Silent House (2011) review

Silent House posterDirectors: Chris Kentis, Laura Lau

Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, Adam Trese, Eric Sheffer Stevens, Julia Taylor Ross, Adam Barnett, Haley Murphy

“Daddy?” (Sarah, about a hundred times, Silent House)

Here’s a fun fact: there are actually more movies about haunted houses than there are houses in North America.

Okay, that isn’t true. But it’s getting to the stage that I wouldn’t be surprised.

Silent House at least tries to do something different by introducing a rarely used gimmick: the entire film is presented as one single shot.

Granted, it does cheat a little bit – more on that later – but the concept is at least enough to keep your interest for a while. Continue reading Silent House (2011) review

Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter (1994) review

Puppet Matser 5 posterDirector: Jeff Burr

Starring: Gordon Currie, Chandra West, Ian Ogilvy, a load of puppets

“You do see my problem, don’t you? You are asking an awful lot of me. A little monster, an agency or cult protecting some ancient magic… you must admit it is rather fantastic.” (Jennings, Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter)

You can’t have a successful horror film series without at least one entry boldly (and falsely) claiming it’s the final one.

The sixth Nightmare On Elm Street film, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare, was succeeded by three more films starring the finger-gloved freak.

Even better, Friday The 13th: The Final Chapter – the fourth film in the series – was actually far from the final chapter, with Jason appearing in eight subsequent movies.

So too, then, was the case with Full Moon Pictures’ cult series Puppet Master which claimed this, the fifth film in as many years, was to be the last. Continue reading Puppet Master 5: The Final Chapter (1994) review

Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988) review

Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers posterDirector: Fred Olen Ray

Starring: Jay Richardson, Linnea Quigley, Gunnar Hansen, Michelle Bauer, Dawn Wildsmith

“I’d stumbled into the middle of an evil, insidious cult of chainsaw worshipping maniacs. I had to wonder if we’d let our religious freedom go too far in this country, or maybe our immigration laws were just too lax.” (Jack, Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers)

Fred Olen Ray is something of a cult figure among B-movie fans. He’s been writing, directing and producing low-budget films ever since the ’70s, and what most of them lack in glitz they make up for with gusto.

More often than not, the title of a Fred Olen Ray film is a good indication of what you’re getting, as proven by other notable examples of his work including The Brain Leeches, Bad Girls From Mars, Attack Of The 60 Foot Centerfolds and Dinosaur Island.

So too is the case with Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers, his twelfth outing as a director and his first starring ’80s horror ‘scream queen’ Linnea Quigley. Continue reading Hollywood Chainsaw Hookers (1988) review

Deadly Blessing (1981) review

Deadly Blessing posterDirector: Wes Craven

Starring: Maren Jensen, Sharon Stone, Ernest Borgnine, Michael Berryman

“If thine eye offends thee, pluck it out. If thine own hand offends thee… then in God’s name, cut it off.” (Isaiah, Deadly Blessing)

There’s an interesting story told by screenwriter Glenn Benest in Arrow Video’s upcoming DVD release of Deadly Blessing (this review is based on a review copy of said DVD).

The story goes that a young Sharon Stone, in her first big role, had just come from a modelling career and had no idea how to act or what to do.

Like a deer in headlights, Stone kept asking director Wes Craven for guidance and help her with her acting.

The cast and crewmembers looked at each other and Craven explained that he didn’t do that sort of thing, he was more about setting up shots and the like. “GOD DAMN IT,” Stone then screamed at the top of her voice, “WOULD YOU DIRECT ME?”

Sharon Stone demanded this spider have its teeth removed before agreeing to do the scene. Seriously
She also demanded this spider have its teeth removed before agreeing to do the scene. Seriously

In a way it’s a shame that Craven politely declined and had a quiet word with Stone rather than giving her the advice she seeked, because she’s clearly the weakest performer by far in what is an otherwise effective little film.

Deadly Blessing focuses on Martha Schmidt (Battlestar Galactica‘s Maren Jensen), a headstrong city girl married to Jim, a country boy who used to be a member of the Hittites.

The Hittites are a strict religious community (much like the Amish) who feel technology is the work of the devil and constantly warn of the coming of the demonic Incubus. Jim had married Martha to get away from his cultish peers, and they’re not happy with him.

Ernest Borgnine is excellent as the head of the Hiddite community.
Ernest Borgnine is excellent as the head of the Hiddite community

After a mysterious accident kills Jim, Martha tries to get to the bottom of things with the help of her city friends Lana (Stone) and Vicky, who come to stay with her as she mourns.

As more people die and Martha and her friends are continually harassed it becomes clear that there may be a killer in the midst of the Hittites.

Many of the key scenes in Deadly Blessing feel like rough drafts of similar scenes in Craven’s later film A Nightmare On Elm Street.

