The Last Testament of Thomas Griffith by Martin Adil-Smith – Book Review

tgThe Last Testament of Thomas Griffith – A Review

The Last Testament of Thomas Griffith (TLTOTG) is a short story set in the universe of The Spirals of Danu by Martin Adil-Smith.

Following the Small’s Lighthouse incident of 1801, as the title suggests this is the last testament of Thomas Griffith to his wife before his descent into madness. For those of you unfamiliar with this story, two lighthouse keepers on St David’s Peninsula, Wales , Thomas Griffith and Thomas Howell. Curiously however, Howell was a love rival for Griffith’s wife. During a terrible storm, when no relief could reach them, in a freak accident Thomas Howell managed to fall, hit his head and die (so the story goes). After Howell’s untimely death Griffith maintained it was an accident with no mal intent. Normal protocol was if someone had died in the lighthouse to throw the body overboard lest you wanted to cosy up to a bloated rotting corpse in the pale moonlight.

Griffith for whatever reason, be it out of guilt or the beginnings of his madness, tied Howell’s body up outside so that maybe he could be examined to determine he wasn’t murdered once the relief team could reach them. It was the worst storm in a number of years, supplies were plenty but morale was low.

Adil-Smith’s take on this tale takes us down a darker more sinister road altogether. He attempts to fill in the gaps between when Howell’s died and the days leading up to the relief crew’s arrival. They, finding Griffith as a bumbling wreck. Written as a diary entry; a last will and testament. Brief in its presentation, yet chilling all the same. If ever there was a piece to give you a taste of the wider universe of The Spirals of Danu it’s TLTOTG. The story teased me just enough to want more, to uncover the secrets of the world. That is a testament (pun intended) to Adil-Smith’s wordcraft. Luckily for me there is a series already out there for me to sink my teeth into. If you’re into dark fantasy, the strange and the occult you may enjoy this short story. I look forward to picking up the rest of The Spirals of Danu to see if the quality continues!
If you’d like to hear myself and Martin discuss this short (among other things) follow the link below to listen to my conversation with him.

Verdict: 8/10

Find Martin below:

To Buy “The Last Testament of Thomas Griffith” –
a-fwd.com/asin=B01M9C67PK
Website – spiralsofdanu.com/
Facebook – www.facebook.com/SpiralsOfDanu/
Twitter – twitter.com/SpiralsOfDanu

Blood Punch (2014) DVD Review

rsz_bloodpunchBlood Punch (2014)
Starring: Milo Cawthorne, Olivia Tennet and Ari Boyland
Writer: Eddie Guzelian
Director: Madellaine Paxson

Out in the UK on Jan 16th – Blood Punch will be available for purchase from ASDA, HMV, Fopp, Amazon, The Hunt and Base. And available for streaming from iTunes, Amazon Video, Google Play, Vubiquity, TalkTalk and Vimeo on Demand.

A young man is lured into a dangerous love triangle that begins to take a series of shocking and grisly supernatural turns.

Milton (Milo Cawthorne, Deathgasm, Mega Time Squad, ASH vs Evil Dead and When We Go to War) wakes up on Tuesday morning. He wakes to the annoying sound of wind chimes and the urgent need to puke. We can see he’s been sleeping on the couch at a hunting cabin. The walls are littered with brutal reminders of murder and mutilation (such as axes, crossbows, mantraps and mounted hunting trophies). And, once Milton has looked up from the toilet bowl he’s been worshipping, he finds himself staring at a tablet that bears a note saying ‘PLAY ME’.

The intrigue deepens when Milton presses play and finds the tablet contains footage of himself, explaining how the current situation has come about. His surprise at seeing himself on the screen is not because he was wasted the previous night, or because he’s endured some memory-eradicating substance. The reason turns out to be far more ingenious.

rsz_bp1The content of the tablet leads to a little bit of backstory and a proper introduction to the story’s hero.

Milton had been incarcerated in a juvenile detention centre. He’d been there because he was a chemistry student and he’d been caught using his knowledge of chemicals to cook crystal meth. Whilst appearing to repent for his sins, and maybe take a step toward atonement, he encounters a shed load of trouble in the shape of Skyler (Olivia Tennet, Lord of the Rings, Boogeyman and Shortland Street).

Skyler is a forthright character and conducts herself with a ruthless determination that is irresistible. She is looking for a meth cook and she uses her feminine wiles to tempt Milton to fill her vacancy. After showing him that crystal meth has a positive effect on her libido, it doesn’t take long before Skyler’s convinced Milton to join her. She’s even arranged to have her psychotic boyfriend Russell (Ari Boyland, The Tribe, Shortland Street, Power Rangers R.P.M.) organize a jail break. And, for Milton, this is where the troubles really begin.

As a story, Blood Punch has traces of Breaking Bad, Cabin in the Woods and Groundhog Day in its structure – but it is so much more than merely a homage to existing works. One of the clever things about this film is the way everything is made to look so effortless. The story, in less capable hands, could have been confusing and nonsensical. Instead, it’s compelling, quirky and intriguing. The characters, drug dealers, psychopaths and the criminally insensitive, could have been difficult to like. But, instead, they come across as relatable, likeable and even loveable.

rsz_bpIt’s easy to see why Blood Punch has won so many awards (Phoenix International Horror & Sci-Fi Film Festival: Best Horror Feature 2015; New Orleans Horror Film Festival: Best Feature Film 2014; Hoboken International Film Festival: Best Feature Film, Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Actor, Best Actress 2014). The film has a compelling story that comes from a well-crafted script. The acting is strong and confident from a cast who know what they’re doing. The direction is masterful and assured throughout.

I can’t recommend this one highly enough and would say it’s one of the best horror films I’ve watched in a long time: 10/10.

Night of Something Strange (2016) Review

rsz_112819375_994557477247045_1782208119961988031_oNIGHT OF SOMETHING STRANGE (2016)

Dir: Jonathan Straiton
Stars: Rebecca C. Kasek, Trey Harrison, Michael Merchant, Toni Anne Gambale, John Walsh, Tarrence Taylor, Nicola Fiore, Wayne W. Johnson, Janet Mayson, Kirk La Salle, Al Lawler

Released by Hurricane Bridge Entertainment. See it at the Horror-on-Sea Film Festival on 21 January at 5.30pm.

