Saturday, 25 February 2012

A Nightmare on Elm Street Part 2: Freddy’s Revenge (1985) - A Nightmarishly Underrated Sequel

Wes Craven was smart enough to come along and revitalize American horror three times by the 1990s. That third time in ‘96 was with the self-aware slasher homage ‘Scream’. Craven’s film scripted by Kevin Williamson dissected the elements of the sub-genre that the director had a hand in influencing with its forerunners of ‘The Last House on the Left’ (1972) and ‘The Hills Have Eyes’ (1976) and would significantly contribute to in 1984 by taking its template conventions and doing something with it bold and groundbreaking. This was with the unique surrealist dreamscape terror of ‘A Nightmare on Elm Street’ that told the story of teenagers killed in their dreams resulting in their deaths in reality. As well as this interesting new take on a formula that was becoming so stale at this time the director also unleashed upon screens one of the most iconic movie villains of all time Freddy Krueger; a highly original and unforgettable antagonist that would soon decline into cartoonish self-parody.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Rage (2010)

I wrote in Halloween II (1981) - A Worthy Companion Piece to the Original or not?: “In a key scene of ‘Halloween’ (1978), Laurie Strode (Curtis) goes to the empty Myers house to drop off the keys for her estate agent father on the way to school. She is accompanied by little Tommy Doyle who she meets along the way and is babysitting that night. Michael Myers sees them from inside and fixates on Laurie. John Carpenter is establishing that even the most common mundane things we do in the daily routines of our lives can land us in mortal danger. This is a frightening thing in itself.” In ‘Rage’ this influence of everyday happenings leading to life altering changes is further emphasised upon with direct references in homage to Steven Spielberg’s exceptional debut ‘Duel’ (1971). From independent filmmaker Christopher R. Witherspoon it is an admiral effort and a very competently made horror suspense thriller.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Thriller: A Cruel Picture (1973)

Marketed as the first Swedish film ever banned (not true as a movie called ‘The Gardener’ was in 1912) ‘Thriller: A Cruel Picture’ (aka ‘They Call Her One Eye’ and ‘Hooker’s Revenge’) is just like its title suggests - an extremely cruel rape and revenge thriller that is a provocative cocktail of art house and exploitation filmmaking.

Friday, 10 February 2012

Maniac (1980)

William Lustig’s ‘Maniac’ is an unconventional slasher compared to its peers offering a lot more weight (and no, I am not talking about Joe Spinell’s hefty frame). This is what I would call a character study slasher. Yes, you read it right. Character, study and slasher are three words that would not normally fit into the same sentence but here we have a film summed up perfectly with those very words.

The Ward (2010)

What happened to John Carpenter? He was and still is due to his legacy one of the greatest directors the horror genre has ever had. If you look back at his body of work, it is impossible to ignore this highly skilled filmmaker’s importance to genre cinema in general.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

I Saw the Devil (2010)

A serial killer murders the beautiful fiancée of a secret agent then said secret agent tracks down the serial killer. A simple formulaic premise there no different from a huge number of Hollywood outings into crime thriller land. However, Korean film Ji-woon Kim’s ‘I Saw the Devil’ takes this overdone routine idea and turns it into a unique portrayal of an obsessive pursuit for revenge. 

Hobo with a Shotgun (2011)

‘Hobo with a Shotgun’ is a screamer of a winning goal in the grindhouse revival that was innovated by Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino in the 2007 double feature ‘Grindhouse’. Their respective films in that truly unique cinematic experience with ‘Planet Terror’ (the best zombie offering since Zack Snyder’s 2004 redux of ‘Dawn of the Dead’) and the semi-successful thriller ‘Death Proof’ (Tarantino’s worst movie to date but still well worth a look) were each bookended by a very convincing set of faux trailers. Made like those two features in the B movie style of exploitation films shown in the grindhouse theatres of yesterday year and directed by numerous fresh talented filmmakers catering for different genres they have now been made into full-length features as well.

