30 Days of Fright – 30: 30 Days of Night: Dark Days

*********************** Spoiler Warning ***********************

This movie is a sequel and discussion of it requires references to the ending of the original movie

If you haven’t seen 30 Days of Night, then you’re a gobshite, but you can read the review here so that might help a little. Gobshite!


Cinema, like professional sport, is cursed by the commercial forces at play in the industry. Films have investors who front the large sums needed to produce and distribute the movies and these investors don’t care about the material, they care about making money. In mainstream Hollywood, everyone is in it for the money. So if cinema is cursed, certain parts of it are more cursed then others. Horror probably comes off the worse (don’t bother to even think about pornography – that sector is a pure cash cow and no-one wants stories, characters, or any other artistic merit in those movies anyway). When a good horror film is released and goes on to be successful the pressures for a sequel are huge, but the expected return on a sequel is higher than the original because, as far as the investors are concerned, with a sequel you’re investing in an established brand, there’s less risk as the fans of the first are almost guaranteed to see the follow-up. For smaller production companies this puts a ton of pressure on everyone concerned to generate a big return in cash terms, so the easiest thing to do is cut the cost of the production down to the bone so that even if the film doesn’t do well at the box office there’ll still be a profit for the nice folks who paid for it.

Cutting costs on a movie production is a savage business. High paid, big star actors are definitely out, then goes the effects budget, next locations are trimmed down and filming only occurs in tax efficient places (shit-loads of films and TV programmes are made in Vancouver, Canada for this very reason – it looks like any American city and costs fuck all to film there), then the production crew suffers from the cuts, and finally the writing and directing team are selected from the bottom of the barrel. The ultimate tragedy of the movie business is that it’s a business at all. However, the lowest budget films out there can be surprisingly good, some go on to be legendary successes. El Mariachi (Robert Rodriguez’s first film) was made for less than $10,000 as were Pi, and Primer, both brilliant sci-fi pieces. There have been many low budget horrors, some great and some shite, so the genre is always prepared to suffer at the hands of the accountants, remembering that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Like Vampires.

30 Days of Night: Dark Days picks up the story of Stella and Eben Oleson (Olemaun in the comics) right where the first movie left them – sitting in the snow watching the sun rise after the vampire attack on Barrow, Alaska. The rising sun kills Eben as he’d become a vampire in order to save Stella and the few other survivors leaving Stella to face the world alone, a world she knows is inhabited by vampires.

Several months after the attack on Barrow, Stella has taken to travelling around the country in an effort to educate people about the existence of vampires. Her efforts have been less than successful despite the assistance she’s been getting from an unknown source that sends her information and seems to know accurate details about the Barrow attack. Arriving in Los Angeles, Stella gives a lecture to a disbelieving audience about vampires. Sick of the mocking response she keeps getting she’s decided to out some vampires and does so by switching on lights that mimic sunlight, causing several members of the crowd to reveal themselves as vamps by burning up in front of everyone.

This stunt attracts the attention of a small band of vampire hunters who’ve been working the area and have heard of Stella and the things that had happened in Alaska. They convince Stella to join them when they explain that they have a half-turned vampire working with them to provide inside data on the vampires activities and, more importantly, how the vampires are organised. The half-vamp turns out to be the source of the information Stella has been receiving.

The vampires are organised into a simple structure with a queen ruling them and the group of vampire hunters plan to kill her in order to throw the remaining vampires into chaos. Each of the vampire hunters have personal experience with the vampire menace and have all lost loved ones to the creatures, but their hatred and passion doesn’t mean that they are capable of successfully fighting vampires, especially not their Queen, the enigmatic and powerful Lilith, who has laid her plans carefully and positioned her spies well.

So that’s what happened to Sinead O’Connor!

The original 30 Days of Night is the best example of a modern vampire film I can think of. The vampires are terrifyingly monstrous and the predicament of the town of Barrow is a well executed horror in every sense. Any sequel would have a hard job keeping up the standard the original set and sadly Dark Days doesn’t come close.

All of the budget problems that can damage a film seem to have been thrown at Dark Days and the resulting movie was released straight to video this year. None of the original cast return for Dark Days (so I guess I was right to question whether Melissa George would be right for a sequel when I reviewed 30 Days back in 2008) which immediately puts the film onto a poor footing, especially as the opening scene of the film is a re-shot version of the final scene of the original with two new actors for Stella and Eben.

The actors who do feature in the film are from the bargain basement of jobbing TV actors and they’ve all turned up in one episode of every US TV show going; I imagine they all knew each other from when they met on the set of Law and Order, or Criminal Minds, or Castle, or whatever. The actual production was obviously done on the cheap, with the visuals and editing suffering the most. Music was scrimped on so badly that the score is noticeable more by its absence in scenes then its content, the lack of music to build tension in certain scenes is so bad that you can’t feel fear for the characters and bits of the movie that were meant to be creepy are just dull.

The one thing they did right in making Dark Days was to bring in Steve Niles to co-write the screenplay as he’s the writer of the original comics upon which 30 Days is based. However, for some reason never explained, the story in Dark Days is wildly different from the comic, with only the very beginning and the gist of the ending getting into the movie. Dark Days the comic is not as good as the original but it would still have made a better film then the one that made it onto DVD. Dark Days is, unfortunately, a fairly stock vampire hunting story but not a really bad one just not as good as it should have been. The twists and turns are reasonable and the character of Lilith is intriguing as is the FBI agent who wants to be a vampire in order to avoid dying from the terminal illness he has.

I wish Dark Days was better, but I understand why it isn’t, and I am glad it wasn’t worse.

One Thumb Up and One Thumb Down for 30 Days of Night: Dark Days

30 Days of Links:
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1320304/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/30_Days_of_Night:_Dark_Days

30 Days of Fright – 29: Friday the 13th (2009)

The wonderful world of computing gave us the term “reboot” which has become a part of regular language even if you’re not a big computer geek. It’s a term increasingly used in cinema and TV production, where someone wants to tell an established story but give it a different slant or style. Famous examples of successful reboots include Batman, Superman, and Battlestar Galactica. I’ve noticed recently that reboots are different from pure remakes. When something is remade the original story remains largely intact and the fact that it’s a remake is never acknowledged. In reboots, the past often gets a look in – just think of the old Cylons (the “by your command” type) featuring in the new Battlestar series and the references to Superman’s past with Lois Lane in Superman Returns.

The latest Friday the 13th (2009) is definitely more of a reboot than a remake, but to be completely accurate it’s really a sequel. Set roughly twenty nine years after the 1980 original, Friday the 13th begins with a slightly different version of events that occurred at the end of the ’80 movie, where the last of the councillors still alive at Camp Crystal Lake is fighting for her life.

The action then spins all the way forward to the summer of 2009 where a group of teens are hiking in the area around Crystal Lake. The five kids are made up of two couples and a singleton who’d heard a rumour of a large crop of Cannabis growing near the lake which they intend to harvest and sell. The kids make camp for the night and tell a few stories around the fire – including the story of the camp and the murders. Later that night, predictably, the group splits up. One couple, Mike and Whitney, go exploring and find the remains of long abandoned Camp Crystal Lake. The other couple get down to business in their tent (i.e. riding), and their remaining friend goes for a bit of a walk and discovers the cannabis plants. Suddenly, out of the darkness emerges a monster of a bloke with a machete which he uses to carve up the hapless young lad.

The monster is Jason Vorhees, and he makes short work of the rest of the kids, some swiftly with his machete, though he tortures one girl quite badly by tying her upside down in her sleeping bag over the camp fire. The last one still alive, Whitney, makes a run for it but trips in the woods and the last we see of her is Jason looming with the machete ready to drop.

Six weeks later, another group of kids are travelling up to a holiday home overlooking Crystal Lake. They stop for supplies and gas (i.e. petrol) and meet a man called Clay who is looking for his sister Whitney who had disappeared with her friends six weeks prior. He’s travelling the area on his motorbike handing out leaflets and sticking up posters about his missing sister. Clay runs into the group again later on when he inadvertently calls to their house with his posters. He and one of the girls, Jenna, go to the far side of the lake to search that area for clues relating to Whitney’s disappearance. There they discover an abandoned summer camp and encounter it’s only resident, the man called Jason.

With Jason relieving himself from the shore for nearly 30 years the lake isn’t quite so crystal anymore

The 2009 version of Friday the 13th is a film with one or two interesting ideas. I liked how it embraced the possibilities inherent in a reboot so whole heartedly but remained not only loyal to the original but dependant on it by continuing the story in the way it did. The first group of kids get killed off with quite a bit of haste, in a move reminiscent of the pre-credits sequence in Scream. This works to get the audience into the action straight away, no dicking around with character, plot, or tension development here, this is a slasher flick for those with attention deficit disorder – it should come as no surprise that the lowest sack of shit in Hollywood (Michael Bay) was an executive producer.

Getting into the killing early on also allowed the film makers to capitalise on the number thirteen in the same way as the original did by having thirteen victims. The problem with so many deaths though is that you’re so desensitised so early on that only the most spectacular violence could hold your attention, and seeing people getting stabbed and split open with a big knife so many times actually gets boring. The irony of Friday the 13th ’09 is that in trying to make a film for ADD sufferers they actually made quite a boring movie.

Most of the names and “characters” (I use that term loosely) blend into each other and are purely there as machete fodder, which is fine as this is a slasher flick after all, but it’s all so dull. The victims are in place, killer turns up, chop, chop, chop, bit of screaming, chop, done. With all the writers out there begging for work it’s a shame that unoriginal movies like this get trotted out with such abundance. This is all commercially motivated of course, but it’s giving horror a bad name!

 Dude, where’s my car?

The character of Jason Vorhees (the big bad baddie) should have been the shining light in this film as he is at the heart of the Friday the 13th franchise, but in this outing he doesn’t come across as a potentially supernatural unstoppable monster, he seems more like a weird hermit who’s territory keeps getting invaded by groups of pesky kids. He’s a lunatic to be sure, but not so much as unstoppable as just lucky none of the kids thought to fight back in any meaningful way.

Friday the 13th ’09 isn’t bad, it’s just really, really, not great. But for all its failings it’s still a lot better than the film that inspired it.

One Thumb Up and One Thumb Down for Friday the 13th (2009)

Click these links for more info – Chop, Chop!
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0758746/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friday_the_13th_%282009_film%29

30 Days of Fright – 28: Twilight

Horror comes in many guises. Some horror films are scary for all the right reasons, and some for all the wrong reasons. Some make you hide behind the couch, some make you throw-up behind the couch. Some horror films make you piss and/or shit yourself, and some just piss you off.

Twilight (2008) centres around Bella Swan (Kristen Stewart), a seventeen year old girl who moves from her home in Phoenix Arizona to the small town of Forks in the state of Washington as a result of her mother remarrying after divorcing Bella’s father. Bella arrives in Forks in the middle of the school year, but as traumatic as that would be she manages to settle in quite quickly and makes friends with ease.

In school, she becomes interested in a boy in her class, Edward Cullen (Robert Pattinson). Edward is one of the adopted children of a local doctor, Carlisle Cullen, and like the other kids in his family Edward keeps very much to himself. The whole Cullen clan are considered unusual and are extreme outsiders in school and in town. This just fascinates Bella even more especially as Edward is her lab partner for Biology class.

As Forks is on the Pacific Northwest coast of the U.S. the weather there is nearly always bad and is mostly overcast, raining, or freezing, and on one cold day Bella is involved in a near-miss of an accident when a friend’s van skids out of control on some ice in the school parking lot and nearly hits her. The van is only stopped by the intervention of Edward who jumps in the way of the van in the last moment and is able to stop it from hitting Bella, revealing Ed to be incredibly fast and strong.

Now Bella’s imagination goes wild as she tries to figure out who and what Edward is, and her search for answers leads her into the myths and legends that surround the region. She soon finds out the terrible truth about Edward and the whole Cullen family after she realises that only certain creatures are deathly cold to the touch and avoid sunlight like their lives depended on it.

Bella confronts Edward about her discoveries but is surprised to learn that not only did she not figure out every aspect of the Cullen’s nature but that she has fallen in love with him despite the truth. Edward and Bella’s relationship develops, just as danger approaches Forks.

Bella suddenly realises what spending the night with a man who’s deathly cold ALL over would actually mean

Where to start with this one? There are problems with Twilight on many levels so I might as well get the obvious stuff out of the way.

Vampires do not fucking sparkle in daylight, they fucking die!

In Twilight, the vampire myth has been largely ignored and the stuff that made it in has been twisted quite severely to fit with the neat idea that the film wants to peddle – that ugly girls can shack-up with girly looking pseudo-vampires and everything will be great.

Strangely though, I can see what they were trying to do with the character of Edward Cullen. Eddie was actually a feeble attempt at a Byronic Hero – the type developed by Lord Byron in his fruity poetry and defined by the phrase “mad, bad, and dangerous to know”. Building a love story about a soppy girl and a Byronic hero is actually a good idea but what went wrong was they made him a vampire and wilfully ignored all the inconveniences of being a creature of the night.

The thing is, in Twilight despite all the vampire lore that was removed the one truly horrific component of the whole business was left in but glossed over. In order to explain this, first a little history: the vampire myth has roots in religion, coming from the idea that those who died after being excommunicated rose from the grave to feast on human blood until the end of the world. Then they go to Hell. In Twilight, the “vampires” are immortal, so somewhere along the line someone had been kicked out of the Church and then kicked the bucket and came back all bitey and sucky. So, some vampire had been punished for dicking around the Church. So, the Cullen’s are vampire descendants of some poor bastard who knows for a fact that there’s a God. The point of the immortality in the vampire story is not that you get to stay young and attractive for ever, it’s a terrible punishment – the vampire knows God exists and they will never meet Him. The only reason the vampire avoids the release of death at the point of a stake (or carbon-tipped bullet if you’re new school) is that they’re trying to put off going to Hell.

The Cullen’s are all going to go to Hell, especially Edward, and Bella falls in love with the guy. Of course, this type of problem doesn’t get a mention in Twilight as, to be fair, the real goal of the film was to make a ton of cash out of teenage girls not promote the further development of a cultural archetype like the vampire. The reason purists get so pissed off with Twilight is that it pisses on the vampire myth and therefore contributes to a new generation of people who don’t understand it or even recognise it. Of course this has been going on as long as films have been made and trashy books written. There were probably a good number of purists annoyed when Bram Stoker got himself a publisher.

Once Edward reveals his nature to Bella by letting some sunlight make his skin all sparkly it’s best to try to ignore the vampire stuff altogether and judge the film on its other merits, of which there are very fucking few.

