to have is much the same, it'll probably be wasted on most people as I know it was on me. I barely understood what "La Planète Sauvage" (1973) was about back in the day so anything political that I know about could be written on the back of a very small postage stamp.

The bottom line is that if you are looking for something really horrible to watch (or just feel like grossing out your friends) then you could do a lot worse than give yourself a double-bill of this with "A Serbian Film", "Salo" or "Irreversible". This is "shock cinema" at its finest whether it is truly meant to be "art" or not.

March 1, 2011

The Bloody Oscars 2011


Well done to Rick Baker and Dave Elsey for the make-up effects in "The Wolfman" but who even cares about the Oscars anyway?

I think it's about time that there was an official Academy Awards ceremony for nothing but horror movies. After all, it's not as if any of us would watch such boring crap as "The King's Speech", is it?

Until such time as the dinosaurs behind this sycophantic and self-congratulatory non-representation of what people really want to watch realise that we aren't impressed by their worthless little gold man, I now announce the first ever unofficial "Bloody Oscar" awards for 2011.


BEST PICTURE

A Serbian Film


BEST ACTOR IN A LEADING ROLE

Dieter Laser - The Human Centipede


BEST ACTOR IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

John Brumpton - The Loved Ones


BEST ACTRESS IN A LEADING ROLE

Robin McLeavy - The Loved Ones


BEST ACTRESS IN A SUPPORTING ROLE

Katarina Zutic - A Serbian Film


BEST ANIMATED FEATURE FILM

A Serbian Film (because nobody over the age of 8 should be watching cartoons!)


BEST ART DIRECTION

Peter Grundy - Saw 3D


BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY

Nemanja Jovanov - A Serbian Film


BEST COSTUME DESIGN

Xanthe Heubel - The Loved Ones


BEST DIRECTING

Sean Byrne - The Loved Ones


BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE

A Serbian Film


BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT SUBJECT

Paranormal Activity 2


BEST FILM EDITING

Andy Canny - The Loved Ones


BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM

A Serbian Film


BEST MAKEUP

Erik Hillenbrink - A Serbian Film


BEST MUSIC (ORIGINAL SCORE)

Sky Wikluh - A Serbian Film


BEST MUSIC (ORIGINAL SONG)

Love Hurts by Nan Vernon - The Loved Ones


BEST SHORT FILM (ANIMATED)

A Serbian Film


BEST SHORT FILM (LIVE ACTION)

The Human Centipede


BEST SOUND EDITING

Nikola Zivkovic - A Serbian Film


BEST SOUND MIXING

Aleksandar Perisic - A Serbian Film


BEST VISUAL EFFECTS

Miroslav Lakobrija - A Serbian Film


BEST WRITING (ADAPTED SCREENPLAY)

Melissa Rosenberg - The Twilight Saga: Eclipse


BEST WRITING (ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY)

Aleksandar Radivojevic and Srdjan Spasojevic - A Serbian Film


Agree? Disagree? Let me know in the comments below.