Friday, 31 December 2010

It's official. Sam won Christmas.

Not that it's a competition, but if it was, Sam won Christmas this year. His gift to me was a bespoke  blood-red Evil Dead print, pictured below. As he said, it should offset the girly flower mural in our hallway.

You can see more of Sam's annoyingly good work at, including a similar and equally brilliant typographic Smiths poster.

Friday, 17 December 2010

Photo Diary : What's that coming over the hill, is it a Santa?

Spent the day wandering around London with Sam and Jen and bumped into this. Luckily I haven't been naughty this year.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Video Nasty #40 : The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue AKA Let Sleeping Corpses Lie

Synopsis: After Edna's brother-in-law is killed by a previously dead tramp Edna's druggie sister Katie is the prime suspect. Only Edna and George, her unlikely amateur-misogynist companion, can stop the zombie uprising and prove Katie's innocence.

As a premature-climax to my languishing affair with the video nasty list last week I attended Day of the Undead, Leicester's finest zombie film festival. The event opened with The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue, a rare chance to see this classic but undeservedly lesser seen zombie film on the big screen (Props to Zombie Ed and the team at Terror4fun for organising the awesome event, even the Danny Dyer film didn't put too much of a downer on the day). I have seen the film once before in equally rare circumstances, with Matt the night before his wedding.

The film is driven by its characters, blunt embodiments of the key socio-political movements of '74, to the point of caricature. The protaganist George is a long haired post-hippy environmentalist with a healthy disdain for the man. The Inspector is the man, a proto-fascist authoritarian who hates fun, happiness and the progressive youth. 'You're all the same the lot of you' he spits at George 'with your long hair and faggot clothes. Drugs, sex, every sort of filth! '. Whilst George is convinced that the government's agricultural experiments are causing the dead to rise and kill, the Inspector prefers his equally outlandish explanation for the murders - George and Edna are devil worshipers. These two are the stars of the film and I could watch George antagonising the increasingly manic and righteous Inspector all day.

The cause of the zombie uprising, man playing god, still feels incredibly fresh, probably because its now the defacto explanation for the undead bastards. The details themselves are slightly preposterous, but no more than being bitten by the hybrid off-spring of a monkey raped by plague rats. The government are experimenting with a device that attacks insects' nervous systems and turns them into manic cannibals, effectively wiping out all vermin within a five mile radius. Unfortunately, corpses degraded nervous systems are similar to ants, hence the walking homicidal undead. In a inspired move the logic is extended to baby's undeveloped nervous systems, giving us zombie babies 30 years before the Dawn of the Dead remake.

The zombies themselves are brilliant, and due to their limited number they're given enough screen time to become distinct characters. True to Romero's vision they stumble and crawl at sub-tortoise speeds, always catching the slightly retarded scream-rather-than-run hares. They're also (according to Zombie Ed) the first zombies to much on intestines in full colour, surely a film milestone. The film's high point for gore and low point for decency has to be the infamous involuntary breast reduction, a scene that feels oddly beneath the film, added as a a concession for the gore hounds (IMDB trivia tells us that the director 'cast an actress known for having a flat chest'. If this is what you're known for you're doing this acting thing wrong).

It may be the portentous circumstances (to me, a sad film geek, a zombie film festival is a life milestone) but The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue has to be one of my favourite horror films. Unlike most efforts in the genre, it isn't really a zombie film, it's a film that happens to have zombies in it. Following Romero's lead director Jorge Grau has made a film with great acting, effects, laughs, violence, intelligence and, albeit unsubtle, subtext.

And the ending couldn't be anymore satisfying.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Video Nasty #39 : The Devil Hunter AKA Sexo Caníbal

Synopsis: When model Laura Crawford is kidnapped Peter Weston and his vietnam-vet side kick are sent to a remote South American island to bring her back, preferably with the large ransom the kidnappers have demanded for Laura's release. After the exchange goes disastrously wrong the kidnappers retreat to the jungle and straight in to the grips of 'the devil', the island's resident cannibal overlord.

Just when I thought there couldn't possibly be anymore cannibal movies on the list I find The Devil Hunter, a deceptively titled cheap horrible exploitation smear on otherwise useful celluloid. This film is so awful my laptop's DVD player rejected the disk, shaking and wailing at volume for every second it was forced to decompress, decrypt and de-interlace; as if it couldn't comprehend why its state of the art technology was being used to watch something so horribly lo-fi.

The Devil Hunter is the work of the infamous Jesus Franco, a man who has made an astonishing 160 films, mostly filth (The Erotic Rites of Frankenstein, Vampyros Lesbos, etc.). Not to renege on his reputation The Devil Hunter may as well be called 'Mr Cannibal's Sexy Weekend', as many long scenes are spent watching the afro-caribbean 'natives' and Ms. Crawford writhe in agony whilst thrusting their gyrating crotches in the direction of the shamelessly leering camera. These scenes are so long and blatantly sexualised even a pubescent 16 year old boy would find it a little too slimy to be erotic. Although one could write-off Franco's obsession with nudity as harmless, it's a little more difficult to justify the point of a casual rape scene, as the rapist's girlfriend complicity watches in a hammock ("you're a son of a bitch, but I love you". yay for feminism!).

