Sunday, 18 October 2009

Bloodbath at the House of Death



If you’ve ever wanted to see Vincent Price bang his hand on an axe-head and shout “Oh shit!” then this British horror spoof is the movie for you. Price appears as “The Sinister Man”, parodying his roles in various Roger Corman films, and is for a while the best thing about Bloodbath at the House of Death (1984), until his unceremonious exit about halfway through. Amongst the rest of the cast – most of whom play scientists and other experts investigating the titular mansion – Pamela Stephenson (Not the Nine O’Clock News) probably comes off best, despite enduring copious fart gags, Kenny Everett’s dubious attempts at physical comedy, and being stripped naked by an invisible force à la The Entity.

Yes, the standard of jokes in Bloodbath is about on a par with The Kenny Everett Television Show, meaning that you’ll likely either love it or hate it depending on your taste for innuendo-strewn, frequently incoherent grossness. If anything, however, the freedom to push the gore and nudity to the limit results in a lazier approach, meaning that the writers are too often content to rely on the aforementioned fart gags, while anything approaching a clever spoof of horror clichés falls by the wayside.

Bloodbath works best through a haze of nostalgia, recalling a time in British history when increasing permissiveness on TV collided head-on with escalating concerns over violent “video nasties” – and this feels like the bloody aftermath. Call an ambulance... Or, better still, a coroner.

Rating: 1/5

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Wet Gold



Does DVD picture quality reflect the quality of a film? I’ve often wondered, but no more so than when I got about halfway through Wet Gold, a 1984 TV movie that tries to do for underwater adventure stories what The Deep did for underwater adventure stories. And fails. (I’d like to say “spectacularly” but putting that word anywhere near a review of this film would be misleading.)

So, anyway, the DVD’s picture quality – if you can call it that – is not good, but that’s not always a problem. A bigger one for Wet Gold is the fact that it very quickly descends into a quagmire of dull double-crossing between people you care very little about. There’s Brooke Shields as a Florida waitress who dreams of bigger things (shame she turns out to be so lazy and self-centred, then); Burgess Meredith as a drunken seadog who knows the location of a fortune in sunken gold; and Thomas Byrd and Brian Kerwin as the deckhand and diver competing for Shields’ affections.

The four of them head out to sea, they find the treasure, they see a SHARK! (at this point, I thought things were going to get interesting... alas not) and they have a run-in with some pirates. But mostly they go skin-diving and argue about their shares in the loot. It’s all quite dreary, really, although there is a nice moment involving the underside of a boat and the topside of a character’s skull that redefines the term “propellerhead”.

I’m easy to please when it comes to underwater action movies. There simply aren’t enough of them (unless you count submarine flicks, which to me are as interesting as films set in warehouses) but Wet Gold isn’t a good example of one, despite some decent scenes inside a sunken shipwreck. If you’re looking for a schlocky oceanic crime story along the lines of The Deep and Into the Blue, try Shark or Night of the Sharks instead. This one sunk without trace for a reason.

Rating: 2/5

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

AiP’s annual post

Don’t joke! If not quite my only post this year, this is certainly my first in over a month. And I feel bad about that, I really do. I could write a list of excuses, I could tell you how busy I am with my other blog, My First Dictionary, I could ’splain it all to you over croissants and a mint julep, but I sense none of those would do any good anyhow. And pastry with cocktails is never a good idea.

A bunker like that from which I emerged today


Perhaps the main reason I’ve not been updating recently is that I simply haven’t watched anything in an AiP vein to write about. I’ve hardly watched any films at all, in fact, since I last reviewed the new Last House on the Left a few weeks back, although the ones I have seen (Gran Torino, Bolt, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince) – mainstream as they are – have all been quite good. There’s also been Abbott and Costello Meet the Killer, Boris Karloff, which I hope to write about here shortly (because it’s really quite interesting, y’know) and something called Red Mist.

Oh, Red Mist... While we’re on the subject of that new supernatural slasher, I can tell you I reviewed it over at Retro Slashers, so that’s one piece I’ve managed recently, and the movie’s worth a look if you want to see what happens when the “prank gone wrong” and “hospital slasher” subgenres collide (clue: it’s messy!). I also put together a gallery of Really Retro Slasher Villains, which I think looks pretty spiffy in all its monochrome menace.


Bunker fish. I saw lots of these in my bunker.

What about the stuff I haven’t done? Well, I’m mad, mad, mad, MAD with myself for missing the submission deadline for Vince Liaguno’s mouth-watering upcoming slasher book, Butcher Knives & Body Counts. Not that I expect to have had anything accepted but – damn – it would’ve been worth it to get the chance to have something included in the kind of good company that’s been announced so far.

And, speaking of good company, I happen to know that super-scribe Amanda By Night is working on something pretty special at the moment, which she asked me to be a part of but which I’ve unforgivably neglected of late. Let’s see if I can get back on track a bit and enable her to get it finished before AiP’s next annual post.

In the meantime, I highly recommend becoming a follower of Tower Farm Reviews, in my opinion the natural successor to Anchorwoman In Peril, where Billy and JM have an uncanny knack of picking the movies I keep meaning to be review... Seriously, can you think of any other site that could segue effortlessly from Ticks to Roller Boogie in the space of a few reviews? I rest my case (and hopefully not on your foot).

