Monday, 27 July 2015

The House by the Cemetery (1981)

Opening in a night setting with a close-up shot of a gravestone surrounded by branches of a bush the camera then pans to the right as we hear the diegetic sound of dogs howling and Walter Rizzati’s atmospheric piano tinged synth score creep in and we see established the primary setting of “The House by the Cemetery”. The camera lingers for about 15-seconds to show us there is activity in the downstairs front room with the movement of lights as Rizzati’s music gradually becomes louder.

Saturday, 18 July 2015

Born for Hell (1976)

'Born for Hell' is a low-budget Canadian / French / West German / Italian production co-written and directed by Canadian filmmaker Denis Héroux who got his start in maple syrup porn. It is a grim tale inspired by the infamous American mass murderer Richard Speck who on July 14th 1966 systematically tortured, raped and murdered eight young female student nurses from South Chicago Community Hospital holding them hostage in a townhouse used as their dormitory. The grisly scenario of this true-life source material is depicted here in graphic detail and while these sights of the degradation and murders of innocent young attractive naked women is explicit and stomach churning stuff the film is more than just outright sleazy exploitation. With the changes of the time of setting to the ‘70s and of the backdrop to the paranoia of the Northern Ireland Conflict and these despicable crimes committed by a disturbed misogynist Vietnam War veteran it makes for an interesting juxtaposition and a nightmarish trip into the heart of human darkness in a riveting, gruesome and bleak character study.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Rasputin: The Mad Monk (1966)

Filmed back-to-back with ‘Dracula: Prince of Darkness’ (1966) at Hammer's Bray Studios in ‘65 using the production’s sets and even a few of its cast, ‘Rasputin: The Mad Monk’ is the genre film company’s fictionalized account of peasant and mystic faith healer Grigori Rasputin’s rise to extraordinary power by gaining great influence over the Russian monarchy in pre-revolution Russia. Directed by Don Sharp (1973’s British cult horror ‘Psychomania’), the late great Christopher Lee stars as the infamous historical figure but do not expect any historically accurate depictions except for some events leading up to Rasputin’s assassination. The emphasis here is purely entertainment as we see Lee having a great time relishing his role as his character indulges in drunken debauchery and abuses his mystical powers to not only seduce women but to get them to do his bidding in his ruthless quest for wealth and power.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Day of the Dead (1985)

George A. Romero’s third and last great zombie film ‘Day of the Dead’ is a perfect representation of the 1980s, yet it is also the most unappreciated entry of his original flesh-eating undead trilogy. Romero embodied metaphors in his “walking dead” in ‘Night of the Living Dead’ (1968) and ‘Dawn of the Dead’ (1978) with biting social commentaries that accurately summed up the respective times of their releases. This was with domestic racism and the Vietnam War in the ‘60s and with a more tongue-in-cheek satirical jab at times as well commentating on society’s obsession with consumerism in the ’70s. This was with profound insight realized on screen by a horror filmmaker with more guts (excuse the pun) and vision than most auteurs of the genre before, then and now.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Bloody Reunion (2006)

Some of our most vivid memories of school are the teachers who taught us be it the good or bad experiences we had with them. A good memory I have of one at my old secondary school (high school to you American readers) in South East London was a supply teacher we had once named Clyde Gatell, an American from Brooklyn who was teaching on the side while trying to break into acting. He was a nice laid-back man who talked fondly of his experiences working with Tim Burton on 1989’s ‘Batman’ while filming the flashback sequence depicting the murder of Bruce Wayne’s parents in which he played the other mugger. I remember him mimicking my strong South London accent one time making me laugh.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

The Love Butcher (1975)

Gruesome murders of young beautiful naked women are depicted in ‘The Love Butcher’. It is a rare ultra-low budget slasher forerunner that was released on the grindhouse and drive-in circuits a year after Tobe Hooper’s The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Bob Clark’s ‘Black Christmas’ and three years before John Carpenter’s ‘Halloween’ - genre landmarks that would mould the American modern horror landscape. It was given a slightly wider release in 1982 in an attempt to capitalize on the then booming sub-genre that was induced by Sean C. Cunningham’s gory elaboration in 1980 with Friday the 13th. Despite being ahead of its time in 1975, due to its limited distribution and despite its early ‘80s lesser limited re-release as it got lost in the sea of red of all the slashers released every weekend becoming just one of the blood pack it largely went unnoticed putting a damper on any influential potential it might of had.

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Pieces of Talent (2014) and a Missing Piece

Pieces of Talent (2014)

‘Pieces of Talent’ is an independently produced and distributed feature by Shutter Blade Media that has earned a bevy of awards from its film festival screenings and has garnered both critical and fan acclaim across the board since its release last year. It is directed, shot, edited and scored by the multi-talented octopus armed filmmaker Joe Stauffer who co-wrote the screenplay with fellow North Carolina native David Long (credited as Dustin Lewis as co-writer) the co-developer of its concept and is its star playing a character of the same name in a meta role. It takes the old serial killer snuff film premise and does something uniquely different with it. It is a tried and tested formula but it is the extra solution added to it that uniquely separates this from its peers in the sub-genre - some of which are great such as Last House on Dead End Street (1977) and more often than not are terrible such as ‘Snuff’ (1976).