It's not as if these scenes are required to pad the film out, at 102 minutes long the film is a chore; so much so that I had to watch it in twenty minute chunks, taking rest breaks as if I was revising for some hellish a-level. Unfortunately the promise of gorey cannibal carnage isn't really followed through; the titular devil is a naked dude with ping-pong ball eyes (literally) who likes chewing on necks and covering his victims in a weird powder-based orangey-red paint and placing a few raw sausages around their belly button. When the cannibal isn't on screen we're treated to the tiresome vaseline lensed 'cannibal-cam', complete with heavy breathing smothered in token 80's pop reverb.

That fucking reverb. Enough. It's not scary. It's shit. Stop it.

I could go on but this has just become an unhinged rant. All you really need to know about The Devil Hunter is that it's an awful film. Quite possibly the worst of the #39 i've seen so far. And i've seen Cannibal Terror.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Video Nasty #38 : House by the Cemetery

Synopsis: After Dr Peterson kills himself and his lover, it is left to Norman Boyle to continue the Dr's ground breaking research into, of all things, suicide. To pick up where his college left off Norman moves his family to the Dr's residence, a dilapidated house by an equally dilapidated cemetery. Norman soon discovers that a creepy graveyard is the least of your worries when there’s a crypt in your living room and an un-dead in the cellar...

House by the Cemetery sees Fulci returning to the Nasty List, after the impressive and gut-wrenchingly gory The Beyond. This isn’t the only connection between these two films, as they form two parts of Fulci’s ‘Seven Gates of Hell Trilogy’. Where as The Beyond is a dreamy ethereal and ultimately unremittingly bleak film, House by the Cemetery is, despite the director’s meagre efforts to suggest otherwise, a relatively straight forward monster-in-the-basement roller-coaster ride. Not that i’m complaining, of course.

The most interesting aspect of House by the Cemetery is how little Fulci relies on gore for scares. Sympathetic to the PG-13 connotations of the plot ('monster in the basement' would be the perfect title for a kid-friendly horror movie), Fulci uses flowing and lush cinematography to wring all possible tension out of some frankly hackneyed scenarios. These scene's are all horror movie staples - eyes glowing in the dark, bumps in the night, little kids being creepy and creaking door’s slamming shut to entrap a victim in the monster’s clutches. The later is particularly tense, even after its third copy-paste reprisal in the script.

Of course things don't stay PG-13 for long; in Little Monsters Fred Savage never had a knife jammed through the back of his skull or his throat ripped out (although i'm still hopeful for a director's cut). The most bloody scene of the film is unintentionally hilarious as Norman is attacked by a bat that looks like a Goonies prop reject. The bat latches itself to Norman's hand and the scene plays like a Bruce Campbell body acting masterclass, Norman running around the house desperately trying to dislodge the flying whilst decorating the house with an inhuman (or inbat) amount of blood . Purposefully hilarious or not, seeing the shell-shocked family sprayed with blood was my favourite moment of the film.

Whilst the bat is the unintentional star of the film, the monster is for the most part an un-seen entity, only revealed (as in all good monster movies) in the last ten minuts of the film. Unlike most monster movies, the undead professor is in the full flesh still as creepy as the glimpses of limbs and glowing eyes we've had through-out the film, looking like a prune with eyes (definitely not a raisin, he wasn't poncing around in shades singing 'Heard It Through The Grapevine').

If I had to criticise the film it would be that Fulci can't help but put some inexplicable mysteries into the film, as if he's worried about betraying his Giallo origins. Most are unexplained, and add nothing to the film other than confusion - why did the babysitter clean up after the monster, why did people say Norman had visited the house before?, and what was the ending all about, complete with incorrectly attributed quote? None of this stuff really matters, it's just a shallow attempt at depth that is so ineffectual it doesn't really detract from the main show. Like a plot in a porn film.

House by the Cemetery is great. If you like your monsters grim, and your gore even grimmer, you'll love it.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Video Nasty #37 : Pranks AKA The Dorm that Dripped Blood

Synopsis: Joanne and three friends are clearing a university dormitory in preparation for its demolition. Unbeknownst to them they are being stalked by a shakey-handed camera man with a full concert orchestra in tow. Can they stop their assailant before he permanently stops them? (i'm so sorry, writing a snappy synopsis is difficult).

As slasher films go, Pranks is at best mediocre. The direction is uninspiring, the script lame and acting sub-standard. It does however have a few redeeming features - an absolutely epic score, Princess Vespa from Spaceballs head popping like a balloon, and a surprisingly vicious ending.

