Black Christmas (1974) A UKHS Xmas Horror Review

BC1Black Christmas- 1974

Dir. Bob Clark

Starring: Olivia Hussey, Margot Kidder, Keir Dullea, Andrea Martin, Marian Waldman and John Saxon

The girls of a sorority house have been receiving highly disturbing phone calls from a sick-minded prank caller during the Christmas season. Unbeknownst to them, they have an uninvited guest hiding in their attic, who slowly and meticulously starts to murder each girl in increasingly brutal and terrifying fashion.

Ah dear reader, so you’ve chosen to draw yourself away from the comforting glow of your Christmas decorations and the empty expectant space beneath your tree to join us here for the recounting of the macabre tale of Bob Clarke’s ‘Black Christmas’ this cold Christmas Eve? Very well, let us begin…

I can still remember the exact feeling I had after watching this film for the first time, mainly because it is still the very same feeling I get as I watch it every year as a Christmas tradition! This is a film that, aptly to coincide with the season, chills you to your very core, leaving you frozen rigid in fear as the terrible endless and empty ring of the sorority house’s telephone haunts the end credits.

BC2 The first American slasher film (sorry ‘Halloween’) is special for 2 reasons, firstly, it was filmed in Canada and secondly, it is darkly amusing that director Bob Clark is most fondly remembered in the American psyche for a VERY different Christmas film, namely ‘A Christmas Story’. Now whilst the quirky whimsy of ‘ACS’ is all good and obviously infinitely more popular in the public eye, ‘Black Christmas’ is the director’s greatest Christmas film, as important a traditional viewing in my household as ‘The Nightmare Before Christmas’, ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’ and ‘Fireman Sam’s Christmas Special’. Now there’s some good, varied company.

It seems odd to gush and feel full of the seasonal spirit over a film that is incredibly bleak and downright scary, but that is ultimately ‘Black Christmas’s greatest achievement. In a way, it is modernising the Victorian tradition of telling ghost stories at Christmas, it perfectly off-sets the optimistic and cheery mood associated with the season with whilst still, somehow, intrinsically linking the two polar opposite moods together. If ‘Black Christmas’ was nothing more than a slasher film where a bunch of sorority girls get brutally murdered, no-one would really remember it or care, also it would be called ‘Sorority Row’ ba boom tish.

BC3 What really sets the film apart is that it somehow manages to balance the responsibility of having an awful lot of characters and yet somehow gives them a perfect amount of screen time each and develop their characters. Obvious ‘final girl’ Jess (Hussey) is the shy, reserved and good natured one who provides the perfect mid-point between the bright and cheery Phyl and the drunken, brash hellraiser Barb (Kidder). It may seem an obvious final trio to some as these three get the most screen time, however the real joy here is that they’re all incredibly likeable and realistic characters, doing away with hedonistic stereotypes of bitchy and sex-obsessed sorority girls as represented in just about every other film ever made, including one certain remake. We do NOT want these characters to die and therefore it’s much more of a tragic shock, when the film cold heartedly dispatches them without mercy.

Whilst they are pushed into the background, the importance of the brilliance of some of the male performances must not be ignored. John Saxon plays the gruff but loveable police chief (thank God he was never type-cast in that role, eh?) who so expertly conveys great concern and determination without ever going overboard. More interesting and intensely creepier is the role of Peter as played by Keir Dullea. The senior boyfriend of Jess, Dullea is weird and skin crawling without ever being too OTT from the minute he first turns up on screen. I know exactly what you’re thinking, right, duh? He’s so obviously the killer! He’s weird and she leaves him so, yeah! Obvious! Well, no. This film is far cleverer than that and like a very twisted magician, this is the film’s chilling piece de resistance of misdirection and sleight of hand. Don’t ask me how, but somehow Clarke is subverting the genre’s boundaries at the same time as creating them in truly magnificent fashion!

BC4Don’t go thinking that the film is nothing but oppressive atmosphere and morbid murders, it does have a surprisingly strong funny bone that at least goes some way to keeping the festive cheer. This is primarily embodied in the sorority’s sozzeled house mother, Mrs. Mac (Waldman). Merrily cursing her way through her life and hiding a hearty supply of booze in some truly novel locations, it’s rare that her time onscreen isn’t leading up to some hilariously sharp piece of dialogue or boozy antics.

This is superbly counter-balanced by the incredibly straight-laced and proper performance of James Edmond as Mr. Harrison, a father of one of the girls. His sour lemon face when enduring the vulgar chatting of Mrs Mac or Barb is painfully funny and eventhough he comes across as a miserable character in relation to the plucky youngsters, it must be remembered that tragically the audience all know that his daughter is already dead and in the attic above him.

BC5It may sound odd to say, but the reason why the killings in ‘Black Christmas’ remain so harrowing after many a re-watch is because they feel incredibly real. I appreciate that sounds daft and keep repeating ‘It’s Only A Movie’ however the objects used and the manner in which the deaths are filmed, often totally without the irritating accompaniment of screeching instruments, leaving nothing but the groans and crunch noises of the victims. This is infinitely more terrifying and like all truly great horror films, it invades that dark space in your mind and opens the terrifying door that suspends your disbelief. The fact that Claire Harrison’s ( Lynne Griffin) corpse with a plastic bag over her head in a rocking chair simply does not move for the whole film is absolutely skin-crawlingly uncomfortable. It’s the film’s most iconic image, but still one that induces dramatic shivers just by looking at it.

