Monthly Archives: September 2012

October 2012 Horror Film Month


After my old computer crashed on me I was worried about being ready for a full month of reviews of horror films but I got some preparation done and I think I’m ready. Many of these films are justifiably regarded as horror classics but there are many I picked just because they are fun.

Halloween is not a big celebration here in Scotland but we always have had the tradition of kids in scary costumes going door to door. It’s growing in popularity here again thanks to the exuberance of the way it is celebrated in media from USA and especially in films and television. As a fan of horror I love that there is celebration of horror and scaring each other every year so I hope you enjoy this month-long celebration of horror.


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Posted by on September 30, 2012 in Entertainment


Review: Hellraiser – Hellseeker

This is the sixth Hellraiser film and just like Inferno it is pretty much a standalone film but it does have Ashley Laurence back as Kirsty Cotton but not as the main character. This is more like a mystery thriller where the main character has partial amnesia and real memories are mixed with fantastic elements. It is more straightforward than Inferno but not quite as good. While Inferno got a UK DVD release, Hellseeker can only be found on Netflix UK.

Kirsty and her husband Trevor (Dean Winters) are driving down a road approaching a bridge and they are fooling around affectionately and Trevor doesn’t notice he’s in the wrong lane and a truck is coming at them. He swerves the car off the bridge and into the river. They both struggle to get out of car and Trevor gets out but he can’t get Kirsty’s door open. Trevor gets to the surface and calls for help then dives under to try to get Kirsty’s door open but it’s too late and Kirsty stops moving.

The scene cuts to a hospital where Trevor is just coming round. This is weeks after the crash but Trevor is not aware of the passage of any time. He got a headache at work and arrived at emergency but the doctors think his reaction is not unusual this soon after the accident. He gets given an injection and suddenly he’s in a hellish hospital surgical theatre where the surgeons cut off the top of his skull and probe his brain to activate his memories. Just as abruptly Trevor is back at the normal hospital and a young junior doctor Alison is asking him if he’s okay. Trevor asks about his wife. Police Detective Lange (William S. Taylor) wants to talk to him about the crash because Kirsty is still missing. Trevor mentioned the door being locked but when they fished to car from the river the doors were open. On the bus ride home skinhead with loud music on ghetto blaster turns music up when Trevor asks him to turn it down. In apartment Trevor looks at photos remembers happy times with Kirsty

Trevor goes to work at Cubic, some anonymous office job with computers, numbers and cameras watching everyone all the time. One of his colleagues Brett (Trevor White) greets him with a snarky jibe but Trevor doesn’t seem to remember who he is or anything else about his job. He finds a tatty card pinned to his cubicle “All Problems Solved” and an address. He flashes back to going into some rundown industrial unit. Inside there are women  working on sewing machines, a large woman sitting wearing a leather outfit with conical tits and a full face mask and at the end is a counter. He sees objects displayed behind the glass of the counter. A large hairy man appears and says “I can see into your soul,” and Brett interrupts the memory.

Bret tells him he should get a snack beacuase some headaches are caused by low blood sugar. Gwen (Sarah-Jane Redmond) his supervisor comes in. She seems mad at Trevor but this turns out to be sex play and she kisses Trevor forcefully and he has another flashback, this time to having sex with Gwen. He pushes her off and she tells him she’ll see him later and to go get some work done. Back at his computer he gets a looping video of him making out with Gwen.

Lange calls and asks him to come to the station. Lange say there was no sign of an accident, no skidmarks on the road. Trevor’s story doesn’t make sense because it looks like the car was deliberately driven of the bridge. Lange wants to know if anything happened before the accident. Trevor flashes back to the accident and this time they were not smiling and playing before the accident but instead Kirsty looked very unhappy

Back at his apartment he sees a man in a mask hanging around outside. He looks out his window a sees the man in the window of the building across the street looking back at him. Then Trevor throws up a load of water and a large eel comes out of his mouth. There’s a knock on the door and its his neighbour Tawny (Jody Thompson) showing off her new tattoo just above her pubis. She’s coming on to him but he doesn’t respond so she goes back to her own apartment. Trevor finds a video of his 5th year wedding anniversary  where he gave Kirsty a gift and it’s the Lament puzzle box.

There’s another knock at the door no-one is there so he looks in the corridor then goes back to his apartment and Gwen is in there and she want sex. She strips and forces him into a chair. She wants the video camera, a normal part of their sex play so she sets it up but Trevor tells her to leave because he’s not interested. Gwen gets very angry and leaves. But the video keeps recording them having sex. Trevor tests it out and the recording is live. Then Cenobites put a plastic bag on Gwen’s head and kill her while Trevor watches in horror.

At work Brett is snarky again but gives Trevor address of a massage therapist acupuncturist called Sage (Kaaren de Zilva). She gives him the needles and leaves him to rest. He remembers back to the Hairy Guy who sells him a musical puzzle box but in the memory it is a sphere. He nods off on the therapy table and Pinhead (Doug Bradley) appears and shoves one of his own needles right through Trevor’s throat and asks if he prefers pain or pleasure

Detective Givens (Michael Rogers), Lange’s partner wants to talk to him about the fact that Kirsty was very wealthy with an inheritance from her father and Uncle Frank. This gives Trevor a motive for wanting Kirsty dead and Givens doesn’t trust him

Back at his apartment Tawny comes in and makes out with him and she strips wants to be tied up to a chair. Trevor doesn’t say no to this woman and they makes out but suddenly she turns into a Cenobite with the skin on her face stitched together and she screws a face mask onto Trevor’s mouth and pushes a plunger thing into his throat and he wakes in bed. Trevor finds Tawny tied to the chair dead. Trevor goes to wash the blood from his hands and Pinhead appears in the mirror and say “ All Problems Solved”. The blood disappears and the body is gone. Trevor goes to Tawny’ apartment and knocks on her door and  is relieved when she answers but she acts like she doesn’t know him and her husband comes to the door.

