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Review: Trance

Cinema Review

tranceAt least my second trip to the cinema didn’t involve a carefully planned trek across the city since this film is showing at the local multiplex. This violent gory crime thriller from Danny Boyle is smart and full of misdirection and it had my attention throughout. I’ve a feeling I’ll get more out of a second viewing since it is a film that has a reveal in the last act that changes what you know but this is set-up earlier in the film. I’m a sucker for crime thrillers with convoluted plots and this film certainly delivers.

This film starts out as a heist film with a light-hearted cheerful voice-over from Simon (James McAvoy) a junior auctioneer at a large auction house who gives us a bit of background on the subject of art heists from auction houses that has resulted in increased security measures by the auction houses and staff being drilled on the procedures to protect the art while keeping themselves safe. Then Simon mentions that the thieves have also upped their game in response to these measures.

This leads straight into the heist itself. Goya’s Floating Witches is up for sale when the thieves strike with smoke bombs in the auction room while other members of the gang take care of the security. Simon grabs the painting and takes it to the safe and the security procedures all go to plan but one of the thieves Franck (Vincent Cassel) is waiting by the safe. He orders Simon to hand over the painting but for some reason Simon grabs a taser from Franck and zaps him in the back of the neck. This only pisses off Franck who smacks Simon over the head with the taser then he grabs the painting and runs.

Simon ends up in hospital getting emergency surgery to treat the injury to his head. Meanwhile Franck discovers that all he has stolen is an empty picture frame and the painting is missing. As soon as he gets out of hospital Simon gets grabbed by Franck’s gang who beat and torture him to find out what he did with the painting but it’s useless because he has amnesia and genuinely can’t remember. Franck even gets confirmation from the doctor at the hospital who can’t do anything medically to help restore Simon’s memory but suggests hypnotherapy might work.

Going with the doctor’s suggestion Franck gets Simon to pick a hypnotherapist and he chooses Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson). Simon is told to get her to help without revealing what they are really after so he tells her that he is after his lost car keys. Elizabeth knows that Simon is not telling her the truth and quickly finds out his real name. She succeeds in helping him to find the car keys but not the painting so Franck wants Simon to try again.

This time Elizabeth knows what is really going on and she wants in on it. She insists that Simon is subconsciously blocking his memories because he thinks Franck and his gang will kill him once they have the painting. Elizabeth has to make Simon feel safe before she can unlock his memory of where he left the painting.

From this point the film starts twisting around quite a bit and characters and motives shift around as it turns out that the painting is the not the only thing that has been stolen but so have Simon’s memories. When the film does come to its final twist it has being set-up with enough hints so it certainly doesn’t come out of the blue and while surprising it does make sense.

This is an interesting crime thriller that reminds me of Danny Boyle’s earlier more intimate films like Shallow Grave. Rosario Dawson and Vincent Cassel deliver great performances and James McAvoy is certainly convincing as the lovable rogue and though the changes in his character are bit less convincing he does give it a go. This film looks great and it has a decent soundtrack but then Boyle is film-maker who knows how to make good use of music. It is pretty brutal at times there are a couple of memorable gory scenes. There’s also sex and nudity from all three leads though not all at the same time.

Rating 7.5/10

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Posted by on March 29, 2013 in Entertainment

 

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Review: Hellraiser – Deader

Hellraiser Series

Back to the interrupted series of reviews of the Hellraiser films and this Is last one I will be reviewing until Hellworld arrives on Netflix. It has no connection to of the other films except for Pinhead and the puzzle box and they are sidelined for most of the film and reduced to a couple of walk-on parts. It isn’t terrible and the film has a grimy sleazy downbeat feel too it but it really seems pretty far removed from the original Hellraiser

Amy Klein (Kari Wuhrer) is a journalist who is willing to go that extra mile to get her story and we see her at the start off the film waking up in a crack den in a filthy room full of unconscious crack-heads where she has been researching a highly successful article called “How to be crack whore.”

