V/H/S (2012) review

VHS posterDirectors: David Bruckner, Glenn McQuaid, Joe Swanberg, Ti West, Adam Ingard, Radio Silence

Starring: Hannah Fierman, Mike Donlan, Drew Swayer, Joe Sykes, Joe Swanberg, Sophia Takal, Norma C Quinones, Drew Moerlein, Helen Rogers, Daniel Kaufman, Chad Willella, Nicole Erb

“You’re all gonna fucking die up here.” (Wendy, V/H/S)

I’ve spoken of the low-budget junkyard that is the found footage genre a number of times on TWABM in the past.

While early examples like Cannibal Holocaust and The Blair Witch Project felt fresh and genuinely terrifying, for the most part the genre has since become a cop-out, an easy way for talent-starved directors to make a cheap horror movie without much effort or skill.

For every umpteenth Banshee Chapter, The Tunnel and Frost out there though, there’s the occasional Paranormal Activity or The Taking Of Deborah Logan – films that actually use the limitations of the found footage style to their advantage.

V/H/S falls firmly in this latter category, offering a selection of creepy tales that are made better by their low-quality production values rather than forced to grudgingly accept them as a necessary evil. Continue reading “V/H/S (2012) review”

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The Basement (1989) review

The Basement posterDirector: Timothy O’Rawe

Starring: Dennis Driscoll, Kathleen Heidinger, David Webber, Scott Corizzi

“You have gone where it is forbidden and released the evil. You must confess.” (The Sentinel, The Basement)

Here’s an interesting little oddity: an ultra low-budget anthology film that was never finished, left for dead and finally released more than 20 years later.

The Basement was a cheapo Super 8 film shot over 22 days in 1989 and “abandoned almost as quickly,” its director of photography Michael Raso recalls.

Rather than putting together the finished film, writer/director Tim O’Rawe decided to move to LA instead, leaving all the shot footage with Raso with the simple message: “Good luck.”

The Basement sat (appropriately) in Ruso’s basement, garage and storage units until finally, in 2010, a small DVD publisher called Camp Motion Pictures decided to take the film, give it a new audio mix and re-edit and finally release it.

The result is a hilariously bad movie with easily some of the worst acting I’ve ever seen, and considering the utter shite I’ve watched over the years that’s saying something. Continue reading “The Basement (1989) review”

Sin City (2005) review

Sin City posterDirectors: Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller

Starring: Mickey Rourke, Clive Owen, Bruce Willis, Benicio Del Toro, Nick Stahl, Jessica Alba, Brittany Murphy

“The wind rises, electric. She’s soft and warm and almost weightless. Her perfume is a sweet promise that brings tears to my eyes. I tell her that everything will be all right. That I’ll save her from whatever she’s scared of and take her far, far away. I tell her I love her. The silencer makes a whisper of the gunshot. I hold her close until she’s gone. I’ll never know what she was running from. I’ll cash her check in the morning.” (The Salesman, Sin City)

I’ve been reading through Frank Miller’s Sin City comics over the past few weeks.

While skimming through the letters pages found in the back of each issue – usually packed with readers moaning about censorship – I spotted an interesting comment from Miller.

One reader asked if it was true that Sin City was being turned into a movie, and Miller made it clear in no uncertain terms that he didn’t want this to happen. Continue reading “Sin City (2005) review”

The Company Of Wolves (1984)

Director: Neil Jordan

Starring: Sarah Patterson, Angela Lansbury, Micha Bergese, David Warner

“Never stray from the path, never eat a windfall apple and never trust a man whose eyebrows meet in the middle.” (Granny, The Company Of Wolves)

Director Neil Jordan is perhaps best known for his contributions to the vampire genre (Interview With The Vampire) and the “chicks with dicks” genre (The Crying Game) but in the ‘80s he also lent his directorial skills to a nifty little werewolf film called The Company Of Wolves, a film so rich in imagery and metaphor that its ideas and themes are still heavily discussed more than 25 years after it was originally released.

"Sorry, I'm currently feeling a bit ruff"

While the prologue is set in the present day, the vast majority of The Company Of Wolves takes place in the fairytale setting of a girl’s dream. In it, a small village lives in fear of the wolves that roam the woods nearby. Rosaleen, a twelve-year-old girl, is caught up in this hysteria when her older sister is killed by the wolves and she’s sent to stay with her granny for a while.

There her granny tells her a bunch of stories, which play out one by one over the course of the film – some told by granny, others recounted by Rosaleen to her mum later on. Eventually, Rosaleen herself becomes the subject of one of the tales – a werewolf version of Little Red Riding Hood – and is confronted with one of the beasts in her granny’s house.  Continue reading “The Company Of Wolves (1984)”

Creepshow (1982)

Director: George A Romero

Starring: Ed Harris, Leslie Nielsen, Ted Danson, Tom Atkins, Hal Holbrook, Stephen King, EG Marshall

“You see that crap? All that horror crap? Things coming out of crates and eating people? Dead people coming back to life? People turning into weeds, for christ sake? Well, you want him reading that stuff? All right then! I took care of it. That’s why God made fathers, babe. That’s why God made fathers.” (Stan, Creepshow)

If you’ve read my previous review of Creepshow 3, you’ll have noticed that it has the dubious honour of one measly Trevor mask as its rating. This wasn’t just because Creepshow 3 is bad – it most certainly is – but also because its predecessors were so good that the third film let the entire series down. To cheer myself up then I decided to re-watch the original Creepshow over the festive period.