Lange calls again and down at the station he wants to know how Trevor knows Gwen Stevens since she’s gone missing. He sees Brett leaving the station and panics. He has another flashback to hairy guy selling him puzzle box and this time it’s the familiar cube.Trevor tries to pay for cube with money but the hairy man tells him that’s not the price which he will find out for himself later.

At work he wants to talk to Brett about what he said to the police. Lange is waiting in his cubicle asks him about the cube and what happened in the car. Trevor still claims it was an accident. In the break room Brett tells Trevor he’s leaving and mentions a plan they had to get their hands on Kirsty’s money. Trevor got the  puzzle box knowing it would drive Kirsty crazy

On a bus he gets headache and goes to a therapist and gets some special therapy with extra rogering and a happy ending or at least an icepick into the skull. Next he’s in an ambulance and turns out he fainted on the bus. Another flash and he’s in the hospital again and he asks for Dr Alison but no-one knows who she is. He goes to her office and its empty except for a janitor having a fly smoke. In corridor he finds Dr. Alison and tells her about dreams janitor asks who he is talking to and it turns out Dr. Alison is not there and Trevor is confused again. Back on the bus Trevor remembers Kirsty shouting at him about the cube, about his betrayal and she knew about his affairs

Trevor goes back to the industrial unit but it’s empty. Pinhead appears in the reflection in a puddle. He promises Trevor he’ll soon know what’s going on. Trevor thinks Pinhead is the killer but Pinhead just says “The killer is among us,” Outside he runs into Brett who has a gun and mentions their plan to kill Kirsty and make it look like a suicide  so they can get her money and split it between them. Since the plans is now all screwed up Brett uses the gun to shoot himself through the head

Trevor goes to Sage the therapist but she’s been killed and there’s the ice-pick in her head but I’m sure it’s nothing that a 100C dilution of stabby knives won’t cure. The police arrive at Sage’s led By Lange who arrests Trevor. Lange tells him they found a body in the river and are bringing it into the morgue but he doesn’t confirm that it’s Kirsty. Lange leaves and Givens comes in and wants him to tell the truth about everything that happened but Trevor sticks with his story of the accident.Tawny’s husband is in the station and he wants to kill Trevor. Lange takes Trevor down to basement past various people being tortured and he locks him in corridor. Then he reveals that Lange and Givens are really a two-headed freak, the two heads of one being.

In the morgue Pinhead confronts him for the final reveal. Pinhead wanted him to get to Kirsty but Kirsty offered them a deal: five souls in exchange for hers. She killed all his lovers and his partner Brett with his gun and shot him in the car causing the car to plunge off the bridge. Trevor only believes it when the body in morgue turns out to be his own and he’s the one who is dead, while Kirsty lived. The police and doctor are all really the emergency crew that were at the accident and Alison is a paramedic who talks to the dead as if they can hear her

This story is more straightforward than Inferno but it isn’t being told linearly so giving an impression of more depth than it really has. The acting was good enough but no-one really got pushed very much in their roles. The Hellraiser elements were integrated into the story quite well even if the Cenobites did seem peripheral to the story and the cube barely got used. I think the budget must have been limited because there wasn’t a lot of special effects and most of  the deaths weren’t very gory. It not the worst of the sequels but it isn’t really essential viewing either.

Rating 6.5/10

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Posted by on September 19, 2012 in Entertainment, Film


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Review: The Ghouls

For some reason it has an alternative title Cannibal Dead: The Ghouls. After sitting through so many cheapo formulaic horror films it’s refreshing to finally find a film that tried something a bit different. Sure the budget is low and the editing can be a bit choppy at times but this film oozes sleaze and desperation. I felt I could almost smell the streets where this was filmed.

Eric Hayes (Timothy Muskatell) is a freelance cameraman (or stringer I think they are called). He tries to get brutal scenes of death to get film footage the he can sell to TV News and the film shows him in action filming a man brutally murdering a woman while also in the room is corpse of a man he’s already killed, a baby crying and a young boy watching the scene paralysed with horror. Note Hayes is not trying to stop the man, or remove either of the children from the scene, he’s just filming. When the police arrive they treat Hayes with the contempt that he deserves.

He chases a load of police squad cars to the final scenes of a car chase where he meets several other stringers with a quick cameo from writer director James Gunn. He also meets his buddy Clift (Trent Haaga) and they go get stoned together. Hayes keeps meeting people he owes money to and putting them off with the promise of money he’ll get from the murder scene footage. He finally goes to a TV new station to sell his footage to the boss Lewis (Joseph Pilato) and the meeting ends in bad-tempered slagging match.

Hayes meets the woman who hopes will be his girlfriend in a bar but she’s really cold to him and rejects him. After she leaves Hayes drinks himself into a stupor until the bar closes and he gets kicked out. He drives around a bit and parks in a slum area full of homeless people. He sees what he thinks is three homeless men dragging a screaming woman into an alley to rape her and follows them with his camera into an alley. He gets really close and realises they aren’t raping her but are tearing her apart and eating her. When he turns on his camera light they spot him and he barely manages to get away.