Back at the office the magazine her boss Charles Richmond (Simon Kunz) isn’t too interested in her crack whore article. He has something he wants to show her and he puts on a videotape sent by a woman called Marla (Georgina Rylance). It shows a cult of young people and their leader Winter (Paul Rhys) then a cult member shooting herself in the head. Amy thinks this a bad taste snuff film but Charles tells her to keep watching. Winter inhales her dying breath then breaths into her mouth.The woman comes back to life and is warmly greeted by the other cultists When the tape finishes Amy wants to know what the hell she just watched and Charles tells her that is her assignment. The parcel with the video has a return address in Bucharest and Charles has already booked her a seat on a flight there, knowing Amy well enough to know that she’ll take the assignment.

In Bucharest Amy goes straight to Marla’s apartment. Amy bribes the landlord to let her look around for five minutes. The place is stinking and full of flies. In the bathroom she finds Marla’s body sitting on the toilet tied up with rope so the body doesn’t fall and that’s where the stink and the flies come from. She finds a parcel with the words “help us” scrawled on it. In Marla’s hand she finds the Lament Configuration puzzle box and she takes that too.

Back in her hotel room she finds another videotape and a key in the parcel from Marla begging whoever finds the tape for help and she mentions Winter using the puzzle box as a gateway to the power he uses. Amy picks up the box and wonders what Marla meant by opening it. After a few moments playing about with it the box opens and after moving about it close and sits. Then chains burst out and grab her face. She has vision of her abusive father and Pinhead (Doug Bradley) appears and says ominously, “Don’t think for a second that you’re not in danger,” then the room goes back to normal. Her phone rings and it Marla begging for her help.

Marla did mention in her video a contact that will lead Amy to Winter and his Deader cult. She goes to the underground station and after passing a woman in a cheap plastic jacket bleeding in her seat she gets on a train at the last car which unlike the others is covered in graffiti and its windows are blacked out. A guy who acts like a bouncer lets her in when she mentions the name Joey. She has to walk through a sleazy display of freaks and naked flesh and body modification and naked bodies and people who hold cardboard photos in front of themselves until she gets to Joey (Marc Warren) a smart arse English guy. Joey tries to warn her away from going near Winter and his crowd but Amy is determined and when she brings out the puzzle box Joey gets very unsettled. He gives her the address of Winter and his cult.

Amy gets off the train and standing at the platform in the station she gets the impression she’s being watched. She looks on the other platform and Winter is standing there and he walks towards her. Amy has flashbacks of her father locking her in a cupboard. Just then a subway train arrives and Winter jumps in front of it. Amy alerts the station staff and they stop the train to look for a body but of course there’s nothing there. She explains again to security guard what she saw when she sees Winter on the platform getting on a train and runs down to try to catch him while the guard chases after her. She gets grabbed a bunch of security guards on the platform. At the police station Amy get released by her boss Charles. Amy wants to know what they were going to charge her with and Charles tells her they were going to commit her to an asylum. Charles offers to drive Amy to her hotel but she says she’d rather walk.

Amy gets in a cab to take her Winter’s address in a rundown part of the city. The gate is padlocked but the key Marla left opens it. She goes in a door down stairs then down more stairs and lands in thick mud at the foot of the stairs. She goes down a tunnel and sees German shepherd dog that ignores her. She goes down dark passageway using her lighter and she hears whispers. When she turns a corner the passageway get narrower then even narrower and narrower again until she has to squeeze through. The lighter goes out and when she gets it lit again the wall seems to move with insects feeling the light. A hooded figure with knife come up behind her and raises the knife and Amy she sees person attack her and screams

Suddenly she’s now in wide passageway and a black man shushes her and tells her to follow him. He leads her to the cult as Winter brings back a skinny guy with bug eyes who was killed by knife and we see him return to life. Winter goes to a separate room and Amy follows him and she passes the Deaders they all proudly show off their fatal wounds. In a back room Winter is sitting in armchair and greets Amy by name and says he chose her which Amy strongly doubts. Amy brings out the puzzle box and asks Winter what it is. Winter says it’s a family heirloom (hinting that he’s a descendant of Le Merchand) and it’s a way to cheat death and a gateway to a world of everlasting pleasure and it belongs to him. Winter wants to know what she’s up to and he repeats what Pinhead said earlier, “Don’t think for second you’re not in danger.”