See you intermittently!*

*No guarantee of intermittent reader-writer reunion is implied or should be inferred.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Next house on the left

Because I generally like films about rape and murder – and because, as we all know, remakes are always just great – I decided to rush out and give the new Last House on the Left a try on its UK opening day. So I sat there in the dark with about eight strangers – some of whom gasped at the graphic stabbings, sexual assaults and miscellaneous mutilations – and thought: Why am I doing this? Am I sick? But you know what? This film is just great. And I’m not sick, I assure you... Although I guess I would say that.

I’m a fan of Wes Craven’s original. What horror fan isn’t? It’s not perfect (I’m sure you’ll have your own reasons – possibly several – as to why) and Craven would come on leaps and bounds as a filmmaker throughout the rest of the 70s, but it works by succeeding at everything it’s trying to do and, crucially, horrifying the hell out of you three decades on.

The new Last House actually smoothes out a lot of these imperfections both plot-wise and stylistically. Which isn’t to say it’s a superior film; I think the original holds its own just because it got there first. But it certainly doesn’t insult the original, unlike many a recent remake, and it stands alone in a way the Friday the 13th and Halloween remakes don’t.

Quality films about rape and murder are usually foreign, and sometimes quite boring and pretentious. The Last House on the Left is certainly quality – it’s got a lush, orchestral score, beautiful cinematography and a capable cast – and it drags you in on the weight of your own gloomy expectations that its initial idyll can’t last. Of course bad things are going to happen to its teenage protagonists, although I can’t say whether or not you’ll find them more disturbing that those in the original (I found them less so – just slightly – thanks to the high production values and reduced sense of humiliation).

Pretentious it definitely isn’t, however. While it’s sensible enough to make you believe it, it’s also plenty pulpy when you just want that revenge-kick. It doesn’t pussy-foot, but it’s not tactless either. By dishing out dollops of nasty mayhem in its final third it does what Funny Games (the original and remake) denies – that is, allows you to wallow in the horror. After all, it’s a horror movie. It’s supposed to be chock-full of horrible, and it’s supposed to be a cathartic experience... In fact, now that I’ve seen the new Last House, I think I’ll be able to get through the next three weeks without kicking a single kitten.

It’s that good.

Rating: 4/5

Monday, 1 June 2009

Bad day at the office?

Some recent gallivanting around Europe has put me in possession of a couple of obscure horror films with a workplace theme. But without visiting the IMDb and spoiling all the fun, I know next to nothing about either, other than what’s written (in Dutch) on the DVD covers...



First up, there’s Office Party, a “psychologische thriller” starring Michael Ironside and David Warner, one of whom appears to be wearing a scary mask in the stills on the box. While Ironside is touted on the front cover, however, it’s Warner who’s mentioned in the plot description on the back, so I can’t really tell which is the hero. I’m guessing it’s Warner because his character appears to be called Eugene, and I can’t imagine a masked killer going by that name (oh, how quickly we forget Eric’s Revenge). From the looks of things, I’m thinking Eugene and his co-workers are trapped inside an office building by a deranged murderer and must fight to survive the night!



Then there’s Office Killer, which – joy of joys – stars Carol Kane. Judging by the cover (a dubious practice, I hear) she’s in mousy mode, but don’t be fooled, as “she will kill her way to the top!” apparently... Just like Michael Caine in A Shock to the System, perhaps? Quite frankly, I’ll be happy enough if this is simply better than the disappointing The Temp, which it also appears to resemble. But I can’t get enough of stationery-item-related violence at the moment (Drag Me to Hell’s stapler and ruler antics had me in fits) so, if Carol gets handy with a letter opener – or even just a few paperclips – I’ll be pleased as (a hole) punch.

I’ll be scheduling Office Party and Office Killer for their performance appraisals just as soon as I find a free slot in my Filofax.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

It!

It’s no secret that my goal in life is to watch every movie Roddy McDowall ever made. But did you also know that my other goal in life is to watch every giant killer statue movie ever made? Well, it is. And I made this life-altering decision about two minutes after I watched the 1966 Brit flick It! – which not only stars Roddy McDowall but also features a giant killer statue. Talk about everything clicking into place!



You want to see the Rodster overacting like he’s never overacted before? Watch It! You want to see giant killer statues punching holes in London landmarks? Again, watch It! In fact, we could all save a lot of time if you just switched off your computer right now and went and watched It! – but I understand you come here for in-depth critical analysis and film theory, so let’s plough on.

Roddy plays Arthur Pimm, a curator’s assistant who lives at home with his elderly mother. And, when I say “elderly,” I mean old... Cobwebby old. Yes, Mrs Pimm is actually a rotting corpse sitting in a rocking chair in her son’s bedroom. (I know... where have I seen this idea before, right? It’s on the tip of my tongue...) Anyway, Pimm talks to her, dresses her, and carries her around the house, but mostly she just sits there rocking quietly in her chair. Quite how she manages to rock is never actually explained. She is, after all, dead. But rock she does, and very spooky it is too, thankyouverymuch.

One evening sometime in Scene 2, Pimm is called out to the museum’s storage warehouse, the scene of a devastating fire that’s destroyed almost everything the museum owns. Oh, except for a large, scowling stone figure, which may – or may not – be a giant killer statue. I’m giving nothing away. Pimm gives it the benefit of the doubt but, when his boss gets an unseen whack to the back of the head whilst standing near the statue, things aren’t really going in its favour. Particularly when the curator dies as a result.

Was it the statue that delivered the fatal blow? All we know is that, where once its arms were in an extended position, one of them now seems to be pointing downward, and Roddy does to great lengths to illustrate this using an umbrella and a range of puzzled facial expressions. I tell you: you don’t know what acting is until you’ve seen someone using a brolly to mime the motions of a giant killer statue.

