Here’s all my old horror film reviews in one easy to find place.
Hannibal Rising Feb 13 2007 Cinema
After show stopping turns in both the classic Silence of the Lambs and the underrated Hannibal, Anthony Hopkins had cemented his place as the thinking man’s horror icon. Therefore it was a bold but no less clever step to cast a relative unknown to fill Hopkins’ boots in a film telling the earlier years of Hollywood’s most famous celluloid serial killer. Hannibal creator Thomas Harris has spun a gripping tale of how the young and later 20-something Lector becomes who we know him as. The story of his beginnings and witnessing his family’s murder at the hands of Nazi soldiers paves a believable path for one young child to slowly descend into retribution and eventually pure evil. I had every faith that this was a believable way for someone to turn into a monster. The actor playing Lector (Gaspard Ulliel) is quiet, menacing and works a treat, even if he lacks the Oscar-baiting star-turn of Hopkins (but then again, this is about how a man becomes a serial killer, so it makes sense the portrayal be more simplistic). It’s also far less gory than other Hannibal films, but no less effective.
Gong Li turns in a better performance here as Lector’s estranged Mother-figure than she did in Miami Vice, and is very sexy. Reese Ifans as the Broadway villain-esque Nazi that Lector is ultimately after, is great but sports a dodgy accent that makes him comical at times. Yet overall, this is a worthy addition to the Hannibal Lector cannon, and is probably a better film than Red Dragon.
Verdict: 3.5 /5
Saw 3 Oct 31 2006 Cinema
The concept behind Saw is incredible. A genius serial killer who places his victims in elaborate puzzles so they will face the fear that has been controlling their life, and their only way out is to go against the one thing that drives them. In some ways he is trying to help them, but be it through their weakness or inability to go against what they believe, they normally fail, gruesomely. With each new instalment the game is made more complex and more intriguing. We learn more about mastermind killer Jigsaw and every time we are lead in a certain direction, facing our own fears (usually the kind that makes you shriek, cringe and vomit) only to be shown that what we were set up to believe is not actually what it’s all about. We have then also become the latest victim in Jigsaw’s macabre masterpiece. You see to watch and understand Saw is to see a true masterpiece unfold; kind of like a magician’s greatest ever trick, and then being told how he managed to pull the wool over your eyes time and again. You come away from this, as you will from the previous two, astonished, amazed and breathless, like you’ve just been witness to something truly remarkable. If not, then step aside as you’re obviously not worthy.
Verdict: 5 /5
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre Oct 27 2006 DVD
Horror movies are getting nastier. That’s a fact that some may find hard to swallow. After the late eighties / early to mid nineties lull in horror movies being anything but teenagers getting stalked by some prick in a ghost face mask, horror has lacked both bite and imagination. The Scream franchise tried to change this, mostly successfully but spawned only another wealth of stalk and slash copies with none of that film’s knowing wink to the genre.
So now we come to another teenagers in the middle of nowhere flick, and this one is a remake of a classic, probably one of the first true video nasties. What we get here is a blue print of the original, given a bigger budget, much more attractive teenagers, better and much more horrible effects, and a running time that ensures you are gone before it gets a bit too much. I liked this, because it does what you want it to – it’s really gory, it’s exciting, it has great dread atmosphere and it does the original justice. Yet what it didn’t do is make me forget the original and herald this as its true successor. Chainsaw 1 is scarier, more REAL and more subtle – which if you know anything about horror, is where it’s really at.
Verdict: 3 /5
Severance Aug 29 2006 Cinema
Brit horror is in vogue lately after such successes as The Descent and Shawn of the Dead, and this one is more along the lines of Shawn in that its laugh out loud funny and has a gang of easily relatable brit actors placed in a life threatening situation. Kind of a satire of the 70s shocker Deliverance (although thankfully free of that film’s most controversial sequence), this follows the story of a group of office-types on a back-to-nature team building exercise in a woodland middle-of-nowhere. Soon though it transpires they are not alone, and begin getting picked off one by one in increasingly nasty ways. Surprisingly from the same team that brought us the thoroughly unpleasant Creep, this very likeable comedy / horror does something special, weaving the laughs expertly with a very real chill and some spot-on-gore. Football Factory’s Danny Dyer is obviously the star of the show, but the script is packed with some priceless moments, and the tension and atmosphere builds well, that despite the comedy you really do panic for these people and hope they come out with at least most of their limbs intact!
A breath of fresh air after the usual summer machismo.
Verdict: 3 /5
The Fly Special Edition July 27 2006 DVD
Re-released on Fox’s new Cinema Reserve label, this classic 1986 horror film from controversial director David Cronenberg (Dead Ringers, A History of Violence) is a very different kind of experience to that of your usual fair. With a much more emotional story and no actual villain – this is as much a tragic love story as it is a full on gore-flick.
Jeff Goldblum plays geeky scientist Seth Brundel, who has invented an elaborate teleportation device, and enrols reporter Gena Davis into his project and subsequently forms a relationship with her. Yet things go wrong after he sends himself through the chamber and is mistakenly spliced with a fly that was in the pod when he went through – thus starting a terrible, horrific transformation.
A remake of a classic Vincent Price movie, this has lost none of its impact 20 years on, and the special effects by effects-wizard Chris Wallis are just as impressive and might I add, vomit-inducing. Goldblum and Davis are superb as the tragic lovers, and Cronenberg’s direction is assured, calculated and powerful, every bit as good as the rest of his output.