In stark contrast to the home-movie cinematography the film's score is the work of an accomplished composer. As the camera lumbers after a chosen victim it's accompanied by plinky plonky staccatto piano, portameto timpanis, crashing cymbals, a full string section and a xylophone. Unfortunately as great as the score is (by Christopher Young, composer on Hellraiser, Drag Me To Hell & Spider Man 3), it's a little too bombastic for this small slasher flick, sapping the film of any tension the dreadful direction hasn't already wrung out of the script (Imagine John Williams scoring The Texas Chainsaw Massacre).

Despite the clunky visuals, the directors at least deliver on the absolute basic slasher requirement - inventive, original and above all else, horrible kills. Despite increasing their chance of being captured ten-fold any self-respecting slasher wouldn't be caught dead with something as dull & efficient as a gun or an, urm, atomic bomb. The best of these prolonged kills has to be Daphne Zuniga's character being knocked unconscious, dragged onto the road and a van reversing over her head (this is after the killer has murdered both of her parents, ever the completist). Although we don't see the cranium collapse, the comedy pop noise is satisfying enough. Other unfortunates are boiled alive, drilled and, in the sombre finale, incinerated.

And on that point; the ending. Through-out the film we're led to believe the killer is the local hermit; who may as well be dressed in red fish costume wearing a sign saying 'i'm a herring'. The killer is in fact Craig, one the characterless flesh-bags that has somehow managed to appear throughout the film without me ever really noticing. This makes it particular infuriating when he says to Joanne, and by extension the audience, 'Don't you understand, it was me the whole time', as if we're stupid for not spotting all the clues liberally sprinkled through out the film (of which there are none). He then goes onto explain how he executed the killings which isn't impressive or relevant, because a) it wasn't exactly difficult and b) as most of the film is unintelligible I couldn't care less. The reasons for his killing are stereotypical but nonsensical in the context of the film. The murderer was secretly in love with the Joanne, the final girl, and he killed everyone else to keep her to himself (this doesn't explain why he killed the janitor and the family who were leaving the university).

Despite this the film ends on a surprisingly sombre and unnerving note. The police arrive but are tricked into believing Craig is a victim. As they celebrate catching the wrong guy Craig carries the unconscious Joanne in his arms and bungs her in the incinerator. This is a surprisingly bold turn, and despite Craig's transformation from forgettable normo to forgettable psycho, the shot of him carrying Joanne to the incinerator is pretty creepy.

So, Pranks is a bit of a mess. Despite its inventive kills and big-budget score it's mostly a badly shot emotionless bore. The biggest problem is that for a film where characters are stalked around a building there's no real sense of geography to the place they inhabit, making it difficult to understand what peril the characters are in (surely a building of this size would have multiple exits?). Along with the poor camera work, direction, acting and cinematography the non-existant tension is completely smothered by the over the bombastic score. Sometimes silence can be scary.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Video Nasty #36 : Mountain of the Cannibal God AKA Primitive Desires

Synopsis: Susan Stevenson (Ursula Andress) has flown to Generic South American Country to search for her Husband, who hasn't been heard from since disappearing into the jungle in search of uranium. Joined by her brother and a local expert Susan heads to the jungle and unknowingly towards the Mountain of the Cannibal God.

I can't help but audably sigh when I realise there's another cannibal movie on the list that i'm yet to watch. It's a lousy genre, and one that was completely bled-dry during the video nasty hey-day. Given my love for all things zombie, this disdain may seem surprising; surely a zombie is just a really hungry angry cannibal? Well yes, it's not the monster at fault, it's the unwritten genre rules. Where as zombie movies are fun and ridiculous with a sincere yet often shallow, pretentious social-science a-level subtext, cannibal movies are about shock, animal cruelty and natives with no clothes on. (I'll begrudgingly admit that zombie movies have also out-stayed their welcome after the post 28 Days Later resurgence)

Given my contempt for the genre I was pleasantly surprised by Mountain of the Cannibal God. That is of course, a back handed compliment. To say this the best cannibal movie i've seen is like saying the best food poisoning i've ever had or the least painful kick in the nuts. The film does have all the halmarks of a cannibal movie - Unnecessary animal slaughter (an iguana being torn apart is almost a genre all-time low), casual sexism ('It's hard enough for a man, for a woman it would be almost impossible') and excessive nudity.

Despite it ticking most of the genre boxes the idiot director did neglect a few. For example there was no back of the cigarette packet script, incongruous stock footage of wildlife and a general disdain for the viewer. Mountain of the Cannibal God feels a little like Indiana Jones, albeit being released three years before Raiders of the Lost Ark. Rather than focusing on the cannibals the film is more of a jungle adventure with inventive traps, rafting through crocodile-infested water and exploring huge caves. Unlike Indiana Jones these boys-adventure elements do have a violent sting in the tail. One trap is essentially a wooden iron maiden, tenderising the victim in preparation for the cannibal BBQ and the crocodiles somehow manage to tear a guide's arm off.