Night of Something Strange opens with a messy sequence in which we discover the origin of an STD that transforms its victims into ravenous rapist-zombies(!). From here we meet a gang of youngsters on a Spring Break road trip. There’s good girl Christine (Rebecca C. Kasek), her best friend Carrie (Toni Anne Gambale), Carrie’s obnoxious boyfriend Freddy (Michael Merchant), nerdy Jason (John Walsh) and pothead Brooklyn (Tarrence Taylor). On the way to a party destination, they choose to stop over in a seedy motel. Also at the motel are bad chick Pam (Nicola Fiore) and her tough boyfriend Dirk (Trey Harrison) who are hooking up for a night of passion. However, unbeknownst to our horny high-schoolers, the infected necrophiliac who kickstarted this whole mess is on his way to the motel…

Inside the first six minutes of Night of Something Strange we are treated to a prolonged sequence of necrophilia, a man urinating in a woman’s face before he violently rapes her, a bloody wound complete with arterial spray and somebody ripping out an unspecified, but gore-soaked part of a woman’s genitalia with his bare hands, then eating it. Then the film REALLY gets going.

rsz_14917277_1155870461115745_3324279579145028734_oIf that sounds a bit much for you, then you should probably steer clear. Night of Something Strange is a shocking movie that is full-on, in your face, and legitimately disgusting at times… and THAT is why it is so good. Think classic Eighties splatter horror-comedy Night of the Creeps crossed with the excesses of South Park — NoSS is chock-full of gross-out moments, from sexual misadventures to a veritable explosion of body-fluids. As such, it’s absolutely hilarious!

It certainly helps that these moments are brought to life with visual effects and make-up far more impressive than NoSS’s modest budget might lead to you expect. But over-performing is pretty much the norm for this movie.

Take the cast — I think it’s safe to say that most of the leads in the movie probably won’t be immediately recognisable to many viewers, but that doesn’t stop them from knocking their performances out of the park. Harrison does a tremendous job of delivering some killer tough-guy lines with a straight face, while the impressive Kasek shows some real potential as a future Scream Queen. Gambale shows real dedication to her craft with a couple of her scenes, as does the simply fantastic Merchant. It is Merchant’s crass Freddy who very nearly steals the film. Merchant is brave, utterly shameless and throws himself into his role with gusto. He’s awesome! Elsewhere, Fiores clearly has fun playing the witchy Pam and she’s a joy to watch.

rsz_12513692_1002519173117542_1525579911595151897_oOf course, the actors are only as good as the material they’re given to work with, and the writing team of director Straiton, Ron Bonk and Mean Gene deliver great dialogue, some brilliant set-pieces and a plot with some pretty out-there twists. The violent monsters are suitably terrifying villains, especially the menacing Wayne W. Johnson as the lead undead sex-fiend, Cornelius. As the zombies mutate even further later in the flick, their genitalia transforming into lethal weapons, they become reminiscent of the ‘sickos’ in Robert Rodriguez’s Grindhouse segment, Planet Terror, and, along with the laughs and outlandish action, the film even manages to pack in some well-crafted scares and some intense sequences.

This is all under the steady guidance of director Jonathan Straiton, whose keen eye for a good shot is a massive contributing factor to the success of NoSS. Bravo sir!

rsz_11157579_843957512307043_3862393676166830435_oAn unapologetic fist (or perhaps another body appendage) in the face, Night of Something Strange takes your typical Eighties splatter horror flick, sticks it in a blender with some late Nineties gross-out humour, and produces a heady, hilarious, horrific cocktail that really does need to be seen on the big screen with a crowd of laughing, shrieking, gasping genre fans. This is the ultimate horror party movie and it needs to be seen the right way!

7/10

Horror Channel FrightFest celebrates 12th year at Glasgow Film Festival with a record-breaking fourteen titles

rsz_frightfest_glasgow_logoHorror Channel FrightFest celebrates 12th year at Glasgow Film Festival with a record-breaking fourteen titles

Monstrous stories, unspeakable urban legends, brutal acts and fearsome folktales dominate as the UK’s favourite horror fantasy event returns to the Glasgow Film Festival with a record fourteen films, including ten UK premieres, screening from Thurs 23 Feb to Sat 25 Feb 2017 at the iconic Glasgow Film Theatre.

Kicking off with a special screening of A CURE FOR WELLNESS, an intense psychological ride from Gore Verbinski, the visionary director of THE RING. and ending in sex and blood-drenched frenzy with the UK premiere of Roberto San Sebastián’s THE NIGHT OF THE VIRGIN, the 2017 line-up Is a shivering selection of the finest and wildest new fear-stokers the genre has to offer.

This year there are two films screening on the Thursday night. Following the 9pm showing of A CURE FOR WELLNESS is an exclusive unveiling of PHANTASM: REMASTERED, a new 4K restoration of the never forgotten fantasy horror masterpiece.

rsz_acureforwellness-1

A Cure For Wellness

Friday’s line-up springs into high-octane action with the UK premiere of Matthias Hoene’s blockbusting $50 million fantasy epic THE WARRIOR’S GATE. This is followed by the UK Premiere of IT STAINS THE SANDS RED, a thrilling and unexpectedly heart-felt zombie road movie. Director Colin Minihan and lead actress Brittany Allen will be in attendance. Next up is THE TRANSFIGURATION, Michael O’Shea’s nihilistic meditation on millennial angst that took Cannes 2016 by storm. We’re pleased to say that Michael will be joining us to discuss the film.
Our 9pm presentation unleashes monster mash fury with the original Gangsta Lizard wreaking fabulous havoc in the UK Premiere of SHIN GODZILLA and rounding off the evening in visually stunning style is the first UK showing of Joe Dietsch & Louie Gibson’s award-winning HAPPY HUNTING, a dark and dangerous unfolding of desert death games.

Getting the Saturday programme started with considerable bite is the UK premiere of CAGE DIVE, Gerald Rascionato’s well-received take on survivor reality TV. This is followed by the hotly anticipated UK premiere of FASHIONISTA, Simon Rumley’s shockingly hypnotic exploration of addiction, body image and transformation. Considered by US critics to be his best film to date, Simon will be in attendance to discuss the film.

Also in attendance is Steven Kastrissios, director of BLOODLANDS. the first ever collaboration between Australia and Albania and the Balkan country’s first foray into horror cinema. Kastrissios’ passion project invites you to explore the mind-set of modern Albania while embarking on a spellbinding journey into terror. This is the World Premiere and Steven will be joined on stage by the main cast.

Make sure you’re strapped in for the UK premiere of our next presentation – Christopher Smith’s twisted revenge road move DETOUR. We’re thrilled that Chris will be joining us.

Hounds-of-Love-3

Hounds of Love

Saturday evening unfolds in adrenaline-fueled style with the UK premiere of Stefan Ruzowitzky’s PATIENT ZERO, starring Matt Smith, Stanley Tucci and Natalie Dormer battling super-fit, highly intelligent undead killers! This is followed by the UK premiere of Ben Young’s powerfully disturbing debut HOUNDS OF LOVE, a unique three-way study of a serial-killing couple and their latest female victim.

To end this year’s global feast of fear is the UK premiere of an extreme horror comedy pushing ALL the boundaries. Roberto San Sebastián’s THE NIGHT OF THE VIRGIN is disgusting, offensive, hilarious and totally brilliant!

In addition, there is a sneak preview of Dominic Brunt’s ADULT BABIES, with the popular actor / director in attendance and let’s not forget those great give-aways!