When the killing takes place, we always see it through the murderer’s perspective. It might sound simple, but this remains a brilliantly unnerving trick that has been assimilated by many other horror films, such as ‘Halloween’ and more recently the ‘Maniac’ remake. This remains devastatingly unsettling as it is making the audience feel that they have become part of the mindset of the killer, associating with them and carrying out these horrible acts themselves. The ‘voyeuristic’ element makes you feel unclean and even guilty and Clark has absolutely mastered its power here.

BC6It always saddens me that the antagonist, ‘Billy’ (it’s still debateable who on earth it ‘really’ is) does not get the credit they deserve for being one of horror’s all time scariest boogiemen. We NEVER see what he/she/it looks like but for two shots of a terrifyingly crazed eyeball, leaving their appearance to our own terrifying imagination. On top of this, those blood-curdling telephone calls and grunts always stay with you long after seeing the film, making you distinctly untrustworthy the next time yours should happen to go off (as a fun bit of trivia, it was in fact a combined effort of director Clark and an assistant making those awful noises together). They are both human and inhuman, there seems to be several voices and it is through these phone calls that arguably the most intriguing element of ‘Black Christmas’ comes through.

There is some sort of back story here, possibly involving a baby called ‘Agnes’ and we presume ‘Billy’ has done something to her. What? Who knows? Crucially, we don’t ever want to know, thank you very much 2006 remake! It can be a risky game to play when withholding information from an audience. It can either backfire, leaving people scratching their heads in annoyed confusion, or as it is here, leaving them shivering and alone in the dark, totally unaware of what’s coming up behind them. Why is ‘Billy’ doing this? We’ve no idea, it’s just cold, remorseless murder. I don’t know about you, but that always puts the frighteners on me!

BC7The scariest part of the entire film is THAT ending. There is no stinger or final “BOO!” just pure concentrated fear as we see that “Billy” is still muttering away in the attic,  Claire’s corpse still sits by the window and the death-knells of the phone ringing is the only sound to accompany the end credits. Upon a first viewing, my family and I just sat there, as still as the grave, 100% blown away. Seldom ever do horror films end properly and but my word this one stands amongst the greatest ending of all time!

Snuggle up with your loved ones, turn off all the lights but for the twinkly ones that adorn your Christmas tree and enjoy one of the very scariest films ever made…just remember to lock your attic door…

Merry UKHS Xmas!

Verdict: The very coldest in winter chillers. The perfect festive horror film that will never be bettered. 10 out of 10 Glasses of Finest Bloody Mulled Wine. 

ELVES (USA, 1989) A UKHS Xmas Horror Review

ElvesVHSCoverELVES (USA, 1989)

Director- Jeremy Mandell

Starring- Dan Haggarty, Julie Austin, Dianne Lund

“There not working for Santa…..anymore!”

So goes the tagline for this poorly produced and possibly bat shit crazy seasonal horror flick. ELVES very idea and plot is the attraction in this hard to find masterpiece, and boy is it terrible but all the better for it. Remember when you watch a bad film that ends up being so barmy and brilliant that it transcends that fine line of being completely painful and embarrassing to watch, to instead be an almost grandiose quality of badness that you end up loving it for all the wrong reasons, there are many of those sort of films and ELVES is one of them. The film is terrible no doubt about it, with piss poor acting, scenes that don’t need to be there, awful production values and awful effects, yet these terrible quality’s lie in the attraction of the film and so does the plot, and that’s where the audacity and madness of ELVES succeeds.

The plot concerns a young girl, Kirsten (Julie Austin), who along with her two friends, go out into that part of the woods that they’ve been told not to go to, by their parents. Kirsten accidentally cuts herself and it’s this pure virgin blood that spills onto unhallowed ground that resurrects an evil elf. When Kirsten’s Grandpa finds out about her trip to the woods he’s none too pleased and realises that she may have resurrected the evil elf. This is good for Gramps fellow Nazi’s though, who want the elf to procreate with Kirsten, as she is pure and with the impregnation will bring about the rise of a new breed of supermen and the fourth Reich (I told you this was bat shit crazy). In the meantime the elf relentlessly pursues Kirsten and murders anyone who gets in its way including a sleazy coke headed department store Santa, who he castrates after he tries to proposition Kirsten with the classy chat up line “Santa said Oral.” This sudden murder allows our central hero character of the piece Mike McGavin (Dan Haggerty) to take his place, as he is an ex-cop, ex-store detective, ex-alcoholic, and now recently evicted and desperate for a job. But it’s with the previous Santa’s murder and a shoot out and confrontation with the Nazi’s and the elf, in the department store that leaves Kirsten’s friends dead, that brings out McGavin’s detective instinct to investigate what’s going on and help Kirsten from the advances of the Nazi’s and the horny killer Elf.

Elves1Everything about ELVES plot just screams campness and the fact that this is taken with such seriousness, and no hint of self referential or ironic nods to the audience makes it all the more audacious in that respect. Don’t go into this expecting balls to the wall terror or a half decent attempt at horror, or even half decent attempt at a film, as you will be disappointed. Instead expect awful acting, I mean truly awful the type that veers from almost deadpan delivery of lines such as “What’s going on? Are we gonna be alright?” “No Willy, Gramps is a Nazi!” to the scenery chewing style of acting from some of the cast. The Nazi’s themselves also have the slightly awful English/German accent, that seem to have come out of an English world war two film (“Ze bleeding has stopped”). The dialogue also has the balls to take lines from horror classics and change it to their own, for instance Ken Foree’s immortal line from DAWN OF THE DEAD (“When there is no more room in hell. The dead shall walk the earth”) is changed to “When there is no more room hell. The elves shall walk the earth.”

