Cannibal Holocaust (1980) (Video Nasty review #8)

Cannibal Holocaust posterDirector: Ruggero Deodato

Starring: Robert Kerman, Francesca Ciardi, Perry Pirkanen, Gabriel Yorke, Luca Barbareschi

TV EXECUTIVE – “Today people want sensationalism. The more you rape their senses the happier they are.”

PROFESSOR MONROE – “Ah, yes, that’s typical western thought. Civilised, isn’t it? That’s what Alan thought and that’s why he’s dead. The Yacumo Indian is a primitive and he has to be respected as such. You know, did you ever think of the Yacumo point of view? That we might be the savages?”

Note: Other then the official film poster above, the rest of the images in this review have deliberately been chosen to hide some of the film’s gorier, more offensive scenes. Despite this, the review still features descriptions of these scenes and as such those with a weak stomach may wish to just give this film their own score of zero and move on.

The story goes that when Sergio Leone – the legendary Italian director of Once Upon A Time In The West and The Good, The Bad And The Ugly – first saw Cannibal Holocaust, he felt compelled to write a letter to his friend Ruggero Deodato, the film’s director.

It read: “Dear Ruggero, what a movie! The second part is a masterpiece of cinematographic realism, but everything seems so real that I think you will get in trouble with all the world.”

He was right. Cannibal Holocaust was eventually banned in numerous countries (the unofficial estimate is around 50, including the UK and its native Italy), and such was the realistic nature of the on-screen deaths that Deodato was actually arrested and held on trial under suspicion of murder of the four main actors – a charge he was only able to drop after getting all four actors to appear at the courtroom. Continue reading “Cannibal Holocaust (1980) (Video Nasty review #8)”

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The Tunnel (2011) review

The TunnelDirector: Carlo Ledesma

Starring: Bel Delia, Andy Rodoreda, Steve Davis, Luke Arnold

“We came down here to get a story, and now we’ve got an important one and you’re running scared?” (Natasha, The Tunnel)

Filmmaking can be an expensive business, even if you’re making a low-budget “found footage” effort in the style of The Blair Witch Project. Rather than wining and dining investors to get them to fund their movie, the Australian chaps behind The Tunnel decided to try something different with their “130k Project”.

They worked out that at 24 frames a second their 90-minute movie would contain around 130,000 individual frames, so after setting up a teaser trailer on their site they asked film fans to buy frames for $1 each, meaning everyone who donated could say they “owned” a piece of the movie. Click on the poster to the right to see it bigger, and you’ll see that it’s made of the names of some of the film’s early contributors. It’s a clever idea, and one that got them the funding they needed (I bought five frames myself, and while the film’s out now there are still some left). It’s a good job they got their funding, too, because The Tunnel is a brilliant little film.

The Tunnel
Well, maybe if you weren’t with Vodafone then you might have a bloody signal

Sydney’s water supplies are running low so the government reveals plans to recover and recycle a shitload of water that’s been lying in a network of abandoned train tunnels since the war. Suddenly though they decide to scrap the idea, raising the curiosity of Natasha,  a TV journalist. The rumoured reason is that lots of homeless live in these tunnels and could create a problem, but Natasha isn’t convinced.

After interviewing a recently-surfaced homeless man who goes mental when the tunnel is mentioned, Natasha decides there’s more to this than meets the eye and gathers three more fellow journalists. The four of them head into the tunnels unauthorised to see if they can find out more, but they probably shouldn’t have bothered because there’s something in the tunnels, and it sure as shite isn’t a bunch of old homeless chaps. Continue reading “The Tunnel (2011) review”

Paranormal Activity 2 (2010) review

Director: Tod Williams

Starring: Sprague Grayden, Brian Boland, Molly Ephraim, Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat

“We just can’t let this affect us that much. If we do that, the terrorists win.” (Daniel, Paranormal Activity 2)

After the success of The Blair Witch Project, the inevitable sequel followed. Rather than sticking with what worked and going with another low-budget handheld camera effort, the filmmakers went with a big $15 million production that felt nothing like the original. It was a moderate success but most fans of the first film hated it (personally, I liked it but that’s for another review). No doubt with this in mind, the makers of Paranormal Activity instead decided if it wasn’t broke they shouldn’t try to fix it, and so Paranormal Activity 2 is more or less the same as the first movie.