The DVD is brilliantly presented in a steel case, with a new 2hr 49min documentary (gulp!) lots of very interesting outtakes / deleted scenes / extended scenes, publicity materials and also a commentary from the ever-fascinating Cronenberg for the film itself – which is presented near-faultlessly in an obviously cleaned up picture, 5.1 sound and anamorphic widescreen, free of much grain or shimmering. A shining example of how classic films should be treated on DVD.
Verdict: 4 /5
Silent Hill April 25 2006 Cinema
Movie adaptations of videogames rarely work (anyone remember the Street Fighter movie??), and normally they are just quick cash-ins baring almost no resemblance (at least in quality) to their namesake. In recent years there have been a wealth of big name game adaptations, from the generally-average Resident Evil franchise (with the only saving grace being the super-hot Millia Jovavich) and DOOM, that strangely does look alright, although I haven’t seen it yet.
Yet as one of the scariest games ever made, Silent Hill looked a much better choice to jump from video game console to big screen, as the games relied much more on atmosphere and story than the ‘survival horror’ of the more gun-toting Resident Evil. So it’s with relief I can report that director Christophe Gans (Crying Freeman, Brotherhood of the Wolf) has delivered one of the most faithful and effective game tie-ins yet made. The film feels like the game, it has some great special effects (especially in the day-to-night transformation scenes) and even a few nods to the Hellraiser movies. Also for a 15 rated move, this is pretty hard going, with a few moments of gore that really knock you for six. Radha Mitchell as the feisty mother who comes to the mysterious town of Silent Hill to find an answer to her adopted-daughter’s disturbing behaviour, is every bit the movie heroine, and is suitably assisted by a solid if unremarkable turn from the ever-dependable Sean Bean as the husband desperate to discover Silent Hill’s secrets before his wife and daughter get themselves killed. A special nod must also go to screenwriter Roger Avery (co-writer of Pulp Fiction and director of Rules of Attraction) for delivering a knock out script that is much more intelligent than this sort of stuff is normally treated to.
Verdict: 4 /5
Hostel April 04 2006 Cinema
When uber-geek horror director Eli Roth first came to prominence with last year’s popular but mostly disappointing Cabin Fever, many thought he showed promise for a genre that was once again falling into the cliché of big-breasted student slaughter-fests or by-the-numbers remakes of forgotten classics (that we never really needed). Then as if to truly acknowledge Roth’s many influences he delivers this very different experience of a horror movie.
This film tells the story of two back packing friends visiting Eastern Europe with nothing more on their minds than frequent bouts of alcohol and casual sex. When offered the chance to attend an exclusive ‘hostel’ with the promise of carnal pleasure, naturally, like many a guy they jump at the chance, and it’s with this initial set up we see exactly to what audience this is aimed at. It’s a bloke movie, that’s for sure, as there is more nudity in the first hour than a whole series of Porkies or (more recently) American Pie movies, and firmly ticks the box marked ‘there has to be lots of nudity in any decent horror movie’ – of which I happily agree! Then when the horror starts with the discovery of a torture and dismemberment ‘club’ where locales can come and gleefully murder with no consequences, you are already fully along for the ride. This is of course a movie of two halves, but the build up is funny, entertaining and kind of a blinker to the excruciating, vomit-inducing nastiness of the final act. We get fingers chopped off, echillis tendons sliced and lots of body parts all over the place. OK its no where near the blood bath it might have been (for that kinda stuff, maybe you should look to the Japanese horrors this film is so obviously saluting – made most obvious with a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance by Korean shock master Takeshi Miike), yet the tension and the overall concept is excellently realised and I came away thinking this director is getting better all the time – and maybe with his next movie he could very well change the face of horror for good.
Verdict: 3 /5
The Hills Have Eyes March14 2006 Cinema
New-breed horror film director Alexandre Aja, hailing from France first impressed me with his knuckle-gnawing masterpiece Switchblade Romance (aka Haute Tension), and this, his American debut is a classy remake of an old Wes Craven flick that time has pretty much forgotten. Yet naturally with the big-hitters like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Amityville Horror already done, and the likes of Halloween and A Nightmare on Elm Street deemed too glorious to be ripped off (hopefully), then I came to this with incredible anticipation.
Now I must say straight away that its not nearly as inventive (or daft) as Switchblade, but can be just as vomit-inducing nasty, and the tension is maxed out by a great, slow build up and some quality camera work, with ingenious use of fast forward and eerie sound effects. The lost-in-the-middle-of-nowhere dynamics and the hillbilly nutcases vs innocent family with skeletons in closet theme has been done to brain-numbing death, and for a film that knows how to make you jump and squirm in all the right places, it is also jam-packed with cliché following cliché and glaring moments of character stupidity that should have died with the advent of the all-knowing Scream franchise.
Yet it passes the running time nicely, has some truly good moments, and the cast, including an under-used Ted Levine (aka Buffalo Bill, Silence of the Lambs) that bird out of lost who was preggers, and Aaron Stanford (XMEN 2, 3) putting in a gutsy gone-through-hell performance keep you interested throughout.