After reporting the death to the police he goes to see Lewis to try to sell him the footage which leads to another slagging match. Lewis discovers that Hayes didn’t put any videotape in the camera and sends him packing. This makes Hayes desperate to get the creatures on film so he goes to see Clift and tells him all about it over some lines of coke. Clift agrees to go with him and provides handguns for protection. In the street next to the alley Hayes gives a homeless man some money to tell them what he knows about the creatures and he calls them ghouls and says that they have been around forever.

This film has a rough dirty quality to it but I think it that fits the subject perfectly because this about dirty sleazy people. It seems to have been filmed on different digital cameras. There is quite a lot of choppy jump cuts during the more violent scenes. There is a problem with what is basically an exploitation film making a point about the ghoulish exploitative nature of TV news. I was a bit uncomfortable with the scene at the end with the Down ’s syndrome man but I think it was trying to make broader point about TV news. The story does start to come apart a little near the end but I got drawn in enough to see how it ended. It’s gory and has nudity so it’s not for everyone. The soundtrack features a lot of free-form jazz

Rating 6.5/10



Posted by on September 16, 2012 in Entertainment, Film


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Review: [REC]³ Genesis

The original [REC] was a breath of fresh air to the zombie and found footage genres and I really like it. I didn’t see the sequel [REC]² but I can piece together that something strange must have been revealed about the zombies. The Genesis subtitle suggests this is a prequel but there is nothing to really suggest that in the film. This film actually abandons the found footage shaky cam technique just after the zombie outbreak begins and instead we get a conventionally shot bloody battle of survivors against their zombie friends and relatives. It is a pretty good zombie film and it has its moments of dark humour but it’s not up to the standard of the first film.

This DVD title screen is the standard wedding video style title screen and for the first twenty minutes that pretty much what the film is.It starts with   a photo-montage of the bride and groom. The groom is Koldo (Diego Martín) and his teenage cousin Adrian (Àlex Monner) is recording on a video camera. They also have a professional cameraman Atun (Borja Glez. Santaolalla) Adrian compares equipment with him. Atun suggests that it would be very useful if Adrian gets the more intimate shots of the family. A third camera is being used by Clara (Leticia Dolera) the bride’s little sister Tita and she records Clara and her family getting ready to leave. Everything goes just like any other wedding video with the relatives and friends all gathered for the ceremony then getting in coaches to the reception at an amazing big country estate where there’s all the usual stuff like eating singing, dancing and cake cutting. Adrian is delighted to catch his uncle Rafa (Ismael Martínez) chatting up Clara’s friend Natalie (Claire Baschet) then disappearing upstairs with her.

Adrian also sees another uncle outside looking drunk and confused and throwing up in the bushes. Earlier this same uncle was asked about a dressing on his hand andhe said it’s a dog bite. Adrian then records a police car and some people in Hazmat suits arriving outside but gets called inside to film the party. While everyone dances Adrian’s uncle with dog bite falls onto the dance floor from the balcony above. His wife goes to help him out but the man suddenly bites a chunk out of her and then stand up a vomits blood onto another guest. Then everyone is screaming and panicking as several more zombiefied guests attack. Everyone starts running and Clara and Koldo get separated. Koldo manages get to the kitchen with a few others including Adrian, Tita, Atun and an uninvited guest who is there to find out what music gets played for royalties. When Koldo realises that Atun is still filming he smashes the camera and the film switches to conventional filming.

From then on the film is a normal zombie film with survivors trying to find other survivors and get to safety. This is given added emotional depth from the fact that two of the survivors are Clara and Koldo and they desperately want to find each other. The zombies that are attacking them were their friends and closest relatives, not anonymous strangers. I called them zombies but this film hints there is actually something demonic about them so they can be stopped by holy things. This must be an addition for the second film. The film has it moments of horror and gore but there are moments of humour too like the children’s entertainer John the Sponge who is definitely not Spongebob Squarepants for copyright reasons and that makes two references to copyright in the film. This is a fairly good zombie film but anyone expecting the tense horror of the original will be disappointed. I know fans of found footage will definitely not like it, especially the way it specifically addresses one of the central problems of found footage and that is why any character in these perilous situations would keep the camera going.

Rating 7.0/10

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Posted by on September 12, 2012 in Entertainment, Film


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Review: Hellraiser – Inferno

This is the fifth Hellraiser film and as far as I know this went straight to video. It is also a standalone story with no reference to what has happened in past films. Some people dislike this change but I think it fits quite well with what Clive Barker was creating with the original Hellraiser. The story itself is intriguing, confusing, and violent and it reminded me of the film Angel Heart. I think this a good film and find it tiresome that it often gets just dismissed because it’s one of the lesser-known Hellraiser sequels.

