Horror Bizarre – Seven Tales of Murder & Mystery – watch here for free!!

horror-bizarre-vol-1-geir-og-anetteHorror Bizarre: Strange Tales of Murder and Misery is an Norwegian horror anthology written and directed by Raymond Dullum. This collection of seven tales includes disturbing and frightening tales of revenge, psychics, voodoo dolls, doppelgängers and more. Now the first collection of the Horror Bizarre anthology series are available to watch for free. Starring Stein Winge, Geir Børresen, Tor Itai Keilen, Dag-Arne Johansen and Caroline Andersen.

Synopsis: 7 tales of murders and misery presents a rape victim with an unconventional revenge, a writer with the ability to make his writings come true, an infomercial about dangers that all craftsmen should be aware of, a home made voodoo doll, a painting that might be supernatural, an old man and his doppelgänger and psychics trying to stop a strangler.

(Audio is in Norwegian with English subtitles.)

Please watch, enjoy and share. And if you have the time head to the IMDB page and give a rating – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3052936/

Horror Bizarre: Strange Tales of Murders and Misery-

The Samurai (2014) Review

thesamuraidvdThe Samurai (2014)

Dir: Till Kleinert

Written by: Till Kleinert

Starring: Michel Diercks, Pit Bukowski, Uwe Preuss, Kaja Blanchnik, Christopher Kane

Running Time – 80 mins.

UK DVD Release April 13th from Peccadillo Pictures

Small town policeman, Jakob (Diercks), is dealing with a wolf terrorising the town when he receives a mysterious package. When he goes to deliver it, he discovers a man wearing a white dress and lipstick, hiding in an abandoned house. The package contains a samurai sword and Jakob soon finds himself in a disturbing battle of wits against The Samurai (Bukowski).

With the striking image of a man dressed in a wedding dress and brandishing a samurai sword on its poster, Der Samurai instantly has your attention as to just what on earth such a film could be like or even about. To go into any great detail regarding the plot would be equivalent to revealing the method of a magic trick, director, Till Kleinert, has created something truly unique and very special here. If ever there was a film that needs to be experienced rather than just seen, it’s Der Samurai.

The action all takes place of the course of one night in real time and it is astounding just how much ground is covered of varying subjects and ideas throughout. Embracing a Brothers Grimm style, this twisted fairytale can be said to embody a perfect representation of discipline fighting against chaos as well as the Cherokee legend of the two warring wolves that lie inside every man. To be blunt, the film is evocative of David Lynch if he had directed The Dark Knight.

samdvd1Kleinert has stated that he took experience from passing sleepy European towns on the train and wondering what mysteries they concealed. The sense of a compact small town creates a wonderfully claustrophobic atmosphere, everyone seems to know everyone and their business and anything that breaks away from the normality of their existence is regarded with deep suspicion and disdain. This is where the homoerotic subtext to the film really comes to the fore in terms of getting a better understanding of the lead character in Jakob and how he is regarded by the townspeople.

Diercks plays Jakob fantastically as a mild-mannered and fundamentally good guy, caring for his dementia-suffering grandmother, who finds himself repressed, isolated and frustrated at the small town rigid mindset shared by seemingly all except him. From his interactions with the other townspeople, it is evident that he is marginalised for being different and not fitting in with their behaviour. This is slowly revealed to be as a result of his unsure sexuality which is only truly brought out of him come the arrival of the Samurai, his polar opposite of character. It is fascinating and so well captured in his performance that the audience sees Jakob desperately attempting to upholding the law and order but is constantly dropping his guard to the Samurai’s magnetism. He is so enticed by the excitement of the danger of the unknown and the break from convention that the Samurai represents to him. He is given so many chances to stop the Samurai and yet he doesn’t. The film is almost capturing his proper awakening into deciding on what sort of person he really is which is both haunting and unshakably engaging.

Kleinert is so expert at showing and not telling with his characters. A great deal of character development and history is done solely through allusion and subtext. Certain tweaks in the character’s behaviour or even simple surrounding objects are given huge significance to delving a little deeper into a film that has so much rich intrigue beneath the surface.

samdvd2To perfectly counter-balance Diercks more restrained performance, Bukowski’s nameless Samurai is a limitless battery of danger and unpredictability. He is never once given any back story and no logic is ever really given to his actions, he is pure and simply a bold agent of chaos set to shake the foundations of the sleepy town to its core. When the camera zooms in on his menacing features, it is often difficult to not look away in simple intimidation at how powerful and threatening a force of nature his character is. Not once do the audience ever feel safe in his presence and yet, much like Jakob, it is impossible to not be drawn into his frightening erotic dynamism. Perhaps the greatest facet of Bukowski’s performance, is the fact that is able to make the initially risible image of a man in a wedding dress and makeup holding a samurai sword so terrifying with his wolf-like predatory instinct.