Verdict: 3 /5
House of 1000 Corpses February 06 2006 DVD
Rob Zombie is a rock star turned director. Now it’s not hard to predict what kind of stuff he might direct, given the moniker he has for himself. I first became aware of this guy watching this film’s follow up, the thoroughly nasty but effective The Devil’s Rejects, a road movie-come-love letter to Charles Manson via The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. A group of teenagers (or twenty-something’s, I didn’t really care) fall upon a crazy fun house that holds a deep dark secret. After the initial set up we are introduced to a family of serial killers, including a cute-ass jail-bate blonde, a long haired hillbilly nut job, a deformed ‘Leather Face’ rip off and a loony tunes, big breasted mother – and not to mention the head of the family, Clown make-up wearing Captain Spaulding, easily one of the most disturbing and bizarre creations in the genre. Teenagers are tortured, trussed up in bunny costumes, forced to run for their lives through cob-web filled catacombs and all the time Rob Zombie lays it on thick with frenetic editing, weird colour schemes and a hallucinatory approach that makes the whole thing feel like a very horrible nightmare. Now if like me, you love horror at its most extreme, then naturally this will be high on your must see list. Its not exactly perfect stuff, as the second half is where it’s all at, and some of the acting is a bit off, but Rob still delivers a trip of a movie that isn’t easily forgotten.
Verdict: 3 /5
Wolf Creek January 20 2006 DVD
Two brit girls and an Ozzy guy go back-packing into the Australian outback in search of the legendary Wolf Creek, the place where a meteorite crash landed years previous. Hyped as one of the nastiest and scariest horror movies in years, this initial set up brought on a feeling of deja-vu – why do these teenagers always go into the middle of nowhere, then seem surprised when a crazed mad man starts hunting them down one by one? Yet this film has a few more brain cells than most with gutsy performances from the three likeable leads, and an unfamiliar psycho-killer in the shape of a lovable Ozzy bushman with a sinister edge. After a lengthy built up, this intelligent film (supposedly based on true events) grabs hold in the closing scenes and delivers some nasty shocks (look out for the ‘head on a stick’ sequence) – yet ultimately I felt a little short changed with a film that tried to be two things at once, a meaningful look at three people back-packing, and then a balls to the wall slasher film – focusing too much on the former and not enough on the latter – so, no this really can’t compare to Switchblade Romance or even The Descent.
Verdict: 3 /5
The Descent December 11 2005 DVD
After the dismal Creep, I was all prepared to give up on the British horror stable, but then along came this equally nasty but much more gripping film about a group of female pot-holers and their trip into an uncharted cave. A familiar looking cast (although their names escape me – obviously nobody big) fills out a claustrophobic script full of snappy, believable dialogue and heart-in-mouth tension. What first appears to be a survival thriller soon enters chiller territory as the film progresses, and this viewer found himself increasingly unnerved. This well made film (from the director of the acclaimed Dog Soldiers) had much in common with the hideously over-hyped and to be frank, shit The Blair Witch Project, offering just as much potential, but this time delivering on its promise. One of the real horror gems of 2005.
Verdict: 4 /5
Saw 2 November 01 Cinema
One of the best ever concepts in horror movies. Yes it’s the age old serial killer plot with hapless Cops trying to figure out how to stop him, but this time he’s not personally offing his prey but pitting them, often against one another in a grizzly puzzle game. The movie opens with a guy waking up to find an elaborate death mask prepared like a Venus Fly Trap on a timer ready to spring shut, and unless he locates the key he is dead. The first instalment of this fiendishly clever horror was one of my favourite movies of last year – a stylish, shocking and unique throat grabber that refused to let go, and with a twist more impressive than a dozen Sixth Sense’s. This follow up is no less effective, with the initial idea fleshed out by revealing the killer earlier on, even though it brings the Cops no closer to freeing a group of Twenty somethings from a booby-trap infested house. Ingenuously put together, with quite a bit of gore, a massive dose of intensity due to the protagonists impending doom, and a shocking a final twist that works just as well as the first. Just see it.
Verdict: 4 /5
House of Wax October 28 2005 DVD
Films like this are ten-a-penny these days it seems after the massive success of the Scream franchise. Also remakes of classic films are all the fashion too, and although not a direct remake of the ancient Vincent Price movie of the same theme, this teens in peril slasher flick works surprisingly well despite not having an original bone in its body. Several pretty Hollywood brats get stranded in a spooky town (stop me if you have heard this before…) and soon find themselves getting butchered by the local nut job. Yet as an interesting spin on an old formula, it all starts with the discovery of a Wax museum, where the non-famous figures displayed inside are frighteningly realistic. Over the course of one night, our cannon-fodder teens must find out what has happened to the town’s locals and figure a way of escaping. Naturally the team split up, so finding each other when they go missing is reason enough for these kids not to just run away, but the murders become predictable and it soon leads to a big reveal you see coming a mile off. Girl Next Door’s Elisha Cuthbert is the stand out in a largely unrecognisable cast (yet Paris Hilton is not bad either), and there is a good feeling of dread, some very exciting moments and good gore (a finger getting cut off comes to mind), and also the ending is quite spectacular, showcasing some quality special effects.
Verdict: 3 /5
The Company of Wolves October 21 2005 DVD
Neil Jordan’s often forgotten fantasy horror is for me one of the most unique and memorable horrors of the eighties. With an Alice in Wonderland meets Little Red Riding Hood theme set in a dream like, oldy-worldy surrounding, this follows a surreal tale of a girl’s flirtation with the dangers of men whose eye brows meet in the middle, creepy grandma’s, amorous farm boys and chilling nightmares. A difficult film to describe in terms of why it works, but I’d say the observations above are pretty close to how this film feels. Sarah Patterson as the virginal Rosaleen is undeniably attractive as the red-riding hood lead, but the show is stolen by a perfect Angela Lansbury as the slightly strange grandmother who tells macabre tales to her young granddaughter of werewolves and the dangers of the woods. Probably the second best werewolf movie ever made (the first is An American Werewolf In London).
