Silent Night, Bloody Night: The Homecoming (2013) DVD Review

SNBN-001SILENT NIGHT, BLOODY NIGHT: THE HOMECOMING (2013)
Dir. James Plumb         78 mins
101 Films
UK Release: 21st October 2013

“Hello Babs, I thought they were coming to get you?” says the porter of a mental institution in the opening line of SNBN:TH, as he reclines back in his chair watching George A. Romero’s Night of the Living Dead on his iPad. Whatever you think about the movies that North Bank Entertainment / Mad Science Films produce, they love their genre films. Their last movie was Night of the Living Dead: Resurrection (reviewed in the pages of UKHS somewhere by me), and it garnered a wealth of hate. Check out the user reviews on IMDb – there’s even one that begins “why oh why oh why…”, and here’s me thinking that belonged only to Sunday afternoon episodes of Points of View.

I liked NOTLD:R because it was knowingly British and was obviously made by people that just love horror films, with this in mind I was pleasantly looking forward to checking out SNBN:TH (apologies for continual acronyms). Here, the action centres around the Butler house, an abandoned property in deepest Carmarthenshire which has been vacant since 1987 when its occupant Wilfred Butler committed suicide. In the years that have passed it’s become a prime target for developers who are keen to flatten the house and turn it into residential homes.

SNBN-002Out of the blue however comes Jeffrey Butler (Alan Humphreys), Wilfred’s grandson who arrives on the scene intent on buying the property in a lightning quick sale, much to the chagrin of the townsfolk. Coincidentally though, there seems to be an axe wielding maniac who has taken up residence in the property and doesn’t seem too thrilled about the arrival of any strangers.

Whilst SNBN:TH does retain many of the aspects of the 1972 original – character names, similar framework etc, like its predecessor NOTLD:R it manages to break out from being a direct remake into more homage territory mixed with its own identity. What enables it to assert itself is undoubtedly two great performances from Humphreys and Mel Stevens who plays the Mayor’s daughter Diane Adams. They’re both good actors and their contributions mask a couple of slightly weaker players – which is only to be expected for a film of this budget. (Also check out Adrienne King doing some vocal work!)

With regard to the horror it’s gloriously gruesome. Well-paced murders punctuate the film and it’s never long before the next slashing, with people meeting their deaths in a variety of ways including death by fairy lights! A criticism would be the backstory the film stops to tell part way through, which whilst interesting I felt was a little overlong and disrupted the flow of the film a little.

SNBN-003Having said that though, it’s admirable to see a level of exposition like that in a climate where storyline and motive often takes a back seat. Overall, SNBN:TH is a great home-grown horror which makes good use of its isolated Welsh landscape and manages to bring a little respect to the ‘re-imagining’ table, thanks to filmmakers that obviously have so much respect for the source material.

6 out of 10

Extras:
•        Commentary with producer Andrew James and director James Plumb says the box – no there isn’t !! Shame, as I was looking forward to this.

The People Under The Stairs (1991) Arrow BluRay Review

puts1THE PEOPLE UNDER THE STAIRS – 1991

BLU RAY

DIR: WES CRAVEN

STARRING: Brandon Quintin Adams, A J Langer, Wendy Robie, Everett McGill, Sean Whalen, Ving Rhames

ARROW VIDEO

RELEASE DATE UK: 04/11/2013

 

Wes Craven sits in a strange place in the horror pantheon. He is not as celebrated as the John Carpenters, George Romero’s or even Dario Argento’s of the world, yet his name is synonymous with some of the genre’s most successful and memorable entries. His debut feature, Last House On The Left (1972) is considered to be one of the most brutal and uncompromising of all the ‘rape and revenge’ films that came out of the 1970’s. A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984) was both a critical and commercial smash, and gave the world one of horror’s most instantly recognisable icons in the burned child killer Freddy Kruger. And let’s not forget Scream (1996) the film that managed to both save and destroy the slasher film all at the same time. Wes Craven’s films have always had a degree of knowing smarts about them, but despite the mega success of the films mentioned above he hasn’t always been able to strike a chord with audiences. For every Last House, Elm Street or Scream there is a Deadly Friend, a Vampire in Brooklyn or a My Soul to Take.

So where does The People Under The Stairs fit into the Wes Craven cannon? It belongs to a small group of films that despite reasonable commercial success, failed to generate the kind of admiration his mega hits had managed to generate. However, along with the woefully underrated The Serpent and The Rainbow (1988), and Shocker (1989) it is a firm fan favourite that has garnered an avid cult following over the years. So it comes as no real surprise that the folks over at Arrow have decided to give this one of their top drawer make overs. As has become fairly standard now, Arrow have put together an in depth package, and a great Blu- ray transfer that makes the film ripe for rediscovery.

puts2Fool (Adams) is a 13 year old boy with the weight of the world on his shoulders. His mother is dying, and they can’t afford to pay the rent on their squalid apartment, and their ruthless landlords want them out so they can tear the buildings down. His sister’s boyfriend Leroy (Rhames) proposes that they rob the landlord’s house and get out of this squalor forever. But things don’t go as smoothly as planned and Fool and Leroy find themselves trapped inside a house of horrors. Presided over by the evil Mommy (Robie) and the perverse Daddy (McGill), the house is full of traps, turns and terrors, and Fool finds himself in a fight for survival and freedom. With help from their abused daughter Alice (Langer) and escapee Roach (Whalen) Fool uncovers the family’s dark secrets.

