Monday 29 October 2007

The Torturer

“What’s the giallo film up to these days?” I wondered, as I slipped The Torturer into the player this evening.

The only major director keeping the genre going seems to be its longtime lord and master, Dario Argento, whose Do You Like Hitchcock? and The Card Player are among the few examples of the last few years. The Torturer comes from another established giallo generator, Lamberto Bava, whose 80s efforts A Blade in the Dark and Delirium: Photos of Gioia I’d consider classics... Classics of camp craziness, but classics nonetheless. His last contribution to the cause was Body Puzzle – an unspectacular but solid effort – over 15 years ago. Would The Torturer represent a triumphant return to the genre? Does it even belong in the genre? And how many more times can I say the word “genre”? Let’s find out!

First, however, a warning: if you found Lucio Fulci’s The New York Ripper – with its systematic mutilation of female flesh – in any way misogynistic or distasteful (or in any way both) you should probably stay clear of this one. Whereas the Ripper merely ripped, the Torturer uses blowtorches, barbed wire whips, nails, claw hooks and all manner of sharp implements on the naked bodies of his female victims here – usually in graphic close-up. I bought this film on DVD in Amsterdam and, to be honest, can’t see it going through the BBFC without cuts if anyone tries to release it in the UK. But, while breast-mutilation is a big no-no with the British censors, it’s all in a day’s work for The Torturer.

Ginette (Elena Bouryka) is a young actress trying out for a role in the latest film by her favourite director, Alex Sherba. The audition turns out to be a bit creepy: Sherba remains hidden in the shadows while calling out commands through a voice-distorter – commands such as “Take off all your clothes” and “Show me how far you’ll go to be in a film”. To cap things off, Ginette finds an earring on the floor that looks suspiciously like one belonging to her missing friend – missing, that is, ever since she applied for an acting job over the internet and went off to audition...

Things get even weirder when Ginette visits the director’s home and is introduced to his unstable mother, who constantly complains of hearing strange voices and is wearing an earring that matches the one Ginette has found. Clearly it’s time for some snooping!

Meanwhile, a trio of other actresses has arrived at the manor to audition for Sherba’s film. As a storm blows in and Ginette prowls the grounds of the house in search of clues, these three women will be subjected to some truly horrifying screen tests...

It’s strange to imagine the real-life auditions that must have taken place for The Torturer, in which hopeful actresses were no doubt required to scream in pretend pain as pretend weapons jabbed at their all-too-real body parts. Much of the film itself follows the same pattern (with the addition of some pretend body parts, such as the rubbery-looking breasts wrenched asunder in the opening sequence). When we’re not watching torture sequences like these, we’re more likely than not watching Ginette creep around in the dark – which she spends a rather excessive portion of the film doing. I wouldn’t say I was bored, exactly, but I can’t promise that you won’t be.

All this poking around a mysterious villa, interspersed with gory murders, is in fact highly reminiscent of Bava’s previous A Blade in the Dark, while the auditions-gone-wrong scenario recalls the 1983 slasher movie, Curtains. But, where those films tended to err on the overplotted side, The Torturer certainly won’t torture you with twists. It’s a resoundingly simple story, in which Bava seems most concerned with staging Saw-like set pieces – albeit without Jigsaw’s complex motives – that throw as much hardware into the mix as possible.

As for my questions above... Is The Torturer a triumphant return to horror for its director? Well, not really. It’s nasty, occasionally stylish and, above all, watchable – but there’s very little suspense and nothing to really get your teeth into (although one of the characters gets her teeth knocked out at one point...).

Is it a giallo? I’d say so, yes. There’s elaborate murderisation, strange clues found in spooky mansions, and a modicum of mystery. Plus, everything harks back to a traumatic childhood incident, complete with an annoying baby-voice theme tune. It’s like Deep Red, but nowhere near as deep.

And how many more times did I say the word “genre”? None! Psyche!

Rating: 3/5

Friday 26 October 2007

AiP's top Halloween picks

“Five more days to Halloween, Halloween, Halloween... Five more days to Halloween–” ... OK, we interrupt that annoying quote to ask the question: if Martha Stewart can offer ten hours of Halloween programming this year, what can Anchorwoman In Peril! do for you? Well, I may not be able to explain how to fold a used paper crane into a delightful witch’s hat for your cat, but I sure can suggest ten hours of great Halloween viewing of my own. Or, rather, your own. After all, you’re the one who has to fork out for the DVDs.

There’s plenty of new horror films out to buy this week, most of which concentrate on the nastiest of nasty doings, ranging from the rather excellent Hostel: Part II to the so-so Captivity. But I’ve always been of the opinion that Halloween should be a time to forget the world’s real horrors (torture, murder, Eli Roth) and instead celebrate spooky, cosy ol’ horror – the kind you might find prowling around a creepy graveyard with a skeletal grin on its face and a toffee apple in its hand.

With that in mind, I’ve put together a Top 5 of funhouse horror flicks that tickle the ribs, rather than yank them out with a pair of shears. They’re by no means gentle chillers or, God forbid, comedy-horrors (there’s a Fulci film in there, for starters) but they all focus on frights rather than nastiness, and offer far more treats than tricks... Enjoy!

5. Phantasm

First up is a Halloween offering that really does prowl around creepy graveyards for much of its running time. Phantasm is a surreal, melancholy fantasy that mixes small-town gothica (empty homes, a monstrous, labyrinthine mortuary) with sci-fi techno-terror (half-glimpsed alternate dimensions, deadly flying spheres)... like Ray Bradbury and H.R. Giger arguing over cocktails. Underpinning the weirdness is a touching relationship between two orphaned brothers, whose investigation of strange goings-on at a local cemetery leads to a startling confrontation with the iconic, unforgettable “Tall Man” (Angus Scrimm). Watch it back-to-back with its three enjoyable sequels (all of which continue the same story) and you’ll have what’s truly the Lord of the Rings of the horror genre. And a sore ass.

4. Stephen King’s Riding the Bullet

Everyone knows that the best of the multitudinous Stephen King adaptations are the non-horror ones (Stand by Me, The Green Mile, Shawshank), while the rest have a tendency to, quite frankly, stink – despite the odd Misery, Shining or It. Here’s one that has its cake and eats it... It’s, y’know, spooky yet serious. It’s also quite tasty as cakes go, following the strange adventures of a young hitchhiker on his way to visit his dying mother in hospital. Along the way are more diversions, dead ends and campfire tales than you could count, all with a loose, Halloweeny feel and a few interesting things to say. Well worth a nibble.