There isn’t much positive to say about the two leads, Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, and so many negative things have been said that I don’t really have anything to add. Except, that Kristen Stewart is a long-faced misery of a girl who should have been in a werewolf movie not a vampire one (and without any make-up either, the dog) and Robert Pattinson is a weird looking girly boy who was completely unbelievable in a role where he played a man who’s attracted to women.

Bella and Edward exchange make-up tips. In the middle of the day. Vampire my arse!

The production quality for a film of this scale, i.e. guaranteed blockbuster, is surprisingly low. Watching Twilight in HD shows up all the terrible flaws in the special effects, make-up, and lighting that are present. The fucking lighting used in Twilight is awful! There are scenes, especially in the school, where characters move their hands in front of their faces and huge shadows are cast, caused by using powerful lights to create a washed out, pale look for the kids. Why not light the scene properly and put a filter on the fucking camera? Or change the colour in post production? Maybe that wasn’t an option as the computer was being used for the shitty effects – the bit where Edward runs up the tree with Bella on his back is cringe worthy. The quality of the production varies and I think that’s a result of the film being made by two units, one with a director of photography who had a clue, and the other with a director of photography who was a dipshit.

The surprising highlight of the movie was the music, surprising as the soundtrack mostly featured songs designed for young women to feel sad to, but also included some gems from bands like Muse. The incidental music was the best part of the soundtrack though and the musical cues, like the tinkling piano indicating “falling” in love, were excellent and well used.

I didn’t like Twilight all that much, but I can’t bring myself to hate it as vehemently as some commentators claim to. It was made in order to cash in on some trashy books that are more popular then they likely deserve (I haven’t read them – I base my opinion of them on the “slavish” film adaptation) just like the work of Dan Brown (the prick). Twilight is a crappy film whose sin is in the way it treats vampires not the audience, as far as I can make out the target audience for Twilight got exactly what they deserved.

One Thumb Up and One Thumb Down for Twilight.

If you have a reflection, don’t sleep in a coffin, quite like garlic, don’t need to be invited in, aren’t bothered by Crucifixes or Holy Water, you might be a vampire! Check out these links for more info:
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1099212/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Twilight_(2008_film)

30 Days of Fright – 27: The Evil Dead

There have been several times when I have seen the sequel to a film before I’ve seen the original. Most notably, I saw Return of the Jedi at the cinema (three times) before I’d seen The Empire Strikes Back (and don’t give me any shit about the first Star Wars movie, Empire and Jedi travel as a pair). In that case I was fortunate when I did get to see Empire as it’s a great movie, and quickly became my favourite of the Star Wars flicks. I saw Exorcist 3 before I saw the original too, but again that was OK as The Exorcist is a masterpiece. It’s proper disappointing when you end up watching a sequel first and then the original turns out to be dung, but the fact that most follow-ups are weaker than their predecessor normally saves you from this happening.

Directed by Sam Raimi, The Evil Dead (1981) tells of a group of five college kids, Cheryl, Shelly, Linda, Scotty, and Ash (Bruce Campbell – there’s a reason I’m not naming the other actors, but we’ll get to that) heading off to a remote cabin for a quiet weekend. The cabin is way off out in the woods and is a bit of a dump, having been closed up for some time. Once in the cabin, the kids settle down to dinner but are disturbed by the cellar door flying open of its own accord.

Scotty and Ash go to investigate and discover some of the belongings of the previous occupants, notably a tape recorder and a creepy book. Taking them back upstairs the gang listen to the tape in the recorder and discover that it contains the notes of a researcher who was working on the contents of the book. The book, bound with human skin and written in blood, is filled with incantations and spells and as the recorded voice on the tape reads them out, demons are summoned to woods around the cabin.

One by one, the kids are possessed by demons and terrible, violent things happen to them. But even when the terrible things kill them that isn’t the end as they rise as “deadites” who try to ensure that everyone in the group suffers the same fate.

“Americas Next Top Model” just gets weirder and weirder

Evil Dead is a film that’s hard to categorise. To most it’s an obvious horror, to others a cult comedy. I can’t help but think that it was meant to be a serious horror film but audiences find Sam Raimi’s directing style unintentionally funny. Raimi’s films are easy to spot in the way certain effects are always used and certain characters styled; they often feel like film adaptations of comics, even the ones that aren’t (unlike Spider-Man, obviously), just think of his TV work including Xena: Warrior Princess and Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.

I didn’t find Evil Dead to be all that funny, but then I’m not a huge fan of Raimi’s other big horror film, so I wasn’t going to be especially kind to this effort, but while watching it I couldn’t find anything to be kind about anyway, so no harm done. Evil Dead, despite its cult following, is a crap-fest. The story is reasonable though borderline silly but the script is woeful dirt and the performances are appalling, though not without good reason.

For such a small movie, Evil Dead took a good long while to make, with a production schedule that went on for over a year. This had an unusual effect on the film in that all of the actors were at some point missing from the production, so there’s a high use of stand-ins and body doubles, some of which are really obvious. There was one actor, however, who managed to appear in all their scenes without the use of an understudy, so it’s no wonder that only one actor from Evil Dead made something of a career for themselves – Bruce Campbell! But let’s not get carried away with praise for Bruce, his best work was very much ahead of him when he was making Evil Dead and his acting in this film was really just the best of a bad bunch (for anyone who’s interested, Campbell’s best work is Evil Dead 3: Army of Darkness)

The effects, which became a bit of a trademark for Raimi, are probably the best thing in Evil Dead and when it was first released the film suffered at the hands of censors due to the gory violence portrayed. Scenes of bodies getting hacked up or trees coming to life in the woods were well done for the time, but the make-up effects of the deadites were shamefully bad, looking like something children would do for Halloween as opposed to something from a movie.

Evil Dead did become a cult success and thankfully spawned a better sequel and propelled Bruce Campbell to mediocre success (though he should have been a bigger star as his acting did improve greatly). Evil Dead is a bad film that’s worth seeing as it serves as a warning to us all – just because something gets “cult status” doesn’t mean it’s any good.

Two Thumbs Down for The Evil Dead.

Dirty Deadites:
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Evil_Dead
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0083907/
“Official” Fan Site: http://www.deadites.net/

30 Days of Fright – 26: Lesbian Vampire Killers

In 1993 Clint Eastwood and Kevin Costner got together for the sole purpose of pissing away a great name for a movie. The film they made, A Perfect World is actually all right, for a drama of that sort, but what a waste of a great name for a film! A Perfect World – I often wonder what amazing Sci-Fi film was never made because some writer somewhere didn’t bother to develop a script because the best name was already taken by Clint Eastwood (all due respect to the man) and that fucking gobshite Kevin Costner?! If that prick ever came around here I’d kick his arse! (Actually, I’d probably just shout obscenities at him out the window of a moving car, but you get the gist of how annoyed I am about the whole thing!).

Lesbian Vampire Killers (2009) begins with a quick summary of the tale of the Vampire Queen Carmilla who had killed the men of a remote English village and seduced the women to her nasty lesbo ways. The lord of the manor, returning from the Crusades, discovers Carmilla having a go on his missus, so he forges a sacred sword and kills Carmilla, but not before she promises to return.

Skipping forward to the present day we find a regular bloke, Jimmy (Matthew Horne), getting dumped (again) by his bitchy girlfriend. Meanwhile, Jimmy’s mate Fletch (James Corden) is in the process of getting fired from his job as a clown for punching a child at a party he was working.

Fletch is utterly broke but plans on having a holiday at Jimmy’s expense, however Jimmy spent all his cash buying a car for his ex right before she chucked him. Jimmy and Fletch decide to go on a hiking holiday somewhere in the U.K., and select their destination by throwing a dart into a map, which lands right on the village of Cragwich, where Carmilla had once ruled.

Arriving in the village, the lads find it’s every bit of the backwards rural dump Fletch thought it would be, but their opinion is quickly changed when they spot a group of attractive young women emerging from the village pub. Heading in to see if there’s more where that came from, the lads are bitterly disappointed, but do manage to secure free lodgings for the night at a nearby cottage, where the group of girls are also staying.

That night, as the boys are partying pretty hard with the girls, the cottage is attacked by vampires, all of whom are women, and lesbians to boot! As they fight to survive the night, Jimmy discovers that it was an ancestor of his that managed to defeat the Vampire Queen once before, and that it may be his turn now.

All new “Lynx Transylvania” has some odd effects on certain women

I never saw Gavin & Stacey, which made stars of the two lads who take the lead in Lesbian Vampire Killers, so I went into this film not knowing what to expect, though I realised there would be similarities with all the other British horror comedies that have been doing the rounds lately. After watching Lesbian Vampire Killers it occurred to me that, after finishing with Gavin & Stacey and then featuring in one episode of Dr. Who, James Corden went off to make game shows for Sky 1, so that really should have been a hint as to the quality of the film.

I’m not going to beat around the bush here (if you’ll pardon the pun) Lesbian Vampire Killers is utterly utterly really really fucking shit!

And it could have been brilliant!

The basic story for Lesbian Vampire Killers is actually alright, for a comedy. The Vampire Queen idea gets the movie off to a good start and the first joke plays very well. The notion of the lesbian vampire could actually have been worth a film as it twists the notion of the sensual vampire nicely and is pretty funny. Then, when Jimmy is introduced and you discover he has “girl trouble”(and the scene is loaded with silly sound effects every time his ex moves) the wheels get a little loose on the wagon, but manage to stay on thanks to James Corden in a clown suit explaining why he punched a little girl. Then you put two and two together and the wheels fucking fly off the wagon and you’re left flat on your arse.

The problem with Lesbian Vampire Killers is not that it’s a lad’s movie; it’s that it’s deliberately not a girl’s movie.

Jimmy’s girlfriend dumps him, and she’s a cheating, using, bitch who took his money. Fletch’s boss is a stuck up bitch who’s cut from the same cloth as Jimmy’s ex, who fires Fletch. Fletch, as a clown at a kids party, was so enraged by something that he punched a little girl. Even Carmilla, the Vampire Queen, murdered a village of men, but not before she stole their women from them. All this before the opening credits.

Now, I may have missed the point with Lesbian Vampire Killers, maybe it was just meant to be harmless entertainment, and maybe it just came out wrong, but the film seemed to be saying a lot of things half in jest but whole in earnest. It’s like a bunch of lads just got dumped so they made a revenge movie to get back at all the women who scorned them, which might actually have been OK if only they could have made it funny enough that you didn’t notice.

 You’d expect this kind of thing to be more entertaining…

The best joke in the whole flick is at the very start and you don’t laugh again during the whole thing. Even Corden’s constant swearing wore thin after a while as he’s just not that good at it, especially as the phrases he uses are just so bland (except one – “Clam Lappers” – I’ve never heard that one before but, by God, by the end of the week everyone around me will be sick hearing it!).

Lesbian Vampire Killers seemed to desperately want to be a Carry On film but was about forty years too late and nowhere near as funny, which goes some way to telling you how bad it is!

Two Thumbs Firmly Down for Lesbian Vampire Killers – what a waste of a great film title!

Carry On Lesbians? (and before you ask, yes, I do like writing the word “Lesbian”!)

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1020885/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lesbian_Vampire_Killers

30 Days of Fright – 25: The Last House On The Left (2009)

The question of censorship in cinema is a tricky one. For years, authorities in Ireland and the U.K. have made a living out of watching films and then banning them, especially horror and adult movies. I’m not keen on censorship; it concerns me when one adult is given the authority to be able to say that another adult may not view a film because of the nature of the content. Censorship of that nature is different from the age ratings that are applied to films in order to ensure that the audiences are of a level of maturity that they can understand what’s going on and draw the distinction between reality and fantasy, though there’s always one or two gobshites who watch the likes of The Da Vinci Code and then swear it’s all real.

The original Last House on the Left made it onto the 30 Days of Fright in 2009 as it presented a very real challenge to the notion of censorship and therefore the concept of free speech. If you make a movie that contains graphic, quasi-pornographic, scenes of sexual violence against women, merely in order to justify a series of on-screen killings, is there any artistic merit to the exercise? Is there anything that could be argued that would justify keeping that material in the public domain? No, would be my answer. But you couldn’t ban it. No crime was actually committed in the making of the film, nobody was really killed and nobody was the victim of a rape. There’s little to defend in a film like that, except its intrinsic value as a test of freedom of speech.

When I discovered that there was a remake of Last House it concerned me deeply. I was worried about the nature of someone who saw the original and felt the time was right to take another swipe at it, maybe update some of the effects, make it more gory, more graphic. Why would you want to make that movie? As much as I hate the original, my curiosity got the better of me and I had to watch the remake.

The Last House on the Left (2009) starts with a criminal, who is being transported to prison, being freed from custody by members of his gang. The prisoner, Krug (Garret Dilahunt) is a notorious bad-ass and generally naughty bastard.

Meanwhile, a family are going to their vacation home for the summer. Dad John (Tony Goldwin) , Mother Emma (Monica Potter) and daughter Mari (Sara Paxton) are the all American well to do family who are mourning the death of their son and brother Ben. After arriving at the house and unpacking a little, Mari borrows the car to head into town to meet her friend Paige (Martha Maclsaac), leaving Mom and Dad to have a romantic evening alone. Paige works in the grocery store in the nearby small town and while the two are hanging out there they encounter a young man named Justin (Spencer Treat Clark) who tries to buy some cigarettes, but is obviously underage. He bribes Paige into making the sale with the promise of some pot that he has back in his motel room.

The two girls go with Justin to the motel and chill there for a while. Until Krug, who turns out to be Justin’s dad, arrives with the other two gang members, Sadie (Riki Lindhorne) and Francis (Aaron Paul). Things turn sour quickly as Krug is afraid of being recognised and is quite obviously a fucking nutcase. The gang takes Mari’s car and force the girls to come with them. Mari tries to escape, but fails, resulting in a car crash that triggers the gang into a series of violent assaults against Mari and Paige.

When the gang are finished with the girls they seek refuge for the night in a nearby house which, by shocking coincidence, turns out to be Mari’s parents’ place (you guessed it, The Last House on the Left).

John and Emma are good people and they are quick to help the poor folk who came knocking on the door after being in a car crash, that is until they figure out what those people did to their beloved daughter…

The Jehovah’s Witnesses try a new tactic – one free young lad for every 15 minutes you manage to keep listening

Watching the remade Last House was quite an experience as I kept thinking of the original and kept trying to guess what was coming next. The remake is remarkably different from the original and, I’m surprised to say, is quite a good film.

The story has been manipulated nicely so that the way the girls get into trouble at the start is believably stupid, going off with some strange boy like that. The way Krug and the gang enter the scene is also believable as are their motivations. I found that as I watched the scene in the motel unfold I was afraid for the two girls and what would happen to them. Even though their fates seemed like a foregone conclusion I kept hoping that there was a way out for them. At that point I realised how different and better the remake could be.