Winter needs her help to claim what he says is his. Amy doesn’t want to be like them, like Marla who killed herself and Winter says she can’t die but because she’s not alive but the more she doubts the deader she will become. For some reason out of nowhere Amy talks about how her flesh is real and she is real which seems to a response to the first video, not to something Winter just said. This is a line that gets a little well-rehearsed rant from Winter about how solidity is an illusion and how we are all essentially nothing [and since the film took its time to rant on the subject I’m going to give my thoughts. I know that an atom is usually said to be empty space because the matter in atom makes up a small fraction of the volume of an atom. But this ignores the fact that the atom has a field of force, especially electric field and it is the combination of the forces that create the macroworld concept of solidity. Just because it means something else at the molecular level it doesn’t mean matter and humans are not really real. Rant over.]

When Winter grabs her Amy gets flashbacks of her father again and she’s suddenly on the death-bed in the main room and Winter wants to know what she saw when she opened the box what is she afraid of. He needs her take next step so he can claim the box’s powers and he holds a knife at her throat and Amy screams.

She wakes up in her bathtub and sees the muddy boots that confirm she went to Winter’s place. That night she dreams of her father beating her with a belt and she wakes from nightmare. There’s a dull thunk sound and blood starts trickling down her shoulder and pooling on bed. With horror Amy discovers she has a knife in her back poking right through so that the tip comes out her front. She screams confused she thinks it’s a dream and sobs over and over that this can’t be real. Amy uses a cupboard door in bathroom to pull out the knife.

The phone rings and its Marla saying only he can bring you back. Pinhead suddenly appears and denies he had anything to what happened to her. He asks Amy why, as she stands bleeding, she feels no pain and Amy guesses that she’s dreaming but Pinhead says she has been recruited as a soldier in another man’s war. Winter thinks he cheated death but Pinhead wants their souls. Amy screams and throws something at him but he vanishes. Amy uses towels to absorb blood from her wounds but it doesn’t really work very well.

Amy goes to the subway station and the blood pools at her feet. She uses newspapers to mop up the blood and hide it from a security guard. She gets on Joey’s carriage and begs him for help. Joey tells her they all pieces in Winter’s puzzle and suddenly everyone on the train is dead and there’s chains and blood and severed limbs and a Cenobite torturing the living. She meets Marla and they get off the train. Amy just wants to go home and Marla says that where she’s going. She reveals that she was the person who stabbed Amy. Amy thinks of the phrase, “Fear is where you go to learn,” and suddenly she’s in the monochrome past back in her father’s house.

Amy wakes up in a hospital chained to a bed. Charles is there trying to get her released. An English doctor comes in a gives her a clean bill of health and undoes the restraints. Amy wanders out into psychiatric ward and little girl draws her picture with a half evil monster face and that freaks her out. She runs out to corridor where she sees Marla looking alive in the waiting area. Amy asks why she is there and we get lines lifted out of Barkers original story about ultimate pleasure and conditions of the nerve endings the likes of which your imagination could not hope to evoke then Marla just drops it as something they say, whoever they are. Marla tells Winter can’t solve puzzle and he needs someone who can that is willing to join him. Amy starts bleeding again and sees the door to her father’s house and she relives the memory of when she murdered her father with a knife. As her father falls down dying from his wounds Amy falls down dying from her own wounds.

Amy wakes back in Winter’s place lying on the bed. He holds out knife for her to complete her journey and end her suffering. After screams and tears Amy takes the knife and while Winter the Deaders goad her on she lifts up the knife as if to stab herself but she doesn’t do it and instead picks up the puzzle box and tosses it. It opens and Pinhead and a few other Cenobites appear in a lightning storm

Winter gets hooked up and pulled apart. The Deaders are all standing conveniently in two straight lines so they are all killed by just two chains punching through the two lines. That just leaves Amy and Pinhead wants her too but Amy picks up the knife and stabs herself and the puzzle box flashes blue, Pinhead screams “NO!” and the whole building implodes.

Charles is watching the news. His secretary aks if there had been any word from Amy and Charles says no. His secretary asks if he thinks something happened to her and Charles has no idea. The secretary shows in a young female journalist and Charles talks about showing her a tape that might interest her.