Well, it certainly beats a caterpillar cake

If you’re not familiar with it, Creepshow is a collection of five short stories written by Stephen King and directed by George A Romero (back when he was still good and not slapping his name on any old shite for a fiver). It’s an homage to the old EC comics of the 1950s like Tales From The Crypt and Vault Of Horror, and as such each story starts and ends as if it were in a comic book, with garish colours and speech bubbles. It’s an interesting style that not everyone will love but it’s fun and keeps things light-hearted. Make no mistake, this may be a collection of horror stories but (much like the EC comics themselves) its tongue is planted firmly in its rotting cheek and its five tales of morality are much funnier than they are scary. Continue reading “Creepshow (1982)”

Deadtime Stories: Volume 1 (2009)

Directors: Jeff Monahan, Michael Fischa, Tom Savini

Starring: Amy Marsalis, Jeff Monahan, Bingo O’Malley, Jason Norman

“Now I lay me down to rest, but there’s a goblin upon my chest. He’s grey and ugly and very gory, and he wants to tell me a Deadtime Story.” (George Romero, Deadtime Stories Volume 1)

Utter the name George A Romero to any self-respecting horror fan and they’ll fire off any of his classic zombie films in your direction. The “holy trilogy” of Night Of The Living Dead, Dawn Of The Dead and Day Of The Dead remain the definitive zombie series to this day and while his recent zombie films haven’t really met the same standards you can forgive the guy a bit because of his past glories. This shite, however, is unforgivable.

Oh George. What happened? You used to be a symbol of quality horror

For you see, it is Mr George A Romero’s name that you will see on the DVD cover of Deadtime Stories, or (to give it its full title) George A Romero Presents Deadtime Stories Volume 1. It’s Mr Romero himself who introduces this 75-minute anthology consisting of three horror stories. And it’s good old George who gets an executive producer credit on all three of these bland tales. Frankly then George, you should be ashamed of yourself, because these three stories are weaker than a hamster’s piss, and as a man who created such legendary films in the past you fucking know it too.  Continue reading “Deadtime Stories: Volume 1 (2009)”

The Vault Of Horror (1973)

Director: Roy Ward Baker

Starring: Daniel Massey, Terry-Thomas, Curd Jurgens, Michael Craig, Tom Baker

“That’s how it is, and how it always will be. Night after night we have to retell the evil things we did when we were alive. Night after night, for all eternity.” (Sebastian, The Vault Of Horror)

For those unfamiliar with Amicus Productions, it was a British film production company based at Shepperton Studios in Surrey where it was active during the ’60s and ’70s. Amicus specialised in horror films, in particular anthology ones that offered a handful of 20-minute stories instead of one long 90-minute one. The Vault Of Horror is one such anthology, featuring five tales based on stories from the popular EC Comics horror series of the ’40s and ’50s (which included such comics as Tales From The Crypt, Vault Of Horror and Shock SuspenStories). And it’s brilliant.

"I don't know why you're upset dear, I told you I was going out to get hammered tonight"

The film opens with five businessmen going into an elevator which takes them down to a room none of them pressed for. When they enter the room, which looks like a gentlemen’s club, the lift closes behind them, at which point they realise there are no buttons to open it again. They decide to sit at the table in the room and have a chat while they wait for the lift doors to open again.

The men start to share the dreams they’ve been having recently. Coincidentally, each dream tells a story in which each man does something immoral then dies as a result of their actions.

"It wasn't me mate, it was the painting. Listen, I was Doctor Who once, don't mess with me"

Tale one involves a chap called Harold (Massey), who plans on confronting his sister about their father’s inheritance. He takes things a little too far but gets his come-uppance when he heads to a nearby restaurant after his altercation.

Then there’s the story of Gritchit (Terry-Thomas). He’s recently been married to a lovely young lady but he constantly badmouths her for putting his things in the wrong place. We’re talking proper neat freak stuff here, with individual types of screw going in different labelled containers (not counting the ones loose in his head). Eventually wifey is driven to the edge and decides to give Gritchit a taste of his own medicine.

Add your own "farting in a lift" joke here

Next up is Sebastian (Jurgens), a magician travelling the world with his wife in search of the next big trick to confound people with back home. Leaving his wife at a hotel, Sebastian wanders the streets of Egypt where he finds a women in an alleyway. As she plays her flute a long rope raises out of a vase. She then grabs the rigid rope and climbs up it, right to the top. A stunned Sebastian offers to pay her a fortune for the secret but she refuses, so he makes a plan to take it from her in a less than sociable manner. There’s more to the trick than Sebastian realises though, as his wife eventually finds out.