Then, of course, came the violence. The 2009 Last House pulls no punches in the pivotal scene where Mari is violently raped and once again the producers of a Last House movie went too far. In analysing what is probably the most important scene in the entire film I have to acknowledge that I am completely biased against the very nature of the scene and that the best a film-maker can hope to achieve with a rape in a movie is that the correct emotional response is evoked. I guess the producers of Last House ’09 were trying to horrify the audience so that you’d cheer when the parents got their own back but the scene was un-necessarily graphic for that purpose, watching it didn’t make me want to see the parents get their revenge, it made me wish I’d never seen it.

However, with that scene over, Last House ’09 gets back on track, and the second half of the film is a triumph. The feeling of dread that builds from the moment the gang walk into the house is exquisite and the fear you feel for John and Emma as they do battle is on a par with how you feel for Paige and Mari at the start. The final scenes are text-book examples of great horror film-making. Thankfully, it turns out that whoever saw the original and felt it needed a remake were actually able to make a better movie and find something worth telling in the story. It’s such a crying shame that they handled the rape scene the way they did, as it merely elevated a trashy piece of cinema to the level of “better, not great”.

Horror films can, from time to time, offer serious value to a society; the original Last House on the Left is valuable as it makes us consider how important certain freedoms really are to us. The remake is doubly important as it shows that there is some small hope for cinema.

One Thumb Up and One Thumb Down for The Last House on the Left (2009)

The Last Links on the Left:
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0844708/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Last_House_on_the_Left_%282009_film%29

30 Days of Fright – 24: The Wolfman

I am painfully aware that there are really only two types of film out there. There’s the type that carries a serious message, or tells a story that needs to be told, or is a visual essay on some subject important to the film-makers. The other type of film is the mindless entertainment piece, simply made in order to help audiences pass a couple of hours either laughing or crying or throwing up or whatever. I enjoy entertainment films but I love films that make more of themselves; those drama’s that make you care deeply for fictional characters, or sci-fi that pushes the boundaries of what mankind is capable of, or horror that analyses human behaviour and its consequences. A tragedy that occurs sometimes in cinema is where a film comes along that isn’t sure what it was meant to be, entertaining or thought provoking. When a film ends up caught between the two extremes like that you end up with a terrible mess on your hands, like when you go for a curry after a day spent on the lash, it’s never pretty.

The Wolfman (2010) is set in the final decade of the nineteenth century and starts off with the strange death of a man in the forest near Blackmoor in England. The man in question is Ben Talbot and his fiancé Gwen (Emily Blunt) heads to London to find his brother Lawrence (Benicio Del Toro) who is prancing about like a big whoopsy making a living as an actor. Gwen convinces Lawrence to return home to Blackmoor to help in the search for Ben. When Lawrance gets home he is reunited with his estranged (and fucking strange) father Sir John (Anthony Hopkins). Sir John reveals that Ben’s mutilated body had been discovered the day before and asks Lawrence to stay for the funeral.

Lawrence heads into the village to take a gander at his brother’s corpse and he finds that Ben had been mauled nearly beyond recognition by something that definitely wasn’t human. He collects some of Ben’s personal effects and then does what anyone would do in that situation and nips into the pub to get shitfaced. While in the bar he overhears the locals discussing what must have happened to Ben, with some of them leaning towards the idea that it was a bear that belongs to some gypsies who are camped nearby, while at least one other old lush has already made the cognitive leap to blaming a werewolf for the death.

Lawrence finds that Ben had a gypsy medallion in his possession when he died so he pays a visit to their halting site to have a chat. There meets with an old pavee woman who tells him that Ben had suffered from a brush with evil, hence the need for the medallion. The villagers then pick that moment to call out to the knackers to get them to hand over the dancing bear they believed was behind the killing. Just as things are about to pop off, a strange creature attacks the pikey camp and indiscriminately kills settled and traveller alike. A young boy flees the carnage and Lawrence runs after him to try to keep him safe but is himself attacked and bitten.

Lawrence recovers from the bite quite well and even feels stronger after he gets better than he did before he was injured. About this time Inspector Aberline (Hugo Weaving) arrives to start a serious investigation to what’s been going on. The villagers fill his head with stories of werewolves and Aberline suspects Lawrence is involved. Lawrence, himself getting a little worried about the turn of events, develops an interest in silver and firearms… just as the full moon rises.

The infamous “Exploding Kebab” tends only to be ordered by drunkards, with good reason.

The Wolfman is sadly one of those films that hasn’t a fucking notion what it’s meant to be about. I would have thought that the name of the film would have given the film-makers some clue as to what to make a movie about, but this apparently managed to sneak by them. The Wolfman kinda tries to be entertaining, but misses on that front, and there’s no hint at any deeper meaning in the material so there’s nothing to make you think after the end credits have rolled, except some of the nutty decisions that were made in the making of the film.

The most unusual decision has to be casting Benicio Del Toro as Lawrence. I liked Del Toro in The Usual Suspects, and I fucking loved him in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, but I don’t consider him to be a particularly good actor. He’s not all that strong in a role that requires restraint or the appearance of normality, which is why he’s great in character roles but was a shite choice for Wolfman. His casting has all sorts of knock-on effects too, in that his skin tone had to be explained by giving him an exotic mother. But there’s no need for this. It has nothing to do with the story that his mother was from somewhere other than England, all it does is shoehorn Del Toro into a role he was woefully unsuitable for. The character of Sir John has loads of paraphernalia from his globetrotting in the house to explain how he liked to travel, without the need to have brought a bride home with him.

The next weird choice was the music, as once again the film makers went with a score that was far better suited to a vampire film than a werewolf movie. In fact, I’d go as far as to name the film it was better suited to as it mostly seemed like it was ripped off the soundtrack to Bram Stoker’s Dracula, like one of those dodgy movie trailers that are found on You Tube where some kid has picked his favourite scenes from a film and set them to some instrumental piece that they love to death and then published the whole bastard effort for the world to see. Danny Elfman got the call for Wolfman and there seemed to have been some confusion as to what the film was about as the delivered soundtrack is just utterly wrong for the film.

The final thing that really had me wondering was why the wolfman himself was so badly done. There are a wealth of films that show how to do a half-decent werewolf (even if it has to be CGI) but for some reason the producers of Wolfman ignored all that material and chose to do a homage to The Incredible Hulk. The Wolfman is a remake and expansion on the 1941 version and it’s likely that the people behind the 2010 outing wanted to keep something from the original (seeing as how they threw out the story and everything else seemingly that made the original so popular) but why they settled on keeping the look of the wolfman is beyond me. When the guys who made the 1941 movie made it they had very little choice in how their werewolf would look, the 2010 guys had a computer and unlimited digital resources, and they still went out of their way to make the werewolf look like a bloke in a wolf suit. Why not just put a bloke in a wolf suit?

Two Thumbs Down for The Wolfman

Fear & Loathing in Link Vegas:
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wolfman_%282010_film%29
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0780653/

30 Days of Fright – 23: Ginger Snaps

My like of all things Marilyn Manson is well known. The band was one of the first who produce heavier, darker music that I really got into in recent years. Since then my musical tastes have become decidedly heavier and considerably darker, but I still enjoy all the different art that originates from Manson, the band and the man. I can understand how art in whatever form, music, literature, painting, photography, and so on can influence people to do drastic things with their life. I find music and cinema to be particularly inspirational (bad movies inspire me to rip the piss out of them), sadly some people are inspired to do awful things and Manson’s music has been associated with teenage suicide on more than one occasion.

Over the ages people have used storytelling to teach, inspire, and share fears of things in their lives. These stories, like fairytales, and morality plays, and the like, sometimes become part of our cultural heritage and we end up knowing them very well, often without knowing the meaning behind them. Vampires started out as characters used to instil fear about straying from organised religion, Frankenstein’s monster is about fears relating to science, and werewolves are a way of dealing with man’s dual nature (civilised versus animal) as well as teaching about transformation, which we all go through at some stage in our lives.

It’s surprising that it took so long for the subjects of teenage angst and werewolves to meet in movie form, but finally Ginger Snaps (2000) tackled it. Living in suburban Canada two sisters Ginger (Katharine Isabelle) and Brigitte Fitzgerald (Emily Perkins) are outsiders by choice, detesting the antics of the popular kids in high school. Ginger is 16 and Brigitte is a year younger but they are both late entering puberty and have yet to have their first period. Both are intelligent with Brigitte smart enough to have skipped a grade enabling her to be in the same class as Ginger where the pair are working on an art project in which they stage photographs of each other in gruesome death poses that reflect their interest in death and their planned suicides.

The neighbourhood where the girls live is suffering a spate of animal attacks and no pet dog is safe. One night, Ginger and Brigitte are out to get revenge on one of their classmates who overheard them talking about her and got some revenge of her own on the hockey field. The Fitzgerald girls plan to fake the death of the girl’s dog but when they get to the house they find the dog has actually been killed by whatever’s been eating the local canine population. Ginger picks that exact moment to enter womanhood and the blood from her period attracts the creature that killed the dog. Ginger is bitten and badly wounded by the creature, which is hit and killed by the van of a drug dealer who works the area.

Ginger doesn’t want to go to the hospital but it turns out she doesn’t need to as her injuries heal quite quickly. In the days following the attack Ginger goes through a series of changes, some related to her suddenly going through puberty, and some not…

Ow, cramps!

Ginger Snaps makes the metaphor about lycanthropy being about puberty, particularly periods and the cycles of the moon, glaringly obvious, but it’s a metaphor that works very well and it makes for a great story. The teen angst (amongst other things) is dripping from this film but that makes it easy to relate to, especially if you weren’t one of the “popular” kids in your school.

The werewolf storyline takes a backseat to the metaphor the film is promoting so there isn’t really much in the line of action, except for the closing act of the movie, which is excellent. The rest of the film deals with the characters of Ginger and Brigitte and how they cope with the changes going on in their lives, regardless of the causes. The transformation Ginger endures is well handled, though slightly clichéd as she goes from black hoodie wearing outsider to entry-level slut overnight. Brigitte’s situation is explored the best, as she tries to save her sister from the lycanthropy but in reality is trying to reverse the changes in her so as to avoid having to go through those changes herself.

The casting and performances in Ginger Snaps are excellent all round and there’s little to complain about on that front. The direction and effects are spot on too, going for mechanical effects instead of the over-used CGI option is always preferable in my view. On the production side the only problem I noticed was the sound quality which needed a little work so as to be able to hear the dialogue better. In terms of the script, seeing as how every major character is in their teens, it was nice that there was an actual script as opposed to the series of grunts you’d get in real-life. The soundtrack is spot on too, and I was very happy to see Cradle of Filth feature alongside plenty of Fear Factory.

The ideas behind Ginger Snaps are great and the film is a well put together package, however it’s never easy for a bloke to watch a film that while about werewolves spends most of its time discussing menstruation.

Two Thumbs Up for Ginger Snaps

Links, for all the girls out there who have fallen to the communists, while Aunt Irma was visiting, during a certain time of the month:
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ginger_Snaps_%28film%29
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0210070/
Official Movie Site: http://www.ginger-snaps.com/

30 Days of Fright – 22: The Company Of Wolves

Sometimes I get a little carried away with these little reviews and they end up not so little. This is going to be one of those occasions, so as this is a heinously long review full of big words (like “heinously”) there’ll be no preamble. Except this bit, of course.

Starting off in the real world, The Company of Wolves (1984) is about a young girl called Rosaleen (Sarah “first movie” Patterson) who is a little sleepy head. Her parents have arrived home to find her older sister Alice (Georgia “Emmerdale” Slowe) giving out about how Rosaleen is sulking in her room. Alice heads upstairs to give Rosaleen a piece of her mind by banging on her bedroom door. However, Rosaleen is passed out asleep and is well off into dreamy dreamland.

In the dream world, Alice is chased through a forest by life-sized teddy bears and other toys who drive her towards a waiting pack of wolves that make short work of devouring her. At Alice’s funeral we see that Rosaleen and her parents (David The Omen Warner and Tusse “Never heard tell of her” Silberg) live in a village in the forest, in a kind of fairytale version of peasant life in the eighteenth century. Rosaleen’s mother is distraught by the death of her eldest daughter so Rosaleen goes to spend the night with her granny (Angela “Murder, She Wrote” Lansbury), who is making a bright red shawl with a hood for her.

Granny is of the old school when it comes to child care, so she feels her role is to tell the brutal truth about how Alice was so brilliant and then scare the piss out of Rosaleen with some sinister stories of love, moderate eroticism, and werewolves. The action then moves into the stories Granny tells, with the first one about a young newlywed couple where the monobrowed groom has a dirty secret about his true nature. Granny’s next story is about a young man walking through the woods alone who has an encounter with the Devil who gives him a potion that causes a terrible transformation.

The next day, Rosaleen heads home to the village and there she has to deal with a neighbour of hers that fancies her and wants to court her. After Mass the next Sunday, Rosaleen and the boy go for their walk where they encounter some wolves. The men from the village go hunting for the wolves and manage to kill one in a trap they’ve set, but when they chop it up a bit, the pieces transform into human body parts.

Rosaleen tells a story of her own to her mother about a wedding that is disrupted by the pregnant ex of the groom who happens to be a witch, a story that disturbs her mother quite a bit. With the werewolf killed, Rosaleen is sent to her granny’s house with some food and drink in a basket. Along the way she meets a charming hunter, a hunter whose eyebrows meet in the middle…

Jessica Fletcher liked to hang out at the Cabot Cove cemetery – it was how she kept track of her victims!

The Company of Wolves is a slightly confusing but incredibly entertaining trip into the dark parts of the enchanted forests where so many children’s fairytales are set. At its core, The Company of Wolves is a simple collection of werewolf stories told against a backdrop of a village where these stories are a part of the inhabitant’s daily lives, but there is so much more going on that it would be wrong to dismiss the film as merely a grown-up retelling of Red Riding Hood.

The Company of Wolves took the original idea of those fairytales, each of which in their original forms had a powerful moral explicitly stated at the end, and made that moral the central focus of the film. Granny’s character is introduced so that she can pass along the wisdom of her years to young Rosaleen, and she does this in the form of her stories that start off with the familiar “Once Upon a Time”, but that quickly veer off into the adult grade warnings that they were meant to be. The creature of the werewolf provides an easy mechanism for Granny to explain concepts like a person being deceitful or hiding their true nature from those around them, or more mature themes like how puberty changes a person as they go through adolescence or even how sexuality plays its role in relationships. Granny is, like any older member of a family, concerned for her young female relative, facing a world filled with dangers and delights that are all too often hard to tell apart.