This film has something interesting things going but it suffers from being shoehorned into the Hellraiser series because it really feels like a completely different story with Hellraiser elements pasted in. The Deader story is quite good and I thought the scene when Amy discovers the knife in her body was very well done thank to a convincing performance from Kari Wuhrer. I also thought the scene in the narrow passage was very tense and it got my claustrophobia working along with my dislike for crawling things moving about that I can’t see. The train scene was a bit cheesy with the freaks on display bit. The biggest failing of the film is the attempt to marry this story to the Hellraiser mythos by having the iconic puzzle box do whatever the hell the script needs it to do. I know that as an anonymous low-budget horror story I may have never seen this if it was not a Hellraiser film but it would have been interesting.

Rating 6.5/10

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Posted by on November 13, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: The Violent Kind

I had never heard of the film so I went into it blind, which is probably the best way to see this film so I’ll try hard to avoid any spoilers.This film features some modern bikers up against something that’s difficult to explain even after watching it. The film is a strange of blend of influences like Blackboard Jungle and 70s exploitation films with just a little hint of something demonic

Cody (Cory Knauf), Q (Bret Roberts and Elroy (Nick Tagas) are members of a biker-gang ,drug-dealing violent and just not very pleasant. They go to Cody’s mother’s old house where she is celebrating her 50th birthday in typically rowdy biker-gang fashion with lots of booze, gambling, strippers and fights. Cory is not very happy to see his ex-girlfriend Michelle (Tiffany Shepis) at the party with her new boyfriend Dave (Terry Wayne). Cody’s mother has to leave the party early with his uncle who has an oxygen mask. The party keeps going but Cody drifts outside where he gets talking to Michelle’s little sister Megan (Christina McDowell) who always liked him and wrote him letters anonymously while he was in prison.

As the night goes on all the bikers leave until Cody and his two friends are left along with Q’s girlfriend Shade (Taylor Cole) and Megan who has discovered that Michelle has already driven off with Dave and she has no transport into town about 30 miles away. Then Michelle comes back to the house covered in blood and injured and they find Dave lying dead in the car just down the road. They take Michelle into a bedroom and Megan tries to clean her up. Q tries to get his car working to get her to a hospital but even though the engine is fine it’s just not working.

The film looks like its going to be them up against some supernatural evil hiding the woods but things take a sharp for the turn for the strange when Michelle goes crazy and nearly rips Elroy’s face off and a violent gang of rockabillys terrorise them to relieve their boredom. This gang are led by Vernon (Joe Egender) who never shuts up then there’s Jazz (Joseph McKelheer) in his teddy boy outfit who likes his flick-knife and dancing, Murderball (Samuel Child) who never speaks and prefers his fists and listening to insanity on his headphones and two women call Trixie (Mackenzie Firgens) and Pussywagon (Ilea Matthews).

As I said above this film is a very strange blend and it may take another viewing to see if I can figure out if I liked it. It has a gritty  depressing realist portrayal of the bikers and the over-the-top violent campy madness of the rockabilly gang and that really is not all. It is difficult to hint at the final reveal without spoiling it but I think it will lead to very mixed reactions. I thought it was quite a bold film and even if its not entirely successful it certainly is interesting.

Rating 6.5/10

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Posted by on March 15, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Dellamorte Dellamore

I first saw this film back in the 90s at the Glasgow Film Theatre when it was called The Cemetery Man and I was swept up by this mad stylish meandering story with its strange dark humour and gory effects. I always preferred the Italian title because its meaning, Of Death Of Love really fits it so much better as well as sounding a whole lot sexier. I did manage to see it on VHS but it just didn’t seem to be appearing on DVD but now Shameless have finally released it uncut in UK, which give me a perfect chance to revisit it.

Francesco Dellamorte (Rupert Everett) is the caretaker of the cemetery in the small Italian town of Buffalora which is cursed with the dead coming back to life within seven days of their death. Francesco and his almost mute assistant Gnaghi (François Hadji-Lazaro) take care of this problem by efficiently killing the returners a second time with a head-shot either from Francesco’s handgun or Gnaghi’s spade. Francesco is tall, handsome and depressed and likes the rain while Gnaghi is short round and fairly cheerful and likes the sunshine.