Alan Jones, co-director, said today: “What a privilege for Horror Channel FrightFest to return to the open arms of the Glasgow Film Festival. Each of our forensically assembled line-up has been chosen on the basis it has something new and unique to offer, something we feel worth championing to our discerning Scottish audiences. So join us as we step beyond the pale together into the safe darkness of sinister cinema where genre transcends all and unites us as one chilled community.”

FrightFest Passes are £70 and available from noon on Mon Jan 16, 2016.  Passes cover all films on Fri 24 & Sat 25 Feb ONLY.

Tickets for ‘A Cure for Wellness’ and ‘Phantasm: Remastered’ ’ plus individual tickets for the Fri/Sat films are on sale Mon Jan 23 from 10am. Price: £10.00. £8 concession.

To book tickets:
+44 (0)141 332 6535 / [email protected] / www.glasgowfilm.org/festival

Programme details

THURS 23 FEB – GFT Screen 1

21:00 A CURE FOR WELLNESS (Special screening)

An ambitious young executive is sent to retrieve his company’s CEO from an idyllic but mysterious “wellness centre” at a remote location in the Swiss Alps. He soon suspects that the spa’s miraculous treatments are not what they seem. When he begins to unravel its terrifying secrets, his sanity is tested, as he finds himself diagnosed with the same curious illness that keeps all the guests here longing for the cure.

Director: Gore Verbinski. Cast: Dane DeHaan, Mia Goth, Jason Isaacs, Celia Imrie. USA 2017. 18.  126 mins, Thanks to 20th Century Fox.

PHANTASMRemastered-323:40 PHANTASM: REMASTERED (Scottish Premiere)

Set to introduce a new generation to the deranged charms of the cult classic, meet horror icon Angus Scrimm as a malevolent mortician sending bizarre murder victims into another dimension where they become slave dwarves. A macabre funhouse of shock that weaves a powerful primal spell, the unforgettable silver sphere that drills out brains is back in a phantasmagorical fusion of surreal imagery, outlandish thrills and super scares.

Director: Don Coscarelli. Cast: Michael Baldwin, Bill Thornbury, Angus Scrimm. USA 1979. 84 mins. 18. Thanks to Arrow Films.

FRI 24 FEB – GFT Screen 1

13:30 THE WARRIOR’S GATE (UK Premiere)

Produced and written by Luc Besson and long-time collaborator Robert Mark Kamen (THE FIFTH ELEMENT) and directed by COCKNEYS VS. ZOMBIES maestro Matthias Hoene, the rip-roaring spectacular adventure finds hapless teenager Jack magically transported to ancient China where he must learn to convert his awesome video gaming skills into those of a Kung Fu warrior to bring peace to the warring kingdom. THE LAST STARFIGHTER goes CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON in an enthralling fable opening up a whole innovative East meets West universe of wonder and imagination.

Director: Matthias Hoene. Cast: David Bautista, Sienna Guillory, Uriah Shelton. France/China 2016. 90 mins. 15. Thanks to Europacorp.

rsz_it_stains_the_sand_red_-116:00 IT STAINS THE SANDS RED (UK Premiere)

First came the massive hit GRAVE ENCOUNTERS and the sci-fi shocker EXTRATERRESTRIAL and now director Colin Minihan and co-writer Stuart Ortiz, aka The Vicious Brothers have fashioned an unusual. ‘walking dead’ movie. After a horrendous flesh-eating apocalypse, Las Vegas wild child Molly finds herself stranded in the desert with a ravenously relentless zombie hot on her high heels. Forever trying to give it the ingenious slip, the lone stalker has no need of rest and soon it becomes her only physical contact in a world gone mad haunted by her dark past.

Director: Colin Minihan. Cast: Brittany Allen, Juan Riedinger, Merwin Mondesir. USA 2016. 92 mins. 18. Thanks to Digital Interference Productions and Grasswood Media.

18:30 THE TRANSFIGURATION (UK Premiere)

Orphaned African-American teen Milo thinks he’s undead in director Michael O’Shea’s fiercely independent first feature. To escape his depressing life, Milo has drenched himself in vampire lore gleaned from such horror classics as NOSFERATU, MARTIN, LET THE RIGHT ONE IN, THE LOST BOYS and NEAR DARK and has taken to sublimating his morbid fantasies bloodsucking on strangers. It’s when he befriends the equally troubled Sophie that a clear course of action presents itself providing liberation and tragic redemption.

Director: Michael O’Shea. Cast: Eric Ruffin, Chloe Levine, Aaron Moten. USA 2016. 97 mins. 18. Thanks to Soda Pictures.

shingodzilla_321:00 SHIN GODZILLA (European Premiere)

Godzilla, the King of the Monsters, is back for a record-breaking box-office reboot of Toho’s kaiju classic. Present-day Japan, and an unexplained seismic event has occurred off the coast of Shinagawa, causing ripple effects all the way to the capital. Ministers scramble to figure out what’s going on but only cabinet secretary Rando Yaguchi knows what the audience already does. That Godzilla has majestically returned and has his fire-breathing, stomping sights on Tokyo once more.

Directors: Hideaki Anno, Shinji Higuchi. Cast: Hiroki Hasegawa, Yutaka Takenouchi, Satomi Ishihara. Japan 2016. 120 mins. 18. Thanks to Altitude Films.

23:15 HAPPY HUNTING (UK Premiere)

Warren is a degenerate drifter. On his way down to Mexico he finds himself stranded in Bedford Flats a one-horse town deep in the American desert. Unfortunately for him the town’s pastime is rounding up drifters and hunting them as part of an elaborate sporting event. This most dangerous and deadly game and bloody fight for survival is about to begin!

Directors: Joe Dietsch and Louie Gibson. Cast: Martin Dingle Wall, Ken Lally, Kenny Wormald, Connor Willimas. USA 2016. 91 mins.18.Thanks to WTFilms

SAT 25 FEB – GFT Screen 1

CageDive-310:00 CAGE DIVE (UK Premiere)

CAGE DIVE follows three friends from California who set out to film an audition tape for submission to an extreme reality game show. To ensure they stand out, they decide to travel to Australia where they will be documenting themselves taking part in a most extreme activity…Shark Cage Diving. While on the dive, a catastrophic turn of events leaves them in baited water full of hungry Great White Sharks and turns there audition tape into a survival diary.

Director: Gerald Rascionato. Cast: Joel Hogan, Josh Potthoff, Magan Peta Hill, Suzanne Dervish-Ali. Australia 2017. 80 mins. 18. Thanks to Lionsgate Films.

11:45 FASHIONISTA (UK Premiere)

After RED, WHITE AND BLUE and JOHNNY FRANK GARRET’S LAST WORD comes uber-eccentric director Simon Rumley’s third distinctive Austin, Texas, based shocker., this sleekly demented De Palma-esque nightmare is set in the vintage clothing world where hipster shop owners April and Eric find their marriage tested when she begins to suspect her husband of having an affair. Her suspicions confirmed, April seeks sexual validation with the very mysterious and kinky Randall setting off a chain reaction of stylish fever dream madness, vogue fantasy role-playing and chic ultra-shriek.