For her part, Rosaleen is the wide-eyed teenager who hears the warnings in the stories and is enamoured by them as opposed to being afraid. Her courage, which she displays a few times in the film, could be born from inexperience of the wider world but is more likely down to her being excited by the danger and attracted to things her elders warned her about. The loss of her sister is a terribly traumatic event for her parents, but for her it delivers freedom and attention that she obviously longed for in her “perfect” sister’s shadow. The fact that the wolves delivered this life altering event makes her all too open to a similar fate, if she doesn’t heed the warnings in the stories.

These elements make The Company of Wolves a nearly perfect horror film. The central character is presented with everything she needs to deal with the monsters lurking around her, all she has to do is choose to deal with them in a positive way, as long as she isn’t seduced by those dark forces, both literally and metaphorically.

The Company of Wolves is a metaphor-centric movie, with more symbolism than a Dan Brown novel (though infinitely more subtle), but some are probably a little too subtle and will leave a viewer scratching their heads trying to figure what was meant. In a way this is a good thing as it’s nice when a movie makes you think, but during the viewing there were times when I was screaming “What the fuck?!” at the screen.

The strong roles of metaphor and the associated symbolism makes The Company of Wolves a deeply atmospheric film, and it’s one of only a handful of films that create that dark and sinister fairy tale atmosphere that audiences like me long for but rarely see. I feel that if this film had been made more recently it would not work as well. If you look at a film like Van Helsing that seriously missed a trick in the way it did the gothic setting, with scenes that were made to look too realistic, where every village is muddy and wet, all the colours are drab and washed out, you’ll see the exact opposite approach to the 1980’s fantasy type film-making. While the setting is quite dark in The Company of Wolves, there are colourful characters and and the forest the village is in the middle of is magical. Tim Burton is the only other director you’d expect to be able to do an “enchanted forest” type movie, though I don’t think any offering presented now could capture the qualities presented by those types of films from the 80’s – movies like Legend, and Excalibur.

On the acting side some of the performances were a little stiff, but Sarah Patterson as Rosaleen was good and David Warner as the dad was fucking excellent! I’m not sure if I liked Angela Lansbury as the Granny. Sometimes she was perfect and sometimes she was shite. Some of her facial expressions just weren’t quite right for some of the scenes, but on the whole she passed as the nice little old lady with the best scary stories for the grandkids.

As it’s a Neill Jordan film you can already see the development of the style that would feature so heavily and so well in Interview with the Vampire coming through in The Company of Wolves. Gothic horror is something he is rather good at and his approach will hopefully lead others to emulate his style.

There were a couple of highlights that need mentioning. The transformation scene where Stephen Rea goes Lycanthropic was amazing, the process looked like it was beyond painful and was more like the Hell on Earth type experience I imagine it would have to be. The scene where he meets his ultimate fate in the movie is a work of art!

The second scene I thoroughly enjoyed was the bit where Rosaleen’s father hits the young lad a few slaps, as it’s fucking priceless – her Dad employs a “no messing” policy when he sees the boy has come back without her as he goes straight in and hits him a punch to the gut as he’s asking what happened – no waiting for an explanation or any of that shite; that boy was getting a hiding just for living. It’s as if the father character had been waiting for years to hit that boy and he really wasn’t going to miss the opportunity once it presented itself. First rate cinema violence – a grown man knocking the snot out of a kid half his size!

Two Thumbs Up for The Company of Wolves

My, what big links you have:
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0087075/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Company_of_Wolves

30 Days of Fright – 21: Brotherhood Of The Wolf

Cryptozoology is one of those fields of study that sounds both far cooler and far more plausible then it actually is. Traveling around the world investigating weird and wonderful animals sounds brilliant, but I bet it boils down to looking at lots of previously undiscovered insects, undiscovered because no-one else could be arsed, and maybe the occasional duck with odd colours on it. I bet that cryptozoologists don’t come face to face with quasi-supernatural wolf-like monsters all that often really.

Set in rural France (France again!) Brotherhood of the Wolf (2001) is a fictionalised retelling of the true story of the Beast of Gévaudan that terrorised that part of the country during the 1760’s. After the strange wolf-like beast has killed a large enough number of the local peasants’, word of the creature reaches the royal court and the king sends help to the region in the form of Grégoire de Fronsac (Samuel Le Bihan), a globetrotting zoologist and his Native American companion and blood-brother Mani (Marc Dacascos). The pair has been tasked with finding out what’s going on and assisting in bringing the beasts reign of terror to an end.

Upon arriving in the area Fronsac and Mani are greeted with a group of locals who are kicking the shit out of an old man and a younger woman, who they claim is a witch or some such and thus displaying the regional taste for superstition. Out two heroes reveal that they don’t take that kind of thing lying down and Mani in gives a demonstration of his martial arts abilities by knocking the jaysus out of the mob.

Fronsac meets up with the nobility who rule the province and explains to them not only his experiences around the world but also his disbelief in anything supernatural going on with the beast. As he settles into life with the aristocracy he makes friends with the Marquis d’Apcher (Jérémie Renier), who shares many of his views, and falls for Marianne de Morangias (Émilie Dequenne) the daughter of a local Count. Marianne has a brother, Jean-François (Vincent Cassel), who is an avid hunter and had lost an arm to a lion while in Africa and is still quite bitter about the whole thing, which he reveals whenever he gets a few drinks down his throat.

The beast continues attacking and a large and unruly hunt is organised by the commander of the soldiers stationed nearby who had promised to kill the beast. During the preparations for the hunt some of the hunters have a go at Mani, who holds his own until the fight is broken up by Jean-François shooting one of the attackers with a gun he’d had specially made that allowed him to use it one-armed. Jean-François is partial to loading that gun with silver bullets though he claims it has nothing to do with werewolves but instead is out of vanity, in that he likes to sign his kills.

The hunt is a disaster for the wolves living in the Gévaudan forests, but Fronsac is not convinced that they killed the beast and he is quickly proven right. The King, embarrassed by the whole situation and taking flak for not getting it sorted (like Obama and that business with BP) sends a new military man to get things done. This proves to be purely a PR exercise and Fronsac is the one left to deal with the beast, but first he has to discover its true nature and, shockingly, determine who is controlling the beast.

Shhh, be vewy vewy quiet, I’m huntin’ a wascally wabbit!
As the opening credits of this movie rolled last night I knew that someone, somewhere, will object to its inclusion in the 30 Days of Fright due to its apparent lack of horror credentials, and that same person or persons will definitely complain about the absence of werewolves. Personally I feel that a large, possibly supernatural, beast conducting wholesale slaughter of humans in the countryside is pretty much the definition of horror, and that, as a country dweller myself, if that were happening near me I’d be pretty fucking horrified! As for there werewolves bit, there are plenty of wolf references in the film, including the name of the film, the word “werewolves” is used at least once, and one of the characters is riding around town with a gun loaded with silver bullets, so if you don’t like that you can fucking lump it!
Brotherhood of the Wolf is really more of a subtle creature-feature type film than straightforward werewolf movie, and the creature plays second fiddle to the setting, with everyone involved in the production seeming to revel in the mid-eighteenth century costumes, mannerisms, and props. But like kids in a school play, they couldn’t maintain any semblance of historical authenticity, as right from the start Brotherhood has scenes of martial arts that are far more modern then the setting. In some respects, Brotherhood of the Wolf is a lot like Plunkett & Macleane in that it deliberately applied modern cinema techniques (like stop and go slow motion in the middle of a piece of action) to prevent the audience from being too removed from the material and to avoid the stuffiness that can creep into a period film, while all the while allowing for cool costumes.

The copy of Brotherhood I watched is unfortunately dubbed into English from the original French, as opposed to the subtitled version which is always preferable to dubbing, so it’s hard to judge the actors on screen as one of the principle components of their performances was removed. The dubbing actors did an alright job with the exception of whoever did Marianne’s voice, though I don’t blame her, it’s just that her voice sounded far too old for the girl on the screen so the blame rests with the dubbing casting director, who should be shot or hanged or subjected to whatever appropriate punishment the Casting Directors union allows.

Brotherhood of the Wolf tells a good tale, with intriguing and exotic characters put into mad situations that are entertaining to watch – the scenes in the brothel are just plain trippy and definitely add to the sense of horror as you’re put off balance by them. If there’s a failing in Brotherhood though it’s in the length of the movie, in the second hour things drag on a bit, but that’s not much of a problem really.

Two Thumbs Up for Brotherhood of the Wolf

Check out these links if you don’t believe me:
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0237534/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brotherhood_of_the_Wolf
Beast of Gévaudan: http://www.unknown-creatures.com/beast-of-gevaudan.html

30 Days of Fright – 20: An American Werewolf in Paris

I visited France when I was about 13 on a school tour which lasted for a week. Then, I forgot it ever happened. Really, I completely forgot about that week. It was only recently that the fact I’d been to a foreign country popped back into my memory after I saw a picture of Le Mont St. Michel on TV, as it was one of the places we’d visited. Le Mont St. Michel is bad-ass! How could I forget that for so long? We saw the Bayeux Tapestry for fuck’s sake! Why would I allow myself not to remember? What terrible trauma occurred on that trip to France would I not want to recall?

An American Werewolf in Paris (1997), the sequel to An American Werewolf in London, follows three young American tourists travelling around Europe on what they call “The Daredevil Tour” scoring points for various crazy exploits, kind of like a Red Bull sponsored Jackass tour. Upon reaching Paris one of the boys, Andy (Tom Everett Scott), leads the others to the top of the Eiffel Tower one night with the intention of doing a fairly bad-ass bungee jump. As he’s preparing for the stunt, Andy notices a girl, Serafine (Julie Delpy) who has climbed the tower with the intention of throwing herself off the top, but without the bungee part.

The attempt to stop her jumping ends up resulting in both Andy and Serafine taking a header, though Andy has the bungee attached so he’s able to grab her and save her life, though he does get himself a nasty bump on the head for his troubles. Waking up in hospital, Andy finds himself totally enamoured by the attractively suicidal girl and he despatches his friends to find her suicide note so that they can track her down.

Once out of the hospital Andy goes to visit Serafine and finds that her home life is more than a little odd, as she answers the door with blood on her hands. She agrees to go on a date with Andy just to get him away from the house and so they meet and go for a coffee, with pretty funny consequences, both in the “ha, ha” and “peculiar” senses of the word, as Serafine reveals an inhuman level of physical strength for a girl of her size. Deciding that she doesn’t want Andy involved with whatever’s going on in her life; she splits and tells Andy that she shouldn’t see him again. Andy’s friends, Brad and Chris, convince him that she’s merely playing hard to get, so they head round to her place again so that Andy can take another crack at things.

Serafine isn’t home, but a mysterious bloke called Claude is, and he informs them that She’ll be attending a charity gig later that evening and that they should meet her there. The lads go to the dingy little club where they discover that not only does Serafine have a terrible secret, but so does half of Paris, as the place is crawling alive with werewolves!

Andy discovers that Innocent Smoothies aren’t that fucking innocent after all!

An American Werewolf in Paris is in some ways better than the original and in some ways, bizarrely, not as good. I have to say that I find that bizarre as I didn’t enjoy the original all that much as it didn’t make me laugh nor was it all that good a horror.

The story of Werewolf in Paris is a little more straightforward than Werewolf in London; the American boys visiting Paris is an easy idea to grasp, as is the small side story of the stunts they pull, the way they encounter Serafine is a little contrived, but you could forgive a young lad for becoming interested in a good looking girl who’s as obviously troubled as she is. From there, it’s only a hop, skip, and jump to being in a crappy niteclub surrounded by werewolves.

Where things get a little more complicated is in trying to honour some of the concepts that were presented in the original, most notably how the undead victims of the werewolf haunt the one who killed them. The fact that Serafine is the daughter of the original characters isn’t as clear as it could be, nor is the big about some anti-werewolf serum that didn’t work out as planned. Werewolf in Paris also tried out some ideas of its own; having a werewolf eat the heart of the one who made it a wolf in order to permanently return to human form is not a bad idea in the context of the film. One other idea, though, is unforgivable.

An American Werewolf in London, while not a spectacular movie in my opinion, did have some brilliant special effects, with the scene of the original transformation becoming an iconic piece of cinema in its own right. The sequel, however, took its inspiration for effects more from The Howling than from its own predecessor, with a heavy dose of animation (albeit the kind done on a computer (a cheap computer, if you ask me)) in the place of mechanical or costume effects. The transformations and the action pieces with the wolves are fucking atrocious, with the werewolves floating above the filmed backgrounds in the way only bad CGI can. There are parts where no consideration was given to lighting the CGI beasts so they appear far brighter then everything else, and there are parts where no consideration was given to making werewolves look like wolves at all, with some of them looking more like grotesque vampires that you sometimes see.

The make-up used for the undead characters is worth a mention as it was quite good, it’s just a pity they didn’t get the make-up department to knock up some werewolf effects as it would have saved Werewolf in Paris a lot of embarrassment.

The performances in the film are alright, with the three boys who get the most screen time actually pretty good. Tom Everett Scott (you may remember him from a Tom Hanks flick called That Thing You Do, or as one of the voices in an old Call of Duty game) as Andy does well in the lead, but Julie Delpy (you may remember her as Zoe from Killing Zoe (but you probably don’t – I had to look it up)) as Serafine, was fucking brutal, and strangely for a girl who is actually French, her accent kept slipping, like she was American and was putting it on!

The comedy in An American Werewolf in Paris works, and it works well, but when it tried to shift gear into an attempt at horror it failed and couldn’t bring the scare, just like the movie it had followed.

One Thumb Up and One Thumb Down for An American Werewolf in Paris.

Oh yeah, I remembered why I tried to forget that school tour and it wasn’t French werewolves that were the problem – this kid called Ben threw up on himself and, on a separate occasion, another kid pissed in a sink; it was just one of those trips best forgotten.

Here are some links (about the film, not about children too tall for a urinal):
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0118604/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/An_American_Werewolf_in_Paris
Bayeux Tapestry: http://hastings1066.com/
Le Mont St. Michel: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mont_Saint-Michel

30 Days of Fright – 19: The Howling

I’ve never met a hippie that I’ve liked. I don’t like their positions on several issues, most notably social welfare reform and washing. Dirty hippies! I always thought that my dislike of the hippie movement was ideological, that there was such a gulf between our respective philosophies that could never be crossed, what with me and my love of capitalism and them and their love of beads and flairs, that we could never reach common ground on anything. Last nights film hasn’t really improved matters between me and the hippies as I now realise that our differences are more primal – hippies live in communes and so do werewolves, and I really distrust werewolves!

Set in LA, The Howling (1981) tells of Karen White (Dee Wallace) a TV news reporter who is working a story about a serial killer who’s been plying his trade in the area. One night, for the sake of a good story, she agrees to meet him and he lures her to an adult book and video store where he plans to reveal himself to her. Just as she’s about to get an eyeful, some cops who have been out looking for Karen burst in and shoot the bad man before she got to see anything. Or so she thinks as immediately after the incident Karen develops a dose of amnesia and can’t remember what she saw when she turned around.