The film touches on a lot of themes that will be familiar to fans of Craven’s work; his obsession with the twisted dynamics of the American family are here, and once again he delights in blurring the lines between victim and villain. Craven has been accused of repeating himself in the past and he would be hard pressed to deny the influence of earlier works such as The Hills Have Eyes (1977) and Elm Street. It adds a little racial tension, and social politics to mix things up but shadows of earlier works undeniably linger. This could all add up to The People Under The Stairs being derivative and lacking, but it is far from either. Whatever Craven borrows from elsewhere, he transcends it and has created a roller coaster ride of a movie that is full of surprises and is incredibly intelligent at times. Craven has packed a lot of subversive sub text into the film about the hypocrisy of social labelling, and the corruption often inherent within the capitalist system. This is not a particularly original idea, but that he balances it almost perfectly within a piece of great genre entertainment is a huge achievement.

The performances here are fantastic too. In particular Twin Peaks alumni McGill and Robie who go full throttle and seem to be relishing the chance to play it crazy. Adams is a likeable hero, and A J Langer brilliant as the tormented Alice. It’s fun to see a pre Pulp Fiction (1994) Ving Rhames here too as the suitably slimy Leroy. There are a few moments of ill- advised slapstick and moments of heightened hysteria towards the end tip the tone away from horrific towards the ridiculous but these are minor complaints. For the most part the film works incredibly well, and is one of Craven’s best efforts.

Arrow have again managed to put together a decent package with the best feature being the High Definition transfer itself. It gives the film a sharpness that elevates Craven’s visual style and makes the film look almost brand new. There are plenty of extras here although this time they do feel a little repetitive. An interview with Craven about where the ideas came from and how he ‘dreamed’ the film into existence is the best of the bunch. Craven is, as always, a soft spoken and intellectual interviewee, offering plenty of left field reasons as to what the film means and how he put it together.

puts3Elsewhere there are memories from A J Langer and Sean Whalen, which are affable enough, but ultimately fairly unimportant. Final Destination creator Jeffry Reddick also shows up to explain why he loves the film and what makes it so important. Why he is here I’m not sure but he does have some interesting things to say, and makes for a surprisingly passionate interviewee. The Commentary with Brandon Adams is so- so, worth a listen for die- hard’s but not terribly exciting. However, all in all this is a must buy for fans of the movie, and a great place to start for the uninitiated.

FILM 8/10

EXTRAS 6/10

Fright Night 2 : New Blood (2013) DVD Review

FN2FRIGHT NIGHT 2: NEW BLOOD (2013)
Dir. Eduardo Rodriguez         96 mins
20th Century Fox
UK Release: 21st October 2013

Have they ever remade a sequel? This would make a more entertaining prospect for contemporary films in my estimation! Imagine a remake of Friday 13th: The Final Chapter or Halloween VI: The Curse of Michael Myers – it would pique your interest more than this would it not. For Fright Night 2, the title is simply redundant as 1) it’s not a remake of Fright Night 2, and 2) it’s not a sequel to the remake of Fright Night. They’re just using the same characters played by totally different people. That’s annoying to me.

Grievances aside, we have a talented director here in Eduardo Rodriguez (some might say if he’s that talented why is he on board FN2) who made the excellent Curandero (check out the UKHS review). The action has shifted as most contemporary sequels do to Romania, and the cast is British save for the Dubliner Sean Power who takes over the role of Peter Vincent.

Charley Brewster (Will Payne) is in Romania on a college trip along with his buddy ‘Evil’ Ed Bates (Chris Waller) and desperately trying to make it up with his girlfriend Amy (Sacha Parkinson) with whom he’s had a falling out. In their hotel Ed is watching the latest episode of Fright Night on his iPad where we discover that Peter Vincent is now a foul mouthed autocrat whilst his show has become some lame night vision tinted reality show. How you’ll yearn for the regal aloofness of the great Roddy McDowall.

FN2-002Their professor while they’re on this foreign excursion is Gerri Dandridge – see what they did there, played by the always excellent Jaime Murray, and immediately Charley suspects that there is something of the night about her. He’s right too, she’s a vampire as he discovers by breaking into her apartment and watching her drain a nubile young thing. Unsurprisingly no-one believes his accusation of Gerri’s vampirism, but as always he has ally in the shape of ‘Evil’ Ed who suggests that he enlist the help of Peter Vincent who coincidentally is also in Romania shooting his TV show.

The idea of the introduction of the classic character Elizabeth Bathory (the Blood Countess) is admittedly the one aspect of this sequel that I thought brought some ingenuity to the project, everything else though I found to be tired, uninspired and desperately short of originality. The film follows such a similar path to the original and the remake – Charley is living next door to Dandridge, he suspects something is afoot, no one believes him, he contacts Peter Vincent and vampiric showdown builds.

FN2-003Granted, Eduardo Rodriguez does show some flair in his direction, but there’s just a litany of gripes that I’m struggling to overcome. Why switch the location to Romania? Surely the fabric of Fright Night is the idea of a vampire in suburbia. The five lead actors were fine, but why have four Brits and an Irishman all speaking with an American accent? Petty quibbles perhaps, but if you’re a horror fan and you hold the 1985 film and its sequel in any kind of high regard, then you should be rejecting this as an insult to your intelligence.