One day at a funeral Francesco spots a beautiful woman, called simply She (Anna Falchi) in the credits, mourning for the dead man and he falls for her. He makes a fool of himself trying to talk to her but he gets another chance when she returns to visit the grave. She’s not very impressed when he clumsily assumes that the older dead man was her father when, in fact, it was her husband. Francesco’s attempt to talk to the woman fails miserably but just She’s leaving the cemetery he mentions that the cemetery has an ossuary. He shows her into the ossuary and She gets sexually excited by the bones and funeral shrouds.

They make love next to her dead husband’s grave because She never kept any secrets from him. Her dead husband does not appreciate this and he bursts out of his grave and attacks them, taking a bite out her arm. Gnaghi arrives and kills the returning husband. She is pronounced dead by the local coroner Dr Verseci (Clive Riche) and the police chief Marshall Staniero (Mickey Knox) is happy with his own version of what happened to her. He leaves Francesco to take care of her body. Francesco doesn’t want her to be a zombie so he lays her out in the ossuary and waits for her to return. As soon as She does he shoots her in the head and buries her in a grave. A few nights later She comes back again and Francesco is so stunned he lets her kiss and bite him but Gnaghi puts his spade into her head, killing her for once and for all. Francesco realises that She wasn’t dead the first time and that he killed her in the ossuary. Francesco has a vision of death telling him to stop killing the dead and to start killing the living.

Francesco and Gnaghi go into town so Francesco can pick up his pay from the council offices and speak to his friend Franco. They pass a group of obnoxious young people with motor scooters who slag off Francesco for being impotent, a rumour that Francesco himself claims to have started. The town’s Mayor Scanarotti (Stefano Masciarelli) is having lunch at table with his friends and family and invites Francesco and Gnaghi to sit with them so he can talk about the upcoming election. Gnaghi sits next to the mayor’s daughter Valentina  (Fabiana Formica) who thinks he’s sweet and charming but despite Francesco’s warning Gnaghi gets so excited by Valentina talking to him that he throws up on her.

Claudio (Alessandro Zamattio), one of the obnoxious young people on a motorbike, drives up and offers to take Valentina for a ride and she accepts and they drive off with the rest of the gang, While driving along the twisty mountain roads they collide with a bus full of scouts on a trip which kills all the bikers and goes off the road killing all the scouts. We see the wheel of the bus go right over Valentina and take her head off. While everyone is grieving Francesco and Gnaghi seems to be happy and Franscesco chats and jokes with Staniero while the scouts sing a song about dying on the boy scout picnic.

This bunch of dead people return a lot faster than usual and so Francesco and Gnaghi are kept busy putting down the zombie scouts. They also have to deal with Claudio’s girlfriend who has heard the rumour that the dead come back to life and she refuses to leave his grave. Claudio was buried with his motorbike and when he returns he does so riding his bike. Francesco can’t manage to shoot him and can’t do anything to stop his girlfriend riding off with him. When he catches up with them Francesco shoots Claudio but the bullet ricochets and kills his girlfriend too. Francesco think he could be in trouble but decides to bury the girl in Claudio’s  grave anyway.

When Valentina comes back to life Gnaghi is waiting for her. He frees her head from the coffin and she lets him kiss her. Gnaghi keeps her head inside his broken TV set. Mayor Scanarotti has come to the cemetery with the really pathetic idea of being photographed beside his dead daughter to help him with his election campaign. He’s not very happy when Francesco digs up her body and her head is missing. Then he hears her calling to him and goes into Gnaghi’s room and sees her in the broken TV. Valentina tells he father that she intends to marry Gnaghi and when he objects she flies out of the TV set and bites him on the neck killing him. Francesco then has to put a bullet in her head. Gnaghi is heartbroken but Francesco points out that she was rotting anyway and he needs to find a living woman.

The new Mayor comes to the cemetery to look into a report he has received about the dead coming back but Francesco denies it. That’s when he meets the mayor’s personal assistant who it turns out is She again but as a different woman. She and Francesco fall in love right away. She reveals that she loves him mainly because she has heard that he is impotent and she has a phobia of erect penises and sex. This is a problem because Francesco is not impotent so he goes to Dr Verseci to get his dick cut off. Verseci refuses to do it but gives him a drug that will make him temporarily impotent. It is lucky for Franscesco that he did because the next time Francesco sees her She tells him that the mayor raped her and now She loves sex and is going to marry the mayor but She still loves Francesco a friend.