Karen doesn’t handle the stress of the incident very well and she’s unable to work. The TV station she works for also has a therapist on the payroll and he suggests that Karen and her husband pay a visit to a sort of health spa commune that he runs as a sideline out in the country. Karen and her hubbie Bill take the good doctor up on his offer and head on out to the place, called The Colony.

When they get there, they discover that the place is full of crackpots and weirdo’s, and that Karen’s little amnesia problem is downright minor compared to some of the wackiness the other visitors suffer from. Bill finds himself attracted to one of the other guests, a fairly decent looking nympho called Marsha, and one night he runs into her and she makes him an offer. However, Bill’s an alright bloke behind it all and he tells her to shove it as he’s married and decides to go home to his missus. Along the way he is attacked and bitten by a wolf-like creature. After the attack, Bill is unable to stay home and instead he goes back out, runs into Marsha again, and takes her up on her previous offer.

As they are making the beast with two backs down by the campfire, their passions overtake them and they transform into werewolves. Turns out the place is full of the dirty creatures and that Bill and Karen ending up there might actually be part of a bigger plan.

Get out ya dirty dog! And bring that werewolf with ya!

The Howling is as cursed as the lycanthropes who feature in the film, cursed with poor acting, odd casting choices, a woeful script, shockingly bad production values, and a bizarre lack of werewolves for far too long considering it’s a werewolf movie. All in all, it’s shite.

To start, the majority of the performances are brutal. Dee Wallace as Karen seems not to know what she’s supposed to be doing at any given moment and there are times when she’s face to face with a scary monster but she’s completely unfazed, then there are other times where she’s spazing out for no good reason. This is a severe case of poor direction meeting a bad performance head on, but it must have been contagious, spreading to the other members of the cast as well. Patrick Macnee is just weird as the doctor, and Christopher Stone as Bill the husband is plain brutal. The outstanding (bad) performance of the lot though has to be Robert Picardo as the serial killer Eddie. Yes, Robert Picardo, the same Robert Picardo who played the holographic doctor in Star Trek: Voyager. How the hell he was cast as the serial killer of all roles is a mystery but just another strange choice in a litany of strange choices that make up The Howling.

The script of The Howling is utter scutter, with the characters forcing out stilted lines that make little sense, and not reacting to the situations they’re facing in the way you’d expect. The story is just as poor as the script: there’s very very little action with the wolves not showing up until quite late in the film so for nearly an hour sod all happens.

The special effects in The Howling are crap. The first time you see a werewolf transformation it’s animated, and by that I mean it’s an actual cartoon that’s been imposed over the live action footage, even for a film from the early 80’s that’s unforgivable.It only gets worse, with poor costumes for the close-ups of the wolves – one of the female werewolves is so bad she ends up looking more like a wookie than a wolf.

Chewbacca’s sister, after she’s eaten an Ewok

However, the main failing of The Howling, as strange as it may seem, is the music.The music that is used in the film would be more appropriate for a vampire movie, with lots of heavy organ and sinister overtones that are totally inappropriate for a werewolf flick, where something more tribal or feral would have suited better.

There was one thing I really liked and that was how The Howling stuck to the traditional method of dispatching a werewolf – silver bullets – but alas that little touch wasn’t anywhere near enough to redeem this poor effort.

Two Thumbs Down for The Howling.

Please state the nature of the medical emergency, then click on these links:
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Howling_%28film%29
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082533/

30 Days of Fright – 18: Wolf

When you spend a lot of time in a car and live in a rural area, like I do, then it’s perfectly natural to see the occasional animal on the road that has come a cropper on the receiving end of two tonnes of Jap import to the face. In fact, I’ve played a significant part myself in the wholesale slaughter of Irish wildlife on the highways and byways, but I’ve never hit a wolf with a car and if I did, I wouldn’t get out of the car to see if I’d killed it. I’d reverse.

Wolf (1994) starts off innocently enough, when old and busted publisher Will Randall (Jack Nicholson) accidentally hits a wolf with his car one night. As he attempts to move the poor creature out of the road, the wolf springs to life, turns, and bites the hand that tried to kill it. Concerned about rabies and the like, Will visits his doctor who points out that the whole thing is a bit far-fetched as there are no wolves in New England, and that is was probably just a big dog of the more domestic variety that he splattered all over the tarmac with his car.

Will returns to work, where he is having a tough time of things. He’s a well liked and respected editor-in-chief of a publishing house that is in the final stages of being taken over by a company owned by billionaire businessman Raymond Alden (Christopher Plummer). Will is very much on the downward slope of his career and has tied his remaining prospects to the future of his one-time protégé, Stewart Swinton (James Spader), a young buck on the up and up who has promised Will that he’ll resign if Randall is forced out.

Alden hosts a big party out in his country mansion to which he invites his new employees for the purposes of letting them know their status after the buyout is complete. Randall is taken aside by his new boss and offered a demotion to the Eastern European part of the business in order to allow Swinton to ascend to the editor-in-chief job. Randall takes this badly and has a bit of a panic attack, terrifying some horses in the process, and making a bit of an eejit of himself in front of Laura Alden (Michelle Pfeiffer), his bosses “free spirit” of a spoilt brat daughter. Will and his missus Charlotte (no-one cares who played her), return home, with Charlotte far more pissed off about Swinton getting Will’s job than he is, which serves to show just how beaten Randall has become.

Randall then suffers a bit of a turn and sleeps for the best part of twenty-four hours. When he awakens he’s a changed man – he feels great, is full of energy, is fiercely competitive, and more interestingly his hearing, senses of smell and taste, and his eyesight have improved considerably. Deciding he’s not going to take the loss of his job lying down, he hatches a plot to screw over Swinton just as he discovers that Swinton has been screwing his bird, Charlotte. Now with the attitude of a man half his age, he bids his cheating bitch wife goodbye and, in a roundabout way, pursues Laura Alden. As the full moon approaches though, Will finds himself transforming more than just his attitude towards life.

Jack hits the bathroom after a particularly tough vindaloo

Wolf is a film that’s very much split into two parts, much like the main character of Will Randall. For the first half it’s a subtle movie filled with the twisting intrigue and dirty tricks of the modern workplace, where people lie and, sadly, betray those dearest to them. In the second half, after Randall’s obvious fate as a werewolf is revealed, the film focuses more on what being a lycanthrope is like and the inevitable battle between those after Will and those interested in protecting him. The first part, where things are hinted at and a high value is placed on quality dialogue and character development, is excellent with sprinklings of film noir thrown in for good measure. The second part, where Will gets hairy, is kinda shit really.

From the opening credits you know that Jack Nicholson turns into a werewolf, it then takes all of about three minutes before you see him get bitten by the wolf and from then on any doubt about Jack’s fate is removed, and that makes the first two thirds or so of Wolf absolute genius. The way his personality changes as well as the physical effects that he experiences, like the improved senses, make for entertaining viewing, especially as you see him go after James Spader’s character with such venom but without any outward sign of the wolf within him having anything to do with it. Spader is quite the evil, twisting little bollocks in Wolf so you’re delighted to see Nicholson deal with him with style and panache. The dialogue is excellent and the story moves with the right pace and, despite all the corporate messing about, is never confusing.

However, once Jack sprouts hair out of his ears and starts running about the place like a droopy hunchback, the best parts of Wolf are over and all that remains is to see a bit of a fight and call it a night. The last act of the film is not a patch on the first two despite the continuing quality performances and ending that really isn’t all that bad. It’s just that Wolf could only end one way, with Nicholson howling at the moon for a bit, that there’s no big surprise nor is there much of a resolution, all that can happen is a foregone conclusion. In fact, it’s a bit of a shame that they had the werewolf bit at all as the story about the business at the publishers is great on its own and would have been a good movie if all that occurred was that Jack snapped and decided to deal with the shit in his life, as opposed to turning into a wolf.

The performances from the main men in Wolf are excellent with Nicholson and Spader kicking ass in every scene they’re in. Pfeiffer was nothing special, just like her character really, and it could have been anyone in the part of Laura Alden. Christopher Plummer as her Dad was excellent though, giving a master class in thinly veiled contempt.

There are some good lines in Wolf, and some magnificent scenes of banter and sometimes vicious but polite back and forth between adversaries, it’s such a shame that the script was crippled with an ending as predictable as the coming of the next full moon…

…but I still can’t bring myself to rate Wolf badly, as the first two thirds are so brilliant it’s still really worth seeing.

So, Two Thumbs Up for Wolf.

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wolf_(film)
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0111742/

30 Days of Fright – 17: Zombieland

My hatred of setting a film in a “post-apocalyptic wasteland” is well documented as I often feel that it’s a lazy way to set things up for a movie that would be hard to explain otherwise. The zombie genre has really embraced the post-apocalyptic wasteland as its own and it would be odd to find a zombie movie that didn’t either start that way or have the wasteland as the final destination of the piece. I tend not to think too much about things I dislike (like wastelands) but after watching last night’s movie I figured out another problem with the whole idea. The apocalypse is the end of the world, i.e. there’s no more world after it, so to have something set post-apocalypse would mean that the action would have to occur somewhere else, either off-world or in some other part of the ethereal plain like Heaven, Hell, Purgatory, Limbo, or West Cork.

Zombieland (2009) is set in a post-nearly-apocalyptic America which has recently been ravaged by a mutated version of mad cow disease that has jumped to humans and turned them into zombies. Our hero, the geeky Columbus is travelling to the city of the same name to find out if any of his family has survived. Columbus narrates the action, telling the viewer about his rules for avoiding death by zombie as he goes through the motions of day-to-day survival. As he travels along he encounters a man who calls himself Tallahassee, a bit of a bad-ass who gets a kick out of slaughtering the zombie hoards as he cruises around.

Tallahassee and Columbus travel together, occasionally stopping to forage for food, with Tallahassee desperate to feed his addiction to Twinkies. During one such stop they encounter two sisters, Wichita and Little Rock who are on their way to LA to visit Pacific Playland which is supposed to be clear of zombies. The small group end up travelling together, battling zombies, encountering the most unlikely people along the way, and kicking the shit out of every zombie that’s dumb enough to cross their path.

Even Woody Harrelson knows that if you plan to play the banjo around here you’d fuckin’ better bring backup!

Zombieland was incredibly surprising as it is really, really fucking good. Jesse Eisenberg is perfect as Columbus, the poor meek lad who put his mind to surviving and was getting places with his strategies. Woody Harrelson finally found the best role of his career in Tallahassee, a man so utterly out of his tree he’s the ultimate role model for gun-toting zombie killers everywhere. It’s really good to see Harrelson in this role as he really was ideal for it. His comedy timing, use of foul language, but surprisingly human side all worked well to develop a character that’s much more then you’d expect in a film of this nature.

The storyline of Zombieland is probably the only big failing of the movie as it was originally intended to be a TV series and not a feature film. The mid-way point of the film is where the pilot episode of the series was to end and then develop on out into a running series. In order to make the film complete it was necessary to write an ending that would tie everything up and provide a thrilling climax, so to do this they came up with the idea of Pacific Playland, and that’s the weak spot. The Playland idea seems like a poor motivation for the journey the sisters are on and they themselves seem so self-centred and single-minded given their situation as to be the least believable of the group, even with the explanations that are provided.

These points are more than compensated for by Tallahassee and Columbus, with Columbus’s common sense rules promoting the exact opposite kind of behaviour then you normally see in a zombie flick that normally makes you scream at the stupidity of the people you’re watching. For a zombie comedy there’s a level of intelligence and subtlety behind the humour that treats the audience with respect and is easily on a par with Shaun of the Dead (with which there are obvious comparisons), and in some aspects are better than Shaun, though I don’t think the sentimentality of Zombieland works as well.

Zombieland is funny, belly laugh funny, and nicely gory too. Some of the effects are computer generated but they’re not bad, and you’ll be so busy pissing yourself laughing that you won’t really notice, probably because you’ll be sitting in a pool of your own wee.

Two Thumbs Firmly Up for Zombieland.

Where are you, you spongy, yellow, delicious bastards?
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zombieland
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1156398/
Twinkies: http://www.hostesscakes.com/twinkies.asp

30 Days of Fright – 16: Scream 2

When Drew Barrymore was killed off in the first five minutes of the original Scream it came as a surprise to audiences everywhere. Any sequel was going to be hard pressed to top that idea, all they could really do is find a bigger star to slaughter early on. Who they got though was Jada Pinkett, which tells you from the start what kind of film you’re dealing with when it comes to the sequel.

Scream 2 (1997) picks up the story of Sidney Prescott a year after the traumatic events in her home town. Now in college with her friend Randy, Sidney is studying theatre (so a career in the fast food industry awaits her upon graduation) and is just on the verge of getting her life in order when a movie called “Stab” is released. The film is based on a book about the murders in the first Scream written by Gale Weathers, the reporter who covered the events. The film stirs up all the old memories for Sidney, especially as two people are murdered at a sneak preview. With the media on Sidney’s case once more the news media are giving air time to Cotton Weary, the man Sidney had wrongly accused of the killing of her mother, which just adds to the strain she’s under.

One night, during a big party at a frat house, a girl is murdered in a nearby sorority house. The killer is wearing the same halloween costume as the killer from Sidneys past and it quickly becomes apparent that there’s a copycat killer on the loose.

What’s that coming over the hill? A divorce, I think

The first Scream movie did a lot for the horror genre so it was inevitable that there’d be a sequel, the only surprise was how quickly it appeared, only one year after the original. In the same way that Scream knew it was a horror film filled with cliches, Scream 2 is aware of its status as a horror sequel and plays to that fact with great effect. There are several references to sequels and loads of contrivances to get people into place so that they can take part. Sidney and Randy went off to college together, Dewey gets wind that there was trouble on campus so he turns up, Gale is there in her role as a reporter to cover events and so on.

Scream 2 does up the ante in a few areas, most particularly in terms of the cast. Neve Campbell returns as Sidney, David Arquette is back as Dewey, and Courteney Cox shows up as Gale Weathers too. Added in for this outing is Sarah Michelle Gellar, Timothy Olyphant, Jerry O’Connell and a few other recognisable faces. Jerry O’Connell is surprisingly good as Sidney’s boyfriend and there’s one scene where he sings a song that could have been a disaster but turns out quite well. That scene reflects a greater focus on comedy that runs through the whole film with the usual references to horror films present as well as several jokes about the TV show Friends, at Cox or Arquette’s expense.

The violence in Scream 2 is a little more graphic than the first with more time spent on showing the stabbings, but it never gets really gory and it never gets really scary either. Scream 2 is not in the least be frightening but it’s not so out and out funny as to be a comedy either, it’s as if it was so completely wrapped up in being a homage to horror sequels that it forgot to actually be a horror sequel.

