Archives For horror

Terrifier (2018)

September 9, 2018 — Leave a comment

What do a clown, a hacksaw, a brutally murdered journalist and a reference to Silence of the Lambs have in common? Well, they all play a part in Damien Leone’s Terrifier, a brutally violent slasher that plants both its feet firmly in the aesthetic of the 80s.

After an opening that gives more than a discreet nod to Nightmare on Elm Street, the film sees two college students being stalked by the maniacal  Art the Clown (David Howard Thornton), a monochrome killer whose creepiest affectation is the distinct lack of noise he makes. Even when screaming in a violent rage, barely a peep comes out.

Based on Leone’s short film of the same name, which ended up playing a large part in the anthology All Hallow’s Eve, Terrifier is aimed squarely at those people who found Hostel to be too plot heavy. From the minute Art catches sight of his two victims, Tara (Jenna Kannell) and Dawn (Catherine Corcoran), the film becomes nothing more than a long chase sequence loaded with gore. The only real plot development is the arrival of Tara’s sister, Vicky (Samantha Scaffidi), and several disposable men. Not that that is a bad thing. Terrifier’s raw simplicity is actually one of its strengths. You just may want to look elsewhere if you’re after anything with a bit more meat on the bones. Speaking of meat, Leone is clearly a man who delights in making his audience squirm with scenes of vulgarity that make good work of the film’s limited budget.

So, sure, if this sounds like your cup of tea, then drink up. However, before diving in it seems fair to point out that at times Terrifier relies too strongly on the torture porn tropes we all assumed had died after the straight to DVD effort that was Hostel 3. Case in point: a centrepiece of the film sees someone being split down the middle in an excruciatingly blunt manner. It’s uncomfortable and not in the way you’re expecting. It’s hard to say why, in a film that sees a clown running people over whilst listening to freestyle jazz, scenes like this unsettle the most. Perhaps it’s in Leone’s execution (pun not intended) which walks a thin line between the depraved and the titillating. This critic is no prude, but sometimes you just have to say, ‘nope’.

If you can overlook these moments, then you’ll certainly get a kick out of Terrifier. Particularly Thornton’s performance as the mute Art. Terrifying? Maybe not. Uncomfortable? For sure. It’s certainly one of the bleaker films streaming on Netflix right now.

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Blood from the Mummy’s Tomb

This 1972 entry in the Hammer canon seems to owe more to the Carry On series than anything else. Somewhat adapted from a story by Bram Stoker, Margaret Fuchs (Valeire Leon) is given a ring by her archaeologist father which, through the magic of something or other, possesses her with the spirit of an evil Egyptian Princess. When Hammer get it right, they really get it right. At other times, they give us this.

Yes, there were troubles behind the scenes (Director Seth Holt sadly passed away before filming was complete), but the film must be taken for what it is. A rather boring affair that no manner of camp or irony will save. Carry On Screaming is literally better and scarier than this.

She-Wolf of London

Directed by Jean Yarbrough (Hillbillys in a Haunted House), She-Wolf of London is often grouped in with The Wolf Man franchise that saw Lon Chaney Jnr running around in a jumpsuit and furry mask. In actuality, She-Wolf of London is less about shape shifting horror and more about a young woman, Phyllis (June Lockhart) and mental health. Think of it as a hairier Yellow Wallpaper.

Despite the potential for a gothic thriller, Yarbrough hands in a limp soap opera that fades into nothing once it’s all over with. A large fault with the film is how it spells everything out within the first ten minutes, leaving the audience confident in how it’s all going to end. With nothing to engage us for the rest of the film’s short run time, She-Wolf of London drags on for what feels like an eternity. Best to avoid if you’re ever doing a Universal binge.

Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead

Two words: Troma Films. If you’ve seen anything from Lloyd Kauffman’s diseased stable, then you know what to expect. Tromaville’s Native American burial ground has been ploughed over to make way for a new fast food restaurant and its deceased inhabitants are none too pleased about it. Billed as a musical horror, Poultrygeist is almost hypnotic with its low budget, copious amounts of gore and toe tappers.

