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


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 √©lan 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