3 out of 10

Extras:
•        Commentary with Eduardo Rodriguez, Alison Rosenzweig and Michael Gaeta
•        Fright Night webisodes
•        Dracula Revealed

Phantasmagorical Ponderings: Is ‘The Exorcist’ Still Scary? by Oliver Ryder

EX1Forty years ago this year, a film was released on an unprepared public that would forever re-define the boundaries of scale and style that a horror film could be. Upon opening, the wave of hysteria it left in its wake was something the world of the silver screen had never experienced before, or arguably, since. Sensational stories of people vomiting, passing out and suffering heart attacks in the aisles added yet further to the hype, combined with a huge rise in the number of church attendees alongside priest and nuns blessing the lines of people entering a screening, this was a horror film so scary that it was literally putting the fear of God into its audience.

 

 
Can you imagine a modern day horror having as much reaction as ‘The Exorcist’ did? I would love to say yes and that one day soon we will see yet more spectacular OTT reactions such as the ones you can find on youtube from the time and we will all hail a new milestone of horror. Here’s the sticky point, however, we live in a world now where remakes of films even less than 20 years old are churned out by big studios who are doing their best to convince modern audiences that classic horror films are rubbish and deserve to be redone with much more money and up to the minute CGI special effects. Taking this into account and remembering that the film itself is exactly forty years old and any special effects, acting styles or story will surely be placed under scrutiny, can the ‘The Exorcist’ still be classified as scary?

 

 
On a personal note, ‘The Exorcist’, for me was the epitome of fear, so much so that it wasn’t until I was nineteen that I sat down to watch it all the way through for the first time. The power of suggestion held sway as I would tremblingly read descriptions of crucifix masturbation and heads spinning 360 degrees and of course the eerie Tubular Bells that gave me many a sleepless night. After seeing it through to the end I was suitably blown away, received the delicious chill down the spine ecstasy of fear and would happily cite it as one of my favourite horror films.

 

 
EX2It was only after a few days that I released a great problem for myself. I had gotten over my crippling fear of ‘The Scariest Film Of All Time’ and thoroughly enjoyed it…where did that leave me? There were no longer any boundaries for me in the world of horror, anything was fair game and ‘The Exorcist’ had lost its chilling mystique. Upon multiple viewings (every Halloween, naturally), I’m putting my previously esteemed fear enforcing film under close scrutiny, to see if it still deserves its title as ‘The Scariest Film Of All Time’.

 

 
An incredibly basic plot summary, would tell you that the film is centred on the struggle of a young priest, Father Damien Karras (Jason Miller) to help a young girl named Regan (Linda Blair) who has been possessed by a malevolent force. Is it the Devil? Pazuzu? Captain Howdy? Who knows and crucially, this is to my mind at least, the one of the film’s most chilling weapons in its arsenal of scare tactics.

 

 
A great deal of ‘The Exorcist’ is completely unexplained, you could literally fill an A4 sheet of paper with all the stones left unturned and provided you stayed away from the luke-warm prequel, remain blissfully happy in your ignorance. I understand that this is not something that works for all audiences, many get irritated by not having all things spelt out for them and as such, lose out on experiencing man’s greatest fear, the unknown. Why is Regan singled out? How did the demon head from Iraq end up in Washington D.C? Did Regan push Burke Dennings?These questions remain unanswered and it suits the film’s trick of keeping its audience at a vulnerable disadvantage by leaving them in the dark.

 

 

EX3  Naturally, the film is remembered for its out and out in your face scares that still remain shocking and controversial. Top of the list is of course the crucifix masturbation scene, in which a possessed Regan is forced by the demon to stab herself repeatedly whilst roaring “Let Jesus Fuck You!” Shortly after this, we see a 180 head turn and chillingly, the voice of Burke Dennings delivers some rather filthy dialogue. Now throwing the harsh light of day on the special effects, it is very obviously a dummy that does the head spin but it must be remembered that, at the time, this was the height of special effects. After being spoilt by advances in technology, it may stick out like a sore thumb, however, just imagine for a minute if it was done in CGI and not practically. It would look even more artificial. Practical effects may age but as they are psychically ‘there’, for many, the illusion still works and is the cherry on top of a deliciously terrifying iconic moment.

 

 
Despite the aforementioned ‘shock scares’, ‘The Exorcist’ is still packed full of supremely unsettling subtle scares for which it still does not get enough credit for. One of the most iconic of these is the use of subliminal flashes of a strange demonic face that plagues the dreams of Father Karras. Subliminal flashes seems like a cheap trick and yet somehow, very rarely do they not achieve their goal of getting under the skin of the audience and yet again, what it is or what it represents remains unexplained and therefore that much scarier. Interestingly, however, the director’s cut would go into complete overkill use of the demon face and sadly, would lose all its frightening impact.

 

 
EX4Writer and ‘The League of Gentleman’ star, Mark Gatiss, singles out the ‘Could you help an old altar boy father?’ line as being the most unsettling moment for him, as this cleverly puts an icy-cold shard down the audience’s back, implying that the Devil is everywhere and always watching, meaning that you are never safe. This is also seen in one of my own personal favourite moments in the film that happens incredibly early on. When studying the demon head in Iraq, the pendulum in the clock behind Father Merrin (Max Von Sydow) suddenly stops moving. Simple but brilliantly establishing a constant blanket of fear that envelops the whole film. It is examples such as these that lift the film above its ‘shock horror’ status to something far more psychologically disturbing and is all the better for it.