Although the cannibals do pop up every so often as our hero's mysterious adversaries (looking like Naan Bread from The Mighty Boosh), they only really come into play in the final act. If there's one thing i've learnt from the previous #35 films, it's that regardless of what has come before if you can deliver a barmy ending the viewer will walk away happy (Well, unless they have to write a review and realise they've been hoodwinked). Mountain of the Cannibal God ends with some images I don't believe i'll ever see (or want to see) on film again. In the climax Ursula Andress is declared a goddess, tied to a poll and sexually abused by a cannibal. Said cannibal then has his cock cut off and amongst an orgy of masturbation and sex the film delivers its Pièce de résistance - a cannibal fucking a pig.

So it's not exactly a struggle to figure out why the film was listed. Mountain of the Cannibal God is an OK film, but its obscurity really isn't surprising. Despite the frankly childish climax the film is far more entertaining than it should be, and is put together with a confident and expert hand.

After all, even I have to admit that the man porking the pork was very well lit.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Video Nasty #35 : Tenebrae AKA Unsane

Synopsis: As horror writer Peter Neal arrives in Rome he is greeted by his latest novel incarnate; young promiscuous women are dying in horrible ways at the hands of an obsessive serial killer. When the murderer sends Peter a note the local police take a leaf out of the Scooby Doo Big Book of Law Enforcement and ask him to help with the investigation. As the bodies pile up and the inept police are without a clue it's up to Peter to put an end to the killing.

After the supernatural classic Susperia and its interesting yet ultimately dissapointing sequel Infero, Argento returned to the genre he helped define, Giallo, with Tenebrae. Giallo movies are highly stylised pulpy Italian crime mysteries, often including extended and bloody murder sequences. And on the later point, Tenebrae does not disappoint.

The murder scenes are probably the most remarkable thing about Tenebrae. The most effective set-piece, the murder of a young lesbian couple, includes a two and half minute crane shot; sweeping around the couple's home as they are unknowingly stalked by the killer. It's a technically stunning shot (especially consider the clunky technology of the time) and its creeping pace perfectly leads into a gruesome double murder. Despite the technical brilliance of these scenes, I think their length are ultimately detrimental to the rest of the film. Too much time is spent introducing characters that are blatantly victim's to be, stretching the film's runtime to a slightly flabby one hour fifty. Despite the length it's worth the wait for the finale's blood fountain, gushing from a post-arm stub. It's so ridiculous I couldn't help but laugh-out-loud. Loved it.

The story is twisty, unpredictable and ultimately satisfying. The protagonist's novel acts as a meta-commentary of the film itself, both being concerned with the attitudes to what some might call sexual deviance, and others would call 'being yourself'. This affords Argento an excuse for lots of female nudity - not that an 80's Italian pulp director ever worried about narrative justification to show a bit of boobage. Despite the awkward miscast of Anthony Franciosa as the lead (I can't help but think the role was written for someone younger), the rest of the cast is great, especially John Saxon as Neal's over-effervescent agent.

The one thing that Tenebrae will rightly be remembered for (other than the masochistically difficult crane shot) is the unsurprisingly awesome soundtrack by Goblin. The title track is so good I was already firing up Garageband to knock together a remix (to facilitate my long-deserved breakthrough into the electro scene). Unfortunately I discovered that french-electro-bastards Justice have beaten me to it with the frankly brilliant 'Phantom' on their debut album 'Cross'. Oh well, guess i'll have to continue work on my drum'n'bass opus based on the theme tune of 'The Boogeyman'.

Compared to it's company on the list, Tenebrae is a masterpiece. Compared to it's company in the history of film, it's alright. The script is great, the acting pretty good and the visual's gorgeous, but it's let down by its slightly self-indulgent length and a lead character that doesn't quite work. I suspect this film  marks one of the few peaks of genuine enjoyment i've had since starting this movie marathon. I worry that i'm heading for a deep sustained trough.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Video Nasty #34 : The Boogeyman

Synopsis: 20 years after witnessing the murder of her abusive step-father Lacey is still haunted by the past. In an attempt to rid her demons she returns to the scene of the crime and accidentally breaks a mirror, unwittingly releasing the evil spirit of her late surrogate father. Silly cow.

The 80's were responsible for some really terrifying celluloid incarnations: pizza-face Freddy Krueger  and his razor gloves, machete weilding Jason Voorhees and his iconic hockey mask, Tina Turner with electrical-incident hair and her fucking Thunderdome. None of these compare to the terror that is The Boogeyman - A dude with some tights on his head, making his nose look a bit squidgy (think Owen Wilson, but without tights on his head)

Thankfully (yet somewhat surprisingly) you only see the Boogeyman's physical form during the opening scene (which is then scattered through-out the film in pointless yet time-consuming flash-backs). For most of the film the b-man is a malevolent poltergeist trapped in shards of glass. As shitty as that sounds, the film's premise - a murdered psycho returning as a supernatural being to take revenge on his killer - greatly pre-dates the similar and far superior Nightmare on Elm Street. Unlike Nightmare, the Boogeyman's motivation to return and kill anyone who get's near his funky mirror is never really rationalised. This problematic because of all the people he murders, he pretty much ignores his killer.