Unfortunately Scream 2 is further let down by it’s ending which, instead of honoring horror films seemed more to be based on the endings of several episodes of Scooby Doo. In looking at the ending something struck me that was missing from Scream 2. Normally in movies the main character goes through some sort of change, something happens in their life that makes them a different person. In most slasher movies a female character is faced with some baddie that makes her change from being a regular girl into a tough as nails sort unfazed by monsters and the like. In Scream, Sidney goes from being a weepy insecure paranoid chick into being a fairly hardy bitch. In Scream 2, she’s already a tough sort so she doesn’t develop, in fact none of the characters develop so there really is a feeling of going through the motions.

One Thumb Up and One Thumb Down for Scream 2.

Carry On Screaming:
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0120082/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scream_2

30 Days of Fright – 15: Friday the 13th (1980)

Superstition has lost such power in recent times. Once upon a time there was no way you’d get someone to walk under a ladder, or take their chances with black cats, or smash a few mirrors for a laugh. Now, thanks to poxy science, ladders are being walked under all over the place, black cats haven’t a fraction of the power they once possessed, and there isn’t a mirror in the land safe from a good smashing! That said, whenever a Friday the thirteenth comes around it still gets a mention on the radio and plebs everywhere text in their bad luck stories associated with the day. There’s even a big long name for being afraid of the day (thanks again Science, you prick!): “friggatriskaidekaphobia”. Being afraid of a date seems a bit lame, but sometimes these fears serve to protect us from something terrible.

The opening scenes of Friday the 13th (1980) are set in 1958 and depict the murder of two members of staff at a summer camp who were sneaking off for a bit of quality time together away from the pesky kids who were staying there. The action then jumps forward in time to Friday 13th June 1980, where we find that the camp has been closed for some years as a result of the murders and other tragedies that have occurred there.

Now in the process of re-opening Camp Crystal Lake once again several new young members of staff arrive in town to start their new jobs. One girl is given a lift half way to the camp by a local truck driver who warns her, quite seriously, of the troubles that have plagues the camp that has come to be known locally as “Camp Blood”. The girl hitches a lift from a passing jeep the rest of the way to the camp but never arrives at her destination as instead the driver of the jeep (who we don’t see) takes her off into the woods and murders her.

Meanwhile, back at the camp, the other new councillors have arrived and started work fixing the place up in preparation for the opening. That night a storm hits the area and during the course of the night more tragedy strikes Camp Blood.

Another satisfied customer is signed up for Sky Movies HD

The date Friday the 13th is a great idea for a film with that day in particular resonating with those of a superstitious disposition. The concept that there really is something wrong with that date is something well worth exploring so it’s a little disappointing that in cinema terms Friday the13th is now associated with a hugely successful franchise of bog standard slasher flicks.

The movie that kicked off that franchise is a little surprising for a handful of reasons – it was made very cheaply but doesn’t feel like it, it stars Kevin Bacon, and for the first part of such a successful series it’s utter shit.

The setting is good as it’s remote for the right reasons and the motivations for a bunch of randy teenagers being there are believable but the explanations given for the murders are weak as is the link to the date Friday 13th.

The content of the movie is very weak; all your watching is a series of murders over the course of one night, just like Halloween which inspired Friday the 13th. The audience are given no time to get to know the characters before they’re bumped off so it’s hard to care about what happens to them. It’s probably just as well as only one or two of the actors in the film were any good so watching too much of them making a balls of what they were doing would only put you off.

Nearly all the action (i.e. the murders) happens off screen and there are only a handful of gory moments, but the things you do see are quite good. There’s a decent bit with a girl with an axe in her head and the way Kevin Bacon leaves the film is well done.

All in all Friday the 13th is a disappointing venture. This movie started a very successful franchise so it must have done something right though I’m at a loss as to what that was. One interesting point about Friday the 13th is that it does feature a nice piece of movie trivia: if Freddy Kreuger is the main villain from A Nightmare on Elm Street, and Michael Myers is the baddie in Halloween, Jason Voorhees is the one you associate with Friday the 13th – but Jason isn’t really in the first film…

Two Thumbs Down for Friday 13th

You should check out these links – it’ll be bad luck if you don’t!
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friday_the_13th_%281980_film%29
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0080761/
For more info on the “Witches Sabbath”: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Friday_the_13th

30 Days of Fright – 14: Witchfinder General

When out and about and on the look-out for shits and giggles, manys a young lad turns to shouting at passers-by while leaning out the window of a moving car. This trend can be traced back to the cult movie Withnail & I, where the manic drunkard Withnail shouts at some schoolgirls as he and his chum flee London in a battered Jag. On that occassion Withnail chose to shout the word “scrubbers”, a simple but effective choice. When, like Withnail, I’m leaning out of a car window twisted on cheap booze, I like to go old school (really old school) and shout “Witch!!!!!” in an accusatory manner at random strangers.

Set in England in 1644 during the height of the Civil War, Witchfinder General (1968) tells the fictionalised story of the real-life Matthew Hopkins as he plied his trade seeking out witches, mostly young women, who had been accused by members of their local communities on trumped up charges, sometimes related to the state of affairs in the country but mostly for petty personal reasons. Hopkins and his assistant Stearne go from town to town and charge a hefty fee to torture a confession out of the nominated victim and then perform the execution, all under the auspices of the barely functioning and wildly corrupt legal system.

Hopkins is summoned to a town where the locals have taken a dislike to a local Priest, who they’ve labelled a dirty papist. The priest in question has a young niece who has just gotten engaged to a soldier in the parliamentarian army. Hopkins arrives and has the Priest tortured but despite the ordeal he doesn’t confess. In an attempt to save her uncle, the niece Sarah, offers herself to Hopkins. The witchfinder uses Sarah but still proceeds to execute her uncle.

Sarah’s fiancé returns to the town after hearing that there’d been a spot of bother with witches and finds his beloved living in terror and shame having effectively been raped by Hopkins and actually raped by his assistant. Sarah’s boyfriend, Richard, decides to cut out the middle man and marries Sarah on the spot, performing the ceremony himself. Once wed, Richard swears revenge on Hopkins and goes in search of the Witchfinder and his helper, endangering himself and his new wife as the country tears itself apart around them.

Matthew Hopkins fresh from a double execution (his barber and his tailor)

Witchfinder General is a great horror film, made in a time where new boundaries in all forms of art were being explored, and depicting a time where political and religious ideas were being expanded too. As a film Witchfinder attracted a lot of controversy when it was released as it’s basically 1960’s torture porn where people are beaten up, stabbed, and attacked with sharp things that have been left in the fire, in order to get false confessions out of them so that they could be executed painfully for a bit of entertainment in the town square. One defense of this material is that it’s depicting what actually happened at the time, which is perhaps a bit of a weak excuse for gratuitous violence. However, to modern audiences the content of Witchfinder is a bit tame, so this is no longer an issue.

Vincent Price as Hopkins would have raised a few eyebrows too, seeing as Hopkins was a dyed in the wool English psycho and Price was a dyed in the wool creepy American weirdo. But Price in the title role works so well it’s hard to believe. The first time he opens his mouth in the picture is a little odd, as his voice was so distinctive, but after a while it seems right that Hopkins is portrayed by someone so radically different from the rest of the cast. Price also played the part very seriously and not with his trademark semi-comedic manner, and this just made the whole thing perfectly creepy. The rest of the cast, primarily Ian Ogilvy as Richard, Hilary Dwyer as Sarah are excellent, with Ogilvy as the man out for a little revenge really brilliant.

There’s little point discussing the technical aspects of the production as it was made in 1968 so a lot is left to the imagination, but one point I noticed that was really well handled was the lighting, especially in scenes that are supposed to be by candlelight, which are moody and, more to the point, dark.

Two Thumbs Up for Witchfinder General

You’ll be burned at the stake if you don’t get familiar with these links:
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witchfinder_General_(film)
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0063285/
Mattie Hopkins: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Matthew_Hopkins

30 Days of Fright – 13: The Descent

Paintball is great craic. I like paintball as you get to shoot guns and dress up as a soldier and play army in a field or warehouse somewhere. As extreme sports go Paintball is probably one of the more accessible along with skateboarding (though that’s firmly the domain of fourteen year olds and Tony Hawk). I sometimes wish I was better able for extreme sports as I would go off and get Red Bull to sponsor me to piss my life away while I made cheap TV programmes for MTV. However, there are some extreme sports best left to others, as I learned from last evenings outing.

Beginning with a little white water rafting in Scotland, The Descent (2005) introduces a group of thrill seeking women, one of whom, Juno, appears to be having an affair with the husband of another of the group, Sarah. One the way home from the rafting expedition Sarah’s husband loses control of his car and both he and their daughter are killed.

A year later, the women get together in North Carolina to do a little caving. They enter a large cave system and it quickly proves challenging, with Sarah getting stuck at one point and several other difficulties and dangers presenting themselves as the girls move through the system. Tensions mount in the group as certain pertinent details of their expedition become apparent as well as personal difficulties caused by the different personalities rubbing off each other in such close quarters. Sarah is still traumatised by the death of her family so when she suddenly sees something moving in the darkness, her companions are, at first, reluctant to believe her.

Look at this picture
and this one
now this one… what are the torches for?

The Descent is a tough movie to talk about without giving away too much of the story as so much of the action is based on a series of convenient events, most of which are set up early on in the movie and therefore make it quite predictable. For example, one of the girls in the group is a doctor – perhaps her skills will come in handy later on? One of the girls is a reckless type who rushes into things head first -maybe she’ll be in need of a doctor later on? Or how about, the girls find a dead deer on the way to the cave that’s been attacked by something -I wonder will they find out what it was later on?

The predictability doesn’t prevent there being a couple of brilliant moments that make you jump, but unfortunately those moments are few and far between and the other jumpy bits come off as lame when they fail so badly. When the girls encounter what’s living in the cave The Descent turns into an even more predictable creature feature which is sad because at that moment I realised just how good an idea the basis of the film is. Caves can do anything, they can twist and turn, go up or down, be wide and breathtaking or narrow and terrifying, and so on, which is probably why so many away teams on Star Trek beam down into a cave as opposed to an office block.

The Descent is a traditional Hollywood horror where a girl starts off quite fragile and weak, and turns into a double hard bastard as she’s put under pressure. This is standard fare and it’s a shame that things went along such a traditional path as it would have been great to see them mix it up a bit. What would have happened if the doctor was the one who got injured? What if, instead of Sarah the weak chick being the one to see things in the cave, the super tough bitch had seen them? I can only suppose the film would have been shorter, but just maybe a little more interesting.

There’s a lot to like in The Descent, the setting for a start, some of the shocks are excellent, and the action scenes are well done. Also, I could have sworn there was a homage to Predator going on in the final act – all that was missing was for Sarah to yell “get to tha choppa!” for me to be absolutely sure.

I’m prepared to forgive a lot in The Descent due to the fact that you just don’t get to see the entrails of a female character in a film that often, but there’s one big thing that I can’t overlook and that’s the entrance to the cave system. In the movie, the caves are supposed to be unknown and unexplored. How the fuck is that possible? The entrance to the caves is a hole in the ground about fifty feet across and a hundred deep! How come Juno was the one to discover it – all anyone had to do was look on Google maps!

One Thumb Up and One Thumb Down for The Descent.

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Descent
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0435625/

30 Days of Fright – 12: Doghouse

This review is going to start off a little differently as it’s important that you know who I’m talking about, so here’s a picture of well ‘ard London geezer, Danny Dyer, who you may have seen in The Business, Mean Machine, Human Traffic, or one of those Britain’s Hardest Gobshites type programmes on Bravo late at night:

Danny Dyer frowns on your shenanigans

I wonder if Danny Dyer is a vampire? You never see him on TV until after dark, there’s no way in Hell you’d let him into your house unless you’d specifically invited him, and he never shaves which may be because he has no reflection but also his beard never seems to get any longer either! The reason this line of thinking entered my head is down to Dyer appearing in last night’s film.

Doghouse (2009) starts off in London where a group of friends are having trouble with women in varying degrees. Vince is in the final stages of a painful divorce, Neil is a twat with a caveman-like approach to women who couldn’t stay in a relationship to save his life, Mikey is constantly on the receiving end of an earful as he treats his wife quite poorly, Matt is a comic-loving geek, and so on. The lads decide that a weekend away is what’s needed to cheer up Vince and get his mind of his troubles, so they hire a bus complete with a good looking female driver and head to the remote village of Moodley where Mikey’s gran has left her house idle while she’s away on a cruise.

Upon arrival they realise that Moodley is a very small, very quiet village off in the middle of the woods with not much going for it. Mickey insists that they’ll have a good time as the female population outnumbers the men by about four to one. The lads have a look about but find the pub deserted and no life in any of the shops. Mickey is dispatched to his gran’s house to ensure that they’ll at least have somewhere to sleep that night.

Mickey heads up to house and discovers a scene of carnage with destruction and gore all over the place. Meanwhile, back in the village the rest of the group head back to the bus and come across an apparently homeless woman roaming around. Suddenly a soldier pops out and starts knocking the shit out of yer one. The boys don’t take kindly to this attack and wade in against the soldier. The quickly discover that they’ve picked the wrong side as the homeless girl is revealed to be a zombie. Mickey rejoins the group, followed by another zombie. As they try to get back on the bus they find that their driver has been infected by whatever has befallen the other women in Moodley and has turned zombie as well.

The boys then spend the rest of the night fighting off man eaters like they’ve never dealt with before and along the way face death, destruction, and their own weaknesses.

Matt trying to score with a zombie – proof that the “what goes on tour stays on tour” rule doesn’t cover everything

Doghouse is a horror comedy that seems to have been made with “fake it ‘till ya make it” as it’s driving philosophy as there are a lot of elements that seem false. To say that the film was heavily influenced by movies like Shaun of the Dead, is a just a kinder way of saying that Doghouse is basically a cheap knock-off of a zombie comedy, with a cast made up of the sorts of people you’d expect to be selling dodgy DVD’s down the market not starring in them.

Every actor in Doghouse appears to have been a second choice as it’s a cast who normally appear in supporting roles, featuring Mickey from Dr. Who (coincidentally as Mickey in Doghouse), the bloke who played Hollom in Master & Commander, Tommy from Snatch, and Danny Dyer kinda in the lead role as Neil, though I suspect he only got top billing as his was the only name anyone had a chance of recognising.

The funny thing about Doghouse, though, is that as a comedy it works really well. It’s a funny film, proper funny in some spots, and this is something that should be credited not to the writer but to the actors as the majority of the humour comes from swearing and the effective way the boys use it. Anyone with a strong accent of any kind could have delivered the lines, but in this case it was boys from the Thames (and one from the Mersey) who did deliver them and it was funny! Thankfully, on the production side the editing is excellent so the funny moments hit just right and the comedic timing works.