Police Detective Joseph Thorne (Craig Sheffer) gets a call to a murder scene where the victim has been ripped apart by hooks. The scene has a ritualistic look with the remains arranged inside a square of candles. One candle is sitting on a box, the familiar Lament configuration puzzle box of course. Thorne gets presented with another puzzle, in form of a the severed finger of a child embedded in the wax of the candle. From the victim’s belongings they find his wallet with driver’s license and Thorne realises he knows the man from high school. We get a hint of what type of man Thorne is when we see him pocket a couple of hundred dollars from the wallet

Thorne goes back to home but he doesn’t stay, telling his wife Melanie (Noelle Evans) he has to leave because he’s working a case. In reality he’s leaving to pick up a prostitute called Daphne (Sasha Barrese) and as his self-serving narration says he thinks this keeps his marriage going. I’m not sure what his excuse is for the cocaine he uses all the time but I’m sure he’ll have one. He has sex with her then goes to the bathroom where he examines the puzzle box. Not really sure why he’s got it there but he solves it and the puzzle moves by itself but the walls don’t open up and Pinhead doesn’t appear. Instead the lights flicker and Thorne enters a strangely lit room. It is child’s bedroom and he hears a child calling for help through another door and he’s in a corridor where he sees a pair of strange cenobites with stitched-up eyes who kiss and stroke him push their hands inside his skin . He breaks way  from them following the child’s cries for help until he meets Pinhead (Doug Bradley) who rips his face off then he wakes in the motel room’s bathroom.

Sasha Barrese

Sasha Barrese (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Thorne goes to work and while he’s there he gets a call from Daphne who is very frightened and begging for his help. There are ghastly sounds of a bloody struggle and then the phone line goes dead. Back at the motel room Thorne finds her body hung up in the shower. He tells his partner Tony (Nicholas Turturro) that he was there the night before and slept with Daphne and begs for his help covering up any evidence of that. He also plants evidence incriminating Tony because Tony is honest and not happy with covering stuff up for whatever reason. They also find a second severed finger and from its freshness Thorne knows the child is still alive.

Back at the station Thorne helps to narrow down the search parameters for their search for a match on the fingerprints found on the box. This brings up a quick match to Leon Gaultier (Matt George) a man working in a body piercing/tattoo shop. Thorne gets a name from him of the owner of the box, the Engineer. Leon also says “Hunt for the Engineer the Engineer will hunt you.”

Thorne talks to his snitch Bernie (Nicholas Sadler) who is a drug dealing paedophile scumbag and he has an ice cream van. Bernie clams up when Thorne asks him about the Engineer but Thorne doesn’t take that and threatens him with jail. Bernie tells him a story of how brutal the Engineer is and repeats that thing Leon said about hunt the Engineer and the Engineer will hunt you. Out in the car Tony is waiting and he wants to know if he got any information and the way he asks it makes it clear he knows Thorne get his cocaine from Bernie. Tony really wants them to come clean about Thorne sleeping with Daphne the night before. Thorne tells that won’t be happening and tells him about what he did. Tony is not happy but he’s really getting a measure of how much of a bastard Thorne is.

While Thorne is sitting in a bar drinking a kid appears and gives him a videotape. He shoves into it the video player in the bar. It was shot in Bernie’s van and we can hear Bernie is being brutally whipped and begging for mercy that doesn’t come. We don’t see this happening, just the legs of the killer and barbed whip he’s using. But what we hear paints an awful picture of what’s happening. After he’s finished killing Bernie he crouches down to the camera and we see his distorted eyeless hell face. The killer then shows the camera a freshly severed finger. When he tries to show he tapeito the other cops back at the station the tape is blank. The captain orders him to see the station counsellor before he goes back to work because he seems on edge.

Thorne goes to see the counsellor Dr. Paul Gregory (James Remar) but he makes up an excuse and arranges an appointment for another time. He gets told that they’ve found Bernie. Bernie is chained to his steering wheel and the flesh on his back is ripped open, exposing his spine. Tony mentions that they haven’t found a finger at this scene and Thorne shows them that it’s in the cash register but he only knows that from the video that no-one else saw but Tony can think of another source of information. They find a mobile phone in his pocket with a message about meeting a Mr Parmaggi about finding the Engineer.

The next scene is fascinating but I‘m not sure what the point of it is. Thorne and Tony drive out to a remote bar in the middle of the night. Inside there are several tables of people in cowboy hats silently playing poker. Thorne sits at a table and asks about buying when Mr Parmagi (Michael Shamus Wiles) appears in his Grand Ol’ Opry gear, six-shooter included. Thorne asks him about the Engineer but Parmagi just gives him a cryptic answer. Thorne wants him to tell the Engineer that he won’t stop looking but Parmagi assures him that the Engineer doesn’t want him to stop. Thorne spots the hell faced killer get up from a table and leave so he follows into the woods where two Asian cowboys in long leather coats beat the crap out of him.

Thorne goes back to the station house and talks to Dr. Gregory and tells him he thinks he’s going crazy and tells him about the Engineer. Gregory has heard about the engineer and tells him about a cop who got so obsessed with finding the Engineer he ended up shooting himself in the head. Gregory has a picture of the puzzle box and Thorne brings it out asks him about it. Gregory tells him the legend that if you open the box they come for you and take you to hell. Thorne say they didn’t take him to hell and Gregory suggests that means they‘re still here.

Thorne goes home where Melanie is upset that he wasn’t home and didn’t even call to tell her where he was. Then she sees how badly beat up he is and she cleans his cuts and Thorne nods off. He wakes when the phone rings. Melanie answers it then tells him it was from his mother who said something about getting a visit from The Engineer. Thorne rushes to nursing home where they live. His mother sits by his father’s bed knitting asking him why he’s doesn’t come to see them anymore. His father is so ill he’s bed-bound. Thorne goes through a door and into that strange child’s bedroom he was in before and the door slams behind him. He hears ghastly noises of his parents screaming and the violent tearing of flesh. Blood starts oozing under the door and Thorne pounds on the door. Then he wakes up at home and the phone is ringing. Just like in the dream it’s his mother and Thorne rushes to their nursing home. His parents are missing but they discover that the mattress of his father’s bed is soaked in blood. On the cabinet beside the bed is a gift box containing two more fingers and a card with an address on it.

