James Simpson

About James Simpson

A freelance writer and lover of movies, James is a long term contributor to UK Horror Scene. He has a regular feature on UKHS, World of Horror, as well as reviewing and interviewing when he can. He also writes for Gore Splattered Corner and Space Monsters Magazine. He has previously written for Scream Magazine and Zombie Hamster. Twitter: @JSimpsonWriter

Mother’s Day (1980) Blu-Ray Review

Mothers_Day_BR_2D_PACKSHOT_RED_1024x1024MOTHER’S DAY (1980) BLU-RAY REVIEW

Director – Charles Kaufman

Starring – Rose Ross, Nacy Hendrickson, Holden McGuire, Deborah Luce

Run Time – 90 minutes

Blu-ray Label – 88 Films

OUT NOW

Loving sons always do what their mothers tell them to… even if it’s to kill! A mad matriarch (Rose Ross) and her two maniac sons kidnap and torture three women in their backwoods cabin! – 88 Films.

Once upon a time banned in the UK, Mother’s Day now gets an uncut UK Blu-ray release thanks to 88 Films. For a Troma movie it manages to have a degree of seriousness that carries the plot (although it does have it’s weaknesses).

The first 30 minutes the false scare tactic is favoured. The girls keep pranking each other that they are being attacked/are attackers, as teen girls apparently like to do. It becomes tiresome after a while, there is only so many times it can work before the viewer will get bored of it.

Thankfully when the girls are attacked for real (never thought I’d write such a thing) it is a relief that it isn’t another swerve on the viewers. It is violent and disturbing, breaking the otherwise cheery tone the previous half an hour had built up. We get to meet the truly disturbing family that will carry out all manner of grisly acts on these women…

mothers1They are a dysfunctional family that functions perfectly fine within its own home, as it were. They are dysfunctional in the sense they think nothing of kidnapping, raping, torturing and killing people. Functional in a sense because they are so warped that they believe what they are doing is just another part of the daily routine, in their household these horrific things bring pleasure and entertainment. However, it’s them alone who will enjoy inflicting misery on young girls.

The girls manage to fight back and escape, changing the tone of the movie again, this time from a slasher to a survival feature. The women are determined not to be killed and trek through the woods to ensure they avoid recapture. They fightback in a bloody and equally savage way, that feels like a role reversal on several levels. They attack the attackers, and violate those that violated them. It brings up an interesting approach on gender and role reversal in a slasher, giving Mother’s Day some depth.

High definition is kind to Mother’s Day. While some imperfections are noticeable, the colours are strong and the image is sharp. The picture still has a gritty feel to it though that compliments the atmosphere of the feature.

Special features.

Amongst the usual commentary and trailers, the disc has the following notable extras…

Charles Kaufman Intro (2 mins) – Filmed from his bakery, Charles comes across as a likeable bloke. He’s honest, saying he would make the film with less gore if he could, then saws off his own ‘arm’. Old habits die hard, it seems.

Behind the Scenes (Super 8 footage, 10 mins) – Kaufman talks over silent clips of behind the scenes clips. The extra gives a glimpse into how the special effects were made.

mothers2Eli Roth (13 mins) – The ‘biggest fan’ of Mother’s Day talks, a lot, about his love of the main feature and how it influenced his own movies. After watching this the viewer will no doubt be stunned by how much he knows about Mother’s Day.

Kaufman and Darren Bousman, Comic Con 2010 (8 mins) – A Troma TV clip of the pair talking about Mother’s Day. Bousman, amongst other titles, directed the 2010 remake of Kaufman’s movie. He explains why his version isn’t a remake that strictly sticks to the original. A certain Lloyd Kaufman briefly gatecrashes.

Verdict.

A movie that deserves more credit than it gets, Mother’s Day is a fine slasher flick.

6 out of 10.