As for Haggerty himself, the ex-Grizzly Adams star, obviously seems to be tired being there, and chains smokes his way through the entire film. Seriously this guy is trying to give himself lung cancer, he smokes during shootouts and even when brushing his teeth. He has one particularly brilliant scene though, where he gatecrashes an academics Xmas eve dinner with his family, much to his annoyance, but this academic happens to know much about Elf mythology and Nazi’s (always helpful in any place where elves have been resurrected and Nazi’s are around) and goes onto explain, while his daughters look on, that the Nazi’s used Elves as assassination squads in World War 2, and their also the carry’s of the master race sperm!?

elves2 Haggerty, who had fame from Grizzly Adams, but was done for narcotics not long before this, is obviously there for the money, what little of it is he got paid for it we don’t know, but he at least provides and entertaining and nicotine addicted hero. As for the evil elf itself, the budget must have been spent on it, but that’s not to say it’s a brilliant piece of effects work, no in fact it’s quite comical in it’s one frozen expression on its face, and the fact that we only see it usually from the waist up for the majority of the film, and it also has the ability to hold objects in scenes such as a knife and a handgun. Yes towards the end, the elf packs a pistol which is a truly brilliant sight to behold.

When you watch a film like ELVES, you wonder how this gets made, but then that’s the case with any bad film, how does it gets made? Who funds it? Hey, who thought that this was a great idea on paper to warrant funding? But then you realise, if this wasn’t made we wouldn’t have a piece of cinematic awfulness that leaves you gobsmacked, thanks to its lunatic plot, awful acting, awful effects and general bad production value. This is the sort of film you should gather your friends around to watch before Christmas. Get a few cans of beer or mulled wine, whatever your seasonal tipple is, gather round and bask in the awful glory of ELVES.

 

elves3If you would like to watch ELVES please click on the link below……

http://cultmoviesblog.blogspot.co.uk/2013/03/elves-1989.html

 

Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker (1991) A UKHS Xmas Horror Review

SNDN 5Silent Night, Deadly Night 5: The Toy Maker (1991)
aka The Toymaker
Directed by Martin Kitrosser
Starring Mickey Rooney, Jane Higginson, Brian Bremer and William Thorne

“Evil never dies” I was once told. It’s something that probably explains diminutive actor Mickey Rooney’s longevity in the film business, having seemingly began his showbiz career round abouts the same time as when Jack the Ripper was still at large. All flippancy about the quirky stars age aside, it’s baffling how in the hell he ended up in this, the fifth and final entry in the fruity Crimbo horror series. Especially so since he wrote a damning letter of protest against the original back in 1984, angrily declaring that the filmmakers “should be ran out of town”. Money really is a powerful thing…

Anyway, here Rooney toplines as Joe Petto, the owner of a small toy shop whose unique toys and strange son, Pino (Bremer), just might be at the centre of some gruesome festive killings.

SNDN5 1Moving further still from the original slasher angle already dumped in part four, The Toy Maker continues the series’ attempted anthology- stylye reinvention. It’s another stand alone entry, though one that’s chock full of truly bizarre nods to the last installment thanks to a two character crossover sub-plot and a weird meta moment where said film is actually being watched on TV by someone (!). Hell, even Clint Howard pops up again as a grubby little fellow named Ricky so God knows what it all means…

Interestingly, like four the comparisons to Halloween III are impossible to ignore: whilst Initiation flirted with a similar witchcraft slant, this cheeky little number seems to operate on a smaller variant of Silver Shamrock’s “kill people with the stuff we’ve made” business ethos.

So is it any good? In a charming and energetic straight to video way, yes, even if the nutty “surprise” ending is telegraphed a mile off (did I mention Rooney’s character was called Joe Petto and had a son called Pino? Joe Petto. Pino. Get it? Good). It’s a lively and thoroughly enjoyable camp schlocker, very much what you’d expect from a Martin Kitrosser/Brian Yuzna (who co-scripts and produces) collaboration. These are the guys behind one of the most daring Friday the 13th’s, the not quite Jason A New Beggining, and Re-Animator, don’t ya know…

SNDN 5 2Weirdly, this was the first Silent Night, Deadly Night flick to make it to UK shores, waaaay back in ’93. It’s a beautiful, long out of print big box from High Fliers under the franchise free title of The Toymaker. British video enthusiasts seek it out. Everyone else, get a hold of the Lion’s Gate Region One triple where it’s bunged with Silent Night, Deadly Night 3 and 4. Import, import, import!

Seven dead elves out of ten

Dutch Horror Spotlight #6: APP (2013) by James Simpson

app1Dutch Horror Spotlight #6: APP (2013)

 

Director – Bobby Boermans

Starring – Hannah Hoekstra, Isis Cabolet, Robert de Hoog

While other entries in the Dutch Horror Spotlight series have had English dub or at least English subtitles this entry is ‘cheating’ a bit. APP will not be released with English subs until sometime in 2014, but James Simpson was so eager to review this film, and for others to hear of it, he got hold of a copy and put his newly learned Dutch to good use…

Plot:

Anna (Hoekstra) is a student that seems to be a little attached to her smartphone. She uses it during lectures, at parties and has many app’s to help her life. Then one morning, after a pretty rowdy party, she wakes up to discover a new app installed on her phone, one that she didn’t download. It is called IRSIS and Anna feels the benefits of this ‘virtual personal assistant’ straight away. But videos of a very personal nature start to be leaked and Anna is concerned. Her friends begin to suffer from this unknown mole until Anna realises that it may be IRSIS somehow planting viruses on other peoples phones and electronic devices. Anna tries to delete IRSIS but the app has other ideas and people begin to die in some startling ways. Is the app responsible and how is it doing this?