Outside the hospital he runs into Tony who really wants to have a word with him. Tony thinks Thorne’s out of control and he tells Thorne that no-one else has any evidence that the Engineer even exists. The link between all the victims is Thorne himself. Tony wants to take Thorne in to see the Captain and they struggle and Tony tell him he needs help but Thorne ignores him and drives off. He goes to the address on the card and finds a telescope trained on a window across the street. Tony is chained to a chair and the hell face killer is whipping him to death with a chain then he puts a severed finger in Tony’s mouth. A telephone in the room rings. It is the Engineer and he tells Thorne to go home.

At home he finds his wife and daughter chained to a revolving wooden pillar, freezing to death asking him when he’s coming home and why he lies to them. Also there is Dr. Gregory. He reaches out to his daughter but they both crack and crumble away. Then Gregory tells Thorne that they got a match on the fingerprint from the finger in Tony’s mouth. It’s Thorne’s fingerprint. Gregory tells him when he said go home he didn’t mean here but his first home.

Gregory offers to help him understand. Thorne says “you’re the Engineer” and Gregory smiles and transforms into Pinhead who tells him he must go back home. He goes a through door and is back the strange bedroom now we find out it was his bedroom and the 7-year-old Thorne is there. Downstairs his parents are a young couple. In the kitchen his Mom makes brownies. Time shakes up the house and ages everything including his mother who has bloody holes where eyes should be and she comes at him with a knife until he shoots her and has to do the same when his father attacks. Next Daphne attacks then Tony until he shoots both of them and then it’s Bernie attacking him and getting shot.

There are cenobites in the corridors of the building. In one room he see himself standing inside, then he is standing inside. A boy with several missing finger is on a chair in front of him. The hell face killer appears and Thorne takes his gun out and hell face rips off his mask to reveal he is Thorne only he’s Thorne’s hungers and desires and the boy is his spirit. His flesh is killing his spirit, Pinhead tells him before hooks on chain tear him apart.

And he wakes up the hotel bathroom with Daphne sleeping on the bed outside. He thinks it was just a dream when Daphne calls screaming and in despair Thorne shoots himself in the head. Then wakes up in the hotel bathroom again knowing he’s in hell and there’s no escape.

I know some people who loved the original film will not accept this film but I like that they tried to do something else without burdening itself with trying to recreate the original film’s tone or stay in the same continuity. Another thing people may dislike is that this film is not straightforward and I’m not all that confident I fully understand it myself. It is diffcult to even figure when we really entered the hell vision being controlled by Pinhead, was after he opened the box or is everything from the start a trip through Thorne’s hell? Is Thorne really a killer or are the brutal murders a symbol.of the way he abuses those he knows? Is it Thorne that Gregory is talking about when he mentions the cop who got obsessed with finding the Engineer until he went crazy and shot himself?  Why did Thorne go to a remote poker club and get beat up by Asian cowboys? It can be infuriating to not have clear-cut answers.

One of the best things about the film are the performances of Craig Sheffer and Nicolas Turturro, playing the experienced dirty cop and the idealistic rookie who learns fast.This film really does make nice use of sound to convey the bloody murders with a brutality that would be difficult and expensive to show and feels gorier than it really is. I think this is a good film and I would still have enjoyed it if it had no connection to the Hellraiser series. If you haven’t watched it already give it a go. And then come back tell me what it was about.

Rating 7.5/10

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Posted by on September 10, 2012 in Entertainment, Film


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Review: Elfie Hopkins

This film was a blind buy at the local HMV because I had heard nothing about it. The cover hints at a humorous dark comedy and although the film has a sense of humour it is actually more dramatic than I expected.It had some of the feel of a cosy British detective drama but it ups the stake quite a bit towards the end.

The title character Elfie Hopkins (Jaime Winstone) is an aspiring detective who seems to play the role of a detective to cope with her feelings about losing her mother in a tragic accident that she blames herself for. When a new family move in next door she takes an interest in them, concludes that they are up to something and starts investigating them. Or at least she gets her best friend Parker (Aneurin Barnard) to do it. Parker is obsessed with Elfie and willing to do anything for her.

The new neighbours, the Gammons are very friendly and invite all their neighbours round for drinks. Mr Gammon (Rupert Evans) works as a travel agent who specialises in remote exotic holidays and they who have travelled across the world themselves before choosing to settle in their village with his wife (Kate Magowan) and children. When drink causes old rivalries to erupt between two of the men Mr Gammon uses his easy charm to put an end to it and even cynical Elfie starts to warm to him. She still send Parker to case out the house upstairs where he meets their scary over-the-top daughter Ruby Gammon (Gwyneth Keyworth) who takes a liking to Parker. There’s also the creepy son Elliot (Will Payne) who dresses in black and is obsessed with guns, knives and hunting

Elfie and Parker talk to the local butcher Mr Bryn (Ray Winstone) who tells them that Mr Gammon asked him to sharpen his knives which are much more ornate and expensive than his own. This only counts as slightly strange so he tells them a creepy and pointless story about a killer stag he had to kill one time. It is the most gratuitous padding of a part I’ve ever seen.