3. He Knows You’re Alone

You’ve seen Halloween. You’ve seen it, like, a hundred times. So here’s a rip-off that’s reassuringly similar, yet well made enough to forge a quirky identity of its own. He Knows You’re Alone’s madman is on the hunt for brides-to-be rather than babysitters, and amongst the slasher clichés are such tricksy treats as an eerie scene set inside a ghost train, a young Tom Hanks espousing on the “nature of fear”, and a cinema-set opening that proved striking enough in its own right to be recreated in the opening of Scream 2. Not a classic, then, but eminently consumable, disposable, and recyclable.

2. Ghostwatch

I can’t really recommend the BBC’s 1992 Halloween-night offering, Ghostwatch, if you’re not (a) British and (b) old enough to remember when Sarah Greene presented everything on TV. But if you are British and old enough to remember when Sarah Greene presented everything on TV, then – by the silvery-white hair of Michael Parkinson – watch it! Now! (Or, rather, save it for Halloween, since that’s the point of this piece.) Sarah is presenting – along with Mike Smith, Craig Charles and Parky himself – a “live” broadcast from a supposedly haunted location... Not some gothic mansion, mind, but an ordinary housing estate plagued by apparently supernatural activity, involving possession, poltergeists and, when it gets to the nitty-gritty, some genuinely disturbing proceedings. That the subsequent viewer complaints about this TV movie were enough to convince the Beeb to cancel Halloween programming forever is a testament to its power. Lock the doors, switch off the lights, and prepare to be more chilled than a McDonald’s milkshake – and, by the end, a similar shade of pale.

1. City of the Living Dead

Like Phenomena, the first Dario Argento film I ever “got”, this equally deranged effort from fellow Italian Lucio Fulci will always have a particular place in my heart. And, if I were in this movie, my heart would probably come spewing out of my mouth in a torrent of gore, much like one of the victims of the zombies – no, make that ghost-zombies – in City of the Living Dead. Fog-shrouded towns, premature burials, marauding ghouls, maggoty bones, maggoty eye sockets, maggoty maggots... it’s all here (and it’s all maggoty) in this supernatural extravaganza, which plays like the Halloween novelty section of your local supermarket come to gruesome, frenzied life. Christopher George and Catriona MacColl are the mismatched adventurers battling to shut the Gates of Hell before all, er, Hell is let loose, as everything races to a nonsensical (but perfect) climax in a cobweb-cloaked netherworld populated by shambling corpses. If you survive unscathed – or at least mentally sound – cut yourself a big piece of pumpkin pie... Happy Halloween!

Monday 22 October 2007

I’m the Girl He Wants to Kill

Confession time: Long, long before Anchorwoman In Peril! existed (i.e. sometime last month) I flirted, floozied and experimented with running a short-lived blog called Buon Giallo, all about Italian horror. What can I say? I was young... I didn’t know what I was doing... I didn’t inhale... I also didn’t keep the blog going for very long. I guess my heart just wasn’t in it. Anyway, one of the films I talked about was actually an episode of the 70s British TV series, Thriller. It’s a great episode deserving of greater recognition – and, now that the whole series of Thriller is available on DVD, perhaps it’ll be discovered by a new generation of horror fans. If so, they’ll find a gripping thriller featuring a classic final girl years before the slasher cycle kicked into full swing. In this hope, I hereby reprint my review of I’m the Girl He Wants to Kill. (How’s that for getting away with only one paragraph of new material for today’s entry? ... Score!)

In 1973, Dario Argento presented the TV series Door Into Darkness on Italian TV, comprising four, hour-long stories of murder and suspense modelled on the giallo films that had brought him to prominence. Over here in the UK, screenwriter Brian Clemens had envisaged a similar show called Thriller, of which I’m the Girl He Wants to Kill is a particularly giallo-like episode from the third series, originally broadcast in 1974. [See how I tied it all in to Italian horror for Buon Giallo? Clever, no?]

Token American Julie Sommars stars as Ann Rogers, a hardworking employee at Parker Industries, based in a London high-rise. What this company actually does is only vaguely defined, but it must take up a lot of time because Ann is always finding herself working late on things like “the Jamaican project”. Arriving home to her flat one evening, Ann passes a mysterious man in the hallway and, in a superbly spooky scene, discovers her neighbour’s dead body on the upstairs landing. She provides a description of the killer to the police – who believe him to be responsible for several other murders in the area – but time passes and the culprit remains at large.

One good thing comes out of Ann’s visit to the cop shop, however: she bags herself Detective Sergeant Tanner (Tony Selby), a prime slab of afro-haired 70s studliness, and useful boyfriend to have around if it looks like you might be stalked by any deranged psychos in the near-future. Of course, this is exactly what happens to Ann; after spotting the killer in a local jewellery shop one lunch hour, she’s chased back to her office and barely makes it back to safety. A quick phone call to Tanner assures her that her pursuer has been apprehended and, ever the diligent worker, Ann carries on with her day’s work until night falls and she’s the only one left in the building. Except, that is, for a familiar figure lurking in the lobby below, knife in hand and ready to strike...

I haven’t seen any other episodes of Thriller but, if I’m the Girl He Wants to Kill is anything to go by, it looks like I’ve missed a treat. Lean, taut and terrifically suspenseful, the episode is tele-terror at its best. Its premise is played out at just the right length to ensure we get to know and care about the characters, all the while taking care to plant ominous pointers to the trouble Ann will encounter later on – from electrically-locking doors, to windows sealed “for your comfort”.

The remainder of the story constitutes a harrowing battle of wits between killer and super-secretary – who, while resourceful, is never played as unrealistically as she might be in this post-Buffy the Vampire Slayer age of martial arts-trained female empowerment. Lifts and telephone switchboards become instruments of tortuous tension as Ann’s familiar workplace becomes a deadly trap. There’s even a moment reminiscent of The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, in which characters find themselves trapped between two sets of glass doors. Ann learns to turn the tools of her trade against her attacker... while he learns that it pays not to be overweight if you’re a psychopath intent on chasing your victim up to the twelfth floor and back.

Now available on DVD as part of the complete Thriller series box set, I’m the Girl He Wants to Kill also includes an extended opening sequence shot for American TV, featuring – naturally – a gratuitous shower scene, as well as lots of shots of feet padding around portentously (I’m guessing the original cast weren’t available for reshoots). I’d encourage you to seek out the film in whatever version you can... It’s absolutely thriller-ering.

