October 31, 2011

Happy Hallowe'en and Goodbye!

Happy Hallowe'en! Tonight's the big anticlimactic night so it'll be eleven months before anybody has to endure another batch of seasonal horror fans.

As usual for Hallowe'en, I'm not going to be watching anything horrific at all apart from "Bring It On" (2000) starring the delightful Kirsten Dunst from "Interview with the Vampire" (1994), Eliza Dushku from "Wrong Turn" (2003), and Jesse Bradford from "The Echo" (2008). Apart from "Clueless" (1995), this is truly the greatest movie of all time.

It's been one of the worst years for horror movies ever, and with the genre now completely dead (both creatively and physically), I'm not going to be updating my blog anymore.

I could, of course, continue to review all the old horror movies which I already love, but what's the point when a million other sites with nothing new to write about are doing the same thing already? I'd rather just watch films from now on than waste my time writing reviews which hardly anybody reads anyway.

I'm done here. Just like Barry Norman, I'm walking away from all the bad movies and the poor taste of the audiences who continue to support them.

I thank you all for reading and commenting over the years but, after 17 years as a horror journalist and 15 months as a blogger, I'm moving on to something else now.

I'll see you in another life when we are both cats.

October 30, 2011

Dracula (1958)

(AKA Horror of Dracula)

"After Jonathan Harker attacks Dracula at his castle (apparently somewhere in Germany), the vampire travels to a nearby city, where he preys on the family of Harker's fiancée. The only one who may be able to protect them is Dr. van Helsing, Harker's friend and fellow-student of vampires, who is determined to destroy Dracula, whatever the cost."

The final entry in my "Hallowe'en Countdown" is Hammer's version of "Dracula" from 1958. It may not be all that horrific for a modern audience but you can't have Hallowe'en without Dracula and this is the version that I grew up with.

I was, am, and always will be a fan of Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing no matter how bad the later films were that either of them got themselves into. Neither ever gave a bad performance and they took their roles completely seriously in spite of how ludicrous the subject matter was.

Hammer's "Dracula" is still the quintessential vampire film for all lovers of the genre. It may not be strictly accurate to the book (but then again, what Hammer film is?), but it's certainly the most enjoyable and watchable version ever made.

A great atmosphere, Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing fighting it out, beautiful actresses, rubber bats on wires, and all done on a budget which wouldn't even pay for Keanu Reeves' voice coach in a more modern production.

This is what horror movies were all about when I was young and you couldn't even call yourself a horror fan back then without having watched all the Hammer and Amicus films first.

I have absolutely nothing bad to say about "Dracula" except that, even though it was shown on the BBC nearly every year, it took far too long to become available to a British audience on VHS.

Now it's available just about everywhere on DVD, go on and spoil yourself.

October 29, 2011

Melancholia (2011)

"Two sisters find their already strained relationship challenged as a mysterious new planet threatens to collide into the Earth."

I've seen quite a few films about the end of the world with my favourites being "Last Night" (1998) and "Before the Fall" (2008) so it was with some consternation that I watched Lars von Trier's "Melancholia", a director whose only work I really like is the "Riget" TV series and "Dogville" (2003).

Since it's not a horror film and, in spite of some pretty decent acting, it's just a drama rather than sci-fi, I'm not actually going to review it but just say exactly what I thought about it. It was boring as shit. The characters were all horrible and the camerawork was annoying beyond belief.

You know this is going to get nominated for at least one Oscar and, unfortunately, since there haven't been any decent films at all this year, it's probably going to win too. I'm not into any of that arty-farty pretentiousness so, for me, it was just a load of meaningless talk with no action. It was worse than the impenetrable drivel which almost bored me to death in "Antichrist" (2009). Charlotte Gainsbourg didn't even have the decency to liven things up by cutting off her fun button with a pair of scissors this time.

In fact, if it hadn't been for Kirsten Dunst as Justine, I wouldn't have watched "Melancholia" at all or all the way to its ridiculous end. For those of you who are interested, yes, she does get nude in it and the magic number is 82 minutes in for the best part. Melon-cholia, indeed.

I have nothing else to say.

October 28, 2011

Halloween III: Season of the Witch (1982)

"A large Halloween mask-making company has plans to kill millions of American children with something sinister hidden in Halloween masks."

I finally got round to rewatching one of my favourite Hallowe'en movies of all time, "Halloween III: Season of the Witch". It's taken a while because I remember nearly every scene of the film so clearly that it's hard to forget enough of it to ever watch it from a fresh perspective again.

Of course, this time I was on a mission to totally blow Ebert's "review" (such as it is) out of the water especially as "Halloween III" is on his "most hated" list but, since I couldn't care less what that old dinosaur has to say about anything, I soon just relaxed and enjoyed the film for what it was instead.

Without spoiling too much for you, here are a few things I noticed which make this one of the best Hallowe'en movies of all time. I'll write them as a list since I haven't done one of those for ages either.

1. Stacey Nelkin. She was simply one of the cutest and sexiest actresses of the '80s. Even though her "sex scene" with Tom Atkins was a little bit vile, the contrast with how flawless she looked and his craggy old ass (which you get to see in all its glory) was perfect. She could actually act too.

2. Dan O'Herlihy. He really was Irish as Conal Cochran and, although most people will remember him as the "The Old Man" from "Robocop" (1987), he was a very fine actor indeed with a huge body of work behind him. His performance in "Halloween II" was as subtly sinister as it could possibly be and he absolutely owned this film by stealing every scene that he was in.

3. Tom Atkins. What can I possibly say about this guy that you don't already know? Well, in spite of his looks, he came across as a genuinely civilised and heroic character. He was much better here than in another favourite film of mine, "The Fog" (1982), although it took another four years for him to truly shine in "Night of the Creeps" (1986).

4. The Silver Shamrock theme. Yes, it's just "London Bridge is Falling Down" with new words and it's annoying as can be but it's still the most famous Hallowe'en jingle ever.

5. The plot. Killing all the children as a massive sacrifice for Samhain was an inspired idea and one that I, as somebody who can't stand children in the first place, could totally get behind. Of course there were a couple of plotholes but what do you expect? It's a horror film and every horror film ever made has plotholes.

6. Robots. Why does everybody hate the organic robots in this film? If you can believe that a mask containing a speck of Stonehenge can turn an annoying kid into a pool of bugs and snakes then it isn't much more of a stretch to imagine Conal Cochran's black magic being able to create goop-filled likenesses of human beings as well.

7. No Michael Myers. Actually that's not true there was a brief flash of him near the beginning. "Halloween" got played on TV in the film too but it was actually quite refreshing to not have a stupid slasher movie for Hallowe'en and have something more fittingly supernatural instead. I wish that the trend had continued and Michael Myers had never returned for the rest of the "Halloween" franchise.

8. Camerawork. It was all shot beautifully with no annoying shakycams and so few continuity errors that I didn't even notice them.

9. Teddy. The sexy, ginger, female doctor played by Wendy Wessberg really did it for me. I wish that there had been a lot more to her role.

10. Cats. There were two cats in the film neither of which were used for jump scares and no harm came to them. I think that was great.

I could go on by listing things but you can look up a ton of cross references to how "Halloween III" was designed to fit into the series perfectly well on your own. Jamie Lee Curtis as the curfew announcer was one that I never realised before and, obviously, Nancy Loomis and Dick Warlock were both in "Halloween II".

Another piece of trivia which I've only recently picked up is that Sierra Madre, which is the real name of Santa Mira, was also the setting for the original "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" (1956). What's not to love about "Halloween III"?

"Halloween III" was and still is an exciting and inventively gory "B movie" horror which most people only hate because it doesn't fit in with the rest of the Michael Myers stories. If "Halloween" had been taken out of the title, nobody would have been complaining at all but, as my South African friends say, you can't educate pork.

Do I even have to tell you that "Halloween III" is staying in my "Video Vault" as one of the best horror films ever made? No, I thought not. Just clear your mind of prejudices and give it another try. You'll probably be very surprised at how much you actually enjoy it.