Parker starts out finding more about the Gammons but Elfie takes the more direct approach of looking in their window. Mr Gammon discovers her but he’s nice and patient and even shows her some yoga. Elfie starts thinking he’s the coolest person in the village. Parker has discovered that everywhere that the family stayed has seen a number of mysterious disappearances. Elfie has always enjoyed playing the detective but she and Parker may find themselves in over their heads when they discover the Gammons’ grisly secret.

This film has the look of a British detective show set in the quiet countryside but this has a lot more violence, death and gore. I thought that Elfie’s quirkiness would get annoying but they sort of  tried to justify it and the character goes though some growth through the film. The acting is pretty average for the most part but Rupert Evans is pretty good as the charming Mr Gammon. It doesn’t have big budget but the film-makers make the most of what they had. I did like the film and if you like low-budget independent films you might enjoy it too.

Rating 6.5/10

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Posted by on September 8, 2012 in Entertainment, Film


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Review: The Possession


A horror film from Sam Raimi is always a must see for me so I’ve been looking forward to this since I first heard about it. For this film Sam seems to have reigned in his wild imagination and though it is a good solid film it’s nothing special and not as much as I would have hoped from the creator of The Evil Dead films.

The film introduces us to the dybbuk box kept on shelf of an elderly woman. Just from her reaction to the box and whispering sound of her name from inside we can tell that it’s malevolent. She is about take a hammer a spike to the box when it attacks back, and her face hangs loose like she’s had a stroke. Then her body seizes and she has a violent fit that smashes her face into a table and throws her around the floor.

Clyde (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is a basketball coach who is divorced and has joint custody of his two daughters, 12-year-old Em (Natasha Calis) who is bright chatty and cheerful and 16 year-old Hannah (Madison Davenport) who puts on a pose of disinterest. The one dark spot in Em’s life is her parents’ divorce and she still has hope that they will get together again. When Hannah casually crushes that hope at dinner it really affects Em badly and it’s like light goes out inside her. She leaves quietly and Clyde tells off Hannah for talking to her like that. Hannah’s indifference falls away to reveal her anger at him for the divorce.

Next morning they go to a yard sale and Em spots the dybbuk box and right away wants to buy it and Clyde agrees. This is the yard of the old woman from the start of the film and we see her in her bedroom badly injured and tended by a nurse. Em is interested in the box because of the mysterious Hebrew inscription on its surface and it doesn’t have any obvious way of opening it. When they get home Em is impatient to get the box open and see what’s rattling around inside but Clyde gets distracted by a phone call about a job interview so Em takes the box up to her room and finds the catch that opens the box which sighs as she lifts the lid.

Em’s behaviour starts gets increasingly strange and she gets more obsessed with the box. Clyde and his ex-wife Stephanie (Kyra Sedgwick) at first think Em is reacting to the divorce and Stephanie’s new boyfriend Brett (Grant Show) but her behaviour gets more violent when Clyde tries to get rid of the box and Stephanie gets granted sole custody by the court when Em fakes being hit by him.

Clyde investigates the box and is told that it’s a dybbuk box used by some sects of Judaism and it’s meant to contain a spirit and it’s not supposed to be opened because then it can escape and possess people. Clyde is sure that is what has happened to Em and he has to get her exorcised before the dybbuk takes her over completely.

This is really just another exorcism film only it’s from a Jewish perspective so it’s a rabbi not a priest they need. It plays out with very few surprises for me and although it does a good job building up the tension the exorcism at climax of the film was not as epic or brutal as the one in The Exorcist, but I suppose very few films can reach that high standard. The more modern effects do look good but they are missing the visceral horror of old-fashioned gunk.

The cast are pretty good and Natasha Calis in particular is very good but it is the type of family drama by numbers: divorce, tension between parents and between them and their children, a new partner, job commitments. I did enjoy the film but I was surprised by how ordinary it was. It claims to be based on a true story and I think I can see what elements were true: a superstitious man may have believed that his daughter’s illness was caused by a demon from a box and he sought help from a rabbi to exorcise it. If you want an exorcism film that is not too intense you may like this one

Rating 7.0/10



Posted by on September 8, 2012 in Entertainment, Film


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Review: Truth or Dare

I’ve been told that this film has been titled Truth of Die for the US release. This is a low-budget independent British film and at first I thought I was going to hate it as I took a dislike to almost all of the characters but as the film went on and more got revealed I felt more drawn into the story and I was never sure quite where the story was going to go.

Five college students go to a large sprawling country estate for the birthday party of Felix (Tom Kane), a nervous unpopular nerdy boy that they know from college. A year before they had all been to party where they had played a game of Truth or Dare that went wrong leaving Felix feeling humiliated. Felix was very nervous at the party and Luke (Alexander Vlahos) the drug dealer gives him a couple of lines of coke. With his confidence chemically boosted Felix talks to Gemma (Florence Hall), a woman he likes and although she doesn’t agree to go out with him it’s a pleasant enough conversation and anyway she’s dating the more aggressive Chris (Jack Gordon). Then Eleanor (Jennie Jacques) comes downstairs angry about her boyfriend Paul (Liam Boyle) passing out on her. She has an empty bottle wants to play Truth or Dare. I think it’s on the second spin it picks Felix who gets asked to choose anyone male or female that he’d choose to sleep with. He chooses Gemma knowing she already knows how he feels but Chris takes offence to this and punches Felix ending the party game on a downer.