 

 
There are of course, those for whom ‘The Exorcist’ is not a horror film, but a rib-tickling comedy. Respectfully, it is not too hard to see why it has this effect on certain audiences. When chatting to a friend who feels this way, he felt that it goes so over the top but keeps a straight face whilst doing so that it just looks completely silly. It is true to say that, at times, the film could be viewed as a tad ‘haughty’, with its emphasis on the psychological and its greater focus on story and character internal turmoil. Director, William Friedkin, has always been adamant that it was his intension to make a horror film that was ‘above’ the genre, but for many, this grandiose idea is severely undercut by lines of dialogue such as “Your Mother Sucks Cocks In Hell Karras!” and of course, the projectile vomiting.

 

 
EX5 Perhaps the film is now considered by many to be an easily risible target is due to the fact that it has been parodied so so many times. Famous examples include a French and Saunders version, a spoof starring Linda Blair called ‘Re-Possessed’ and of course in ‘Scary Movie 2’, in which the film’s climax is mirrored so closely it could make fans of the film worry that everyone else is now so accustomed to treating it as a joke, no one would believe it was ever meant to be scary.  Recent footage has emerged of Linda Blair performing all the lines of dialogue as opposed to being dubbed over by the creepy man/woman growl of Mercedes McCambrige, and believe me, if you were ever terrified of the film as I was, watch this. It’s not scary in the slightest and despite her terrific performance, Blair’s voice is just adorable and the film would never have had the impact it did if this had been kept in.

 

 
One of the most interesting things to ponder when it comes to evaluating the lasting impact of a horror film, is to imagine what the reaction would be if it was released to today on a ‘modern horror’ audience. With only one onscreen death, a sprawling epic narrative that deals with weighty issues over crisis of faith, the ultimate battle of God vs the Devil and a side order of domestic family struggles, your average gorehound or Friday Night Shrieker would most likely be bored senseless. Subtly in horror films has nearly all but died out and it is a great shame that few filmmakers want to take the risk of having grand themes and lofty ambitions of films such as ‘The Exorcist’ or ‘The Shining’ for fear of being made fun of. Indicative of the cynical, instant gratification world we live in, it is a genuine shame that we may never see a film like ‘The Exorcist’ again…until the remake which Captain Howdy tells me is just around the corner.

 

 
EX6In conclusion, is ‘The Exorcist’ still scary? Absolutely, it’s a 100% genuine horror classic that remains at the summit for levels to which all future horror films should aspire to. Only those of a cynical nature could mock the special effects in the light of modern day advances and arguably only those without much imagination could possibly find it ‘funny’. My appreciation for it is undying and even though it has since lost its dominion of terror over me, I still get the perfect level of thrills and chills each time I watch it. Now ‘The Shining’ on the other hand…

Paranormal Asylum – The Revenge of Typhoid Mary (2013) Preview DVD Review

paranormal-asylum-revenge-of-typhoid-mary-posterParanormal Asylum – The Revenge of Typhoid Mary (2013)

Dir. Nimrod Zalmanowitz

Starring – Aaron Mathias, Nathan Spiteri, Laura Gilreath, Grace Evans.

Provisional UK Release – August 4th 2014 – High Fliers Films.

 

Paranormal Asylum starts with two friends Mark and Andy who meet up to film a documentary about an old asylum/hospital . They also hear about the case of Mary Mallon a young woman who was sent their after being found as asymptomatic carrier of typhoid ( one who can carry and pass on a disease but it has not ill effect on the carrier). And so this is the story of Typhoid Mary who apparently can still be seen walking the ruins as a spirit!!

Mark (Aaron Mathias) is a failed LA screen writer and his friend Andy (Nathan Spiteri) is the one who sets them up with all the expensive “Ghost Hunting” equipment including monitors , cameras etc. The pair are also joined by Andy’s girlfriend Michelle (Laura Gilreath) , she has found out about their project and wants in as she is not only psychically sensitive but also very nosey!

So the team set up the equipment at the hospital and this will then relay all the pictures and sounds back to their base which is set up at Andy and Michelle’s house.

A few spooky sightings occur over the next day but nothing to really to get the pulses racing. But then in the night Michelle (being all Psychic and stuff) decides to hold a séance on her own and try to contact the spirit of Mary. This doesn’t really go as well as maybe she would have hoped (what are the expectation levels of psychics?), and she becomes seemingly possessed by a spirit.

Michelle (now under otherworldly guidance) drives off from the house in the middle of the night, and when Mark and Andy realise she is gone they search the house to no avail. But watching the live feed on the monitors they see Michelle walking through the corridors at the hospital.

paranormal-asylum2When they arrive at the hospital they find Michelle under some sort of trance, and while there all sorts of strange and unexplained things begin to occur. Michelle is taken back to the family home where she enters a deep almost coma-like state.

Now instead of calling it a day and saying “ well you know Michelle is all like in a coma and possessed, so maybe we should hold fire for now”, Andy decides to push on at speed with the project. This is probably due to the fact that he is employed by and lives in the shadow of Michelle’s rich father and Andy wants to stand on his own to feet, even if the project is now putting Michelle’s life at risk!