October 27, 2011

I bought that for a dollar - part 8

What is it? It's a USB pumpkin lantern for Hallowe'en, of course.

Although the picture isn't actually of the one which I bought from Big Lots for $1 last year (due to not having any batteries in my camera at this present time), it's exactly the same. You can now buy these all over the place although I suggest eBay especially as you can now get bigger ones which change colour.

It's a kind of pointless decoration as the light isn't very strong in it and it takes up a USB socket which could be better used for something else, but if you work in an office where you aren't allowed to really decorate then it's something you can probably get away with.

October 26, 2011

Megan Is Missing (2011)

"Employing a mix of storytelling techniques (including webcam footage, video chats and dramatized news reports), this chillingly realistic thriller charts the disappearance of two teens who vanish three weeks apart under mysterious circumstances."

If you ever needed something to spook kids about the dangers of internet predators then Michael Goi's "Megan is Missing" is the film you've been looking for.

I had watched some of this when it first came out back in May but gave up on it due to it not really having any subject matter which was of any interest to me. For the first hour, it appeared to be nothing but an inconsistently acted teen drama with actresses far too old for their parts. But, thanks to Netflix and boredom, I gave it another try and I'm glad that I did.

Having reappraised "Megan Is Missing", the acting isn't actually that bad although believing that one of the 22 year old actresses in particularly is supposed to be a 14 year old who still loves teddy bears is still a bit of stretch especially when you compare her character to that of the other (unfortunately far too realistic) "teens".

Although it has plenty of flaws including the unrealistic use of video phones, a silly fake news report, and a couple of plot holes which are impossible to ignore, for something which was allegedly filmed in only 8 days for $35,000, the ending (apart from the final scene which dragged on for way too long) rivals anything from the most hardcore mainstream horror that you are likely to encounter.

I'd rank the first 12 of the last 22 minutes of "Megan is Missing" up there with "The Girl Next Door" (2007) for being something which you really wish you could "unsee" afterwards. It really is that brutal!

I'm not going to tell you any more because I hate giving spoilers for films which I recommend. No matter what age you are or how many horror films you've already watched, the more you don't know about it, the greater the final shock will be.

October 25, 2011

My Pussy's Possessed

I just found out about this and thought you might also get a kick out of it.

"It's Nick"s first date with Lisa at his home. She is excited to meet his cat Angel. But when Lisa tries to put her paws on Angel, despite Nick's warning, she must deal with the CATastrophic consequences."

Visit the official website at http://www.mypussyspossessed.com to see more.

Preparing my Hallowe'en snacking - part 4

I wish I could claim the Chicken Ringstinger recipe as my own, but it was actually created by Tim Dilks for his "Curry Monster" website back in the '90s. His website (which now appears to be gone) was featured on The Computer Channel's programme called "Chips with Everything" (a satellite TV show which was actually about computers not food).

Fortunately, this recipe is still floating around on the internet. The only changes I make to it are adding half a bottle of Dave's Insanity rather than Tabasco (which I find too vinegary), and I drink whatever brand of cola is available if I get thirsty because I don't like the taste (or lack of it) of water. It also works well with nan bread which you can now buy just about anywhere.

This is my ultimate Hallowe'en horror movie snack, but I take no responsibility whatsoever if you are silly enough to try it without building yourself up to it first.

Everything which follows the picture is Tim Dilk's original text which I have not altered.

Chicken Ringstinger

A dish originating from just south of the North Circular, London. This dish is loved by all, but I'll take no responsibility if you're a bit too much of a big jessy and you end up on the toilet for days on end after eating it!

Serves 1-4

2 lbs Chicken
6 Medium Onions, chopped
4 Cloves Garlic, chopped
8 tblspn Ghee or Vegetable Oil
2 Pints of water
24 fresh Habaneros Chillis, chopped
30 dried red chillies, crushed
2 tspn Red food colouring

2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
5 tsp ground hot chilli powder
1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves
A couple of capsicum pods

Optional (for the clinically insane only):
¼ bottle of tabasco sauce (try eating a teaspoon neat!)
¼ bottle Encona West Indian Hot Pepper sauce (mmm)

12 large jugs iced water
15 rolls of Kleenex
1 week off work
1 ambulance

1. Fry the chicken, onions, garlic in some of the oil. Put all the spices in a bowl with a bit of water and mix to a paste. Fry this paste in a second pan for 10 minutes in some of the oil. Now combine all ingredients in a large vat or saucepan and simmer for 1-2 hours.
2. Add 3 tablespoons chilli powder and some more dried red chillies towards the end. Add a teaspoon Garam Masala 5 minutes before serving.
3. Leave to cool for 2 minutes before serving.
4. Serve on a bed of rice, followed by a bed in hospital.

October 24, 2011

Paranormal Activity 3 (2011)

"In 1988, young sisters Katie and Kristi befriend an invisible entity who resides in their home."

Obviously, since I can't even bring myself to review the first "Paranormal Activity" (2007) and my "review" of "Paranormal Activity 2" (2010) is more a serious of spoilers than anything else, you can already guess that if I had anything better to write about, I wouldn't be reviewing this one either.

As much as I like paranormal horror films more than any other, none of these cheap looking "found footage" ripoffs of "The Amityville Horror" have done anything for me. I don't find them scary and, for the most part, I don't even think of them as being real films.

Even though I didn't think it could be possible, "Paranormal Activity 3" is by far the weakest in the series. It's so bad that it actually makes the second one look good especially after revisiting it on Netflix, but don't take that as an endorsement. They are all crap.

One of the things which really bugs me about the "Paranormal Activity" series is that I don't really know anything about anyone involved in them. The directors and writers seem to keep appearing out of nowhere with no obvious past achievements and, based on the quality of the films themselves, they don't deserve to go any further either.

Another thing is how contrived everything is to include parts of the story which there is no good reason for anybody to be filming. In "Paranormal Activity 2", the switch to a handheld camera with nightvision was forced in due to the power going off. In "Paranormal Activity 3", there isn't even that much respect given to the audience.

But enough of the general bitching. "Paranormal Activity 3" is pretty much identical to the last one except that it is supposed to be set in 1988 and be filmed on VHS tapes which it clearly isn't. If the premise had been that the found footage had been filmed on Betamax then there may have been less criticism of the way the film looks since Beta was a higher quality than VHS, but even then, this is high-definition digital camerawork with no attempt to disguise it.

Another problem which everybody is moaning about is that two-thirds of the scenes in the trailer aren't even in the film itself. It doesn't matter to me since I barely look at the trailers anyway but it's a simple "bait and switch" gimmick which eventually is going to get somebody into a lot of trouble if the trend continues. The same thing happened with "Paranormal Activity 2" and "Piranha 3D" (2010) but to a much lesser extent. False advertising is still false advertising no matter how trivial it may be.

The thing which really kills "Paranormal Activity 3" though is that it's boring as shit. Katie Featherston only appears briefly so fans of her big boobies will be disappointed, and since this is another prequel—which I admit is a novel approach to doing things—it's all about childhood versions of Katie and Kristi. The adults in the film have more screen time than the kids, but even so, you have to have exceptionally good child actors to pull something like that off, and the two girls in this just aren't.

The effects are really lacklustre this time. There's a bedsheet ghost which is a bit stupid, some excessively loud bangs which hurt my delicate little ears, and what I can only describe as a "Falcon Blast" (after seeing it in a YouTube parody of whichever computer game it comes from) which was used near the end of "Paranormal Activity 2" as well (depending on which version you saw).

The box office results are already showing that "Paranormal Activity 3" has made so much money ($54,000,000 from the opening weekend) that there will undoubtedly be another one next year. Impressive as that may be to some people, I think they should quit while they are ahead as, presumably, "Paranormal Activity 4" will have to be shot on high-definition Super 8 cine film if they are going to keep doing prequels.

I highly recommend that you do not waste your money going to see this film and save it for "The Awakening" (2011) should it ever get a theatrical release.

October 23, 2011

Preparing my Hallowe'en snacking - part 3

It just wouldn't be Hallowe'en (or cold season) without my favourite soup.