The visual presentation of the film is nothing short of breathtaking. The camera has a beautiful haze-like quality and liberally uses harsh red lighting that further presses the idea home that this is all somehow magical and possibly, isn’t real. Amongst the film’s many stand-out sequences include a brutal bloodshed viewed from a fascinatingly bizarre upside-down angle, a hugely Twin Peaks-eqsue club scene and a gorgeous shot of the police car headlights. The lights are barely visible through an impenetrable mist and surrounded by the dense forest that hides so many secrets and mysteries.

There are images that are forever burnt onto the retinas of those who see the film and the impact endures. The iconic image of the Samurai himself is matched with a beautiful near final shot of blood splattering combined with fireworks, the twisted grin of the Samurai as a post-credits extra and the hypnotic and surreal dance the leads perform by a bonfire surrounded by corpses. The violence is often highly extreme and yet pulled off with astounding grace and flair without ever showing off.

samdvd3An intoxicating, darkly erotic nightmare with two incredible lead performances that balance out as a perfect ying/yang partnership. Pure European Marmite cinema that’s certain to leave many completely cold whilst others are utterly enraptured and haunted by it.

Rating: 10/10

DVD Extra Features: UK Exclusive Interview with Director & Cast, Audio Commentary and Making Of Featurette

THE SAMURAI is released on DVD and On-Demand from April 13th from Peccadillo Pictures. You can order from Amazon, HMV, iTunes and all good retailers.

ABCs of Death 2 (2014) DVD Review

abcs2dvdABCs of Death 2 (2014)

Various Writers, Directors & Stars

Producers – Ant Timpson & Tim League

UK DVD Release – 23rd March 2015 from Monster Pictures

“Another 26-chapter anthology that showcases death in all its vicious wonder and brutal beauty.”
Anthologies are always divisive in the horror community, not least collaborative releases like this series and V/H/S – some find the sharp shifts in tone & content and most importantly the uneven quality a turn-off while others enjoy the opportunity to discover directors established and new to the scene trying out new ideas, or just having a bit of fun (or in Ti West’s case, offending and disappointing practically everyone). I have to say I’m quite firmly in the second camp – I think the idea behind ABCs of Death is fantastic, where 26 directors each choose a letter of the alphabet & are given $5000 to produce a short. As with the first instalment, and with every collaborative anthology movie I’ve seen, it goes without saying that the resulting shorts vary wildly; some are slickly produced on the meagre budget while some look like a few friends bought some ketchup & spent the rest of the money on booze. I think it’s only fair to judge them individually before remarking on the movie as a whole, so first I’m going to look at each segment.

A is for Amateur – Directed by E.L. Katz (Cheap Thrills)
This is a stylishly shot short about a hitman that balances comedy & tension superbly. It’s not massively gory but I personally find myself squirming more at someone slamming their hand down on a nail than someone getting their arm chopped off, so it was suitably cringeworthy for me. The final scene feels disappointingly scruffy in comparison to the rest but overall it’s a very decent bit of fun. 7/10

B is for Badger – Directed by Juilan Barratt (The Mighty Boosh)
Fake B-Roll footage from a nature documentary, I’m really happy to see some dry, sarcastic, and ultimately goofy British humour here. Barratt also stars as the smarmy host of the documentary, building a hateful character in a matter of a couple of minutes. No scares but some very funny gruesome moments, this would not be out of place in a Monty Python episode, and that’s very high praise in my books. 8/10

C is for Capital Punishment – Directed by Julian Gilbey (A Lonely Place to Die)
The Brits are taking over this movie! A strange ‘local’ court convenes in a pub to sentence a man accused of kidnapping a young girl. Think The League of Gentlemen without any comedy. This short swiftly creates a high-tension situation and has a particular protracted scene of gore that is shot so directly, in daylight, with astonishingly good effects, that it’s the first time gore alone has made me feel physically sick in a number of years. For that alone I’d give it credit, but the short also carries a heavy message. You can’t ask for much more than this offers. 9/10

d is for delousedD is for Deloused – Directed by Robert Morgan
A stop-motion short that is impenetrable in the sense that I have no idea what it was about, it nonetheless offers excellent twisted, gruesome visuals from the beginning. If Jan Svankmajer directed an episode of Salad Fingers you’d end up with this. 8/10

E is for Equlibrium – Directed by Alejandro Brugués (Juan of the Dead)
Two castaways meet a beautiful woman in this funny, dialogue-free short. Despite extremely heavy-handed grading it’s shot very simply, with long handheld takes that have a few tricks up their sleeves in some impossible timing. This camera trickery alone makes the short worthwhile, otherwise it’s enjoyably whimsical, even if certain members of the audience might not find it’s ending so funny… 6/10

F is for Falling – Directed by Aharon Keshales & Navot Papushado (Rabies, Big Bad Wolves)
An Arab boy encounters an Israeli woman who has crash-landed her parachute in a tree. Respect is due to the duo for submitting a serious segment to this anthology but while it’s clearly trying to convey some meaningful point, it’s not entirely clear what it is. It isn’t boring, but unfortunately forgettable. 5/10

G is for Grandad – Directed by Jim Hosking
An irritating young man lives with his Grandfather, berating him for his outdated ways & décor. It feels odd straight away, but soon becomes much more so. It’s shot well but features a specific type of humour where things are straight up odd for the sake of it and I just found it a bit pointless. 4/10.