Francesco goes on a killing spree, first of all knocking off a load of obnoxious young people. Then while driving around two students ask him for a lift and one of them is She as yet another woman. He takes them back to their flat and  Francesco falls in love with She again and they have sex. It is only later he discovers that She and her friend are prostitutes. He starts a fire and leaves ignoring the screams and cries of the women.

At the cemetery Staniero comes to see him to tell him about the killings in town. Francesco is a suspect but they have already a man who confessed to the killings at the hospital after trying to kill himself. Francesco is not happy that someone stole his crimes and goes to the hospital. He discovers it is his friend Franco from the council. Francesco shoots a nun a doctor and a nurse dead while talking to his friend. When he leaves the hospital is in chaos because there is a madman killing people. He meets Staniero who sees him with a gun but still fails to make the connection between Francesco and the killings.

Francesco decides he’s had enough and he and Gnaghi pack all their belonging into his car and they head of  down the road out of Buffalora and Francesco discovers that his reality was not what he thought at all.

This film is crazy but there is streak of dark humour running through it all. Rupert Everett narrates Francesco’s thoughts throughout the film, including his meditations on the meaning of life death and love. Francesco is never a nice person but I don’t get this modern obsession with creating likeable protagonists. I love this film and I know other people may not. If you like Italian horror or zombie films you may enjoy this too

Rating 8.6/10

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Posted by on March 3, 2012 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Dr Moreau’s House of Pain

This film is a sort of sequel to events in the original story The Island of Dr Moreau by H.G. Wells. I know that was made into films and that one had Marlon Brando as Dr Moreau and I don’t remember much else about it other that I didn’t like it enough to remember it. There’s no such problem with Charles Band at the helm of this entertaining low-budget take.

Eric Carson (John Patrick Jordan) is looking for his brother who has gone missing . He goes to the strip club where he was last seen alive and the barman tells he him that his brother was obsessed with a stripper Alliana (Lorielle New). Someone else obsessed with her is sitting watching just then, a gangster called Johnny Q. After Alliana has finished her set she leaves the club and Johnny Q follows her to her car. Eric follows to and watches from a distance as Alliana punches a hole through Johnny Q’s  head. She then drags the body into her car and drives off.

Eric goes to two reporters Mary Anne (Debra Mayer) and Judith (Jessica Lancaster) who were waiting outside the club in their car, hoping that there is a story in Eric’s missing brother. The three of them follow Alliana to a large remote building. As they look around the outside of the building Peewee (B.J. Smith), a large ugly creature, appears out of nowhere grabs Mary Anne and vanishes into a secret passage with her.

Eric and Judith look around for away into the building and they also get captured by Dr Pak (Ling Aum) who has a scythe and Gallagher (Peter Donald Badalamenti II) a small man with the face of a pig. Gallagher tells them that they will be used as experimental subjects. Dr Moreau is continuing his work on creating humans out of animals but his manimals have revolted and along his former assistant Pak and are forcing him to continue his work for their benefit. The manimals want him to complete his work on making them human and Pak wants him to work on his daughter who is a half-deformed fish.

Eric finds himself attracting the attention of Alliana who is mostly human but used to be a leopard. She gets naked and has sex with him. This makes Gallagher jealous who turns his attention to Judith. Eric frees Dr Moreau and they try to escape which leads to Moreau, Pak and manimals being killed and at one point Judith gets injected with an experimental serum. The film ends with Judith dancing on the stage at the strip club while Eric drinks at the bar and Judith has a long forked snake tongue.

I thought this film was a fun watch. The make-up effects were quite poor but this was kind of justified in that Gallagher and Peewee were unfinished. The science is very silly with some mixture of organ grafting and some sort of serum and with a bit of genetics thrown in but then viable science is never major feature of mad science horror films.

Rating 7/10

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2011 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: American Werewolf in London

Another 80s favourite again. This comedy horror from John Landis is really well-balanced between its dark humour and outright horror. The soundtrack is well-used as a running joke opening with one version of Blue Moon by Sam Cooke and finishing with the inappropriately upbeat cover version by the Marcels. I’m sure they had the Bobby Vinton one played at some point as well.