Grace's Cock Flavoured Soup - which, amusingly, always comes up on the till receipt as "Crock Soup" due to either a typo or intentional puritanism.

Only 69c from Wegmans

It's full of all the good ingredients you would expect (including MSG) but it's hotter than Satan's willy if you aren't used to spicy stuff. Although it already has some noodles in it, adding a packet of Ramen Noodles to it obviously makes it much more substantial.

Don't worry, Suzi isn't getting any. It's much too spicy for cats!

A Guide to Horror for Dummies

This is a real horror movie:

This is not horror, it's a comedy:

This is not a horror or a comedy, it's utter shite:

It's all you need to know.

If you still can't tell the difference, get the Hell off my blog!

You're welcome. :)

WTF? - part 2

This British horror comic from 1984 has just one problem with it that I can see...

That's a wereCAT not a werewolf!


Shadow Puppets (2007)

"Director Michael Winnick's chilling tale stars James Marsters as Jack, one of eight captives who awaken in an abandoned asylum not knowing who they are or why they are together."

When there isn't even a trailer available on YouTube for a movie, you know you're in trouble. I should have heeded the warning signs but I still watched this anyway, fool that I am.

If you look up the description on Netflix (where I watched this), the entire plot of the film has been given away so I have no reason not to spoil it even further for you.

Basically, or fundamentally (since I'm aware that I've been using the non-word "basically" a bit too much recently), this is a poor man's version of "Cube" (1997) but with Spike, the Candyman and some girl from a "Star Trek" spinoff being chased around the corridors of a mental hospital by the smoke monster from "Lost".

Although it started off quite well, the twist (or "reveal") was ill-placed because, as soon as it occurred, any interest in the mystery behind why the characters couldn't remember anything went straight out of the window... unlike the animated "shadow monster" which went into a ventilation grill instead.

It wasn't a good film and the "shadow monster" effects were as lousy as you'd expect them to be. I'm not sure if this was meant for the Sci-Fi (SyFy) channel but it had that stench about it. No nudity, bloodless kills, and all that other kiddified horribleness. The girls showed a lot of bare arms and legs but that was it. Two of them were vile to look at anyway. I've seen more meat on a sparrow's kneecap.

Obviously the cast just did this for the money because if they did it as a favour then it didn't do them any. James Marsters was okay, Tony Todd was actually better than usual and the rest of the cast were just there. I don't know their names and don't care to. Disposable characters in a cheap, disposable story don't deserve to be remembered.

I think there were supposed to be eight of them (maybe nine including the uncredited guy in the hospital bed) originally but it soon got whittled down in "shadow monster taking the place of a slasher" style. You can work out the rest as it's predictable as can be.

Yes, this is going straight into "The Dungeon". Call me a hater but I don't care, this was dreadful and not in a good way.

October 22, 2011

Twelve Reasons Why Horror Has Died

1. Amateur, no-budget, handycam dreck

If you've been burnt enough times after choosing horror films made by people you've never heard of and which star all their non-actor friends, you soon dismiss the horror genre as a worthwhile source of entertainment.

Of course, there are certain mentally challenged people out there who think these films are funny in a "so bad, it's good" way, but for the rest of us, yet another no-budget zombie or slasher film with hardly any story will make us want to watch our own home videos instead.

Just because you are a horror fan with a camera, it doesn't entitle you to become a filmmaker. Without training, talent or discipline all you are doing is wasting everybody's time.

2. Remakes

There have always been remakes right back to the 1920s and '30s, but there was often a good reason behind it such as creating a "talky" to replace the silent version. Even remaking a film in colour to upgrade it from black and white was somewhat allowable as technology improved.

In the last eight years particularly, the sheer number of remakes of horror films (and quite a few non-horrors) has been ridiculous and has added nothing to the originals in any way. In fact, most of them have just cashed in on the name and been dull as ditchwater.

The straw that finally broke the camel's back was remaking "Let the Right One In" as "Let Me In" for no other reason than somebody decided that reading subtitles was too difficult. It's a lousy dumbed-down remake with a vampire who moves like a CGI monkey and amped-up action scenes to please the MTV generation.

As long as there are foreign movies and some Hollywood idiot thinks that they can be remade for the hard of understanding, the trend is unfortunately going to continue.

3. Bad computer generated imagery

Sometimes CGI works to augment the existing practical effects or to provide something which could not possibly exist, but when it's done badly, it can throw you right out of the film.

No matter how much emotion you have invested in a horror film, if the monster appears looking like it just stepped out of a computer game, that bad CGI is the end of it.

Far be it from me to advocate the use of practical effects as they can also be just as dating and ridiculous, but if you are going to use any effects at all, they need to be good ones.

4. Horror comedies

The dictionary defines horror as "an intense feeling of fear, shock, or disgust" and "a thing causing such a feeling". I see nothing funny about that although I will admit to getting a certain sadistic pleasure out of seeing people who are actually scared of horror films trying to hide when they are forced to watch them. Yes, that is always amusing but just a little bit irritating as well.

Horror-comedies have been around since the 1920s although I'm convinced that it wasn't entirely intentional to begin with.

If you set out to make a horror-comedy or parody rather than a serious horror film then why not just make a comedy instead? Why use elements from another genre?

Even though the occasional use of "comic relief" can work in a real horror film, when it takes over completely it makes the film worthless either as a horror or a comedy.

5. Intentionally making bad films

This is something that infuriates me beyond belief. I'm normally a quite placid creature, but as soon as I hear or read the words "cheesy" or "so bad, it's good", my hackles rise and I'm ready for an all out war.

What the hell is the point of intentionally making a bad film? Anybody can do that even top directors when they are trying to make a good one. Making a good film is what will give you credibility not some lame crap that you think will be cult or funny to a select group of your hipster friends.

If you love "so bad, it's good" horror movies then you simply aren't a horror fan. If you make these films, you aren't a filmmaker.

This slew of nasty shit has always been bubbling under the surface right back to Dwain Esper's "Maniac" (1934) but, fortunately, until Mill Creek started releasing multipacks full of public domain awfulness, nobody really encountered it. I'm not blaming Mill Creek though.

Basically, it's the affordability of technology which has allowed non-filmmakers to emulate the very worst of the "Ed Wood" clones and try to get money out of it. Thanks to Mill Creek you can buy nearly all their feeble efforts for less than $100 on the "Pendulum Pictures" label and throw them all straight into the bin where they belong.

When this stuff was getting distribution from the appropriately named "Brain Damage", renting horror DVDs was nothing but a minefield of disappointment. Intentionally made bad films have almost single-handedly killed horror because nobody sane gets any enjoyment out of them.

6. Found footage

Just how much found footage can there still be left to find? We've had it all now from films about witches (without any witches in) to astronauts... and even little girls playing with VHS camcorders.

The cinéma vérité style was done once and for all in Ruggero Deodato's "Cannibal Holocaust" (1980), and there's a damn good reason why nobody else tried to emulate it for another twenty years. Nobody likes these films.

If you really want to see shaky camerawork that'll make you want to puke or watch stories with hardly any plot then YouTube is your friend.

Subjecting cinema goers to more overhyped nausea has been one of the biggest mistakes in the last twelve years. You can get away with it once as "The Blair Witch Project" did, but nobody apart from a complete idiot is going to fall for it again.

7. The "Saw" franchise

I'm not going to call it "torture porn" as the "Saw" films barely qualify as anything other than glorified CSI episodes after the first sequel. Personally, I love "torture porn" and lap it up with the rest of the gorehounds, but nearly everything about the "Saw" franchise's set pieces was uninventive.

I have no idea why people bought into these especially as the stuff from Europe makes anything in any "Saw" movie look like Disney.

With this being the first year for ages that Hallowe'en is officially "Saw free", maybe there's still hope for scary adult films to start appearing again. I think the damage has been done now though.

8. The internet

Believe it or not, the internet with its millions of bloggers (and haters) has also helped to kill the horror industry.

Back in the day, before five-year-olds had mobile phones for their obviously important business calls, and the only source of horror news was either a newspaper or magazine, whether a horror movie was worth watching depended largely on the recommendations of your peer group.