This is the first full length film from director Boermans since the powerful Claustrofobia (2011). APP has many good things going for it but there is one device used in the film that will make it stand out from many other horrors.

app2Technology is used as a way to enhance the plot. The viewer can download an actual app from iTunes or Google Play that they can turn on at the same time as the movie starts. This will allow the viewer to be notified by the app at key points in the movie as certain storyline developments happen. It is a unique and original way for someone to experience a film. It is easy to imagine many other films will use this idea in the near future.

The very thought of a ‘killer smartphone app’ might seem frivolous but Boermans does it with style and conviction. As more and more people become reliant on there smart devices and the use of app’s made available by them they are putting themselves at risk of harm. Admittedly in the real world this will amount to no more than people being worried their stolen phone will contain private bank details but in the world of APP the idea is taken to its extreme. Anna and her friend Sophie (Cabolet) are too attached to their phones. There is one scene where they go and have their devices wiped so they can get rid of IRSIS. Sophie seems genuinely upset at the thought of doing this.

Hoekstra and Cabolet are impressive actresses. They both have a strong screen presence, especially Hoekstra during her scenes towards the end of APP. Much like previous Boermans film Claustrofobia, the character of Anna develops a new found personal strength to try and fight her tormentor and seek out answers. But the two actresses are both very good in their roles and have charisma.

kinopoisk.ruBoermans seems to becoming a modern day Dick Maas. In the 1980’s Maas became known worldwide for his Nederhorror movies. APP, along with Claustrofobia, will hopefully give him an international reputation for the horror genre. He knows how to add plot elements that make his films very relevant and ‘of its time’, making it easier for the viewer to connect with them.

To illustrate this feeling of ‘now’ there is one scene at the college when a recently shamed male teacher pulls a gun in the common room. As the students hide in fear many stick their arms out into the line of fire so they can ‘capture’ it on their smartphone’s video cameras. Even when at risk of being shot, why do some people feel compelled to do these things?

APP is a brilliant attempt at putting a new spin on the horror genre. Available in many countries across the globe it will be one to watch when a English subtitled release finally arrives.

8 out of 10.

English subtitled trailer: http://www.bobbyboermans.com/www.bobbyboermans.com/FILM_APP.html

Website: http://www.appdefilm.nl/

The writer, James Simpson, would like to thank Samantha, Wesley and everyone at FAME Plaza in Amsterdam, The Netherlands for all their help in getting to him a Blu-ray of APP. When visiting Amsterdam check them out as they have many CD’s, DVD’s and Blu-rays on sale, all at good prices. Thank you FAME Plaza.

http://www.fame.nl/

Treevenge (2008) A UKHS Xmas Horror Review

treevenge1Treevenge (2008)

Director – Jason Eisener – 16 Minutes

Starring – Jonathan Torrens, Sarah Dunsworth, Maris Morgan, Jayden Taylor, Jason Collins.

 

I thought that rather than review a feature for one of my Horror Advent additions , I would focus on a short that I simply love.

 

Treevenge starts with a group of lumberjacks chopping down Christmas trees in a forest, they are taking extreme glee from their task and unknown to them the trees are communicating with each other. The scene is portrayed almost as a mass slaughter and the poor trees are helpless to do anything.

 

The trees are then loaded into the back of a large van and while in the van they all stand around and start to formulate a plan to gain revenge. Yes I know these are Christmas trees I am talking about but their communication is subtitled so you can understand what they are saying 🙂 .

 

treevenge3The trees arrive at their destination which is a tree sales lot where families turn up to purchase the spiky evergreen conifers. The story now follows one of the trees as it is bought by the MacMichael family (with Jonathan Torrens and Sarah Dunsworth as the parents – you may know them as J-Roc and Sarah from Trailer Park Boys) and taken back to their home, here they place the tree in the living room and proceed to decorate it with lovely baubles and tinsel. Next it is Xmas morning and the kids sit around the tree eagerly ripping open their presents and …… well you will just have to watch Treevenge to find out.

 

Treevenge is from the team that made Hobo with a Shotgun three year later, namely Jason Eisener is the writer/director and Rob Cotterill is also the writer. And from the superb over-acting from the lumberjacks and treefellers (or were there 4? – sorry for the shit Irish joke there!) to the huge amounts of blood this is just something to be loved.

 

There is really dark humour throughout with some inventive and really gross-out kills, I especially liked the horny young couple’s death scene which was brilliant. The last three minutes is a full on in-your-face splatterfest and not for the faint-hearted with one death scene that made almost everyone I have watched this with gasp , you will know when it comes!!

 

treevenge2I have seen Treevenge numerous times and just totally and utterly love it. If you liked Hobo With A Shotgun then you will love this, it is funny, bloody and completely OTT and it has talking, killing Christmas trees in it – cmon !!

 

Easily THE best Christmas short I have seen 9/10

 

Watch it below and be prepared to never look at a Christmas tree the same way again !!