They get to Felix’s house and its a massive country house and it clear the Felix comes from serious money. The ground-keeper Woodbridge (David Oakes) tells them the party is being held in cottage half a mile along a trail that’s too rough for their cars. At the cottage they are greeted by Justin (David Oakes) Felix’s older brother. He tells them the party was called off because Felix is abroad in Chile.  Of course it turns out that Felix’s birthday party is a trick and Felix isn’t there but his violent unstable older brother Justin wants pay back for the way his brother was treated and he wants to play his own version of Truth or Dare with them. It all starts off innocent enough but soon the dares become fatal and for some the truth hurts even more

At first I thought that this film was going down the well-worn path of the vengeance horror but it delivered a bit more depth than that and the question of responsibility comes into sharp focus. I did really dislike a few of the characters but this is because the actors were doing a good job playing these unpleasant characters. There are scenes of torture in this but there’s more psychology involved than physical pain (think Guantanamo Bay more than Saw) and it doesn’t have too much gore. Overall it’s an interesting film that’s worth the watch.

Rating 6.5/10

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Posted by on September 3, 2012 in Entertainment, Film


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Review: Hellraiser IV – Bloodline

When you see Alan Smithee credited as the director then you know a film has had a problematic production history and in this film it really shows. Alan Smithee is a fake name used when a director has wanted to have the director’s credit removed. Someone who had a lot of respect for Barker’s original Hellraiser tried to create a film that did justice his vision but the editing and second shoots have compromised that film and we got this patchy incomplete product that tantalises us with what could have been.

This film is set in three time periods and is about three generations of the family of the creator of the Lament configuration musical puzzle box Phillip Le Merchant. The story is told by a descendant of his in the future Dr. Paul Merchant (Bruce Ramsay) who is on a space station trying to convince an enforcement squad to allow him to complete his mission and destroy the demons from the box. so he tell them his family’s history with the box

In eighteenth century Paris Phillip L’Merchant (Bruce Ramsay) creates a musical puzzle box to precise specifications for the wealthy aristocrat Duc de Lisle (Mickey Cottrell) who is a student of the occult and practitioner in black magic. As soon it is complete he delivers it to De Lisle who has his servant Jacques (Adam Scott) bring him a homeless prostitute who they kill and carefully remove her skin. Then in a ritual involving the box and Latin incantations De Lisle calls up a demon which takes form inside the skin and once complete De Lisle shows her a mirror so she can see her face and calls her Angelique (Valentina Vargas). Jacques is afraid but De Lisle reminds him that whoever controls the magic controls the demon as long as they don’t stand in hell’s way. L’Merchant didn’t leave after delivering the box but stuck around to watch what happened and is shocked by what he witnessed. After discussing it with an old friend he works on a way to fix what he’s done by creating the puzzle box. He breaks in to De Lisle’s chateau to try to steal the box back but he finds a scene of carnage from a wild party that we clearly missed. De Lisle is mutilated and dying while Jacques is having noisy sex with Angelique next door. L’Merchant tries to grab the box but he gets caught.

The next story is contemporary, set some time after the events of the third film. John Merchant (Bruce Ramsay) is a successful award winning architect but he’s haunted by gory nightmares that feature a strange woman but we know it is Angelique. His dreams are what inspired his latest project, a building that is also a mobile art work. The design is very similar to the puzzle box and of course this no accident. Angelique and Jacques are still around in present day Paris and Angelique sees Merchant’s picture on the cover of a magazine. She wants to see him a New York, sensing that he has inherited his ancestor’s design genius. Jacques refuses to let her go and she tears out his heart to show him what happens when you stand in hell’s way

Merchant gets presented with an award at a banquet held in his new building. When Merchant is giving his acceptance speech he sees Angelique at the back of the room and has flashes of memories of his nightmares and forgets the speech he was going to give and just gives them a short thank you. I sense this scene has been cut because that was bit abrupt. Merchant leaves with his wife and that night has a sex dream starring Angelique.

Angelique is still back at the building where she chats up a pudgy middle-aged businessman who can’t believe his luck. She takes him down to a basement room where she recovers the puzzle box from the concrete pillar where it was dumped by Joey at the end of Hellraiser III. She gets the man to solve the puzzle so of course there’s suddenly chains and hooks and he gets dragged off to hell through a crack in the wall and Pinhead (Doug Bradley) comes through. He knows who Angelique is and tells her things have changed in her absence. Pinhead takes in his surroundings and sees the influence the puzzle box as if it has been recreated in the design of the building. Angelique tells him about Merchant and her plan to seduce the secret of the building from him. Pinhead is less than impressed by this subtle approach and he brings a pair of identical twin security guards to the room. In a drawn out scene the two men have their heads twisted together by an elaborate evil torture device and they get fused into a new cenobite. Pinhead favours pain over temptation.

Next day Angelique introduces herself to Merchant and from the start Angelique tells Merchant she knows about his dreams and he eagerly tells her everything about the building – it doesn’t look like he needed either pain or temptation to blab about his building secrets, he just needed someone to show an interest. Despite Angelique’s methods working perfectly Pinhead tells her that it is time try it his way by kidnapping Merchant’s son. In this scene there is no explanation of tension between Angelique and Pinhead and it feels like has been badly edited.