James Simpson (@JSimpsonCritic)

Mother’s Day is available from the following outlets –

88 Films – HERE

Amazon UK – HERE

Don’t Go in the Woods Alone (1981) Blu-ray review

dontDon’t Go in the Woods Alone (1981) Blu-ray review

Director – James Bryan
Starring – Tom Drury, Jack McClelland, David Barth, Mary Gail Artz

Run Time – 82 minutes
Blu-ray Label – 88 Films

OUT NOW

Four young campers, Craig, Peter, Ingrid and Joanie, back-pack through the mountains for a relaxing weekend in the wilderness. They enter a forest which becomes denser and darker as they progress. Peter(Nick Mc Clelland) and Ingrid (Mary Galeartz) fear that they are lost. The brush moves and something is there. Suddenly a large form rushes forward. A wide machete gleaming in the light falls fast. Craig (James P. Hayden) slips dead to the ground. Peter and the others flee screaming into the forest. The rest of the day and terrifying night is spent running and hiding from the maniac murderer (Tom Drury) who is constantly in pursuit. – 88 Films

A woeful movie that is no doubt only remembered for reasons that aren’t of its own doing (more on this later in the review), Don’t Go In The Woods is an ultra low budget affair that is an example of low cost film making being a let down.

Horror often sees small budget features being released all the time, although some of them actually manage to create something entertaining. The lack of financial resources forces the director to be savvy with what is available. A classic example of this is the original Evil Dead: Sam Raimi and co. producing an undoubted classic by capitalising on what little capital they raised.

woods1Don’t Go in the Wood is the flipside of this predicament. It appears those involved don’t care that they should be resourceful or make the best of a tricky situation. The film seems to creep towards parody the tone is that frivolous although some have claimed this is the film being tongue-in-cheek. It’s a claim that doesn’t hold up when some of the very worst examples of it are examined in depth.

A prime example of the ‘very worst’ is the dubbing. It is appalling and at times ludicrous that a dub job as bad as this was OK’d by the director as suitable (or more likely “That’ll do.”) to be used on his movie. The voices often don’t match the lip movements of the actors and the way the actor’s actually say their dubbed lines are so over the top that it drags the movie further down the quality scale.

It is baffling why this film ever made it onto the DDP list of banned videos, Don’t Go in the Woods is tame compared to other similar titles and the effects are pathetic. The Video Nasties moral panic/scandal/public manipulation by the press of the mid eighties in the UK saw numerous videos being deemed too offensive or disturbing for the general public. Some were hyper realistic in the use of gore and imagery, disturbing curtain twitchers nationwide as a result.

The 1984 Video Recordings Act was passed in parliament due to this (it should be mentioned that MP’s took advantage of the scandal too, to look like moral saviours) and dozens of movies were heavily censored or outright banned. In the decades since the frivolous outcry has died down many of the titles have finally been re-released (as well as being uncut).

A lot of these films have not aged well and would have otherwise been lost in the sands of time if it were not for the label of being a ‘nasty’. It acted as a badge of (dis)honour. Don’t Go in the Woods is one such feature. It is safe to say it would have been long forgotten if not for the fact it had once been banned.

Thankfully 88 Films have just announced they are to release a REAL nasty: Anthropophagus.

woods2Special features.

The release contains two commentaries plus a collections of trailers, but the main extras are…

The Making of…. – Nearly an hour long, this is somewhat entertaining. Director James Bryan catches up with those involved in his movie and even talks to some of its super fans (most notably Deron Miller of cKy, a rock band that are known for their love of dreadful horror flicks). The picture and sound quality of the interview footage is sub-par. At least some of the actors talk about Don’t Go in the Woods for what it is.

Talk Show Appearances – 15 minutes long, this is a interesting little curio of an extra. The star and director of the movie appear on various Utah based TV stations to promote the feature. The fashions and TV sets on display reek of cheesy eighties. Tom Drury comes across as a likeable man who is entertaining.

Verdict.
Devoid of merit, not even in a perverse way, this is a movie that fails on multiple levels.

1 out of 10.

James Simpson (@JSimpsonCritic)

You can purchase Don’t Go In The Woods Alone from Amazon- CLICK HERE

Slaughterhouse (1987) Blu-ray review

slaughterhousecoverSlaughterhouse (1987) Blu-ray review

Director – Rick Roessler
Starring – Joe Barton, Don Barrett, Sherry Leigh

Run Time – 92 minutes
Label – 88 Films
OUT NOW

This corpse-ridden classic introduces one of the screen s most memorable madmen in Buddy a cleaver-wielding backwoods baddie who, along with his father Lester, doesn’t take kindly to trespassers. Buddy was brought up killing and packing meat, but now his rage turns to teens and market-capitalists seeking to buy-out his dad’s property. – 88 Films

Slaughterhouse is a fun and gritty 80’s horror flick that is a fantastic edition to 88 Films Slasher Collection. While it is horror-by-the-numbers it does it well enough for any predictability to be overlooked as the movie doesn’t test the viewers patience.

