Tenebrae


Viewed – 14 April 2015  Blu-ray

When writer Peter Neal arrives in Rome on a routine promotion trip for his latest novel, he becomes the target of a deranged killer who starts murdering beautiful women in the name of his book Tenebrae.   Soon the lines between reality and fiction blur as Neal and the local detectives set out to catch the culprit and prevent more bloodshed.

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Now going into a film by acclaimed, controversial Italian director Dario Argento (Deep Red, Suspiria), I will give a word of warning.  He’s not one for casting great actors in his movies and is much more focused on the technical aspects and the twisting narrative.  This 1982 entry is no exception as actor Anthony Franciosa and much of his supporting cast, including John Saxon and Argento’s then-wife Dario Nicolodi are amateurish at best, delivering lines in a particularly wooden and unconvincing manor.  Thankfully then, Argento distracts us with a series of gloriously staged murder set-pieces, arguably some of the best in his career (the stalk and slash of the lesbians especially) and aided by a hypnotic, creepy score by Claudio Simonetti of Goblin, this remains very much an Argento movie.  The look may be simplistic and the acting poor, but for style and a keep-you-guessing plot that throws in a few surprises, including an unforgettable ending … fans of early eighties slasher movies and of the Italian maestro’s work should definitely check this out.

The Blu-ray is packed with extras in this Arrow Video re-release, boasting two commentaries, several interviews and featurettes, a reversible sleeve with newly commissioned art and an in-depth booklet.  Add to this a decent treatment for the film itself.  The picture whilst nicely detailed, is a tad over-saturated (although the garish reds suit the tone of the story) and the sound although only in 2.0 Stereo, is uncompressed so the score sounds particularly good.  Overall, a decent effort for one of Argento’s most notorious movies.

Verdict:

(the movie) 3.5 /5

(the Blu-ray)  4 /5

[REC] Apocalypse


Viewed – 02 March 2015  Blu-ray

What the previous, third entry in this popular cult franchise had in personality, gore and entertainment, it lacked in under-the-skin scares and dread, whilst adding very little to the story.  Oh and why it was called Genesis is anyone’s idea.  However a bride wielding a chainsaw will always get points from me.

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So we come to this fourth and probably final entry in the franchise, as lone survivor Angela; the reporter who managed to get through the horrors of the apartment building in the first two movies, finds herself on a boat surrounded by scientists and the military amongst the regular crew.  Have they managed to contain the virus that caused people to turn into ravenous zombies?  Thankfully this is a return to the more serious, claustrophobic and tension filled tone of the first two movies, dropping much of the schlock of the third, which at times was more comedy than horror.  The hand-held camera approach that worked so well initially doesn’t make a return however but that’s no major loss (apart from causing the title to make little sense) and I still found this pretty nail biting stuff.  Following on from the shock climax of the second movie, I enjoyed the is-she isn’t-she of Angela’s infection, wondering what the scientists are really up to, and why there seems to be a monkey running around.

In Manuela Velasco’s Angela we have a gutsy, suitably sexy heroine who is supported well by some interesting characters, including a geeky tech guy who just happens to be the plucky reporter’s number-one fan.  The movie barely touches on the demonic possession angle of the previous movies however and is much more straight-forward action horror – with a very exciting and intense final act.  Yet by the time we reach this fourth entry, clearly the story is scraping the ideas-barrel … and a parasitic organism just isn’t as scary as possession, despite the franchise’s initial potential.  For a zombie-fest though, I still had a good time.

Verdict:  3 /5

Thir13een Ghosts


Viewed – 31 October 2014  Netflix

So how was I going to celebrate Halloween this year?  Well other than some people dressing up at work, a few trick or treaters knocking my door … the easy option was to settle down with a horror movie.  I was recommended this by a friend and it tells the tale of a family man, still mourning the death of his wife who inherits a house from an uncle he never had anything to do with.  Turns out this uncle was into the occult big-time and went about finding and imprisoning various spirits within his labyrinthine house.  So sets the stage for a haunted house horror with a twist, where the house it’s self is an elaborate puzzle box that said family man and his daughter (the yummy Shannon Elizabeth) and son have to figure their way out of.