Scream 4 (2011)

Eleven years on since the end of the original Scream trilogy, it is an obvious observation to state that the horror genre has changed significantly. Therefore, writer Kevin Williamson has been given much ammunition to collaborate again with modern horror auteur Wes Craven bringing to the screen another entry in the franchise that smartly sums up the general sad sorry state of the genre with more self-referential commentary. All this is supplemented by disturbingly reflecting on current popular culture in Western society with probably the most effective revel twist ending of the series. With the hope of opening the doors to another trilogy ‘Scream 4’ succeeds in being the cleverest most sophisticated piece of satire since the original 1996 film. However, Williamson is more concerned with bringing his sharp-eyed fanboy views to the forefront and making the actual horror play second fiddle producing a more black comedy parody on celluloid frights.

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

I Spit on Your Grave (1978) and the Old Argument - Feminist Cinema or Exploitative Entertainment?

Okay so you have just read the above title and if you are a hardened fan of extreme cinematic offerings, you are fully aware of the movie in question here. More so you are probably wondering why I am choosing to talk about a donkey’s years old debate that has been going on since the 1981 re-release of ‘Day of the Woman’ (1978) retitled as ‘I Spit on Your Grave’. I want to ask the question of whether the film is feminist cinema or exploitative entertainment to help define the elements in this original version that blur the line between feminism and gratuitous violence.

Raw Meat (1973)

Mishandled distribution can kill the chances of an important genre offering even making a dent when really it should be fulfilling its potential influential status as a prime innovator of a cinematic movement. Not that British horror ‘Raw Meat’ (aka ‘Death line’ in my native homeland) is an overall great movie as it suffers from inconsistences in its tone. This uneven tone makes for a confusing viewing experience in what we the audience should be feeling. We are up and down like Tower Bridge with our emotions, as we are deeply disturbed at one time then laughing the next. The tone goes back and forth. However, it does employ many awe-inspiring elements for the enthusiastic film buff that all just screams out cult classic. Unfortunately and criminally due to further bad distributing of its home video releases ‘Raw Meat’ has not even achieved that honour. This most under seen of under seen titles deserves to have a huge spotlight shun upon it.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Scanners (1981)

Horror and science fiction are two genres that can mesh very well. ‘Alien’ (1979) and ‘The Thing’ (1982) are two of the very finest examples of the calibre of filmmaking that has contributed to this hybrid. From this generation of these films' respective directors Ridley Scott and John Carpenter is David Cronenberg the Canadian filmmaker who became the main innovator of body horror breaking out with the low-budget independently produced cult hits ‘Shivers’ (1975), ‘Rabid’ (1977) and ‘The Brood’ (1979). In 1981 between the releases of ‘Alien’ and ‘The Thing’ Cronenberg would take a break from all things bodily repulsive and would himself blend horror and sci-fi into an effective mix. Albeit nowhere near as influentially as Scott and Carpenter, but still 'Scanners' is one hell of a hugely entertaining ride that earned multiple viewings from me growing up. It was the director’s first major success becoming a huge box-office smash that would enable him to graduate on to the mainstream of Hollywood major studio moviemaking. 

City of the Living Dead (1980)

‘City of the Living Dead’ is easily one of Lucio Fulci’s most entertaining films. It is a far progression from the overrated mediocrity of ‘Zombie’ (1979) which showed off just flashes of his promise in what he could offer the genre. This follow-up is much more satisfying and was Fulci’s first solid effort in his reinvention of himself as a horror maverick. Also known under the title of ‘The Gates of Hell’ it was actually the first part in the director’s unofficial Gates of Hell trilogy followed by his greatest horror movie ‘The Beyond’ (1981) and the somewhat enjoyable passable entertainment of The House by the Cemetery (1981).