H is for Head Games – Directed by Bill Plympton
Animated in a deliberately scruffy, scribbly style, a man & woman kiss resulting in bizarre visuals assumably representing some sort of “battle” between them. There’s no denying the imagination shown, but I’d expect to find this in the ‘dark part of youtube’ rather than here. 3/10.

I is for Invincible – Directed by Erik Matti
A group of siblings are trying to kill their seemingly invincible mother to inherit her wealth. This is brilliantly shot, with hyper-real visuals and gothic set design. The sheer desperation of the siblings is hilarious, and the ending is somewhat inevitable but it doesn’t take away from the rest of the short. 7/10.

J-is-for-Jesus-1-ABCs-of-Death-620x400J is for Jesus – Directed by Dennison Ramalho
A tense opening soon turns into a brutal depiction of a wealthy man having his gay son tortured by some sort of priests to ‘cure’ him. Nightmarish visuals portray the victim’s fear brilliantly, and the whole thing is very well acted. Another meaningful entry, it covers a topic rarely touched on in horror. 8/10.

K is for Knell – Directed by Kristine Buozyte & Bruno Samper (Vanishing Waves)
A woman sees an strange “goo-orb” floating over a neighbouring apartment block before everyone inside starts killing each other. Soon this black goo starts pouring into her apartment. I didn’t find it anywhere near as tense or clever as it seems to aim for & the woman never seems more than slightly troubled by what’s happening. The effects of the “goo-orb” are the main highlight here. 2/10.

L is for Legacy – Directed by Lancelot Oduwa Imasuen
An African tribe set out to sacrifice a man, but things to wrong resulting in a visit from one of the worst movie monsters I’ve ever seen. The acting & effects are beyond awful, making it hilarious for the wrong reasons. It is the first Nigerian horror movie I’ve seen though so that’s something I guess. 1/10.

M is for Masticate – Directed by Robert Boocheck
Somehow the winner of a competition set out for the public to submit their ‘M’ entries, this features an almost nude man in contact lenses running amok down a street in slow motion, with garish contrasty visuals like a 90’s music video. The final comic reveal pushes the limits of tasteless humour but I suppose this film isn’t supposed to take the moral high ground. 4/10.

N is for Nexus – Directed by Larry Fessenden (Beneath)
A young man hurries across town to meet his girlfriend on Halloween. Camerawork is very basic, verging on awful, making it on one hand come across as amateurish, but on the other it works in giving the short a claustrophobic and disorientating feel. It is however quite clever, with a morbid ending that works brilliantly with the title. 6/10.

O is for ochlocracyO is for Ochlocracy (Mob Rule) – Directed by Hajime Ohata
This Japanese short puts zombies in control of a court, trying the uninfected humans who were killing zombies before a serum was found to reanimate them. A brilliant twist on the old zombie trope, it builds up its mini-universe with a number of great ideas & plenty of awesome imagery. 9/10.

P is for P-P-P-P-SCARY!!! – Directed by Todd Rohal
Filmed in the style of a 1920’s short, with three characters talking like they belong in a Looney Tunes cartoon, this runs the risk of being plain annoying, but kept my attention whilst they encounter a creepy man and a baby. It’s totally bizarre; I’m not entirely sure what I watched. 5/10.

Q is for Questionnaire – Directed by Rodney Ascher (Room 237)
A rather simple, streamlined short featuring a man excelling at a street-side intelligence test. I can’t say much more without spoiling anything but it’s unexpected, funny and unpleasant in equal measures. 7/10.

R is for Roulette – Directed by Marvin Kren (Blood Glacier)
A black & white noir showing three people playing Russian Roulette in a basement, this is high-energy despite no action, with excellent acting & skilled editing drawing every bit of tension out of the situation. A very clever ending defies our assumptions of the game’s purpose. 8/10.

S is for Split – Directed by Juan Martinez Moreno
A man phones his wife while away on business. This is shot very simply, but a cleverly employed split-screen effects means we are constantly watching every character & their actions/reactions, never cutting away. Unashamedly brutal in places, but the ending is slightly underwhelming. 7/10.

t is for torture pornT is for Torture Porn – Directed by Jen & Sylvia Soska (American Mary)
A young woman is being treated awfully at an audition by the misogynistic crew, making an unexpected discovery after forcing her to undress. It offers up some disturbing imagery with the unpredictable twist but it did still feel a bit weak. 7/10.

U is for Utopia – Directed by Vincenzo Natali (Cube, Splice)
Visually stunning with fantastic effects, this is a very slick portrayal of a seemingly perfect future with a dark twist. Straight forward, with the simple message that perfection isn’t necessarily all that great being portrayed very effectively without being totally overt. 9/10.