Director: Simon Rumley. Cast: Amanda Fuller, Ethan Embry, Eric Balfour. USA 2016. 110 mins. 18. Thanks to Simon Rumley.

Bloodlands-114:20 BLOODLANDS (World Premiere)

Fear the Shtriga! Written and directed by Steven Kastrissios who made his intense debut with THE HORSEMAN comes Albania’s first ever break-out genre film. Rooted in the very real phenomenon of blood feuds still plaguing the land, a struggling Albanian family, wrestling with traditions and superstition, must unite against another mysterious mountain clan’s aggressions. A surreal, remarkable and highly unusual voyage through the fantasy lens of whispered local mythologies,

Director: Steven Kastrissios. Cast: Gëzim Rudi, Emiljano Palali, Suela Bako. Australia/Albania 2016. 82 mins. 18. Thanks to Steven Kastrissios.

16:30 DETOUR (UK Premiere)

A tense, deftly constructed noir thriller from Christopher Smith, director of CREEP, SEVERANCE, BLACK DEATH and TRIANGLE. Law student Harper suspects his stepdad Vincent of causing the car crash that landed his mother in a coma. A chance meeting in a bar with a tough redneck and his girlfriend leads to a road trip of revenge and spiralling violence.

Director : Christopher Smith. Cast: Tye Sheridan, Emory Cohen, Bel Powley, Stephen Moyer. UK 2016. 97 mins. 18. Thanks to Dan Films.

rsz_patient_zero-118:55 PATIENT ZERO (UK Premiere)

Humanity is battling intelligent creatures born from a viral super-strain. After being bitten human survivor Morgan (Matt Smith) realises he is asymptomatic and can communicate with the infected, leading the last survivors on a hunt for Patient Zero and a cure. From Stefan Ruzowitzky director of ANATOMY, ALL THE QUEEN’S MEN and THE COUNTERFEITERS.

Director: Stefan Ruzowitzky. Cast: Matt Smith, Natalie Dormer, Stanley Tucci, Clive Standen, Agness Deyn. UK 2017. R/T TBA. 18. Thanks to Sony Pictures

21:10 HOUNDS OF LOVE  (UK Premiere)

In the mid 1980’s seventeen year old Vicki Maloney is randomly abducted from a suburban street by a disturbed serial-killing couple. As she observes the dynamic between her captors she quickly realises she must drive a wedge between them if she is to survive. Inspired by real life crimes, A superbly acted and powerful debut feature.

Director: Ben Young. Cast:  Emma Booth, Ashleigh Cummings, Stephen Curry, Susie Porter. Australia 2016. 108 mins. 18. Thanks to Arrow Films

TheNightoftheVirgin-423:20 THE NIGHT OF THE VIRGIN (UK Premiere)

At a New Year’s Eve party, nerdy and naïve Nico sets out to lose his virginity. After striking out with drunken babes, his gaze crosses to Medea, an attractive if mature woman. Before he knows what’s happening he’s whisked to Medea’s filthy apartment where sinister Asian artefacts adorn the shelves, cockroaches crawl the floors and an ancient prophecy rears its head along with the rowdy gay neighbours and a very jealous ex-boyfriend.

Director: Roberto San Sebastián. Cast: Javier Bódalo, Miriam Martín, Víctor Amilibia. Spain 2016. 117 mins. 18. Thanks to Kevin I. Rodríguez/Platanobolígrafo.

For further information: www.frightfest.co.uk

Beyond The Gates hits UK DVD On Feb 20th from Signature Entertainment UK

rsz_1rsz_btg1Beyond The Gates hits UK DVD On Feb 20th from Signature Entertainment UK.

Get ready to experience this season’s freshest horror. Highly praised during it’s recent premiere at FrightFest, _Beyond the Gates_ is a gore-filled tribute to 80’s horror and board games of the same era.

Seven months after their father’s disappearance, estranged brothers Gordon and John Hardesty reunite to liquidate their Dad’s anaemic video store. Soon after, they unearth an old VHS board game that acts as an inter-dimensional hub to a nightmare world where their Father’s soul is trapped and can only be saved by playing the game…

Tense, scary and full of nostalgic thrills, _Beyond the Gates_ is directed by Jackson Stewart and stars Graham Skipper, Chase Williamson, Matt Mercer, Brea Grant and Re-Animator’s Barbara Crampton.

PRECISION PICTURES PRESENTS BEYOND THE GATES ON DIGITAL FROM 13TH FEBRUARY & DVD 20TH FEBRUARY, 2017

The Driller Killer (1979) Arrow Video Review

dk1THE DRILLER KILLER – REVIEW

(Dir- Abel Ferrara, USA, 1979)

Starring- Jimmy Laine, Carolyn Marz, Baybi Day

Out NOW from Arrow Video!

“Notorious video nasty” is the one term used to describe Ferrara’s low budget exploitation flick. Yet its notoriety and inclusion on the video nasties list in the UK primarily comes from the it’s brutally up front and infamous video cover, which features a man with a drill bit going into his forehead, screaming with blood rushing down his face, a testament to the almost recognisable aspect of shock advertising employed by the people who exhibited exploitation films in cinemas only a few years before the dawn of VHS, with a tactical blatant use of shocking title and gaudy often graphic cover promising lurid and unspeakable thrills. Most of the time the films on the nasties list where a disappointment and only a few often proved to be exceptional and DRILLER KILLER is one of them and is now getting a brand new dual Blu-ray and DVD release from the folks at Arrow.

THE FILM

Ferrara’s film stands out from the video nasty crowd in that it purposefully invokes different genres such as character study, black comedy, psychological thriller and of course horror. Its a portrait of struggling painter Reno (Jimmy Lane, but actually Ferrara under a pseudo name) and his attempts to fend of piling up rent, bills, complaints from his girlfriend Carol (Marz) and her on/off lover Pamela (Day) and the racket created by a punk band who move in downstairs brought in by Carol called Tony Coca-Cola and The Roosters consistently practising day and night. All these aspects start to affect Reno’s psyche leading to a change in mental state and the purchase of a battery pack that can power a portable drill and send him on a killing spree of New York’s drunk vagrants, a group he has a fear of becoming part of and a defenceless one at that who he takes out his rage on instead of those causing him grief in the first place.

dk3Shot in 16mm THE DRILLER KILLER ranks up there with films that document a period in the time of New York of the late 70’s and early 80’s such as TAXI DRIVER, MANIAC, BASKET CASE, COMBAT SHOCK and even part of NIGHTMARES IN A DAMAGED BRAIN in its portrayal of a city in the midst of sleazy often dangerous areas, exploitation cinemas, punk bars, artists apartments and in this films case a massive homeless problem brought in part by the closure of mental hospitals (which is briefly mentioned in the shot of a front cover of a newspaper). This is the period before Rudolph Giuliani cleaned up the city in the early 90’s, of a city that had a grit and rough edge to it and often a sense of desperation which is perfectly captured by Ferrara who has even hailed this a documentary in parts, and in some respects the rough edge of the film adds a realist approach and makes a perfect nightmarish setting for the action as Reno’s mind slowly starts to break and he succumbs to violent urges.