Let’s cut to the chase, anyway, because It! doesn’t keep you guessing for long. It’s a Frankenstein story at heart and the statue is actually a golem, which is to say it’s an ancient, folkloric monster of unlimited strength, compelled to do the bidding of its master. In the right hands, it could be the most lethal WMD the world has ever seen. In Mr Pimm’s hands, it helps steal a few bracelets and smack anyone round the head who stands between him and the job of head curator.

Around about this point, I’d love to provide you with a screen grab of the golem but, since I watched It! on TV, I can’t do my usual high-tech wizardry – and there don’t even seem to be any good pictures online, either. But I will say it’s quite an effective-looking monster and I’m sure would’ve caused me a nightmare or two when I was younger. Oh, hang on, here’s a likeness from an old print ad... Prepare to shudder!



Golems aside, I had to marvel at Pimm’s other secret weapon: his marvellous filing cabinet. Whenever he needs anything (or, alternatively, needs to hide anything) it’s straight into the top drawer and the problem’s solved. It’s so good, in fact, and so devastatingly handy, I actually began to wonder if that filing cabinet was really the “It!” of the title. Again, a screen grab would be wonderful here, but you’ll just have to make do with this randomly-sourced image... Prepare to marvel!



Sheesh! Look at that thing go! Anyway, I don’t want to spoil the rest of the film for you but I can’t not mention that the last twenty minutes of It! are so insane, they make the build-up look like a serious documentary about dangerous stonemasonry. There’s motorbike stunts, old ladies being torched, and the dropping of a nuclear bomb somewhere in the Home Counties. Those sweet, sweet 1960s!

Wheel out your Wondrous Filing Cabinet of Wonder and file under “It!’s awesome!”

Rating: 3/5

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Don't be a dummy

You’ve seen Dead Silence. You’ve seen Magic and Dead of Night. If you’re a real straight-to-DVD masochist, you may even have seen The Dummy and Triloquist. But can anything prepare you for...



Now tell me that’s not the scariest ventriloquist’s dummy you’ve ever seen. I’m not sure about Melbourne Ales putting life into you, so much as The Fear Of God!
I found that newspaper ad in a copy of the Yorkshire Evening News from 1955. The reason behind me posting it? Um... yeah, ya got me there. Although I have been watching 1967’s It! which is all about a murderous statue come to life. So that’s kinda like a deadly dummy, no?



Okay, no. But it does have Roddy McDowall in it... Therefore It! equals automatic joy! Review on the way.

Friday, 1 May 2009

Slaughter High

Slaughter High is a slasher that goes straight down the middle. It’s not great, it’s not crappy and, when I watched it, I forgot why I supposedly like slashers so much in the first place. In fact, I felt like any normal person watching a slasher. I was mildly entertained, yet I was unmoved. I felt no affection towards the genre, nor any great loathing of it. I wondered why I wasn’t watching something with more famous people in it. Or any famous people. Or some explosions. It was weeeeeird.

The movie itself hasn’t been put together with any great thought. It starts with a prank that goes predictably wrong... Well, I say “predictably” but I’m not sure if anyone who hasn’t seen this would be able to imagine how said prank goes from humiliating the school nerd in the locker room to said nerd having his face blown off by an exploding jar of nitric acid. I guess It’s just another sad incidence of violence in our schools...



Anyway, the nerd is Marty (Simon Scuddamore) and he’s not particularly likeable, which might be detrimental to the plot if this were a straightforward tale of feelgood revenge (but it’s not). His taunting classmates aren’t especially appealing, either, although they do eventually become tolerable simply due to the fact that the film spends most of its time with them. Where? Back in the school, five years on from graduation, where the guilty gang have arrived to celebrate their reunion. Funny thing is: no one else from the Class of Nineteen-Eighty-Whenever has turned up. It’s just them. The school’s been closed down but their lockers are still there, and each contains an item they thought they’d lost long ago. Spooky, huh?

Faced with a desolate, cobweb-strewn building, some creepy props and no one around, you’d think the teens would blow the joint and find somewhere worth partying in, but they stay to down a few beers – a plan that quickly goes awry when one of their number drinks from an acid-spiked can and finds his intestines bursting from his stomach with the projectile force of the creature from Alien. Most of the teens flee – only to find the doors and windows blocked by electric fencing – while one decides to take a bath, naturally, in the school’s, um... student bathtub? Again, not a good plan, in any case, as acid comes churning out of the mixer tap and bath-girl promptly dissolves like a giant Alka-Seltzer®.


An acid-base slasher, then? Nope. I think that’s it for the chemistry-related killings, although the remaining death scenes are fairly memorable, especially one involving electrocution and dirty talk. It’s not that Slaughter High doesn’t try. It just doesn’t seem to impress. That’s even more surprising when you take into account the climactic chase scenes, which I have to admit are quite brilliantly filmed using a Steadicam. It’s a great technique, and it throws you right into the action... but, again, you probably won’t care enough to get too worked up.

Until recently, Slaughter High was considered something of a lost slasher, having had no DVD release and drifting about in rated and unrated versions on video in the US, and a heavily cut version in the UK. Lionsgate’s new DVD puts out when it comes to being uncut, but is also the most blatant case of poor-quality VHS transferred straight to disc I think I’ve ever seen from a reputable distributor. Now, I wouldn’t have minded at all if I’d been watching on video, but I wasn’t, and that sucked. It’s distracting, disappointing and reeks of cutting corners to cut costs.

On the other hand, the disc’s trivia track invaluably informed me that, when one character donned a hockey mask, it was a tribute to Friday the 13th. Not a total waste then.