Now where to start? Well firstly let me begin with the title of the film and in particular the use of the word Paranormal. This week alone here at UKHS towers I have received no less than three feature films with the word Paranormal starting the films title. Now does this mean anything? Well yes , it basically means this will be a film where ghosts and spirits are in some way involved and there will be scenes where the camera will spin round showing the face of a ghost and a jump-scare then will occur.

By putting THAT word in the title then yes you will draw fans of Paranormal Activity AND google searches may bring your film up BUT it just feels like every man , woman and director is jumping on this bandwagon and immediately the film starts to lose it’s originality and it’s USP.

Anyway enough of that , maybe it is just another (on the ever increasing list) bugbear of mine?

Paranormal Asylum – The Revenge of Typhoid Mary is a low budget horror. You know from the start what is going on and along the way various scenes are played out and ghosts appear blah blah blah. But wait. About 40 minutes into the film something changes and the film takes some turns. The contacts that Andy and Mark have met and conversed with start dying, Michelle becomes increasingly obtuse and Mark is seemingly becoming influenced by Evelin (Grace Evans) who is an expert on Mary and the hospital.

Now the film goes from being your usual run-of-the-mill low budget scare film to a genuinely interesting and enjoyable film. There are plenty of great scares along the way and some really jump out moments, but interspersed with this is moments of true hilarity. I am unsure whether the laughs I found were actually meant, but I just loved the over the top acting , the absurd situations and especially the way that Mark and Andy could see THE most remarkable spirit action and just almost ignore it and not even mention it to each other .

paranormal-asylum3Paranormal Asylum is about 15 minutes too long and a bit slow in the first half, but once it finds it’s feet hold on for a great, fun and scary ride. And can I just say the pay-off at the end was brilliant and I loved it!

Ideally Paranormal Asylum should be watch with company , perhaps have a beer or two and sit back to enjoy a damn fun film. A great debut from director Nimrod Zalmanowitz (what a awesome name Nimrod is) and I will be certainly looking out for his work again in the future and there is a lot of talent on show here despite the budgetary restraints.

A well deserved and recommended 7/10 

Puppet Master 2 (1991) BluRay Review – 88 Films

Puppet-Master-2-Blu-Ray-CoverPuppet Master 2 (1991)

Original Release Date (on home video): February 7th 1991

Directed by:  Dave Allen

Starring: Elizabeth Maclellan, Collin Bernsen, Gregory Webb, Charlie Spradling

Available now on Blu Ray from: 88 Films (UK)

 

Sequels are a difficult thing to get right, especially in the horror genre.  In some cases sequels build on the premise of the first movie with new ideas, creating films that are even better than brilliant originals such as Aliens or Terminator 2.  In most cases however horror sequels are pushed out because studios can’t think of a new concept or are too reluctant to back one. In many cases these sequels are poorer quality, had less money spent on them and run thin an already weak initial premise.

In a world where we have five Paranormal Activity movies it’s easy to understand why some horror fans are tired of sequels.

 

One such film that struggles with its role as a sequel is Puppet Master 2. Released straight to home video in 1991 and directed by Dave Allen, the film tries its best to add some more backstory  into the tale of killer puppets however it falls a little short of greatness. Instead the best moments of Puppet Master 2 can be found when it’s doing what the series’ does best, reveling in puppet murder.

 

The story kicks off pretty well as the  now infamous puppets Blade, Pinhead, Tunneler and the rest of the gang unearth the corpse of their long dead creator Andre Toulon in an attempt to bring him back to life.  Cut to a few months later and a group of paranormal investigators are sent to investigate the Bodega Bay Inn, scene of the horrific events of the first film, in hopes of solving a murder of a woman whose brain was pulled out through her nose by Blade the puppet.

 

The plot initially seems like it’s going to be pretty interesting, however some stiff acting and wooden dialogue mean it’s not long before most people will just be looking forward to watching puppets try and pull out peoples’ brains (as the film gleefully reveals that brain fluid is the puppets’ life source). There’s also a whole subplot with a resurrected Toulon trying to find his dead wife and the film once again tries to tackle the subject of psychic powers but neither really provide any fresh scares and instead just feel a little forced.

 

Puppet-Master-2-TorchIt really is a shame, particularly when series’ father and writer Charles Band helmed the script for the sequel that the plot feels so thin on the ground, however there’s enough on show to entertain at the least if not make the tale particularly memorable.  Puppet Master 2 must be given credit however for shedding some light on how the puppets are able to come alive, which is explained in one of the more interesting scenes of the film that I won’t spoil here. Most of the actors do a fine job, particularly Elizabeth Maclellan who plays the plucky lead investigator brilliantly but the level of acting never really gets better than typical B movie standards.  This isn’t an awful thing and it doesn’t hurt Puppet Master 2 in any way but it certainly doesn’t improve its overall quality.

 

Luckily for Puppet Master 2 it far surpasses its predecessor in both laughs and gore. Evil puppet favourites such as Blade, Pinhead and Leech Woman all get their chance to shine as they take down hapless members of the investigation team.  The special effects have leaped in quality from the first film and while they aren’t ground breaking they still hold up to this day, helped in no small part by the brilliant Blu Ray up scaling of the film by  Full Moon Productions.