The opening credits have a rather zany and cheery track playing as the viewer is shown footage of pigs being killed and chopped up in an actual slaughterhouse. This perverse moment of humour is no doubt the directors attempt to show what will happen to the characters once his feature has finished (they’ll be slaughtered, geddit?!). It’s safe to say that some viewers might find this unsettling.

Thankfully the movie never goes as dark as this again, as it settles into familiar stalk-and-slash genre territory. There are the usual excitable group of teens that are all stunningly good looking, the isolated building where they will meet their fate and plenty of other characters that crop up just to be killed. Director Rick Roessler does make efforts to flesh out some roles but then has them suddenly killed off just as their characters become interesting, making it seem rather pointless (Deputy Dave being an example). The one role that needed a backstory the most, the murderous Buddy, doesn’t really receive one.

Slaughterhouse3However, Slaughterhouse is undeniably a fun and entertaining slasher flick that Roessler inserts several graphic kills throughout his movie to please the gorehounds. The use of a slaughterhouse as a setting lends itself to numerous bloody deaths involving sharp implements.

Joe Barton, as the features husky set killer Buddy, is good in his role. He doesn’t have any lines to say, his character is so mentally underdeveloped Buddy just grunts and squeals like the pigs he is so used to butchering. For a heavy set actor Barton is able to be very quick and agile in the moments when Buddy jumps out on the preppy teens. Barton’s career in acting didn’t last too long after this, with his CV consisting of mainly one off appearances as minor characters in a few TV series.

The HD transfer is not too great, the print used shows its age despite the clean up attempt on it. Not that it matters too much, it lends the image a gritty feel that matches Slaughterhouses atmosphere.

Special features.

Interview with director Rick Roessler – This is a great extra, Roessler comes across as a warm and genuine man as he details why he made the movie and its release. He even shows some props from the movie and encourages anyone thinking of getting into film making to do it.

Interview with Jerry Encoe (producer) – Jerry is a little sedate and dull compared to the lively Roessler, but he does offer an insight into the distribution side of Slaughterhouse’s history.

Buddy Meets the Public – This is hand held camera footage of Joe Barton, aka Buddy, doing some unique publicity for the movie while he is in character. He is shown at university campuses and shopping malls, creating a scene every time. The highlight is Barton storming into a screening of Slaughterhouse at a random movie theatre, with patrons watching the movie appearing a little confused (one man even offers ‘Buddy’ his soda).

slaughterhouse2There are also trailers, a commentary with Rick and raw footage of the film being made, but the extras detailed above are the best of the lot.

Verdict.
This is, simply put, a fun slasher that is rounded off with some hugely rewarding special features.

8 out of 10.

James Simpson (@JsimpsonWriter)

Amazon order page – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Slaughterhouse-Slasher-Classics-Blu-ray-Barton/dp/B00NQ9HVJU/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1425031121&sr=8-1&keywords=slaughterhouse

Moontrap (1989) DVD Review

moontrapdvdMoontrap (1989) DVD review

Director – Robert Dyke
Starring – Walter Koenig, Bruce Campbell, Leigh Lombardi

Run time – 91 minutes
DVD Label – 88 Films
OUT NOW

In this alien invasion oddity, astronaut and investigator Campbell leads the charge against an inexplicable extraterrestrial evil. Joining him on his jolting journey into outer space, and a sustained interplanetary showdown, is STAR TREK icon Walter Koenig – returning to boldly go where few men would ever dare! – 88 Films.

Moontrap is a movie that had promise, due to reasons that will be detailed shortly, but frustratingly it is stifled out by poor scripting, shoddy sound and an unexciting plot.

What may attract interest to the feature is the two actors that star in it. Walter Koenig, Chekov of Star Trek fame, is the lead role of Jason – a colonel of a space craft. Koenig is joined by Bruce Campbell who is known to some for his roles in the original Evil Dead franchise (and other B movie trash). The casting of these two men may have been a tactic to attract the attention of the respective fan bases of both. Unfortunately once having seen the film their fans may have been disappointed back upon Moontrap’s release in 1989. The same could be said of the movie now.