Now you can log on and find so many "hater blogs" trying to be funny at the expense of horror films that it doesn't inspire you to watch anything.

Of course, if a horror film (or any other) really is bad then it deserves to be hated on to the fullest extent. If you've paid your money then it's your right to say whatever you like about a product as long as you are honest.

Deluded people tearing serious horror classics such as "The Exorcist" (1973) or "The Omen" (1976) a new asshole are only the tip of the iceberg. There are some sites which do nothing but rip into every new release unless they get some kind of kickback. You know the ones.

The other problem with the internet is, of course, downloading. Although I would argue that it has very little effect on ticket sales or DVD rentals and purchases from the true horror fan who might also download a DVD rip from a torrent for convenience rather than wait two hours to backup their own physical copy, it must harm the industry to some extent.

Blaming everything on illegal downloading is Adam Green's biggest bugbear but not mine. Some films just aren't worth paying for and some you wouldn't actually watch at all unless they were free, so there's not much difference now between the torrents and Netflix except that, presumably, a few cents get sent to the filmmakers from the latter.

Illegally downloading or streaming crappy horror films is not the problem, but the fact there are crappy films in the first place that makes you feel the need to do this is.

9. The critics

The "real movie critics" (and I use that term very loosely) have always hated horror. Either they use horror films as a base to launch some hypocritical moral crusade to make themselves more popular or they are just so out of touch with the genre by being a "jack of all trades and master of none" that they can't give a good review.

The flaccid old bitches with their two thumbs up or down approach (as if they are some Roman emperor in the Colosseum) have only gained their "celebrity status" by appealing to the lowest common denominator. They've marketed themselves quite expertly, but their opinions are completely worthless.

Unfortunately, there really are people who hang on somebody like Roger Ebert's every word and, if he doesn't like it, they won't watch the film. Ebert is not the only one, of course, just the worst offender.

There was a time when horror was nothing other than "B movies", but things changed once big Hollywood stars and directors all started having a go at it. Horror very nearly became respectable, but these old dinosaurs still harp on about how "disgusting and morally reprehensible" it all is as they shove another cream donut down their necks while watching Saddam Hussein or Qaddafi getting executed live on TV.

10. The horror community

Don't fool yourself for a moment, there is no horror community. Horror fans may associate briefly with each other at a rip-off convention but, underneath all the shameless self-promotion, most people prefer to watch their horror alone.

From the amount of arguments on internet message boards which turn from discussions about the latest polarising remake to death threats, you know there's no community there. To even suggest that there's some kind of underground cult of united horror fans is just stupid.

Horror fans are like cats. They will tolerate each other, maybe bond with an associate or two, but are just as happy to exist in isolation.

11. Marketing

To market a horror film, you have to target horror fans individually not en masse, and therein lies the problem when it comes to filling movie theatre seats. The marketing has become generic (with often fake trailers), just to draw the highest number of the movie-going population in even though most could never be described as horror fans.

Being a lone horror fan in a cinema full of texting teenagers who saw the trailer on YouTube and think the movie will be "kewl" is like being in a living Hell for most of us.

The filmmakers need to forget the teenagers, forget thinking about horror fans as some kind of "post punk" group who all think the same, but remember the people who supported the industry since often before they themselves were even a sperm.

The PG-13 kiddie-friendly horror is not what real horror fans want and there are no horror "communities", as fake as that concept may be, who want to see them.

12. Boredom

Once you've seen the best horror films, there really isn't much point in watching any more. The buzz is never going to be the same, you'll be desensitised and "jaded", and basically, nothing anybody does is going to change your mind.

If you've watched every film on my "Video Vault" list, which so far is averaging about 95% serious horrors with good production values, acting, camerawork, and stories, then what more can any filmmaker offer you?

Nearly all we have been getting for the last 20 years is watered down retreads of the same stories using the same formulas but just changing the actors and occasionally the location. Outside of the "torture" subgenre, it's all been home invasions, slashers, zombies and apocalyptic viruses. Occasionally somebody throws a monster or ghost story to us which we pounce on like a hungry Ethiopian, but there's nothing new even then.

Everyone says that Hollywood has run out of ideas. It's not just Hollywood. If you want to use Hollywood as a scapegoat then you really have to go right back to the beginning of filmmaking as there never was an original idea to begin with. Look at "Nosferatu" (1922) where the plot was stolen from Bram Stoker's "Dracula" and isn't a Hollywood movie at all.

The truth is that everyone has run out of ideas. Every horror story that needs to be told has already been filmed. Horror is dead.

Wake the Witch (2010)

"One hundred years ago, an angry mob, intent on justice for their murdered children, hang the woman they believe is the murderer. They brand her a witch, wrap her body in chains and bury it deep in the woods. Flash forward to the present - when Deb and her friends play a childhood game on the witch's wooded grave, they open the door to death. As her friends and family begin to change into something less than human, Deb struggles to stop the witch's curse. But her search for the truth will reveal an evil beyond her imagination." (from IMDb)

As you can tell from the trailer, this low-budget nastiness isn't really worth anybody's time but I watched most of it just to have another "witch" film among this month's selection.

I didn't make it to the end of the film and it took me three nights of watching it in instalments to even get as far as I did before I gave up entirely. "Wake the Witch" was simply one of the worst low-budget abominations that I've ever seen and I'm not just saying that to be mean. At nearly two hours long, the only credit I can give it is that they obviously put more time into the story than it was worth.

The acting was non-existent and the three lead girls can only be described as Plain, Plainer and Plainest simply because they were. None of them stood out, all were irritating, and calling them "actresses" would be stretching things a little bit too far.

Rubbish like this makes me hate Netflix. Nobody in their right mind has the patience for amateur crap like this, least of all me, and they shouldn't even have it on the "Watch Instantly" stream.

October 21, 2011

Lightning Bug (2004)

"A drama/thriller, set in the South, about a young boy who longs to escape the misery of his childhood and the misunderstanding of his hometown. A gifted, self-taught, special effects make-up artist, Green dreams of going to Hollywood to make his own monsters."

I found this on Netflix (although it's also available to watch legally for free on YouTube and the IMDb). Apparently, it's Robert "Laid to Rest" Hall's semi-autobiography with a few dramatic changes.

Since it's all set around Hallowe'en and has a considerable amount of horror content without actually being a horror film itself, I'm including it in my "Hallowe'en Countdown".

Either I'm getting soft (or burnt out with horror), but I really enjoyed "Lightning Bug". It reminded me of a lot of other coming-of-age dramas but the horror fan angle made it appeal to me far more than I expect it would to a more mainstream movie watcher.

Having also thoroughly enjoyed another beautiful coming-of-age drama last weekend, "Malèna" (2000), which everyone else seems to hate, I'm starting to wonder if it's time for me to give up blogging about movies entirely. The amount of arguments I get into on a daily basis make me feel like doing a Barry Norman and walking away from all this bullshit (especially when there are some sycophantic sites out there with almost as many followers as me who remind me of used car salesmen rather than movie reviewers). It's not that I'll ever hate watching movies but I hate those people with shitty taste quite passionately. I've been feeling that I'm casting my pearls before swine for quite a while now.

Talking of swine, there's an excellent scene with a pig in "Lightning Bug" which worked really well. Other than that, it was all fantastic acting even from Ashley Laurence who I didn't realise could actually act, and a great story which was totally satisfying in a rather tragic way.

October 20, 2011

The Thing (2011)

"At an Antarctica research site, the discovery of an alien craft leads to a confrontation between graduate student Kate Lloyd and scientist Dr. Sander Halvorson."

Well, I finally got round to watching "The Thing" prequel last night. As my only eagerly anticipated film this year, I was so excited about it that I'm probably going to rate it a lot higher than I should do. Even so, it still turned out to be a huge disappointment overall.

Since I'm not one of those people who suffers from nostalgia, I'm not even going to compare the prequel/premake with John Carpenter's 1982 remake too much. To do so would be unfair to both movies as, although the two films look somewhat similar at first glance, apart from the title they are very different entities.

