Wednesday 27 May 2009


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