The written comedy doesn’t work so well and there are parts of Doghouse that are too silly for their own good, especially when they tried to big up that it’s a lads movie, the very antithesis of every chick flick you’ve ever heard of. There was no need to try so hard on that front and some of the jokes could have worked better if they’d been turned down just a bit, as usual the film-makers seemed to think that the audience is too dumb to get jokes without an explanation.

There was one aspect that’s central to Doghouse that was handled with subtlety that I really liked and it leads me to believe that there’s hope for the director, Jake West. In Doghouse there is a strong sense of comradery that shines through above and beyond the idea of not leaving someone behind. The boys have gone away on their trip to help one of their friends work through a divorce and they are very kind to him, Dyer’s character on more than one occasion is disgusted by what the failed relationship and divorce has done to his friend, referring to him before things went bad as “a king!”. Also, one of the group is openly gay and is living with a man, and nobody cares! There’s a joke or two at the characters expense, but there’s a joke or two at everyone’s expense; they’re lads slagging each other and no-one’s safe in a situation like that. There was no need to include a gay character but they did and the way the character is played and interacts with the others makes Doghouse a better film for his inclusion.

I asked if Danny Dyer may be a vampire, mainly because most of his work sucks – but Doghouse doesn’t.

Two Thumbs Up for Doghouse.

Mother of Pearl gettin’ ya down? The trouble & strife bendin’ yer ear? Click a link to find out what to do with the moody ol’ abercrombie & fitch!
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1023500/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Doghouse_(film)

30 Days of Fright – 11: Exorcist 2

Richard Burton was quite the bad-ass. A womaniser, pisshead, and shit-stirrer, Burton starred in some top notch films and leant his voice to the narration of The War of the Worlds. He also bedded Elizabeth Taylor back when she was reasonable looking and before she lost the plot. Finally, Burton’s crowning achievement: he drank himself to death! Seven years after he starred in the sequel to The Exorcist. Having watched the film last night, I’m surprised it took him that long.

Exorcist 2: The Heretic (1977) picks up the story of Regan McNeill four years after her encounter with demonic possession. Now living in New York she is receiving therapy from a psychiatrist for nightmares she’s experiencing. She is reluctant to talk of her experiences back in Washington, even with her therapist, who is convinced that she is still traumatised from the ordeal.

Meanwhile, Fr. Lamont (played, if you can believe it, by Richard Burton) is struggling with his faith after an exorcism he performs goes wrong and the possessed girl he was trying to save kills herself. Lamont is a student of the teachings Of Fr. Merrin, the priest who led the original exorcism of Regan and who died as a result. Merrin is under investigation by the Vatican as some of his teachings are considered by some to be heresy. Lamont travels to New York to meet with Regan and her therapist to gain some insight into what happened to her.

Regan is undergoing an experimental hypnosis treatment that allows for a therapist and patient to share the same hypnotic state of consciousness, effectively allowing the therapist to see the patient’s memories. Regan’s shrink has quite the turn when she comes face to face with what’s been bothering her and nearly dies.

Lamont decides that he wants a go in Regan’s head, and while under the hypnosis he is shown a vision of a younger Fr. Merrin out doing missionary work in Africa including performing an exorcism on a young tribal lad. The vision is presented to him by the demon who had possessed Regan and who is drawn to people with psychic healing abilities. Lamont figures out that the boy in the vision had developed the power to fight the demon, so he seeks him out to get a few tips as it’s apparent that Regan has begun to develop powers of her own that will only serve to draw the demon back.

James Earl Jones, before he got his Star Wars money

I consider myself to be a reasonably smart bloke and, despite not paying a lick of attention in any of the schools I attended, I did manage to drag together the component parts of a half-decent education, so it’s no small thing when I say I haven’t a fucking clue what was going on in Exorcist 2. I have a rough idea what was meant to be happening, in that it was definitely a film I was watching, so there was supposed to be a story, and actors, and things like that, but I’ll be damned if I could make it out while it was happening.

There are so many baffling things in Exorcist 2 that it’s hard to pin the blame on any one person, but I’m going to point at John Boorman as being the cocksucker with whom the buck ultimately stops. Boorman, father of Charley Boorman of Long Way Round fame, directed some serious movies in his time including Deliverance and Excalibur which makes it hard to understand what could have gone so very wrong with Exorcist 2.

The story doesn’t make an ounce of sense and in every way imaginable is fucking appalling. Considering the original material they had to work with there’s really no excuse for how off-track the sequel went. There is nothing approaching the dread that was created in the original film and at no point could you ever be scared of anything on screen, in fact quite the opposite, you’ll laugh out loud.

When Richard Burton turned up as Fr. Lamont I was hopeful that Exorcist 2 might turn out to be alright but, wow, how wrong was I. Even if you could get past the idea of the hypnosis machine there’s no way you could forgive the re-shot scenes of Regan’s possession from the first film, especially as the actress Linda Blair refused to wear the make-up necessary for those scenes, so a different actress was used! That’s right; two different actresses played Regan in the same fucking film!

The point about Linda Blair and the make-up effects is interesting as in 1990 she appeared in the spoof Repossessed as a woman who’d been possessed by the devil as a child, and in that movie Blair plastered the demon make-up on. I suppose she needed the work in 1990 and wasn’t going to be as fussy. Frankly I think Blair should have worn the make-up in Exorcist 2 as the roundy-faced cow could have used all the help she could have gotten.

The cast is the big surprise of Exorcist 2 as they’re all of a fairly high calibre. Burton was an amazing actor before he kicked the bucket; Louise Fletcher had won an Oscar two years before Exorcist 2 for her role in One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest; and James Earl Jones was Darth Vader, but Boorman somehow managed to get the absolute worst performances out of them (except Burton, who couldn’t help but rock as the Priest even with the woeful dialogue they gave him).

Exorcist 2 is such a crushing disappointment to any fan of The Exorcist that there’s nothing more to be said except “do not watch this film – it’s fucking shit!”

Two Thumbs Firmly Down for Exorcist 2: The Heretic

Link what she’s done…
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0076009/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exorcist_II:_The_Heretic

30 Days of Fright – 10: The Lost Boys

The vampire story is a firm favourite of Hollywood and with good reason. The vampire is a creature with two opposing sides to its nature. On the downside you have the terrible hunger for human blood coupled with the inability to ever see the daylight again and the hollow existence that comes from never having the release of death that mortals eventually enjoy. Contrary to that is eternal youth and the twisted promise that immortality offers of never having to die, served up with increased physical strength and an innate sensuality, beauty even. However, that sense of beauty can also be a failing, as beauty is in the eye of the beholder and no-one beholding a dude with a haircut given to him in 1985 is going to think it’s beautiful.

The Lost Boys (1987) is set in the fictional California seaside resort of Santa Carla where recent divorcee Lucy and her two sons, Michael and his younger brother Sam, move in with her father in order to put their lives back together. Santa Carla is a dump, filled with aging hippies, drugged up surfers, bikers, and an assortment of other ne’er do wells, and is considered to be the murder capital of the world, with an incredibly high number of people missing from the area.

Sam and Michael try to settle into life by the beach, Sam finding solace in a comic book store and Michael following wherever his hormones lead him. Of course, they lead him into trouble as he chases after some floozy he takes a fancy to who is in fact the main squeeze of David, the leader of a gang of local rowdies. Michael, being full of bravado and utterly absent of any brains, challenges David who starts to take a liking to Michael and his manly charms. David and his gang show Mike to their secret clubhouse, an old hotel that fell into a hole in the ground during an earthquake, and introduce him to their slightly off-beat way of life.

Meanwhile, Sam has made some new friends, the two boys who run the comic shop, the most excellently named Edgar & Alan Frog. The Frog brothers don’t seem to be great friends with reality as they issue Sam all sorts of dire warnings about the presence of vampires in Santa Carla. Dismissing their claims as nonsense, Sam goes on about his business.

Michael and Sam’s mother manages to find work in a video shop (remember them?) where her new boss, the snappy dresser Max, fancies the arse off her. Lucy and Max try to get together on a couple of occasions but each time their date is ruined by Sam who has started to believe what the Frog brothers are telling him as he discovers that Michael really has fallen in with the wrong crowd in Santa Carla.

Bill S. Preston, Esq. and some of the supporting members of “Wyld Stallions”

At its most basic, The Lost Boys is about vampires, but as the name implies it’s also about not growing up, though in this case literally thanks to the immortality part of the deal. Like Peter Pan, the characters in the film live in a (run-down) Never Never Land, with an all year fun fair and every other tacky beachfront amusement arcade and trapping that you find at a budget sea side resort. Unfortunately, unlike the vampires, the film has aged quite badly, permanently stuck in that horrible mid-eighties purgatory of stadium rock band hairdos and rolled up jacket sleeves.

However, despite the 80’s vintage, The Lost Boys is excellent and has rightly become a cornerstone of the vampire genre due to the very traditional manner in which it dealt with the bloodsuckers themselves; giving them the ability to fly, a healthy dislike of holy water, poor reflections, the need to be invited into a home, and when they encounter sunlight they burn like dry wood (also, they don’t turn sparkly and no long-faced women appear to be pining after any of them ala Twilight).

The Lost Boys tells it’s tale quite well, setting out an enjoyable good versus evil story with a twist or two. That said, there are a couple of things that I noticed in last night’s viewing. Firstly, Michael is an idiot, spending money he doesn’t have on a new leather jacket after declaring that they’re flat broke, and he’s very easily led, with the motorbike race that nearly killed him and then with the railway bridge drop – he never even looked or considered how the hell he’d get back up if he didn’t fall – though that is a great scene!

There’s something of a Jim Morrison thing going on in the film to do with Michael. The poster that covers one wall in the hotel where the vampires live that points to an obvious parallel with Michael – he looks like Morrison in more than one shot and I suppose you’re meant to gather from this that Michael is supposed to die young too – though as far as I know Morrison never became a vampire. There’s a musical link too as the theme tune from The Lost Boys, “People are strange”, is a doors song that was covered by Echo & The Bunnymen – there’s even a Bunnymen poster on Michael’s bedroom wall.

Michael isn’t the only one deserving of some attention as speaking of posters it seems odd that Sam had a poster of a half-naked Rob Lowe on his wall, and a poster of Molly Ringwald from The Breakfast Club (I know this because I read the end credits of The Lost Boys, I’m proud to say I’ve never seen The Breakfast Club). Now, I’m not trying to infer anything about young Sam, but he did seem to love his mother very much, if you catch my drift. He probably missed Phoenix because he left his friends behind, one of whom was probably called Dorothy, if you see what I mean. He’s probably a big fan of musical theatre, if you know what I’m getting at.

Also, Sam remains very calm throughout the film considering how prone his sort (i.e. people who were “Born to Shop” as the slogan on one of his t-shirts states) are to freaking out at the slightest thing and what he’s going through. When the phantom motorbikes buzz the house he doesn’t bat an eyelid when they vanish into thin air but instead goes for a relaxing bubble bath.

Finally, Lucy, the lads mother, is some gobshite – even her dad knew he raised a moron as evidenced by his opinion of how she must be the only woman in America to have come out worse off after getting a divorce!

The Lost Boys suffers from lots of product placement, and while some were OK, like the comics despite the heavy D.C. references (Batman, Superman and the close-ups of other D.C. titles) and the Windex Grandpa used as aftershave, others were a tad blatant. If you notice product placement in a film then it failed as it was supposed to blend in – some of the placements failed big time! For some reason The Munsters got mentioned a fair bit too, probably because The Munsters Today series was about to start on American TV not long after The Lost Boys came out.

Even with a list of failings, The Lost Boys is a good film and features some great comedy moments, like the window cleaner aftershave, some of the one-liners from the Frog Brothers, and when the boys fetch holy water from the font in a Church in the middle of a Christening!

It’s easy to see how The Lost Boys has influenced films and TV shows that came after it. There are some scenes in The Lost Boys, especially a couple of big soundtrack moments that put you in mind of The Crow, and the makeup effects definitely reappeared in Buffy The Vampire Slayer as did the attitude of the Frog Brothers.

Upon watching The Lost Boys last night I wonder if they’d hoped to make sequels around the characters of the Frog Brothers, as at one point Edgar states that “Ghouls & Werewolves occupy high positions in City Hall”. I would have loved to see more of those characters battling other monsters.

Two Thumbs Firmly Up for The Lost Boys

My own brother, a Goddamn shit-sucking vampire! and I don’t even have a brother:
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093437/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Lost_Boys

30 Days of Fright – 09: Slither

The first series of the TV show Dead Like Me was excellent. The idea of random dead people being pressed into service as grim reapers in order to handle the ever increasing numbers of people dying made for surprisingly entertaining viewing and there were some genuinely funny moments as well as some quite poignant ones as well. Throughout the series, George, the girl all the action was focused on, observed her parents as they dealt with her death and their collapsing marriage. In one episode it was revealed that George’s mother hated the word “Moist”, as she felt it was a dirty word. I don’t think the word “moist” is particularly dirty but I can see where George’s mum was coming from. “Moist” is kinda like an onomatopoeic word, one that sounds like what it means, words like “bang”, “boom”, ”cuckoo”, “slap”, “slurp” and so on. “Moist” isn’t one of those words but it should be. So should “Slither”.

Slither (2006) is set in the town of Wheeley in rural America at the start of deer hunting season. The town is made up of all the usual characters you’d expect, there’s a sleazy foul-mouthed mayor, a hot high school teacher, a tough tycoon, and the down to earth chief of police (played by Nathan Fillion from Firefly). The tycoon, Grant, is married to the hot teacher and the chief of police has a thing for her. The tycoon and the teacher have a fight one night and he heads down to the pub. There he meets a girl from high school who had a crush on him and the two head off into the woods together. There they stumble across a meteorite that had recently hit and had split open. Inside is a creature that attacks Grant, infecting him with a parasite that makes for his brain and takes over his body.

Over the next few days Grant starts acting very strangely, eating lots of raw meat, killing all the neighbourhood pets, and kidnapping the girl who had the crush on him and imprisoning her in a remote barn. His physical condition deteriorates as well, the parasite causing his body to mutate into a squid-like shape, with tentacles and other bits and pieces all over the place. Grant uses the kidnapped girls body to host thousands of the parasites with the intention of infecting the entire town and beyond. Only the chief of police and the rest of the locals stand in his way.