The feature is obviously a sci-fi genre entry and that again creates promise that it will be entertaining. The opening scenes further this when the viewer sees footage of the original moon landings of the sixties before the narrative jumps forward in time to show space travel in the context of Moontrap’s time frame. It is a technique to illustrate this is some time into the future and a lot has changed.

moon1But the film doesn’t quite go the distance. There are several plot holes as well as key information being left out. The script doesn’t go into great detail about what is happening, just the bare minimum is offered. Characters often make guesses as to what is going on that is conveniently correct despite it not being credible that they could come to such a conclusion. Their detective skills would put Sherlock Holmes to shame. It is a lazy way to sidestep actual storytelling.

It is the script again that causes some of the sheen to come off Moontrap, this time what it requires the actors to say. Much of what is said, especially Koenig’s lines, is average at best and close to cliché at worst. “Oh Christ!” and “Oh god!” are uttered quite often. Even Campbell’s knowing hammy acting cannot rescue these moments.

Throughout Moontrap the soundtrack and audio are woeful. Sound effects and even the speech of the actors are muffled or nearly mute in places, becoming more difficult to hear when the score blasts away over them. This could be that the soundtrack was made in stereo but Moontrap have used it on their feature in mono. The score is over the top in places and feels as if it would be better suited on a melodramatic US soap opera, not a sci-fi flick. It all adds up to equal an irritant and another downside of the movie.

It must be said that the location/set used for scenes when the characters are ‘on the moons surface’ are impressive, the bleak and desolate feeling that director Dyke goes for managing to create some atmosphere.

moon2A long rumoured and delayed sequel will be out this spring, currently subtitled Target Earth.

Special features consist of the trailer for the main feature plus the standard collection of 88 Film’s trailers. The inclusion of the Two Moon Junction (which is worth a watch, by the way) trailer stands out a mile as it is slotted in there with ones for the likes of Puppet Master and Tourist Trap.

Verdict.
Numerous weaknesses bog down Moontrap, leaving it underwhelming and bland for the most.

3 out of 10.

James Simpson (@JSimpsonWriter)

Amazon order page – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Moontrap-DVD-Walter-Koenig/dp/B00S9XYBVE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1424948180&sr=8-1&keywords=moontrap

Predestination (2014) Cinema Review

preposterPredestination (2014) Cinema Review

Director – The Spierig Brothers
Starring – Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook

Run time – 96 minutes
Label – Signature

At UK Cinemas from 20th February

PREDESTINATION chronicles the life of a Temporal Agent (Ethan Hawke) sent on an intricate series of time-travel journeys designed to ensure the continuation of his law enforcement career for eternity. Now, on his final assignment, he must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time. – Official synopsis

Attempts have been made recently in the film industry to make more cerebral movies. To have a plot or script that is complex, sophisticated and thought provoking. Inception can be offered as a good example of this new post modern trait in cinema.

Predestination is a movie very much of this mould. Adapted from Robert A Heinlein’s 1959 short novel -All You Zombies- (sic) this is a time travelling story that goes deeper than the usual “Oh, look, were in the past/future” clichés or visual props that other films in this genre use. It establishes numerous story strands that shoot off to allow for complicated scenes yet the directors, The Spierig Brothers, bring them all back together for an effective, mind blowing, final act.

preHawkeThere are other aspects at work in the feature, such as a subtle nod to body horror. When this happens it is not something that is shown on screen (at least, in a visceral way) it is spoken of and told in stark terms. The horror that results is in the life changing nature of what happens, the aftermath being something to consider. It only adds to Predestinations many layered nature.

Enthralling from start to finish not just for it’s plot but also a brilliant two hander performance from Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook. Much of Predestination’s run time sees these two actors alone deal with the sophisticated developments of the story.

Hawke is great as the undercover Bartender that has a far more exciting job he intends to finish. Snook, though, is even better. The Australian actress has been in the business for a few years but this is a performance that will hopefully gain her exposure as the true talent that she is. As the Unmarried Mother and more she makes sure every line and scene is memorable. Sarah Snook’s time is now.

preSnookVerdict.
Complex, well thought out and with stunning sci-fi sequences this is a movie that will win fans over straight away. An instant cult classic, Predestination needs to be seen.