So the script is pretty awful. But like all good horror b-movies the creaky script and rubbish acting is inconsequential if there's some inventive gore and an absolutely insane finale. As a poltergeist the Boogeyman takes no prisoners, flinging garden forks and knifes at anyone who gets in the evil mirror's reflection (yes, I realise how stupid that sounds). The Boogeyman's most entertaining kill has to be the young couple immortally held together in a kiss via a bbq skewer thrown through their heads (shown above).

The ending is a blinder (although not quite as mad as Evilspeak). Under possession of the Boogeyman Lacey jams a piece of the haunted mirror in her eye and starts levitating. The local vicar attempts to rid Lacey of the evil spirit (how come all clergy in horror films know how to perform exorcisms?) but unfortunately has his face melted off and knives thrown in to his back. Lacey eventually overcomes the evil glass and throws it down the well, which then explodes. But we could all see that coming, right?

The Boogeyman is a good idea, executed very badly. It's presence on the DPP list is baffling, but as this is true for most of the films on the list i'm not that surprised (I can only assume it's on the list due to the implied child-abuse at the start of the film). The film ends with a requisite opening for a sequel, which was unfortunately made and also ended up on the DPP list, probably for crimes against cinema. I'll let you know when and if I find a copy.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Video Nasty #33 : Dead & Buried

Synopsis: After a series of grisly accidents, Sheriff Gillis suspects foul play. As the accidents continue the dead and buried are inexplicably sighted around town. Welcome to Potter's Bluff : A new way of life!

Dead & Buried is by far the biggest budget movie on the list, and accordingly it's team is also of the highest calibre. Co-writer Dan O'Bannon worked on Alien and went on to write one my favourite zombie movies, Return of the Living Dead. O'Bannon was joined by the his co-writer on Alien as a producer, as celebrated/exploited on the poster. Horror legend Stan Winston (Aliens, Predator, The Terminator) also provides special effects for many of the film's 'accidents'.

What they and director Gary Sherman created is a tonally-unbalanced yet surprising, gory and darkly funny original movie that deserves to be better known than it is. This isn't helped by the lousy DVD transfer; many scenes are too dark and most of the audio is time shifted as if all the actors are performing an elaborate ventriloquist routine. Spoilers ahead.

The plot itself owes somewhat to Invasion of the Body Snatchers (feel free to pick any version), although in this case the alien plants are replaced by a nutty mortician who can use makeup, embalming fluids and a bit of voodoo to quite literally bring corpses back to life. Unlike Invasion, there isn't any  subtext (lack of freedom, communism, blah blah blah), instead the plot is milked for all its paranoid and gloriously gory potential.

And god bless Stan Winston is this gory. Much like the film's tone the effects vary, ranging from vicious realism to intentional silliness. The most memorable scenes are head-meets-acid (not very well done, but A+ for effort), a needle being jammed into a completely incapacitated burn victim's eye (ewwww!) and the utterly insane prehumous embalming. Things get a little silly when Sheriff Gillis' collision with an undead results in a dismembered hand getting stuck in his car's grill, the hand still wriggling like Ash's bird-flicking paw in Evil Dead 2.

And this alludes to probably the only major issue with the film. In parts the film is deadly serious yet as the admittedly daft plot gathers momentum it feels like there's some resistance to embrace the potential for humour (unlike the similarly gory and funny Strange Behaviour).

Regardless, Dead & Buried is worth a watch if only for the third act's plot twists that are so good they'd make Shyamalan jealous. It's films like this that make my idiotic year long movie-night worth it.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Video Nasty #32: Don't Look in the Basement AKA The Forgotten

Synopsis: Nurse Charlotte has arrived for her first day of work to discover that Dr Stephens, her would be employer, was recently killed in a tragic 'accident'. Under the watchful eye of the Dr Geraldine Masters, Nurse Charlotte discovers that accidents aren't uncommon at the Sanitarium. Maybe giving an acute paranoid schizophrenic an axe as part of their treatment isn't such a good idea.

Regardless of any merit in Don't Look in the Basement, the debut and last notable effort of 'classic horror director'* S.F.Brownrigg, it has to be acknowledged that its treatment of mental health is incredibly offensive. A few of the film's i've previously reviewed have dared to go 'full retard' (see I Spit on your Grave), but this film makes them look like One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest in comparison.

The mental patients of Dr Stephen's sanitarium are one-dimensional plot fodder, painted using the full gamut of mental health cliches. There's Sergeant, a man who recently returned from an unspecified war and is now permanently guarding the house from the telephone repairmen. Judge, permanently laying down the law and dishing out draconian punishments. Allyson, a nymphomaniac who takes her top off at the drop of a, well, top. Sam, a post-lobotomy man-child with a predilection for popsicles. And that's only half of the sanatarium's occupants; the full set is available as part of 'Mental Patient Top Trumps', available in the foyer and all questionable toy shops.