With his lighter the only source of illumination, Mayor Jack picks the absolute worst time to cut the cheese

Slither is a horror-comedy and it’s quite successful on both fronts. As a horror it’s very like every old b-movie where aliens crash to Earth and infect the local population of middleofnowheresville. The scares in Slither depend on gore, of which there is a bit, and disgust as the parasites go for the mouth of their victims. As a comedy, the film depends entirely on Nathan Fillion’s ability to deliver dead-pan one liners and curse – at which he is excellent.

The story is straightforward enough with little to surprise the viewer, except perhaps that some of the people who fall victim to the aliens may not be who you expect. Once the film gets going you never feel that any of the main characters are in any real danger and the ending is a forgone conclusion you see coming from a mile away. That doesn’t stop Slither being enjoyable though as one thing you can never predict is what Fillion is going to say next.

The entire film rests firmly on Fillion’s shoulders and without him it’s doubtful it would have been half as good. His ability to say the word “Fuck” should have netted him an Oscar. However, if you’ve ever seen Firefly then you’ve seen Fillion in Slither as he plays more or less the same character, with roughly the same delivery, mannerisms, and attitude. At no point does his acting ever surprise you. None of the other actors present do much in that line either; Elizabeth Banks as Stella turns up and puts on an accent, Gregg Henry as Jack the mayor has more than a few funny moments, but the only other actor worth mentioning is Michael Rooker as Grant.

Michael Rooker is known for his roles as Rowdy Burns in Days of Thunder, and as Svenning in Mallrats. In all the films I’ve seen him in I’ve had this odd feeling about Michael Rooker and it wasn’t until I sat through Slither last night that I realised what it was. I absolutely hate the sight of the fucker! He’s one of those annoying sacks of shit who play the same “‘ornry sons a bitches” types in every movie he’s cast in that drive me up the fucking wall! In the case of Slither you’re supposed to detest him but that in no way makes it any easier to put up with.

Michael Rooker – I do not like this man.

The presence of Rooker (the bastard) aside, Slither is a good laugh. There are some good one-liners and you will laugh out loud, but you won’t go back to the DVD too often.

One Thumb Up and One Thumb Down for Slither.

“Link” isn’t onomatopoeic, does that seem right to you?
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Slither_%282006_film%29
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0439815/

30 Days of Fright – 08: [REC]

Before he shacked up with Katy Perry I quite liked Russell Brand. I still enjoy his comedy, but I’m really not sure about that Perry one. I was terribly disappointed when the whole scandal about his having taken the piss out of Manuel from Fawlty Towers broke. Not because of what he’d done, but because it meant that his radio show was no longer going to be on. I used to get the podcast so I could listen to the mayhem on my way to work of a Monday morning. After the whole Manuel thing happened, Brand did a stand-up routine based on the experience and his observations of the affair. He had read a forum where someone had given out about his abusing Manuel, because he was Spanish. As old Russ pointed out, Fawlty Towers wasn’t a documentary! Speaking of Spain and documentaries…

[REC] (2007) is a Spanish movie about a cameraman and a presenter who are out making an episode of a TV documentary about people who work during the night. On the night the film takes place the documentary makers are following the nocturnal activities of a fire station in Barcelona. The peace and quiet in the station is broken when a call comes in about an elderly woman trapped in an apartment. Some firemen and the film crew go to the apartment building to lend assistance. They are met by some police who say the neighbours heard screaming. Two policemen and two firemen break into the apartment, watched by Angela the documentary presenter and Pablo her cameraman.

In the apartment they discover an older woman in her nightclothes, covered in blood and acting like a wild animal. She attacks one of the policemen biting his neck and severely injuring him. When some of the group flee downstairs they discover that the health authorities have arrived on the scene with what appear to be Special Forces who have literally sealed off the building with plastic sheeting and are not letting anyone out. The authorities outside put the remaining uninjured policeman in charge and he struggles to keep order among those trapped inside as everyone experiences rising panic.

The second fireman, who had remained in the apartment with the elderly woman, falls down the stairwell from the top floor and is badly injured. This makes everyone realise that there’s something very very wrong with the woman upstairs, a theory that’s confirmed when they investigate her place for a second time.

A health inspector enters the building and reveals that a pet dog of one of the residents had been admitted to a vet’s clinic during the week suffering from a strange disease. The dog had been put down and resurrected shortly after. It quickly becomes apparent that the disease has spread to the human population of the apartment block, and the injured policeman and fireman soon begin to display signs of infection. This adds to the urgency of those trapped in the building who try to find a way out. As they struggle for survival the infection spreads and another threat awakens.

Jazz Hands!!!!

[REC] is a foreign language movie, with subtitles, which is a little bit off putting in this case. Normally subtitles are not a problem, but for me they only really work for films that are leisurely in pace, [REC] is a fast paced film with loads of panic driven dialogue. There are scenes where there are several people screaming at each other and talking over each other but only one or two lines of subtitles. All non-English language films with subtitles suffer from only being able to display a limited amount of information on screen via the subtitles so the viewer is left with feeling that they’re missing out on something, nuances of tone of voice and the like.

The story is something we’ve seen before, perhaps because [REC] was remade as Quarantine but also because the virus creating zombie-types is something that’s been done many times. [REC] tries to be a different type of film than the 28 Days movies but the similarities are glaring. Where [REC] tried to distinguish itself was by setting the story in a single, contained building thereby creating a sense of claustrophobia , but that feeling never really develops, but it’s not missed as the way the building appears on screen, particularly the way the lighting is setup, actually adds to the realism quite well.

The way the film ends stands out as it’s quite excellent. As the final scene unfolds you expect to see something akin to the ending of The Blair Witch Project, or even The Silence of the Lambs, but it twists slightly and turns genuinely frightening. The way the scene is filmed, coupled with the terror the characters are experiencing, brings you to a place where you feel anything is possible but when the end comes nothing could have prepared you for it.

It’s hard to comment on the casting as it’s unfair to judge performances when you can’t understand what the actors are saying, that said I liked Manuela Velasco as Angela, even though her character seemed to swing from being a screaming girly to being a bit of a bad-ass for no good reason.

[REC] is another one of those First Person Shooter type films made from the point of view of someone carrying a camera, like Blair Witch and Cloverfield and just like those films [REC] suffers from the problem of characters on screen trying to justify why the person with the camera should keep filming. In [REC] the inhabitants of the apartment building keep pressing on the film crew to carry on as it’s important to document what’s happening to them, which seems like crap when you consider that they were in the process of fending off a zombie attack. I’m not sure if this type of film-making has much life left in it due to the need for a good reason to be doing the filming and usually, though not in [REC], an explanation is needed as to how the footage got released for you to see it.

The way the story concludes leaves itself open for sequels and prequels very well leaving plenty of unanswered questions, the types of questions that make for fun speculation as opposed to leaving you scratching your head.

Two Thumbs Up for [REC]

Mr. Fawlty, Mr. Fawlty, I learn eengleesh from a boook, and about movies from these websites:
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/REC_(film)
IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1038988/

30 Days of Fright – 07: I Spit On Your Grave

Cinema has such power to deal with issues that challenge society. Films have, over the years, addressed complex problems like race, civil rights, poverty, crime, drug and alcohol abuse, and a myriad of other important and often troubling aspects of the world we live in. Horror films too have their part to play in showing us things about ourselves we don’t like. Slasher flicks enjoy preaching about destructive behaviours so much that we hardly notice that’s what they’re doing. Vampires, werewolves, and the host of other creatures that grace our screens are sometimes metaphors for other more common but no less frightening monsters. Cinema has the power to get a message to an audience, but sometimes the message gets lost and sometimes, like the scientists who build bombs but never think about where and on whom they’ll be used, film-makers don’t consider, or perhaps care about, the consequences.

I Spit On Your Grave (1978) tells the story of Jennifer Hill, a budding author from New York city, who has rented a house in the countryside for the summer in order to get some peace and quiet to write her first novel. She enjoys rural life in the summer, not having too much contact with the locals and taking full advantage of the remote nature of her summer home to lie around outdoors and work on her tan when she’s not writing. The only contact she really has with anyone is the delivery boy from the nearest grocery store, a young intellectually challenged man named Matthew, and Johnny, the bloke who runs the garage in town.

Her presence interests the local lads, Johnny, Matthew, and two of their friends Andy and Stanley, who begin to prowl around her house. One day, while out in her canoe getting some sun, Jennifer is attacked by the men who drag her boat to shore in an attempt to have Matthew rape her. The situation escalates badly and more or less over the course of a day Jennifer is brutally raped by all four men. Johnny convinces Matthew to kill Jennifer so as not to have her report their crime, but Matthew is unable to do so and Jennifer survives.

Jennifer slowly recovers and begins to plot a terrible revenge on the gang…

Goodbye, Career!

I Spit on Your Grave was one of a spate of rape and revenge style horror films that were briefly popular in the late seventies and, for some reason, are getting a revival of sorts now with some of them getting remade. Films like the Last House on the Left and I Spit on Your Grave used extreme, graphic violence towards women to justify extreme, graphic violence in the inevitable revenge sequence that was supposed to give reason to the whole thing. As someone who enjoys finding hidden meanings in films I had hoped to find something to redeem I Spit on Your Grave but I’ve been unsuccessful.

Rape is such an awful subject that making it the centrepiece of a film means that the film cannot be entertaining. Add in the levels of violence and nudity that feature in this movie and once again, like with The Last House on the Left, I have to conclude that there is a borderline pornographic intent here. If it wasn’t for the revenge aspect played out in the final act of the film (which doesn’t get anything like the same amount of screentime as the rape) then I Spit on Your Grave would simply be catagorised as particularly evil porn and would disappear. The fact that Jennifer seeks retribution on her attackers and does so in a straightforwardly violent manner, drags the film back towards the horror genre, though that in itself is a damning indictment of how this part of the genre is considered.

Is I Spit on Your Grave a horror because Jennifer went after her attackers? Was the fact that she was raped not horror enough, in the horrific situations meaning of the word? In slasher movies the innocent victims get killed off and that makes them horror films – by calling I Spit on Your Grave a horror are we saying that the men are the victims of the piece? From my reading about the film I’ve discovered that some reviewers and commentators have tried to suggest that I Spit on Your Grave is actually a feminist movie, as Jennifer wins out in the end against terrible odds. Personally, I think that line of reasoning is bullshit.

The strange thing about I Spit on Your Grave is that I wasn’t as disgusted by it as I was with The Last House on the Left. I am genuinely unsure if this is down to having seen material like this before or if the film just isn’t as bad as Last House was. One thing that struck me about the most heinous scenes, where Jennifer is being attacked, was that while they were disgusting, they didn’t horrify for some reason. If you’re a fan of The Sopranos, you may remember a scene in an episode where Dr. Melfi is raped on her way from her office. That scene horrified me. It was shocking, invasive, perverse, disgusting and quite frankly it made me angry that such crimes occur. I Spit on Your Grave failed to invoke anything like those emotions.

The film is famous for one scene, a legend in horror films, where Jennifer castrates one of her attackers. That scene invoked an emotion!

Two Thumbs Firmly Down for I Spit on Your Grave – Perhaps not as bad as some other films of this type, but you still shouldn’t see it!

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0077713/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I_Spit_on_Your_Grave

30 Days of Fright – 06: Omen 3:The Final Conflict

Omen 3: The Final Conflict is shit.

The Final Conflict (1981) picks up the story of Damien Thorne (played by Sam Neil), now 32 years old and head of Thorne Industries, as he sets himself up to wield some the power he’s been granted as the Antichrist. Deciding that it’s time he followed in his birth father’s footsteps he strong arms the US President into making him the ambassador to Great Britain as well as the head of some UN council for youth.

Once in place in London, Damien takes to the role of ambassador with ease and gets to work building up his media profile as he plans to make a move into mainstream domestic politics back in the US after his term abroad is up. While recording an interview for British TV, Thorne is attacked by the most useless assassin ever who not only ends up killing himself but also inadvertently reveals to Damien that the Church have gotten their hands on the knives that had been discovered in the town of Megiddo all the way back in the first film. The knives are of particular interest to Damien as they are the only weapons on Earth that can be used to kill him.

Realising that he’s in danger is just one of Thorne’s problems as a group of scientists have been tracking an unusual celestial event that heralds the second coming of Christ. The astronomical wonder points to a location in southern England as the birthplace of the saviour which fits with a prophecy Damien was aware of that suggested that the final conflict of the film’s title would occur somewhere in Britain (hence his new found interest in diplomacy).

After a particularly restless night, Thorne realises that Christ has been born again and decides to go all Old Testament in his approach to dealing with the issue by ordering his followers to kill all the male children born between certain times on a certain date. The sudden rise in infant mortality interests the journalist who’d been interviewing Thorne when the first attempt on his life took place after she’s approached by one of the Priests who’d been trying to kill Damien. When she comes to terms with who and what Damien Thorne is she is initially seduced by the power but eventually is forced to take matters into her own hands when she realises that she is in danger of losing her son to the Antichrist.

Even with the Antichrist as ambassador the US still couldn’t rustle up a few WMD’s when they needed them

The Final Conflict is utter shite. The first Omen is a fantastically creepy horror thriller that delivers on every aspect. Even the second film had its moments even if they weren’t what the film-makers had intended. The third film has so much promise and it’s just pissed away. With Damien an adult and with wealth and access to power the story of what he does and how mere mortals try to stop him should be more interesting then it is. Instead we get Sam Neil striding about the place looking not very satanic and sounding silly as he bangs on about ancient history and his naughty plans. The other characters are barely worth a mention at all with the journalist thrown in for the sake of having her, the bunch of Priests who are trying to stop Damien like something out of Monty Python, and an array of hangers-on and Satanists who are just plain unconvincing.

In order to set the film in the year of its release it was necessary to jimmy around with the timeline as in 1981 Damien should have been about eleven years old not 32. This trick was pulled in the second film too and while it doesn’t really bother you too much at the time of viewing it shows the sequels for what the sloppy efforts they were.

Sam Neil turns in a decent enough performance as Damien and he has one or two good scenes. The bit in the room with the odd statue where he’s kind of praying to the Devil is probably the best part of the whole film and actually a little disturbing if you dwell on what’s supposed to be going on. Unfortunately, Neil just couldn’t pull off the Son of The Devil thing very well and was severely hampered by the poor script. There really is no one else worth mentioning in the rest of the flick, they were all pretty bad, though Lisa Harrow as the journalist Kate Reynolds was by far the worst – the poor cow was out of depth from the get go, which is shocking as everything was so bad.

Graham Baker took up the directing job for this pile of muck which is interesting and a little surprising for two reasons; firstly he directed Alien Nation, and secondly, after the premiere of The Final Conflict he didn’t throw himself off a bridge, which is was any self-respecting person would have done.

Two Thumbs Down for Omen 3: The Final Conflict

The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was to feature in so many bad movies, click on these links to find out more:

IMDB: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0082377/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Omen_III:_The_Final_Conflict