Rating: 4/5

Sunday 21 October 2007

Cheerleader Massacre

Well, that’ll teach me. You play with fire often enough and eventually you get burned... Or, in this case, you get slowly roasted to death, as flaming hot pokers thrust themselves in and out of your eye sockets, and burning embers become lodged underneath your fingernails in most uncomfortable fashion. Yessiree, I’ve made one too many trips to the Grindhouse with this one.

Cheerleader Massacre is possibly-officially the fourth film in the Slumber Party Massacre series. How can this be? you fret. It features no slumber party... not even the merest hint of a topless pillow-fight. Well, if you remember, Part 2 was only linked to the original by the tenuous suggestion that its main character was the sister of Part 1’s heroine. And Part 3 wasn’t linked at all, although it did at least centre around a slumber party. Cheerleader Massacre boasts a cameo appearance from Part 1’s Brinke Stevens, ostensibly playing the same character, “Linda”. Flashbacks cobbled together from old clips reveal that “Linda” – assumed perforated to pieces in The Slumber Party Massacre – actually survived her ordeal and has been living with the scars ever since. However, since liberties have been taken with the name of the killer – changed from the original Russ Thorn (scary!) to Jeremiah McPherson (terrifying!) – it’s perhaps up to you how seriously you want to take this new information. Personally, I’d suggest not taking anything in Cheerleader Massacre seriously. In fact, I’d suggest not watching it.

After the obligatory lovemaking-kids-killed-in-the-woods opening, we’re introduced to the Bridgemont High cheerleading squad, happily practising their latest routine in jeans and blouses (what, you expect a film like this to pay for a luxury like costumes?). In comes their coach, Miss Hendricks, to tell them that they have fifteen minutes to shower and get on the bus. Naturally, we follow them into the showers, where the camera lingers lustfully over their soapy buttocks (another bit of continuity with the original there). The whole scene does drag on a bit, though… I mean, these girls only have fifteen minutes to get ready. Give them a break!

Eventually, it’s enough with the nudity and time for some killin’ – and here’s where I really began to worry. The following scene is such nonsense that it’s clear once and for all that Cheerleader Massacre is far more concerned with t&a than s&s (that’s stalk and slash). One cheerleader, Dina, is separated from the pack and finds herself all alone in the spooky locker room. A POV shot from behind some lockers suggests she’s being stalked by an observer close by. Suddenly, the lights go off – apparently a clue to Dina that she’s about to be killed because she instantly dives behind a bank of lockers. Peering out, she sees a scary-looking shadow on the wall at the other end of the enormous room. Then, a shower jet bursts on behind her. (Obviously, the killer has some kind of remote control.) Dina slips into a storeroom area, where a hand clamps around her mouth from behind and she’s dragged away. Cut to the shower slowly switching itself off... Either there are about three different killers, all hiding in different parts of the locker room (with one controlling the showers) or this scene makes absolutely no sense. I suspect the latter.

The last we see of Dina is her feet beneath a toilet stall door as blood drips onto her shoes. I say “drips” but it’s actually more like “squirts”... Seriously, I don’t know what’s going on behind that door but the blood is squirting downwards in a very directional flow, as if from a hosepipe. If you’ve seen that other another t&a slasher travesty Sorority House Massacre II (in which you could often see the shadow of the squeezy-bottle used whenever splashing blood was required) this should be enough to clue you in that the director here is again Jim Wynorski. Having watched his enjoyable-enough 976-EVIL II recently, I was prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt, but never again, Mr Wynorski... never again!

There’s a few more deaths, one involving a rope bridge, which produced the only moment of suspense I experienced while watching the film: as the killer cuts through one of the ropes holding the bridge in place, I wondered if we’d actually get to see it collapse... Of course, we don’t. That would have involved a budget. Instead, the actress shakes the bridge as much as possible until a blurry camera pan simulates her fall.

It all ends up with the cheerleaders trapped in a snowbound cabin while the killer prowls the woods outside. It’s here that the film’s key scene is played out: a three-way naked hot-tub session in which the girls pour bottles of Hershey’s chocolate syrup over themselves (again with the squeezy-bottles!). This might have sounded like a sexy scene on paper but, in reality, it’s so gross I almost couldn’t watch. Quite frankly, nothing that turns your bathwater brown is good clean fun in my book.

I did enjoy a few snippets of the script, however:

Cop: I knew today was gonna suck when we got those stale donuts.

Generic cheerleader 1: This is so bad... No gas, no food...
Generic cheerleader 2: And they still haven’t caught that killer yet!

Cop 1: This is gonna be a long day.
Cop 2: Yeah, except for one thing... It isn’t day anymore.

Cheerleader (searching cabin): I couldn’t find a phone – but there’s plenty of games to play!

Other than those, I can’t find a single basis on which to recommend Cheerleader Massacre. It’s as bad as cheap exploitation gets, and a far cry from the witty and well made Slumber Party Massacre trilogy with which it’s feebly linked. I think I'll be staying away from the Grindhouse for a while!
Rating: 1/5

Wednesday 17 October 2007

The Hollywood Beach Murders

Imagine you’d saved up all your money to make a movie... then discovered that one of your trusted friends had gone and blown it all on leisure suits and cheap accessories. But you still felt you had an important story to tell, so you got all those leisure suits and cheap accessories together and made the movie anyway, making sure you got your money’s worth from your purchases by forcing the entire cast to wear them. I can only surmise that’s what happened in the case of Eric Straton’s 1992 serial killer flick, The Hollywood Beach Murders. Quite frankly, the alternatives don’t bear thinking about.

I presume that, before Straton’s buddy bought all those leisure suits and cheap accessories, Eric had envisaged The Hollywood Beach Murders as a glossy thriller set amongst a trendy California beach community. There’d be murders and thrills and glamour and, oh, maybe even Tara Reid or someone. Of course, not having any budget left meant that Straton had to change his plans somewhat. Those beach people can be awfully funny about lending out their houses, so Straton had to look for a new location. The “Hollywood Beach” of the title, he decided, would stop referring to a beach per se, and become instead the name of a... let’s see now... train. Yes, that works. And those interiors would be cheaper to film.

There were most likely other compromises too. All those cheap accessories wouldn’t really suit the hip young cast Straton had originally had in mind, so he had a look round and found some actors who would look good in them. But they wouldn’t work for free, so he cast his friends and family instead.