Oddly, the way it mishandles mental health is part of its charm. The patients are ill-informed caricatures played wonderfully and with full conviction by a bunch of unknowns who probably weren't aware of the career kamikaze they were partaking. The most offensive turn has to be the film's finale, where all the patients turn on the mad matron and literally tear her apart. The assertion that anyone with a mental health issue is one plot twist away from cannibalism is so patently ridiculous it makes me want to tear the writer limb from limb and eat his guts. The insensitive bastard.

Offensiveness aside, the script is actually quite good and deserves better treatment than this low-budget grindhouse effort. The twist of the film, if you haven't figured it out, is that the hard-nosed matron that rules over the Sanitarium is in fact a patient, something which Nurse Charlotte discovers in the third-act. And, much the like the inexplicably inferior Shutter Island (SPOILER AHEAD), there's even a sub-plot suggesting that Nurse Charlotte was one of the patients all along, an intriguing idea that unfortunately fades a little too quick.

What the film lacks in quality film-making, it makes up for in silly gore. The film opens with a doctor being axed and later on a spike is jammed in a patients head, an old woman's tongue is cut off for talking too much and the grand finale sees the man-child Sam axing 6 patients to death whilst they're too busy tearing the matron apart.

I can't say I wholly recommend Don't Look in the Basement, but if you want to sample a slice of low budget exploitation, you could do a lot worse.

* As the DVD cover declares

Thursday, 9 September 2010

8-Bit Fridge

Whilst on holiday in Madrid we picked up some magnetic 'pixels' in the cool Reina Sofia shop. Here's our new 8-bit fridge:

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Video Nasty #31 : Bloody Moon

Synopsis: Five years ago the severely burnt Miguel murdered a girl in a fit of insanity. After receiving the all-clear from his psychiatrist Miguel has been allowed to return to the scene of the crime, the accurately yet egregiously named 'International Youth Club Boarding School of Languages'. As the new term starts girls start dying, all witnessed by our heroine Angela. Is pizza-face really the killer, or is he being framed by his incestuous sister as part of an overly complex scheme to take ownership of the school?

Bloody Moon is a run-of-the-mill Slasher movie, as interpreted by italian exploitation director Jesus Franco. Think Friday the 13th with incest and even more nudity. Franco's oeuvre includes the infamous Vampyros Lesbos, which I think makes him partly responsible for the tosh James Cordon vehicle/train-wreck Lesbian Vampire Killers. Bastard.

It's difficult to be too offended by the overt sexism. Much like the american slasher films it emulates, Bloody Moon treats women like a pubescent adolescent, obsessed with boobs and innuendo - filthy but fine. The most potentially offensive scene featuing a women being stabbed directly through her breast is so hammy and dumb I think even the most militant feminist would just sigh, tut and worry about the film's on the list that really are misogynistic (see Gestapo's Last Orgy). After all, both the hero and evil mastermind of Bloody Moon are women.

This shallowness is prevalent through out the film, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. It's nice to watch an old-skool slasher free from the irony that the post-Scream hollywood demands. Bloody Moon follows the unwritten rules; anyone who has a minor indiscretion with our heroine or even thinks about doing the dirty-dance quickly cops it. Unlike most slashers the storyline ludicrously complex, at one point there being five characters implicated as the murderer.

Despite the complicated plot, Bloody Moon manages to deliver some memorable moments including death by circular-saw, bear trap on the head, scissors, spike through the throat and the 80's perennial, chainsaw. The circular-saw death is film's most infamous death, although the quick-cut from live actress to mannequin decapitation is more comical than terrifying. Despite the imaginative array of murder weapons the most memorable scene has to the film's opening, where Miguel kills a women wearing a Mickey Mouse mask. Memorable, because I can't believe Disney's army of lawyers let them get away with it.

Bloody Moon is late-night post-pub fodder. Despite its unnecessarily complicated story if you go in with low expectation it's enjoyable b-movie trash.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Video Nasty #30 : Last House on the Left

Synopsis: On the eve of their daughter's seventeenth birthday the Collingwoods are preparing a surprise party whilst Mari, the birthday girl, is in the city for a gig. As they're raising the bunting and baking cake the parent's are blissfully unaware that their daughter has been kidnapped, abused and raped by a gang of escaped convicts led by Krug, the psychotic ring-leader. When the gang inadvertently seek shelter at the Collingwood's, the parents slowly realise that they are in the company of their daughter's murderers and, despite their seemingly harmless facade, go Old Testment on Krug and co.