Pinhead gets the kid and grabs the wife too and holds them hostage at the building so of course Merchant has to come. Pinhead tells Merchant what he wants and after some chase scenes around the building this story climaxes in the control room with Merchant on a computer console putting his mobile design into action. Pinhead realises he’s been tricked and that Merchant’s device was designed to open a gate all right but only to drive them back and close it permanently. It doesn’t work and Pinhead decapitates Merchant. His wife uses the original puzzle box to send them all back.

Back at the space station Dr Paul Merchant brings his story right up to date, to the moment after he opened the box with a robot and called up the demons then got interrupted by the enforcement squad. He tries to convince them that they are in real danger and should leave but they don’t believe him and insist on exploring the station. The enforcement squad get killed by the four cenobites taking one each and leaving just a psychiatrist called Rimmer. Merchant starts his program to activate the space station which he designed as a giant trap with himself as bait to kill the cenobites and seal the door to hell closed.

This is such a frustrating film. It looks like it was a pretty good film that may have been better than the second film but it has been butchered into incoherence by the production company. There was whole sub-plot of a conflict between Angelique and Pinhead that seems to have been deleted and Angelique’s role has been reduced. There wasn’t nearly as much gore as the original and it didn’t quite have the same dark tone but it is a big improvement on the third film. The acting was pretty average especially Bruce Ramsay playing three members of the Merchant family..

This film’s lack of success seems to have led the production company to take a different tack with three subsequent direct to video sequels with standalone stories featuring Pinhead and the cenobites appearing in the role of the minions of hell punishing sin.

Rating 7.0/10

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Posted by on September 2, 2012 in Entertainment, Film


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Review: Outpost II – Black Sun

This is a straight to DVD sequel to the fairly forgettable Nazi zombie film Outpost. This film expands on the original and increases the threat but it really comes across as a low-budget SyFy channel special with its vague sense of geography, shallow characters and comic book plot.

The first film had a squad of mercenaries discovering zombie Nazis in a bunker re-animated with top secret Nazi technology. These zombies are not mindless hungry beasts like the zombies in Romero’s films but every bit as smart and devoted to the cause of world conquest as when they were alive only now they are unstoppable animated corpses.

This film focuses on a young Nazi hunter Lena (Catherine Steadman) who is carrying on her parents’ mission and has tracked down a Nazi officer Neurath (Michael Byrne) to a hospital in Paraguay. She breaks his fingers to try to force him to tell where Nazi scientist Klausener is but despite his age and frail state Neurath doesn’t tell her anything. Lena reckons that he must have kept a few mementos and finds a map indicating a location in Europe and of course it turns out to be where the bunker is. She also finds a ring that opens up into a key and I wonder if that will come in handy later.

Klausener (David Gant) is not at the bunker but is watching what’s going there on a live link. He has sent a scientist Hunt (Julian Wadham) in with an armed escort to reactivate the secret Nazi machine that everyone seems to know about because the UN have sent troops in to the area but the Nazi zombies powered by the machine kill them all off. This is seen in poor light with confusing cuts so it was difficult to really see what went on. At the UN camp outside of the zombie zone they are examining a map that shows a field around the bunker that is expanding. Inside it zombies can’t be killed and electronics don’t work.

Lena gets to Europe not far from the bunker and stops at a small settlement. Armed men stop her and search her belongings but she gets rescued by a café owner Marius (Clive Russell) who stops the thugs with a shout and a dirty look. Inside the café Lena meets Wallace (Richard Coyle) who she already knows. Wallace is a scientist (with a poor American accent) and knows about Klausener’s device and says he wants to shut it down permanently. Lena just wants Klausener and thinks he’s at the bunker.

Lena drives Wallace towards the bunker. Wallace know a militia group who can provide an armed escort to the bunker but the car cuts out before they get there and Wallace realises that the field has expanded further than he thought. They make their way on foot to the camp but when they get there it’s under attack from zombie Nazis and their contact is dead.

They carry until they reach a town that is empty because all the locals have either fled or been killed. They take shelter in house but have to move on when the Nazi zombies turn up and are about to be killed too when they get rescued by a squad of British soldiers. The zombies keep attacking and there are several soldiers killed in struggle to rescue these two. This squad are on a mission to get an EMP device as close to the bunker as they can so they can blow the secret Nazi device destroy the field and kill all the zombies and they have a physicist with them to operate the EMP. Unfortunately they are forced to blow their wad prematurely when they come under an overwhelming force of zombies and they lose not just the EMP device but their physicist. Fortunately they discover Wallace is a physicist and so take him along but Lena gets left behind with a gun and has to make her own way to the bunker for the big showdown with the Nazi zombies.

Since I wasn’t a fan of the first I wasn’t expecting much from this sequel. If anyone could take the idea of Nazi zombies and make them a bit meh then it is the producers of this franchise. The acting wasn’t bad but it was a bit flat. The characters were pretty shallow creatures of the plot with little sense of any them being real people. The plot itself was like something from a comic book and that sense got even stronger during an entirely silly climax in the bunker. The zombies seemed almost unstoppable except with explosives but then I never saw anyone try a head shot or failing that blasting off their knees. There’s no contagion element to these zombies so no real sense that the threat is anything but limited. This isn’t a bad film but it’s also not a very interesting film.

Rating 5.5/10

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Posted by on September 1, 2012 in Entertainment, Film


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