 

[youtube=www.youtube.com/watch?v=kicdSI_-XpE]

 

 

Crooked House (2008) A UKHS Xmas Horror Review

C1Crooked House (2008)

Dir: Damon Thomas

Starring: Lee Ingleby, Mark Gatiss, Phillip Jackson, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Jean Marsh, Ian Hallard, Jennifer Higham, Daniela Denby-Ashe and Derren Brown

Upon discovering a mysterious old door knocker, the Curator (Gatiss), recounts the disturbing history of the knocker’s home, Geap Manor to its discoverer Ben (Ingleby). Learning that his new home is built on the old sire of the manor, Ben soon begins to realise that the evil spirit from the manor may still not be laid to rest…

Broadcast on the run up to Christmas in 2008, with the chilling conclusion broadcast late on Christmas Eve, ‘Crooked House’ was a tragically under-seen gem that attempted to resurrect the Victorian ghost story tradition and succeeded in scaring the absolute bejeezus out of all those who witnessed it.

Irritatingly under-valued horror maestro and aficionado Mark Gatiss is quite possibly the greatest modern supporter of the ‘less is more’ approach to horror.  Using his own superbly twisted spin on Jackanory, he delivers three bone-chilling tales that sprawls throughout the centuries whilst built upon the ever reliable foundation of  a house that is simply ‘evil’ with no need to drag out a long explanation as to ‘why’ or ‘how’. The original owner, Sir Roger Widdowson (Brown) of the Tudor era was determined to have a son and so consorted in the dark arts with a fierce necromancer named Unthank in the hopes of somehow gaining an heir.

C2A simple yet sturdy basis on which to launch some truly terrifying tales.

To give away the full extent of the plots to each other three terror-filled tales would be to ruin the surprise and believe me, this mini-series is jam packed full of intriguing and blindsiding twists and turns!

The first tale is set during the 18th century and is simply titled ‘The Wainscoting’. A wealthy trader named Joseph Bloxham (Jackson) has moved into the dilapidated Geap Manor and is having renovations put in. Bloxham has a reputation as a cut-throat businessman, whose actions have caused the devastation of many an investor’s family. With the slow work of the builders, only one room is ready and fitted with the titular wainscoting and herein lies the short’s horrifying driving force.

C3All the ‘action’ is restricted to the one room and centres around a largely ‘unseen’ malevolent force, a simple trick that plays on the infinite possibility of the imagination and one that has a truly brilliant pay-off when the cause is finally revealed. This short has by far the mini-series’ greatest moment, when a ‘friend’ of Bloxham (Rhind-Tutt) described his experience when left outside the manor as a young boy. We do not see this in flashback, nor does Rhind-Tutt describe any horrific event, just the coldness in atmosphere and the house’s relentless ‘gaze’ into one’s soul. A brilliant skin-crawling moment of fear, all conveyed in dialogue.

The second tale, with the brilliantly obtuse title of ‘Something Old’, jumps forward in time considerably to the 1920s where a Gatsbian party of grand proportions is in full swing at the manor. The young heir to the estate Felix (Hallard) has chosen the occasion to announce to his grandmother and all his friends his engagement to his girlfriend, Ruth (Higham). This ‘happy’ news deeply troubles his grandmother, Lady Constance (Marsh), a woman haunted by the death of her sister, who killed herself on the day of her wedding. Since that tragic day, unnatural forces had determined that would be, “Never Another Bride”.

C4Again, to reveal the origin of that ominous statement would ruin the greater picture of the haunting puzzle that’s menacingly put together as this story snakes towards its terrifying conclusion. It’s the slow burn malevolence of something indefinably wicked this way comes that keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout this one. Primarily it’s the great foundation of an engaging story that pricks up your interest, alongside a superbly recreated 1920s atmosphere.

Above all, the fact that the main character of Ruth is really the only likeable character in amongst a sea of acting-too-adult tweenager snobs, helps you gain a huge amount of sympathy for her in an incredibly sort amount of time. Too often are we presented by profoundly unlikeable and irritating characters we hope are all set for the chop but Gatiss finds a perfect foil for all the snobbery in the down to earth and naive Ruth.

The final tale simply titled ‘The Knocker’ brings us right back to the present day and sadly is the hardest to talk about without giving anything away! Suffice to say that this is almost definitely the scariest segment and yet with the most stripped back and raw scares. Some of these scares are rehashes of things long come before, such as 3 in the morning being a particularly bad time for young Ben. However, somehow the strikingly realistic approach driven hard by director Damon Thomas and Gatiss makes you forget all that and has you scrambling for the safety of that age old crawlspace, behind the sofa.

C5Come the jaw-dropping climax, your head has been figuratively abused by the onslaught of a mix of sheer inventive terror and a wonderfully complex structured narrative that somehow manages to tie in several different centuries and plot strands together in one gloriously terrifying Christmas present, you know, like the one that hides at the back of the pile…waiting…

If I had but one complaint about this small piece of genius, it would only be that there weren’t enough creepy tales of the manor! Gatiss’ Curator mentions several other interesting stories that all sound fantastic and it’s just a shame that we didn’t get to see more of them!

Ah well, like the festive food we gorge ourselves on, sometimes too much of a good thing can eventually be off putting, or resulting in a mad dash to the bathroom. Much like Gatiss’ other somewhat popular series, ‘Sherlock’ (heard of it? Nah, me neither), restricting the series to 3 perfect episode completely satisfies our need to be frightened with great aplomb and yet leaves us hungry for more!

With an adaptation and documentary of an M.R James story set to screen this Christmas, now is the perfect time to catch up on the ghoulish power of the Gatiss!

Verdict: 9 Creepy Doorknockers out of 10

 

Scream Queens’ Naked Christmas (1996) A UKHS Xmas Review

SQNC1Scream Queens’ Naked Christmas (1996)

Director – John A. Russo      –      59 minutes

Starring – Grant Cramer, Debbie Rochon, Amanda Madison, Lisa Delien, Sue Ellen White.