The DVD is presented in a deluxe metal case and houses a booklet and on the disc itself a commentary by the director, some behind the scenes pictures and a trailer. Light-weight I agree, but the film makes up for any short comings in a quality wide screen transfer even if we are only treated to stereo sound rather than 5.1.
Verdict: 4 /5
Land of the Dead September 27 2005 Cinema
Since the late sixties the zombie movie has become one of the most popular genres in the horror cannon. I think the appeal comes from the disturbing notion that once rational minded ordinary folk come back to life and feed on other human beings (with just a scratch or bite is enough to turn you into one of the undead, and the fact that a friend or a family member can just as easily become your enemy). George A. Romero has become synonymous with the idea of marauding zombies, having crafted his own trilogy, all with one careful eye on society around him, with in-jokes and political references a-plenty. Yet for me I felt each film failed to duly kick ass like say, a Lucio Fulci film might, and the politics can often dilute the job the film originally came to do – scare the shit out of you. ‘Dawn of the Dead’ remains the masterpiece, but both the original ‘Night of the Living Dead’ and the often heavily criticised ‘Day of the Dead’ also have their moments.
With moderate excitement that the guy who pretty much created the zombie movie was stepping up to deliver his latest (and last?) gory masterpiece following the high quality remake of Dawn last year, I sat down to this film with baited breath. I had heard good things, and despite the casting of mostly b-list actors (with a notable exception of Asia Argento and especially screen legend Dennis Hopper), I had decided this could not fail. Well good news horror fans! This movie delivers with some great action, witty one-liners, some good characters (Argento and a stand out performance from John Liguizamo) and most importantly for this kind of thing, some spot on gore. Granted it doesn’t quite go for the jugular like that other living dead classic Zombie Flesh Eaters, but what gore there is, is frequent, graphic and sometimes quite surprising (a belly button ring being bitten out comes wincingly to mind). Romero’s political nods are all still relevant with a society split between surviving low lifes battling it out in the slums, to the spoilt rich living in a luxury sky scraper, ruled over by a money hungry big wig (Hopper). Now the idea may not be new (I care to recall a similar class system in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, to mention just one of many films) yet its all done with style, great looking cinematography and above all else, passion for the material, showing that even though George A. Romero hasn’t made a film in years, he still knows how to work the magic, even if the subject is a little old these days.
Now Land of the Dead doesn’t really tread new ground, and I did feel that the film was holding something back, that given how familiar Romero is with the subject, he could have easily delved deeper, even though the idea of the Zombie’s becoming more intelligent only hints at the possibilities. Yet at the end of the day, this one still packs a punch and has enough spill your pop corn moments to satisfy, and is intelligent enough to stand proudly alongside the previous instalments.
Verdict: 4 /5
Trauma September 21 2005 DVD
For many years now, Italian shock maestro Dario Argento has built up a near obsessive fan-base (of which I must be included) with his edgy brand of slasher thrillers and freaky horrors. This, his American debut from 1996 brings to a whole new audience his trade marks of black gloved killer, who-dunnit plot mechanics and startling, near operatic murder sequences. Dario’s young daughter Asia Argento (quickly becoming a respected actor / director herself) stars as anorexic Aura, who escapes a mental institute only to witness the double murder of her parents on returning to the family home, one stormy night. Soon the Police and a hotshot reporter who befriends Aura are on the tail of a killer nick named The Head Hunter, and the seemingly unconnected murders soon reach a series of dead ends. Now anyone who enjoys horror will be startled by the killer’s weapon of choice, an ingenious ‘noose-o-matic’ devices that is powered by a motor and has a noose to put around the victims neck, where a simple button pres lops the head off in agonising slow motion…which when seen here, is pretty grim stuff indeed! Dario’s film has been knocked quite a bit by fans and critics, who say it lacks much of the director’s style. This I would disagree with, as it still very much feels like an Argento film, and has some good camera work, even if proceedings are more realistic looking (no bad thing). Also Dario’s much used image of pouring rain is now a key part of the story (inspired!) and daughter Asia is a convincing troubled teenager with suitably oddball parenting (is the director trying to tell us something here?). Anyone who has seen much of Argento’s work will see many nods to his on going obsessions of the mother figure, the innocent child caught up in the unpleasant, rainstorms, and memories of the past. Grand stuff indeed.
The DVD from Optimum, while a bare bones disc presents this release in a quality wide screen transfer, the likes of which I haven’t seen so good before (including the Tartan release a few years back). The audio while only stereo is crystal clear, boosted by a haunting score, and the menus are eye catching, expressing the style of the film well. Other than that just a trailer rounds out this one, which considering the recent U.S. release (Anchor Bay) which boasted deleted scenes, interviews and a commentary by Dario Argento biographer Alan Jones, only the superior picture marks this one as the one to own.