V is for Vacation – Directed by Jerome Sable (Stage Fright)
A guy videocalls his girlfriend from his hotel while on holiday, the entire short being seen as though we are looking at the girlfriend’s phone. It’s pulled off pretty well but the plot amounts to little more than an excuse for nudity & gore. 5/10.

W is for Wish – Directed by Steven Kostanski (Manborg)
If you saw Manborg you know what to expect from this short, featuring two boys who wish themselves into the world of their favourite toys with gruesome results. It features the same deliberate, faux-retro visual style mixing squishy practical effects, miniatures & stop motion creatures together with some ropey greenscreen work. It looks terrible and the acting is awful, but just like Manborg it’s all clearly deliberate and somehow being so bad makes it fantastic. 9/10.

X is for Xylophone –Directed by Julien Maury & Alexandre Bustillo (Inside & Livid)
A little girl is playing her toy Xylophone as her mother sits by. This compact short ends on a mortifying, taboo-breaking image that genuinely shocked me, and crucially makes that seem like a good thing. An understated gothic styling really adds another layer to this short. 9/10.

y is for youthY is for Youth – Directed by Soichi Umezawa
A teenage girl fantasises about various brutal & imaginative ways for her abusive & neglectful parents to die. Her internal monologue narrates the gruesome and totally bizarre imagery, all pulled off with rudimental but effective practical effects. I think it could only be a Japanese short that could manage so well in portraying hilariously ridiculous visuals whilst simultaneously invoking genuine sympathy for the main character. Very basic filming works in its favour, with some fantastic editing elevating it further. 9/10.

Z is for Zygote – Directed by Chris Nash
Dark fantasy & body horror meet in this twisted short about a woman eating mysterious roots to prolong her pregnancy while waiting for her husband to return from wherever he’s gone. The child continues to grow however, and the effects are fantastic at selling impossible to comprehend images. Defying the odds, it gets many times more horrifying before the end. I loved this short but if I met the person who dreamt these images up I don’t know if I’d shake their hand or run away! 9/10.

All in all, it’s obviously a mixed bag, but that is unavoidable when 26 very different directors are given free reign. That said, the good outweighs the bad and there are very only a small handful of segments that I thought were awful. While many anthologies have the luxury of mixing the order to perhaps bury a poorer segment in between particularly good ones for example, ABCs restricts itself to a definite order, so there are some unfortunate low points, particularly in the middle from K to M, but luckily the last 4 are consistently some of the strongest in the whole film.

It’s interesting also to see how many segments take the opportunity to say something, rather than just being exploitative. Speaking of which, sit through (or fast-forward) the gargantuan credit sequence for a cool post-credits scene with a cameo from a certain controversial figure. Taking an average of my scores for the shorts works out to about 6.5/10 and actually, factoring in the cool styling between segments and generally the fact that I love the whole idea, despite the restrictions of the anthology format meaning it’s not consistently great from start to end, I think that’s near enough right.
7/10.

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

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

James Simpson’s World of Horror: Timecrimes (Spain, 2007)

timecrimesJames Simpson’s World of Horror: Timecrimes (Spain, 2007)

Director: Nacho Vigalondo

Starring: Karra Elejalde, Barbara Geonaga, Nacho Vigalondo, Candela Fernandez

aka: Los Cronocrimenes
Language: Spanish with English subtitles.
Run time: 1 hour 47 minutes.

The UKHS world tour of horror is back on the road and returns to that hotbed of brilliant 21st century world cinema, Spain…

Hector (Elejalde) and his wife (Fernandez) have just moved into a new home and are busy making it over. One day Hector returns from shopping and joins his wife in the back garden. It look likes the countryside that surrounds them and Hector likes to admire it with a pair of binoculars. While doing this he spots a young woman (Geonaga) removing her t-shirt and exposing her bare breasts, stood in some woods. His wife leaves and Hector decides to go into the woods and find out more about this woman. When he manages to locate her she is naked and unconscious and he is attacked by a man with his head wrapped with bandages.

Fleeing from the man Hector staggers into the fenced off grounds of a building that he hasn’t seen before. Fearing the bandaged man will attack again he pleads with someone in the building (played by Viglando) to help him. They tell him to get into a large pod, which he does so willingly. What Hector doesn’t know is that this is some form of a time machine and he is sent back in time to when he earlier returned from the shops. He now needs answers to what’s going on and how to ‘get back’ to his own time as history repeats itself…

The plot is elaborate and sophisticated with it’s use of time travel. As the story develops more and more complications stemming from Hector’s initial travel back in time take place. Director and writer Viglando challenges himself with a script that has several different things happening at once, although it doesn’t appear this way at first. As if to make things harder for himself Viglando also plays the scientist that controls the time machine, a good performance is put forward.

timecrimes1The more desperate Hector becomes in his efforts to ‘restore’ things to the way they were the more the story throws another issue his way, things on screen become increasingly complex. Viglando manages to fill the movie with multiple events that work and make sense and, while it may be a slight effort to keep up, all of these things come together at the end of Timecrimes. All the strands are tied nicely together, pardon the cliché, allowing the films impact to be more rewarding.