 

Well it is Christmas and as editor of UK Horror Scene I have asked all the writers to send in Xmas themed films so we can post at least one upload every day. I have just sat back in my Dr Evil style chair and admired the varied and excellent pieces that have rolled in daily, but then I realised that I myself had not added anything!

So firstly I watched and reviewed Two Front Teeth and then today I go to retrieve the document only to find that my youngest son has instead saved his ICT homework into the file and completely written over the review with a timetable of train schedules from Manchester to London – so that review is not happening today and as I watched the film a fortnight ago I would need to rewatch it to re-review it , anyway you get my point. And my point is I would have had a review up if it wasn’t for that meddling kid!!!

 

So I decided to also look at some of the more obscure horror related releases, and when I was going through I found something called Scream Queens’ Naked Christmas.? In 1996 there was a low-budget shocker called Santa Claws (see DW’s review HERE) directed by John A. Russo, and in Santa Claws the story centres around the making of Scream Queens’ Naked Christmas and as if by magic John A. Russo actually made that feature . It was released with Santa Claws as an added extra and it was also released independently .

 

SQNC2So what we have with Scream Queens’ Naked Christmas is four young ladies doing some individual sexy stripteases and interspersed between each dance is stock footage from Santa Claws and also Grant Cramer (Wayne from Santa Claws) giving a little monologue .

 

There is absolutely nothing good about SQNC other than its oddity value (or should that be odititty value?). It is poor quality , the strip sequences are wince inducing and it is almost unwatchable. Remember this is naked ladies people , and I am saying naked ladies are not worth watching!!

 

The music these poor women dance to is dreadful, it is slow and monotonous and has no rhythm. So how this transfers is just awful, you have Lisa Delien grooving away to a tune that has around 4 BPM – it is hilarious. The only bright spot in the entire hour-long débâcle is the wonderful Ms Debbie Rochon , an actress that has on many occasions raised the bow of a sinking B-movie on her own . But even the lovely Ms Rochon cannot save this sinking ship and of all the Scream Queens in this she has the least time on-screen .

 

SQNC3Scream Queens’ Naked Christmas was a quirky little find that in the end has no interesting qualities, no redeeming features (Debbie Rochon aside) and no reason to ever watch this. If you are interested in finding this for comedic value or you are a total completionist then it still can be purchased on VHS from Amazon US for a couple of dollars, but even that is over-priced.

 

Less a Christmas cracker and more a half-eaten week old turkey 2/10

 

 

 

Children of The Corn 2: The Final Sacrifice. (1993 USA) DVD Review

CotCChildren of The Corn 2: The Final Sacrifice. (1993 USA)

Director: David Price
Starring: Terrance Knox, Paul, Scherrer,
Ryan Bollman, Christie Clark, Ned Romero.

Back in Gatlin Sheriff Blaine (Wallace Merck – Friday 13th 6, Brainstorm) discovers the adults murdered by Isaac Chroner, Malachai and the towns children some three years earlier in the basements of homes and out in the corn fields where ‘He Who Walks Behind The Rows’ dwells. The townsfolk of neighboring Hemmingford agree to take in the surviving children unaware that ‘He Who Walks Behind the Rows’ will be rejuvenated and once again command the children to rid the land of adults and those who defile the corn. Mrs. Burke (Marty Terry – Black Rainbow, Cry Wolf) tries to warn the Hemmingford folk that evil is still working through the children, however, she is ignored and the time has come for The Final Sacrifice…

Driving the back roads of Gatlin, Nebraska, assaying reporter John ‘The Ragman’ Garrett (Terence Knox – An Ordinary Killer, Forever) along with his son Danny (Paul Scherrer – Standoff, JAG), go to Gatlin for the story. Their relationship is somewhat tarred and they use a battle of wills which, in turn, provides us with some light hearted banter from the moment we meet them. After nearly having an accident with two other reporters, Wayde McKenzie (Robert C. Treveiler – Carrie 2, Hellraiser 3) and Bobby Knite (Leon Pridgen – Nightmare in Columbia County, Assault at West Point) John tries to find out some information about the Gatlin murders but to no avail. John and Danny continue to Gatlin.

Meanwhile, Wayde and Bobby take a short cut through the corn fields to get some footage for their story when they become lost in the maze of corn. Shortly after, the wind gets up, the sky blackens, something’s not right… Getting out of the van, Wayde proclaims to Bobby, “How the Hell did we get out here..?”.

cotc2Panic soon takes over, Bobby is drawn into the corn fields where he gets his throat slashed by the leaves of the corn. Wayde gets back in the van, a spear of corn drives itself straight through the windshield and is thrust straight into Wayde’s neck. As sudden as the sky blackened….all becomes tranquil again, just like nothing happened.

Interim, we cut to John and Danny, arriving late for the story, they meet Ruth Gordon (Kristy Wagner), the lady who agrees to take in one of the children, Micah (Ryan Bollman – Neverending Story, No Vacancy). Reading Ruth’s T-Shirt promotion, ‘Come Sleep with Me – Bed & Breakfast’ John asks if he and Danny could stay, to which she agrees. After an argument during dinner, Danny goes to wait for the next bus out of town. Whilst waiting, Danny meets Lacey Hellerstat (Christie Clark – Nightmare on Elm Street 2, Days of Our Lives) who informs him the next bus isn’t until next Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Micah is out in the cornfield trying to find the other children. ‘He Who Walks Behind the Rows’ chases Micah and ‘possesses’ him. Mordechai (Ted Travelstead – Rock n’ Roll Frankenstein) and Jedediah (Sean Bridgers – Sweet Home Alabama, Nell) are in the corn waiting for “He Who Walks Behind the Rows to show us the way”. Jedediah is somewhat skeptical. Mordachai recites Isaacs word “A leader shall come from the corn and make us as one”…It’s time…Micah arrives through the corn. He instructs the children to return home and wait for a sign.