 

It really is fantastic fun to watch the little buggers’ stab, drill and suck their way through half of the cast as they try to gather precious brain tissue.  It could be argued that Chucky made the ‘bloodthirsty doll’ thing famous but personally I feel that the Puppet Master crew are better at delivering unique kills that stay away from the standard death scenes that are usually found in horror movies, instead providing equal amounts of chuckles and blood curdles to great effect.

 

The whole production of Puppet Master 2 feels remarkably slick for a direct to video slasher film. There’s a fair amount of cool camera work on display during the films’ 88 minute running time and the score is particularly good.  Composed by Charles Band’s brother Richard, composer of other horror films such as the fantastic Re-Animator , the music fits the film brilliantly and manages to sound both moody and effective, giving the film a little extra nudge towards being something pretty cool.

 

The whole thing still feels just as silly as it did the first time round however the novelty runs of a lot quicker in Puppet Master 2. As great as puppet murder is, and there are a few occasions where I would prefer to watch that than a typical ‘unstoppable giant’ slasher film, it really does feel like we’ve seen it all before in a few scenes.

The introduction of new puppets, such as the fire spewing Torch, goes a long way to keep things fresh however Puppet Master 2 feel like an extension of the first film more than a full blown sequel.

Puppet-Master-2-Ressurected-ToulonUltimately the enjoyment that can be found from Puppet Master 2 will depend on what you’re expecting out of the film. If you go into Puppet Master 2 looking for serious scares of thoughtful horror you’re going to be disappointed. Taken as s fun and dumb horror film that will entertain for a few hours however Puppet Master 2 is a perfectly choice of movie.

If you’ve seen the first one then the novelty of the puppets’ shenanigans may ware off more quickly  but chances are you’ll enjoy Puppet Master 2 just as much as its older brother.

7/10

Outpost 11 (2012) Review

outpost11

Outpost 11 (2012) Review
101 Films  –  91 minutes
UK DVD release 30th September 2013

Dir – Anthony Woodley
Starring – Billy Clarke, Luke Healy, Joshua Mayes-Cooper

Outpost 11 is the story of three soldiers manning a remote listening post in the Arctic Circle. One day the warning light goes off unexpectedly and their world is plunged in to chaos. Albert (Mayes-Cooper), Mason (Healy) and Graham (Clarke) must fight the isolation, madness and arctic spiders to survive.

The tension and suspense that builds is the driving force for Outpost 11. Most of the movie happens within the small shack the three men find themselves in. Rarely it strays outside into the vast snowy landscape. Even parts of their cabin are never used or left undisturbed due to an unspoken fear which further limits the movements of these men. The men have joined the army for war yet they are stagnating, away from the ‘action’ of the battlefield awaiting the slightest piece of news. When the men talk about why they joined the army, the powerful scene of Graham revealing he has ‘always’ been in the army, is powerful and has a hint of Orwell to it. Stuck in the middle of nowhere, their memories of pride and desire for joining are the only things left of that pride and desire.

outpostclarke
Not many actors are seen in Outpost 11. Just a handful are needed to match the isolated, lonely feel of the characters surroundings. Billy Clarke, as jobsworth Graham, shines as his character undergoes a radical transformation. Graham has never known anything over than fight in wars for king and country. He is a man who takes pride in his service and rank, it is this that drives the character to breaking point as the movie progresses. He was willing to do anything for his country in the heat of battle yet ends up doing something he never dreamed of: nothing. Graham starts to display symptoms of cabin fever and his feeling of his authority being ‘questioned’ takes Outpost 11 into its final act. Clarke performs the minor, fleeting at first, changes in a way that builds the tension as the truth emerges about his role. It is believable and the best performance in the film.

Clarke even provides some (slightly seedy) humour as, on a few occasions, Graham is shown pleasuring himself. Seeing this apparently respected solider carrying out such an act, and nearly caught once, may be a metaphor for building tension within the character that needs a ‘release’. Or it could be he is just very lonely. Clarke doesn’t ‘hold back’ in these scenes, either.

There is something odd happening in ‘Outpost 11’ that at first appears to be an infestation of strange looking spiders. As things play out, more and more unexplained incidents occur. As these, in places, happen the same time as Graham’s mental decline it may be that what he imagines is seen on screen, too. Yet Albert and Mason suffer from some form of eerie sighting or strange happening. Is it possible these men are suffering from a mass hallucination or is there something more sinister at work?

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It is not quite clear when Outpost 11 is set, other than an ‘alternative past where steam still rules the world’. The uniforms and some equipment used, plus talk of ‘the war’ and king make it appear as if it could be the early 20th century. But the use of televisions and VHS cassettes cause doubts. Perhaps Outpost 11 is not rigidly set in the far past but any era it likes at any given moment. The uncertainty matches the unsure mindsets of the men struggling to handle the events that happen regardless.

Outpost 11 is a well paced, tension filled movie that will draw the viewer in, making them want to find out the truth. A brilliant , claustrophobic UK horror.
7 out of 10.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mvYVACfwq9Y

The Evil Clergyman (1987) Short Film Review

CLERGY-001THE EVIL CLERGYMAN (1987)
Dir. Charles Band                 29 mins
88 Films / Full Moon Features
UK Release: 15th July 2013 (as part of the Castle Freak blu-ray)

Pulse Pounders. Two words that will prick up the ears of any self-respecting Full Moon fanatic. For the uninitiated, Empire Pictures was Charles Band’s film company during most of the 1980s, churning out such classics as Zone Troopers, Troll and Terrorvision. By 1987, Band had the idea to make an episodic film to provide semi-sequels to three of Empire’s biggest hits. He chose Trancers, Dungeonmaster (aka Ragewar) and Re-Animator – except with the latter he decided upon a different H.P Lovecraft adaptation – The Evil Clergyman, as opposed to a direct sequel to the Stuart Gordon smash. It still retained direct links to Re-Animator however, with returning cast members Jeffrey Combs, Barbara Crampton and David Gale while adding the notable talents of cult favourite David Warner.