This isn’t to say Timecrimes is without it’s faults. One being the flimsy way in which certain events happen. As detailed above numerous aspects make sense, or at least entertain enough to fool the viewer into thinking they do, yet others fall short. The first travel back in time by Hector is never explained (no more will be said as this may be a spoiler in some way), the facility he finds that has a time machine in it is ‘just there’ and the science behind said time machine isn’t touched upon. Hector just so happens to live near a building that contains a time machine for reasons never explained.

Another issue to take note of is why he is sent back in time to the point in which he sees the girl topless. Why then of all times and not something more moribund such as Hector doing the dishes (not that he is seen doing this in Timecrimes, it’s just an example). After all, it is seeing the topless woman that causes him to find the time machine in the first place. But he just so happens to go back to then. It is assumed this is because, otherwise, the film would be incredibly short and devoid of much drama. Hector ‘caught in a loop’ is what the plot requires without further explanation.

Elejalde as Hector is a convincing lead and carries much of the screen time. He portrays the role as a happy and cheerful man yet as he experiences the consequences of time travel he slowly becomes a bitter and aggressive man. Initially he seems hesitant to manipulate people to do what he wants although by the end he is forceful and dangerous. Elejalde’s numerous performances are believable and heighten the drama when required.

For some years an English language remake has been rumoured. If any remake were to take place it is hoped the plotholes of the original will be filled in, allowing for some merit of a retooling (instead of another duff US-version of a loved foreign language movie).

timecrimeshectorTimecrimes is a thrilling and uncanny depiction of a man struggling to regain the life he has suddenly lost in a very unexpected way, which incorporates an engaging story (barring it’s weaknesses) and is finely made. The vision of Hector wearing the bandages is an enduring image of Spanish horror.

8 out of 10.

Readily available on DVD and VOD streaming services.

@JSimpsonWriter

Der Samurai (2014) Review

DS1 (1)Der Samurai (2014)

Dir: Till Kleinert

Written by: Till Kleinert

Starring: Michel Diercks, Pit Bukowski, Uwe Preuss, Kaja Blanchnik, Christopher Kane

Running Time – 80 mins.

UK Première: Frightfest 2014

Small town policeman, Jakob (Diercks), is dealing with a wolf terrorising the town when he receives a mysterious package. When he goes to deliver it, he discovers a man wearing a white dress and lipstick, hiding in an abandoned house. The package contains a samurai sword and Jakob soon finds himself in a disturbing battle of wits against The Samurai (Bukowski).

With the striking image of a man dressed in a wedding dress and brandishing a samurai sword on its poster, Der Samurai instantly has your attention as to just what on earth such a film could be like or even about. To go into any great detail regarding the plot would be equivalent to revealing the method of a magic trick, director, Till Kleinert, has created something truly unique and very special here. If ever there was a film that needs to be experienced rather than just seen, it’s Der Samurai.

The action all takes place of the course of one night in real time and it is astounding just how much ground is covered of varying subjects and ideas throughout. Embracing a Brothers Grimm style, this twisted fairytale can be said to embody a perfect representation of discipline fighting against chaos as well as the Cherokee legend of the two warring wolves that lie inside every man. To be blunt, the film is evocative of David Lynch if he had directed The Dark Knight.

DS2Kleinert has stated that he took experience from passing sleepy European towns on the train and wondering what mysteries they concealed. The sense of a compact small town creates a wonderfully claustrophobic atmosphere, everyone seems to know everyone and their business and anything that breaks away from the normality of their existence is regarded with deep suspicion and disdain. This is where the homoerotic subtext to the film really comes to the fore in terms of getting a better understanding of the lead character in Jakob and how he is regarded by the townspeople.

Diercks plays Jakob fantastically as a mild-mannered and fundamentally good guy, caring for his dementia-suffering grandmother, who finds himself repressed, isolated and frustrated at the small town rigid mindset shared by seemingly all except him. From his interactions with the other townspeople, it is evident that he is marginalised for being different and not fitting in with their behaviour. This is slowly revealed to be as a result of his unsure sexuality which is only truly brought out of him come the arrival of the Samurai, his polar opposite of character. It is fascinating and so well captured in his performance that the audience sees Jakob desperately attempting to upholding the law and order but is constantly dropping his guard to the Samurai’s magnetism. He is so enticed by the excitement of the danger of the unknown and the break from convention that the Samurai represents to him. He is given so many chances to stop the Samurai and yet he doesn’t. The film is almost capturing his proper awakening into deciding on what sort of person he really is which is both haunting and unshakably engaging.

DS3Kleinert is so expert at showing and not telling with his characters. A great deal of character development and history is done solely through allusion and subtext. Certain tweaks in the character’s behaviour or even simple surrounding objects are given huge significance to delving a little deeper into a film that has so much rich intrigue beneath the surface.