John goes to Mrs. Burke’s home to find answers. She tells John “Have you ever seen evil..? It works through the children”, she continues, “Nobody would listen, I showed ’em in Gatlin”. “Showed them what?” John replies. “The drawing’s….by the little children, they knew”. Looking distressed, she remarks “My husband walked out in to a cornfield fifteen years ago….he never came back!” They soon discover a crudely daubed cross on the front of her home. Micah takes the cross as the sign – “It is like the light from the corn”, He tells the children, “Not from the hand of man but the mark from ‘He Who Walks Behind the Rows’.”

cotc2nDuring a sermon with Rev. Hollings (John Bennes – I Know What You Did Last Summer, King’s The Night Flier) a brilliantly constructed scene starts to unfold with Micah and David Simpson (Joe Inscoe – Night of the Hunter, The Stepford Husbands) involving a wooden voodoo doll and a knife…. Priceless footage and incredibly bloody (for this type of film).

Searching for more information, John goes to the old abandoned elementary school in Gatlin. The corridors are full of corn and children’s voices can be heard echoing around the school. This is where he bumps in to Frank Redbear (Ned Romero – Expiration Date, Fabulous Shiksa in Distress). Frank, works for the State University’s Department of Anthropology, he’s returning John’s wallet that he left in his unlocked car.

Meanwhile, Mrs. Burke has been slowly crushed to death under her home. Her sister, Mrs. West, also played by Marty Terry, knows the truth about the children. Sheriff Blaine dismisses her, claiming it was ‘an accident’. Upon leaving, she warns, “You blind fools!….You fools!….You let the wolf in your door!”. Mrs. Burke’s body is taken to Dr. Appleby (Ed Grady – Wolfman). The ultimate adult nightmare begins…

I must say, I’m glad to see Children of the Corn 2 puts on more ‘on screen’ violence than the original. It works well enough to make up for ‘the lack of..’ in Children of the Corn (1984). I’m usually a little skeptical about sequels but Children of the Corn 2 has a set of decent characters who carry the meaning of the original film through this entire film in a believable manner. Marty Terry, as Mrs Burke and Mrs West has a great presence in the film. Her ‘terror’ toward the children is actually quite un-nerving to say the least. Great stuff Marty! The only tiny draw back, for me, is the CGI clouds. I much prefer a time lapse camera to do this kind of work. It doesn’t spoil the film but it would have been nice to see time lapse instead. Budgets and time restraints, i guess, forced CG.

This first sequel also failed to impress at the US box office opening weekend  managing under $3 million, but again, proving popular on home video. King fans must have thought there’s no place for this sequel after the initial ‘flop’ of the original, but time has proved that the ‘Corn’ series has become some of King’s most popular work.

cotc3I’ve read many reviews about Children of the Corn, and its sequels. Many seem to look for the negative side of filming. Continuity errors, poor production values, bad acting, cheap FX. That sort of thing. This is upsetting. As we all know, it’s very hard to even raise funds for a film, let alone actually releasing one. People should remember that and not bitch about certain aspects purely because its not a massive blockbuster hit. There are 1000’s of indie/b-Movies out there, and most were made on a shoe-string budget. Many also have cult status now and have found a place in many horror fans hearts. As a reminder, the ‘Corn’ series is born from a thirty page short story/novella by King.

Overall, Anchor Bay’s special edition box set inc. COTCII: The Final Sacrifice deserves a cool 6.7 out of 10.

A slightly lower score than the original but still works very well as sequels go.

Santa’s Slay (2005) A UKHS Xmas Horror Review

santa'sslaySanta’s Slay (2005)

By: Joey Keogh
Dir: David Steiman
78 mins
Media 8 Entertainment

There is absolutely nothing more festive than the sight of WCW legend Bill Goldberg, dressed in a ratty, vintage Santa costume, laying waste to everyone in sight in the goriest, most Christmas-themed manner possible.

Though the premise is of little importance, considering how balls-to-the-wall nuts the film is, ‘Santa’s Slay’ is set in the sleepy, snowy, Canadian town of Hell, where Santa has apparently not attacked for one thousand years.

In a wonderfully hammy prologue, that sets the tone for the events to follow, we are introduced to Goldberg’s bloodthirsty Santa as he slaughters the members of a bickering family, just as they are settling down to Christmas dinner.

This wondrous sight is somehow bettered over the course of the breathtakingly short flick (less than 80 minutes total, with not one wasted), which makes the intricate death scenes in ‘Black Christmas’ look Disney quality in comparison, as Santa uses even the most basic instruments to murder everyone in his path, from candy canes to his own, battered sled.

‘Santa’s Slay’ doesn’t take itself seriously for a second. It knows it’s a B-movie and this fact is relished throughout. Goldberg seems to be having the time of his life, while also managing to toe the line between making fun of what’s asked of him, and having fun with it.

santa'sslay2There’s never a sense that this film is below him, or that he’s just phoning it in for a pay cheque, which is refreshing, considering the behaviour of fellow wrestling relic Hulk Hogan, a man whose mere presence in a film renders it practically worthless.