Out too went Tara, replaced by a big fat man called David Regal. David would play a detective investigating murders onboard the train – just like in that movie Murder on the Orient Express, except with more leisure suits. And cheap accessories. Unfortunately, Straton only managed to film forty minutes’ worth of train footage, so he thought of a clever subplot to fill the rest of the time: the detective would have a partner holidaying in Miami. Not only would this provide some comic relief – in the shape of the partner’s disastrous attempts at picking up women – but it would also allow Straton to incorporate approximately fifteen minutes of sailing footage he also happened to have filmed earlier. And the partner could wear Straton’s favourite novelty boob hat!

The Hollywood Beach Murders, despite its budget, cast and occasionally baffling longueurs, managed to hold my attention. I’d even go so far as to say it has an oddball charm – if, that is, you find oddballs charming. It may have helped that I watched the film whilst ill in bed, lacking the strength even to reach for the remote control to turn it off, but I have to admit it provided a comfortable distraction as I lay in a puddle of my own chicken soup (I had a spillage and, as I said, no strength). The mystery plot holds up – albeit without ever threatening the likes of Murder on the Orient Express – and I made it to the end credits with a smile on my face. Although that may have been because of the final freeze-frame.

Rating: 2/5

Monday 15 October 2007


It’s easy to write about a bad film. The wisecracks, the insults… they just seem to flow. The same goes for the so-bad-they’re-good films – perhaps the easiest of all to waffle about. Slightly more difficult is describing the genuinely good films. There’s a niggling desire to somehow do the film justice, but the passion is at least there and the praise comes easily enough. Even the mediocre flicks offer a little of something either way to dig into. But how do you write about the movies filled with good stuff but which, for some barely definable reason, just don’t quite work? That’s a hard one. And that’s Eyewitness.

I took an interest in this 1981 thriller after learning that: (a) it’s an Anchorwoman In Peril movie; (b) Sigourney Weaver’s in it; (c) Sigourney Weaver plays the Anchorwoman In Peril in it; and (d) watching it would mean I could stop making this list. As it turned out, however: (a) it’s not really much of an Anchorwoman In Peril movie; (b) it’s not really a thriller; (c) it’s actually rather a strange film; and (d) I’ve got some sort of list-making problem today.

Eyewitness is filled with elements competing for your attention but, if you manage to isolate any one of these, you’ll find it is itself made up of at least two conflicting parts. Our main character, for instance, is janitor Darryl Deever (William Hurt). He seems likeable enough but he’s also incredibly cocky. We watch as he discovers the aftermath of a murder in his building, but we’re never quite sure whether we can trust his version of events. He’s infatuated with TV news personality Tony Sokolow (Sigourney Weaver) and, upon meeting her at the crime scene, leads her on by suggesting he knows more about the case than he actually does. As well as presenting the news, Tony is a concert pianist. And she’s also dating an older man (Christopher Plummer) who’s also involved in sneaking Jews out of Russia.

You might not be surprised to learn that all this is the result of scriptwriter Steve Tesich combining two scripts that were going nowhere into one story. The result is one script that, for a long time, feels like it’s going nowhere. It soon becomes clear that Tesich is far more interested in creating characters – and tweezing them like struggling flies into a web of tangled relationships – than giving them anything straightforward to do. Hence, clouding the picture are Darryl’s friend Aldo (James Woods) who may or may not be the killer and is forcing Darryl into a relationship with his sister; Darryl’s parents; Tony’s parents; Aldo’s parents; two cops (one of whom is a young Morgan Freeman) shadowing the characters’ actions; and a mysterious, dark-haired woman... I honestly wouldn’t have been surprised if Darryl’s dishwasher had been struck by lightning, developed a personality, and demanded a subplot of its own.

Frustratingly, amongst the melee are three standout action sequences that really demonstrate where director Peter Yates’ strengths lie. These scenes – a motorbike chase, a dog attack, and the film’s horse-trampling climax – are absolute dynamite, the plums in the pudding and the visceral jolts of suspense that the film really needs.

Despite tying up its central mystery, Eyewitness ultimately remains bafflingly opaque. Even its title is ambiguous, since Hurt isn’t really an eyewitness to the crime at all. It’s understandable that the studio pushed for an alternative to the script’s horrible original title, The Janitor Can’t Dance. But you can’t help thinking it actually would’ve suited the film more.

Rating: 3/5

Sunday 14 October 2007


Tireless, that’s me, dear Anchorwoman In Peril! reader (and I wish you’d stop calling yourself that). I’ll search out any cheap obscure DVD in order to provide you with an incisive commentary on the merits – or not – of the film in question. So, when I remembered a film from my childhood that featured Suzanne Somers as a TV reporter stalked by a killer, I just knew it was my duty to seek it out... at any cost!

As it happened, that cost was £1.09 on Amazon (plus postage, mind) and the film was Exclusive, a 1992 TV movie riding on the coattails of Somers’ then-popularity in the sitcom Step by Step.

As Anchorwomen In Peril go, Marcy Howard (Somers) really is in peril. Barely a moment goes by when she’s not being crept up on by some sort of mysterious, shadowy figure. First it’s when she’s lying in bed, sleeping fitfully as a black-gloved intruder slips into the house, creeps up the stairs in the dark, hovers ominously above her, and... [camera pans up to face] False alarm – it’s just her husband, Reed (Michael Nouri)... Phew! He’s arrived home late, but there’s just enough time for a bit of nookie before Marcy heads off to work at the TV station.

Some time later, Marcy is working alone at the office when a black-clad stranger sneaks up behind her desk. She’s too busy typing to notice as he opens up a mysterious briefcase and… [camera pans up to face] False alarm – it’s just her co-worker Allen (Ed Begley Jr.)... Phew! Talk about suspense! Marcy’s not even being stalked by that killer yet, but her friends are doing a good enough job at skulking around and keeping her in a constant state of peril anyway!

So what about the actual stalker? Well, one night, Marcy’s at her desk when she receives an anonymous phone call telling her to go to the Blue Mood bar if she really wants a story. This is a stroke of luck, as the new station manager has been on her back recently, demanding higher ratings and reminding her that she used to be LA’s top investigative reporter. Of course, she also used to be an alcoholic and, in giving up the hard drinkin’, she also seems to have lost touch with the hard news.

When Marcy arrives at the Blue Mood bar, however, she won’t have to worry about forking out for an overpriced mineral water. Everyone’s been killed in a gruesome shotgun massacre – and she’s first on the scene with a camera crew. Marcy’s back in the big league and making the headlines herself... but at what cost? How long is it before the killer comes after her? And will she ever be able to get any work done without someone sneaking up on her?