The fourth tale is the weak link in the anthology, with some hokey bullshit about a man (Craig) faking his death to gain insurance money and things not going quite as planned, but thankfully the final tale rounds things off nicely with the clever story of an artist (Baker) who visits a voodoo priest to get revenge on three men who wronged him. After receiving a blessing from the priest the artist realises that everything he paints happens in real life, so he sets about painting portraits of his three enemies then messing them up to kill them. Foolishly though, he fails to properly protect his own self-portrait…

"I really think it's time you cut your ponytail, Margaret"

Of the five tales (none of which, incidentally, are actually from the Vault Of Horror comic series – four are from Tales From The Crypt and the other is from Shock SuspenStories), the first and fifth are the most entertaining. The ending – explaining where the five men actually are – can be spotted a mile off, but the main story was always just a basic shell to contain the five shorter stories, which are clearly where the real entertainment value lasts.

If you can find it, it’s worth getting hold of the full uncut version of The Vault Of Horror. The American DVD releases of the film cut the endings of the first two stories, which is a shame because the final shot in the first story in particular is an incredibly effective, chilling moment and probably the best shot in the whole film. UK channel Film4 often shows a restored version of the film – this is the full uncut version and the one I recommend checking out.

The Vault Of Horror is a hidden gem, a great little British horror anthology where the five stories (while varied in quality) are all entertaining enough. Although the uncut version is really the best way to watch it you should still really see it in any form you can.

WHERE CAN I BUY IT?
You can get the uncut UK version here from Amazon.co.uk though the quality’s not the best.
If you live in the US you can either import the UK version if you can play Region 2 DVDs, or alternatively buy the cut version here in a double-bill with Tales From The Crypt.

Creepshow 3 (2006)

Directors: James Dudelson, Ana Clavell

Starring: Stephanie Pettee, AJ Bowen, Kris Allen

“Nurse Jacobs, I can’t write a prescription for ugly.” (Dr Farwell, Creepshow 3)

James Dudelson and Ana Clavell should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves. In 2005 Dudelson bought the rights to the Day Of The Dead name and released Day Of The Dead: Contagium, an unofficial sequel that completely pissed on everything George Romero’s classic stood for.

After this, having also obtained the rights to Creepshow (the fantastic anthology series previously written by Stephen King and directed by Romero), Dudelson and chum Clavell got to work on a script for Creepshow 3. If the aim was to once again destroy the great reputation of a classic film by releasing an atrocious sequel that’s so bad you actually feel angry as you watch it, then mission accomplished. Creepshow 3 is an embarrassment.

These guys genuinely get this far before they realise they're cutting up a woman and not a robot. Good work chaps

Like its two predecessors, Creepshow 3 is an anthology consisting of numerous short stories (five in this instance) rather than one long film. Whereas each of the stories in Creepshow 1 and 2 were self-contained tales with messages of morality though, the five mini-insults here each make very little sense whatsoever.

The first, entitled “Alice”, tells the story of a teenager whose father has bought a new TV remote. Every time he presses a button on the remote she’s transported to an alternate dimension where her family are black, Hispanic and so forth. Oh, and for some reason she starts mutating and turning into a rabbit. The ending is completely bewildering and explains nothing.

"That sunscreen you got me didn't really work that well, I'm afraid"

Then there’s “The Radio”, which is probably the best of the bunch and the only story of the five on offer that actually makes sense and has a plot that can be followed from start to finish. A guy buys a new radio that talks to him and instructs him to murder people and steal money. It actually ends on a pretty clever note and for a second it looks like Creepshow 3 might have redeemed itself.

This notion is immediately kicked down a flight of stairs with “Call Girl”, in which a serial killing prostitute meets her match when a vampire chap requests her services. This one’s thankfully pretty short: it’s a shame, because while the concept is a good one the execution is weak.

The fourth tale is “The Professor’s Wife”, in which a weird professor chap (easily the worst actor in the film) invites two of his ex-students over to meet his fiancee in advance of their wedding. Convinced she’s a robot, the students proceed to hack her to bits to find how the professor put her together, going so far beyond the point where it’d become clear a mistake has been made that the whole thing becomes ridiculous.

I don't care if you're dying mate, I genuinely don't know CPR. No, it's not because of your mouth, I'm insulted you'd suggest that

Finally there’s “Haunted Dog”, which is among the most cringeworthy twenty minutes you’ll ever experience in a film. An arrogant doctor leaves a tramp to choke on a hot dog and is haunted by him from that point on. Again, it’s a good idea, but it’s ruined by the guy they got to play the doctor, who’s so painfully unfunny during the countless “look how much of a cock this guy is” montages that watching him poorly insult patient after patient for far too long becomes a true exercise in patience.

The film attempts to tie all five stories together Pulp Fiction style by having characters from each story appearing in cameo roles in others, but it only serves to add to the confusion. Why is the doctor attending the vampire kid’s all-vampire party? How come the Hispanic alternate dimension mother is at the professor’s wedding along with the real mother? The whole thing’s a mess.

Stay away from Creepshow 3, especially if you saw and enjoyed the first two. The second story may be half-decent but overall the film is a complete insult to the series and should have been shit-canned at the idea-gathering stage.