The ‘musical’ numbers stir up memories of Little Shop of Horrors and Meet the Feebles but are soon forgotten about in the last third of the film. However, it’s very hard to care in a film that seems to happily urinate in the wind with regards to convention. When the undead rise, the bucket of blood is somewhat diluted, in a good way, by jokes that remind us of Peter Jackson’s Braindead. It’s hard not to be swept along and giggle as a chicken zombie strips the flesh from its victim, acknowledging to a fellow fowl that it knows the skin is unhealthy for it. Definitely one of Troma’s better offerings.

The Howling III sees Jebra (Imogen Annesley); a young shape shifter running away from her village in the Australian outback, as well as her abusive step-father. Arriving in Sydney, she becomes the lead in a trashy horror franchise, directed by a Hitchcock lookalike who works actors into the ground. Falling in love with a member of the production crew, Jebra must hide her lycanthrope secret from him, not knowing that Daddy Dearest has sent her sisters out to get her back.

Director Phillipe Mora (Mad Dog Morgan) wrote and directed The Marsupials as a retort to an unhappy production on his previous film The Howling II, which concluded with  extra nudity being inserted without his consent. Watching the film, it’s pretty easy to see the stabs and kicks he’s aiming at that production, falling, as they do, with all  the subtlety of an elephant parachuting.

It’s very much a patchy affair that, with its psychic werewolf ballerinas and birthing scenes, makes next to no sense. Admittedly, the same thing could be said for the original Howling, but at least it had some capable talent on board as well as a modicum of a budget. This second sequel’s problems can be summarised when it blows its load on a transformation sequence that happens in a film within the film, and not actually to our protagonists.

Whilst it may seem petty to criticise a horror comedy for being silly, the fact is that with barely a titter to be had or a scare to be seen, the silliness is all The Marsupials has left. It’s like watching your grandma dance around in her pants – No one is laughing and there’s a deep concern for all involved.

Grabbers (2012)

February 7, 2018 — Leave a comment

There is an excruciating moment in I’m Alan Partridge, when the titular DJ is trying to win favour with a couple of TV execs form Dublin in the hopes of bagging a job over there. After running through innumerable Gaelic stereotypes, he hits upon the woeful campaign slogan of ‘Dere’s more to Ireland dan dis’. And whilst it may seem odd to say, Grabbers kind of lives up to his ad campaign. Like Australia, New Zealand and other countries that most people associate with looking pretty on a postcard, Ireland has given us a stonking creature feature.

On a remote island near Northern Ireland, a small village comes under attack from a gaggle of tentacled aliens who have landed to Earth during what appears their mating season. When bodies of local residents start turning up, the safety of the village is dropped into the hands of alcoholic Garda Ciarán O’Shea (Richard Coyle) and visiting Dublin Garda, Lisa Nolan (Ruth Bradley). Upon discovering that aliens are allergic to blood with high alcohol content, O’Shea decides that the villagers must seek sanctuary in the local pub for a lock-in to end all lock-ins.

Evidently, this is not a sombre under siege horror like John Carpenter’s The Fog. More likely it’s a schlockfest in the vein of Shaun of the Dead; mixing comedy and horror in a way that is often forgotten when these hybrids are produced. Kevin Lehane’s screenplay delivers memorable one-liners, but gives us characters we can believe in. Ask yourself seriously if, under the same situation, you would act like Bruce Willis fighting off the aliens with a toothpick, or like the village’s drunk, Paddy (Lalor Roddy) wondering how you’re going to come out of this alive and drinking yourself into oblivion?

Jon Wright, who gave us 2009’s Tormented, squeezes a lot out of his $3.5 million budget that would put a lot of Hollywood fare to shame. Not relying solely on the formulaic ‘quiet, quiet, BANG!’ motif that comes with most modern horror – Paranormal Activity we’re looking at you! – He delivers some literally explosive set pieces that reflect and rift on a number of classics, including Jaws and Aliens. Did we mention how bloomin’ gorgeous it all looks? Wright embraces the Irish countryside, in a way that would make Peter Jackson weep.

Grabbers is a booze and blood soaked comedy that deserves a lot more credit than it probably gets. A true cult film in the making and fine tourist campaign if ever there was one.