Sharon Stone’s character, for example, has a recurring dream about a menacing figure and the scene in which she tells her friends about it is very similar to that in A Nightmare On Elm Street where Nancy and Tina discuss their dreams about Freddy.

Perhaps the most obvious similarity however is the scene in which Martha takes a bath and is attacked by a snake, who comes out of the water between her legs in a shot that is replicated almost identically using Freddy’s glove in A Nightmare On Elm Street.

Check out the Nightmare On Elm Street review to see how Craven re-used this shot
Check out the Nightmare On Elm Street review to see how Craven re-used this shot

The film is a little slow-paced and while there are a few memorable moments (like the aforementioned snake in the bath and a scene involving a spider and an open mouth) there’s a whole lot of nothing going on for large parts of the movie.

Despite this, it never really feels boring because these moments are timed to appear just as interest begins to lag.

All seems fine with Deadly Blessing and it seems fairly straightforward until the film’s last three minutes.

First of all the story is resolved in a bizarre manner that fans of Sleepaway Camp will find familiar, and then there’s a ridiculous shock ending that was actually removed from the film when it was first released in the UK because the studio was concerned it’d confuse viewers.

"I'm sorry, what just happened?"
“I’m sorry, what just happened? That’s just fucking daft”

Not only is this mental ending reinstated for the upcoming DVD, it’s also addressed in the aforementioned interview with the screenwriter in which he confesses he didn’t write that scene and was shocked when he saw it in the cinema, noting that it was clearly added to give the film a ‘Carrie‘ ending to end it on a final scare.

Deadly Blessing has separated critics but I enjoyed it. It’s not action-packed by any means but it’s an interesting film that ends with a clever little twist followed by a fucking ridiculous second one.


Arrow Video released Deadly Blessing in a dual format Blu-ray and DVD pack in the UK a couple of years ago. It’s got an interesting 15-minute chat with the screenwriter and a half-hour interview with actor Michael Berryman who discusses the Wes Craven films he’s starred in and then goes on to completely slate the Hills Have Eyes remakes. And, of course, the film itself now has that bizarre twist ending reinstated.


That Sounds A Bit Mental – Wrestlemania: The Album

Welcome to the first instalment of That Sounds A Bit Mental, a not-that-regular series of articles in which I take a look at the very best (worst) from the world of music.

If you have any albums you’d like to recommend for That Sounds A Bit Mental – and I’m talking novelty pish where every track’s a cringe here, not “Nickelback lol” – let me know in the comments below or email me at pronto.

wrestlemania the albumWWE WrestleMania 31 kicks off in two weeks’ time, so I thought it would be a good idea to take a look back at one of the company’s oddest ideas, from back in the days when it was still the WWF.

WWF Wrestlemania: The Album was executive produced by Simon Cowell(!), with songs produced and composed by Mike Stock and Pete Waterman (of Stock, Aitken and Waterman songwriting fame)

With such musical heavyweights in charge of the album, you’d think this would have resulted in some solid pop hits based on the wrestling superstars of the time.

You’d think.

Instead, the resulting 12 tracks (ten if you bought the US version) were an odd combination of cheesy music and various WWF superstars talking over it. Not singing, mind: talking.

Here’s a full track-by-track review of the album, along with YouTube links to each song so you can grimace along with the album in its entirety as you read. Continue reading That Sounds A Bit Mental – Wrestlemania: The Album

Night Train Murders (1975) (Video Nasty review #10)

It is my intention to eventually watch and review all 72 movies on the ‘video nasties’ list released by the Director of Public Prosecutions in the UK in 1983. In a time before videos were classified by the BBFC, each of these films were considered so shocking by the DPP that any video shop owner found to be selling or renting it could have faced prosecution. To see my other video nasty reviews so far, click here.

Night Train Murders posterDirector: Aldo Lado

Starring: Irene Miracle, Laura D’Angelo, Flavio Bucci, Macha Méril, Gianfranco De Grassi, Enrico Salerno, Marina Berti

Also known as: Late Night Trains (UK VHS release), Last Stop On The Night Train (US), New House On The Left (US)

“We’re only gonna cut her a little.” (Curly, Night Train Murders)

In 1972, Wes Craven wrote and directed The Last House On The Left.

Based on Ingmar Bergman’s 1960 film The Virgin Spring, it was a bleak film in which two teenage girls are encountered in the woods by a trio of criminals – two men and a woman – who proceed to rape and murder the girls.

Fleeing from the scene, the three seek refuge in the home of a friendly couple, who by sheer coincidence are the parents of one of the girls. When the parents discover what has happened, they decide to get revenge, with gory results.