Exclusive harks back to the days when, if you had a hot TV actress, a camera and Ed Begley Jr., then goddammit you had a movie. For much of the running time, it’s just that: Somers and Begley goof around in the studio; Somers and Begley argue about ratings; Somers and Begley follow a hot lead... And, occasionally, Michael Nouri pops up like a screensaver to protect your TV from the combined strength of all that blonde.

For an Anchorwoman In Peril movie, however, Exclusive is lacking in the requisite hysteria. Despite being a recently-divorced former alcoholic fighting off a murderous stalker (as well as the urge to down the odd bottle of vodka) Somers is pretty together and, as a result, it’s all a bit bland. Sure, there’s the usual investigating-strange-noises and receiving-strange-phonecall exploits, but we might as well be watching Somers in Three’s Company for all the suspense on offer. On the other hand, I was amused by Marcy’s “research”, which seems to consist entirely of clipping articles out of the daily papers... So much for being on the front line!

We do get a magnificent Live On Air wig-out in the second half, when Marcy is forced to report on her own attack at the hands of a man in a gimp mask, and turns into a comatose wreck in the middle of the nightly news...

And then there’s the moment when she’s driving along and takes her eyes off the road for a second to reach for her vodka bottle...

Unfortunately, such highlights are spread as thinly as the thrills, and Exclusive plods along to one of those climaxes where the gun goes off, the police break in, and you’re supposed to wonder which of the “bodies” will move first: Marcy or the killer. I didn’t hate it but, in the ten years since the initial Anchorwoman In Peril cycle, everyone seems to have forgotten how to make the formula fun.

Rating: 2/5

Thursday 11 October 2007

Title fight! Scream Bloody Murder

Going through my pile of as-yet-unwatched DVDs last night, I discovered I had two films with the same title. Now, life is confusing enough without this kind of malarkey... I mean, who hasn’t sat the kids down to watch Fletch, only to discover they’ve accidentally slipped Andy Warhol’s Flesh into the machine? And I don’t even want to think about the disastrous screening of Kramer vs. Kramer I put my elderly grandmother through (there’s barely anything on that box to distinguish it from Freddy vs. Jason). Nope, you don’t need me to tell you that title-sharing is a bad idea.

So, what is one to do when faced with two films with exactly the same name? And what title could be so enticing, so powerful, so intriguing that there’s more than one movie vying for it? Well, I’ll tell you... it’s Scream Bloody Murder. Isn’t it just... chilling? All that screaming and blood, not to mention the murder. I bet it’s a real shocker. Trouble is, which film deserves it? There’s only room for one Scream Bloody Murder in my collection, and only one way to settle the dispute... Ding-ding! Title fight!

The first contender for the title Scream Bloody Murder is Marc B. Ray’s 1973 film – we’ll call it SBM’73 – about a disturbed young man who embarks on a killing spree across California. Matthew (Fred Holbert) has been in an asylum since childhood, when he ran over his father in a combine harvester. Now he’s out, he has a hook for a hand (thanks to the same incident) and he’s not happy. The root cause of all this anger is the fact that his mom’s remarried, so he shows his disapproval by hacking up the new husband with an axe – and then accidentally killing Ma for good measure. From here on in, it’s meet-greet-slaughter, as Matthew does away with just about everyone who crosses his path, spurred on by visions of his dead mother. Most of his victims scream, it’s all very bloody, and peppered with murder... Sounds like a strong contender, huh? Let’s meet the competition.

Ralph E. Portillo’s Scream Bloody Murder is a straight-to-video slasher move from 2000. We’ll refer to it as SBM2000 to distinguish it from the 1973 film and make it sound a bit like a vacuum cleaner. Its heroine is “Jewels” (short for Julie – sheesh, this one’s already losing points), who arrives at the remote Camp Placid Pines to work as a counsellor over the summer. But rumours are rife that a killer named Trevor Moorehouse stalks the surrounding woods and, when her colleagues start disappearing one by one, she begins to believe there might be some truth to them. Let’s see how the movie stacks up against its rival...

Round 1: The title card

No contest here: SBM2000 pits some random trees and a generic title font against SBM’73’s shocking freeze-frame of a screaming child with a mangled hand! You can almost see the blood dripping off the screen. Winner: SBM’73

Round 2: The psychopath

Both killers are pretty freaky: Amish hair and a hatchet is not a combination I’d like to come up against but, as madmen go, SBM’73’s Matthew is a little on the weedy side. On the other hand, Trevor of SBM2000 sports Jason’s mask, Leatherface’s chainsaw and Michael Myers’ boiler suit... He’s a one-man fashion parade of horror. As the camera panned behind him, however, that’s when I knew we were really in trouble...

Yes, Trevor Moorehouse has pooped himself, people. Now that’s disturbing. Here is a killer so psychotic that he doesn’t even drop ’em to drop one off. On the plus side, I can’t see him creeping up behind you unannounced, if you get my drift. Still, to be quite honest, I don’t want him anywhere near me – and that’s surely the best compliment you can pay a movie psycho. Winner: SBM2000

Round 3: The action (Spoilers!)

It would be accurate enough to describe both Scream Bloody Murders as slasher movies, although SBM’73 is a more character-focused piece, while SBM2000 is a standard run-around-the-woods hack-’em-up. Both are highly reminiscent of other films, the difference being that SBM’73 lays down the conventions that many others would later follow (1980’s Maniac is an obvious descendant) while SBM2000 simply copies superior predecessors like Friday the 13th and Madman.

Both films also feature a fairly equal amount of murder and mayhem, but only SBM’73 had me in any way cringing. Its gore is mainly limited to bright crimson blood splashing around, but Matthew’s attacks (particularly with the hatchet) are so frenzied, they come across as quite brutal. In contrast, the deaths in SBM2000 are largely bloodless and often off-screen (whereas the only off-screen killing in SBM’73 is that of a dog – although it’s still a distressing moment, especially the way it makes Matthew cry).

As for the fate of each killer... SBM’73’s climax finds Matthew inside a church, assailed by visions of his former victims who proceed to hack him to pieces, culminating in a gob-smacking final shot. At the end of SBM2000, the killer is, er, handcuffed and driven away (...or is he? Hmm). Winner: SBM’73


SBM’73 is a nasty, engrossing little grindhouse pic that still manages to disturb despite its age, grainy shape and sometimes dawdling pace. 3/5

SBM2000 is a witless clone of better slashers, with characters you couldn’t care less about, long stretches of tedium, and a convoluted but ineffective climax. 1/5

The winner!
SBM’73, you really deserve the title Scream Bloody Murder and you’re welcome to hang around in my DVD collection as long as you like. SPM2000, you need a new title. I suggest The Poopy-Pants Murders.