Rating: 3/5

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Kicking against the pricks



Toby Wilkins knows a thing or two about visual effects, having been in the business for the last ten years, and his first feature film as director bears this out. You can see the proof there on the cover of Splinter: he’s created “the year’s best beast”, according to LA Weekly. And, you know, I’m not going to argue. Splinter’s figure-skating fusion of amalgamated body parts is downright horrific and perfectly realized (I know because I watched the special feature on the DVD and they way they brought it to life really is clever).

Wilkins himself is British, which may explain why we got Splinter on DVD a few weeks ago, while it’s only out in the US today. As a low-budget monster movie, it’s pretty fantastic. The creature’s great, the story works, there’s loads of gore, and the characters’ actions are fairly reasonable. In fact, if there is a flaw, it’s that there aren’t enough characters. We’re more used to seeing superfluous extras picked off left, right and centre, whereas the action here centres almost entirely around three people trapped inside a gas station convenience store. But don’t be put off by the location – there’s plenty of exciting stuff going on (none of which involves beef jerky or porn mags) and when characters meet their ends, they do so in spectacularly nasty fashion.

That’s the US DVD on the left above, with the UK release to the right... One-nil to us Britishers, I say. Give Splinter a go.

Sunday, 5 April 2009

Manhunt

There’s backwoods, and then there’s backwoods. And, by the latter, I mean 1970s Norway... Is there anyplace worse to find yourself in a slasher movie? Manhunt, known as Rovdyr in its home country, sets out to answer this question – and does so with a decent amount of gory panache but nothing in the way of originality.

That surprised me, actually. My most recent encounter with Scandinavian cinema was the blindingly unique Let the Right One In, which does things to the teen-vampire genre that would make an Eastern European hooker blush. And, before that, there was Cold Prey: also Scandinavian, also snowy, also bloody brilliant. Manhunt doesn’t have the snow. Nor the brilliance.

It’s 1974, the year of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre, but Tobe Hooper’s film obviously hasn’t made it as far as Norway yet because the four teenage protagonists of Manhunt don’t seem to realize it’s not really a good idea to drive somewhere remote in a camper van, make fun of the locals, and pick up a half-crazy hitchhiker. Pretty soon, the hitchhiker is dead, one of the teens is dead (shotgunned graphically in the heel, and then – oops – the head) and the survivors are on the run from some scruffy, possibly inbred hunters who prefer human prey to woodland wildlife.



That’s pretty much where the TCM referencing stops and, unfortunately, the story along with it. Manhunt offers nothing else beyond running and hiding in the woods for the rest of its scant, 75-minute running time. We never get to understand, or even meet, the killers in any detail, there aren’t any actual set pieces (like Wrong Turn’s masterful keyhole, treetop or waterfall sequences) and it’s not even particularly suspenseful. But then, I wasn’t bored, either... Damn you, Manhunt! You should be a pointless retread but there’s something – something! – about you that keeps you interesting. I’ll be damned if I know what it is, though.

Quite simply, there’s no justice: the use of The Texas Chain Saw Massacre goes way beyond a simple jumping-off point for Mannunt. It’s more like a straight remake-cum-rip-off, only without the second half. Sorta like this:


Is it really feasible, however, that someone would virtually remake a 35-year-old film and not only fall far short in comparison, but also chuck out all the accumulated slasher learnings of the past three decades? Manhunt does nothing new. It doesn’t even try to do anything new, except set itself in Norway.

Speaking of which, I think I’ll remake Halloween and set it in the Maldives. That Michael Myers could really use a nice tan.

Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, 1 April 2009

Put your hands up



If you’re in any way interested in the development of the slasher genre and haven’t yet read Snake Oil’s Proto-Slashers take on Hands of the Ripper, get yourself over to the Retro Slashers Blog and have a gander, as they say in period London. The 1971 Hammer horror is the latest in Snake Oil’s fascinating look at the films that paved the way for the modern slasher, and if this appetizing review doesn’t have you gagging to see it... YOU’RE ALREADY DEAD! Or something.

I’ve also just discovered there’s a special edition DVD available, at least in the UK. (That’s the cover above, see?) Yes, for once, we Brits get the, er, longer end of the stick, the one without the poop on it.
Previous previews in the Proto-Slashers series (and try saying that in a hurry) include: Francis Ford Coppola’s Dementia 13 (1963), the PG-rated sickie Blood and Lace (1971), and the British babysitter-in-peril movie Fright (also 1971... What made the world so angry that year?).

Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Mum & Dad

Well, really! Who wants to see knitting needles going into places where they definitely shouldn’t? Or chunks of human flesh used as masturbatory aids? And Christmas decorations made from mutilated corpses?! Not me! BAN THIS SICK FILTH, I say... I’ve had enough!

Hee! Gotcha. Although Mum & Dad quite obviously goes out of its way to disgust you with its depravities, it’s actually nice to see a torture-porn-type flick that’s clearly aimed at seasoned horror fans, as opposed to shock-me-once teenage moviegoers. It’s also pretty well acted, creepily convincing, and astonishingly good-looking considering its £100,000 budget.

Oh, and the BBC stumped up some of the money to make it, so it practically counts as Public Service Broadcasting... Just call yourself a responsible adult.