Though Goldberg is front and centre throughout, his supporting players do a good job of keeping straight faces in spite of the wacky material, treating the idea that Santa is actually Satan as though it makes total sense.

Elsewhere, the grandfather’s revelation that he is a guardian angel somehow manages to click everything into place for his poor, long-suffering grandson who hasn’t been allowed to celebrate Christmas, and has suffered the indignity of being related to an assumed nutjob, for most of his life.

Douglas Smith is charming as the bored teenager who has to save the day, and Christmas, before the rest of the town realise what’s up, while ‘Lost’ alum Emilie De Ravin is great as his plucky, tomboyish sidekick.

But it is Robert Culp, as the granddad/guardian angel and Santa’s arch nemesis, who makes ‘Santa’s Slay’ nice rather than nasty. A consistently kind-hearted foe for Goldberg’s demented Clause; the two do battle in the most Canadian manner possible – with a rousing game of curling.

Truly one of a kind, ‘Santa’s Slay’ is a B-movie with a heart of gold. Simultaneously an ode to and destruction of the most overblown of holidays, it turns Santa into a villain for whom we can root, without being cynical, or indeed saccharine, about what makes the day itself so special.

santa'sslay3Sure, Gremlins are cute and Jack Frost has more chance of popping up where one least expects him (like the shower!), but there’s something about the incomparable ‘Santa’s Slay’ that captures the magic and fun and madness of Christmas, in a way that no other film of its ilk does.

It’s probably not your first choice for holiday viewing, but it really should be.

Rating: 9/10

Christmas Special: The Tristan Risk Interview by Dean Sills

TR1Christmas Special: The Tristan Risk Interview by Dean Sills

It’s almost Christmas and we have a real Christmas cracker of an interview for you. Since I started working for UKHS this year I have had the pleasure of interviewing some great actresses and this lady is the angel at the top of the Christmas tree, she is talented, beautiful and one hell of an actress just check out her performance as Beatress Johnson in ‘American Mary’, she is truly awesome and steals every scene she’s in. Please welcome the one and only Tristan Risk.
Hello Tristan, it’s an honour to talk to you, thank you for your time and welcome to UK Horror Scene.

UKHS – Tristan, you are super talented in many ways from performing with the lovely ladies of Sweet Soul Burlesque regularly in the Vancouver area to your superb acting in ‘American Mary’. How did you get started as a burlesque dancer, model and actress?

TR -I’ve always been an entertainer. I got into burlesque by accident. I’d been modelling a few years prior to burlesque and I’d danced a lot as a child/teen. A friend was throwing a birthday party for her boyfriend and she wanted to have someone pop out of a cake and do a campy little striptease for him. I volunteered and he liked it so much he asked if I’d open for his band. From there I started doing regular shows and next thing I knew I was touring as a dancer for a band. The prophesy of watching Jem and the Holograms all those years ago came true!

TR2UKHS – You are an experienced fire dancer/eater and can perform hair hang plus a number of other circus tricks, what is the most outrageous thing you’ve ever done on stage as Little Miss Risk?

TR – The most outrageous thing I’ve done onstage? Geez, that’s a subjective
question. Something that one person considers outrageous wouldn’t raise an eyebrow from another person. So something I consider an average thing to do onstage might have someone not used to my performance art style clutching their pearls. I think some of the most challenging things I’ve done that pushed my comfort levels would be singing with a live band and stripping at the same time, doing a tango with an upright bass player while he played and then dancing on his bass… eating things I shouldn’t, and allowing myself to be tied up onstage before escaping… Things that have all pushed my own boundaries, scared the shit out of myself, and made me feel exhilarated.

UKHS – Tristan, you were sensational as Beatress Johnson in ‘American Mary’. I really loved your performance along with your nightmare Betty Boop cartoonish face. How did your role in this movie come about and did you stay in character throughout the filming process?

TR – I didn’t stay in character for the WHOLE of filming, but I slipped into ‘Beatress’ quite often. I still do, come to that. Especially when I get drunk and frivolous. As for how it came about, the Soska Sisters had asked me to come on board as dance coordinator. They had been trying to find their Beatress and none of the actresses they’d seen at that point were working for them. They asked if I’d be interested in auditioning, which I was having read the script. I went in, did the lines, danced, and sang. I wasn’t giving up that role for anything! My gamble worked, and evidently so their betting on the dark horse in the running…

tr3UKHS – Do you have a favourite Christmas movie?

TR – I do! I have a few favourites: ‘Batman Returns’, ‘Gremlins’, ‘Scrooged’, ‘The Muppet Christmas Carol’, and ‘Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer’. Any of the sappy Christmas Disney cartoons are fun too, after the right amount of mulled wine.

UKHS – Those are really cool, I love ‘Gremlins’. Finally, If you could have Christmas dinner with three guests (living or dead), who would you choose and why?

TR – Christmas dinner with three guests? I’d have to say Peter Steele, Prince, and Lux Interior…. I’d serve all my best Viking-style feast food!

UKHS – Thank you Tristan, I really appreciate your time and this opportunity to interview you for UKHS. I hope you’ve been an awful good girl this year and Santa brings you lot’s of gifts. Have a wonderful Christmas and keep up the great work.

Image courtesy: Shimona Henry, Black Opal and drawings by Adrian Syrja.

https://www.facebook.com/tristan.risk

https://twitter.com/littlemissrisk

http://www.imdb.com/name/nm2021381/

http://www.littlemissrisk.ca/

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZDuUcA3ykAI

tr4