American students David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) are on a hiking holiday through Yorkshire and they stop for a rest at a pub called the Slaughtered Lamb. The locals all pause awkwardly when they come in but go right back to their fun. The barmaid tells them there’s no food and no soup but they can get tea if they want something hot. Jack notices a pentacle drawn crudely on the wall in what looks like blood and makes a joke saying “Remember the Alamo,” which leads to everyone talking about the film about the Alamo and Brian Glover making a dodgy joke.

When Jack keeps pushing on the subject of the pentacle the mood changes and they are told they are no longer welcome. The barmaid tries to apeal for them to stay but they leave with the advice that they keep to the roads and beware the moon. As they walk the don’t even notice they’ve left the road behind. They hear sound of a large dog howling and something is tracking them on the moor and they see the full moon. They break into a run and David slips and falls. As Jack reaches out to help him up he is attacked and torn to pieces by a huge furry beast. David gets up and runs quite a way before he decides to go back and help Jack. When he gets there he’s attacked by the beast but suddenly there’s crowd of villagers taking it down in hail of bullets. Just before David passes out he turns to see the creature but instead he sees a dead naked guy covered in bullet holes.

When David wakes in hospital it’s three weeks later. He learns from Dr Hirsch (John Woodvine) that the official version of events is that they were attacked by an escaped lunatic but David insists it was a wild animal. Dr Hirsch in not happy with all the inconsistencies and starts doing his own investigating

David  finds his dreams are getting more vivid and they start innocent enough, start getting more disturbing until AAAARGHGHH. David also starts getting visits from the undead spirit of Jack who warns him that he will become a werewolf and kill people at the next full moon if he doesn’t kill himself first. David rationalises it as just another nightmare.

David’s nurse Alex Price (Jenny Agutter) grows fond of David and feels a bit sorry for him so she takes him home to her flat. Soon she’s taking care of him naked in the shower to tune of Van Morrison‘s Moon Dance. That night when David wakes up to go to toilet Jack appears to him again to try persuade him to kill himself.

The next day Alex has to go to work and she leaves David alone in her flat. A montage scene to the tune of Bad Moon Rising show us David having a boring day. Then the Moon comes out and we get a long painful transformation scene where muscles stretch and bones crack in excruciating detail.

The werewolf slaughters a young couple on their way to a dinner party, a trio of tramps sitting drinking by a fire and a businessman on the London Underground. We only get glimpses of the creature but one of the creepiest is the attack in the Undergound where you see it coming into view for just a second as it comes for the man lying on the escalator.

David wakes next morning naked in the wolf enclosure at the zoo. I got a few laughs as David steals a kid’s balloons to help him cover his naughty bits before he steals woman’s coat and makes his way back to Alex’s flat by bus. Dr Hirsch insists Alex brings David into the hospital but on the way there David finds about the murders from the taxi driver. He freaks and runs away, trying to get a policeman to arrest him. Then he sees Jack beckoning him into a sleazy porn cinema where he introduces him to all his victims, now undead spirits just like Jack. They insist David must die so that they can rest, giving him all sorts of helpful suggestions on the best way to do it, but it is getting late and the moon is rising outside.

This film still works for me because the story keeps it simple and lets us get to know the characters. David is really nice normal guy that’s makes what’s happening to him is terrible and tragic  The effects were cutting edge at the time and the transformation scene is still more convincing than more recent CGI transformation scenes. It’s a nice unique twist that the undead spirits of Jack and the other victims haunt David and these scenes are where most of dark humour comes from and Griffin Dunne is really funny as Jack the rotting corpse.

Rating 9/10

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2011 in Entertainment, Film

 

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Review: Return of the Living Dead

American science fiction screenwriter and dire...

Dan O'Bannon Image via Wikipedia

When I feel in the mood for a horror comedy this film is one of my first choices. When I first saw it on VHS back in 80s I had no idea it was written and directed by the late Dan O’Bannon, writer of Alien, Dark Star and Total Recall screenplays among others. He only directed two films, this film and a fairly faithful little-known adaptation of H.P. Lovecraft‘s The Case of Charles Dexter Ward called The Resurrected and starring Chris Sarandon.