"Oh hello son. I appear to have fallen arse over tit. Be a dear, help me up"

Once again we’ve got a couple moving into a new home, and once again we’ve got the whole thing captured on home video cameras (with security cameras chucked into the mix too this time). Once again weird shit starts going down, and once again it seems clear that there’s some sort of demon terrorising them.

Unfortunately, Paranormal Activity 2 seems to lose something that the original had – the sense of intimacy that made it so powerful. Whereas the original film simply consisted of a couple moving in together for the first time, using a single store-bought camera to record the weird goings-on that have started to happen, this time so many new elements are introduced to try and add some variety. Instead though, they just make the situation more complicated.  Continue reading “Paranormal Activity 2 (2010) review”

Chronicle (2012)

Director: Josh Trank

Starring: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B Jordan

“There’s this thing, right, it’s called the apex predator. And basically what this is, is the strongest animal in the ecosystem, right? And as human beings, we’re considered the apex predator but only because smaller animals can’t feed on us because of weapons and stuff, right? A lion does not feel guilty when it kills a gazelle, right? You do not feel guilty when you squash a fly. And I think that means something.” (Andrew, Chronicle)

Andrew is not a cheery chappy. His mum is dying, his alcoholic dad beats him and he’s got no friends. His only solace is a video camera that he uses to film his life and document the various goings-on around him. In short, things could be going better.

The three leads work well together and are very convincing chums

One night at a party Andrew’s cousin Matt and Steve Montgomery – a popular kid running for school president – ask Andrew to come with them to film a huge hole they’ve found in the woods. While investigating the hole the trio fall in and end up in a cave, where they find a huge glowing structure. Some weird shit goes down and the camera glitches out and breaks, switching off.

We rejoin them a short while later after the three teens have somehow managed to leave the cave. Things are different though – they now have super powers. At first they’re able to simply move objects with their mind, but as they flex their telekinesis “muscles” and are able to move progressively larger objects, things get a little more serious and Andrew starts toying with the idea of using his powers to punish the society that shunned him.  Continue reading “Chronicle (2012)”

Paranormal Activity (2007)

Director: Oren Peli

Starring: Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat

MICAH – “What if we just get this Ouija board and we find out what it wants and then we give it what it wants? Then it’s gone.”
PSYCHIC – “Because what it probably wants is Katie.”

You wake up in the middle of the night. In the darkness you can just about make out a black shadow standing at the door. It doesn’t move. It’s just standing there, watching you. You close your eyes but when you open them again the shadow is still there. In a panic, you slowly reach down to the side of your bed, being careful not to take your eye off the shadow, and grab your phone, turning it on. What little illumination it provides is just enough to dimly light the room and reveal… a coat, hanging from the door. Relieved, you lie back down again and close your eyes, but something lingers in your head that maybe, just maybe, the coat was a trick and the real monster is still quietly and invisibly watching over you.

The believable relationship between Katie and Micah helps the film's credibility

If you can relate to this sort of thing and have experienced similar moments before where you’ve nervously studied shapes in the dark to figure out what they are, then Paranormal Activity may quite frankly scare the shite out of you, despite what the “big men” say.

You know the sort of people I mean – the ones who pipe up any time The Exorcist is mentioned, just so they can sound tough and say “Exorcist? Ha, that wasn’t scary at all… in fact, I laughed all the way through it”. Deep down you know that either they’re lying, they didn’t allow themselves to get so emotionally involved with it or, as is increasingly likely these days, they didn’t watch it in the right conditions. And it’s the latter that’s crucially important when watching Paranormal Activity. But more on that later.  Continue reading “Paranormal Activity (2007)”

The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Directors: Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez

Starring: Heather Donahue, Josh Leonard, Mike Williams

“I just want to apologize to Mike’s mom, Josh’s mom, and my mom. And I’m sorry to everyone. I was very naive. I am so so sorry for everything that has happened. Because in spite of what Mike says now, it is my fault. Because it was my project.” (Heather, The Blair Witch Project)

There have been so many shaky-cam movies since the release of The Blair Witch Project that it can be hard to go back to the film that kicked off the frenzy and appreciate it in a more recent context. It no longer feels fresh, it no longer feels original, but what it does still offer is a well-structured, creepy film… as long as you’ve never seen it before.