The film has an almost languid freestyle approach to the pacing with occasional scenes of the Roosters band practising, Reno trying to finish his painting, trying to get money off his art agent and also witnessing the homeless problem and violent crime around the city and this slow style is punctuated by viscerally brutal scenes of violence sound tracked by a hypnotically, psycho-esque synth score that acts in a JAWS type of way of building the ensuing attack on vagrants, with Reno being the proverbial shark wandering the streets with his power drill stalking his prey. Its this style and energy which makes the film work and stand out amongst the “notorious video nasty” label and earns it a level of realism towards the genre and might put those expecting it to be a straightforward horror, off. Admittedly even amongst the drilling and blood there’s an attempt to skewer horror clichés, such as a scene where Reno sees Carol and Pamela sleeping in bed and its suggested that he is about to kill them in that build up where the murderer strikes yet this ends in no carnage but with Reno just staring at them making it an anti climatic scene altogether and could almost buy into Ferrara’s explanation that he classes this film as a black comedy.

dk2Throughout the viewing of DRILLER KILLER there’s a sense of seeing Ferrara taking his first steps at themes that would punctuate his work throughout his career, especially the use of the setting of New York and its effect on an individual that would become more common especially in his next film MS 45: ANGEL OF VENGEANCE, the superb KING OF NEW YORK, his masterpiece BAD LIEUTENANT and his other (meta) horror themed film, the philosophical vampire flick THE ADDICTION. It is also a chance to see the second film (his first being a porn film called 9 LIVES OF A WET PUSSY) from a director who has remained constantly interesting, changing and ever evolving.

9/10

EXTRAS

Of course when it comes to extras Arrow tend to pull out all the stops on gathering enough for film fans to pick over and whilst it might not be a jam packed package, there is a nice selection of features that complement the main film. Most notably impressive is the addition of a feature length documentary by Ferrara and the first time its been released in the UK of MULBERRY STREET, which chronicles the directors neighbourhood one which he has grown up in and used in his films and that he lives in and the various characters that populate all based around the traditional Italian feast of San Gennaro. It’s an interesting documentary that gains engaging insight into the working of a community and the ever increasing commercialisation of traditional areas of New York as well as featuring the weird sight of Matthew Modine on a segway scooter.

dk4Added to this we also have LAINE AND ABEL which is a brand new interview with the director, WILLING AND ABEL: FERRAROLOGY 101 a superb and insightful visual essay by author Alexandra Heller-Nicholas, trailers and a funny audio commentary with Ferrara and Brad Stevens author of ABEL FERRARA: THE MORAL VISION (the best book on the director that you should seek out), which whilst offering insights into the film also allows Ferrara to take sly digs at his work (my favourite quote on the commentary track by him “finally a god-damn zoom shot…after an hour!”). Added to this the contents of the package include a booklet and reversible sleeve featuring new art work by the Twins of Evil on one side, and a recreation of that notorious video nasty sleeve on the other so you can shock your neighbours when they come round (if you trust them!). Credit should be given to the transfer as this looks the best I’ve seen this film in, well, since I first encountered it on the cut release back in the late 90’s.

Arrow have gone back to the original negatives and spruced it up nicely making the film look and still, retain the grittiness of its urban landscape but at the same time cleaning it up nicely and creating a brighter more sharper picture. This again is another example of Arrow’s commendable work in restoring classic often looked down upon genre fare that would usually get sub standard releases and not display any effort put into it, though here, again they have made another fine example of there dominance in the cult genre home entertainment field.

9/10

Never Open The Door (2014) Review

notd1Never Open the Door (2014)
Starring: Jessica Sonneborn, Deborah Venegas, Kristina Page
Writers: Christopher Maltauro & Vito Trabucco
Director: Vito Trabucco

Out Now – On Demand & DVD / BluRay in North America

Three happy couples enjoy the holidays in a cozy secluded cabin in the woods when they are suddenly interrupted by an unprecedented event that will forever change their lives.

I have to disagree with the synopsis above. The three couples are not happy. And they don’t appear to be enjoying their holiday. In the opening scenes they are presented as bitter and argumentative. They are the sort of people who you hope will suffer miserably before the end of the movie. Fortunately, something malicious is rushing toward the house and we keep our fingers crossed that its malevolent intentions will be wrought upon the aforementioned not-so-happy couples. We see the world from this entity’s feral perspective and we know, whatever it is, it means business.

So, we have the ‘cabin in the woods’ format of a horror story, with a cast of repellent disposables and a burgeoning (but as yet unidentified) threat. However, whilst this may sound like something that’s been done a million times before, Never Open the Door manages to throw out some wonderful surprises and it’s a movie that is well worth investigating.

notd4I’ll offer a couple of caveats before I continue. I didn’t think the dialogue was particularly strong. Verbal exchanges between main characters repeatedly fall into shouted and unimaginative repetition. However, whilst I think this is a valid criticism of the film, I should also add, if I was ever suffering through a real-life ‘cabin in the woods’ horror, I suspect my dialogue would likely be shouted, unimaginative and repetitive. I’m also tempted to say the acting was a little wooden but that interpretation could have been a knock-on effect caused by the previously mentioned script/dialogue issues.

The opening scene is dominated by Luke (Mike Wood, Chupacabra Territory, Bloody Bloody Bible Camp and Vamps in the City). Boorish Luke sits at the head of the table, shouting over other conversationalists and genuinely making things uncomfortable for his wife, Maria (Deborah Venegas, The Haunting of Alice D, Bloody Bloody Bible Camp and What Goes On). He also makes things uncomfortable for Angel (Kristina Page, The Haunting of Alice D, Piranha Sharks and Crack Whore) and Isaac (Matthew Aidan, Bloody Bloody Bible Camp, Pain is Beautiful and Dead Season). Meanwhile, at the same table, Terrance (George Troester, No Ordinary BJ, Crack Whore and Rock in a Hard Place) is making things uncomfortable for Tess (Jessica Sonneborn, One Night of Fear, Dog Eat Dog and The Haunting of Alice D). It’s all delightfully uncomfortable and a guilty part of me is gleefully hoping that some (or all) of these unlikeables are going to meet the nasty and grim conclusion they deserve.

notd3And so, when someone knocks at the door, and Tess goes to answer it, the story immediately goes into full-horror mode. Clearly Tess hasn’t read the title of the movie (Never Open the Door), because she opens the door. And, after the initial shock of a stranger arriving and inciting mayhem amongst the sextet, the story moves away from the predictable and begins to explore some new and very interesting territory. Never Open the Door is filmed in black and white and, at 64 minutes running time, it is longer than a short but shorter than a feature. And all of this works for the movie. The brevity allows it to have a swift pace and leave the audience breathless. The absence of colour allows for Vito Trabuco’s direction (Bloody Bloody Bible Camp, Slices and Watch the Pretty Girls Suffer) to play with light and darkness to profound and unsettling effect.