Verdict: 4 /5
The Devil’s Rejects August 09 2005 Cinema
In the grand tradition of those drive in eighties shockers like The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, this purposely low-budget looking hillbilly slasher film follows the story of a Manson-family inspired bunch of hicks as they travel across America’s deep south leaving a bloody trail of murder and torture in their wake. Ex-rocker turned horror director Rob Zombie follows up his House of 1000 Corpses with this equally unpleasant but keenly observed tribute to the gory video nasties he obviously loved from years gone by.
Although the cast seems relatively unknown, if like me you have watched the odd eighties / seventies horror, then a few recognisable faces do crop up. Now despite its look, of steady cam grind house, it’s obvious that this is a very well made film (with some great choices of music), and the acting on show is above average, especially from the Police Captain on the killer’s trail, whose performance is nothing short of explosive. Some, if not many a viewer will find this disturbing and unpleasant, but neither will be able to deny the power of its shock content, and in such respect, the film does its job superbly – and perfectly recreates the feel of those film that pushed things a little too far. Either way, if you have the balls or the guts for it, this has to be seen by any true horror fanatic.
Verdict: 4 /5
Night of the Demons July 16 2005 DVD
Somewhat more well known in America, this first instalment of a short lived franchise was made in 1987 and jumped on the band wagon of such films like Sam Raimi’s Evil Dead and Lamberto Bava’s Demons, with a similar premise of party-hungry teenagers, trapped in a spooky house who all start getting possessed by demons. At first glance, this poorly acted, by the numbers horror has little going for it, but once you get used to the one dimensional teenage stereotypes and just switch your brain off, there is much fun to be had. Scream-queen Linnea Quigley lends some weight to proceedings in a suitably wild and unrestrained performance as one of the teenage tearaways, and as can be expected in a film like this, there’s lots of nudity, gore and one liners – and also something I didn’t expect – it’s actually pretty scary in places, especially party host Mimi Kinkade who’s floaty movement as a demonic Angela through the endless corridors is just place freaky!! Overall this ticks most boxes for what an eighties horror needs to deliver, and despite a slow start, I came away more than a little shaky by the end credits.
Note: Review is based on the U.S. Anchor Bay release.
Verdict: 3 /5
Zombi 2 (aka Zombie Flesh Eaters in the UK) July 01 2005 DVD
Heralded by horror fanatics as one of the greatest living dead movies ever made, this 1978 shocker, directed by Italian ‘Godfather of Gore’ Lucio Fulci has had quite a controversial reputation all over the world. Often heavily censored (especially here in the UK), and sometimes unfavourably compared to the more famous Dawn of the Dead, this slow burning movie still has the power to shock. The story follows a group of characters who arrive on a Caribbean island investigating the disappearance of a scientist, only to discover that the once dead are coming back to life in some sort of Voodoo ritual. Lucio Fulci has often described the film as a more authentic zombie movie, and I can see where he is coming from, what with the Caribbean setting, the more realistic make up effects and some believable characters. Compared to drive in entertainment like Return of the Living Dead and even the recent Dawn remake, this is a darker, moodier piece, but no less effective for that. Now what fans of these kind of films will be wanting to know, is does it deliver in the gore department? Well, despite a bit of a wait (the film doesn’t really splash the claret until the second half), I can say a resounding YES!! We get a graphic eye piercing, throats torn out in close up, lingering detail, and to top everything, several Zombies devowering one female character as she lies half eaten on the floor of her house (yum!). Not as gory as its history suggests, although I wasn’t expecting a bloodbath, given the age of the film and the low budget – but still came away suitably satisfied considering everything I had heard over the years.
A mention must go to this DVD’s quality. Featuring a remastered, crisp and impressive widescreen transfer, that makes the film look amazingly vivid, aswell as a wealth of audio choices from 5.1 Dolby Digital to the original Italian 2.0 soundtrack (that is also available in 5.1) – the lavish amount of time and work that has gone into bringing this classic to the masses must be applauded. This is also the 25th Anniversary edition and features a good set of extras, most importantly a 98 minute documentary and a feature length commentary. Overall a stunning package. It is also worth mentioning that the film is available in three different versions from America, namely this one aswell as the Anchor Bay release (with inferior picture quality and some missing scenes) and one from Blue Underground (with the same impressive picture and sound, but not as many extras). It’s easy to see which is the one to own. (Don’t bother with the UK Zombie Flesh Eaters ‘extreme version’ as it’s still cut).
Note: review is based on the Shriek Show / Media Blasters U.S. Region 1 release
Verdict: 3 /5
Cherry Falls June 17 2005 (Recorded off TV)
Brittany Murphy is one of those young actresses I liked immediately. I first saw her in the excellent teen movie Clueless, then several others, including Girl, Interrupted and most recently Sin City. I’d call her the new Juliet Lewis, with that quirky way she has about her and her usual choice of oddball performances. This slasher flick may be a bit beneath her now, but with a sharp script and a unique premise that for once brings the usually exploitative sex you find in these movies into the story (the killer if offing virgins, causing the sex-mad teenagers to all start banging one another); this was bringing something a little fresher to the party. OK, it all starts to get a bit silly towards the end, and the gore quota is a bit lacking for this kind of film, it still rattles along at a good pace, and kept me suitably entertained. It was also good to see Terminator & Aliens star Michael Biehn back on screen, after what seems like an age. Worth a look.