8 out of 10

– James Simpson (@JSimpsonWriter)

The Toxic Avenger IV: Citizen Toxie (2001) Blu-ray review

toxie4 (1)The Toxic Avenger IV: Citizen Toxie (2001) Blu-ray review

Director – Lloyd Kaufman

Starring – David Mattey, Heidi Sjursen, Clyde Lewis

Run Time – 108 minutes

Label – 88 Films

OUT NOW

When the notorious Diaper Mafia take hostage the Tromaville School for the Very Special, only the Toxic Avenger and his morbidly obese sidekick Lardass can save Tromaville. However, a horrific explosion creates a dimensional portal between Tromaville and its dimensional mirror image, Amortville. While the Toxic Avenger (Toxie) is trapped in Amortville, Tromaville comes under the control of Toxies evil doppelganger, the Noxious Offender (Noxie). Will Toxie return to Tromaville in time to stop Noxies rampage or is he doomed to remain a second-class citizen in Amortville forever? How did Toxies wife Sarah become pregnant with two babies from two different fathers? Will Tito, the Retarded Rebel, ever get over his teen angst and become a productive member of society? – 88 Films

The fourth and up to now final instalment in the Toxic Avenger franchise Citizen Toxie was made quite some time after part three. Over a decade, fans of the most famous Troma creation had suffered a long wait. Was it worth it though?

In a word: no. The charm of the original flicks of the 1980’s is gone and in its place is something that attempts to recreate it. Perhaps the ‘Zeitgeist’ had moved on since 1989, but the spirit of Toxie IV feels too forced and self aware. This leads to overkill of several notorious Troma movie sources of humour or entertainment.

Poo/faeces/scat/shit/crap, whatever you want to call it, is featured quite a bit. Whether it’s characters defecating in their pants or effectively having their head shoved up their own arse and spitting poo out of their mouths the brown stuff is used often. This is always accompanied by fart sounds. Yes, this is Troma but it feels way too forced in another attempt to hit a home run with longtime fans.

Nudity and frivolous sex scenes feature a lot too, and all that can be said about these is that the women involved are all young and have figures that will please any males watching. There is one scene that jumps the shark, as it were, which is something that many thought not possible in a movie of this nature. A large breasted woman lifts up her t-shirt and starts slamming one of her huge boobs into the face of a mentally challenged character. Some people would pay good money for that to be done to them.

toxie4aOf course the feature has its moments, Kaufman has several ‘stars’ from outside of B movies making cameos that are good. Lemmy from Motorhead displays his dry sense of humour in the delivery of his few lines. Ron Jeremy, hairy porn star, appears to be loving every second of his hammy acting demonstration. The plot is a strong point too, in places, with the use of two Toxies and the piecing together of the different strands. It requires two stories to operate at once in effect and then to bring them back together for the movies ending.

A big positive for this film is the appearance of Mark Torgl – who played Melvin, the nerd that would turn into Toxie, in the original Toxic Avenger.

Special features.

There are three, yes three, commentaries for the movie. The first is by Kaufman, the second by and the third by Gabriel Friedman.

Outtakes – Seven minutes in duration, some clips aren’t too entertaining but it shows the cast do like to utter a swear word. Lemmy makes several appearances and these are the more interesting outtakes.

Apocalypse Soon – 2 hours and 17 minutes long, this is a documentary on the making of Citizen Toxie. For Troma fans this is a real treat as it takes the viewer deep inside the notorious approach to film-making the studio takes. Most people involved with the movie have more than one role, no doubt to cut costs. While highly entertaining there are moments that are painful as it shows just how frustrating it is to work an independent feature. One actress, an extra in several scenes, laughingly complains about the lack of money involved in the making of the film (which shows staggering ignorance on her behalf) and how she would get paid more doing ‘girl-on-girl’ porn again. Trent ‘Terror Firmer’ Haaga is the unintentional star of the making of.

Interviews with cast and crew – Very enlightening in places, from the stars of the film to minor actors the interviews on offer are insightful and engaging. Rehearsal plus more behind the scenes footage features. The extra ends in a typical Troma fashion.

toxie4bPre-production featurette – After seeing the lengthy making of, this is 28 minutes of footage showing how the plans for Toxie IV came together before shooting began. Much like the actual shooting this is a similar case of urgency that indie studios experience. On Production featurette – 40 minutes long this is a look at the production team behind Toxie IV as they make the movie. Footage is included of Troma at the Playboy Mansion (which was a tie-in to promote their website).