Wednesday 10 October 2007

Run... If You Can!

Welcome to Anchorwoman In Peril’s new review strand, the Grindhouse, where I’ll be reviewing the cheapest and sleaziest genre efforts ever to get a legitimate DVD release. And we all know what you get when you mix “cheap” with “sleaze”... Yup, “cheese” – or, to be strictly accurate, “cheaze”, whatever that is. Anyway, whenever you see the Grindhouse logo here on AiP (that’s it on the left), you’ll know to expect fuzzy video, muffled sound, wooden actors... and, who knows, maybe you’ll even come to love ’em like I do. So adjust your brightness, crank up the volume, and don’t expect any special features (or chapter stops)... I’m hoping that, as we wade through the sludge, we might trip over a few diamonds-in-the-rough together (so watch your toes – they might be sharp). The sludgery starts with today’s 1987 psycho-thriller, Run... If You Can!

I’m guessing this movie was made on a budget of about $1,000, most of which went on punctuation for the title. Hopefully, the majority of what was left went into the pocket of Martin Landau... Yes, that’s right, there’s an honest-to-goblins Oscar-winning actor in this movie and, more importantly, he’s actually good in it (unlike most of the name-above-the-title-nobodies like Tom Hulce, Linda Hunt and Louise Fletcher who, after winning an Oscar each, went on to blight a hundred B-movies with hammy performances that only served to drag the films deeper). In Run... If You Can!, however, whenever there’s a moment that rings true or a flicker of raw energy at the edge of a scene, you can bet it’s because Landau is onscreen. But he’s still really only a best supporting actor here; let’s not forget our heroine...

Meet Kim Page (Yvette Nipar), a pretty young student who’s house-sitting for a friend of her father’s. The first thing you’ll notice is that this ain’t no ordinary house – it’s a genuine Beverly Hills mansion, complete with a lagoon-like swimming pool, indoor forest and, up on the roof, a giant satellite dish. Kim’s boyfriend is heading out of town for a while, so she plans to crack out the mac ’n’ cheese and veg out in front of the many TV channels available thanks to the Jodrell Bank-like piece of receiving equipment overhead.

As Kim nods off in front of the tube one night, the late-night movie is rudely interrupted by some amateurish footage of a man and woman having sex. Strange... the TV guide had promised 1930s classic Of Human Bondage, but Kim is drifting in and out of a carb-coma thanks to all that pasta, and barely bats an eyelid when the man suffocates his partner and stuffs her body into a plastic bag.

It’s not until the next day, when her friend Jill informs her that a woman’s body has been found dumped in a plastic bag – the latest in a series of killings attributed to the “Beverly Hills Ladykiller” – that Kim remembers the creepy video. She figures, however, that it was all just a scene from Of Human Bondage (right after the bit where Leslie Howard torches Bette Davis with a flame-thrower, perhaps) and dismisses it outright. Unfortunately, Kim is in for a far greater shock the following night, when the TV snuff scenes are repeated... only this time the helpless victim is Jill!

Low-budget it may be, but Run... If You Can! has a story to tell and manages to tell it with a fair degree of grainy panache. Kim quickly enlists the aid of Lieutenant Landau and his partner, Brian (Jerry – brother of Dick! – Van Dyke), who together bring some old-school acting chops to the table, imbuing an unlikely story with some believability. Nevertheless, I never quite bought the fact that Kim would confuse a black-and-white movie classic with some dirty home video beamed onto her TV in full-colour – but, since she’s getting free nightly snuff-porn of the like Eli Roth would surely kill for, I guess she’s not complaining.

In this late-eighties production, the high-tech world of satellite TV broadcasting is clearly still seen as something frighteningly new. Every time Kim’s rooftop dish does a little swivel, for example, it’s accompanied by scary chords on the soundtrack. And as the police scramble to uncover the source of the broadcasts, I half expected someone to call Kim and cry, “The signal’s coming from inside the house!”. But where the uncertainty surrounding this new technology is understandable, the confusion caused by the revelation of the killer’s identity is just ridiculous. In fact, the more I think about it, the stupider it is. I don’t want to give anything away, but... why? Why, for the love of God, would this particular character be the killer? Did I miss something?

Thankfully, the film ends on what has to be one the greatest freeze-frames ever, er, frozen, which, when accompanied by the novel way of listing the end credits, manages to send you out with a smile. Run... If You Can! won’t please everyone but, with its sly suggestion that late-night TV really is bad for you, makes a great late-night movie itself. Enjoy... if you can.

Rating: 3/5

Sunday 7 October 2007

Intimate Stranger

I’ve tracked down some obscure films in my time, pawing through bargain bins filled with battered ex-rental video tapes, trawling eBay for titles deleted in 1987, and surrendering my credit card details to websites so foreign even the HTML was in French. When it came to finding the 1992 straight-to-cable thriller Intimate Stranger, however, I struck lucky: I just wandered into a second-hand shop in London and there it was, gleaming improbably on the shelf in all its region 4 DVD glory – a film currently only available on DVD in Australia.

Why had I wanted to see Intimate Stranger for so long? Let’s count the reasons: (1) It stars Deborah Harry as a phone-sex operator. (2) It stars Deborah Harry as a phone-sex operator in peril! Isn’t that enough? Do you even need to know that it also co-stars Tia Carrere (the Relic Hunter herself) in an early role as an over-enthusiastic hooker? Or that Twin Peaks’ Grace Zabriskie has – eww – a fellatio scene? Or that, at the climax, we’re treated to the truly insane sight of Deborah Harry wielding a flame-thrower whilst screaming “YOU DIRTY BASTARD!”...? Now tell me that hasn’t zoomed straight to the top of your must-see list?

Harry plays Cory Wheeler, a platinum-blonde telephone sex worker who, when she’s not pretending to be a naughty 15-year-old in black panties, also sings at a local dive called the Tom Tom Club (seriously, you should see the restrooms... yeucch!). One night, Cory’s peddling her sexy shtick to the usual clients (and smoking her way through about ten packs of fags) when she finds herself chatting up a particularly sinister individual who claims to have a woman tied up in his house. “My inside stuff is coming out... and her INSIDE stuff is coming out,” he intones, before taking out a knife and slitting the girl’s throat with a cry of: “My inside stuff is white... and her inside stuff is red... red... red!”