Taking "The Thing" (2011) as a standalone movie is, however, impossible. It's little more than "Alien" (1979) all over again but set in Antarctica rather than outer space. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays a Ripley character with a lot less balls than Sigourney Weaver but, with all the action scenes, the similarities are too in your face not to notice.

Another film that "The Thing" is like is "AVP: Alien vs. Predator" (2004) due once again to the formulaic female lead and the overall feel of the movie. Just like "AVP", there's not much tension and the plot tends to lag when it should be full of suspense.

This version of "The Thing" is supposed to be an action movie at heart so it abandons suspense round about the middle of the film in favour of becoming yet another slasher. I found this to be a major weakness and, without giving away any more spoilers than I have to, the monster is revealed way too early and the action is confusing as hell. The sheer number of bearded characters are too many and too undifferentiated for you to care about any of them particularly.

Another big problem is the use of CGI which isn't bad but is hardly groundbreaking or imaginative either. A lot of the time the flaws are hidden by the darkness of the background but this is computer game stuff. Coupled with the extremely loud "boo scares", it's pretty obvious which generation "The Thing" is made for and it's not the older fans of the original.

I'm going to rate "The Thing" as just average for now. It's a prequel after all so it's meant to compliment John Carpenter's version rather than replace it. It was a nice try but, once I get this on DVD, I know that I'll be able to find dozens of anachronisms and plot holes which I didn't even notice during the theatrical experience.

October 19, 2011

The Cat with Hands (2001)

"The dark, surreal story of a cat who wants to be human."

Director: Robert Morgan
Writer: Robert Morgan
Stars: Livy Armstrong, Victoria Hayes and Daniel Hogwood-Kane

I think this will do as October's "Horror Cat of the Month".

For more horror cats, please check out http://horrorcats.blogspot.com. Now with over 1000 followers on Twitter!

October 18, 2011

I bought that for a dollar - part 7

Who would have believed that the Dollar Tree sold a VHS transfer to DVD of "Horror Express" (1972)? I snapped this up quicker than a squirrel deflowering a hazelnut.

Here's the IMDb blurb: "An English anthropologist has discovered a frozen monster in the frozen wastes of Manchuria which he believes may be the Missing Link. He brings the creature back to Europe aboard a trans-Siberian express, but during the trip the monster thaws out and starts to butcher the passengers one by one."

If you haven't ever seen this weird Spanish/English co-production starring Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and Telly Savalas then get yourself a copy right now for $1 because it's a classic of '70s horror cinema.

The transfer isn't the greatest in the world and towards the end you can see that the original tape was badly damaged but it's still more than good enough to watch. In fact, the transfer adds a certain nostalgic quality and even some atmosphere rather than detracting from the viewing experience.

I highly recommend "Horror Express" and will probably do a full review of it one day. If you are too poor at the moment to see "The Thing" premake in your local overpriced movie theatre then this is a worthy substitute.

October 17, 2011

Lake Mungo (2008)

"When a series of inexplicable supernatural events strikes their home, Russell (David Pledger) and June (Rosie Traynor) Palmer try to figure out exactly what is behind the tragic drowning death of Alice (Talia Zucker), their 16-year-old daughter."

Having seen quite a few people recommending "Lake Mungo" on Reddit over the last couple of weeks, I thought I'd better have a look at it myself before it got removed from Netflix even though I knew I was going to be disappointed.

Mockumentaries are a difficult thing to pull off as they either have to be done so well that you think that they are real documentaries or so ridiculously that they become parodies. "Lake Mungo", in spite of its amusing name, went for the straight approach but still lost me within the first twenty minutes. If it had been a comedy though, it would have lost me a lot sooner than that.

I didn't find it scary and it had the stilted timing of the BBC's "Ghostwatch" (1992) about it which made it feel even faker than it already was. It didn't fool me for a second, but if it was shown on regular TV and you accidentally flicked onto it, you might be sucked in a bit more.

The biggest problem for me was that the main characters were too calm and composed considering that they were supposed to be a grief stricken family. The acting wasn't completely awful, but I found it odd that there just wasn't a lot of emotion to it. Although the Australian uptalking occasionally made statements sound like questions, the performances bordered on being flat and bland.

There were more than a couple of genuinely creepy moments which were a lot better than either of the "Paranormal Activity" films, and the dead girl played by Talia Zucker from "Neighbours" (not that I'd admit to watching that anymore) was very attractive.

The slight twist in the middle with Alice's brother (Martin Sharpe) admitting to having set up some additional fakery almost led me to a completely different conclusion than what was apparently intended, and I couldn't let that idea go in spite of the further revelations which followed. I'm still not entirely sure about why Alice died, if it was murder or suicide, or who was involved even after watching the film twice over.

I'll give "Lake Mungo" credit for being quite a neat idea, but this is one of those times when I think that the rumoured remake could actually turn out to be better.

October 16, 2011

The Black Dahlia (2006)

"Two policemen see their personal and professional lives fall apart in the wake of the Black Dahlia murder investigation."

Sometimes, although it's very rare, I'm just not in the mood to watch horror especially given the still very lacklustre selection available on Netflix. Instead of torturing myself with yet another piece of crap directed by somebody I've never heard and starring a bunch of equally anonymous non-actors, I went into a slightly "film noir" mode and revisited some classics over the weekend.

I started off by trying to watch Stanley Kubrick's "The Killing" (1956) but realised very quickly that I'm not actually a "film noir" fan and switched it off after less than ten minutes due to boredom. I prefer "neo-noir" so I did a quick search and found Roman Polanski's "Chinatown" (1974) which is still one of the greatest films ever made. It wasn't quite enough though. I was still in the mood for more of the same afterwards but Netflix didn't have "The Two Jakes" (1990) so I went into the uncharted territory of things by James Ellroy to watch instead.

Before I launch into a review of "The Black Dahlia", let me just say that after watching the BBC's "Arena" documentary back in 2001 about James Ellroy, I don't like the man. He came across as an arrogant asshole and he may even have a right to feel that way but I'll never read any of his books to find out due to his attitude.

I did like the movie adaptation of "L.A. Confidential" (1997) and, because I'd heard of "The Black Dahlia" (pronounced "Day-lia" by Patrick Macnee) from the "Hollywood Ghosts" documentary, I thought that Brian De Palma's movie would provide me with some worthwhile entertainment.

Unfortunately, although "The Black Dahlia" looked absolutely beautiful and had everything in place to make it outstanding including some gore, it was confusing as hell and didn't really have a lot to do with "The Black Dahlia" murder story at all other than it being weirdly relegated to a subplot.

The acting was really good, of course, but then you shouldn't be able to go wrong with the likes of Josh Hartnett, Scarlett Johansson, Aaron Eckhart, and Hilary Swank. It was just that the story made hardly any sense and the focus changed so often from what was important to what wasn't that I still have no idea what I watched or what the point of any of it was.

Since Hilary Swank had more screen time as the Black Dahlia's double than Mia Kirshner did as the "real" Elizabeth Short, I was very disappointed. As horrible as it may be to speak ill of the dead, both actresses were considerably more attractive than the genuine article which I've seen in photographs so it wasn't anything to do with their looks. it was simply the complete disregard for what could have been an interesting (if highly fictitious) account of Elizabeth Short's life which was the wasted opportunity.

As I've mentioned, "The Black Dahlia" looked the part with its excellent production values, sets, costumes, camerawork, music and all that other good stuff but the story wasn't well written enough to keep me interested. I doubt that it was James Ellroy's fault as I know that he has his own very personal obsession with the Black Dahlia murder which I'm sure makes a better book than such an appalling screenplay.

I noticed afterwards that there were a couple of other Black Dahlia movies on Netflix and I attempted to watch the Ulli Lommel version but barely made it through the opening titles before that crap went off. The other, "The Devil's Muse" (2007), went off just as quickly once I realised that it was some arty low-budget dreck starring more of the same kind of "actors".