Because of its brevity, I won’t say anything more about the plot or the surprises that populate the narrative. What I will say is, Never Open the Door has some genuinely unsettling moments and a plot twist that I’m still trying to comprehend two days after watching. If you want to see something different from the ‘cabin in the woods’ format, you need to watch Never Open the Door: 8/10.

Pet (2016) Review

rsz_petPET (2016)

Directed By: Carles Torrens
Written By: Jeremy Slater
Starring: Dominic Monaghan, Ksenia Solo, Jennette McCurdy
Score: 8/10

Introduction
‘Pet’, is an independent, psychological horror/thriller, that is being compared to the likes of ‘Hard Candy’, due to its claustrophobic nature. An announcement was made that the film would make its world premier in March 2016, at the SXSW Festival, and was very well received. ‘Pet’ was released theatrically on December 2nd, 2016 and will be available on VOD and DVD on December 27th, 2016.

Synopsis:
Seth (Dominic Monaghan), is a down on his luck young man, who works at an animal shelter. One day on his way home from work, a girl who he has not seen for years, but had crushed on in school, gets on the bus. She is a beautiful, young woman, called Holly (Ksenia Solo). He starts to stalk Holly, firstly, online on her tinder profile, and then moving on to following her around at nights in the dark, and repeatedly going to see her at work where she is waitress.  Lacking the confidence to ask her out, he decides he has had enough, and kidnaps Holly, and puts her in a cage in the basement of the animal shelter where he works. In this tale full of twists and turns, is Holly who he thinks she is and who will end up the real victim?

rsz_1pet2Review:
This is a full on roller coaster of a film that will have you gripped from start to finish. The further into the film you get, you find out about more about the characters disturbing secrets, and of Seth and Holly’s night time activities. The character development is absolutely superb, and the performances from the films two main characters is brilliant, and both play their parts incredibly well. Their back stories aren’t thrown at you in one big lump, but are more drip fed to you, leaving you locked on, craving more information about the pair, and wanting to know what depths each are prepared to go to, to satisfy their own personal lusts and desires. As more of this awesome story unfolds, the twists are brilliant and well thought out. As you venture into the awesome finale, you’ll be sitting on the edge of your seat in anticipation, of how this power struggle, between the two will ultimately play out.

Dominic Monaghan, who portrays the character ‘Seth’, is presented as a loner and a nobody who is invisible to the world. We see his boundaries completely disappear, as his lust for Holly turns to infatuation and his is mind descends further into madness and obscurity. He meticulously plans the kidnapping and incarceration of Holly, as he works towards what is his ultimate goal of having this girl as his pet, someone he can have power over, and control. You get the sense from him that there may be no limits of what he is capable of. His intentions are not of a sexual nature and he keeps repeating to Holly that he wants to help her. He seems to want to systematically break her down psychologically. But the more he thinks he is succeeding with his plan he is actually playing straight into Holly’s hands, who has got plans of her own.

rsz_pet4Ksenia Solo, who portrays Holly, is the girl that Seth becomes completely obsessed with. From the day she first met Seth on a bus ride home from work, she becomes more and more conscious of the fact, that Seth is popping up everywhere she goes. She finds herself constantly looking over her shoulder and develops a huge sense of paranoia. Once kidnapped, and as each day goes by, we find out more about Seth’s prisoner, and Holly is definitely not what she first appears to be. Seth is presented with some major problems that he could never have anticipated, turning the film completely on its head and presenting the unusual situation which sees the hostage take complete control from the confines of her cage.

The pacing of each scene is brilliant. You’re not left lingering and waiting for something to happen ,in saying that after what are some pretty heated conversations between the two, you have the time to digest the mind games being played and prepare yourself for whatever is coming next.
The scenes filmed in the basement between Seth, and Holly are so intense and enticing and what compliments this greatly is the dialogue, it’s simply brilliant. The exchanges between the pair intensify with each visit, and with this, we see the balance of power shift back and forth between the hostage and her keeper. After they’re through talking for the day, each of them are left with some food for thought, and sit rehearsing how they’re going to play out their next move in this most dangerous game of cat and mouse.

rsz_pet3Final Thoughts:
Although this film was the lowest grossing film of any theatrical release in 2016, taking in a measly $70, I’m struggling to come to terms with how such a good film can slump so badly in the theatres. It may be a lack of publicity, or just a sign of the times, with films being so readily available online… or simply that the film was released at a time, where it was swamped by bigger box office films. This really is one of the best psychological films that has come out in quite some time. Its extremely clever, brilliantly written, and fantastically performed. I expect that this film will do much better when released on VOD and will be one that i’m sure will be appreciated for the fine film that it is.

8/10

Alien Covenant Trailer – An Examination

Aalien-covenant-1280lien Covenant Trailer

Directed By: Ridley Scott
Written By: Michael Green, John Logan, Jack Paglen
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Katherine Waterston, James Franco, Noomi Rapace, Guy Pearce

Introduction:
Alien: Covenant, will slot into the Alien franchise, as the sequel to ‘Prometheus’, released in 2012, and the 2nd prequel to ‘Alien’, which was released in 1979, with all three films being directed by Ridley Scott. The original film was a meteoric success. It’s one of those films, that is up there as one of the best films of its generation, and even today, the fear inducing, claustrophobic nature of the film, makes it timeless classic, and one to be treasured.

alien-covenant-teaser-trailer-020Synopsis:
The crew of the colony ship ‘Covenant’, are headed for a remote planet on the far side of the galaxy. En route, they discover what they believe to be an uninhabited planet full of wonderment and possibilities. They soon find out, that they are not alone. And where they have landed, is in fact a hostile, dark, and volatile world, full of danger at every turn. The Covenant crew members, to their misfortune, soon discover something they could never have imagined… even in their worst nightmares. Somehow, someway, they must make their escape.

What Do We Know?
Before the trailer for Alien: Covenant was released, there was some delightfully dark artwork released. Below, you will see what has got us Alien fans salivating. Will we see the return of the Xenomorph? Or at least start to learn of their origins? Is this a new breed of Alien?

fotorcreatedFrom the start of production, Ridley Scott made it clear that this movie would be going in a direction similar to the first Alien film. He also said that there will creatures bursting out of bodies, and lots of blood and violence. For fans of this franchise (myself included), this all sounds like great news, but can it be delivered? Its no secret that due to studio involvement on Prometheus, the studio wanted to have a franchise, and milk the Alien cash cow for every penny they could get. So instead of getting the direct prequel to Alien, (like most fans thought) we got a film, that had absolutely nothing to do with Alien.