It's remarkable how sometimes despite the constituent parts being unbalanced, un-conventional or even amateurish, a film can really get under you skin. The first time I watched Texas Chainsaw Massacre I distinctly remember a feeling of dread that stuck with me for a few days, as if the film had left a dirty imprint on my sub-conscious of leather-face waiting around every corner to drag me into a makeshift abattoir and hang me on a meat hook. Like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, despite its countless missteps and unconventionalities, Last House on the Left has a similar emotional resonance, albeit a more seedy and depressive funk.

Which is impressive, because there are countless elements in Last House that really shouldn't work. Whilst Wes Craven's idea of intercutting between the rape of Mari and the victim's parents preparing her party is crushingly effective, his attempts to intercut between a later rape scene and the comedy japes of the sheriff and his idiot sub-ordinate is excruciatingly embarrassing. Not only is the broad comedy incredibly insensitive when juxtaposed with scenes of abuse, it's also deeply unfunny (coincidentally an increasingly emphasis on comedy instead of horror is what ruined Craven's most famous creation - Freddy Krueger).

The odd mash of horror and variety-show lightheartedness is also evident on the soundtrack, with mixed results. The whimsical music accompanying some of the horrific acts works in an odd way, much like Kubrick's use of rousing classical music to score the old ultra-violent in Clockwork Orange. When the soundtrack doesn't work it's as embarrassing as the attempts at comedy, most notably the bluegrass/folk song chronicling Krug's exploits in the film.

Despite these missteps, Last House is a film that looks incredibly fresh, despite the fact it's almost 40 years old. Craven's cost-cutting idea of using a document crew gives the film an air of realism that makes every horrific act all the more believable, even during the parent's almost comic book revenge of emasculative fellatio and a fifty year old man setting home-alone style booby traps.

Craven and producer Sean Cunningham wanted to deliberately challenge Hollywoods consequence-free violence, and accordingly there's no hero in Last House. Everybody looses. The parent's revenge is ultimately self-defeating, as is painfully clear in the final shot of the film, the dejected parents standing in their destroyed home awaiting arrest. Their family unit is irreparably destroyed, and no amount of revenge will ever change that.

Like The Exorcist and Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the film's long term ban is proof of its unnerving and distributing quality. As Mark Kermode points out, Deep Throat, a hardcore porn film in which the lead allegedly had a gun pointed at her head to perform, is released uncut, yet Last House on the Left was, up until 2002, not certified for release in the UK.

Last House on the Left is not a film I could recommend to anyone, apart from film students or a completist horror fan. Nethertheless, it's an important film, and for once, it's infamy and entry on the Video Nasty list is fully deserved.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Video Nasty #29 : Don't Go Near The Park

If there's one thing you have to know about Don't Go Near The Park is that towards the end a man starts shooting lasers out of his eyes. It's pretty impressive. I sense you don't believe me. Seriously. It's So Cool. Look:

This screenshot perfectly summarises Don't Go Near The Park. Look at it. It's insane. There's Captain Caveman shooting a teenager in the face with perfectly rendered eye-lasers in an arid cave that's somehow on fire while his 10,000 year old sister is writhing in the agony after a sibling eye based attack. Unbelievable, this screenshot makes as much sense as anything else in the film. In fact, it probably makes more sense then most of what preceded it.

Don't Go In The Park is an incredibly poor film. It's so concerned with telling it's painfully linear yet dense story that it never has a chance to develop a character. Despite the plodding story telling, the plot itself is absolutely insane. Here's the crib notes for when Don't Go Near The Park ends up on the GNVQ Filmmaking for Fucktards course:

The film opens thousands of years ago inside a hallow volcano. A mysterious elder with a reverb pedal jammed down her throat is cursing her son and daughter for feasting on the innards of the village children. Eating warm human halts the aging process, dangerously 'destroying the balance of nature'. As punishment they must live & age for 10,000 years. At this point they can guarantee youthful immortality by munching on a virgin descendent of the village (I won't insult you're intelligence by pointing out why this punishment is so contradictory). After the mother has given punishment she mysteriously dies.

Flash forward to the 1960s. The brother realises he needs to spawn a child as an entree for immortality in 16 years. He seduces his landlady, they marry and have a baby. Flash forward 16 years (yawn!). The brother and his wife have an argument at a pool party and the father leaves. In the melee his now teenage daughter runs away and takes refuge in a van with three yoofs. They attempt to rape her but thanks to her giant red magic medallion their van go alls KIT and crashes into a bridge, killing the three boys. The daughter wakes up far away from the accident. Then blah blah blah blah...

If you want to know what happens, you can borrow the DVD. In fact you can have the DVD. This is quite possibly the worst film i've ever seen. Worse than Cannibal Terror. Worse than Nightmares in a Damaged Brain. I'm beginning to think that the true legacy of the Video Nasty scandal is the undeseved infamy it has provided to some truly awful films, forever to be exploited by low-budget film distributors who label the misrepresentative DVD covers with the titillating promise of 'Previously Band' and 'Completely Uncut!'. Word's can not describe how dreadful this film is. So why carry on this review?