I would love to see someone make a real period piece out of the life and death of Elizabeth Short because it's a fascinating story which needs to be told properly. After even the great Brian De Palma couldn't do it justice though, I doubt that it will ever happen.

October 15, 2011

I bought that for a dollar - part 6

Another cheap double feature, "Picture Mommy Dead" (1966) and "Murder Mansion" (1972), which was misleadingly labelled as "horror".

I've only watched the first one with the "worms crawl in" song in it and that's all I really remember about it apart from it being a murder film about who is going to inherit a family fortune rather than a real horror. It wasn't too bad overall but the acting wasn't the best in the world and nothing all that exciting happened.

I didn't get very far into "Murder Mansion" (AKA "La mansión de la niebla") because it was obviously just another thriller but more badly paced. One day I might get bored enough to finish it but it seemed to be so highly censored and badly dubbed that it's probably not worth the effort.

October 14, 2011

I bought that for a dollar - part 5

This wasn't such a bargain. Although it's nice to have a cheap copy of Amicus' "Vault of Horror" (1973), this is the censored version which isn't quite so worthwhile. You don't get to see Terry Thomas' "Odds and Ends" in a jar and several of the gorier moments are replaced with still images.

"Frightmare" (1983) is actually Norman Thaddeus Vane's "Body Snatchers" not the gritty Pete Walker film about British cannibals from 1974. It's very cheap looking and badly transferred. Worse than that, it's just not a very good film anyway. At least it has an early appearance by Jeffrey Combs in it but that still doesn't make it worth even 50c.

Although both films are watchable, with "Vault of Horror" actually being the far more enjoyable of the two, if you ever see this DVD in a Dollar Store, I suggest leaving it there.

October 13, 2011

Portrait of Jennie (1948)

"A mysterious girl inspires a struggling artist."

Just to prove that I don't hate all films from the 1940s, I rewatched "Portrait of Jennie" again to add a decent ghost story from that era to my "Hallowe'en Countdown". Although some people may argue that the story is more to do with time travel than ghosts, I'd say that it's possible to take this fantasy in just about any way you like.

The truth is, however, that if it is a ghost story then it isn't a scary one. It's a romance above all, but, unlike "The Uninvited" (1944), this doesn't go in for oodles of dated dialogue to create and solve a mystery that you don't even care about in the first place. You will care about the characters in this story and, probably, you'll have a ton of questions after watching it that there simply isn't any explanation for.

I first watched "Portrait of Jennie" one rainy Saturday afternoon when I was about 10 or 11 years old and BBC2 used to have such films showing as a matinee. Since I hated "World of Sport" and "Grandstand" with a passion, I used to switch over to BBC2 as soon as "Swap Shop" or "Saturday Superstore" ended (I never could stand the screaming and shouting on ITV's kids' shows either) and watch the movies until it was time for the wrestling to start back on ITV.

Back in those days of only three TV channels, I watched all sorts of films which entertained me but I considered quite throwaway such as Cary Grant comedies or horribly boring Bogart detective capers. For something to come along like "Portrait of Jennie" was quite a treat especially as it had enough ghost story elements to it to draw me in immediately. As you probably know, I was into anything supernatural at quite an early age and it didn't matter at all to me that "Portrait of Jennie" was a "girls' film" at all. Hell, I even used to read "Misty" which was a supernatural comic for girls along with my weekly "2000 A.D.".

But I digressed. What I liked (and still like) about "Portrait of Jennie" was that it was something completely different to the usual matinee films on offer. This beautifully shot film had class to it which even my as yet completely undiscerning mind could recognise.

I had no idea who Jennifer Jones or Joseph Cotton were and, to be honest, I still have very little knowledge about them now although I know that the latter was in a few horror genre films in the 1970s which weren't very good. In "Portrait of Jennie" you can't fault their acting even though both were really too old for their parts but, as it seemed to be the rule to pair an older actor with a younger actress in these things, I never even noticed until now just how ill-matched they actually were both to each other and their roles. Even then it's simply nit-picking for the sake of it as there's nothing wrong with their performances at all.

Joseph Cotton really looks his age in this but Jennifer Jones, through various pieces of trickery and an obvious height difference, actually appears to age a few years each time she appears which really is very clever indeed. She still doesn't quite reach an acceptable age where you could class Joseph Cotton's character as anything more than a dirty old man from a modern perspective but nobody thought like that in the 1940s especially as the war probably wiped out most eligible bachelors of the right age in real life. Society was different and age gaps of twenty years or so in relationships weren't considered as dubious as they are today. Even so, the fact that Jennie starts off as a schoolgirl is still a bit suspicious.

The story really is about how love can transcend time and space which apparently was a big thing in literary circles. "Portrait of Jennie" was based on a novella by Robert Nathan which I have never actually read but Wikipedia says is a "modern masterpiece of fantasy fiction".

Later on, "Somewhere in Time" (1980) used a similar plot and was probably the best thing that Christopher Reeve and Jane Seymour ever starred in. I like that film as well which is strange considering that I am a hardcore horror fan at heart.

I'm not going to give any plot spoilers about "Portrait of Jennie" as it's a movie which I recommend that you all watch as cold as possible. There are several technical surprises especially during the last ten minutes which I will just say won't surprise anyone who has seen "The Picture of Dorian Gray" (1945) but I'll leave it at that.

If you like movies such as "The Sixth Sense" (1999) then "Portrait of Jennie" is definitely a precursor to it while, at the same time, being actually really nothing like it at all.

October 12, 2011

I bought that for a dollar - part 4

Two more horror films from the '70s which I also have several times over on Mill Creek packs. Still a bargain for $1.

I've already reviewed them: Moon of the Wolf (1972) and Snowbeast (1977).

October 11, 2011

The Uninvited (1944)

"A composer and his sister discover that the reason they are able to purchase a beautiful gothic seacoast mansion very cheaply is the house's unsavoury past."

I'm finally back to working on my "Hallowe'en Countdown" with another ghostie film which I'd never seen before. I'd never seen "The Uninvited" available as a DVD (not even a bootleg) or even a VHS tape and if it was ever shown on British TV then I simply must have missed it.

Luckily, TCM had a marathon of classic black and white horror movies on Monday night through to Tuesday morning and "The Uninvited" was one of them. Although it meant suffering through the irritatingly repeated poem of "The Wolf Man" (1941) beforehand, I missed most of that awful Universal dreck due to not knowing that TCM was on channel 63 on my cable box and having to surf for it.

Anyway, I finally got to see "The Uninvited" which a lot of horror movie review sites say was Hollywood's first attempt at a "serious ghost story". Well, it was and it wasn't especially since, aside from its Paramount Studios locations which are supposed to be Cornwall, it's very British. I'd call it more of a creepy romance with Ray Milland trying to be funny and failing than anything else.

There were quite a few bizarre relationships in "The Uninvited" which were actually a lot more interesting than the ghost story itself. Ray Milland's character and his sister immediately suggested incest to me (viewing it from a 21st century perspective), and I'm sure that he was supposed to be a middle-aged man who was trying to pick-up a naive girl half his age to boot. If this was purely artifice to allow the characters some romantic mobility then it was done badly.

The facts that the original owner of the house had been having an affair and his wife was certainly the object of a lesbian crush (if not more) stood out inarguably even if I may have been making more out of the other relationships than a 1940s audience would. Older men who live with their sisters while courting young girls wasn't quite so weird back then, I suppose.

You would think that even the laziest writer would still have mirrored the past with the present. For Ray Milland to not play a married man having an affair was a wasted opportunity which countless ghost stories since have reworked (right up to this year's "American Horror Story" on TV). Thus, for me, the story itself wasn't neat enough. It was a mess which meandered from one thing to another with far too much spoken exposition.

The reasons for the haunting were already predictable so the back stories became tedious rather than mysterious and the final "exorcism" of the ghosts turned out to be anticlimactic to say the least.

"The Uninvited" may have been an attempt at a serious ghost story but it wasn't a very good one. A lot of the formulas for future ghost stories, including getting a house for a lot less than its real value, animals being used to show that there is something very wrong there, and the "Cassandra truth" trope (and its reverse) being used ad nauseum, were laid down here so I have to give it credit for originality but that is all.