Release featurette – After viewing all the hard work the viewer gets to see the cast and crew enjoy the premières of Citizen Toxie. There are a lot of smiles on peoples faces, unlike during the making of features…

There are also deleted scenes, trailers and a collection of 88 Films trailers for other releases.

Verdict.The main feature is lacking but the special features are outstanding and enhance the release greatly.

5 out of 10.

– James Simpson (@JSimpsonWriter)

James Simpson’s World of Horror: REC Apocalypse (Spain, 2014)

James Simpson’s World of Horror: REC Apocalypse (Spain, 2014)

Director: Jaume Balaguero
Starring: Manuela Velasco, Hector Colome, Paco Manzanedorec4cover

Language: Spanish with English subtitles
Run time: 1 hour 34 minutes
Available on DVD and Blu-ray from 2nd March

Angela Vidal wakes up in a high-security quarantine facility, the sole survivor and witness to the horrific events inside an apartment block plagued by an unspeakable evil. But does she remember what happened to her? Is she carrying the mysterious virus responsible for the horrors of that night? Distrust and uncertainty soon spreads throughout the isolated facility as their suspicions are confirmed and new, even deadlier forms of evil take hold. – Entertainment One

A journey that has taken several years and a handful of movies comes to an end in the fourth REC title – Apocalypse.

Discarding of the horror humour vibe of the previous entry this thankfully attempts to be more serious and in keeping with the originals intense atmosphere. Although it doesn’t fully revert to REC or REC 2 as the use of first person or ‘found footage’ is all but ignored. The only time it crops up is when some CCTV footage is briefly used. For the most, however, Apocalypse reclaims some of the franchises past glory.

rec4angVelasco as ever is a brilliant actress. Sadly she is not used as often in this film as she had been in the past and as it is obvious this character is something of a new ‘final girl’ icon’ (pardon the cliché) in the horror genre it is a disappointment that she is under utilized.

The scares are lacking for quite a while, only really going to ‘REC extreme intensity level’ for the closing 15 minutes. Occasionally a fright crops up during the first 70 or so minutes of the run time although it feels more like an exercise in pacing the viewer for the ‘main event’ than being anything too meaningful.

When the frights do arrival they have the intensity that is expected for a movie with the prefix REC. When the hapless victims are claimed by the virus/demon it is in a visceral manner that looks gritty and sublime. There is one sequence featuring possessed monkeys (yes, you read that correctly) that is hi-octane and has some impressive effects.

rec4 (1)Is it the glorious end fans have wanted? Not quite, the first two instalments set the bar so high that even a sequel with ‘Apocalypse’ in its title would never be able to meet such high expectations. This being the horror genre, there will be a way to make more REC movies or even a reboot of the series some years down the line. But for now, this is an acceptable horror flick.

Verdict.
Taken on its own merits this is a fine horror but based on past glories this could have (and should have) been so much better.

6 out of 10.

@JSimpsonWriter

The Toxic Avenger III (1989) Blu-Ray Review

toxieIIIcoverThe Toxic Avenger III (1989) Blu-ray review

Directors – Lloyd Kaufman and Michael Herz

Starring – Ron Fazio, Phoebe Legere, Rick Collins

Run Time – 102 minutes

Label – 88 Films

OUT NOW

Times are hard for Toxie. What is a hideously deformed creature of superhuman size and strength to do after he’s eliminated crime from his hometown? Desperate to raise money for the experimental surgery that could restore his blind fiancés eyesight, Toxie accepts a lucrative job with the evil multinational conglomerate Apocalypse Inc. Now, Toxies transforming into an even more monstrous creature: a yuppie. And all of Tromaville is paying the price of Toxies Faustian bargain. The Toxic Avenger must defeat his own inner demons before taking on the Devil himself in a battle royale, while the fate of Tromaville hangs in the balance. – 88 Films

Starting with a wonderfully daft and self knowing fight scene in a VHS rental store (that seems to rent only Troma films, how uncanny) that lasts ten minutes and is loaded with Troma trademarks, the movie carries on in a frivolous fashion for the rest of it’s run time. As usual with the studio, its a case of organised chaos.