Needless to say, Cory’s pretty freaked out. Who wants to hear about yucky white stuff? Especially when your hair looks like this:

The whole experience is enough to drive a (Debbie) harried phone-sex operator straight to the cops, which is exactly where Cory heads. Unsurprisingly, the homicide squad aren’t interested in a case where the witness can provide no description, no evidence and no corpse, but before Cory can storm out, she’s approached by sympathetic officer Nick Ciccini (James Russo) who offers to help catch the killer on his own, in the hope that it might fast-track his promotion to detective.

Back at the apartment, Nick installs a state-of-the-art tracing device on Cory’s phone line:

Sure enough, the killer calls again, but – curses! – he must be using a scrambler, because all that comes up on the tracer’s digital display is a string of random numbers. Luckily, Nick has a buddy in the telecommunications department who’s able to provide him with the credit card details and address of the murderous caller, and soon he and Cory are swept up in a whirlwind of mystery, danger and romance. And you know what happens to your hair in a whirlwind:

Intimate Stranger is the stuff that straight-to-cable dreams are made of, and I loved every dirty-talking minute. By the ten-minute mark, Debbie Harry has already smoked 400 cigarettes in eye-watering close-up, snarled the word “pussy”, and delivered a phone fantasy about sitting in a dentist’s waiting room without any knickers on. I’m sure John Waters was thinking of her when he envisaged Serial Mom’s evil streak.

Then there’s the first murder: a thunderball of sleaze, featuring so much topless torture and talk of “inside stuff coming out” that I was actually a teensy bit shocked in my old age. If anything, the movie calms down somewhat after this startling opening, and settles into more familiar mystery territory – although it’s not long before a frazzling sequence set in a sex shop during a power cut (!).

With the added bonus of a few Deborah Harry vocal performances unavailable anywhere else, Intimate Stranger is the very definition of a lost gem. It would have benefited from a bit more suspense during the midsection, but the climax is a dizzy, delirious affair, which rockets around dingy alleys, seedy motels and the decaying stairwells of a derelict building. Quite where that aforementioned flame-thrower comes from, however, is anyone’s guess!

Rating: 3/5

Thursday 4 October 2007

The Brave One

As slasher expert “Buzz” points out in what’s basically the definitive essay on the subject of Anchorwomen In Peril, one of the great pleasures of AIP movies is the moment when our heroine wigs out Live On Air. Whether it’s Lauren Tewes grabbing the limelight to urge viewers to rally against a killer in Eyes of a Stranger, or The Howling’s Dee Wallace proving the existence of werewolves by actually turning into one in the middle of the six o’clock news, it’s always the scene you’re waiting for – and the bit you’d kill to see in real life.

In The Brave One, Jodie Foster plays New York radio presenter Erica Bain, for whom this inevitable moment comes when, after witnessing her boyfriend’s murder at the hands of a street gang, she breaks down mid-show, leaving a minute of dead silence. But, this being an Oscar-winning actress we’re talking about here, she’s not lost for words for long, and is soon delivering a heartfelt monologue off the cuff and – more importantly – on the air. It’s classic Anchorwoman In Peril hysteria played with Academy Award credence. Naturally, I loved it.

The Brave One is first and foremost a vigilante movie. As well as soliloquising on her show, Jodie swaps her denim jacket for black leather, starts wearing make-up, and gives us a taste of her sharp-shooting, bad-ass side as New York’s newest bringer of justice (she’s also an ace at poker – see Maverick). After the aforementioned personal tragedy (that’s the boyfriend’s death, not Maverick) she decides to get herself a gun and go after the punks responsible, popping holes into a few other murderers, abusers and a subplot about a local gangster along the way. (Jodie also speaks fluent French... just see A Very Long Engagement if you don’t believe me.)

It seems there’s no stopping this self-declared “supercunt” until a police detective (Terrence Howard) starts getting suspicious after hearing one of her more emotive radio broadcasts and spotting her at the scene when a couple of thugs are shot dead on the subway. Will he bring her down? How many more crooks and crims will she kill? And, as Jodie might say, “Excusez-moi, où est la café? Je voudrais un croque-monsieur, s’il vous plaît.”

I did say I loved the moment above when Erica waxes lyrical on the radio and, well, that’s true; I’m a sucker for that sort of shit. But The Brave One lays on the schmaltz quite heavily at times – none more so than whenever the Sad Theme Song appears on the soundtrack, as it does at various junctures. I’ve always considered director Neil Jordan a fairly edgy, dangerous kind of guy (I mean, look at the demented vigour with which he tried to kill the careers of Annette Bening and Robert Downey Jr. in 1999’s odd psycho-thriller, In Dreams) but there’s never any danger of us condemning Erica’s violent actions in this film, thanks to this kind of emotive thinking-for-us.

That said, Erica does plenty of thinking for herself. The Brave One is as much about how violence changes a person as it is about how good it looks in slow-motion, and Erica’s internal journey is one we follow every step of the way. Foster is riveting in the manner she always is, albeit to the point that I rarely thought of her as Erica Bain – more as Jodie Foster doing a radio show (“Why does Hollywood megastar Jodie Foster live in such a crappy apartment?” I actually wondered at one point).

I’m not sure how seriously I can take such upfront vigilantism as a subject for emotional drama – to be honest, I think I only connect with it as comic-book revenge fantasy, as in this year’s Kevin Bacon-starrer, Death Sentence – but The Brave One provides enough suspense thrills, cat-and-mousery and New York nastiness to remain gripping throughout its lengthy running time. Next time, however, I’d like to see Foster in something that isn’t about her being fucking amazing. Have you seen Flightplan? She also designs planes.

Rating: 3/5

Wednesday 3 October 2007

Bad Inclination

I’m sorry. I’ve hardly the slightest inclination, bad or otherwise, what was actually going on in the 2003 Italian giallo Bad Inclination. I tried to understand it... really, I did. It’s not as if I’m totally stupid – I “get” David Lynch and once guessed the killer in a Dario Argento movie – but sometimes you just have to admit defeat.

Let’s take a look at the plot. No, scratch that, it’s just impossible. (Don’t believe me? See the IMDb listing. No plot synopsis, no plot summary, not even a keyword!) You’ll have to make do with a description of some of the main characters instead.