The Virgin Spring had come and gone without much hullabaloo, being a classy Swedish art film and all. But The Last House On The Left was grim and sleazy enough to spark a grindhouse genre of its own: the revenge film. Continue reading Night Train Murders (1975) (Video Nasty review #10)

A Haunting At Silver Falls (2013) review

haunting_at_silver_falls_posterDirector: Brett Donowho

Starring: Alix Elizabeth Gitter, James Cavlo, Tara Westwood, Steve Bacic, Erick Avari

LARRY – “There’s a lot of dead people in Silver Falls. Didn’t anyone tell you? It’s, um, Ghost City USA.”

JORDAN – “Right. So, who died?”

LARRY – “Who didn’t die? I’ve been to six funerals. There were several suicides, a car accident, a bulimic whose stomach exploded…”

Often, when I watch a film about ghosts, I like to apply my patented Louise Test™.

My wife (and co-presenter of the That Was A Bit Mental podcast) isn’t a massive fan of ghost movies, so usually when I want to watch one she’ll sit at the PC instead and browse the internet.

Occasionally she’ll look over at the telly and, should she see a ghost, audibly express her dismay at having done so. That’s when I can tell the film’s ghosts are effective.

A Haunting At Silver Falls offers more screen time to its ghosts than any other film in recent memory, except for maybe Casper. And yet, as Louise looked over to the screen numerous times throughout, she didn’t bat an eyelid. Continue reading A Haunting At Silver Falls (2013) review

Series Overview – Twin Peaks (1990-1992)

When discussing the most important TV dramas ever created, it’s more or less impossible not to mention Twin Peaks.

David Lynch and Mark Frost’s bizarre tale of murder, infidelity, possession and… um, owls gripped American audiences when both series first aired in the early ’90s, and continues to find new fans watching it for the first time to this day.

A third season is currently planned for 2016.

Click each poster for the full review.


Twin Peaks: Season 1 (1990)
“The first season of Twin Peaks remains a masterpiece 25 years after it first aired. There’s enough going on in these eight episodes to fill three seasons of any other show, but it’s presented with such expert pacing, direction and dialogue that it never overwhelms, at least not in that sense.” Continue reading Series Overview – Twin Peaks (1990-1992)

Twin Peaks international pilot (1990) review

And so we come to the end of Twin Peaks week on That Was A Bit Mental. To ensure you haven’t missed out on anything, be sure to read back on my reviews of season 1, season 2, Fire Walk With Me and The Missing Pieces. Hope you’ve enjoyed my reviews!

twinpeaks_internationalpilot_posterDirector: David Lynch

Starring: Kyle MacLachlan, Michael Ontkean, Sherilyn Fenn, Lara Flynn Boyle, Madchen Amick, Dana Ashbrook, Richard Beymer, Peggy Lipton, James Marshall, Eric DaRe, Everett McGill, Joan Chen, Piper Laurie, Ray Wise, Sheryl Lee, Al Strobel, Frank Silva

“Through the darkness of futures past, the magician longs to see. One chants out between two worlds, fire walk with me.” (Mike, Twin Peaks international pilot)

When David Lynch and Mark Frost originally pitched the idea of Twin Peaks to TV network ABC, they agreed to fund the pilot episode on one condition.

Since the pilot was going to cost $1.6 million to make, ABC wanted Lynch and Frost to write and film an ending, revealing Laura Palmer’s killer and drawing a line under it all by the end of that single episode. Continue reading Twin Peaks international pilot (1990) review

Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces (1992/2014) review

Both season 1 and season 2 of Twin Peaks and the film Fire Walk With Me may have already been reviewed on That Was A Bit Mental, but Twin Peaks week isn’t over yet! Today I look at the recently released deleted scenes The Missing Pieces before finishing on Friday with a review of the international pilot.

twinpeaks_themissingpieces_posterDirector: David Lynch

Starring: Sheryl Lee, Ray Wise, Moira Kelly, Chris Isaak, Keifer Sutherland, Kyle MacLachlan, Dana Ashbrook, Phoebe Augustine, Pamela Gidley, James Marshall, David Lynch, David Bowie, Madchen Amick, Michael J Anderson, Frank Silva, Walter Olkewicz

“Is it future, or is it past?” (Man From Another Place, Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces)

The shooting script for Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me came in at around five hours long. Naturally, nobody in their right mind would find that acceptable, so after shooting all the footage David Lynch got to work cutting loads of it out.

As a result, Fire Walk With Me was released with a runtime of two hours and 15 minutes: still fairly long, but with more than half of its content relegated to the cutting room floor.

For over 20 years Twin Peaks fans have discussed these mythical deleted scenes, with only the shooting script and the occasional mention of them in cast and crew interviews as indication that they did indeed exist. Continue reading Twin Peaks: The Missing Pieces (1992/2014) review

Reviews of films that are slightly less than sane


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