It wasn't a scary film. There was no real air of menace about the haunting and no tension. Although some of the effects were good for the time, unfortunately, Ray Milland completely ruined the atmosphere of the whole thing by being far too jocular and by mimicking the Irish housekeeper's accent at every opportunity.

I'm rating "The Uninvited" as just average. If you haven't ever seen it then you haven't missed anything important.

TCM are showing it again on Sunday, October 30th, at 9.15am.

October 9, 2011

Torchwood: Miracle Day (2011)

I'm still ill so I watched season four of "Torchwood" on Netflix. I didn't even know that there even was a season four until I clicked on the link by accident as I gave up on everything "Doctor Who" related after David Tennant left and was replaced by that bow-tied gonk.

"Torchwood", however, has always been aimed at adults and, since it has often contained some borderline horror scenarios among all the bullshit sci-fi adventuring, I thought I'd better watch the entire ten-hour movie in one go.

Yes, unlike all the other seasons of "Torchwood", this one really did look and feel like an extremely dragged out movie. I didn't get too bored with it but I'm sure the story could have been told in half the time with no detrimental effects.

It also needed to have more Gwen in it. Call me superficial, but Eve Myles is my main reason for ever watching "Torchwood" in the first place. Although she makes me happy, she makes me sad at the same time too. I suppose it must be love.

The things which make me happy when I'm watching Eve Myles play Gwen Cooper should be obvious to everyone. Just look at her! She's gorgeous and everso slightly rough enough around the edges to almost be obtainable. Unfortunately, her character is inconsistent and bizarrely married to the loutish Rhys (AKA "Backstory Barry") who I find pointless and can't stand. Every interaction that she has with the moron makes my flesh crawl.

But enough of that. You probably want to know what "Miracle Day" was about, don't you? Well, basically, death was taken out of the world in a "Twilight Zone" fashion. Everybody had immortality without health or eternal youth, as in "The Asphyx" (1973) or the Greek myth of Tithonus, apart from Captain Jack Harkness who became mortal instead.

It was a great idea but I couldn't help but feel like I'd seen it all before especially with Owen Harper's story in season two. To be completely blunt about it, the brief glimpses into how the world was changing, outside of any hospital scenes with all their gore, didn't really work either.

I liked that some movie actors were involved in this including Bill Pullman, C. Thomas Howell, and the guy who played "Q" in "Star Trek: The Next Generation" whose name I can never remember, but not enough was made of any of them really. Bill Pullman played a convicted paedophile and murderer who had been saved from execution by the "miracle" and did a great job in places, but far too much emphasis was placed on the limited TV actors around him which restricted his performance, not that he's ever been the greatest actor in the world either.

As usual for "Torchwood" there was an abundance of gay sex, gay innuendoes, and, just John Barrowman being even more gay than the bisexuality originally intended for his character. Another thing which Russell T. Davies always does which annoys the piss out of me is setting up characters as the "Emperor's new clothes" and getting others to praise their physical beauty when they clearly have none. Some of the lines used to achieve that end were absolutely cringeworthy.

Apart from that, it was all as predictable as you can imagine. Captain Jack was, ultimately, both responsible for the miracle and, of course, its solution with various flashbacks to explain it all. John Barrowman was really looking his age too but there was one flippant remark which indicated that he was supposed to be in his forties now so I'm forced to let that plothole slide. Maybe being mortal for a few days aged him? Watching ten episodes of "Torchwood" back-to-back certainly aged me.

I really hope that there isn't a fifth season of "Torchwood" as it can only get worse now especially as it's become very American and lost most of its gritty British charm as a result.

October 8, 2011

RIP David Hess

David Hess, of "The Last House on the Left" (1972), has died aged 69.

I was going to write something earlier but I thought I'd wait until Dai Green from HorrorNews.net got her piece up first: Dai Of The Dead - David Hess.

Thanks to Dai, I got to speak to David Hess on the "Podcast From Hell" and asked him all about how he became involved in such big TV shows as "The Fall Guy", "Knight Rider", "The A-Team" and "Manimal". I think he was pleased that someone remembered how he had played other roles apart from Krug Stillo. David put it to me that "Manimal" was the first lycanthrope TV show which is something that I had never really thought about before.

David's death was very unexpected and sad news. He was a lovely guy and will be greatly missed.

Upcoming Horror Movie - The Awakening (2011)

"1921 England is overwhelmed by the loss and grief of World War I. Hoax exposer Florence Cathcart visits a boarding school to explain sightings of a child ghost. Everything she knew in unravels as the 'missing' begin to show themselves." (from IMDb)

According to writer Stephen Volk, "The Awakening" is "similar to a lot of other good ghost story movies like The Innocents, The Devil's Backbone and The Orphanage."

As you can clearly see from the trailer, it also has the look and atmosphere of "The Others" (2001) about it too.

"The Awakening" is due to be released in the UK on November 11th.

There is no date given for when it will be available in the US but let's hope it's soon!

October 7, 2011

My largest project yet

I've got a terrible cold at the moment and don't feel like writing any reviews. Rather than sit around doing nothing though, I decided to create "The Horror Movie Database".

Check it out: http://thehorrormoviedatabase.blogspot.com

Obviously, I haven't added much to it yet other than 35 stubs for horror films from the 1920s and 1930s but this isn't something that's going to happen overnight.

The idea will be that you can leave your review of each film in the comments section, links to your review on your own blog or whatever else you want.

As much as I would like to write about 10,000 horror movie reviews all on my own, that ship has already sailed. To be honest, I'm getting bored with writing about horror movies when I'd much rather just be watching them.

The Human Centipede II: Full Sequence (2011)

"Inspired by the fictional Dr. Heiter, disturbed loner Martin dreams of creating a 12-person centipede and sets out to realize his sick fantasy."

Although I was surprised by how tame "The Human Centipede" (2009) was, I still enjoyed it and so I was really looking forward to this sequel which promised, among other things, to really increase the gore. Unfortunately, due to IFC's censorship, "The Human Centipede II" still didn't really show anything, or at least not enough for it to live up to the hype.

It was well made and shot beautifully in black and white, but Tom Six still didn't manage to go quite far enough with it or have enough depth to the characterisation to make me even care about what happened. I simply had no sympathy for any of the characters, and although in several cases, I think they deserved what happened to them, the overall effect was that none of it was particularly satisfying.

The exception was Laurence R. Harvey who reminded me of Peter Lorre in a lot of ways. In spite of never saying a single word, he's actually even more sinister than Deiter Laser who everybody raved about after seeing the first film.

It was gory, but it paled in comparison to my favourite shock film from last year, "A Serbian Film" (2010), which just had a lot more going on and better production values.

The whole "Human Centipede" concept is a one-trick pony which isn't really amusing anymore. Even "South Park" has parodied it, so the joke has had its day. Everybody knows that I'm sick enough to enjoy as much visceral and fecal action as a director can throw at me, but I hate to admit it, I was a bit bored by it all.

Just as Martin didn't quite realise his dream of joining 12 people together ass-to-mouth (as he only managed 10), Tom Six didn't actually achieve the shocking sequel which he wanted either. You can blame IFC for the cuts, but even with whatever was censored being put back in for the inevitable "Director's Cut" DVD, there's nothing here that any hardcore horror fan hasn't already seen before.

I'm rating "The Human Centipede II" as just average. It'll disturb some people, and there will be quite a few faux horror fans who will get on their hypocritical soap boxes and vow never to watch it, but the only reason anybody with a brain should really boycott this film is because of the censorship.

October 6, 2011

American Horror Story

"American Horror Story" premiered last night on FX, and so I'm interrupting my scheduled blogging to give you my thoughts on the first episode.

Basically, I thought it was good. It's going to take a while to really pick up, but it's already got a "Twin Peaks" feel to it for me. I can see it lasting for at least one season and possibly even two. The haters are already saying that it won't last for five episodes before it gets axed. but we shall see.