The story goes that three student filmmakers – Heather, Josh and Mike – decide to make a documentary on Ellie Kedward, a woman who lived near Blair, Maryland in the 1700s and was dubbed the Blair Witch by those who shunned and exiled her from her village. Kedward was said to have led children away from the village and killed them as punishment for her banishment. Fast-forward to the 1940s and a madman called Rustin Parr takes seven children into the woods and kills them, claiming the Blair Witch told him to.

Burkittsville, Maryland is actually a real place, though it wasn't originally called Blair, Maryland as this film claims

And so, in 1994, our trio of filmmakers set out to investigate and try to find out more about the legend. Or at least, they did. You see, The Blair Witch Project opens with a message that Heather, Josh and Mike went missing while filming this documentary, and the footage that makes up the movie is what was found in the woods by a search party looking for them. Of course, in reality it’s all bollocks and Heather, Mike and Josh were just actors who are alive and well and still struggling to find film roles, but at the time of its release The Blair Witch Project’s rather convincing website and a “real” documentary about the Blair Witch legend on the Sci-Fi Channel had plenty of filmgoers certain that what they were watching was real footage of three missing children.  Continue reading “The Blair Witch Project (1999)”

Resurrecting The Street Walker (2009)

Director: Ozgur Uyanik

Starring: James Powell, Tom Shaw, Lorna Beckett

“I’m trying to make myself indispensable.” (James, Resurrecting The Street Walker)

The mockumentary has been done so many times now that it would take something pretty special to grab people’s attention these days (case in point, Troll Hunter). Resurrecting The Street Walker manages this on an incredibly low budget and left me very impressed with the results, despite it ultimately not being the zombie prostitute film I thought the title was promising.

James is a budding filmmaker who’s desperate to get into the industry. He becomes a runner at a small production company in London in the hope that his hard work will eventually get him noticed and eventually move him up the filmmaking ladder.

James demonstrates the best way to defend against a confrontational lamp

While sorting out the company’s archives one day, James comes across some reels of The Street Walker, a (fake) 1980s video nasty that was ultimately never finished when the cast and crew went AWOL. Sensing an opportunity to make a name for himself, James convinces his boss to let him film the remaining scenes of The Street Walker and release it as “the film that was never released”. Meanwhile, James’s mate Marcus, himself a filmmaker, starts a documentary following James as he starts work on his project.  Continue reading “Resurrecting The Street Walker (2009)”

Troll Hunter (2010)

Director: Andre Ovredal

Starring: Otto Jespersen, Glenn Tosterud, Johanna Morck, Tomas Larsen

“People always want natural explanations for things. But if you know what to look for, you’ll see what’s been caused by trolls.” (Hans, Troll Hunter)

The billboards currently advertising Troll Hunter claim it’s “the best monster movie since Jurassic Park.” This claim is, to put it as kindly as possible, a load of old arse. That’s not to say it isn’t an impressive film – it certainly is – but if you’re going into it expecting a modern masterpiece then, rather fittingly, you’ve been trolled. Instead, if I’d been in charge of the ad campaign, I’d have gone with something a little more accurate: “a bit like The Blair Witch Project, only you actually see something.”

Feeding time at Meatloaf's house is always a dangerous situation

Indeed, Troll Hunter‘s handheld amateur footage looks just like an HD version of Blair Witch or Cloverfield, as it follows a trio of Norwegian college students as they film a documentary investigating a bunch of mysterious bear killings. Eventually they come across Hans, a mysterious chap who it soon emerges is a troll hunter. He agrees to let the filmmakers tag along on his hunt, as long as they follow his instructions. But are trolls real, or is he just a delusional old dick?  Continue reading “Troll Hunter (2010)”