To perfectly counter-balance Diercks more restrained performance, Bukowski’s nameless Samurai is a limitless battery of danger and unpredictability. He is never once given any back story and no logic is ever really given to his actions, he is pure and simply a bold agent of chaos set to shake the foundations of the sleepy town to its core. When the camera zooms in on his menacing features, it is often difficult to not look away in simple intimidation at how powerful and threatening a force of nature his character is. Not once do the audience ever feel safe in his presence and yet, much like Jakob, it is impossible to not be drawn into his frightening erotic dynamism. Perhaps the greatest facet of Bukowski’s performance, is the fact that is able to make the initially risible image of a man in a wedding dress and makeup holding a samurai sword so terrifying with his wolf-like predatory instinct.

The visual presentation of the film is nothing short of breathtaking. The camera has a beautiful haze-like quality and liberally uses harsh red lighting that further presses the idea home that this is all somehow magical and possibly, isn’t real. Amongst the film’s many stand-out sequences include a brutal bloodshed viewed from a fascinatingly bizarre upside-down angle, a hugely Twin Peaks-eqsue club scene and a gorgeous shot of the police car headlights. The lights are barely visible through an impenetrable mist and surrounded by the dense forest that hides so many secrets and mysteries.

DS4There are images that are forever burnt onto the retinas of those who see the film and the impact endures. The iconic image of the Samurai himself is matched with a beautiful near final shot of blood splattering combined with fireworks, the twisted grin of the Samurai as a post-credits extra and the hypnotic and surreal dance the leads perform by a bonfire surrounded by corpses. The violence is often highly extreme and yet pulled off with astounding grace and flair without ever showing off.

An intoxicating, darkly erotic nightmare with two incredible lead performances that balance out as a perfect ying/yang partnership. Pure European Marmite cinema that’s certain to leave many completely cold whilst others are utterly enraptured and haunted by it.

Rating: 10/10

The Spanish Chainsaw Massacre (2013) DVD Review

scm1THE SPANISH CHAINSAW MASSACRE (Spain, 2013) aka Carnívoros

Dir- Manolito Motosierra

Starring- Pedro García Oliva, Óscar Gisbert, Nereida López

51 Minutes – UK DVD Release from 88 Films – Out Now

Before taking this film onto review, I already heard a few negative reviews, well people who I spoke to who have said that the film is shit. Willing to take the negativity on board and given the opportunity to review it, I thought why not give it a try. After all I don’t mind bad films, in the way that If there bad and they end up being unintentionally funny, and that’s always going to be entertaining. Not so with this one, this is just plain awful through and through.

The so-called plot of the film revolves around a heavy metal group call The Metal Dicks (yes that’s the name of the band), who after their producer is sick of throwing money at them after 69 takes of recording one single, sends out his manager to take them on the road. Before you can say things can’t go wrong, they do, when the van breaks down and the manager and band end up in a village, where they are welcomed by the locals, and invited to their fiesta, as the villagers appreciate artists. This obviously is just a cover as one by one the band end up victim to the numerous degenerate locals and get bumped off in ways that involve as much sangria being sprayed around as possible.

Admittedly SPANISH CHAINSAW MASSACRE is a gore movie, nothing else. The characters are vulgar human beings, there just to be chopped up and have their blood sprayed on the camera. There is no deep characterisation; all the characters in the film are un-likeable. The band themselves are drugged up, sex obsessed, farting all the time, crude caricatures of a heavy metal band. They are just the meat to be butchered. Which is okay, as this is a gore movie remember? But when it’s done in a way that borders on the deeply irritating and piss poor, then you lose interest rapidly in the film.

scm2The killing scenes are done slightly amateurishly, but done as set pieces, to pan out the brief running time of the film, yet nothing really offends here, as much as its trying to do so. With scenes of one man getting his penis bitten off, the pregnant female lead singer having her stomach ripped open and her foetus taken out by a young girl, and a clown smashing the head of a man in front of a group of children. It’s like the filmmakers are trying too hard to shock and while making this where probably sniggering that this scene will shock people, yet it comes across as just plain boring. Admittedly the emphasis on shocking gore fits in with the bad taste humour and sounds of farting that pepper the soundtrack, along with shite heavy metal.

If I was 13 and watching this, I would probably enjoy it, maybe, in a juvenile sense, as this is what the film seems aimed at. Yet at the age of 13 I watched BRAINDEAD, and loved it for the OTT gore, but that film has stood the test of time and is still a classic, this film won’t. I don’t really like to trash low budget cinema, but sometimes you have to, as you see something that seems like it’s been made for a mate and his friends and has somehow picked up distribution. If you have ever seen the CAMP BLOOD films these are also prime examples of that.