Verdict: 3 /5
The Stendhal Syndrome June 16 2005 DVD
Asia Argento’s (XXX, Scarlet Diva) second film under the direction of her father, horror movie icon Dario Argento, is one of the films that has divided opinion amongst fans. Some just can’t take to it, while others regard it as a triumph. A departure of sorts from Dario Argento’s usual theme of black gloved killer who’s identity isn’t unmasked until the very end, this slow burning, creepy psychological horror follows the story of Police Woman Anna (Asia Argento) who suffers from an unusual illness called The Stendhal Syndrome, brought on after exposure to works of art, resulting in hallucinations. After an unnerving experience at a gallery whilst on the trail of a serial rapist, Anna is attacked and raped. What begins as a who-dunnit soon turns into a disturbing battle of the sexes, ands its not until the film takes a sharp change in direction half way through, that you can appreciate just how intelligent this film really is. Dario here shows another string to his directing bow, breaking away from his normal routine to deliver a very different but no less effective chiller. It is also one of his most powerful films, especially as we watch Anna’s gradual descent into madness (a wonderfully subtle performance), and Dario’s quality camera work and eye for the unexpected (a woman is shot, and we see the bullet pass in slow motion through her cheek and come out the other side) once again impresses. Such a shift in style may cause you to overlook this film’s many strong points, as for me I only really got to understanding it after my third viewing.
Note: Review is based on Dutch Film Works release
(Special note: The picture is very dark, and looks like the film would greatly benefit from remastering (Anchor Bay, Blue Underground perhaps??) – but the sound is good, and the menus attractive, and the 70 minute Dario Argento’s World Of Horror is an excellent extra feature).
Verdict: 4 /5
Inferno May 27 2005 DVD
Dario Argento’s 1980 follow up to 1977 classic Suspiria, is every bit as stylish as that legendary horror opus, but lacks the hold that Dario’s earlier spookfest had over the viewer. By splitting the story between several characters, with for the most part no clear lead, and the most vague and strange series of events I’ve ever been dragged through, this startlingly creepy but bewildering supernatural horror is saved mostly down to its incredible look, expert camera work, and some memorable death scenes, that although lacking some of the punch of the directors other work, never fails to raise the pulse.
Note: Review is based on U.S. Anchor Bay release.
Verdict: 2.5 /5
Creep 14 May 2005 DVD
Now don’t get me wrong. I like a good horror, as anyone who knows me will attest, but I also like my horror to have some heart. This thoroughly unpleasant brit horror may have all the set up and atmosphere of something like Saw, but seems to revel a little too much in the gory nasty details. German actress Famke Potante (Run Lola Run) gives a good woman in peril, and to some extent, she’s someone I kind of cared about – but this film isn’t concerned with what you care about, moreover it prefers to torment its cast (and the viewer) with unflinching, slowly built up dread, a very unpleasant monster, some stuff about abortionists and the horrors of the London tube system (?), and in the end, I just wanted to scream ‘just fuckin’ kill them!’ – if only for some relief. The film is fairly well made, on a technical level – but for those who want entertainment from their films, look elsewhere.
Verdict: 2 /5
Phenomena 22 April 2005 DVD
Another Dario Argento horror to add to my collection, and this one has had more than a rough time with the censors and critics alike. It has quite a lot in common with his most famous film, Suspiria, being set in a boarding school and stars a nubile young girl terrorised by an insane killer. Co-starring horror icon Donald Pleasance alongside main star Jennifer Connelly in an early role, this imaginative and effective film really worked – in all the ways a Dario Argento film can work when all the ideas gel. Yes, it may not make much sense, and some of the acting is poor, but the atmosphere is top notch, the plot revolving around a telepathic connection with insects, is brilliant, and the murder set pieces are some of Argento’s finest.
Note: Review is based on the U.S. Anchor Bay release, and is the director-approved version compared to the heavily censored and cut to shreds UK video release Creepers, which really should be avoided like the plague.
Verdict: 4 /5
The Amityville Horror 12 April 2005 Cinema
As is the latest trend in Hollywood, this is again another remake of a supposed ‘classic’ horror movie. The original Amityville was a fairly effective, if patchy shocker, based it said, on a true story. It spawned a series of less true (or not true at all) sequels of varying quality, then disappeared off radar. This new version has all the bells and whistles of recent, quality fright flicks like Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Ring Two, but retains a solid foundation of seventies style chills with the admirable performances of its two leads. Melissa George (sexy ‘angel’ from Ozzy soap Home and Away) is great in what must be her first major starring role after various cameo appearances in other films, but fails to get her ‘bits’ out, much to this viewers disappointment (what happened to the almost mandatory ‘tit shot’ in horror movies?), but the female viewers are more better looked after with an impressively gritty performance from Ryan Reynolds (complete with ample bare chest shots), who’s descent into madness is convincing, even if the solution is a bit too easily realised. The scares do not just come from some gut-wrenching ‘jump’ moments, but from a creepy, genuinely scary atmosphere, and a believable back-story gives the whole movie a bit of credibility in an often thick as shit genre.
Verdict: 4 /5
Deep Red 8 April 2005 DVD
As a devoted fan of Italian shock maestro Dario Argento, I had awaited the prospect of seeing this 1975 highly regarded thriller with quite some anticipation. Heralded by fans and critics alike as the director’s finest achievement – I was therefore a little surprised and to some extent disappointed when I had finally finished watching it. This very stylish film blends brutal murders with what can only be described as farcical comedy that sits uneasily within the grisly storyline. Deep Red works best as murder mystery and has some of Argento’s finest camera work and eerie atmosphere, but failed to hold this viewers attention compared to the faster paced likes of the director’s own Tenebrae and Opera. I’m not saying it’s a bad film – in many ways it’s his best as far as plot goes, but it’s just too drawn out and slow in parts that I felt deserved to be on the cutting room floor, and Argento regular Daria Nicolleti is irritating, being at the centre of much of the film’s unnecessary comedy moments.