When a sequel was announced, the big question was always going to be about the direction of the sequel. Would it continue on the Prometheus route, and remain removed from the Alien story line? Or would we finally get a film that will link up to Alien? From the look of the trailer, we’re moving in the right direction for sure. One thing we know for sure, is that the Alien creatures that featured in Prometheus, will not be returning. Only the engineers, and the black goo will feature.

fotorcreated1The Trailer:
The start of the trailer, is very reminiscent of the intro to the first Alien film, showing us long, narrow corridors and walkways. It brings back that familiar claustrophobic feeling. In the below screen shots taken directly from the trailer, we can see one of the walkways, with bloodied footprints, and they’re not from a human.

Very early in the trailer, we’re hit with a bombshell. We see a male, in the midst of a seizure, and then his back starts to burst open. It would seem then, that this is first sign of a new breed of Alien.

Interestingly, Michael Fassbender, (who portrayed the android character, ‘David’ in ‘Prometheus’)  in an interview with BBC Radio 2, let slip that the new type of Aliens that we will see, are called ‘Neomorphs’ or more simply, ‘Back Busters’.

fotorcreated2The next question has to be, ‘How do this new breed of Alien, come to be’? With information sourced from AvP Galaxy, i’ll go ahead and tell you in my own words.

Remember the black goo we saw in Prometheus? The planet, that the crew of the Covenant have travelled to, is covered in this goo, and it has mutated the local ecosystems. Large patches of black pods have formed on the ground, and on trees. As pictured above, if these pods are disturbed, or stepped on, they release spores, which enter the human body through the ear or the nose.
screenshot-2016-12-30-at-16-25-12The alien then grows within the infected human host, and when its time, bursts out through either the back or throat. The Neomorph shares some similarities to the ‘Deacon’ alien we saw at the end of ‘Prometheus. When it breaks out of its human host, it used its pointed head and two dorsal spines, to break free of its embryonic sack. When born, the Neomorphs are white in colour, and at first, they will walk on four legs, and when fully grown, stand up and walk on their two back legs.

This all sounds very exciting then. But… there is more. The crew uncover a huge patch of eggs. And bursting out of them, are the face-hugger. That’s right, they’re back. And I can imagine that can mean only one thing? The return/rebirth of the Xenomorph. There are still a lot of unanswered questions then, which is exactly what a trailer should be leaving you with. I honestly cant wait to see what comes next with this film, and really hope it can live up to all the early hype its receiving.

And Now The Screaming Starts #5 – ‘Cushing, The Creature and The Curse: A Peek at Hammer’s Franken-Frights!

“And Now The Screaming Starts!” – UKHS’ Regular Hammer / Amicus Feature by Rosie Gibbs

antss‘Cushing, The Creature and The Curse: A Peek at Hammer’s Franken-Frights!’

It is now 200 years since the 18-year-old Mary Shelley first began writing her classic tale of ‘Frankenstein, or The Modern Prometheus’, and in the two centuries that have passed since she first crafted the original story countless subsequent stories, television programmes, plays and of course motion pictures have surfaced which either re-tell or are in certain ways clearly inspired by Shelley’s novel concerning the young doctor Victor Frankenstein and his quest to create new life through scientific study and experiment. Hammer Productions is certainly one film production company which focused on Shelley’s Creature – eventually to become of course one of the line-up of ‘classic’ monsters alongside Dracula, The Mummy, The Wolfman etc. – and took inspiration from it to create spin-off tales of its own.

Shelley’s tale and monster became legendary certainly, and their posterity has in no small way been assisted by Hammer Productions, and in turn its most prolific and long-standing director – the late Terence Fisher. Hammer actually made a total of seven ‘Frankenstein’-based pictures, over the course of fifteen years, and while they each achieved varying degrees of success, it can certainly be argued that a good chunk of the clout the company eventually gained as a film-making business was down to Shelley’s notorious doctor and his insatiable thirst for cracking the secret to creating life, and any success they gleaned down largely to Fisher’s direction. Indeed, Hammer charted through these seven different films what could be called a ‘Life and Times’ saga of Victor Frankenstein (or the Baron as he would become known in this particular medium) – brought to life himself in all but one of these films by the incomparable Peter Cushing (and in the seventh, it must be mentioned, by the excellent Ralph Bates). In this article, we take a glance at three of Fisher’s ‘Franken-films’ – at the particular Creatures brought forth in each, the representation of the Baron himself, and how Hammer contributed to the development and furthering of the Frankenstein story…

franken1‘The Curse of Frankenstein’ (1957)

The first of the true Hammer ‘horrors’, this film also saw Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing acting on celluloid together for the very first time. Terence Fisher achieved in this first Frankenstein flick commercial and critical success, with Hammer stalwarts Jimmy Sangster and Anthony Hinds providing screenplay and production respectively in what many critics hail as a ‘return to form’ for the horror genre, which had in the 1950’s seen something of a lull in its ability to pull in the crowds at the box office since the heyday of the original Universal ‘monster movies’ of the 1930’s and 40’s.

In Hammer’s first crack at the Baron’s life tale, we are given (I suppose naturally) more of an insight into his early life; we see him take on the baronetcy at an early age after his father’s death – with characteristic curtness and practicality – and meet his wife Elizabeth (Hazel Court), as well as nurture an amiable working relationship with his tutor Paul Krempe (Robert Urquhart). Life is toddling along enjoyably for the Baron until his ‘ideas’ and experiments begin to really take hold of him and he first suggests his plans for what will become his life’s work. Cushing in this film initially presents us with a slightly more sympathetic Frankenstein – certainly single-minded and brusque but not necessarily heartless.

franken2However, when re-animation becomes his obsession, he gradually morphs into a maid-bonking, manipulative, typically self-absorbed mad scientist, showing little to no regard for his wife, friends or indeed Christopher Lee’s wonderfully confused, child-like Creature. The progressively more diabolical Baron was lapped up by cinema-goers at the time and Fisher’s directorial eye created rich, colourful cinematography which would have packed an extra punch in line with the higher level of gore – many critics of the time found the picture distasteful and ‘salacious’, and that was even after a sequence involving Cushing nonchalantly dipping a severed head in acid was cut out for British audiences!

The film overall is a striking debut for Hammer which is still today an entertaining version of the classic Gothic tale which serves as a timeless warning against playing God, as well as having the honour of establishing both Fisher as a bankable director and Hammer as a fondly-loved film production company featuring rich talent, both in front of and behind the lens.

franken3Frankenstein Created Woman’ (1967)

With Fisher once again at the helm, and Cushing in his fourth appearance as the Baron,this much-loved Hammer offering released a decade after ‘Curse’ was produced by Anthony Nelson Keys with Anthony Hinds taking screen writing credit again. Coming after earlier Hammer sequels ‘The Revenge of Frankenstein’ and ‘The Evil of Frankenstein’, which saw the legend foray into brain transplantation and again general re-animation of male corpses / living subjects, the company this time offered a new slant on the tale – touching on the theme of the soul and its transference to flesh, between different bodies and genders, no less.