Though the title alone has probably managed to get it distribution, which is again miss-leading as the use of chainsaw is only utilised in one scene. On top of that at a thankfully short 51 minutes (well 45 minutes if you count the end credits), the subtitles are also pretty bad, with some glaring errors of broken English. Whether this is the fault of 88 films (which I hope it isn’t as they are a great label and I’m wondering why there releasing this) or the copy of the film they were given remains to be seen, either way it adds to the amateurish stench that the film produces.

scm3Overall a dreadful film, and I’m only giving it one star due to the short running time, and one gag I admittedly found funny of a chef using a special kind of chocolate sauce mixture (the toilet humour of the film will probably give you a hint of what I’m talking about).

1/10

Dead Snow 2: Red vs Dead (2014) Review

GRIMMFEST-2014-FB-HEADERdeadsnow2GRIMMFEST 2014: DEAD SNOW 2: RED VS DEAD (NORWAY/ICELAND, 2014)

Director – Tommy Wirkola

Starring- Vegar Hoel, Orjan Gamst, Martin Starr, Jocelyn DeBoer, Ingrid Haas

The original DEAD SNOW was brilliant. A fantastic tale of a group of students going up to the snowy mountain wilderness of Norway, looking for a great weekend away, but instead encountering and being butchered by a recently resurrected group of Nazi Zombies. The absurd concept, worked well as it reminded horror fans of the spirit of such films as BRAINDEAD (1992) and EVIL DEAD (1981), low budget, schlocky but brilliantly fun, and with a fantastic strain of dark humour. On top of that it also spawned and highlighted slight renaissance of Nazi Zombie films, such as WAR OF THE DEAD (2011) and NAZI’S AT THE CENTER OF THE EARTH (2012), a sub genre not so well known in horror aside from the creepy and underrated SHOCK WAVES (1977). Wirkola though has followed up his first film with a gleefully entertaining sequel, that does what any good horror sequel does, and that is it ups the blood and gore, the action, humour and entertainment factor.

Picking up right after the end of the first film, Martin (Hoel) the only one who made it from the dreaded undead zombie troops, is making his getaway from Herzog (Gamst) and his army. In the ensuing car crash that occurs, Martin comes round in hospital, being the only suspect in the murder of his friends, and on top of that having the doctor’s mistakenly put Herzog’s severed arm, surgically placed on his body, after he severed his own arm in the last film. Wanting to track down the undead commander and his army, Martin enlists the help of a trio of three geeky Americans(Starr, DeBoer, Haas) who call themselves the Zombie Squad, and as he now has Herzog’s severed arm, he somehow can use some unexplained powers to raise the dead, and figures out, to fight an army he must instead raise an army, and through the help of the zombie squad finds the location of the graves of a Russian battalion, who died at the hands of the Nazi’s. Herzog meanwhile wants to march over Norway, continuing his orders that were given to him by the fuehrer in the past, and at the same time raising recently murdered corpses (by his own troops) back from the dead to expand his army, leading to a big clash between two army’s. The undead allied with humans, and the undead Nazi army.

deadsnow21Wirkola, knows he is going to have fun with this film, and in many respects there is a more confident and spectacular approach in his directing, and he has worked this well, utilising the fantastic landscape scenery as well as staging some well orchestrated action sequences. If anything it shows a far grander approach than the first DEAD SNOW, though at the end of the day this is no doubt helped by a bigger budget than its predecessor, but it still lets Wirkola play with a bigger canvas. Herzog even commandeers a tank from a war museum that becomes the focal point of his march across Norway. The acquiring of the tank does lend to one of the funniest gruesome visual gags (of which there are plenty) where the undead Nazi troops use some poor museum punters intestines as a makeshift hose to siphon petrol from a coach to the tank to get it filled up and moving.

It’s the most fun bad taste you can have in a film with blood and gore drenched across the screen, spectacular deaths where everyone seems to get it, young and old, kids, elderly and the disabled. The film revels in dark humour and doesn’t mind getting its hands dirty, as well as making us laugh at moments we shouldn’t be laughing at. The cast have great fun with the roles, Hoel is a likeable hero, who has to get used to having the sudden super human power that an un-dead Nazi zombie arm hold’s, once it’s been attached to your body. There is also a funny character in Glenn Kenneth (Stig Frode Henriksen, also co-screen writer),as the gay museum assistant who gets dragged into the zombie showdown, and despite being slightly annoying at first and with one of them using bad Star Wars references the Zombie Squad end up becoming likeable characters as they realise there dream of killing zombies. On top of all this there is a brilliantly funny bad taste use of the Bonnie Tyler power ballad Total Eclipse of the Heart in the concluding scene, which if you ever hear the song again might trigger memories of that conclusion.

deadsnow22Despite a few minor quibbles with the story and certain humour and one liners that seem to repeat themselves (mainly the bad star wars references) there is nothing to complain about with DEAD SNOW 2. It’s great fun, and a wonderful follow up to the original and in many respects is a better film than the first. No denying the original was superb, but in terms of fun action packed horror, and fantastic level of craziness that the film delivers and in a sub-genre such as Nazi zombie horror, this might be the best of the bunch and certainly ends up as an excellent genre flick.