Monday, 6 February 2012

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) - A Slasher Christmas Cracker

The first ever holiday slasher proper was a made for TV production in 1972 called ‘Home for the Holidays’ starring a young Sally Field. From Bob Clark’s influential template prototype for the sub-genre ‘Black Christmas’ (1974) up until the late 80s it was one of the prime signature stamps of this movement of exploitation cinema to milk every holiday and every day of significance there is. Although the unseen antagonist in Clark’s film lacked motivation public holidays and other marked calendar dates would later serve as a time of setting to fit in with the killer’s motive. Following ‘Black Christmas’ in the same year with another Xmas theme was ‘Silent Night, Bloody Night’ although it was actually filmed a couple of years previous. However, Crimbo would not play a part in this marketing niche again until the early 80s during the bloody reign of the slasher’s golden age heyday.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

The Hills Run Red (2009)

Ah, the slasher. Going back to my review of Dark Ride (2006), I admitted that the said sub-genre was my Achilles' heel: “I will for damn sure pick up slashers in the hope of getting cheap thrills from a decent slash and hack fest. It is a matter of nostalgia looking for a good slasherthon due to my fond memories of the gory early 80’s golden age.” However, I expressed my displeasure at the current state of this type of horror using Dark Ride as a prime example. Usually terribly written and directed the characterization and pacing is very bad and the kills are extremely lacklustre. So having such a soft spot for the slasher, I cannot help but write about a diamond in the rough that went straight to DVD. ‘The Hills Run Red’ although nothing groundbreaking is a little gem of an exception in this dull as dishwater times of generic tripe.

The Devil’s Rejects (2005)

Rob Zombie’s peers and fans heralded him as an exciting new filmmaking talent media labelled along with Neil Marshall, Alex Aja, Eli Roth etc as one of the splat pack - a new generation of directors dedicating themselves to contributing solely to the genre they so passionately love. Now many critics and horror aficionados alike universally despise poor old Zombie.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

The Fog (1980) - An Atmospherically Great Ghost Story

Two years after the phenomenal reception to ‘Halloween’ one of the most successful independent films of all time John Carpenter’s next big screen outing would be this terrifying exercise in chilling atmosphere. It encapsulates a constantly creepy, nerve shredding intense, mean spirited, suspenseful ghost story built upon a hugely entertaining B movie premise. Made with such style on a budget of just an estimated $1 million shot entirely using the director’s trademark anamorphic 2.35:1 widescreen format it looks anything but a low-budget horror feature and achieves an epic look.

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2 (1986) and a Newfound Appreciation

I felt compelled to do a write up of ‘The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2’ after my last viewing of it which was the first time in a long time and because of the newfound appreciation I had for it. Up until then I spent many years dismissing it since first seeing the film when finally released in the United Kingdom in 2001. This was three years after the original 1974 movie had its ban lifted in my native homeland and got a limited theatrical release with cuts in 1998. It was passed uncut a year later on VHS.

Thursday, 2 February 2012

Mirrors 2 (2010)

This dreck is the follow up to Alexandre Aja’s mediocre remake of the 2003 Korean frightfest ‘Into the Mirror’. This was of course the Keither Sutherland vehicle ‘Mirrors’ (2008) an altogether passable piece of entertainment with reasonable acting, a creepy atmosphere of twitchy dread throughout, dark and gory imagery all executed on a nice premise with a nifty twist ending. Unfortunately, terrible writing riddled with inconsistencies, plot holes galore, dodgy dialogue and the stupid idea of a climactic battle with a fucking demon nun hampered it from being at least good.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Nightmares in a Damaged Brain (1981)

The history of ‘Nightmares in a Damaged Brain’ as a video nasty is very funny. Well that whole era of over the top moral crusading and BBFC overreaction to censorship was just ludicrously hilarious anyway. The film made its presence known to stuffy tight-collared conservative types when the videotape came with the gimmicks of a competition to guess the weight of a brain in a jar and giving away free sick bags with each copy. In addition, the movie’s original British distributor was imprisoned for releasing a version not passed by the censors. It was eventually banned but passed uncut in the United Kingdom in 2005. Unfortunately, it is that same version that the distributor was banged up for which is a tad bit snipped anyway.