At the outset, Mum & Dad reminded me a bit of 2004’s London Underground chiller Creep, although it’s nothing like it, really. The reason I thought that was because it also has a foreign-girl-in-London lead – in this case, Lena (Olga Fedori), a young Polish woman working as a cleaner at Heathrow Airport. Where Creep pitted its heroine against a sort of over-the-top monster-human in a gothic setting, however, Mum & Dad takes Lena into what seems like a very ordinary suburban home. Of course, it’s anything but... The run-down house beside the airport, which Lena ends up in when she misses her last bus one night, actually has more in common with the home of Fred and Rosemary West.

In fact, it’s home to two “children”, Birdie and Elbie, who spend their days ransacking lost luggage for electrical items to sell at the car boot. Then there’s their “Dad” (Perry Benson), who wears a blood-soaked vest and does dubious things in a dark room with a dirty hammer, and finally “Mum” (Dido Miles) who prefers a scalpel. It’s the kind of place you’d run screaming from. And Lena would have probably done just that if she hadn’t already been injected with tranquilizer and tied to a filthy bed. It seems the family are looking for a new daughter...


Ohhh, Mum & Dad is so sick! I’ve often wondered if you could make a decent horror film set mainly in one location, with just a small number of characters and some nasty ideas. Well, you can, and here’s the proof. It’s sort of like The Royle Family gone hideously wrong: not much more than a few characters sitting around in a dingy house – but here the TV shows hardcore porn, you can’t see the wallpaper for blood, and the suspense as Lena tries to escape is stifling.

What really works is the disturbingly short journey Lena takes from dull routine to incomprehensible terror. Mum & Dad pulls the strange trick of not letting you see much of the exterior of its house of horror, but this only serves to strengthen the point that it could almost be next-door to yours. Now, are you sure you need that cup of sugar?

TV licence fee revenue well spent.

Rating: 3/5

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Pssst!

Check out some of the new titles made available as downloads and “custom-made DVDs” from the recently opened Warner Archive...




So let’s see, that’s:
  • Kristy McNichol in a dream-vs-reality psycho-thriller directed by Alan J. Pakula (and the poster is fantastic!)
  • An extremely offbeat-looking doggy-dunnit, starring James Garner and Katharine Ross
  • Another of Hammer’s post-Psycho mind-warpers (you may remember I enjoyed Hysteria)
  • A nasty-looking noir featuring the brilliant Dana Andrews and some heavy psychological undertones
  • Troy Donahue + Reincarnation + A killer on the loose!

I’ve not seen any of this lot but, unfortunately, Warner won’t send their DVDs to the UK so it may be a while before I do. Something to do with region-coding or something. Grr. If you’ve seen any of them, be sure to let me know what I’m missing (if anything).

Let’s hope I don’t have similar problems catching up with the new “slasher TV series” Harper’s Island, as previewed by Slasher Speak, which promises “13 episodes, 13 murders!”.

And, if you are in a slashery mood today, you could head over to Retro Slashers and read my recent articles, Great Slasher Mysteries Volume 1 and Volume 2... Who knows? Maybe you can solve ’em!

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

Let some good ones in

If you think things have gone a little quiet here at Anchorwoman In Peril! of late, that’s because, well... they have!

Seems I’m afflicted with what Lucy Ricardo called “the mauves” – not quite the blues, but arguably less appealing to the eye, and certainly not good for the blog. I’ve been getting the feeling recently that life’s too short for shit films. I know... unthinkable! What’s come over me? Is it age-related? Should I be thinking about taking out some kind of life cover plan? And will I get a free gift just for applying? (I do need a new carriage clock, after all.)

This has all meant, anyway, that I’ve started watching three different films recently and, to put it bluntly, just given up on them. The first, Mirror Images II, wasn’t even that bad. Sure, it was nothing like as good as the first film, but anything about evil twins is worth watching as far as I’m concerned (I mean, you need to prepare yourself in case it happens to you!). Still, despite the movie’s good intentions, I only made it through to the main character’s fourth therapy session-turned-steamy lesbian romp...


Zombie Strippers! fared less well. In fact, I think it holds the record for the shortest amount of grace-time I’ve given a film before switching it off. Tacky photography, lame-o zombie make-up, annoying “characters” and the threat of Robert Englund... I think I gave it all of 50 seconds. Classic case of “great poster, shame about the movie”:


I then made the mistake of trying Nature of the Beast, which is a made-for-TV (yay!) horror spoof (hmm...) starring American Pie’s Eddie Kaye Thomas (oh dear) as a soon-to-be-married werewolf. This one got a full 30 minutes of my attention, but only because I was feeling guilty about giving up on Zombie Strippers! so quickly.



So there you have it. Is this the end of Anchorwoman In Peril?! No, of course not, silly! I think I just need to spend some quality time with some quality films – ones that aim high and think hard – in order to appreciate the gutter trash again. It’s not all doom and gloom: I’ve actually seem some pretty good films recently too. I watched 1939’s glorious The Women back-to-back with its Meg Ryan remake and enjoyed them both on different levels. (While the original’s like being taken for a spin by a clever friend, the remake’s like that same friend coming round with a load of free booze but refusing to leave when you get tired.)
Controversially, I really thrilled to the good-looking, hard-work Watchmen, with its dallying storyline and weirdly terrific cast. And, unlike Final Girl, I had a pulse-pounding time with Eden Lake, despite its unsympathetically stupid main characters (yes, she napped; I know). I even watched a Hungarian film called Kalandorok (or Adventurers to you) which didn’t have a special effect in sight. That last one was screening at the Bradford Film Festival, where I’m also seeing Let the Right One In later this week. So... yeah, I’m getting there. Just give me some quality time with the freaky foreign vampire kids.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

Dardos 2!