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Video Nasty #28 : I Spit On Your Grave AKA Day of the Woman

Synopsis: In search of peace in which to write her first novel Jennifer has left New York and rented a house in redneck country. Before long she has caught the attention of the dim-witted locals, who, as to justify their atrocious sexual desires, selectively interpret her outgoing personality as a sexual game. After being raped and left for dead, Jennifer survives to take the ultimate revenge.

If you google for reviews of I Spit On Your Grave you'll find most reflect one of two opposing opinions; there's those that think the film is depraved misogynistic filth, and those that think it's a misunderstood pro-feminism gem. I was going to write a review that straddles both those opinions. I do believe that despite the poor script and acting, the director had good intentions. I also believe that if violence in a film is shot in a way that is utterly repugnant I don't see how, morally at least, a bad thing. I started writing a review in this vein and realised that firstly, it was predictable and secondly, I could of written the review without watching a frame of the film. Here's the honest truth:

I'm lying on bed, attempting to piece together a review of my usual mediocre standard. After a brief period of struggling to spell 'misogyny' I had something of an epiphany. The TV's on, and i'm being treated to 'The Best Of My Supersweet 16'. If you're not familiar with the programme, it follows spoilt middle class idiot-holes planning lavish sixteenth birthday parties, all at the expense of their painfully useless parents. And as I was watching a self-agrandising spoilt cunt have an x-factor style audition to choose who's worthy of attending his public ego-inflation, I realised that i was actually shouting at the TV. Yet during a the ten minute rape scene in I Spit On Your Grave you could of looked at my indifferent emotionless counternance and assume I was watching something as emotionally vapid as TV static or an episode of Scrubs.

I am a little concerned about the complete lack of effect the film had on me; after all the film is a bunch of violent reprehensible acts strung together with a script less nuanced than a Tesco's Value ham sandwich. Maybe my video nasty marathon is finally taking its toll and I was inadvertently proving Mary Whitehouse right by becoming a desensitised degenerate who is more upset by some spoilt kid than a woman being raped. Or maybe I Spit On Your Grave is so badly made, scripted, shot and generally realised that any emotional attachment I may of had to the ghastly acts were constantly destroyed by the fact I couldn't watch a minute of the film without expecting a boom-mike to fall in shot or one of the actors to start laughing.

There are some potentially interesting elements in the film, but somewhere between the original idea and script the original intention was lost and absorbed by the pulpy dumbness of the final product. For example, one of Jennifer's attackers is mentally handicapped and forced into raping her by his so-called friends. The fact that Jennifer chooses to kill him first is a deliberate decision by the script writer, asking the audience to consider if revenge is justified in extreme circumstances, even when it is ambiguous whether the target understood the crime they committed in the first place. Unfortunately, the director decided the character should be played full-retard, complete with comedy glasses and fishing hat. The ridiculousness of this offensive caricature detracts from the issues the character was meant to raise.

There's a good, interesting and intelligent film in the idea behind I Spit In Your Grave, it's just not delivered in the 1979 film. Maybe, and i'm amazed that i'm actually saying this, the upcoming remake will actually deliver where the original could not.

Monday, 19 July 2010

Photo Diary : LDN

Visiting Kim and Brother-In-Law (weird saying that) this weekend. Still obsessed with Hipstamatic.

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Photo Diary : BBQ in Sepia

I love 'Hipstamatic' for the iPhone. I love the perversity of making a photo taken on a state-of-the-art phone look it was taken on a thirty year old disposable camera. This weekend we had a BBQ, here's the Hipstamatic results:

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Photo Diary : Geocaching Shepshed & Grace Dieu Priory

This creepy tunnel is part of the Charnwood Forest Railway (GC10M51)

Viaduct near Grace Dieu Priory. No pictures of the priory itself due to family fun day in and around the ruins ruining the mood. We did manage to score some monk honey though. That is not a euphemism. (GC29VFC)

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Photo Diary : Crop Memories

I fear I may of been slightly exaggerating when talking to my friends about the size of the first courgette i've grown this year. It isn't really growing exponentially, and I don't really believe that if it gets any bigger I won't be able to open the door to the garden. But given the lack of success previous years I was genuinely excited to grow something that meets my expectations (i.e. looks like the stuff in the Sainsburys).

Eating something you've grown yourself is incredibly satisfying. Only now do I understand the pride in my Nan's voice when she proclaimed before a sunday roast that all the vegetables were 'fresh this morning from Gramp's garden'.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Photo Diary : Cropped Memories

One of the nice things about my current job is that, despite being on an industrial estate, it's flanked by fields and woods to walk around at lunch.

This photo isn't a true reflection of walking through the field; to the left there's a craggy horizon of warehouses and to the right there's a busy A-road, soundtracking the walk with the constant rumble of lorrys.

I start a new job next week, on an industrial estate in the middle of a busy town. There's a few things I really don't like about my current job, but i'm learning to not let slight negativity burden otherwise good memories. Like the photo above, i'll just crop them out.