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The casting here isn’t great.  Mostly TV actors along with Scream’s Matthew Lillard (still as annoying as he ever was) as well and Monk and the girl who liked to run around in her underwear a lot in Scary Movie and American Pie (Elizabeth).  But at least we get a brilliantly designed fairground attraction of a house complete with art-decor stylings and plenty of creepy mystery.  The various ghosts are also quite imaginative and boast some cool make-up effects (clearly where much of this movie’s budget went). 

What is sad however is just how tame it all was, and there’s only really one decent kill and a complete lack of genuine danger (the ghosts are fairly inept at actually harming anyone…acting more like circus attractions).  F. Murray Abraham lends a little bit of thespian weight to proceedings but overall this was a glossy, yet Saw-light sort of experience that failed to bare it’s teeth.

Verdict:  2 /5

Wolf Creek 2


Viewed – 23 September 2014  Online rental

I recall being rather underwhelmed by the popular but fairly lightweight original, and thought it’s lengthy build up to the horror and the reveal of the killer was too drawn out.  In it’s final moments it began to come to life and had at least one stand out, nasty scene (head on a stick!).  So imagine my surprise on reading several favourable reviews of this sequel.

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Outback serial killer Mick Taylor, a bushman if ever there was a bushman in the wilderness of Australia, spends much of his time picking off tourists and back-packers who come to visit the eerie location of a huge crater, supposedly made by a meteorite.  With a fine line in Ozzy lingo and Australian history, he especially enjoys killing foreigners or anyone not well versed in the land of Oz. 

Shot well and with a keen eye for gore and violence, this feels like it’s on the right track, and is a lot more action-packed, with this time Mick being centre stage.  Now unlike the original, the mystery and atmosphere is missing in place of some stand out kills (the cops…).  Also unlike last time around there’s no real time to get invested in the innocent victims before Mick is despatching them.  Now Mick himself, played larger-than-life by John Jarratt is an interesting creation, but because the movie is all focused on him, his clichéd bushman swagger and often comical lines turns many of his scenes into farce (a truck chase to the tune of The Lion Sleeps Tonight … really?), and loses much of his potential menace – like what they did to Freddy Krueger in the Elm Street sequels.  Oh and would it have hurt to get a bit more backstory on him?  Or any for that matter. 

For the ample gore and plenty of energy, this was still fun, but for a horror it relied too much on one liners and in-jokes than actually scaring it’s audience – a big fail in my book.  Hopefully they won’t bother with Wolf Creek 3.

Verdict:  2.5 /5

Curse of Chucky


Viewed – 16 August 2014  DVD

I gave up on this series a while back after the embarrassingly bad ‘Seed of Chucky’.  However having enjoyed most of the other movies, that being Childs Play 1-3 and the very entertaining Bride of Chucky … I was willing to give this a go, especially as I had heard it was a back to its routes entry.  A paraplegic woman called Nica, living in an old house with her domineering mother, one day receives a strange package.  Yes someone has sent them a good guy doll, with no note to say who that somebody was. 

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A very basic premise this may well be and at first I was underwhelmed, but series creator Don Mancini, taking to the director’s chair delivers a well made, stylishly-shot and creepy stalk and slash horror that felt very much like the original.  We get a cute kid who see’s no wrong in a talking psychotic doll, and various supporting characters I enjoyed seeing bumped off one by one (gotta love the death by lap top…).  Some back story to the serial killer Charles Lee Ray was welcome with genre favourite Brad Dourif on fine form, getting more than just a speaking part for a change.  What was the big surprise however was kid sister Fiona Dourif (True Blood), playing wheelchair bound Nica with plenty of tough attitude and also proving the vulnerable heroine due to her disability. 

For a Chucky movie this sort-of reboots a franchise that was disappearing up it’s own arse, even if for a horror it’s packed with clichés, isn’t particularly scary and has a few moments that don’t make sense (the lack of cell phone signal, that post credits bit…).  But mostly this was a lot of fun.

Good to have you back, ya pint-sized little bastard.

Verdict:  3 /5