While I’m currently taking a little time off to recover from my second dose of psycho-clownified terror in less than a week (thanks to Amusement, which is really rather good), I couldn’t miss saying a big thank-you to Friend Mouse of the aptly named blog Friend Mouse Speaks (or “squeaks”, surely?!) for sending another Premio Dardos award my way. Now, if only someone would turn these things into actual golden statuettes, I’d really have something to dazzle the neighbours with.

In this case, it’s a particular honour, as Friend Mouse is a fellow LAMB and, from the looks of things, all-round good egg, whose utterly charming and knowledgeable blog mixes witty TV recaps, reviews of all sorts of movies, and a genuine love of chocolate bacon. And how could anyone not love a blog whose label list manages to incorporate Eighties music, Gorillas, Martinis and Nathan Fillion?

Anyway, be good, stay out of trouble, and I might post a review of Amusement for your, er, amusement... Isn’t life just thrilling?!

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Fear of Clowns

Drat and buggeration. I hate it when a film you intend to snark on turns out to be... quite good. Not good, mind – but not bad. Like Fear of Clowns, for instance: a cheapo horror film that manages to make a low budget look, if not exactly big, then bigger, simply by pulling together something resembling a story, casting adults rather than teenagers, and investing in an orchestral-sounding score and some proper camerawork.



Like I said, it has a story. I didn’t say the story makes much sense. Jacky Reres plays an artist called Lynn Blodgett who paints not-terribly-terrific pictures of scary clowns (and, yes, I know all clowns are scary) which she manages to sell for $8,000 a pop at a local Baltimore gallery. She’s also going through a bitter divorce, bringing up a kid, falling in love with a rollercoaster designer called Tuck, and being stalked by an evil killer wearing clown makeup. Pay attention, folks... This is how you make a slasher movie last an hour and fifty minutes.

So, one day, Lynn is leaving for work when a neighbour informs her that an entire family has been butchered in their beds, oh, two doors down. You can tell it’s serious because there’s some of that yellow crime-scene tape you see on CSI, and no gawkers watching as the paramedics clumsily hoist out a few bodies wrapped in what appear to be blankets. But, hey, Lynn’s already late so she packs herself off to the gallery. And it’s a good thing too, because there’s a rather strange man there who wants to pay her $20,000 to paint his child-molesting dead clown father. Bargain!




Lynn says no... then yes... then worries she might not be able to finish the portrait in the specified three days... and then swans off with her new boyfriend to a disused amusement park for some minor clown-dodging chills. Did I mention she also has a child? It’s OK, I think she forgot too. Little Nicholas is only around when the plot needs him, and Lynn keeps him in a box or something for the rest of the time.

Somewhere amidst all of this riveting entertainment, the clown keeps on a-killin’ and the suspense starts to build. Which brings us to Fear of Clowns’ big fat unfortunate flaw. The clown-faced but shirtless killer is, um... kinda hot. You see, whereas mask + boiler suit = scary, I’m afraid that mask + pecs + abs = something else entirely. This is a problem, as they say in Houston, and I’m sure it even holds true in Baltimore. You simply cannot have a killer who’s both scary and distractingly hot. I mean, you need to know which direction to run in. Granted, said killer may have the face of an evil clown and carry a giant battleaxe, but hotness will always win out, so trying to make your killer both horny and horrifying is like trying to have your cake and lick eat it. (Note to self: invest in therapy.)



Anyway, Lynn (remember her?) doesn’t have the same problem as I did regarding her greasepaint-sporting stalker. She’s flat-out terrified. So it’s bad news for her but good news for Tuck, who gets to hang around with her a lot, which, in turn, is bad news for Little Nicholas, who has to go back in his box until tea time.

For me, Fear of Clowns peaked around the midpoint, when there’s a simply outrageous (and suspenseful) scene involving an altercation between our hunka honka lethal killer, a hitman who’s unfortunately also dressed as a clown, and a completely innocent clown caught in the red-nosed crossfire. It’s a real circus, believe me. Thereafter, things do build up to a lengthy climax that takes place, credibility-stretchingly enough, in an empty movie theatre, but I’m not sure whether it was the prolonged nature of this set piece that caused me to start getting a bit antsy, or if the movie had simply worn out its welcome by then.

I didn’t exactly juggle for joy, then, when I found out there’s a sequel, Fear of Clowns 2, that actually picks up after the events of this film, utilizing most of the same cast and crew. Still, after reading up on it, I’ve become intrigued enough to want to give it a go. Maybe Fear of Clowns will become the new Phantasm series of continuity-based low budget horror. Or maybe not. Either way, I’d find myself much more predisposed to the whole thing if they’d called this one Someclown’s Watching Me!

Rating: 3/5

Sunday, 8 March 2009

The Unborn

As usual, Stacie Ponder is right when she pleads for horror movie makers to Put the ‘Care’ Back in Character... or, in other words, try creating a few characters we might actually like in a horror film, rather than ones we can’t wait to see killed. I experienced the same problem watching Platinum Dunes’ new ghostly gobbledegook movie, The Unborn, last night.

Odette Yustman plays main squeeze Casey Beldon – and I use the word “squeeze” not to be sexist but because the poor girl’s been literally squeezed into a pair of panties obviously meant for a nine-year-old. I’m assuming she picked them off the wrong rack or something. Otherwise, the only alternative is that writer-director David S. Goyer didn’t intend to create a main character we could actually feel something for, but one that he could simply shoot from all angles of PG-13 camel-toe as she investigates spooky noises emanating from her bathroom cabinet (and don’t even get me started on the intrinsic non-scariness of haunted cabinets).