After the three shorts were shot, the original 35mm negatives went AWOL somewhere around Rome, and with Empire Pictures falling into financial difficulties by late 88/89 the project was shelved indefinitely. Fast forward 25 years later and a VHS cassette of all three half hour segments is located, and Charlie states he intends to polish them up and master them as best as possible. Here is the very first one of them – The Evil Clergyman. Based on a letter written by H.P Lovecraft that set about describing a dream he had had, it was published in 1939, just after his death, as a short story in an issue of Weird Tales.

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The film adaptation is written by Lovecraft adaptor extraordinaire Dennis Paoli (From Beyond / Dagon / The Black Cat) and it begins with the lush orchestral score that Charlie’s brother Richard recorded especially for this restoration. Barbara Crampton plays Said Brady who arrives at a castle and is led up the steep internal staircase by the housekeeper (Una Brandon-Jones). We discover that her lover, Jonathan (Jeffrey Combs) has recently hung himself, and Said is there to collect the remainder of her belongings. Once the housekeeper has left her alone, we see Jonathan appear before her. They embrace, but can Jonathan really be alive? After a moment of intimacy Said is left alone naked on the bed as Jonathan has disappeared. In his place however is a Bishop from Canterbury (David Warner) as well as a creature he refers to as ‘the beast with a human face’ – a disgusting rat like human hybrid that has eyes for Said.

The Bishop’s message is clear and he states simply that “he wants your soul” while referring to Jonathan. He says that he was left beaten to death by him and that he leaves a trail of carnage in his wake. “You must save yourself, he is a sorcerer” cries the Bishop in his short yet pivotal scene which soon makes way for the re-emergence of the Jeffrey Combs character.

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This is an excellent 30 minute segment of Lovecraftian brilliance. The setting of the purpose built castle interior is just great, and the re-uniting of Combs and Crampton equates to a brilliant partnership that works extremely well together. David Warner’s appearance as the Bishop is particularly chilling, not to mention the repulsiveness of the beast with a human face which features first class make-up from the uber-talented John Carl Buechler.

Some might question the picture quality, as irrespective of ‘digital re-mastering’ it still looks like a VHS transfer. I for one though care not as just having the chance to see this fabled work more than compensates for any slight picture issue. For once, this is a legendary lost movie that lives up to the hype. Now we just need Charlie to crack on with Trancers 1.5 and Dungeonmaster 2, and we’ll have completed the restoration of a cult classic that many thought would never see the light of day.

8.5 out of 10

Slasher House (2012) DVD Review

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Slasher House (2012)

Dir. M J Dixon   –  88 Minutes

Available on DVD now

Safecracker Pictures

Red (Eleanor James) wakes up naked in a prison cell. She has completely lost her memory and there are a few saw like clues, like “drink me”,and “wear me” , which is on a dress that she then wears and then the cell door opens. She finds herself in what seems to be an old abandoned asylum, but she is not alone .

In the next cell she meets Nathan (Adam Williams) who is another unwilling captive and also has no memory of why or how he got there? But they then realise something, that each time the alarm goes off a serial killer is released from a cell and they must find out how to survive and maybe escape. The first killer released is “Cleaver” who is a psychotic clown with a penchant for little children, he starts to hunt Red down with murder in mind. After Cleaver there are other killers waiting to be released so will Red and Nathan survive the onslaught of mass murderers in the confines of the asylum?

Apparently Slasher House was made on a budget of £5000 . Once you realise this you can start to forgive some of the niggles that continually crop up throughout the film . OK firstly Slasher House looks great, visually it is washed in a green hue and then this picks up really well with Red’s pillar-box hair colour and matching lipstick. Also the setting of the prison/asylum is a great idea that is used to much effect, and the story of a prison which is releasing killers at random times into the halls is good if simple.

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However there are quite a few negatives . The script is clunky to say the least and some of the dialogue is cringe-worthy , also some of the acting is poor but again with the budget this can be overlooked as the lead (who has some decent one-liners) pulls the film together. Also the sound is appalling , at times I really struggled to hear what the actors were saying in the prison setting .

Writer and Director M J Dixon has a lot of talent , this can be seen through the lovely camera work and great angles used. And making a full feature for 5 grand then Dixon must add miracle worker to his CV.

As the film started I was quite disheartened as it was slow, meandering with no purpose and at times boring. BUT once the killers start being released (with interesting back stories and unique weapons) the story picks up momentum and I got really engrossed ,and with action and twists towards the end Slasher House does a very good job . And featuring Blaze Bayley (ex Iron Maiden & Wolfsbane frontman) is a certain voice over role was genius!

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Out now through the wonderful Safecracker Pictures , you can do a lot worse than pick up Slasher House and keep your eye our for M J Dixon as with a bit more money and resources I expect he will do wonders soon .