There’s Mirta Valenti, played by former giallo babe Florinda Bolkan, an artist who believes that art-imitates-life-imitates-art, especially in the case of a string of real-life murders recently committed in her apartment building by a set square-wielding killer. Look, she’s even painting a portrait of a woman who’s been stabbed through the neck with a metal set square:

Yes, that’s right, a set square... That piece of maths equipment that comes in the same box as a protractor and compasses but seems to serve no real purpose unless perhaps you’re a technical sketcher, when who knows what it’s capable of? The choice of weapon is original at least, although its use is never explained in this film. But, then again, neither is anything else.

Anyway, there’s also Mirta’s housekeeper. I’m not sure of her name, but she seems to be blackmailing Mirta for some reason, until Mirta gets back at her by allowing her dog to go number-ones all over her bedspread (and when I say number-ones, I really mean it – that bed is soaked!).

In a nearby apartment are Otilia and Nicole, two scheming lesbians, the latter of whom is a faded 80s pop diva (and is played by Eva Robin’s, the infamous “Girl on Beach” in Tenebrae). Otilia has a thing for Premio, a young architecture student who enjoys submissive sex and keeps a fistful of set squares on his desk.

Then there’s a nosy landlady, an opinionated vagrant (played by Django himself, Franco Nero), a TV talk show host, at least three detectives on the case, and a drugged-looking Persian cat. One, or perhaps all of these, may be the set square killer, and my money’s on the cat.

It’s not spoiling anything to let slip that one particular character is revealed as a killer halfway through Bad Inclination. The black gloves are off, and he/she is ready for their close-up, Mr De Mille. In this film, a killer is not necessarily the same as the killer, however, and I’m still not sure whether this revelation was a red herring, a damp squib, or a mixed metaphor.

Erratic as it is, the film isn’t actually boring (which is, in my opinion, the cardinal sin a film can commit). There’s always something going on, partly due to the fact that barely a single scene lasts longer than a minute. A particularly priceless moment sees one character spring a practical joke on another with the aid of a fake set square! Everyone looks trashy – especially in comparison the Rome backdrop – and their dialogue has that translated-from-Italian feel that never fails to entertain.

Don’t watch this film if you can’t bear bad dubbing, as Shriek Show’s DVD comes with an English language track only, and the voiceover artists seem to delight in giving the actors’ mouth movements as wide a berth as possible. In fact, don’t watch it at all if you don’t have at least a mild soft spot for bad cinema. As far as cheap-thrill psycho-cinema goes, I’ve seen a lot worse... but if you know me, you’ll know that’s no recommendation.

Rating: 2/5

Monday 1 October 2007

Eyes of a Stranger

It's SHOCKtober! and the new horror DVDs are pouring out like so many gooey seeds from a smashed pumpkin. My favourite recent release has to be Warner's Twisted Terror Collection (from which I've already reviewed the excellent Someone's Watching Me!). Also included is another stalker-themed gem...

In the headlines tonight: Lauren Tewes, of seventies schedules stalwart The Love Boat, plays a bona fide Anchorwoman In Peril in Eyes of a Stranger! Ms Tewes (pronounced “Tweeze”) is Jane Harris (“Harreeze”?), a Miami newscaster who’s just sickened by a recent spate of rape-murders around the city. So sickened, in fact, that she keeps butting in on her co-anchor’s screen time to urge local women to call in and report any “odd encounters” that might relate to the crimes. (I think she even busts in on the weather at one point, forecasting a cold front of hatchet killings sweeping into the Dade County area.)

Meanwhile, one Miami waitress who hasn’t been keeping up with her current affairs is returning home to her empty apartment to find a window wide open, the phone ringing, and a scary voice on the line saying, “I know you’re not wearing a bra, Debbie” – to which she blurts back, “Who the fuck is there?”. Believe me, it’s never a good idea to use profanity when trying to calm down a potentially confrontational situation, and soon Debbie has become the killer’s latest victim, along with her visiting boyfriend who, after a nasty incident involving an oversized meat cleaver, ends up lying several feet away from his own head. Fuck!

Back at the Harris household, we meet Jane’s little sister, Tracy, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh. It’s a great early role for Leigh: as a deaf-blind mute she really has to emote to get those scenes across (and no lines to learn, either – score!). It turns out that Tracy has only been sensory-impaired since an incident in her childhood when a prank went wrong nasty man abducted her and did god knows what while Jane was off making out with a boy from school. So, really, it was all her older sister’s fault. No wonder she’s got such a chip on her shoulder about that killer rapist on the loose.

For now, anyway, the plot thrust is back with Jane, who’s spotted a creepy neighbour (John DiSanti) doing all kinds of creepy things... like disposing of a bloodstained shirt in the basement of the apartment block, and washing muddy marks off his car the day after a murder down at the beach. In an interesting twist, she starts stalking him, phoning him with “I saw what you did”-style accusations – and, unfortunately, not disguising her voice very well. How long will it be before he finds out who’s onto him? Has she inadvertently put her near-helpless sister at risk? And when will Tori Spelling remake this movie (please)?

All these questions – well, except the one about Tori Spelling – are answered in a wonderfully gruelling climax, wherein things are wrapped up neatly with the use of some of Tom Savini’s messy gore effects. Catch this on Warner’s newly restored DVD release, in fact, and you’ll be treated to some gushingly good bloodletting throughout (a particular bonus for UK viewers who’ve only ever had a BBFC-cut version of an already trimmed, R-rated American cut). Being at least as much Anchorwoman In Peril-focused as it is slasher, of course, the film isn’t outrageously gory, but director Ken Wiederhorn makes sure that what is there really sticks. Actually, while I’m thinking about it, I can’t name another straight-up Anchorwoman In Peril outing that’s quite as liberal with the red stuff as this. That’s got to be worthy of some sort of recognition, right?

Another pleasing characteristic of Eyes of a Stranger is the attention it pays to its murder set-pieces. These aren’t just random deaths chucked in to up the bodycount. Each slaughter sequence is played as its own little movie-within-a-movie, in which we get to know the characters involved, watch their terror increase as they realise how much danger they’re in, and then, finally... splat! Tomorrow’s news headline.

As chief anchorwoman, Tewes is pretty amusing, constantly refusing to move in with her boyfriend on the grounds that she has to look after her sister – yet constantly ditching Tracy to follow up bizarre murder-hunt clues (a cuckoo clock?!). Jamie Lee Jennifer-Jason-Leigh is also good value in what’s not quite her debut – although she does get an “Introducing” credit – and her climactic tussle with the killer is as thrilling as it is inevitable. While you couldn’t call Eyes of a Stranger essential horror viewing, it’s a treat to find it released on DVD. I’d rather go deaf-blind-mute than part with my copy!

Rating: 4/5