But Casey, who also blithely steals a rare book from her local library (a capital offence to my librarian mind), is positively adorable compared to her best friend Romy (Meagan Good), who’s portrayed as flat-out horrible. Visiting a nursing home, she dunks her hand into a bowl of sweets on the reception desk and crams a fistful into her bag while nastily locking eyes with the perfectly pleasant receptionist. Then, she goes on to loudly mock every elderly resident of the home within earshot. Why? No reason. I don’t think Goyer intends to portray her as a bitch. It’s almost as if he just can’t help it.

The film itself is a random assortment of jump scenes so lethally overblown it actually stops feeling like a horror movie. I’ve no idea how anyone would actually find it scary. Similarly, I’ve no idea how Platinum Dunes have got away with calling it an “original screenplay” – other than in comparison to the rest of their output which, prior to The Unborn, has consisted entirely of high-profile remakes. The only thing original about it is the sheer élan with which it lifts elements from other films, from Emily Rose-style exorcism, to Ring-like spooky videos and the aforementioned haunted bathroom cabinet. (What? You haven’t seen Candyman?)

Gary Oldman – whose surname is starting to come true – turns up about halfway through as a sympathetic rabbi who generously consents to translating Casey’s stolen book of Hebrew folklore in his spare time. Oh, and pulls together an impromptu exorcism involving ten interdenominational experts in demonic-type affairs at a moment’s notice. Actually, it’s not a demon as such that’s the problem here (besides the script) but a dybbuk – that is, an evil free-floating soul desperate for a bodily host. If you don’t believe me, check it out on Wikipedia.

Anyway, apologies for the disjointed nature of this review. I know it’s been choppy, haphazard and all over the place. Quite apt, really.

And, Casey... Take that goddamn library book back!

Rating: 2/5

Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Night of the Living Dead 3D

Raise your glasses, please... this review is COMIN’ AT YA! in 3D!

It’s true, folks – if you have a pair of 3D specs handy, you can thrill to my amazing screen shots from Night of the Living Dead 3D actually IN that mysterious third dimension! But I’ll bet that your glasses aren’t as cool as my super-de-downright-duper, blood-splatter-effect NOTLD glasses, four pairs of which came with my DVD. That’s right... FOUR pairs! How popular do they think I am?

Anyway, before you get too excited – and I know what you’re like when you’ve had too much orange juice – I should point out that the 3D in Night of the Living Dead 3D is... well... OK, to be blunt, it’s terrible. I don’t know if that’s because large chunks of the film take place in the dark, or because the 3D effect doesn’t transfer to TV very well, or the process itself just plain sucks but, whatever the case, watching this movie looks mostly like this:


Oh, I forgot to mention that Sid Haig’s in it, so it actually looks like this:


I was honestly tempted to remove my specs at various points and watch the film in fuzzy flatscreen. At least that way I might’ve actually been able to see what was going on. But I persevered – for your sake, dear reader, and just in case there was some really cool shot where zombie guts came flying out of the screen and totally landed in my lap in a big bloody heap. Unfortunately, that never happened; there’s hardly any gore on show at all here. But, then again, I was wearing my nice jeans, so it might’ve been for the best.


George Romero’s original Night of the Living Dead has been colourized, re-edited, parodied and even remade once already, so remaking it in 3D was probably the only thing that hadn’t been done to it before now (or before 2006 if you want to get picky about the release date). There’s definite potential for fun in 3D horror: Amityville 3D showed us what it would be like if a giant stuffed swordfish levitated into our faces; Jaws 3D went one step further by making it a giant stuffed shark; and the recent My Bloody Valentine probably took the format to its zenith as far as airborne gore goes. Does Night of the Living Dead 3D bring anything like that to the table? No. It most certainly does not. Although I’m sure I looked pretty snazzy in my 3D glasses... Did I mention the cool blood-splatter-effect frames?

What we do get is a reasonably cute beginning, going from an opening gag involving the original film showing on a TV set, to a reworking of the famous graveyard scene that manages not to grate. For a minute, I thought I was going to like it. But the unfortunate truth is that this remake rather quickly becomes boring.


“Barb” (Brianna Brown) is zombie-chased to the usual big farmhouse after a perplexing run-in with local mortician Sid Haig, and a motorbike lift from a greasy stranger (Joshua DesRoches, recently seen in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button). There, they encounter a group of people watching the original Night of the Living Dead on TV (once was funny, twice is... not so funny). They warn them of the zombie menace, said people laugh in their faces, zombies eventually show up and... well, that’s it for a while. No one makes any attempt to prevent the living dead repeatedly crashing in through the windows; two teens sneak out to the barn to have sex but end up getting munched... Basically, everyone acts like it’s all an annoying interruption to their TV viewing.

Roughly 57% of the time, then, my eyes were unable to penetrate the three-dimensional gloom, while the rest of the time, I felt like I just didn’t get it. Is Night of the Living Dead 3D supposed to be funny? Characters come out with lines like “When the dead walk, you gotta call the cops” and “The zombies must’ve cut the phone lines!” but I didn’t find myself smiling. For the most part, the zombies themselves look like badly-dressed people in need of a good night’s sleep, and it’s a good job they don’t go around crying “Brains!” because they’d be unlikely to find many amongst the cast.


Thing is – annoyingly – I did find myself drawn back into the proceedings during the second half. This version of the tale provides an explanation for the undead hoards (which actually aren’t so much “hoards” here, but just a few zombies dotted about). While I don’t think the concept particularly needs explaining, the backstory this movie comes up with is sort of intriguing, especially when it emerges that one character regards the living dead as having been “born again”. I kind of dug it. I know. I hate myself.