This time the unlikely plot is ‘our hero’ trying to go about a normal life in which he is seen as a salesman, trying to help his bimbo fiancée regain her sight and making kids eat their greens. However he is unhappy and, in a parallel with some religious drivel he overheard attending gospel singing at a local church, he is a changed mutant.

toxieIII1As a result he eventually turns evil, falling foul of the manipulative mega power corporation Apocalypse capitalists. This is not a new theme in a Troma feature, yet in an attempt to put a twist on it Toxie III aka The Last Temptation of Toxie sees the ‘everyman’ (believe it or not Toxie himself) being seduced by the businessmen and if he can break free of their way of thinking.

Not much action happens during the spell of the feature when the monster hero becomes the monster sellout. The daft fight scenes and frivolous ‘special’ effects are kept to a minimum until the chairman (played with glee by Rick Collins) reveals himself to be the devil. The costume worn for this is quite impressive by Troma standards.

Despite this movie featuring the return of Melvin, the weakling janitor that would become the Avenger, the original actor Mark Torgl does not play this role. Instead Michael Kaplan is the put upon dweeb. Kaufman has revealed since this was because Torgl asked for more money, which the director wishes he had agreed to.

Special features.

Where in the World is Toxie? (42 mins) – A documentary that follows Lloyd Kaufman as he attends various film festivals around the world. Although this is the Toxic Avenger III blu-ray, this extra is mainly promoting part IV: Citizen Toxie. Troma movies have a lot of fans in numerous countries, showing the draw of Kaufman’s studio. Other cult directors Brian Yuzna and Dario Argento make appearances.

toxieIII2Ron Fazio interview (8 mins) – The actor that played Toxie in parts II & III, Fazio talks about how he became the monster hero (“I’m not that good an actor.”). He reveals he didn’t like co-star Phoebe Legere, nor her boyfriend.

Rick Collins interview (5 mins) – Chairman/The Devil in part III, Collins reminisces about all the Troma movies he appeared in (seven in total).

Joe Fleishaker interview (3 mins) – The large actor who has appeared in several Troma films is interviewed.

There are also several other extras, ranging from trailers, stills galleries and other short video’s of Troma goodness. Two commentaries are included, one by Kaufman and one by Fleishaker.

Calum ‘Doctor’ Waddell does the honours in the booklet, as always this is an enjoyable read.

Verdict.
Daft, distasteful, poorly acted yet with heart Toxic Avenger III is a Troma film with a message.

5 out of 10.

James Simpson’s Top 10 Releases of 2014

James Simpson’s Top 10 Releases of 2014.

This list is based on what I, as a reviewer for UKHS and my own site Infernal Cinema, have reviewed throughout the year. It is a mixture of new titles, re-releases or recent movies getting their first UK home video release. All these films have impressed for numerous reasons, some of them given after each movie title. There is also what I consider to be the worst film I have had the misfortune to review in 2014, too.

So read on and hopefully this list won’t have anyone reading thinking “WHAT? He liked THAT?”

faust1. Faust (Dual Format, Masters of Cinema)
One of early cinema’s best movies, lovingly remastered for this Masters of Cinema release. This is a movie that was decades ahead of its time and still offers much to cinema now. This is F.W. Murnau’s masterpiece (although Nosferatu is pretty close). It’s also the only title this reviewer has ever given a 10 out of 10 rating.

2. Devils Tower (DVD/Blu-ray, Monster Pictures)
British director Owen Tooth has put together a lovingly crafted homage to the horror genre. Fine performances from a varied cast, highly entertaining.

3. Para Elisa (DVD, Matchbox Films)
Over the last few years Spain’s horror output has been fantastic and this is one of those movies. The scares on screen are simple yet do the trick, creating a sense of dread and of the uncanny. Fears a US remake could happen are reason enough to watch the original before it is bastardized.

4. Video Nasties 2: Draconian Days (DVD, Nucleus)
A follow up to the brilliant 3 disc Video Nasty release, this set covers the aftermath of the Video Recordings Act 1984 that showed the frivolous ‘moral panic’ over the Nasties was still in full swing. The release is full of clips from some quite brilliant and mad 80’s horror and slasher flicks.

reanimator5. Re-Animator (DVD/Blu-ray, Second Sight)
Stuart Gordon at his neon coloured best, this Blu-ray release heightened the glorious gore and effects on show.

6. The Last Horror Film (Blu-ray, 88 Films)
A gem of an 80’s slasher, this is a movie that features a stunning performance by Joe Spinell and a beautiful Caroline Munro. This reviewer thinks Spinell may be better in this than his more well known role in Maniac (1980). Just a thought.