 

Better Watch Out (2017)

December 24, 2017 — Leave a comment

It’s Christmas and teenager Ashely (Olivia DeJonge) has a lot to unpack at present. As well as boyfriend trouble, she’s having to deal with moving out of her home town after the holidays. Trying to recoup some sense of normality, Ashley offers to do one last babysitting gig looking after 12-year-old Luke (Levi Miller). For Luke, this is fantastic news due to the long-held crush he has on Ashley, and is ready to break into his parent’s spirit cabinet if it’ll prove to her how grown up he is. The evening has all the trappings of a terribly awkward night in, and that’s before the phone lines are cut and a home invasion leads to Ashley and Luke running for their lives.

Like McG’s The Babysitter, Chris Peckover’s Better Watch Out cleverly upturns the standard babysitter in peril trope. Whereas the former threw some good old-fashioned devil worshipping into the mix, Better Watch Out has a more modern axe to grind in the shape of 2017’s biggest trend, toxic masculinity. From the opening scene – which sees a cackling boy violently destroy a girl’s snowman simply for his own enjoyment – we know we’re in a world where the needs of women come second to men. So, pretty much exactly like the real world then…

For another example, look at Luke’s crush on Ashley. In other films, in other decades, his behaviour would be brushed off with a ‘boy swill be boys’ attitude. He confides in his friend, Garrett (Ed Oxenbould), that his evening’s plans of a horror film and pizza should be enough to get into Ashley’s pants. After all, he read it on the internet, dude, you can believe everything you read there. The parallels to teenagers learning about sex through watching online porn are clear, and once Ashley must push back Luke’s advances no less than three times in five minutes, his behaviour is seen as anything other cute. But it’s not just about dismantling the cloying idea of a boyhood crush; even later, once Luke’s has been invaded, someone is shot trying to escape and the killer is revealed, Better Watch Out continues its spearing of male privilege with Ashley expected to defend her body from verbal and physical attack.

Performances are key here, and starting off larger than life DeJonge and Miller allow theirs to be stripped down by the reality of the situation, their festive and joyful expectations worn down by the societal norms that plague them every day. So, again, pretty much exactly like the real world then…

Whilst admittedly restrained in terms of flashy direction, Better Watch Out succeeds by offering something other than nubile teens running around in tight t-shirts.

For a while, Dark Angel (AKA I Come in Peace) almost feels like two separate films. The first follows Dolph Lundgren’s tough as nails cop joining up with a naïve FBI agent to hunt down the drug baron who killed his partner. The second sees an overly large humanoid alien literally arriving on earth with a bang and immediately going on a killing spree whilst being pursued by an equally humongous extra-terrestrial. However, both storylines are actually connected by the drugs bust where Lundgren’s partner was killed.

Dark Angel is very much an action movie of its time. Lots of punching people in the head on moodily lit, rain soaked streets in a city under perpetual nighttime. Director Craig R. Baxley (The Warriors) cherry-picks the best bits of 80s blockbusters, particularly The Terminator, to provide something that is more fun than it has any right to be. There is very little here to tax the brain. People talk in exposition on a regular basis and when things start getting a bit slow, you know you’re guaranteed an explosion just around the corner.

However, none of this hides the fact that Dark Angel is a very derivative and not particularly well-made film.

This review originally appeared in FilmInk.

Lifeforce (1985)

October 27, 2017 — Leave a comment

A missing European space probe mission arrives back on earth with most of the crew dead and three naked comatose humanoids in the ship’s cargo. Whilst under quarantine, the humanoids turn out to be overly sexual, energy vampires. One of which escapes, sucking the lifeforce out of every Tom, Dick and Harry, with an SAS colonel and the sole survivor of the probe in hot pursuit.

As high concepts go in sci-fi/horror, this is up there with some of the best. Vampires, spaceships, nudity, zombies, a cameo by Patrick Stewart; there’s a hell of a lot going on in this party bag of a movie from Director Tobe Hooper (Texas Chain Saw Massacre). However, spread across 115 minutes, this feels like a case of throwing everything at the screen and seeing what sticks.

At its best, Lifeforce has some great set pieces coupled with some showy special effects. However, at its worst, which is most of the time, it’s an undercooked slice of genre filmmaking, suggesting Hooper’s heart wasn’t totally in this. This is evidenced by wooden acting, a Mancini score that doesn’t fit the film tonally and a storyline that flails around before finishing itself off with a whimper.

This review originally appeared in FilmInk.