Grudgingly, grudgingly then, Night of the Living Dead 3D gets a...

Rating: 2/5

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

The Corpse Grinders

Ah, The Corpse Grinders. I’m pretty sure that, when people find out I’m a fan of horror films, they imagine I sit up late watching things with titles like that all the time. But the truth is, as nasty as it sounds, The Corpse Grinders is about as innocuous as 70s grindhouse features get. It’s almost charming, in fact... Or, at least, as charming as a film about unscrupulous factory-owners using human flesh as a cat food ingredient could be, anyway.

With such catsploitation dynamite as a premise, you’d think director Ted V. Mikels would be happy enough to stick a few perfunctory characters in the way and cut straight to the corpse-grinding (I’m sure Herschell Gordon Lewis would have) but he and his team actually take the idea a step further. You see, it turns out that cats, once they’ve tasted human giblets, won’t settle for anything less, so it’s not long before pets the length and breadth of Pasadena are biting the hand that feeds them... Literally! Logically, it’s a leap, I’ll admit. If cats are that insatiable, shouldn’t they already be going around attacking horses, or whatever else went into pet food in the 70s? But, no matter, the cats are OUT FOR BLOOD! And if that means fifty shots of alcoholic housewives clutching wriggling cats to their throats, then so be it.

On that note, something tells me that most of the feline stars of The Corpse Grinders weren’t properly trained stunt cats, but actually just regular cats lured by the promise of a quick paycheque and fifteen minutes of fame. But I hear that most of the moggies were supplied by cast and crew members so, assuming they wouldn’t have wanted any harm to come to their beloved pets, I’m telling myself that none were harmed during the making of this film.

Let’s take stock before we lose the plot, anyway. So far, we’ve got crooked cat food manufacturers cramming human corpses into cans. Next to the factory, there’s a conveniently located graveyard, where a hulking goon and his Cockney, doll-loving wife dig up fresh bodies to feed into the meat grinder. And, oh yeah, at a (possibly nearby) hospital, there’s a 70s porn star doctor and his buxom nurse lover who stumble over the plot when the hospital cat goes crazy for the doctor’s man-meat. And, with that guy’s sexy moustache, who wouldn’t, quite frankly?


72 minutes whiz by, as more good pets go bad and several factory employees end up as corned beef – and, with dead bodies being chucked fully-clothed into the grinder left, right and centre, it’s no wonder the cats are going crazy. They’re probably choking on the buttons. Eventually, Hot Nurse puts herself in peril by going to investigate the cat food company. Alone. At night. And everything culminates in a climax wherein yet more people get minced, after being shot and – rather clumsily I thought – collapsing onto the conveyor belt and getting dragged into the blades (which in a nice touch, actually have blades painted on them as far as I could see).

“Lotus Cat Food – for cats who like people” runs the company’s amusing slogan, in a typical example of this enjoyable film’s light touch. Half of the scenes take place in swirls of mist and/or green-and-red lighting, while half the cast look like Jerri Blank from Strangers with Candy. I had fun, in other words. A remake along the lines of the recent Wizard of Gore or 2001 Maniacs couldn’t ever capture its straight-faced zaniness but, at the same time, there’s the potential for some camped-up, CGI gore-strewn lunacy here, and I think the makers of Trailer Park of Terror should have a go at it.

Best watched, then, with the cat safely locked outside, dinner fully digested, and your tongue shoved firmly into your cheek. Or someone else’s. If you’re still peckish.

Rating: 3/5

Monday, 23 February 2009

DVDs I bought in London!



Yes, folks, it’s a filler post!

Well, I have been away for the best part of a week, after all. And I’ve still not made it to the end of The Corpse Grinders so I’ve nothing else to review. (Seriously, is that film seven hours long or something?) But while I wait to find out if anything – anything – can halt those killer kitties in their tracks, you can see what DVDs I got my hands on while I was on holiday. I know... it’s like having a crystal ball that looks into my brain or something!

First up is the only one I’ve actually seen already – and, for my money, it’s one of the best slasher movies made since the year 2000. Ten times more creepy and suspenseful than it is Norwegian (and it’s pretty darn Norwegian!) it’s...



Then there’s:



I’ve always found Tom Hanks scary enough (Forrest Gump... shudder!) but what about his son, Colin? Well, it looks like Col gets his freak on as a deranged stalker in this one, which I didn’t even know had been released here until I spotted it on the shelf in Fopp. And all for just £4! Let’s hope that, as it says on the cover, “IT GETS UNDER YOUR SKIN.”



Next, as I mentioned during last year’s Sham Shocktober, here’s a famous horror film I’ve never actually seen. Actually, I’ve not seen the 1922 version of Nosferatu either, but giving this 1979 effort a go should be a good start.



Some titles just stick with you, don’t they? I’m like that with Eyes without a Face, which sounds like a giallo but is actually a French film from 1960. It looks like such an original that I’m already warming a place for it on my favourite movies list, and just hoping it can live up to my expectations.

Finally, there has to be a gamble:



Sleepover Nightmare looks pretty terrible (in fact, I can’t think of many post-1990 low-budget slashers I’ve actually enjoyed) but I’ll give it a chance just because it has the word “sleepover” in the title. And “nightmare”. In fact, come to think of it, it’s doing pretty well on both counts.

Anyway, The Corpse Grinders isn’t going to watch itself, is it? I best go and get on with it. Here kitty kitty...