Note: This film is split between English dubbed dialogue and Italian with English subtitles – something that grew very annoying for me. An available choice of a full Italian soundtrack with subtitles may prove better in subsequent viewings.
Review is based on the US Anchor Bay release.
Verdict: 3.5 /5
The Ring Two 05 April 2005 Cinema
I’ll admit it. I’m not in approval of remakes of Japanese horror movies. In my opinion, there is something ultimately lost in translation when a foreign horror movie gets the Hollywood treatment, and The Grudge was a fine example of that. But in many ways, this sequel to the first remake that I refused to see on principle, was actually pretty good. Naomi Watts, who is basically the new Nicole Kidman these days, is great as the feisty reporter who moves to a knew town with her young son, having escaped the horrors of ghost child Samara in the first film. Having seen the Japanese original and its sequel I was more than ready for what this was bringing to the table, but wasn’t expecting quite the scary, unsettling and clever little horror movie I was treated to. Devotees of the Jap Ring films may be in uproar at how some of the plot has been ‘Americanised’ and I agree that seeing the ghost girl’s face (revealing her as little more than a pissed off twelve year old) does dilute some of the chill factor – but with a token creepy kid and some really rather imaginative set-pieces, this still does the job regardless.
Verdict: 4 /5
HOUSE 01 April 2005 TV
After watching the entertaining but average Bogeyman recently, I felt it refreshing to go back to the old school and watch a film that showed just how good horror movies used to be – they could be fun as well as scary (something only the Scream franchise has pulled off recently), and from the producers behind the otherwise dire Friday the 13th films, this haunted house film grabbed me with its likeable writer hero (why are the heroes in these films always writers?) and the imaginative ideas. Ok, I agree it’s all been done to death, but taking into account that when this film came out (I forget when), it was probably a little fresher, and so I watched it with that mind set – it reminded me of why I grew up loving the genre, and yes, it wasn’t gory or full of virgins in hot pants being cut to shreds with hack saws, but it also had an innocence, and an obviousness that all it really wanted to achieve was entertaining the viewer – well, good job, this viewer was very entertained! So if you can find it, on a late night movie channel or in a bargain basement – fish it out; you won’t be disappointed.
Verdict: 3 /5
Bogeyman 08 March 2005 Cinema
A good back to basics ghost story, scare-the-hell-out-of-you horror movie. That is what I expected, and to all ends, that is what I got, in this at times clever but predictable film. Telling the tale of a young boy who sees his Father taken by the closet monster; years later he discovers that all his fears and anxieties and time in the care of psychiatrists has only lead to one thing – he must face the bogeyman to save himself from certain madness and social rejection. Of course this is all just simple bullshit for a plethora of jump moments, a cheap horror movie tool to hide the fact the film really isn’t that scary, and in the end, doesn’t really answer any of your questions. Yet if you want something to jump at, occasionally laugh at and shudder during all the right moments, this does exactly what it says on the tin – just don’t expect much more for your five bucks.
Verdict: 2 /5
SAW 02 March 2005 DVD
Woo Hoo! Has it been a good time for Horror movies lately, or what? This decidedly unique and very clever American horror has seemed to have come out of nowhere. Grabbing headlines due to being pretty grizzly, but as it turns out, not really that grizzly, this sharp story of two men who finds themselves in an inescapable room, chained to pipes at opposite ends – blends darkness and chills to great effect in a thriller that goes straight for the jugular. The fancy editing lays the ground work for some neatly unpleasant flashbacks detailing the supposed ‘Jigsaw’ killer who seems to make his victims ‘kill themselves’ after placing them in an elaborate and life threatening puzzle. I was gripped from the very start – and had been a little sceptical, considering the lack of good horror lately from the U.S. I needn’t have worried though. Saw is probably the finest horror to come out of the Hollywood machine since the Oscar winning The Silence of the Lambs, and even with the now obligatory twist ending, this still left me gob-smacked.
Verdict: 4 /5
The Grudge 16 Feb 2005 DVD
After the demise of the mostly excellent series Buffy The Vampire Slayer, I have had high hopes for star Sarah Michelle Geller. Yet sadly with roles such as Daphne in Scooby Doo 1 &2, and now this thankless anyone-could-do-it performance, I’m quickly loosing hope. Directed, surprisingly by the same man who made the Japanese version Ju-On, as apposed to just some Hollywood big wig wanting to bastardise a true horror land mark (step forward American remake The Ring); I thought this might have a little more going for it. How wrong I was. It’s set in Tokyo, so yes, the glamour of American locales is avoided so not to ruin the original’s atmosphere. Yet when we get into the story, I just had a constant feeling of ‘so what?’. Creepy Chinese boy – done better in The Eye. Vengeful female spirit with more long hair than is strictly necessary – much better in the film that started it all – Ringu (The Ring). Now don’t get me wrong, this does have a few scary moments, but the back story and the whole idea behind it is just poor – why is the vengeful spirit killing people it never even met? The whole concept is supposed to be about a curse born from someone dying in total rage – fine, but why does that makes the wife and kid go nuts and not the murderous husband? And when you consider the likes of the original Ring didn’t use fancy effects (bar the final punch line) and the scary girl’s face was covered, so your idea of what lurked under all that hair was more horrifying than what actually was there, then it’s simple – Japanese horror still rocks – lets just leave it that way, Hollywood!!!