More than your average horror film (if you can look beyond the budgetary restraints ).

Verdict 6/10

God of Vampires (2010) DVD Review

God-of-Vampires-CoverGod of Vampires (2010)

Original release:  4 May 2010
Written and directed by- Rob Fitz
Starring- Dharma Lim, Ben Wang, Evan Lim, Morris Chung
Available now on DVD from Safecracker Pictures

Independently made horror is a fantastic thing. While moments of brilliance can be found among the glossy and safe mainstream horror cinema, its independent films that consistently provide audiences with unique and interesting scares year after year. The genre showcases what can be done by passionate and inventive filmmakers with a fraction of the budgets enjoyed by studio directors.

While it’s not without its own problems the realm of independent horror has brought us some of the genres most beloved titles and will hopefully continue to do so for a long time. One film that serves as a prime example of the best and worst of what independent horror cinema has to offer is the 2010 release God of Vampires.   A novel and gory romp that almost manages to get a few things right, and does get a lot of things wrong.

Written and directed by Rob Fitz God of Vampires tells the story of contract killer Frank ‘Frankenstein’ Ng (Lim) who, after a hit goes awry, finds himself the target of an ancient Chinese vampire. This isn’t your run of the mill Chinese vampire either it’s a Kiang-Shi, God of vampires, capable of raising an army of undead (and unintentionally hilarious) minions.

The inclusion of eastern monster myths into a horror setting provides God of vampires with some unique and interesting story elements however the whole “badass assassin versus vampire lord” main plotline gives the whole film an unshakable Blade homage atmosphere.  In fact there are a number of times during God of vampires’ two hour running time that I felt Fitz was treading dangerously close to rip off territory.

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For the most part however the Chinese vampire concept is refreshing, allowing for some novel and gory as hell scenes that steer clear of the contemporary portrayal of everyone’s favorite bloodsuckers.

The plot is far from the worst thing about God of Vampires,  in fact there’s so many areas in which the film fails that most viewers won’t even realise there’s a pretty solid narrative occurring. As soon as the title credits end the low budget nature of the film comes into focus.  God of Vampires is plagued with awful film quality, bad dialogue and audio mixing so poor that at many pivotal moments in the movie it’s almost impossible to hear what is being said.  Although independent cinema is of course going to have lower production values than mainstream movies, and indeed the low quality D.I.Y nature of many indie horror films is what makes them so enjoyable, God of Vampires is poorly made to the point where it actually hurts any kind of entertainment or artistic value it could have had.
Although the film isn’t a foreign language film that has been dubbed, the audio mixing of God of Vampires is so bad that it’s actually better enjoyed if you think it has. Actor’s lip movements don’t match up to the audio, sometimes the background music is mixed so loud it’s impossible to tell what’s being said and there’s even few occasions where it can’t be heard at all over the wail of badly played grindcore.  While the audio for many of the scenes if atrocious, the actual dialogue is delivered well by most of the cast and is well written enough in spots to even be humorous.   It’s a shame that the audio is so badly handled in God of Vampires and it’s something that I usually wouldn’t focus that much on in a review, however in this instance it really is that bad.

There’s a few directorial choices made during God of Vampires that really hurt the film, something that considering the poor production values really detracts from its’ overall quality. Indie horror films for the most part live and die by their ability to tell engaging and terrifying stories, however God of Vampires seems more concerned with trying to be cool than trying to be a good movie.  Now don’t get me wrong I love a good, silly gory horror action movie as much as any horror fan, the problem with God of Vampires is that the action and attempts at being “cool” feel so stupid and juvenile that it all comes across as shallow and unlikeable.  Every cringe worthy one liner or ridiculous plot device feels like something a bunch of twelve year olds dreamed up one rainy afternoon.

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For example, early on in the film Frank loses a close family member. This kind of event is treated as dramatic and as a reason for the hero to go out and kick some ass even in the cheesiest of action films, however in God of Vampires Frank is completely fine in the next scene and never again mentions his horribly slaughtered kin.

On its own this kind of filmmaking slip up could have been forgiven however God of Vampires is riddled with so many boring, badly thought out or borderline embarrassing scenes that it all combines into a barely watchable package.  One last criticism that I have on this aspect of the film is a particular scene where after a shootout the band of vampire hunters Ng has assembled all stand in a line, and gun down an unarmed woman that is clearly depicted as surrendering.  Usually I can appreciate a filmmaker’s right to depict whatever they like on film, but the whole scene is shot in this kind of z list Matrix style that tries to make shooting a person that has clearly surrendered, as cool.  It had no narrative purpose, no artistic value and it really spoiled the entire movie for me as a viewer.

On paper God of Vampires seems like a brilliant premise, a novel take on a silly action horror movie concept that should probably be good for some laughs and a few hours of light entertainment. In reality it’s a shoddily made, crass and completely juvenile attempt at film making. There are some positive elements to God of Vampires and it is indeed entertaining in some places. The gore is well made and plentiful, the skilfully choreographed fight scenes are cool to watch and there are some admirable performances throughout. However none of these factors can change the fact that God of Vampires is a bad film.  The shoe string budget isn’t enough of an excuse either when you realise that the original Paranormal Activity was made on a similar budget to this movie.

If you’re after some bloody good vampire slaying fun you can do a hell of a lot better than God of Vampires.
verdict 3/10