Freddy (Thom Mathews) has just started his new job at the Uneeda medical supplies warehouse owned by Burt (Clu Gulager). Burt heads off on a date leaving Frank (James Karen) to show the new boy around. It’s a task that Frank really gets into, telling all sorts of stories to the naive and dumb Freddie and showing him around the ghoulish stock they have in the warehouse such as half-dogs mounted for use in veterinary schools and a fresh cadaver in the freezer.

When Freddy ask about the freakiest thing he’d ever seen Frank tells him the true story that Night of the Living Dead was based on. Trioxin, an experimental chemical herbicide, was released into the ground and this chemical re-animated corpses. Freddy wants know how Frank knows about this and Frank tells him that they have barrels with bodies in them in the warehouse, delivered there due a clerical error. He takes Freddy to basement and shows him several rusting metal barrels with a window on top showing a long dead corpse inside. Freddy asks if the barrels are safe and Frank hits one to prove how sturdy it is, which of course makes the barrel burst open and release heavy thick choking fumes that knocks out the two men. The fumes creep through the warehouse as the Trioxin theme tune plays.

Freddy’s girlfriend Tina (Beverly Randolph) is hanging out with Freddy’s pals. You can tell they are Freddy’s pals because they are punks and Tina really doesn’t seem much like them at all. They want to party and Tina wants to meet Freddy after work. Since Freddy is the man who knows about parties they all agree to go with her to meet Freddy at work. They get a lift from a big punk called Suicide that takes himself far too seriously. With couple of hours to kill they decide to hang out in the cemetery across the street from the Uneeda warehouse.

Freddy and Frank come around the basement feeling sick and covered the horrible smell of whatever came out of the barrel. They go upstairs to ring Burt and then they hear the sound of dogs yelping. They go see what it is and find it’s the half-dogs writhing on their mounts. next come the inevitable screams and banging from the freezer.

Back at the cemetery Trash (Linnea Quigley) is talking creepy to Chuck, telling him about her nightmares. This seems to be a cue that all her friends are used to as the music gets turned up and Trash strips naked except for her long woollen leggings and dances to the music on top of a tomb. Naturally this scene is notorious and I’m sure many straight boys got very excited by it.

Burt has returned to Uneeda furious with Frank. He decides to get rid  of everything and pretend that nothing happened but first they have to kill the creaming cadaver still banging on the freezer door. When they release the corpse and eventually get it pinned down Burt puts a pick-axe through its head. This does nothing to stop it struggling and even worse nor does cutting off its head. They get the body chopped up into less dangerous pieces and wrap the bits in bin bags to take them and the half-dogs across the street to the mortuary, hoping to use the crematorium oven. Ernie (Don Calfa) the mortuary owner objects to burning things which are clearly alive and when Burt tries to claim its rabid weasels he doesn’t believe a word of it. Burt shows him what’s in the bags to convince Ernie to help out. They load the body parts into the oven and burn the lot to ash. Thick smoke pours out of the chimney up into the air and with a peal of thunder it starts raining. Just then the Trioxin theme returns and we know their problems are far from over as the rain washes the chemical into the ground of the cemetery.

In my opinion this film has one of the best zombies created. While looking for Freddy in basement at Uneeda Tina runs into Tarman, the corpse that came out of the original barrel. Its flesh has mostly liquified and it is barely more than skeleton with big eyes and a horrible pink tongue lolling around in its mouth. The first time I saw Tarman I crapped myself. It comes after Tina crying ‘brains,’ a cry that is now associated with zombies thanks to this film. When Tina hides away in a cupboard it uses a block and tackle to pull the doors off. Tina is only saved when Tarman gets distracted by the juicy brains in Suicide’s head, letting her escape. These zombies are relentless, impossible to kill and as smart as people. There’s another scene later when a zombie has finshed eating the brain of a paramedic and he radios back to the base for more paramedics.

The humour feels very natural, coming from the characters reacting to their situation. James Karen, Clu Gulager and Don Calfa are all great comedy actors and they really bring the script to life without pushing it over the top. The film make a lot of use of music and not just the living dead theme that signals the spread trioxin but other music featurin punk music liked the Cramps Surfin’ Dead and the Damned’s Dead Beat Dance

There is set-up for a sequel at the end but none of ones made came close to this one.

Rating 9/10

 
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Posted by on August 17, 2011 in Entertainment, Film

 

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