Verdict: 2 /5
Switchblade Romance 04 Feb 2005 DVD
I have wanted to watch this acclaimed French horror ever since hearing about it in Empire Magazine. Heralded as one of the best and grizzliest horrors for some time, the idea of seeing a decent horror (for a change) was very exciting – and not one big breasted / dumb-ass American teenager in sight!! Well it was easily going to be good once I had seen the cover, then even more so when we see some guy in a dilapidated truck in the opening scene, doing something unthinkable to a severed head. Horror fans who grew up on the early eighties shockers like Texas Chainsaw and Friday the 13th, rejoice – this film is exactly what you have been dreaming of for almost two decades. Following the rather simplistic story of two twenty-something French girls who go to stay with the one girl’s parents in a remote countryside house, the scene is set up predictably but no less engrossing when said truck driver decides to pay the small family a visit. Over the following 90 minutes you are treated to (if that’s the right word) a great cat and mouse thriller with some fantastic death scenes and tension so thick you could cut it with a knife (the film’s literal French title, translates as ‘High Tension’). Add to this the fact the film is superbly put together with excellent camera work and fantastic make up effects, and it seems we have a new star to look out for in the horror genre, namely director Alexander Aja.
Verdict: 5 /5
The New York Ripper 28 Jan 2005 DVD
Banned in its entirety in the UK for more than twenty years, having been refused a certificate on several occasions, this notorious early eighties slasher film has built up quite a reputation over the years. Not as infamous as other films of the time like I Spit On Your Grave or Zombie Flesh Eaters, due mainly to a critical and commercial mauling, Director Lucio Fulci’s take on the Giallo genre (made famous by Italian shock maestro Dario Argento) is still an effective, if rather crude thriller with some genuinely unpleasant murders. Maybe I’m just not that easily shocked though, as even some of the nastier bits left me puzzled with this film’s reputation with the censors, and considering this was the fully uncut version, I was expecting a whole lot more. Still the final murder is seriously nasty, if not all that graphic despite an eye piercing and nipple slicing, both using a razor blade and shown in horrible close up. Anyone after the style and imagination of Tenebrae or Opera will be disappointed, but if you want an entertaining, vaguely shocking and sleazy night’s piece of horror, then you will find much to dirty your hands with here.
Note: Review is based on U.S. Anchor Bay release.
Verdict: 3 /5
White Noise 22 Jan 2005 Cinema
Michael Keaton has been away from the big screen for too long, I think. The acclaimed star of the first two Tim Burton directed Batman films, not to mention Beatlejuice, is now back it seems in this convincing, and decidedly chilling horror. Not many Hollywood pictures can seriously convey that uncomfortable feeling that I have so recently discovered in the European and Far Eastern horror scene, so I was glad to discover this one really affected me. It tells the story of architect Keaton, who’s pregnant wife is involved in an accident and dies. He mourns her death, but finds new hope when a mysterious man introduces him to the notion that his wife may be trying to contact him from beyond the grave. At this point we are introduced to Deborah Kara Unger, the sultry sexpot from David Cronenberg’s CRASH, although any eroticism is absent here, as the chills are the focus. Keaton becomes increasingly obsessed with messages he receives through the static ‘white noise’ picture on his TV, and soon finds himself tracking a serial killer. This dark and disturbing ghost story hit all the right buttons, and had enough jumps and shocks to really grab me by the throat. A film that should be watched at the cinema, or somewhere dark and very loud.
Verdict: 4 /5
Cabin Fever 14 Jan 2005 DVD
Made at the height of the recent horror boom started by slasher thrillers such as Scream and I Know What You Did Last Summer, this film is one big homage to the mid eighties video nasty scene of such films as Evil Dead and The Burning. It tells the tale of a bunch of twenty somethings who go to a secluded cabin for a weekend of booze and sex, whilst unknown to them, a flesh eating virus is gradually leaking its way into their water supply. The tension is built up well, thanks mainly to a gradual, slow burning atmosphere and at first, few genuinely shocking moments. Then once they realise what’s happening, it’s already too late, and the gore fills the screen. For a low budget horror similarly hyped to the pitiful Blair Witch Project, I found this one had bags more personality and excellently realised horror moments (the girl shaving her legs in the bath comes immediately to mind). Yet I found the films ambition was let down by its relatively cheap make-up effects, which whilst effective in some of the more subtle moments, really could not do certain scenes justice (a girl is supposedly eaten by a dog, but this is pathetically realised on screen). Overall a film with huge potential, which has only been marginally reached.
Verdict: 3 /5
The Card Player 30 Dec 2004 DVD
The latest offering from Italian shock maestro Dario Argento is probably his most mainstream effort in years. Normally famed for his imaginative and grizzly death sequences and excellent camera techniques, this lower key thriller looses much of the director’s panache but still gels with the usual nasty ideas and women in peril themes. I found the plot about a serial killer who forces the local Police to play internet poker games in return for the lives of his kidnapped prey, thoroughly entertaining, even though I found many moments not making much sense at all. The idea was sound, but the execution, as you may have already read, is flawed, yet still hints at the director’s past glories, and still has the power to disturb.
Verdict: 3 /5