Baron Frankenstein, now living in an atypical ‘mittel-Europe’ town much the staple of Hammer story-telling, finds himself embroiled in the initially tragic story of tavern hired hand Hans (Robert Morris) and his sweetheart Christina (Susan Denberg), who is taunted over her facial disfigurement by three local yobs. In revenge for Hans having stood up to them, they ransack her family’s tavern and brutally murder her father – and Hans is unjustly found guilty of the crime and guillotined. Distraught, Christina immediately drowns herself. The Baron, having been handily working on experiments to determine whether or not the soul departs the body at the point of death, manages after some time to transplant Hans’ soul into Christina’s now re-animated body – her mind that of an amnesiac, but her soul full of Hans’ vengeful lust for the murder of the three villains.

‘Woman’ (admittedly a Franken-flick which doesn’t lend itself amicably to the one-word title abbreviation) does seem to stand out from the others in a number of ways – most obviously in that the Creature is for the first time a female. Perhaps this is not a staggeringly ‘out of the box’ deviation from the original story, but what I personally like is that unlike in the Shelley tale, or indeed in the classic 1935 film ‘Bride of Frankenstein’ in which a female creature is manufactured purely to provide a companion for the lonely male one, in this we see the female being re-animated to carry out a certain task, i.e. a murder of vengeance – Hammer could have easily have gone down the simple ‘make a mate’ route here and still had a success on their hands but they chose this plot line instead.

franken4Of course, Christina’s mind is still dulled and her body is still beautiful, and the very soul that drives her basically to live is still that of a man, but at least the film in the end creates a woman who is dangerous rather than distressed. Cushing’s Baron in this film, while still of course an obviously vital component, somewhat takes a smaller spotlight in favour of the young romance and the central theme of Christina’s agenda, however he is shown as less of a brute and more of a logically detached, morally ambivalent character who focuses on his work as virulently as ever but perhaps with less of a flagrant disregard for any person or thing which might stand in his way.

The originality of the plot provides arguably a less shock-heavy, gory feel to this film in comparison to the other Hammer Frankensteins – no angry marching mobs, death-defying stunts or fights to the death at the climax here, yet this gentler outing is still sensationalist and gory enough to have satisfied 60’s horror buffs. Indeed, it is the one of the few Hammer features to properly explore the notion of the soul and theories surrounding the concept – of course even the title references the Bible and the Creation myth. Martin Scorcese is reportedly a big fan of the film, having been quoted as saying, “…here they actually isolate the soul, a bright blue shining translucent ball. The implied metaphysics is something close to sublime.”

Whether or not Hammer were trying to delve especially deeply into such matters is anyone’s guess, but the film I believe is certainly one of the strongest of Hammer’s successful 1960’s period – and through it the Shelley legend gains a fresh twist which whilst not at this point ardently feminist, certainly provides us with a brutal broad who is no creature’s Bride!

franken5‘Frankenstein and the Monster from Hell’ (1974)

The final Hammer ‘Franken-film’, which would also sadly prove to be Terence Fisher’s final picture before his death, was released after 1969’s haunting ‘Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed’ and 1970’s black comedy of sorts, ‘Horror of Frankenstein’. The picture emerged at the tail-end of Hammer’s decades-long journey in film – actually the fourth from last. I personally feel, and I’m sure I’m not alone, that in these swansong years, Hammer went out with a bang in releasing belters such as ‘Hands of the Ripper’, ‘Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde’, ‘Vampire Circus’ and ‘Twins of Evil’. Amongst these excellent sensations is ‘Hell’ – in which we find Cushing’s Baron hiding out in a Carlsbad asylum for the criminally insane, under the pseudonym Karl Victor.

Here, posing as the asylum’s official physician, the diabolical doctor is still merrily carrying out his experiments on illicitly-acquired cadavers safe in the knowledge that those in the outside world now believe him to be good and dead. Surgeon Simon Helder (played by one of my favourite Hammer alumni, Shane Briant) is sentenced to a spell in the asylum, and the Baron secretly reveals his true identity to him, convincing him to assist him in his scientific undertakings. The two work together to re-animate the remains of a hulking inmate (none other than David Prowse) and initially the subject seems to be successfully brought to full living state in a non-chaotic manner. However, the Baron, unbeknownst to Helder, begins to make attempts to add new parts to their creature from the bodies of further recently-deceased inmates – and their deaths seem to be occurring with more and more alarming frequency…

In ‘Hell’, possibly the most sensationalist of the Franken-films from Hammer, we get the full schlock treatment – we are after all in the pitiful and highly unsavoury surroundings of an eighteenth century insane asylum (a hell in itself of sorts, and an undesirable home for a character whom by now has become utterly undesirable in Hammer’s imagining, although Shelley herself probably would not have intended that). Fisher and Hinds came up with gore aplenty in this one, including a particularly vicious (though not entirely brutish) Creature, rather squirm-inducing torture and implied deaths, fiendish asylum staff and a rather brutal finale (even after re-writes and cuts were enforced).

franken6In terms of the Baron, we are led to believe at first that perhaps his self-imposed incarceration has softened him a little in his later years as he seems genuinely, if curtly, concerned for the inmates’ health, not to mention the protection of the female ones from the lechery of the asylum director – however we soon discover his predilection for putting his work waaaay before ethics of any kind is still completely present and correct. Cushing delivers a witty, brilliant as ever performance in his last outing as the Baron and Hammer delivers a late-to-the-table treat for horror fans, more garish than most of the other incarnations of the tale but certainly just as satisfying.

So there you are – three of Hammer’s takes on the Frankenstein legend in a nutshell, all differing in theme, in style, in doctors, but all undoubtedly taking the legend in new directions for better or worse. The legend will, as they all do, live on and keep re-animating itself, but as far as I can see in comparison to recent films based on the legend – ‘Victor Frankenstein’, ‘I, Frankenstein’ etc. – Hammer has done the best job so far in fleshing out the story in a variety of gripping if not always audience-jolting ways (okay, I’m a little biased). Kenneth Branagh’s ‘Frankenstein’ aside, it may be that the story should be left well alone for a good few years and allowed to rest, safe in the knowledge that these tales were spun from it and should still be enjoyed nostalgically and joyously from time to time. To end with Terence Fisher’s own words, speaking about ‘Hell’, “You’ve had so many monsters that by (this point) at last you say where this monster has come from. He comes from Hell, from Evil, from Frankenstein’s mistaken belief that he is the creator of man, which of course he isn’t, and will never succeed in being.”