7. Crystal Lake Memories (DVD, Stax)
At long last hitting UK shores, this loooong look at the Friday the 13th franchise is a must see for fans of the films and of the slasher genre in general.

8. Werewolf Rising (DVD, Image Entertainment)
A sleeper hit on DVD, BC Furtney’s young-woman-in-peril yarn is a good metaphor for someone dealing with withdrawal symptoms of giving up alcohol. Melissa Carnell, the star, has a bright future and Bill Oberst Jr is an actor that needs to be seen.

9. Shivers (Blu-ray, Arrow Video)
David Cronenberg’s first movie got it’s first Blu-ray release thanks to Arrow Video. The meaning behind Cronenberg’s work, as always, enhances any of his films and this is no exception. The extras on the release go into great detail about the films creation and impact.

10. Predestination (cinema release)
Starring Ethan Hawke and bright new talent Sarah Snook, this was to be released in December 2014 although it has been postponed to 20th February 2015. So technically not a film of 2014 but it technically is as well due to this reviewer seeing it for it’s originally intended date. Anyway, a highly complex plot with some fine acting makes it one to see when it hits UK cinemas.

Worst

moebiusMoebius (DVD, Terracotta)
A film from South Korea, Moebius is a strange tale of love, sex, incest and violence. ‘Highlights’ include a woman cutting off and eating her sons penis and a man having an orgasm via scissors being thrust into his shoulder. No dialogue is spoken, as if anything said could have helped with the unfolding carnage on-screen anyway.

James Simpson (@JSimpsonWriter)

James Simpson’s Christmas World of Horror: 36:15 Code Pere Noel (France, 1989)

3615 1James Simpson’s Christmas World of Horror: 36:15 Code Pere Noel (France, 1989)

Director: Rene Manzor
Starring: Patrick Floersheim, Alain Musy, Louis Ducreux

aka Deadly Games, Game Over

Language: French
Run time: 1 hour 28 minutes.

It’s Christmas and while horror fans watch festive favourites like Christmas Evil and Black Christmas, World of Horror went for a unique French seasonal offering…

Some claim this film ‘inspired’ Home Alone, which came out a year after 36:15. While the better known Home Alone does have elements of the French horror/slasher the idea this inspired a family friendly Hollywood popcorn movie is ludicrous. For a start, a dog isn’t kicked and stabbed to death in Home Alone, is it? The general concept of 36:15 (kid fleeing from, then fighting back against, a home invader) is the only thing that is noticeably lifted for Chris Columbus’ effort.

The French ‘version’ is much more graphic, dark and has aspects of the slasher sub-genre of horror. The above mentioned killing of a dog, around 30 minutes in, startlingly lets viewers know Thomas is in grave danger when the psycho Santa breaks into his house. There is very little humour, if at all, as the story becomes more and more sadistic.

3615 2The violence is often extreme and happens to Thomas, not just Pere Noel. Stabbings, people being shot, broken legs and Pere being set on fire are just some of the violent set pieces within the film. As the run time passes by it becomes apparent somebody will be dead when the end credits roll. Although sometimes the continuity lets down the tension built by any violent acts. In one scene Pere picks up a homemade bomb that Thomas has made. The footage cuts to a different scene, it is assumed the bomb will explode off camera. Yet when Pere is next on screen minutes later he appears to have not been victim to a close up blast from a bomb. So did it happen or had he thrown the weapon away before it went off? The viewer never finds out.

Continuity often lets down 36:15, it seems the director is willing to overlook certain things that may hinder what is in store for the movie next. It will cause confusion at times and at others, such as the unexplained bomb non-event, create annoyance.

Floersheim as the evil/crazed Santa is definitely menacing and a good piece of casting. He has a mad eyed stare that creates a genuine aura of lunacy about him. He rarely speaks, most of his facial expressions make up for the lack of dialogue and heightens his performance.

3615 4The movie, as a whole, features very little talking. This means the French language barrier is not much of an issue for English speaking viewers. Most of the talking is limited to the scenes that see Thomas’ mother frantically driving home to check on him (she’s certainly in for a shock).

With some quite graphic slasher-esque moments and a convincing performance by Floersheim this is a fun French festive horror.

@JSimpsonWriter