The pace was very fast. The biggest flaw to this "pilot" episode was that it tried to pack too much and too many characters in at once, but I'm sure that it will even out over time. Obviously, the intention was to appeal to the largest audience as quickly as possible so there were definitely a lot of clichéd ghost story formulas including a recognisably Amityville-style curse and some noticeable borrowing from "The Shining".

Of course, it was derivative as hell, the special effects were very much TV quality, and the dialogue reeked of "Nip/Tuck" due to who the creators are, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it. The sets and make-up were outstanding so it certainly looked the part.

The story itself was a bit messy, not all that scary or horrific either, but I can see all that changing as the characters start getting more fleshed out and it becomes possible to care about them. I'm not sure if I will care much about all the relationship problems which are going to keep cropping up (especially with the teenage daughter who seemed to be little more than a female version of Matt McNamara), but the acting and characterisation is likely to carry this along just like "Nip/Tuck". We all know how that series had some of the most preposterous storylines ever.

Although I wish that I could now unsee Dylan McDermott cranking (and I think I've seen enough of his bare buttocks for a lifetime too), I'm certainly going to keep tuning in each week for Moira the sexy housekeeper. It goes without saying that I prefer the younger model played by Alexandra Breckenridge (above). It's a neat twist that everyone else apart from Ben (Dylan McDermott) sees her as the scarier-looking Frances Conroy.

One thing I picked up on, but many people wouldn't have noticed, was that the psycho teenager played by Evan Peters (from the much lamented "Invasion") was introduced with "Georgie's Theme" from "Twisted Nerve" (1968). Some people might recognise the whistling from "Kill Bill" as it was used there too, but the intended "pop-culture reference" wasn't wasted on me.

It was also nice to see Jessica Lange in something again. I last saw her in "Hush" (1998) which wasn't a good film and, unfortunately, she seemed to be playing much the same pushy, Southern role here. I just hope that her kleptomaniac character becomes far more deliciously evil as there were huge hints that she will.

The biggest name in this appears to be Connie Britton, but I've never seen her in anything other than the very disappointing "Nightmare on Elm Street" remake so I'm not sure what all the fuss is about with her yet. She's acting a good part (albeit channelling Joely Richardson's delivery without the bulging-eyed, gasping face), but I'm not liking her "eco-friendly" character too much especially as it has already been revealed that she's got a very kinky sex-life going on with her gimped-up husband which is far more interesting.

Anyway, if you missed both showings of "American Horror Story" last night, don't worry because I'm sure FX will repeat this episode again next week before the new one.

You can also check out the Facebook page and official website for more details.

October 5, 2011

I bought that for a dollar - part 3

What a bargain! A Barbara Steele double-feature.

"Nightmare Castle" (1965) and "The Ghost" (1963) are both Italian horrors which tend to crop up on lots of public domain DVD multi-packs.

I haven't watched either of these films since I bought this DVD three years ago so I'll be reviewing them soon.

Tonight, I'm watching "American Horror Story" on FX instead.

October 4, 2011

Borderland (2007)

"On a trip to a Mexican border town, three college friends stumble upon a human-sacrifice cult."

Loosely based on a case which occurred in Mexico in 1989 where a satanic cult called "narcosatanicos" killed at least 20 people, "Borderland" actually turned out to be little more than a clone of "Hostel" (2005) and "Turistas" (2006). So now you have another country which you know never to visit.

It's not a bad story and, considering it was one of the "After Dark Horrorfest" films, it's actually very well made. I wasn't too keen on the look of it to begin with as it went the clichéd route of using lots of browns but I found myself getting drawn in by the characters who weren't such complete assholes as you'd usually find in something of this nature.

Of course, the biggest attraction for me was Martha Higareda who played Valeria. There wasn't much else to look at since it was a mostly male film with three pretty boy TV actors, one a bit rougher round the edges than the others, and a load of sinister Mexicans. Sean Astin was in it as one of the bad guys but I couldn't tell if he was acting or not.

The torture and gore scenes were some of the most evil which I've ever seen, not because of the effects per se, but just in the mean-spirited way that they carried out. These were probably the sickest bunch of satanists that I've seen portrayed on film to date.

Although it was all rather slow, the only place "Borderland" really fell down was towards the end when it just got messy and didn't follow the normal formula for doing things. The dynamic changed in a very extreme way and the last fifteen minutes or so felt like a whole new film had been tacked on.

The ending itself was very unsatisfying as it ran out of steam and used title cards to say what happened afterwards rather than neatly tying up all the loose ends within the action itself.

Overall, I enjoyed it but it was just another slightly below average "torture porn" with different actors and locations.

October 3, 2011

Preparing my Hallowe'en snacking - part 2

Since I'm always on the lookout for new things to eat while trying to concentrate on whichever pointless victim is having their insides torn out on the screen in front of me, I happened across these yesterday.

Yummy Earth Organic Hot Chili Pops, in spite of the nauseatingly childish name, are very good although certainly not "The BEST Lollipop I've ever tasted" unlike the quotation from someone I've never heard of on the bag.

$1.99 from HomeGoods

They come in two flavours, Chili Lime Lambada and Chili Mango Mambo, but you won't be able to tell much difference after sucking on two or three of them as, if you are truly lame, your mouth may be on fire. They do really taste of lime and mango though.

Since I cannot abide people who don't like hot food, and detest children even more so, you can only begin to imagine the gleefulness which will fill my very soul when I put some of these bad boys out for unsuspecting "Trick or Treaters".

Find the cat!

These photographs have been getting passed around on Facebook recently so I thought I'd share them on here for those of you who don't use it.

See if you can find the cat in the following pictures.

Tricky, aren't they? Treats will be provided later.

October 2, 2011

American Psycho 2 (2002)

"A girl named Rachael has developed a taste for murder and will stand at nothing to become a college professor's assistant."

I saw that this was on Netflix so I thought I'd better see what all the fuss about Mila Kinis was about. Since I'm not overly impressed by actresses with whining voices and heads which appear to be too large for their bodies, I didn't think I'd get much out of the experience.

I'd only seen Mila Kunis in "The Book of Eli" and "Black Swan" (both from 2010) and she seemed to be okay but nothing exceptional. Going back to a film she made eight years before, however, showed her to be absolutely dreadful.

"American Psycho II: All American Girl", to give it its longer title, had very little in common with the original "American Psycho" (2000) so don't be fooled by the trailer. Christian Bale was nowhere to be found in this and the whole production reeked of lame teen comedy.

The story was so simple as to be actually rather dull. Mila's character wanted to be an FBI profiler and decided to kill off any classmates (or other impediments) who might stand in the way of securing a teaching assistant's job which would fasttrack her into the Bureau.

It all went a little bit too smoothly apart from some ineffectual interference from Geraint Wyn Davies as a psychiatrist. Maybe if he'd still been Nick Knight some vampire action might have spiced things up a bit.

There were a couple of good kills but nothing too much on camera which was a shame. Although Mila Kunis seemed to be trying to act in her part as serial-killer Rachael, she wasn't very convincing especially without a ton of gore which could have backed her up. Everything was just too sanitised and bland.

One surprise was seeing William Shatner in something other than "Star Trek", "TJ Hooker" or any of those stupid commercials that he does now. Let's be honest here, William Shatner was never the greatest actor in the world but he was a very attractive man when he was younger. To cast him as a philandering college professor was not exactly a stroke of genius however as it just didn't feel right considering his age and weight.

One moment did have me on the edge of my seat but not for a good reason. At one point, the killer (who we don't know at this stage) puts a cat in a microwave oven to distract his owner. It was completely unnecessary to show something like that even though the cat was rescued instantly. There are some stupidly impressionable people out there and I know for a fact that some retarded teenage kids did that very thing quite recently in Canada with a far more tragic result. I don't care what happens to humans in horror movies but stuff like this should not be shown ever.

Because of that scene and the fact that Mila Kunis' voice was worse than somebody scratching their nails down a blackboard to me, I'm throwing this crappy film straight into The Dungeon where it belongs.

If you're a fan of the original "American Psycho", I highly recommend that give this a miss.