9/10

R100 (2013) Review

R1R100 (2013)

Dir: Hitoshi Matsumoto

Written by: Hitoshi Matsumoto, Mitsuyoshi Takasu, Tomoji Hasegawa, Koji Ema, Mitsuru Kuramoto

Starring: Nao Omori, Lindsay Hayward, Mao Daichi, Hairi Katagiri, Gin Maeda

Running Time – 100 mins.

UK Première: Frightfest 2014

Average man, Takafumi ,(Omori) joins a mysterious society that consists entirely of women in bondage clothing who specialise in sexual humiliation. The society has a strict rule of a one year membership and no cancellations, under any circumstances.

Japanese cinema is often readily identified as being somewhat of an acquired taste. When they turn their hand to horror, often the gore is taken to beyond extreme levels. When they do comedy, a great deal of the humour runs the risk of being lost in translation due to their renowned eccentricities. Many Japanese films can be described more as mood pieces with less attention paid to a flowing narrative and a greater emphasis on total reckless abandon of throwing hundreds of ideas at the wall just to see if anything sticks. This brings things neatly to the absurdist majesty of R100.

Much like the classically demented Hausu, the film is a glorious mix of various film styles. A melting pot of horror, comedy, drama, erotica and war films are all shoved into a blender to produce something that is totally unique. It is of tremendous credit to director, Matsumoto, that he is able to balance all these wildly different elements and somehow, incredibly, the film never feels muddled or incoherent. With a wickedly sharp sense of humour, R100 is nothing short of a surrealist trip that is quite unlike anything else seen all year.

R2It’s a blessed breath of fresh air with so much of today’s films being tiresomely predictable that R100 is so perfectly perplexing. Just when it feels as though one could get a handle on what’s going on, the film violently and spectacularly veers off in a completely unforeseeable direction.

The film packs a tremendous curve-ball behind its back, which to spoil, would ruin the magic and sheer wonder of it. When it first appears in the film, it appears to make absolutely no sense whatsoever. As its relevance is slowly revealed, after completely throwing off the film’s rhythm, it is almost worthy of a standing ovation for its sheer bonkers audacity. Painfully funny and carrying a clear message, it’s an absolute piece of genius.

Stylistically, the film has a superb almost high-end VHS-like quality. It is fascinating to see that, predominantly, the film’s colour palate is restricted to the most neutral and dull colours. The lead characters mainly wear greys and whites whilst their surroundings are often a mixture of muted browns and pale cream. This is done not only to augment the idea of Takafumi’s dull life but to further make the PVC bondage outfits of the Goddesses strikingly stand out. Taking up the whole focus onscreen, Matsumoto succeeds in making the audience as in awe and as terrified of them as the characters are themselves.

The Goddesses are a fantastic creation, heavily eroticised to draw you in before suffering the stings of their speciality punishments. With infamous titles such as the Goddess of Gobbling or Saliva, it is not hard to imagine just what these particular ‘skills’ will be, the film taking maniacal delight in displaying them in full force. Brilliantly opting to use practical effects, the ‘gobbling’ itself sees the Goddess swallowing people whole, whilst the Goddess of Saliva steals the show for the film’s most stomach-churning scene. Armed with various foodstuffs, the Goddess liberally spits repeatedly all over a gagged and bound Takafumi until it almost becomes too hard and disgusting to watch.

R3Although the film is primarily comedic, the film earned its place at Frightfest with the mysterious, almost Hellraiser-like focus on pain and humiliation for pleasure. The punishments that Takafumi endures begin as simple things like having his sushi meal repeatedly smushed up, then slowly and menacingly, they progress to brutal assaults in the street and threats on the well-being of his family.

One element of the film that is intriguingly never explained is just why Takafumi joins the club. Many theories can be raised, including sexual frustration or his overwhelming burden of responsibility but ultimately, it is a savvy move on the part of Matsumoto to not spell it out. R100 is a film that delights in all of its mysteries and even if half of them were revealed, it still wonderfully wouldn’t make much more sense.

It has to be said that beneath all the madness is an incredibly moving and poignant story of the struggle of an effectively single parent. Whilst it is sure to be far from the film’s main talking points, it is absolutely vital that the pandemonium is weighed down so effectively by the central narrative. For the majority of the film, the fact that it is played completely straight elevates the humour even further, but on the few occasions it is serious, the performances are simply spectacular.

Seeing Takafumi wearily coping with his wife’s coma whilst trying to put on a brave face for his absolutely adorable son makes for an incredibly tender watch. There is one scene where his father in law breaks down at his daughter’s bedside that is legitimately heartbreaking. Having this thrown into the stew of saucy madness, it results in the film being surprisingly sweet, in an incredibly ‘out-there’ way.

R4With its completely off the wall style, R100 is a film that is certain to split opinion clean down the line. Many will be left completely exhausted and become irritably flummoxed at not being able to clearly decipher head nor tail of what is going on. For those who enjoy true originality and the glorious rush of the onslaught of bizarreness, R100 is an absolute gem sure to leave you with a giddy smile on your face.

Rating: 9/10